Jeb Bush speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 27, 2015.
Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty

Jeb Bush’s struggle with conservatives

Hillary calls out GOP field by name – and it’s not by accident … Walker fires back … Jeb is struggling with conservatives more than Romney did at this same point four years ago … Kasich knocks Jeb: “I thought Jeb was just going to suck all the air out of the room, and it just hasn’t happened” … Another strong jobs report: 280,000 jobs added in May, though unemployment rate inches up to 5.5% … China denies being responsible for U.S. data breach … Pelosi says it’s up to Boehner to find the votes to pass fast-track authority … And Rubio on Iraq: “It’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation”

FIRST THOUGHTS.

*** Jeb is struggling with conservatives more than Romney did at this same point four years ago: Our colleague Dante Chinni notes in the Wall Street Journal that Jeb’s standing with conservatives is WORSE than Mitt Romney’s in the 2012 cycle. Consider:

  • Jeb’s fav/unfav with conservatives:  33%-28% (April 2015 NBC/WSJ poll)
  • Romney’s fav/unfav with conservatives: 40%-14% (June 2011 NBC/WSJ poll)
  • Jeb’s poll position with conservatives: 3rd (April 2015 NBC/WSJ poll)
  • Romney’s poll position with conservatives: 1st (June 2011 NBC/WSJ poll)

*** Kasich knocks Jeb: “I thought Jeb was just going to suck all the air out of the room, and it just hasn’t happened”: Speaking in New Hampshire yesterday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich explained why he’s more than likely to run for president. “I thought Jeb was just going to suck all the air out of the room, and it just hasn’t happened,” NH1.com’s Paul Steinhauser reports. Kasich later said, “No hit on Jeb. No hit on you, Jeb!”

*** Hillary calls out GOP field by name – and it’s not by accident: In her speech in Texas yesterday, Hillary Clinton offered policy proposals to expand voting rights. She called for at least 20 days of early voting in states, as well as automatic voter registration – when American citizens turns 18, they are automatically registered to vote, unless they opt out. But for the first time since becoming a presidential candidate, Clinton also called out the GOP field when it comes to voting rights

  • “Here in Texas, former Gov. Rick Perry signed a law that a federal court said was actually written with the purpose of discriminating against minority voters. He applauded when the Voting Rights Act was gutted, and said the lost protections were “outdated and unnecessary.” 
  • “In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker cut back early voting and signed legislation that would make it harder – for college students to vote.” 
  • “In New Jersey, Governor Christie vetoed legislation to extend early voting.”
  • “And in Florida, when Jeb Bush was governor, state authorities conducted a deeply flawed purge of voters before the presidential election in 2000.”

As Hillary is beginning to ramp up her campaign before her big rally next Saturday, calling out Republicans by name isn’t an accident: She’s trying to make them her foil (just as the GOP candidates have been doing to her). And so while the Martin O’Malleys are competing with Hillary, she’s making her competition the GOP field.

*** Walker fires back: At least one of the called-out GOP candidates fired back at Hillary. Here was Scott Walker in a statement: “Hillary Clinton’s rejection of efforts to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat not only defies logic, but the will of the majority of Americans. Once again, Hillary Clinton’s extreme views are far outside the mainstream.” To be sure, Walker isn’t going to miss an opportunity to fire back at Hillary. But keep this in mind: As the Obama White House has ALREADY elevated Scott Walker, don’t be surprised if we keep seeing Obama/Hillary trying to draw him out in policy fights. If you’re a Democrat who would rather see Walker emerge as the GOP nominee – instead of Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio – isn’t your goal to pick fights with him?

*** Another strong jobs report: 280,000 jobs added in May, though unemployment rate inches up to 5.5%: “U.S. employers added a robust 280,000 jobs in May, showing that the economy is back on track after starting 2015 in a slump,” the AP writes. The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate ticked up to 5.5 percent from 5.4 percent in April. But that occurred for a good reason: Hundreds of thousands more people sought jobs in May, and not all found them. Last month’s strong job growth suggests that employers remained confident enough to keep hiring even after the economy shrank during the first three months of the year. The government also revised up its estimate of job growth in March and April by a combined net 32,000.”

*** China denies being responsible for U.S. data breach: Here’s the biggest news from yesterday: “China accused the United States of making ‘groundless accusations’ and being ‘irresponsible’ Friday in blaming Chinese hackers for a vast data breach that could be the biggest cyberattack in U.S. history,” NBC News reports. “Four million federal workers may have had their personal information compromised in the attack, which officials said could affect every agency of the U.S. government. U.S. officials and lawmakers identified the likely culprit as China, which has been suspected of involvement in previous government hacks. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the hack was ‘extremely sophisticated,’ and ‘that points to a nation state’ as the responsible party, likely China.”

*** Pelosi says it’s up to Boehner to find the votes to pass fast-track authority in House: Politico: “Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said it is not her responsibility to help House Republicans pass a controversial piece of trade legislation at the top of President Barack Obama’s priorities The California Democrat told reporters on Thursday that it is up to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to provide the bulk of the 217 ‘yes’ votes needed to pass fast-track authority, a measure that would allow Obama to more easily pass a Pacific trade deal.” The question we have: Is Pelosi going to fight Obama trying to twist the arms of House Democrats?

