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Why Israel's Election Is a Big Deal in the U.S.

It’s rare that an election in another country could have significant repercussions here in the United States.
Image: Israeli soldier arranges ballots in a mobile voting booth at a border police base near Nablus
An Israeli soldier arranges ballots in a mobile voting booth at a border police base in the West Bank near Nablus March 17, 2015. Millions of Israelis voted on Tuesday in a tightly fought election, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing an uphill battle to defeat a strong campaign by the centre-left opposition to deny him a fourth term in office. REUTERS/Amir Cohen (WEST BANK - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS MILITARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)AMIR COHEN / Reuters

It’s rare that an election in another country could have significant repercussions here in the United States. But make no mistake: Today’s election in Israel is a big deal -- on the domestic politics surrounding the Iran talks, on the U.S. politics over Israel (where Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud Party usually = Republicans, and Israel’s center-left parties = Democrats), and on the future U.S. policy toward the Middle East. On his final day of campaigning yesterday, Netanyahu directly said he would oppose a Palestinian state if he’s re-elected. That was an amazing statement, because it runs counter to stated U.S. policy (in both Democratic and Republican administrations). It also runs counter to what Netanyahu’s Likud Party has supported in the past. This kind of striking statement isn’t something that a confident politician does 24 hours before an election. Indeed, many observers interpreted Netanyahu’s move as a last-minute effort to rally Israeli conservatives. He also said this: "The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls.” But there are two important things to keep in mind: One, it could take weeks to determine who is prime minister (victory comes by a party leader cobbling together a governing coalition among all of Israel’s different parties). And two, it’s possible that Netanyahu could lose in the short-term today (coming in second) but still win in the end (by being the one able to form a government). In fact, that’s what happened in 2009. Polls close today at 4:00 pm ET.

Email story hasn’t damaged Clinton, per poll

Has the Clinton email story, which is now two weeks old, damaged the Democratic presidential frontrunner? Not really, according a new CNN poll conducted March 13-15. The headline: Not surprisingly, the public is divided over whether the email story is a serious matter, with most Republicans saying yes (75%), and with most Democrats saying no (68%). Overall, 51% say it’s serious; 48% not serious. In addition, most Republicans say she did something wrong (74%), while most Democrats say she didn’t (71%). Finally, Hillary’s fav/unfav in the poll is 53%-44% (+9), which is essentially where it was in last week’s NBC/WSJ poll 44%-36% (+8).

Hillary fires off tweets aimed at the GOP Congress and women

Speaking of Clinton, she fired off two tweets yesterday (here and here) that probably preview where much of her upcoming message will be -- against the GOP-led Congress, and with a strong emphasis on women. She said:

On Loretta Lynch’s stalled nomination

Regarding Loretta Lynch’s stalled nomination to be Obama’s next attorney general, here is the question for Senate Republicans: Do they want to keep outgoing AG Eric Holder on the job? Because that’s the direct consequence if Lynch doesn’t get confirmed. It’s worth pointing out that Obama nominated Lynch back on Nov. 8, 2014. Since that time:

Also: Nov. 8 was during Week 10 of the NFL season, and it was almost three weeks before Thanksgiving. Given all of this, if anyone THOUGHT that President Obama might be able to make a Supreme Court pick in his final two years in office, think again. Indeed, Curt Levey of the conservative Committee for Justice writes a Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing that Senate Republicans shouldn’t vote on any of Obama’s judicial appointments until he rescinds his immigration actions.

Making sense of the “Invisible Primary”

As one of us wrote yesterday, here’s what you need to know about the start of the 2016 “Invisible Primary” -- the period of intense jockeying for position in the presidential race when it comes to money, endorsements, and stature before next year’s voting even begins:

  • Take the early horserace polls with a grain of salt;
  • Money (i.e., fundraising) can buy you love -- but not always the presidential nomination;
  • Debates don’t matter -- until they do;
  • And endorsements are the best predictor of whether there will be a competitive primary season or not.

Why endorsements matter

When you lock down more than half of your party, you’re going to breeze to the nomination. When you don’t, you aren’t. Just take these numbers into consideration:

  • By March 2000, George W. Bush had endorsements from a whopping 41 GOP senators, 175 House member and 27 governors -- so more than half of the party's elected officials. And, of course, outside of his stumble in New Hampshire, Bush easily won the Republican Party's nomination that year.
  • In contrast, by early 2008, Hillary Clinton won endorsements from 10 Democratic senators, 67 House members and eight governors. Those were more endorsements than Barack Obama had, but Clinton's haul represented less than half of the party. Translation: The entire party wasn't unified around her.
  • And by March 2012, Mitt Romney had endorsements from 15 GOP senators, 65 House members and nine governors -- again, less than half of the party. Romney ultimately won the Republican Party's nomination. But it wasn't easy for him, even against underfunded and undermanned opposition.

So what does this endorsement pattern tell us about 2016 - at least so far? Well, nearly 60 percent of Democratic senators already have backed a Hillary Clinton run, according to CNN.

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