All about Hillary: It’s striking to think about it, but today is just Day 9 of Hillary Clinton’s official presidential candidacy. And predictably, the 2016 conversation has been all about her. Well, almost. Reporters today begin covering her every move (that we know about it) in another early presidential-nominating state -- this time New Hampshire. Over the weekend, at their own cattle call in the Granite State, the Republican presidential candidates aimed their rhetorical fire at her. And there’s a new anti-Clinton book, set to hit the bookstores in next month, that’s generating plenty buzz. Part of the reason why there’s so much focus on Clinton right now is that she’s the 2016 front-runner (see CNN’s latest poll). Another reason is that there most likely won’t be much of a Democratic primary fight, so if you want to kick the tires, now’s the time to do it before the more competitive GOP contest truly gets underway. And here’s a third -- and obvious -- reason: She’s a Clinton.
Two consequences of being the early frontrunner: There are two consequences of having an early presidential contest become all about you. One, being the early frontrunner and the focus of everyone’s attention isn’t always an envious place to be. Think Romney in 2011. Rudy in 2007. McCain in 2007 (after his campaign imploded). And, of course, Hillary in 2007-2008. As the frontrunner, you get the bulk of the slings and arrows -- as well as the tough media attention. Indeed, it’s preferable to be the primary-season candidate who sneaks up one everyone and times his/her ascent perfectly, a la Obama in Jan. 2008, McCain in Jan. 2008 (after his campaign regrouped), and John Kerry in 2004. The other consequence of having an election become all about you is that it becomes an exhausting. If you can endure -- or better yet, outlast -- the scrutiny, the story will change, especially in today’s rapid-fire media climate. But you’ve got to survive it first. And thrive. It’s a process that wears you down. But the successful candidates at least LOOK like they’re enjoying it.
Previewing Hillary’s two days in New Hampshire: As mentioned above, Hillary Clinton today begins spending two days in New Hampshire -- Monday in Keene, Tuesday in Concord. Per a Clinton campaign official, “In Iowa, Hillary Clinton laid out the ‘Four Fights’ she believes need to be waged on behalf of American families that will be central to her campaign. In New Hampshire, she’ll be focused on the first of those four fights -- building an economy that works for tomorrow.” Today’s event in Keene, the official adds, is a focus on small business. “She will tour Whitney Brothers, a small, family-owned, family-friendly business, and meet their employees. She will then participate in a roundtable with employees and organizational leadership.” The event begins at 1:45 pm ET. Tomorrow’s focus is on community college.
Clinton’s cash: Republicans are abuzz about a new book -- by conservative author Peter Schweizer -- which argues that foreign entities donating big checks to the Clinton Foundation received favors from Hillary Clinton’s State Department. Schweizer's “examples include a free-trade agreement in Colombia that benefited a major foundation donor’s natural resource investments in the South American nation, development projects in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake in 2010, and more than $1 million in payments to Mr. Clinton by a Canadian bank and major shareholder in the Keystone XL oil pipeline around the time the project was being debated in the State Department,” the New York Times writes. The question here is if Schweizer can prove that the Foundation money directly translated into a favor for the foreign entity. As Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith mused, “The question in all these Clinton $ stories is whether you can show a quo.” Indeed, quid-pro-quos are always hard to prove. And the argument the Clinton campaign is making is that the actions Schweizer cites were all Obama administration priorities -- not something Hillary was doing on her own. Then again, what hurts Hillary with these kinds of stories is that the Clintons never seem to get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to money and favors.
Clinton camp on the book. Here’s the Clinton campaign’s statement on the book from spokesman Brian Fallon: "We always expected that while Hillary Clinton focused on helping everyday Americans get ahead, the Republicans would focus on attacks rather than ideas. It appears that this book is being used to aid this coordinated attack strategy, twisting previously known facts into absurd conspiracy theories. It will not be the first work of partisan-fueled fiction about the Clintons' record, and we know it will not be the last."
Kasich on 2016: “I’m trying to determine if this is what the Lord wants”: Turning to the 2016 Republican field, it’s possible there might be another candidate -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich. “I haven't decided yet,” he said on “Meet the Press” yesterday. “But listen, yesterday, I was in South Carolina in the morning. And then I was in New Hampshire in the afternoon. It reminded me of Live Aid. Remember when Phil Collins jetted from England over to Philadelphia? ... Look, all my options are on the table here. And I'm, you know, more and more serious, or I wouldn't be doing these things. And I have a pretty heavy schedule coming up.” What could keep him from running? “Well, my family is a consideration. And number two, the most important thing, what does the Lord want me to do with my life? You know, He puts on Earth, all of us on Earth, to achieve certain purposes. And I'm trying to determine if this is what the Lord wants. And I'm not going to figure that out lying in bed and hoping lightning strikes.”
Could this be the week for Lynch’s confirmation vote? This could be the week when Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s pick to replace Eric Holder at attorney general, gets her confirmation vote -- after being first NOMINATED for the position back in November. On “Meet,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) explained why he and other Republicans have opposed Lynch:
CHUCK TODD: What is the endgame in delaying her nomination, considering all of the anger that many conservatives like yourself had toward Eric Holder?
