Romney reveals his ‘biggest mistake’ and how it could help the GOP

Hillary and Jeb both look to grind it out to get to the White House … And they both look to separate themselves from their famous last names … Previewing Jeb’s announcement at 3:00 pm ET … A lot has changed in Florida since Bush’s last election there … Conservative writer Philip Klein: If GOP can’t beat Hillary, it will be time for party to throw in the towel … Hillary talks trade, but doesn’t really answer the question … And Romney on “Meet the Press” yesterday: “I think the biggest mistake I made was not focusing very early on minority voters.”

FIRST THOUGHTS

*** Romney: “I think the biggest mistake I made was not focusing very early on minority voters”: Don’t miss what Mitt Romney said on “Meet the Press” yesterday when asked what his biggest lesson of 2012 was — and how that could help the GOP in 2016. “I think the biggest mistake I made was not focusing very early on minority voters,” he said. “Our policies, as a conservative group of people, our policies are designed to help people get out of poverty and to see rising incomes.” (Of course, one big reason he blew Rick Perry out of the water was going hard right on immigration.) The challenge for the GOP here: How do you focus more on minority voters when your audience in the primaries is GOP voters?

*** Hillary and Jeb both look to grind it out to get to the White House: Hillary Clinton (who’s begun her big kickoff rallies) and Jeb Bush (who officially announces his presidential bid today) have one other similarity beyond their famous last names: Their messages and paths to the White House are about grinding it out. For Hillary, that was evident in her Saturday speech at Roosevelt Island in New York. If you were expecting the electricity of an Obama event in 2007-2008 or even 2012, you were mistaken. Instead, you got a candidate promising to fight and grind it out. “I think you know by now that I’ve been called many things by many people. ‘Quitter’ is not one of them,” Clinton said in her speech. And while she has maybe the clearest path to winning a party’s presidential nomination in modern times, her general-election strategy will be all about pushing that Democratic coalition to a third-straight presidential win, which won’t be easy. As for Jeb, his path to winning the GOP nomination is all about grinding out – in a large GOP field and to a Republican audience that might be resistant to his message on immigration and Common Core. “My expectation is we’ll have slow, steady progress. That’s been the expectation all along,” he told CNN. And regarding his governing style, he said this in his campaign announcement video: “There’s a lot of people talking, and they’re pretty good at it. But we need to start fixing things.”

*** Separating themselves from their famous last names: Both Hillary and Jeb also have worked to separate themselves from — if not blot out completely — their famous last names. For Hillary, it was the story about her mother, who was abandoned at the age of 14. (Translation: “Unlike Jeb, my parents didn’t live in the White House, and my grandfather wasn’t a U.S. senator.”) She also emphasized her record before becoming first lady. “My first job out of law school was for the Children’s Defense Fund,” she said on Saturday. “I walked door-to-door to find out how many children with disabilities couldn’t go to school, and to help build the case for a law guaranteeing them access to education. As a leader of the Legal Services Corporation, I defended the right of poor people to have a lawyer.” For Jeb, his campaign logo — Jeb! 2016 — doesn’t even include his last name. What’s more, as The New York Times notes, “[A]ides said his father and brother would not join him for the announcement at the Kendall Campus of Miami Dade College.” But while Bush seems intent on separating himself from his last name, his message is almost identical to his brother’s “compassionate conservative” message from 2000. “The most vulnerable in our society should be at the front of the line, not at the back,” Jeb says in that announcement video.

*** Previewing Jeb’s announcement: At 3:00 pm ET from Miami Dade College (Kendall Campus), Jeb Bush officially announces his presidential bid. Bush previewed his message in an interview he conducted with NBC’s Chris Jansing in Estonia over the weekend. “We can fix these things, we can fix the problems that people l think are intractable. With leadership we can move forward again. We can be the greatest country on the face of the earth again. I truly believe it.” NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell has additional reporting: “Multiple advisers … identified three major themes for campaign Day One: He has a record of ‘fixing’ things; he is a ‘reformer’ with the skills and beliefs to help society’s most vulnerable; and he will go anywhere to seek support for his candidacy. After Bush’s announcement today, he travels Tuesday to New Hampshire (where he’ll talk about the economy and jobs; to Iowa on Wednesday (where the plan is to discuss the priorities of working Americans); and to South Carolina on Thursday (where he’ll talk foreign policy and national security).

*** A lot has changed in Florida since Bush’s last election there: Here’s one other fascinating tidbit about Jeb: “A Bloomberg Politics study conducted with University of Florida political scientist Daniel A. Smith found that nearly three-quarters of Florida’s 12.9 million currently registered voters have never even seen Bush’s name on a ballot,” per Bloomberg’s Josh Green. “About 35 percent of voters in [Bush’s last election in 2002] have disappeared from the state’s rolls—most have died, moved away or gone to prison… By contrast, 92 percent of Floridians who voted when Marco Rubio was last on the ballot, in 2010, are still registered.”

*** Conservative writer Philip Klein: If GOP can’t beat Hillary, it will be time for GOP to throw in the towel: Turning back to Hillary, the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein observed from Hillary’s speech on Saturday that she’s plenty vulnerable enough for Republicans to defeat in 2016. “Despite decades of practice, she remains a weak public speaker … Beyond that, the speech demonstrated that despite claiming decades of experience, she has little to show for it in terms of actual accomplishments — and those accomplishments she does take credit for can be easily exposed as fantasy.” Klein went on to argue that if the GOP loses to her, “then it may be time [for the Republican Party] to throw in the towel.” In a lot of ways, that’s the 2016 general-election ballgame. After eight years of one party holding the White House, is it time for the presidency to flip to the other party? Or will Democrats win a third-straight term — largely on the backs of young, Latino, African-American voters who’ve been turned off from the GOP? As we’ve said before, a party winning three-straight terms (like the GOP did in 1980, 1984, 1988) forces the political opposition to change dramatically (see Bill Clinton and the DLC).

