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The week in 2016: Here’s what mattered (and what didn’t)

In today’s rapid-fire political news cycle, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the different news out there. 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. Biden: Do I have “the emotional energy to run”? For the second time in the last two weeks, Joe Biden acknowledged how the toll of losing his son to cancer would weigh on his presidential decision. “I’ll be straightforward with you: The most relevant factor in my decision is whether my family and I have the emotional energy to run,” Biden said at a synagogue in Atlanta on Thursday night. As this column said last week, the 2016 door remains open for Biden, but he’s still not running through it just yet.

2. That former Clinton IT staffer invoking the 5th amendment: Yes, the Clinton campaign encouraged Bryan Pagliano to testify before the House Benghazi committee. Yes, other top Clinton aides have testified - as Hillary Clinton will do herself in October. But just like with the current FBI investigation, Paglianoinvoking the 5th amendment is a reminder of how the email story is largely out of Clinton’s control. By the way, don’t miss Andrea Mitchell’s interviewwith Clinton on the email story.

3. Another (mostly) strong jobs report: Friday’s news - the unemployment rate dropping to 5.1%, 173,000 jobs created in August, another 44,000 jobs revised upward in June/July - marks the 59th-straight month of overall positive job growth (and 66th-straight month of private-sector job growth). And that helps explain why many of the ‘16 candidates are talking about so many OTHER issues than the economy.

4. Trump fails foreign-policy quiz: Sure, nothing yet has sunk Donald Trump’s poll numbers. Remember when he told NBC’s Chuck Todd that he’d look for military advice from the folks he sees on TV - like John Bolton and Col. Jack Jacobs? But what’s changed after Trump failed Hugh Hewitt’s foreign-policy quiz is that rival GOP campaigns are piling on - which furthers the story. Is the worm beginning to turn here?

RELATED: Exclusive: Hillary Clinton ‘sorry’ about email confusion

What Didn’t Matter As Much

1. Trump’s pledge to not make a third-party run: Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee both got something out of Thursday’s spectacle of Trump pledging not to run as a third-party candidate. For Trump, he received the RNC’s imprimatur - as well as another news conference. For the RNC, it got a way to soothe nervous GOP elites that Trump could bolt the party and doom its chances in Nov. 2016. But note: Trump’s pledge isn’t legally binding.

2. The rule change for the next debate: It’s certainly big news for Carly Fiorina, who was looking like she wouldn’t make the Sept. 16 under CNN’s old criteria. But her likely inclusion won’t come at the expense of any other Republican. Bottom line: Under the new rules, we’re likely to see 11 participate at the next debate.

3. Monday’s Clinton email dump: Another month, another dump of Hillary Clinton’s emails as secretary of state. Yet beyond Sidney Blumenthal not letting go of the 2008 Democratic primary, friends and aides kissing up to Clinton, and gefilte fish - there wasn’t real news in them. The one exception: An email from aide Huma Abedin acknowledging that someone didn’t know Clinton had a personal account instead of dot-gov email. 

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden

The week in 2016: Here's what mattered (and what didn't)