U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a community forum campaign event at Cornell College in Mt Vernon, Iowa, Oct. 7, 2015.
Photo by Scott Morgan/Reuters

Why Clinton’s flip-flop on trade is so unbelievable

Why Clinton’s flip-flop on trade is so unbelievable… Why she flipped – to protect her left flank… And why the reversal didn’t do the Obama administration any favors… House Republicans hold their conference election for speaker… But would Boehner need to stick around longer than he wants?… And on Rubio’s missed Senate votes.

FIRST THOUGHTS

*** Why Clinton’s flip-flop on trade is so unbelievable: Yes, Hillary Clinton’s new opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord cleans up something she needed to do before next week’s first Democratic debate. And, yes, it puts pressure on Vice President Joe Biden getting into the race (because he’d be on the only major candidate in support of TPP). But make no mistake: This flip-flop isn’t believable at all. For starters, there was the time as secretary of state when she said TPP “sets the gold standard in trade agreements.” In her book, “Hard Choices” (which she sent out to all the GOP candidates), she called TPP “the signature economic pillar” of the Obama administration’s strategy in Asia. And then there’s the wiggle room she left for herself, as well as the fact that she hasn’t even fully reviewed the trade accord because it’s not public yet. “I’m continuing to learn about the details of the new Trans-Pacific Partnership, including looking hard at what’s in there to crack down on currency manipulation, which kills American jobs, and to make sure we’re not putting the interests of drug companies ahead of patients and consumers. But based on what I know so far, I can’t support this agreement,” she said in her statement yesterday. And because this opposition is so unbelievable, it feeds every negative stereotype about her – despite the short-term political benefits.

RELATED: Hillary Clinton comes out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership

*** Why Hillary flipped: to protect her left flank: So why did Clinton flip? It was all about protecting her left flank. As one of us wrote yesterday, Clinton’s newfound opposition to TPP protects her against Bernie Sanders’ challenge (especially before Tuesday’s debate; it helps solidify her support with organized labor; and it makes Biden the only Democrat in favor of the accord (if he gets into the race). But we want to focus on the point about organized labor. As AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka said on “Meet the Press” last month about Clinton and TPP: “I think if she doesn’t take a position on TPP, then you can say she’s looking for our vote. If she does take a position on TPP, then she’s looking for our support. And the difference is, if you get my vote, I come out on Election Day and I pull the lever. If you’ve got my support, I get up at 7:00 in the morning, I stuffed 200 envelopes, I make seven calls, I go knock on a few doors, and I get my neighbors all excited about voting for her as well.”

*** And why the reversal didn’t do the Obama administration any favors: Here’s a final point we want to make about Clinton’s new opposition to TPP: It doesn’t do the Obama administration any favors, that’s for sure. Obama and his team face a situation where the entire Democratic ‘16 field (for now) opposes the TPP accord, which won’t make it easier to twist Democratic arms to get congressional ratification. (In fact, it’s the opposite of the situation around the Iran deal, where the party’s ’16 contenders and much of the base SUPPORTED the Iran deal.) This time, the Obama White House will have to get much of its support from Republicans – just like it did in winning fast-track authority earlier this year. And as House Ways & Means Chairman Paul Ryan suggested on “MTP Daily” yesterday, House Republicans might have some concerns about the TPP accord. There’s still plenty of time to go, but the Obama administration will start the ratification process on shaky ground.

*** House Republicans hold their conference election for speaker: As NBC’s Alex Moe reports, House Republicans will hold their conference-wide election for speaker today (though the full floor vote for both Democrats and Republicans won’t occur until Oct. 29). Here’s today schedule, per Moe: At 8:00 am ET, the House GOP conference will hold a special meeting for all three candidates for speaker – Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Chairman Jason Chaffetz, and Rep. Daniel Webster – to address the full conference because during the actual voting session candidates are NOT permitted to address colleagues. Then, at noon ET, the House GOP conference will vote for speaker. To win, a candidate must secure 50% + 1. If no one gets this on the first ballot, the top two candidates move on to a second ballot. It is widely speculated that McCarthy will win on the first ballot so this could go rather quickly. And Moe says that we should have a result around 1:30 pm ET. But the big question is what happens on Oct. 29. If all members are voting, Moe adds, 218 votes are required to elect a Speaker on the floor which means McCarthy can only lose 29 votes that day to win.

*** But would Boehner need to stick around longer than he wants? Yet there are two questions to ask: One, if he wins, just how strong (or weak) of a position is McCarthy in – and how will that affect the business that Congress needs to do later this year? “What was supposed to be a relatively smooth ascension for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has been rocked by his own gaffes, outsider challengers and the threat of an unprecedented floor fight that could undermine efforts to avoid a government shutdown and a historic default on the national debt before the year’s end,” Talking Points Memo writes. Two, does a weakened McCarthy mean that outgoing Speaker John Boehner might need to stick around longer than he wants? (He’s supposed to step down on Oct. 30.) As Fox News’ Chad Pergram writes, “What happens if Republicans can’t agree on a Speaker?  ‘I’ve never seen anything quite like this,’ murmured one senior House Republican aide. ‘I don’t know how this is going to work out.’ ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t get a Speaker until the next Congress,’ predicted one Republican lawmaker who asked to not be identified.”

