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The Week in 2016: What Mattered (And What Didn’t)

In today's rapid-fire political news cycle, it's easy to get overwhelmed by all the different news out there. So here's a look back at the past week in the 2016 presidential contest, making sense of the developments and events that we think mattered – and those that didn't.

What mattered

1. Conservatives Pounce on Jeb: Yes, all candidates have bad weeks. And, yes, the Iraq question was always going to be problematic for Jeb Bush – no matter the answer. But maybe the biggest takeaway to Jeb's bad week was how many conservatives (elites, commentators) refused to take it easy on him. Getting the benefit of the doubt is a powerful thing in politics, and Jeb didn't get it.

2. The GOP's Growing Opposition to The Iraq War: That sure escalated quickly. In the span of a week, the Republican Party went from being considered longtime defenders of the Iraq war to disavowing it. Caveat: For the most part, this disavowal pertained to "knowing what you know now" (i.e, no WMD). Still, as Time notes, the GOP now faces this conundrum: How do you remain foreign-policy hawks but also criticize the Iraq war? That's a tricky situation.

3. Rubio's Strong Performance at The Council on Foreign Relations: With foreign policy becoming perhaps the central talking point among Republican presidential candidates, Rubio stepped up to the plate at the Council on Foreign Relations and hit a nice line drive. Sure, there were contradictions (does his call for expanding freedom abroad also apply to Saudi Arabia?), but he was well-versed and expansive on issue terrain that has become more and more important to Republicans.

4. Bill Clinton Answering More Questions Than His Wife: Let's be honest: Answering reporters' questions usually causes more harm than good for a presidential candidate. But NBC’s Carrie Dann’s count that Bill Clinton has answered more questions in the past month (30 plus) than Hillary has (as many as 13) is so telling.

What Didn’t Matter As Much

1. Bill Won't Play a Role in Hillary's Campaign – in 2015: On Monday, the Washington Post had a nice scoop that Bill Clinton doesn't plan to play any kind of role in his wife's campaign in 2015. Well, that shouldn't be too surprising since her real competition won't come until the summer of next year. And given Bill’s penchant for answering more questions than his wife, it's also unlikely he'll be able to stay away for THAT long.

2. Jeb Skipping Iowa: Buzzfeed reported that Jeb Bush MIGHT skip the Iowa caucuses. But you can discount that news for two reasons – at least for now. One, the campaign knocked the story down. And two, history has proved that candidates can't afford to skip it – because it's a general-election battleground state. Skipping the Iowa straw poll is one thing; skipping Iowa altogether is another.

3. John Bolton Passing on 2016: Given that the GOP field – minus Rand Paul – is already pretty hawkish, there was no real role for Bolton in the contest. But we will miss his mustache!