Scott Walker bets big on Iowa and a prolonged GOP fight … Iowa will either make or break Walker … The potential power of being the Midwestern candidate … Hillary separates herself from Jeb on immigration … Hillary also defends her email practices … But a little reality check on her answers … And brace yourselves for another fiscal fight in DC.
*** Scott Walker bets big on Iowa and a prolonged GOP fight: The next significant development in the Republican presidential race comes on Monday, when Scott Walker officially announces his White House bid in Wisconsin. And there are two big takeaways from Dan Balz’s piece in the Washington Post previewing Walker’s upcoming strategy: One, he’s betting big on Iowa. And two, his campaign is bracing for a long primary fight. “His advisers expect him to win the Iowa caucuses early next year, and they say he can follow that with top-three finishes in New Hampshire and South Carolina. They also think he can score an early victory in Nevada’s caucuses.” More from Balz: “Walker’s advisers doubt that anyone who doesn’t win one of the four early states will move to the heavy schedule of contests in March. They also doubt that anyone will have enough delegates to clinch the nomination by the end of March, and they anticipate that the race will drag on into May before there is a winner.” So Jeb Bush isn’t the only preparing for a long primary slog.
*** Iowa will either make or break Walker: When you think about it, Scott Walker’s poll position has held up pretty well over the last few months, especially in Iowa. Despite headaches here and there (on immigration, on foreign-affairs questions), he’s displayed staying power. And that’s BEFORE his presidential announcement. Yet where it could come crashing down for him is in Iowa. If he doesn’t win Iowa -- particularly with those admitted expectations above -- it’s hard to see a scenario where he captures the GOP nomination. But he certainly starts out as your Iowa frontrunner, and being the Iowa front runner means he is also the frontrunner for the role of chief alternative to Bush.
*** The potential power of being the Midwestern candidate: The Walker campaign also confirms to First Read that in addition to visiting the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina after his presidential announcement, he’s also going to hit the March 1 and March 15 states of Georgia, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina. Illinois, in particular, is an important state for Walker. Don’t forget the power of being the Midwestern candidate -- in 2008, Barack Obama overperformed in all of the states that bordered Illinois. Could the same thing happen to Walker and the states that border Wisconsin (Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota)?
*** Hillary separates herself from Jeb on immigration: Maybe the most fascinating part of Hillary Clinton’s CNN interview yesterday was how she went out of her way to differentiate her views on immigration with Jeb Bush. Her argument: She’s for a pathway to citizenship; he is not. Clearly an early general-election shot.
CLINTON: [The GOP presidential candidates] don't want to provide a path to citizenship. They range across a spectrum of being either grudgingly welcome or hostile toward immigrants. And I'm going to talk about comprehensive immigration reform.
CNN: But what about Jeb Bush's approach to that? It's different, certainly, than Donald Trump's and --
CLINTON: Well, he doesn't believe in a path to citizenship. If he did at one time, he no longer does.
You can see how Clinton is trying to position herself if Jeb becomes the GOP nominee in a general election where the Latino vote is crucial. One, she’s going to tie Trump to all of the GOP candidates. And two, she’s going to contend that Jeb doesn’t believe in a path to citizenship -- something that he once supported and something that Marco Rubio’s “Gang of Eight” immigration bill even called for. However, it’s worth noting that both Bush and Clinton have flip-flopped on immigration, as the Washington Post writes.
*** Hillary also defends her email practices… : The other part of Clinton’s CNN interview that struck us was the subject of her State Department emails. Bottom line: She was defensive and evasive, which is only going to invite more questions on this topic. “Everything I did was permitted by law and regulation. I had one device. When I mailed anybody in the government, it would go into the government system,” she said. “Now I didn't have to turn over anything. I chose to turn over 55,000 pages because I wanted to go above and beyond what was expected of me because I knew the vast majority of everything that was official already was in the State Department system.” And on deleting the emails that she didn't turn over, Hillary added, “[P]rior secretaries of state -- I mean, Secretary Powell has admitted he did exactly the same thing. So I think both Secretary Powell and I are viewed as public servants. We do our very best to serve our country and he's -- he has such a distinguished record.”
*** … But here’s a reality check on her answers: Yet as our colleague Andrea Mitchell reminds us, the Colin Powell comparison isn’t a fair one -- the email system was much more primitive when he was secretary of state. Powell also didn’t have a private server at his home. And while Clinton says that there was no law against having a private server, Mitchell explains that the advisory for all State Department (and administration officials) was to use official email; that later became a requirement during her tenure. And as for her claim that every time she emailed anybody in the government “it would go into the government system,” an inspector general’s report found that the department’s automatic retrieval system was so flawed it only archived a fraction of emails during that period. Our take here: Hillary was more defiant here than in her original UN press conference on the emails. Back then, she gave an inch (saying she should have used two devices, not one). This time, she didn’t give an inch.