MIKE LEE: There are a lot of concerns with Loretta Lynch that focus a lot on what President Obama did with our immigration code back in November. He basically rewrote--
CHUCK TODD: Loretta Lynch didn't do that.
MIKE LEE: No, she didn't. But when questioned in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which I sit, she refused to acknowledge that there are limits to prosecutorial discretion, limits that must be taken into account, for example, when you have a president, effectively, undoing a huge swatch of federal law.
Here’s what Obama said Friday about the delay in confirming Lynch: “‘There are times when the dysfunction in the Senate goes too far. This is an example of it,’ Obama said during a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. ‘Enough…. This is embarrassing.’”
Manchin to stay in Senate, won’t run for West Virginia governor: Over the weekend, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he will remain in the Senate and not run for governor in 2016, an announcement sure to be a relief to Senate Democrats who would have faced a tough special election race to keep his seat if he chose to leave, NBC’s Frank Thorp reports. Manchin, who served as West Virignia governor from 2005 to 2010, would have likely won if he chose to run for the post again. Manchin isn't up for Senate re-election until 2018,” Thorp adds. "I will admit that it has been a harder transition than I had expected, but I believe that, after five years, we are beginning to make a difference," Manchin said in his statement. "We are simply bringing a greater sense of bipartisanship and commitment to working together for the good of the American people. It is because of that optimism that I have decided to continue serving the people of West Virginia in the United States Senate."
Introducing The Lid: First Read helps you start your day with incisive analysis and breaking political news from the NBC Political Unit and the brains behind Meet the Press. And, starting today, you don’t have to settle for just one helping! We’re debuting The Lid, an afternoon note that offers a look back at the day in politics, with highlights from NBC’s 2016 coverage, all the most important stories from around the campaign trail, a quick pop of analysis and maybe even a laugh or two. The Lid, quarterbacked by NBC’s Carrie Dann and Andrew Rafferty, hits inboxes at 4:30 pm ET.
OFF TO THE RACES: Mo’ money, mo’ problems
The Washington Post sums up how money in politics is becoming an unexpectedly important topic for 2016.
The Wall Street Journal's lede from Nashua: "The biggest gathering yet of Republican presidential hopefuls this past weekend sharpened divisions in the broad field of candidates over the path to return the GOP to the White House, making the 2016 primary race a moment for the party to define its national identity."
CLINTON: The New York Times reports: " “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” by Peter Schweizer — a 186-page investigation of donations made to the Clinton Foundation by foreign entities — is proving the most anticipated and feared book of a presidential cycle still in its infancy. The book, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, asserts that foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department in return."
Buzzfeed looks at the early, low-key approach that Clinton is taking, focusing on firework-less and well-controlled roundtables.
And POLITICO, on the campaign's new(ish) view of the press: "Reporters, in the eyes of Clinton’s new communications staff (made up of ex-Obamians and ex-Schumerians with a smattering of chronic Clinton types) are congenitally hostile — but they aren’t necessarily bad people, and it’s not their fault. They were born this way."
KASICH: On "Meet the Press," Kasich said "all my options are on the table" for a 2016 run.
HUCKABEE: The New York Times writes that Huckabee's decision to run or not run might be "the biggest outstanding question about the Republican primary field."
RUBIO: He's arguing that Hillary Clinton has "no meaningful achievements" after her service as secretary of state.
PERRY: He's staffing up, adding to his policy shop with experts in health care, economics and foreign policy, Bloomberg reports.
WALKER: He could face questions about a Wisconsin-based super PAC run by one of his advisors.
Scott Walker wants to convince voters that he’s just like them, discount suits and all, writes the Washington Post.
WEBB: Jim Webb, over the weekend: "I think we've got a lot of incumbent fatigue in the country and people are looking for fresh approaches in terms of how to solve the problems of the country."
And around the country...
WEST VIRGINIA: Sen. Joe Manchin is staying put, announcing that he'll stay in the Senate instead of launching a gubernatorial bid.
OBAMA AGENDA: How trade is playing Ohio
The president's trade proposals might be a mixed bag in Ohio, writes the Wall Street Journal.
Here's the latest on Sunday night's latest White House fence jumper.
From the Associated Press: "Saudi-led airstrikes on weapons caches in Yemen's rebel-held capital on Monday caused massive explosions that shattered windows, sent residents scrambling for shelter and killed a local TV presenter."
CONGRESS: House-Senate Budget talks begin
The AP sums up the start of budget talks: "Cuts to Medicare and the health care law and almost $40 billion in unrequested money for overseas war-fighting operations top the agenda as congressional negotiators meet to begin ironing out a Republican budget blueprint for next year and beyond."
Sen. Bob Corker says Loretta Lynch will be confirmed this week.
The Wall Street Journal digs into the GOP divide over whether to use reconciliation to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
From Reuters: "If the U.S. Supreme Court blows up the tax subsidies at the heart of Obamacare in June, Republicans hope to deliver on their promise to offer an alternative healthcare plan. But key parts of it may resemble the one President Barack Obama delivered five years ago in the Affordable Care Act, partly reflecting Republican concerns that they could pay a political price if insurance subsidies are yanked from millions of Americans later this year."
Republicans are talking about another spending deal to lift budget caps and ease sequestration, writes POLITICO.
Carrie Dann contributed to this report.