*** On Rubio’s missed Senate votes: Two days into Jeb Bush and his campaign leaning heavily into Rubio missed Senate votes, we can say the scrutiny can gotten under Rubio’s skin a bit. And if anything, Team Bush is trying to make the case that Rubio is a man in a hurry – without any real governing accomplishments. But will the missed Senate votes themselves be a major long-term problem for Rubio? We have our doubts. After all, Rubio has already announced he’s leaving the Senate no matter what come 2016 (he’s not running for re-election).

OFF TO THE RACES: How both Bush and Rubio are playing in Iowa

Bloomberg’s Josh Green has an in-depth look at Steve Bannon, the chairman of Breitbart News.

BIDEN: NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard passes along this 2008 Washington Post report, in which Jill Biden says “”I would hope that Joe would never be a politician like Hillary Clinton.”

BUSH: Embed Jordan Frasier has a nice look at how Jeb Bush is using his Iowa tour to press the reset button.

CARSON: Rupert Murdoch tweeted that Carson, unlike Obama, would give the country “a real black president who can properly address the racial divide.”

In an interview with NPR, Carson offered a confusing answer to a series of questions about raising the debt limit.

CLINTON: Here’s our wrap of Clinton’s decision to break with the Obama administration and oppose TPP.

And here’s analysis from one of us(!) about what Clinton’s move is all about: presidential primary politics.

She has a new ally in a supporter named Kevin McCarthy. (Not THAT Kevin McCarthy, though.)

Writes The Washington Post: “A technology subcontractor that has worked on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s e-mail setup expressed concerns over the summer that the system was inadequately protected and vulnerable to hackers, a company official said Wednesday. But the concerns were rebuffed by the company managing the Clinton account, Platte River Networks, which said it had been instructed by the FBI not to make changes. The FBI has been reviewing the security of the e-mail system.”

And from the AP: “Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private email server, which stored some 55,000 pages of emails from her time as secretary of state, was the subject of attempted cyberattacks originating in China, South Korea and Germany after she left office in early 2013, according to a congressional document obtained by The Associated Press. While the attempts were apparently blocked by a “threat monitoring” product that Clinton’s employees connected to her network in October 2013, there was a period of more than three months from June to October 2013 when that protection had not been installed, according to a letter from Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.” (But is that really a story – if the attempts were blocked?)

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent: “When Hillary Clinton rolled out a series of new gun control proposals this week, one of the most newsworthy and controversial ideas she put forth was a vow to use executive action as president to fix the background check system if Congress refused to act. But the Obama administration has already taken a long, internal look at the same executive-action proposal Clinton has promised to undertake, and has doubts over whether it can be made to work in practical terms, according to current and former senior administration officials.”

FIORINA: She picked up the endorsements of some influential Nebraskans, including Rep. Jeff Fortenberry.

KASICH: His approval rating in Ohio is at an all-time high.

RUBIO: Our Iowa bureau (Danny Freeman and Vaughn Hillyard) offers this smart look at how Rubio is playing (or isn’t) in the state.

It’s not clear that Rubio’s record of missing Senate votes is bothering voters in key states.

SANDERS: POLITICO takes a look at his unusual debate prep plan.

TRUMP: Katy Tur, who’s been on the road covering Trump for 104 of the last 112 days, give her take on the campaign so far.

Washington celebrity chef Jose Andres is countersuing Donald Trump.

CONGRESS: McCarthy’s first test

It’s Speaker nomination day with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy the favorite… The New York Times looks at why Paul Ryan isn’t interested in the job.

Hard-line conservatives have endorsed Daniel Webster for the position.

And/but, from the Washington Post: “But in an opening for the California Republican, caucus members said Wednesday that the endorsement is binding on members only for Thursday’s party vote and that it would not necessarily apply to the decisive Oct. 29 floor vote.’

From NBC’s Alex Moe and one of us(!): The House has voted to create a special committee to investigate Planned Parenthood.

Harry Reid is suing the company that makes the exercise band that left him injured in a New Year’s Day accident.

OBAMA AGENDA: A full apology

The president apologized for the airstrike that hit a Doctors Without Borders hospital, a rare move for a commander-in-chief.

From NBC News: “Iraqi security forces have launched an operation to retake the city of Ramadi from ISIS militants and for the first time in months have taken control of part of the city, Iraqi and U.S. officials said. A senior Iraqi security official told NBC News that Iraqi forces began advancing toward the city — a key battleground in Anbar province in the western part of the country — about midnight Tuesday to take advantage of an impending sandstorm.”

—NBC News’ Carrie Dann contributed to this article. 

Hillary Clinton and Trade

Why Clinton’s flip-flop on trade is so unbelievable