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Clinton steps on the gas as possible Biden run looms

The Democratic presidential hopeful is running with a different sense of urgency, campaigning everywhere as she looks to lock down support for her candidacy.
Hillary Clinton speaks at Broward College on Oct. 2, 2015 in Davie, Fl. (Photo by Johnny Louis/FilmMagic/Getty)
Hillary Clinton speaks at Broward College on Oct. 2, 2015 in Davie, Fl. 

Hillary steps on the gas… And she seizes -- once again -- on Kevin McCarthy’s Benghazi committee comments… Time isn’t McCarthy’s friend right now… Politico: It was Joe Biden himself who spoke to Maureen Dowd… Why the current gun debate isn’t a good issue for Bernie Sanders… Is Marco Rubio now the favorite in the GOP race?... And Trump -- so far -- hasn’t been spending his money.

Hillary steps on the gas 

In the last few days, Hillary Clinton has been, well, everywhere. On Saturday, she addressed the pro-gay-rights Human Rights Campaign, picked up the endorsement of the National Education Association, and appeared on “Saturday Night Live.” On Monday, she sat down with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie in New Hampshire and unveiled her gun-control proposals. Today, she campaigns in Iowa. It’s remarkable to contrast all of this Clinton activity -- coming as Joe Biden still mulls a presidential bid and as she trails in New Hampshire (but leads in Iowa and elsewhere) -- with her campaign pace in the spring and early summer, when she was going about 5 mph.

Now she’s hitting 70 mph and picking up speed. Clinton’s poll position hasn’t improved in the early states (see our NBC/WSJ/Marist polls from the weekend), but she is now running with a different sense of urgency. As Democratic pollster Peter Hart said of Clinton on “Meet the Press” back in August, “She's a terrible frontrunner, but she's a marvelous candidate when she gets into the middle of the race.”

And she seizes -- once again -- on McCarthy’s Benghazi committee comments

Her campaign also is out with a new a national cable TV ad that seizes on House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s comments from last week that the House Benghazi committee was all about hurting Clinton’s poll numbers. And Clinton channeled her “Shame on you, Barack Obama” from 2008 to hit the House Republicans in her interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie yesterday. “This committee was set up, as they have admitted, for the purpose of making a partisan political issue out of the deaths of four Americans. I would have never done that, and if I were president and there were Republicans or Democrats who were thinking about that, I would have done everything to shut it down.” Make no mistake: McCarthy’s comments have only benefited Clinton -- and they’ve also made life miserable for McCarthy.

Time isn’t Kevin McCarthy’s friend right now

Speaking of McCarthy, with the leadership elections now set for Oct. 29, time isn’t his friend as he runs to succeed John Boehner as speaker. Think about it: His opponents now have three weeks to thwart his bid. And maybe more importantly, if the Benghazi hearing on Oct. 22 doesn’t go well for Republicans (with Hillary using McCarthy’s comments as a shield), you might have PLENTY of upset House Republicans. So that’s the danger for McCarthy. The good news perhaps is that the additional three weeks gives him more time to shore up his position. But those three weeks could also make things worse.

Politico: It was Joe Biden himself who spoke to Maureen Dowd 

Politico reports, citing multiple sources, that it was Joe Biden himself who talked to Maureen Dowd – for Dowd’s column in the New York Times that Biden was thinking about running in 2016 to fulfill his son Beau’s dying wish. Here’s that Aug. 1 Maureen Dowd column: “Beau was losing his nouns and the right side of his face was partially paralyzed. But he had a mission: He tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.” NBC News hasn’t yet confirmed that Biden himself was Dowd’s source. But this isn’t a good story for Biden. Why? Biden’s biggest political strength, by far, has been his emotional authenticity. But this story kind of undercuts that. Who appears to be the calculating politician now?

Why the current gun debate isn’t a good issue for Bernie Sanders 

While Mr. Sanders has outflanked Hillary Rodham Clinton by appealing to liberals, his record on gun-related issues could be a potential vulnerability in a Democratic contest in which he is not accustomed to facing doubts about his liberal credentials,” the New York Times says. “Mr. Sanders voted against the Brady Bill in the 1990s, requiring background checks, when he was in the House of Representatives. And in 2005, he voted in favor of a bill to shield gun manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits. (Mrs. Clinton, then a senator from New York, voted against that bill, and is pledging to repeal it as part of her gun control plan.) After the Newtown, Conn., shootings, Mr. Sanders, by then a senator, voted for expanding background checks and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.” And guess what: The gun debate is going to continue at least through Friday, when President Obama travels to Oregon to visit with the families of the victims of last week’s tragic shootings.

