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First Thoughts: Clinton's Busy Week Sends Signals

Hillary’s busy week.. Jeb Bush defends Common Core… and Rand Paul distances himself from his father, but is that possible with the issues Paul is pushing?
Image: Former U.S. Secretary of State Clinton speaks during an International Women's Day event in New York
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during an International Women's Day event at the U.N. headquarters in New York, March 7, 2014. On March 8 activists around the globe celebrate International Women's Day, which dates back to the beginning of the 20th Century and has been observed by the United Nations since 1975. The UN writes that it is an occasion to commemorate achievements in women's rights and to call for further change. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY)EDUARDO MUNOZ / Reuters

She no longer holds public office, and she isn’t running a campaign (at least not yet). But Hillary Clinton has had a very busy week on the public stage. On Tuesday, she spoke in Montreal, where she blasted Vladimir Putin. On Wednesday, she addressed the American Jewish Congress gala, where she cast doubt on the U.S. achieving a nuclear deal with Iran. (“The odds of reaching that comprehensive agreement are not good,” Clinton said, per the Washington Post. “I am also personally skeptical that the Iranians would follow through and deliver. I have seen their behavior over the years. But this is a development that is worth testing.” Folks, that was a little rhetorical distance she was putting between herself and the president.) She also spoke to the Association of American Publishers. And she’ll make an appearance at the Clinton Global Initiative event at Arizona State, which begins today. (The students there, however, will be smarting after last night’s buzzer-beating loss to Texas in the NCAA tournament.) So Clinton isn’t running, and we might not have a formal announcement or decision for another year. But ask yourself: Which 2016er did more events than she did this week? While there are plenty of handwringing stories that circulate -- almost weekly now -- about whether she will or won’t run (see the Wall Street Journal piece on close friends and allies unsure if she’ll run, or the Politico article about Clinton freezing the rest of the Democratic field), sometimes you are better off simply looking at what’s in front of you and what’s happening. Hillary Clinton is laying the groundwork, VERY actively. If you look around this week, she has been … everywhere.

Jeb Bush defends Common Core:

Guess who else isn’t just paying lip service to having his name in the 2016 “great mentioner” list: Jeb Bush. And the news he made yesterday was pretty interesting in Republican politics. “Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush Wednesday urged Tennessee officials to not back down from Common Core education standards. ‘This is a real-world, grown-up approach to a real crisis that we have,’ Bush said at an education forum with Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander.” Common Core, of course, has plenty of critics on the right (and some on the left, too). For Jeb, who has made education reform his signature issues over the years, Common Core is a potential threat to him in a GOP primary, which is why the smartest thing he can do now is try and deal with it now, rather than wait until he’s an actual candidate. A few other quick GOP 2016 news and notes this week: Ted Cruz was in Iowa; Paul Ryan had to respond at a town hall to his “inner cities” comment; Chris Christie addressed the “Bridgegate” scandal in a fairly intriguing way at a town hall yesterday; and Rand Paul spoke at Berkeley on the NSA surveillance program.

Rand Paul distances himself a bit from his father, but is that possible with the issues Paul is pushing?

In an interview with the Daily Caller, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tried to put some distance between himself and his father. “Asked in the interview how he thinks he is most understood politically by his critics, Paul paused for a few seconds. He then disputed the notion that he is ‘identical’ to his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, on all policy issues. ‘I think over time, people will notice there are distinctions and differences,’ he said. Reporters sometimes ask Paul, he said, to comment on his father’s beliefs. But he said he’s done doing that. ‘I’ve pretty much quit answering’ those questions… He referenced George W. Bush’s campaign for president in 2000. ‘Did he get tons of questions about his dad?’ Paul asked. ‘I don’t know that he did, to tell you the truth.’” Our take: If Bush didn’t get questions about his father, the subtext of his 2000 campaign was him distancing himself from his dad -- whether it was W. Bush being a born-again Christian (unlike his father) or pushing a huge tax cuts (to erase memories of his father breaking his “Read my lips” pledge). Yet so far, some of Rand Paul’s biggest issues -- on the NSA, on drones, on the Fed, on sentencing for drug offenses -- aren’t too different from his father’s.

Expanding the 2014 map:

If you wanted additional proof how Republicans have expanded the 2014 Senate map and how that impacts Democrats negatively, check out this latest news: Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic Super PAC is going up on air in Colorado in an apparent response to the Koch Brothers-backed American for Prosperity, which is already running TV ads in state after Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) announced his candidacy. Yes, the DSCC and DCCC have greatly outraised their GOP counterparts so far. But Republican outside groups, as well as GOP candidate recruitment, has pretty much erased that advantage. Two months ago, Democrats and Dem groups like Senate Majority PAC probably didn’t think they would have to spend much in Colorado, hoping they could concentrate their resources on the Big Four red state Dem races (NC, AK, AR and LA). But welcome to the new reality for the Democrats -- an expanded map that’s forcing them to spread resources.

The health-care law turns 4 years old:

On Thursday, we wrote about the 11-year anniversary of the Iraq war, which we’ve argued is the most consequential political event during that time span. Well, on Sunday, we’re coming up on another anniversary -- the Affordable Care Act being signed into law on March 23, 2010. And while it’s not as consequential as the Iraq war (at least not yet), there’s no doubt that it has taken a toll on the Democratic Party, whether it was in the 2010 midterm season (when Democrats lost 63 House seats) or now (as several red-state Democrats find their re-election bids complicated by the law’s disastrous initial rollout). Indeed, a new Pew poll finds 53% of American disapproving of the law and 41% approving of it. On the other hand, the poll also shows that more Americans want the law to work rather than fail. The Affordable Care Act might very well be the Democrats’ most substantive reform since LBJ’s Great Society program, but they’ve had to bleed a lot for it, even four years after the law’s passage.

GOP Super PAC attacks Ralph Hall on his age:

Remember back in the 2008 presidential race when the Obama campaign or Democrats were criticized -- legitimately so -- for making subtle references to John McCain’s age? Well, check this out: Roll Call reports on a GOP Super PAC hitting 90-year-old Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) on his age. And there’s nothing subtle about it. “Ralph Hall was first elected to Congress when Jimmy Carter was president,” the Super PAC’s ad goes, playing disco music in the background. “Now he’s 90, the oldest member of Congress -- ever.” Roll Call goes on write, “Hall is in a dogfight of a runoff against another Republican, attorney John Ratcliff, on May 27. Ratcliffe, who is not associated with the ad, denied in a recent interview with Roll Call that he was making Hall’s age an issue in the race. But he has alluded to the topic, running a biographical ad that used the word ‘new’ five times.”

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