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Hillary Clinton Plants a Tiny Seed of Doubt

"I would be the first to say we're having a political period of, frankly, dysfunction," she said Tuesday night.

Hillary plants a seed of doubt

Speaking on the West Coast on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton once again was asked about whether she’ll run in 2016, but this time her answer contained a tiny seed of doubt. “I am obviously flattered and deeply honored to have people ask me and people encourage me. And I am thinking about it,” Clinton said in San Francisco, per NBC’s Andrew Rafferty. “But I'm going to continue to think about it for a while.” Then came the doubt part, with Clinton saying the political back-and-forth she observed as Obama’s secretary of state gave her pause about waging another presidential campaign. "I would be the first to say we're having a political period of, frankly, dysfunction,” she added. “I saw it from afar as secretary and it was disheartening and even embarrassing to see people arguing about letting us default on our debt.” Of course, if there is any political player who is accustomed to deep partisanship and political dysfunction, it’s probably Hillary Clinton. (Remember impeachment and the government shutdown of the 1990s?) But anytime Hillary expresses a little doubt about 2016, it’s going to set off some panic in the Democratic Party. Why? Because, at least right now, there isn’t another Democrat out there that would have the same demographic, experience, and fundraising strengths she has.

Huckabee strikes a populist tone in Iowa

Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only potential 2016er speaking yesterday. Here was former Arkansas Gov. (and 2008 presidential candidate) Mike Huckabee in Iowa. “At the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's spring fundraiser, Huckabee gave a passionate speech tailor-made to appeal to religious conservatives and liberty-movement conservatives, two minority factions of the Iowa GOP,” the Des Moines Register writes. “He touched on abortion and same-sex marriage as well as topics that most presidential candidates weren't focused on two election cycles ago – government spying, the IRS, liberty and the U.S. Constitution.” But what was maybe the most striking part of Huckabee’s remarks was his VERY populist tone, blasting “a federal government that leaves hard-working people scraping for $5 to put a little gas in their car while it shells out billions to Wall Street barons who take the country over the cliff,” the Register adds. Folks, anytime you hear a 2016er criticize Wall Street or Goldman Sachs as Huckabee did yesterday, you can consider it an implicit dig at the establishment in general but also an attempt to differentiate themselves from a potential primary rival, namely, Sen. Ted Cruz (whose wife works at Goldman). And it’s worth pointing out how Huckabee, Cruz, and a Rick Santorum are all attempting to occupy the same “evangelical populist” space if they decide to run. And as we saw in 2008 and 2012, that “evangelical populist” space is how you win the Iowa caucuses.

More 2016 activity on the way

By the way, there’s going to be even more 2016 activity later this week. On Friday, Paul Ryan headlines an Iowa GOP Lincoln Dinner in Cedar Rapids, IA. And on Saturday, Huckabee, Cruz, and Rand Paul will appear at a “Freedom Summit” in New Hampshire that’s sponsored by the conservative groups Citizens United and Americans for Prosperity.

McCain vs. Kerry

Sen. John McCain and Secretary of State John Kerry had quite the exchange during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing yesterday. “On the issue of Ukraine, my hero Teddy Roosevelt used to say talk softly but carry a big stick. What you're doing is talking strongly and carrying a very small stick. In fact, a twig,” McCain said to Kerry, per NBC’s Katie Wall. Kerry shot back: "Your friend Teddy Roosevelt also said the credit belongs to the people who are in the arena trying to get things done. And we're trying to get something done. That's a Teddy Roosevelt maxim and I abide by it." And there was more from NBC’s Erin McClam: “On the Middle East, Kerry took issue with McCain’s characterization of talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Kerry said that both sides wanted to keep negotiating. ‘We’ll see, won’t we, Mr. Secretary,’ McCain said. Kerry shot back: ‘Yeah, we will see.’ McCain: ‘It’s stopped. It is stopped. Recognize reality.’” Obviously, Kerry and McCain have one of the more complicated political “friendships” in Washington. Two Vietnam vets from opposite parties who had VERY different experiences in war, and those experiences clearly influence their thinking about world affairs today. But to hear McCain dismiss the sitting secretary of state so publicly on an attempt at Mideast diplomacy was a tad surprising. Of course, there’s little chance, history says there’s little chance, but should a sitting senator who has the standing McCain has be saying that in the midst of the sensitive negotiations?

Obama goes to Ft. Hood

President Obama and the first lady head to Texas today, where they participate in a memorial service honoring those killed at Ft. Hood at 3:00 pm ET. Afterward, the Obamas will attend fundraisers in Houston. And tomorrow, they’ll be in Austin for an event marking the 50th anniversary of LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act into law.

Money doesn’t always buy you victory

In the last of our series on the “Rise of Oligarchs” in American politics, we noted that while money can buy you many things in American politics, it doesn’t always buy you victory. In 2012, conservative casino mogul Sheldon Adelson contributed a whopping $93 million to outside groups helping Newt Gingrich (in the primaries) and Mitt Romney (in the general election). Both candidates lost. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spent millions of dollars to push gun-control measures. Yet federal background checks for firearm purchases can’t even pass the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate. And liberal billionaire Tom Steyer has lobbied the Obama administration to nix the Keystone XL Pipeline – whose fate remains uncertain. “In any campaign, money is a key to victory, but not the key,” said a longtime Republican operative who has worked closely with outside political groups. “Everything else equal, you want more of it. But a good opponent can balance it out through advantages in other areas.”

Good news for Chris Christie

His approval rating in NJ is 49%. The bad news: It’s 49%: Meanwhile, a new Quinnipiac poll is the latest to show some erosion in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s numbers. According to the poll, 49% of New Jersey voters approve of the governor’s job, down from 55% back in January. In today’s political climate, having an approval rating near 50% is more of a blessing, especially given all the negative scrutiny surrounding Christie. But here’s what is problematic for the governor when it relates to 2016: A rationale for a presidential bid was going to be predicated on being the INCREDIBLY popular Republican governor of a blue state, not someone who was close to 50% in job approval. The poll also has these numbers for Christie: 48% describe him as a bully (the highest percentage on this question), and only 35% of state voters believe he would make a good president.

Scott Brown makes it official tomorrow in Portsmouth, NH

Finally, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown will make his New Hampshire Senate bid official tomorrow. Here are the logistics: He’ll make the announcement in Portsmouth, and the doors open to the event at 6:00 pm ET. We’ll have more on Brown’s bid in tomorrow’s First Thoughts.

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