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Netanyahu Wins Big -- But At What Cost?

He now has to pick up the pieces from the things that got broken in the process.
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The Atlantic’s Jeffery Goldberg put it well yesterday: Benjamin Netanyahu “is pretty good at what he does” -- and that is win and survive. “With nearly all votes counted, Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party is set to emerge as the election's big winner with 30 seats. The Zionist Union trails behind with 24 seats,” Haaretz says. But here is the follow-up question after Netanyahu’s win: At what cost? His speech to Congress criticizing the Obama administration’s nuclear talks, which ultimately turned out to be a successful tactic for him, brought his relationship with President Obama to an all-time low. His last-minute declaration that he opposes a Palestinian state, which appears to have rallied Israeli conservatives, creates an even shakier relationship with Western Europe and puts the United States in a huge box in trying to be the fair arbiter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And his warning yesterday that “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls,” again an effective mobilization tactic, was tinged with race. (An American politician warning about blacks/whites/Latinos voting in large numbers wouldn’t be well-received in this country.) So give Netanyahu credit -- he won another tough race. But he now has to pick up the pieces from the things that got broken in the process.

Obama and his administration have to pick up the pieces, too

Yet Netanyahu isn’t the only one who has to pick up the pieces -- so does President Obama and his administration. As the great 20th Century philosopher Rob Base said, “It takes two to make a thing go right” in a relationship. And it sometimes also takes two to make a thing go wrong. So President Obama is going to have to work with Netanyahu over the remainder of his presidency. The New York Times: “Benjamin Netanyahu’s resounding victory in Israeli elections on Tuesday appears to have dashed any hopes President Obama might have had for a way out of his tumultuous and often bitter relationship with the prime minister. White House officials offered no immediate reaction late Tuesday night to results that showed Mr. Netanyahu with a substantial lead after a divisive campaign that featured a national debate about whether the Israeli leader was undermining the country’s longstanding connection with the United States.”

Walker has yet to pick a fight with his own party

Turning to our elections and races here at home, here is a pattern we’ve noticed with Scott Walker: Despite having a reputation of being someone who picks fights (against organized labor, against the University of Wisconsin), he’s resisted picking ANY fights when it comes to his own party. Used to be pro-immigration reform? He fixed that. Not 100% in favor of Iowa’s ethanol subsidies? Fixed again. Hired a digital director who once tweeted critical things about Iowa? She had to go. Now you can argue that Jeb Bush is picking TOO MANY fights with his party (on immigration, on Common Core). But it is striking that someone who has the reputation as a fighter hasn’t once tried to challenge his own party -- something that successful presidential candidates usually do. See George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” in 1999-2000 and Obama’s criticisms against the teacher unions in 2007-2008.

The GOP’s race to the right

Relatedly, don’t miss Perry Bacon Jr.’s piece on how the early field of GOP presidential candidates has raced to the right. “The Republican presidential candidates are aggressively staking out positions on the political right in the early stages of the 2016 race, reflecting both their own conservatism and that of the Republican activists they are trying to court,” he writes. “Coming off resounding victories in the 2014 elections and deeply angry about President Barack Obama's policies, key figures in the GOP are determined to pick a nominee who is electable but also an unabashed conservative who will seek to reverse as many of Obama's achievements as possible once in office.” Examples Bacon cites: Walker’s opposition to pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and support for abortion bans after 20 weeks of pregnancy; Rubio’s tax plan; Bush stating that marriage should be only between a man and a woman; Rand Paul saying he will propose “the largest tax cut in American history.”

The details on Rand Paul’s expected April 7 announcement and post-announcement tour

Speaking of Paul, MSNBC’s Anthony Terrell reports that the Kentucky senator’s presidential announcement is expected to come April 7 in Louisville. In addition, “Paul is set to travel to the four major early voting states immediately after the announcement, aides said. He will host events in Milford, New Hampshire, April 8; Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina on April 9; Iowa City, Iowa on April 10; and Las Vegas, Nevada on April 11.”

Two reasons why you should take the news of Trump’s exploratory committee with a grain of salt

Last night, the New Hampshire Union Leader dropped this story: “Donald Trump will launch a presidential exploratory committee Wednesday, the eve of the business mogul’s return to New Hampshire.” But two reminders here: One, he created an exploratory committee back in 1999 -- and that didn’t go anywhere. Headline from the New York Times in Oct. 1999: “Citing Public Support, Trump Forms Exploratory Committee on Presidency.” (Hat tip to our old colleague Chris Donovan for that find.) Two, our NBC/WSJ poll from last week found a whopping 74% of Republican primary voters saying they couldn’t see themselves supporting him in 2016.

Budget differences -- between House Republicans, Senate Republicans, and President Obama

Finally, Senate Republicans today will unveil their budget after House Republicans did. And there’s one big difference between the proposals. The Hill: “Senate Republicans will not include detailed plans to overhaul entitlement programs when they unveil their first budget in nearly a decade this week, according to GOP sources. The decision would break from Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) House budgets from recent years, which Democrats used to pound Republican candidates in the 2012 and 2014 elections.” As Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told the paper, “From the standpoint of a budget, the less words of the English language you use, the better off you are.” Meanwhile, President Obama heads to Cleveland, OH, where we can expect him to criticize the GOP budgets in remarks at 2:55 pm ET.

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