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First Read: Can a Candidate of the Past Win the Future?

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter
Image: U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton speaks at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver
U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado August 26, 2008. U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) is expected to accept the Democratic presidential nomination at the convention on August 28. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES) US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2008 (USA)BRIAN SNYDER / REUTERS
/ Source: NBC News

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter

Can a Candidate of the Past Win the Future?

More than navigating President Obama’s approval ratings or learning from her own mistakes in 2008, Hillary Clinton faces this central challenge in her newly announced White House bid: How does a candidate of the past win the future? The March 2015 NBC/WSJ poll found a majority of American voters (51%) saying that Clinton represents a return to the policies of the past (though 60% said the same of Jeb Bush). What’s more, voters said -- by a 59%-38% margin -- they prefer a candidate who brings greater changes to current policies than someone who’s “experienced and tested.” And then there’s this: Since 1992, with just one exception (in 2000), the younger general-election candidate has won the general election contest:

  • 1992: Bill Clinton (46) vs. George HW Bush (68)
  • 1996: Bill Clinton (50) vs. Bob Dole (73)
  • 2000: George W. Bush (54) vs. Al Gore (52)
  • 2004: George W. Bush (58) vs. John Kerry (60)
  • 2008: Barack Obama (47) vs. John McCain (72)
  • 2012: Back Obama (51) vs. Mitt Romney (65)

Another way to look at this question is through the Rauch Rule -- writer Jonathan Rauch’s observation that no one, with just a single exception, has taken more than 14 years from first winning office to reach either the presidency or vice presidency. “George W. Bush took six years. Bill Clinton, 14. George H.W. Bush, 14 (to the vice presidency). Ronald Reagan, 14. Jimmy Carter, six. Richard Nixon, six (to vice president). John Kennedy, 14. Dwight Eisenhower, zero... The one exception: Lyndon Johnson's 23 years from his first House victory to the vice presidency.” But as NPR’s Maria Hinojosa said on “Meet the Press” yesterday, this kind of discussion is problematic when describing the person who COULD be the nation’s first female president. “I have to be honest with you. The terms ‘expiration date’ and ‘stale’ and ‘too late for you’ as a woman, it's like, I don't know if men have that same reaction, that's nuclear.” The question is: Can Hillary’s gender insulate her from the “yesterday” issue? It’s the 2016 question the GOP may care about the most.

Hillary breaks out of the bubble

What is true is that Hillary Clinton is charting a new course -- on the road to Iowa, in a “Scooby Doo” van. As NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports, she’s traveling in a van with two aides (Huma Abedin and spokeswoman Nick Merrill) with the Secret Service at the wheels. And they are taking their sweet time as she heads to Iowa -- her Waterloo in 2008 -- for events in Monticello (on Tuesday) and Norwalk (on Wednesday). So much of Clinton’s rollout yesterday seemed to OVERLEARN the lessons of ’08 and co-opt the Obama playbook. There’s “Hillary for America,” the diverse “Obama coalition” in the announcement video, the “No Drama” memo from Campaign Manager Robby Mook. The rollout came across almost TOO correct, as if the campaign had a checklist of making sure every little thing didn’t look like 2007. But the road trip adds some humanity to the rollout that made it seem less manufactured. It was a surprise that allows her to break out of the bubble and show her human side. Remember, Clinton has always been strongest as a politician when she shows her human side (whether it was after Monica or on the cusp of losing in New Hampshire). And the road trip in the “Scooby Doo” van allows her to show that.

Can Marco Rubio -- Mr. Upside -- realize his potential?

The past-vs.-future theme above brings us to today’s other big political news: Marco Rubio’s own presidential announcement. In the same March 2015 NBC/WSJ poll, no Republican presidential candidate outside Scott Walker had a higher upside than Rubio. But the same upside hasn’t catapulted him into the top tier in most polls. And think about it: Almost every time Rubio has been thrust into the spotlight, he hasn’t necessarily delivered (think the 2012 GOP convention, when Clint Eastwood overshadowed him; think that lunge for water during his State of the Union response; and think the immigration reform sponsorship that didn’t become law). So in a lot of respects, Rubio is akin to a five-tool prospect who just hasn’t put it all together yet. But here’s the thing: Those five-tool prospects who do EVENTUALLY put it all together can become stars. The New York Times writes how Rubio has always gambled in his young political career -- and won. And here’s Perry Bacon on why Rubio is, on paper, one of the GOP’s strongest presidential candidates.

How Rubio’s announcement will go down

Rubio will make his presidential announcement around 6:00 pm ET from Miami’s Freedom Tower. A little history on the Freedom Tower from the Miami Herald: “From 1962-74, the tower at 600 Biscayne Blvd. served as the first stop for Cuban exiles arriving in Miami.” More: “‘To me, it’s a place that’s symbolic of the promise of America,’ Rubio said in a telephone interview with the Herald. ‘Literally, five decades ago, tens of thousands of people came here after losing their country and began their new life,’ he continued. ‘The first steps they took in this country were in the hall that we’ll be standing in.’” And, of course, the timing couldn’t be more interesting -- with Obama shaking hands with Cuba’s Raul Castro over the weekend.

The makings of a tough week for Jeb?

With Hillary Clinton having already made her announcement, and with Rubio making his today, this week has the POTENTIAL of putting Jeb Bush into a tough spot. Why? On the one hand, the focus on Clinton puts the dynasty card on the table -- which isn’t helpful for Jeb. On the other hand, the focus on Rubio shines a light on the “fresh” GOP candidate getting into the race. What’s more, if you’re a Republican looking to defeat the Clinton juggernaut and you believe her Achilles Heel is that she’s a candidate of the past, do you place your bet on Jeb -- or a Rubio or Scott Walker?

Three things we learned from Rand Paul’s interview on “Meet the Press” yesterday

One, he admitted he needs to come off less prickly with the media. "Thank goodness you stood up to the liberal media." And other people, maybe my wife, have said, ‘Count to ten and try to, you know, let them spit out their question, even if it is a biased question. Let the question come out.’ I don't know. I think we could all be better. I think some interviewers could be better sometimes. And I think also politicians could be more tolerant of interviewers at times." Two, the easiest way to get under his skin is to talk about Rand’s father and his positions on issues. “Where do you disagree with your dad?” Paul asked one of us. “And then I'll go to mine.” And three, he maintained that he was going to run for BOTH the presidency and his U.S. Senate seat -- because there needs to be a voice like his in Washington. “Well, I think there's got to be a voice for people. You know, people who believe that government really has gone way too far. And I think you'll see 1,000 people out here that want me to still be that voice.” Also: Don’t miss Rand Paul’s TV ad against Hillary yesterday.

De Blasio not ready for Hillary -- yet

The other news from “Meet the Press” yesterday: Former Hillary 200 campaign manager Bill de Blasio, now New York’s mayor, didn’t endorse her. In fact, both NYC tabloids write about this today.

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