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Rand Paul's path to the White House: Crushing Clinton

The Republican presidential candidate is planning to attack Hillary's character and credibility, helping take the spotlight off his own ideological heterodoxy.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) delivers remarks while announcing his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination during an event at the Galt House Hotel on April 7, 2015 in Louisville, Ky.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) delivers remarks while announcing his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination during an event at the Galt House Hotel on April 7, 2015 in Louisville, Ky.

The promise -- and pitfall -- of Rand Paul running as the Washington outsider… Breaking down Paul’s appearance on “Today”… Paul the Clinton basher: It’s a way to prove his conservative/GOP bona fides… Hillary has 16 reasons to campaign aggressively in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada… Watching the Cuba story over the next week… Watching the immigration story in 2016 (could we see a Supreme Court decision on Obama’s executive action just weeks before the ’16 GOP convention?)… Rahm wins re-election in Chicago… And Ferguson elects two African-American city council members.


*** The promise -- and pitfall -- of Paul running as the Washington outsider: Maybe the biggest takeaway from Rand Paul’s presidential announcement speech yesterday was that he’s trying to cast himself as the Washington outsider -- never a bad place to be, given Congress’ approval ratings. “The Washington machine that gobbles up our freedoms and invades every nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped!” Paul also took a shot at his own party. “Too often, when Republicans have won, we've squandered our victory by becoming part of the Washington machine. That's not who I am,” he said. The question, however, is whether Paul can pull this off (as a sitting senator whose father was a longtime congressman who himself ran for president three times). Remember, it was just eight years ago when another sitting senator was able to portray himself as a Washington outsider and the agent for change. And that person is now sitting in the Oval Office. But here’s the other question for Paul: How do you run against Washington when you’re ALSO still running for your current Senate seat at the same time? Don’t forget, he found a way to run for both offices, just in case the presidential bid doesn’t work out. The decision to essentially hedge his political bets here runs counter to his outsider messaging, and it’s a contradiction he’ll have to deal with at perhaps the most inopportune of times. Indeed, the Kentucky filing deadline for his Senate seat could be Jan. 26, 2016 -- potentially before the first contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

*** Paul on “Today”: As he campaigns today in New Hampshire, Paul took questions this morning from NBC’s Savannah Guthrie on “Today.” Some of the highlights:

  • While he said he was skeptical about the Iran deal/framework, he added, “I’m going to keep an open mind… I do think negotiations are better than war.” (Essentially, he seemed to hint that if what the president said the deal was, was actually the deal, he could be for it. But he stopped short at answering that hypothetical directly.)
  • He said his past opposition to foreign aid for Israel changed, because while he opposes all foreign aid, he believes the elimination should start with countries that burn the American flag. And “Israel doesn’t burn our flag.”
  • And regarding his past statement that Iran wasn’t a threat back in 2007, Paul said that things change. “2007 was a long time ago, adding that he made that comment “when I was helping someone else run for office.” SOMEONE ELSE run for office? That’s an interesting way to refer to his father, no?

*** Paul the Clinton basher: Here’s a final point on Paul: He’s setting himself as the chief Clinton basher in the GOP field. Paul “repeatedly attacked the honesty of Hillary Clinton and what he called the ‘shenanigans’ of her family foundation -- a window into his plan to make an issue of her character even during the Republican primaries,” Politico writes after its interview with Paul. "There's a lot of stuff there that is, I think, going to shake the confidence of Americans in her ability to lead in an honest fashion," Paul said.” And don’t forget, Paul was the first potential 2016er to bring up Monica Lewinsky a few months ago. There is a reason why Paul wants to be the early Clinton basher: It helps prove his GOP bona fides, especially when some of his views (on foreign policy, NSA spying, Cuba normalization) are VASTLY different from other Republicans.

*** Hillary has 16 reasons to campaign aggressively in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada: As we all wait for Hillary Clinton’s expected presidential movement this month (and possibly as early as next week!), there is a reason why you might see her campaign aggressively in the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, even if she doesn’t face real primary opposition. In fact, there are 16 reasons -- the combined electoral-vote total of those early states. The logic: The money you spent and infrastructure you put into place will remain there for the general election.

*** Watching the Cuba story over the next week: As President Obama heads to the Summit of the Americas meeting in Panama, all eyes will be on whether he ends up meeting with Cuba’s Raul Castro -- now that the United States is pursuing normalized relations with Cuba. According to a new MSNBC/Telemundo poll, 59% of Americans approve of the United States’ diplomatic recognition of Cuba, as MSNBC’s Brooke Brower writes. Indeed, the Cuba story is something to watch over the next week – not only with Obama’s appearance at the Summit of the Americas, but also with Marco Rubio’s expected presidential announcement on Monday. The president’s Cuba rapprochement will be in the news at the same time he’s trying to sell the deal with Iran. It all certainly brings the president’s foreign-policy doctrine front and center into the presidential debate.

