Trump’s constantly moving targets… The secret to his success so far: It’s hard to track -- let alone remember -- the latest outrage… Trump to NBC’s Matt Lauer: “I am not a bully”… Could Republicans have avoided Trump-ism?... Hillary heads to Iowa with another big endorsement in her arms… A personal decision for Biden: He’s never been as close to a 2016 bid, and yet he’s still far away… What Biden can (and can’t) do as he mulls a 2016 bid… Where Jeb differs from his brother: hurricane response… And Colorado GOP cancels its nominating contest.
A personal decision for Biden
He's never been as close to a 2016 bid, and yet he's still far away: As for Biden, we want to share this insight about his decision-making process after reporting and gathering string as he mulls a 2016 bid. First, it's a very personal decision for him -- it won't be based on metrics. He knows that the odds will be stacked against him, but he also knows that the minute he closes the door on a presidential run, he knows his political career is over, especially after leaving office in Jan. 2017. Right now, he's also open to a White House bid because in his previous runs (in 1988, 2008), there never was a demand by other Democrats (and the news media) for him to get in. But he also realizes that if he runs, he'll be required to attack Hillary Clinton, and he's never been comfortable attacking folks from his own party. (Remember who didn't pile on Hillary Clinton during that drivers' licenses exchange from Oct. 2007?) Bottom line after this reporting: He's never been so close to running in 2016 -- and yet he's still far away.
What Biden can (and can't) do as he mulls a 2016 bid
As Biden mulls a presidential run, he is legally allowed to discuss the 2016 campaign with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (as he did on Saturday) and speak with potential donors (as he's planning to do after Labor Day), one of us writes. He's even allowed to "test the waters" by making a visit to the early nominating states of Iowa or New Hampshire. But here's what Biden can't do right now: actually pay the tens of thousands -- or even hundreds of thousands -- of dollars it costs for a sitting vice president to travel to places like Manchester, N.H., or Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The reason? He doesn't appear to have a fundraising vehicle -- either a campaign account, Super PAC, leadership PAC, or his own personal wealth - to pay for it. And without one, he's running out of options to do more. "To test the waters, the first thing you have to do is raise the money," says Larry Noble, the senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center and former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission.
Trump's constantly moving targets
When he first entered the presidential race, Donald Trump attacked Mexico and Mexicans. Then he targeted John McCain. Then it was Lindsey Graham and Rick Perry. After the first debate, Trump picked a fight with Megyn Kelly and Fox News. Next it was Jeb Bush. And then yesterday, in a span of less than 12 hours, Trump blasted Kelly and Fox News (again), Univision's Jorge Ramos, and even Marco Rubio, per NBC's Ali Vitali. Whew, got all of that? Indeed, you could argue that all of Trump's moving targets have become one of the secrets to his political success so far: There are so many, it's hard to track -- let alone remember -- the latest outrage. Here's Red State's Leon Wolf (hat tip: MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin: "Watching Donald Trump speak and answer questions … is like watching a billion targets appear in the sky all at once, for a political opponent. Each thing he says is so bizarre, or ill informed, or demonstrably false, or un presidential in tone or character, that it becomes impossible to know which target to lock on to or focus on." More: "Donald Trump is the political equivalent of chaff, a billion shiny objects all floating through the sky at once, ephemeral, practically without substance, serving almost exclusively to distract from more important things - yet nonetheless completely impossible to ignore." Exactly.
Trump: "I am not a bully"
That said, the overall story about Trump is the same: He's attacking someone out there. On "Today" this morning, NBC's Matt Lauer asked Trump if he was a bully. Trump replied, "I am not a bully; in fact, I think it is the opposite… [Univision's Jorge Ramos] gets up and starts ranting and raving."
Could Republicans have avoided Trump-ism?
By the way, it's not just Donald Trump who's mixing it up with Megyn Kelly and Fox News. When Kelly repeatedly asked Ted Cruz last night what he would do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants, Cruz responded by saying that's "the question every mainstream media liberal journalist wants to ask" and "the question Barack Obama wants to focus on." Yet given that exchange as well as Trump's battle with Univision's Ramos, it's worth considering this thought exercise via the Washington Post's Greg Sargent: Would the Trump phenomenon and the 11 million question even exist right now if House Republicans voted on the Senate immigration bill last year? "If Republicans had simply held votes on immigration reform in 2013 or in early 2014, it probably would have passed," Sargent writes. "That likely would have made it harder for Trump-ism to take hold to the degree it has so far."