*** The coming fiscal fight: Make no mistake: The last few months arguably have been the most bipartisan of times during the Obama Era. There’s the fast-track vote. The Medicare doc-fix. But as the New York Times points out, there’s a looming fiscal fight for this fall -- just when the Pope is set to address Congress -- that could erase these bipartisan memories. “From environmental and work force regulations to health care and contraception, congressional Republicans are using spending bills to try to dismantle President Obama’s policies, setting up a fiscal feud this fall that could lead to a government shutdown.” More: “The House and Senate appropriations committees are churning out annual spending bills, dropping the bipartisanship that has long characterized the committees. The bills adhere to strict overall spending limits imposed in 2011 that Mr. Obama has already said he will not accept.” Budget expert Stan Collender also wrote about this. “A shutdown this fall isn’t likely, but it absolutely can’t be dismissed.” Ah, just what DC needs -- another fiscal showdown. The big unknown here is the Ted Cruz factor. Do the GOP 2016ers play a role here? How do they not?
*** On the trail: Jeb Bush is in New Hampshire … So is Carly Fiorina … Lindsey Graham gives a speech to the Atlantic Council in DC … Martin O’Malley has a full day of activities in the Granite State … Marco Rubio remains in Iowa …. And John Kasich is in South Carolina.
OBAMA AGENDA: Why Congress is going to have a hard time blocking any Iran deal
"Iran has offered 'constructive solutions' to resolve disputes in nuclear talks with six major powers, the Iranian Students news agency ISNA reported on Wednesday, but Western officials suggested they had heard nothing new from Tehran," Reuters reports.
Congress is all but powerless to actually stop the Iran deal, notes POLITICO.
The Obama administration will unveil new rules today to require cities and towns to report on racial bias in their housing patterns, the Washington Post reports.
The latest in the eurozone, from the Wall Street Journal: "Greece formally requested a three-year bailout from the eurozone’s rescue fund Wednesday and pledged to start implementing some of the overhauls demanded by creditors by early next week, according to a copy of the request seen by The Wall Street Journal. Crucially for Greece’s creditors, the letter says the government would start implementing some measures, including on taxation and pensions, by the beginning of next week, though it doesn’t go into details."
The Confederate flag debate is in its final days in South Carolina. From The State: "The S.C. House begins debate Wednesday on a bill approved by the Senate to banish the Civil War icon that has flown at the capitol for more than five decades. The bill needs two more votes to reach Gov. Nikki Haley’s desk. The flag could come down as early as Thursday."
OFF TO THE RACES: Just how durable is the Dems’ Latino advantage?
Greg Sargent asks how durable the Democratic advantage with Latinos really is.
The Wall Street Journal notes how the Ex-Im bank has become a political football: "Ex-Im backers are confident they have the votes in Congress to reauthorize the agency as early as this month, but they could see a last volley of pushback from presidential candidates within a Republican Party that is casting a wary eye on government backing of private enterprise. The trio of Senate Republicans, in particular, could use an array of procedural rules to modestly delay reauthorization."
CLINTON: In her interview with CNN, she defended her use of a private email server, saying she went "above and beyond" to disclose all work-related correspondence, NBC's Andrew Rafferty writes.
And she talked Trump, pivoting to explicit criticisms of the GOP field as a whole and specifically of Jeb Bush on immigration.
Some real talk from the Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe: "Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton accuse each other of flip-flopping on immigration — and they’re both right"
NBC's Alex Moe reports that Clinton will meet with House and Senate Democrats next week as well as with the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
CHRISTIE: From NJ.com: "Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday signed into law a 50 percent increase in a tax credit for low-income workers in New Jersey, more than reversing his own cut to the anti-poverty program in 2010."
Kelly O'Donnell reports that Christie isn't going anywhere despite state Democrats' efforts to force him to resign.
GILMORE: He told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he'll announce a presidential run next month.
GRAHAM: He'll lay out his ISIS strategy in Washington this morning.
O'MALLEY: He's advocating a debt-free college plan, proposing that all students should have access to a debt-free college education within 5 years, attainable at any in-state public college or university.
RUBIO: He writes in a New York Times op-ed on Cuba: "When we make engagement with the odious leaders of these countries our foreign policy, we make a Faustian bargain that is contrary to our national values and also to our strategic interests. Instead of the administration’s approach — one-sided concessions that have served only to reward Cuba’s rulers despite their lack of reform — we should be stating clearly what reforms America expects before we deepen ties."
SANDERS: In a Q&A with the Des Moines Register, he laid out what he means by calling himself a socialist.
TRUMP: Rudy Giuliani commented on Donald Trump's rhetoric about Mexicans during an interview on Hardball, saying "Donald's a friend of mine, I respect him. He is an unbiased man. I think he said it in reverse. What he should have said is that most people who come across the border come across the border for economic reasons." MORE: "Well, hidden with them, because they're coming across unchecked, are people who rape people, murder people, kill people, and are terrorists. I've prosecuted all of them. And the reality is neither side wants to meet each other here."
Benjy Sarlin reports on how Trump is creating headaches for John Kasich, too.
WALKER: His advisers see just two principal rivals: Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.
CNN reports that Walker is planning a Super Tuesday blitz after officially jumping into the race.
And he'll spend three days in Iowa in an RV, the Des Moines Register reports.
And around the country:
Via NBC Chicago: "State Sen. Darin LaHood won the GOP nomination Tuesday in the race to replace disgraced ex-U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, defeating an anti-establishment conservative writer in a heavily Republican swath of central Illinois.
LaHood heads into the Sept. 10 special general election as the favorite to succeed Schock, once a rising GOP star who resigned in March amid intensifying questions about his use of campaign and taxpayer funds."
NBC News' Carrie Dann contributed