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Off to the races: Clinton leads, Christie fades

Another poll shows Hillary Clinton running away with the Democratic 2016 primary should she decide to run. Clinton gets 73% of Democrats in a Washington Post/ABC poll, followed by Vice President Joe Biden at 12% and Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 8%. Clinton has a 58%/38% fav/unfav. On the Republican side, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) leads with 20% followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush 18%, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie 13%, Sen. Ted Cruz 12%, Sen. Rand Paul 11%, Sen. Marco Rubio 10%. Cruz has a wide lead among strong Tea Party backers; Christie is weakest with that group. Ryan leads with white evangelicals. Clinton would beat Christie by 12 points, 53%-41%. And more people, by a 46%-43% margin think the bridge scandal is a sign of bigger problems rather than an isolated incident. And he is a net-negative fav/unfav now at 35%/40%.

Given Ryan’s recent poll strength and having said he does not want to be speaker, Politico looks at what Ryan’s up to.

Perhaps no one benefits more from Christie’s fall more than Bush. He says he will decide later this year if he’s getting in. He tells CBS Miami: "I'm deferring the decision to the right time which is later this year and the decision will be based on, can I do it joyfully, because I think we need to have candidates lift our spirits. It's a pretty pessimistic country right now; and, is it right for my family? So I don't even want to think about that till it's the right time and that's later on." (h/t: Political Wire.)

AP: “The campaign committee for House Democrats raised $5.6 million in December, bringing its fundraising total for 2013 to nearly $76 million. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has about $30 million in the bank heading into the election year. After picking up eight seats in 2012, Democrats need a net gain of 17 seats in November to capture control of the House. The National Republican Congressional Committee hasn't yet released its December totals. But at the end of November, Democrats had $8 million more on hand than Republicans and were poised to outraise them for the year. Both committees were debt-free.”

The Washington Post looks at how Republicans are trying to show care and concern for the poor and middle class through a series of initiatives and hearings. “The challenge for Republicans is convincing voters that their newfound concern is sincere. After three years of budget cuts and fiscal crises that badly damaged the GOP brand, voters not only rejected presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 but also have told pollsters that they view Republicans generally as indifferent to middle-class interests,” the Post writes. “That must change if the party hopes for a different outcome in the 2014 midterm elections and beyond, senior Republicans say.”

NBC’s Avery Powell reports: The liberal group Progressive Change Campaign Committee held a conference call on Wednesday praising President Obama’s call to raise the federal minimum wage to 10.10 per hour. Adam Green, co-founder of the PCCC, argued that the president was adopting Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) economic populism.  Also on the call were Democratic candidates the PCCC has endorsed in this year’s election cycle – such as Maine Senate candidate Sheena Bellows, South Dakota Senate candidate Rick Weiland – who also praised the minimum-wage hike and Obama’s speech.

But, Powell adds, some disagreed with the president on a few issues. Bellows, for example, stated that Obama was not courageous enough on the issue of privacy and called for him to end the NSA’s surveillance program and repeal the Patriot Act. 

ARKANSAS:Roll Call: “Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., intends to make the farm bill a driving issue in his competitive re-election race against Republican Rep. Tom Cotton. Minutes after the conference report passed the House 251-166 on Wednesday morning, Pryor called Cotton’s vote against the five-year reauthorization of the nation’s agriculture and nutrition programs “reckless and irresponsible.” Pryor noted that Cotton was the only member of the state’s all-Republican House delegation to oppose the legislation.”

FLORIDA: Charlie Crist (D) leads Rick Scott (R), 46%-38%, in a new Quinnipiac poll.