*** Rubio on Iraq: “It’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation”: On Thursday, Marco Rubio got stuck in some linguistic mud on Iraq as he was discussing his apparent support for U.S. military assistance in Iraq. “It’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.” Rand Paul’s campaign pounced. “Just weeks after Sen. Rubio failed to coherently express his position on the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he continues to be confused by the war and the basics of foreign policy,” Paul spokesperson Sergio Gor said in a statement, per NBC’s Andrew Rafferty. “Sen. Rand Paul, like most Americans, believes the Iraq war was a mistake and opposes nation building while Sen. Rubio contradicts himself almost on a daily basis.”

*** On the trail: Lindsey Graham and Mike Huckabee are in Iowa… Chris Christie stumps in New Hampshire, as does Rand Paul and John Kasich… Scott Walker keynotes at the North Carolina GOP state convention… Marco Rubio is in Idaho… And Jeb Bush delivers remarks at an education event in Miami, FL.

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OFF TO THE RACES: Previewing Joni Ernst’s “Roast and Ride” event in Iowa

The Des Moines Register previews Saturday’s Roast and Ride event in rural Boone.

Iowa’s Dave Price has a big takeout in POLITICO magazine on questions about the relevance of the Iowa caucuses.

In her column, the Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter says that Jeb Bush has gone from fragile frontrunner to underdog, and she calls Scott Walker your current GOP frontrunner – for now.

BUSH: He’s planning a big campaign swing through early primary states after his June announcement.

CLINTON: NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports on Clinton’s push for automatic voter registration, including her specific criticisms of her Republican opponents for what she called restrictions on voting access.

POLITICO writes that some Democrats are getting a little anxious about her polling, although other backers point to strong numbers in early states.

KASICH: John Kasich, not holding back. Via NH1.com, he explained by he’s exploring a possible presidential bid, saying “Frankly, I thought that Jeb was going to just suck all the air out of the room. And it just hasn’t happened. No hit on Jeb.”

PERRY: Here’s our report on his announcement yesterday.

Perry Bacon Jr. writes that it doesn’t look like Republicans are ready to give him a second chance.

The Washington Post writes that he’s snagged Sam Clovis, a big conservative backer in Iowa.

His super PAC has bought TV ad time in two Iowa markets, the New York Times notes.

PAUL: He’s going after Marco Rubio on foreign policy after the Florida senator said of Iraq: “It’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”

SANDERS: A really smart point from Perry Bacon Jr. and Dante Chinni: Bernie Sanders is surging among white Democrats, but the rest of the party is still behind Hillary Clinton.

WALKER: From the New York Times: “Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who began building a national profile four years ago by sharply cutting collective bargaining rights for most government workers, has turned his sights to a different element of the public sector: state universities. As Mr. Walker takes steps toward announcing his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, he and leaders in Wisconsin’s Republican-held Legislature have called for changes that would give a board largely picked by the governor far more control over tenure and curriculum in the University of Wisconsin System.”

And around the country…

IOWA: “Any Iowa woman wanting an abortion would have to be offered the chance to look at an ultrasound of the fetus before undergoing the procedure, under a bill that passed both houses of the Legislature Wednesday evening,” writes the Des Moines Register.

OBAMA AGENDA: China denies being behind cyberattack

Leading NBCNews.com: “China accused the United States of making “groundless accusations” and being “irresponsible” Friday in blaming Chinese hackers for a vast data breach that could be the biggest cyberattack in U.S. history. Four million federal workers may have had their personal information compromised in the attack, which officials said could affect every agency of the U.S. government.”

More from the AP: “A U.S. official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the data breach, said the breach could potentially affect every federal agency. One key question is whether intelligence agency employee information was stolen. Former government employees are affected as well.”

National Journal’s Ron Brownstein says that criticizing the pending free-trade agreement – because of NAFTA – is ignoring some potential benefits. “Because the congressional trade debate has largely looked through the rearview mirror at NAFTA’s impact on manufacturing, it has slighted the TPP’s potential role in promoting exports in services and intellectual property, from entertainment to software. Yet the agreement could have its greatest impact on that front not only by eliminating discriminatory local regulations but also by strengthening protections for copyright, patents, and digital commerce.” 

CONGRESS: Pelosi says it’s up to Boehner to find votes to pass fast track

Politico: “Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said it is not her responsibility to help House Republicans pass a controversial piece of trade legislation at the top of President Barack Obama’s priorities The California Democrat told reporters on Thursday that it is up to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to provide the bulk of the 217 ‘yes’ votes needed to pass fast-track authority, a measure that would allow Obama to more easily pass a Pacific trade deal.”

Republicans in the House have voted to keep restrictions on Americans who hope to travel to Cuba.

ABC News interviewed a woman who says that her brother, now deceased, was a victim of sexual abuse by Dennis Hastert.

Via Roll Call: ‘A Senate minority successfully blocked an amendment aimed at ending discrimination against same-sex marriage benefits for veterans Thursday.”

Carrie Dann contributed reporting.

Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush's struggle with conservatives