Is Marco Rubio now the favorite in the GOP race?

“A series of strong performances on the campaign trail and missteps by other candidates have helped improve Marco Rubio's presidential prospects, and some top party operatives say the Florida senator is for now the favorite to win the GOP presidential nomination,” NBC’s Perry Bacon writes. And Rubio was on “Today,” where he said that gun control measures would have done nothing to prevent the Oregon shooting. And he deflected criticism about his missed votes in the Senate, saying that “the majority of the job of being a senator isn’t walking onto the Senate floor and lifting your finger on a non-controversial issue and saying which way you’re going to vote. The majority of the work of a senator is the constituent service.” So being a senator isn’t about voting?

Trump -- so far -- hasn’t been spending his money 

Finally don’t miss this piece by MSNBC’s Ari Melber: Donald Trump has BARELY been spending money. “Trump campaign officials say he has only spent about $2 million – far less than fellow GOP candidates Dr. Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz, for instance. each spent $5.5 million just through July, according to the latest FEC reports. Hillary Clinton’s campaign, meanwhile, spent $18 million in the same period; that’s nine times Trump’s entire spending to date.” We’ll see what the next campaign filing says come Oct. 15.

On the trail: Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are both in Iowa… So are Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee…. Marco Rubio and George Pataki campaign in New Hampshire… And Martin O’Malley hits Nevada.


BUSH: He's returning to Iowa, and he has a new web video that lays out "Why I'm Running."

CARSON: He talked about his evolution on gun control in an interview with USA Today. "Reading people like Daniel Webster, who talked about tyranny in Europe and said it would never occur in America because the American people were armed," he says. "When you look at tyranny and how it occurs, the pattern is so consistent: Get rid of the guns for the people first so you can go in and dominate them."

CLINTON: Her first national cable ad will target the comments about the Benghazi committee made by Kevin McCarthy, NBC reports.

If you missed it, here are her fiery comments to Savannah Guthrie about the "partisan" panel.

Some of Hillary Clinton's allies think that her campaign is needlessly pouring resources into New Hampshire, a state that could be a lost cause, writes POLITICO.

Democrats are keeping the heat on Republicans on the House Benghazi Commitee, writes the Washington Post.  "On Monday, Democrats on the special committee released portions of interview transcripts from Clinton’s chief of staff while she was secretary of state, accusing GOP leaders of selective leaks designed for political gain. The excerpts were more favorable to the Democratic presidential front-runner’s side of the story about the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on the Libyan consulate. Democrats gave Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) five days to respond to their accusations or else they planned to release the entire transcript."

FIORINA: She criticized the media after The Washington Post reported that it took her years to pay off campaign debts to her staff and contractors after her 2010 Senate bid.

O'MALLEY: Ouch. Only two percent of Maryland Democratic voters -- his home state! -- like O'Malley for president.

RUBIO: NBC's Perry Bacon Jr. writes that some mainstream Republicans are viewing Marco Rubio as the candidate most likely to come out on top now after Jeb Bush's stumbles.

The New York Times looks at what it would take for Rubio to capitalize on the moment.

He said on TODAY that gun control measures would have done nothing to prevent the Oregon shooting.

Here’s Benjy Sarlin on Rubio’s “confusing immigration answers.”

TRUMP: His campaign sent water bottles and towels to Rubio's campaign office in DC with a note reading "Since you're always sweating, we thought you could use some water. Enjoy!"

After suggesting that he could exit the race if his poll numbers slip, he insisted on CNN that he's given no thought to dropping out.

He's warring with Stuart Stevens now, too.

The AP explores how Trump is known -- but not necessarily loved -- in other countries around the world.

CONGRESS: Leadership elections delayed until Oct. 29

"Congress and the Obama administration are frantically seeking ways to hold down Medicare premiums that could rise by roughly 50 percent for some beneficiaries next year, according to lawmakers and Medicare officials," writes The New York Times.

John Boehner's move to delay some leadership elections means that House Republicans are facing a protracted fight for power. 

OBAMA AGENDA: Another tough fight in Congress

The president praised the trade deal reached in Atlanta as an agreement that "reflects America's values," but it faces a tough fight in Congress, The Washington Post reports.

From The New York Times: "The American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, said on Monday that Afghan forces had requested the airstrike that destroyed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in the city of Kunduz, conceding that the military had incorrectly reported at first that the response was to protect American troops said to be under direct threat.

Additional reporting by Carrie Dann.