*** Watching the immigration story in 2016: Also in the MSNBC/Telemundo poll, 57% of Americans -- and 78% of Latinos -- say they approve of Obama’s executive action on immigration. And there’s news on this front, too: “A federal judge on Tuesday denied a Justice Department request to lift a temporary hold on President Barack Obama's executive action that sought to shield millions of immigrants from deportation. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen refused to stay his Feb. 16 decision that granted a preliminary injunction requested by 26 states. The U.S. government wants the injunction lifted — allowing Obama's action to proceed — while it appeals Hanen's ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans.” One thing worth pointing out given how this challenge is moving through the court system: It’s VERY possible that we see a U.S. Supreme Court decision on Obama’s immigration action come in the midst of the 2016 general election, maybe even a couple of weeks before the Republican convention in Cleveland. All of this assumes whatever happens in the 5th Circuit, this case ends up in the hands of the Supremes and at this point, they likely wouldn’t take it up until the fall of this year, at the earliest, meaning it could delay a ruling until June of 2016, the end of that SCOTUS session.

*** Rahm wins re-election: Well, Rahm Emanuel pulled it out. NBC Chicago: “Rahm Emanuel won his re-election contest Tuesday night and bested challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia to remain in charge of Chicago for another four years.” One way to look at Rahm’s ups and downs over the past couple of months: In the original round of voting, he was running against himself. But in the runoff, he got to run against someone -- and won. NBC Chicago has a great line to this effect: “It turns out voters favored the bully who talked the talk instead of the good guy who didn’t say much.”

*** Ferguson elects two African-American city council members: There was another election we were paying attention to last night – in Ferguson, MO. “Residents in Ferguson, Mo. Tuesday elected two black city council members, transforming the political body's racial composition after months of protests over racial profiling and police brutality,” USA Today says. “One sitting black member of the council was not up for re-election. When the two new African-American council members take their seats it will be the first time that blacks have controlled half of the council, despite the fact that two-thirds of the city's 21,000 residents are black.” It’s a reminder how things CAN change in America -- through the ballot box.   

OBAMA AGENDA: Another tragic shooting -- this time in South CarolinaDriving domestic news today: "A white police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, was charged with murder Tuesday after a cellphone video was released of him fatally shooting a black father of four in the back following a traffic stop."

Obama is headed to a summit meeting in Latin America, where he'll face a major first test for his agenda with Cuba.

A new (and first ever!) msnbc/Telemundo/Marist poll finds that 59 percent of Americans approve of the recent U.S. decision for diplomatic recognition of Cuba.

CNN writes that Russian hackers were able to gain access to private White House information, including the president's schedule.

A federal judge has denied a DOJ request to lift a temporary hold on Obama's executive action.

The Wall Street Journal notes that demand for H1-B visas exceeded the year's supply in the first week of applications.

USA Today reports that the U.S. government started keeping records of Americans’ international telephone calls long before the September 11 attacks.

CONGRESS: Pelosi and Boehner on IranThe Hill asks if Nancy Pelosi is Obama's last line of defense on Iran.

Roll Call says John Boehner is escalating his criticism of the deal.

OFF TO THE RACES: Getting real in IowaThe Des Moines Register writes that "the 2016 race is getting real in Iowa."

CHRISTIE: He says he would rather "go home" than change his personality if voters don't like it for 2016.

He’s giving a big speech on entitlements next week in New Hampshire, the Boston Globe reports.

CRUZ: That's a big number. Bloomberg reports that his affiliated super PACs will have $31 million in the bank by the end of the week.

PAUL: Breaking this morning: He told Savannah Guthrie he's "going to keep an open mind" on the Iran deal. "I do believe that negotiation is better than war."

The New York Times' take: " Senator Rand Paul’s entry on Tuesday into the race for the White House said as much about his own political aspirations as it did about a vexing truth for Republicans: Many of them believe their party is simply not big enough to elect a president in 2016."

He attended a karaoke event in Manchester last night.

Rand Paul spends his first full day as a candidate in New Hampshire today.

Roll Call finds that Rand Paul's "Read the Bills" resolution wouldn't actually change much.

PERRY: The State reports on his extensive courtship of evangelicals during a recent swing through the state.

RUBIO: He missed a closed-door ISIS briefing in favor of a fundraising trip, Buzzfeed reports.

WALKER: The Boston Globe writes that the honeymoon is fading as questions arise about how grounded he is in his beliefs.

And around the country...ILLINOIS: The front page of the Chicago Tribune: 'A Second Term, A Second Chance.' 

The story lede: "With his re-election victory Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel renewed his lease on a municipal fixer-upper, one with buckling and painful-to-repair financial underpinnings caused by decades of deferred maintenance."

MISSOURI: Two African-Americans have won seats on the six-person Ferguson City Council.