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A tale of two Republican brackets

Here’s a helpful way to look at the crowded Republican field: It’s a tale of two different brackets -- Iowa and New Hampshire.

A Tale of Two Republican Brackets … Those who are betting on success in Iowa vs. those focused on New Hampshire … A Tale of Two Different Disclosures: Jeb’s taxes vs. Hillary’s emails … Jeb’s impressive preparation so far -- except for one key weak link … U.S., Cuba to open embassies in each country’s respective capital … And it’s De Blasio vs. Cuomo in NY.


*** A Tale of Two Republican Brackets: With Chris Christie camping out in New Hampshire and with a brand-new poll out of Iowa, here’s a helpful way to look at the crowded Republican field: It’s a tale of two different brackets -- Iowa and New Hampshire. About half of Republicans are betting on success in the Hawkeye State, and the other half are focused on the Granite State, with a little overlap between the two.

  • Your Iowa bracket: Scott Walker (who is leading today’s new Quinnipiac poll of Iowa at 18%), Ben Carson and Donald Trump (who are tied for second at 10% each), Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal
  • Your New Hampshire bracket: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, George Pataki, maybe Lindsey Graham
  • Your crossovers: Rand Paul, Marco Rubio

Iowa is fascinating because you have 20% of likely caucus-goers in the Quinnipiac poll supporting either Trump or Carson, who in many ways look like placeholders for two different types of conservatives. Does that support go elsewhere as the race picks up -- to Walker, Cruz, or maybe even Rubio? As for Rubio, while we label him a crossover, ask yourself this question: How does he win the nomination without Iowa? Sure, he has an impressive organization in South Carolina. And a top-three finish in Iowa or New Hampshire would allow him to remain in the race a long time. But if he’s going to win, it’s going to have to start in Iowa, right?

As for New Hampshire, you’re going to have three “moderate”-leaning governors or ex-governors all in the running -- Jeb, Kasich, Christie -- with maybe the eventual Iowa winner being a factor, too.

*** A Tale of Two Different Disclosures: We witnessed two very different disclosures on Tuesday. One candidate (Jeb Bush) controlled his disclosure regarding his taxes, and even had a story to tell about his business work and about how all Americans (including the wealthiest) should pay less in taxes. Another candidate (Hillary Clinton) let others control the rollout of her State Department emails. Of course, there doesn’t appear to be any disqualifying smoking gun in Clinton's emails. But one person looked prepared; the other didn’t. One was proactive; one was reactive. A hint to how they'll govern? How they'll campaign in a general? 

*** Jeb’s impressive preparation -- except for one key weak link: Indeed, Jeb so far has proven to be a VERY disciplined presidential candidate. The European trip was well prepared. So was the presidential announcement in Miami. Ditto yesterday’s tax disclosure. That kind of preparation and discipline should scare the rest of the GOP field. This isn't a candidate that will get bounced out easily. Then again, Jeb and his team have displayed one weak link: They don’t know how to get away from George W. