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

Image: Wisconsin Governor Walker waves to the crowd as he arrives to speak at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker waves to the crowd as he arrives to speak at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, January 24, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)JIM YOUNG / Reuters

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In today’s rapid-fire political news cycle, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and difficult to sort it all out. 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. Scott Walker’s new top-tier status: After his strong showing in Iowa and his early poll position in Iowa and New Hampshire, the Wisconsin governor has officially climbed into the GOP’s top tier. Call him the co-frontrunner – at the very least.
  2. Jeb Bush’s big speech: It made two things clear: 1) his message is tailored more for the general election than GOP primary audience, and 2) he’s largely following the path his brother took in 2000. “Right to Rise” = “Compassionate Conservative.”
  3. Chris Christie’s and Rand Paul’s rough week: It started with the way they (initially) handled those vaccination questions. And it went down from there – with Christie getting more potentially troubling news in New Jersey (see here and here), and with Paul’s temperament coming into question.
  4. Another stellar jobs report: Eleven-straight months of job growth being above 200,000; more than 3 million jobs created in the past year; and an unemployment rate that has declined below 6 percent. Does this economic good news continue into 2016? If so, it will undoubtedly influence the election and the issue matrix.

What Didn’t Matter

  1. The Great Vaccination Debate: Yes, the issue proved to be problematic for Christie and Paul. But in the end, no politician out there – Democratic or Republican – disagrees about the importance of vaccinations. All we learned is that some politicians handle the question better than others.
  2. Hillary’s Brooklyn (or Queens) headquarters: Earlier this week, we wrote that the location for a campaign headquarters is important symbolically. But if Hillary Clinton wins or loses in 2016, it won’t be because she places her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn or Queens over White Plains, N.Y.
  3. Obama’s budget: Remember that? It was unveiled on Monday – but seems like an eternity ago.
  4. Stories about pro-Warren supporters: You’ve got to admire their passion and tenacity. But Elizabeth Warren isn’t running in 2016 – the latest sign was Hillary Clinton bringing Warren (and also longtime Clinton) strategist Mandy Grunwald into the emerging Clinton campaign.