Hillary heads to Iowa with another big endorsement in her arms
Turning to the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton holds three campaign events in Iowa today - after picking up the endorsement from current Agriculture Secretary (and former Iowa Gov.) Tom Vilsack. Here' NBC's Danny Freeman: "Less than two weeks after locking up the support of key Iowa Democrat former Senator Tom Harkin, Hillary Clinton received the endorsement of perhaps the second most prominent democratic Iowan politician: Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. 'On Feb. 1, 2016 I intend to proudly caucus for Hillary Clinton — plain and simple,' Vilsack wrote in the first line of an op-ed published in the Cedar Rapids-based paper The Gazette." Make no mistake: The timing of this Vilsack endorsement is sending a message to Joe Biden that current members of President Obama's cabinet are lining up behind Clinton (though it's worth adding that Vilsack endorsed Clinton over Obama back in 2008).
Where Jeb differs from his brother: hurricane response
With the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the Jeb Bush campaign has avideo touting his hurricane response as Florida governor. After all, remember who his director of emergency management was -- Craig Fugate, who is President Obama's FEMA director. This is a not-so-subtle reminder by the Bush campaign that he isn't his brother. Then again, do note who makes an appearance in this Jeb video: none other than George W. Bush FEMA Director Michael Brown (at the 54-second mark).
Colorado GOP cancels its nominating contest
Finally, don't miss this news: It looks like Colorado Republicans won't be holding ANY kind of nominating contest in 2016. What? "Colorado will not vote for a Republican candidate for president at its 2016 caucus after party leaders approved a little-noticed shift that may diminish the state's clout in the most open nomination contest in the modern era," the Denver Post says. "The GOP executive committee has voted to cancel the traditional presidential preference poll after the national party changed its rules to require a state's delegates to support the candidate that wins the caucus vote. The move makes Colorado the only state so far to forfeit a role in the early nomination process, according to political experts, but other caucus states are still considering how to adapt to the new rule."
OFF THE RACES: Trump vs. Univision
From the Wall Street Journal: "Campaigns and super PACs supporting four Republican governors running for president raised at least $2.5 million in legal donations from companies with state contracts or taxpayer subsidies, illustrating potential conflicts of interest that may emerge when candidates exit the primary and return home."
TRUMP: Here's NBCNews.com on his clash with Jorge Ramos.
He said on TODAY that Ramos was "totally out of line."
And here's NBC's Ali Vitali on his rally in Dubuque -- and the jabs he took at Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.
The New York Times examines how Latino media has covered Donald Trump. "[F]or the Spanish-language press, which has grown in size and influence in politics, the tense exchange was a highly public flexing of muscle against a candidate who many outlets no longer pretend to cover objectively: They are offended by Mr. Trump’s words and tactics — and they are showing it."
BIDEN: On a conference call this afternoon, he'll lobby DNC members on the Iran deal.
A deep dive from POLITICO: "Bill Clinton, according to a person who has spoken with the former president in the last couple of weeks, is “very agitated” by the possibility of a Biden candidacy and incensed at the press hype around a possible bid. Hillary Clinton, Democrats in her orbit tell POLITICO, is less concerned — and several top Clinton campaign officials have told associates they think a Biden bid would energize what has been a fairly lackluster performance by the candidate this far."
BUSH: The New York Times editorial board writes that Bush was "awful" during his appearance at the border.
CARSON: The Wall Street Journal looks at his continually high numbers among Republican primary voters, which suggest that he could have staying power if other candidates flame out.
CRUZ: He had a back-and-forth with Megyn Kelly over mass deportation, telling her she's repeating "the question every mainstream media liberal journalist wants to ask," Hallie Jackson reports.
PERRY: He's reorganizing his Iowa team amid further financial woes.
RUBIO: In an interview with CNBC's John Harwood, he hit back at comparisons between his and Barack Obama's biographies: ""I don't think Barack Obama failed because he was a senator, or because he hadn't been in the Senate long enough. I think he has failed because his ideas don't work."
“With a financial crisis in China rattling global markets, Senator Marco Rubio plans to deliver a major foreign policy speech on Friday outlining how a Rubio administration would more assertively challenge the Chinese, joining leading Republican rivals in pressing this line of attack,” the New York Times says.
SANDERS: The New York Times: "While direct comparisons are difficult at this early stage in the 2016 race, Mr. Sanders’s small-dollar support appears significantly higher than Mr. Obama’s in 2008, and more than any other candidate this cycle."
WALKER: He could face a backlash in Iowa for his comments about China, notes the Washington Post.
OBAMA AGENDA: Watching Wall Street
The latest on the markets, from the Wall Street Journal: "Global markets struggled Wednesday to shrug off fears of a deepening Chinese economic slowdown which have roiled stocks in recent sessions. European stocks opened lower, tracking a late tumble in U.S. markets Tuesday that dashed hopes of a return to stability."
The chaos is throwing the Fed's plans for interest rates into turmoil.
Congressional Republican leaders don't yet have a strategy to stave off a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood.
Additional reporting by Carrie Dann.