*** Hillary talks trade … : We probably aren’t the only ones who see a lot of similarities between Hillary Clinton’s dodges on drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants back in 2007, and her dodging on trade in 2015. Here is what she said in Iowa yesterday, per NBC’s Kristen Welker: “There’s a lot of discussion about TPP, I want to tell you what I think. No president would be a tougher negotiator on behalf of American workers, with trading partners or on Capitol Hill than I would be. With my eight years in the Senate, I voted for some trade agreements and against others. I think I have a pretty good idea what we need to do to. One, it needs to protect American workers; two, raise wages and create good jobs at home; three, needs to be our national security interest.” Clinton went on to say,  “Here’s what I think should happen now… In order to get a deal that meets these high standards, the president should listen to and work with his allies in Congress starting with Nancy Pelosi and about the impact a weak agreement would have on our workers, to make sure we get the best and strongest deal possible and if we don’t get it there should be no deal.”

*** … But doesn’t really answer the question: So while this seems to be a swipe at Obama, it’s worth noting that Clinton is only talking about TPP – the Trans Pacific Partnership (i.e, the free-trade agreement), not Friday’s votes on TPA (trade promotion authority, or “fast track”), or TAA (the Trade Adjustment Assistance that legislatively derailed Obama’s trade agenda). So she didn’t REALLY answer the question. But here is the potential good news for Hillary: If TAA goes down to defeat again on Tuesday, it’s likely the issue goes away – because Obama’s free-trade agenda will be dead in the water.

OFF TO THE RACES: Jeb’s Announcement Day

Could Mitt Romney and billionaire conservative donor Sheldon Adelson team up to influence the 2016 race? Politico says they are: “Mitt Romney is working with an unlikely collaborator — Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul who bankrolled Newt Gingrich’s 2012 campaign — in the hopes of ensuring that the GOP primary produces a mainstream conservative without any of the mayhem that marked his own race.”

And MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt provides this insight into the access the wealthy get to presidential candidates: “For the wealthy donors who bankrolled Mitt Romney’s campaign, 2016 is up close and personal in a way that is out of reach for most Americans…. Here, money and connections buy the kind of interaction usually reserved for close friends, family or colleagues: Late night cocktail hours, flag football games, meetings in hotel suites—all in addition to hearing each White House contender make a pitch for support and getting a chance to ask a question.”

BUSH: It’s announcement day for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. As the Miami Herald put it, he will launch his presidential bid as he simultaneously tries to regain momentum.

He also tries to downplay the Bush part of his persona. His newly unveiled his logo drops his surname and neither his brother, the 43rd president, nor his father, the 41st president will attend his launch speech at Miami Dade College.

The Washington Post writes about his “wandering years.” The four years between the loss of his first gubernatorial bid in Florida and his win in 1998. “Humbled by defeat the first time he ran for office, Bush spent the mid-1990s broadening and deepening his knowledge of how his state worked, forging relationships that softened his profile and striving to talk about what he believed in a way that would bring people together.”

The Upshot in The New York Times writes this about Bush’s candidacy: “What is surprising, though, is Mr. Bush’s relatively vulnerable standing in the places he had seemed strong only a few months ago. It’s no surprise that he has miserable numbers among Iowa caucus-goers, who are very conservative, and tea party supporters nationwide. It is surprising that he has not emerged as a clear favorite in New Hampshire, where self-identified moderates make up nearly half of the electorate.”

Here’s the video he launched ahead of his announcement.

CLINTON: Clinton gave her first major speech on Saturday, two months after the official launch of her campaign. NBC’s Perry Bacon Jr. wrote that “Clinton’s husband famously declared in 1996 that “the era of big government is over.” But the former secretary of state and First Lady argued in her campaign “kickoff speech” that the wealthy and the powerful are increasingly capturing the gains of the U.S. economy and that a more forceful role for the government is needed to help middle-class and poor Americans.”

Clinton can’t escape the trade issue. Her Democratic challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders blasted her in Iowa on her lack of position.  “I don’t understand how you don’t have a position on this issue,” he said.

Clinton did slight President Barack Obama, however, saying he needs to work with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald reports. She added that without improvements, “there should be no deal.”

KASICH: The Ohio governor who might jump in the race will headline a Caucus Candidate Forum in Iowa later this month. The Des Moines Register also reports that Kasich “has been evaluating resources, making sure he has a team in place that could run a national election and gauging voter reaction in early states.”

OBAMA AGENDA: One more chance on trade

The New York Times writes that Obama’s failure to pass the trade deal will have a major impact on his legacy. “The 12-nation trade deal Mr. Obama has been negotiating in Asia took on special meaning for a president eager to change the world. It was a way to leave behind a positive legacy abroad, one that could be measured, he hoped, by the number of lives improved rather than by the number of bodies left behind. And if the Pacific really is the future, Mr. Obama wanted to position the United States to lead the way.

House Republicans might make another go of it this week, Politico reports.

ICYMI: Here’s this fantastic explainer on the trade deal from NBC News.

—NBC News’ Carrie Dann contributed to this report

Mitt Romney

Romney reveals his 'biggest mistake' and how it could help the GOP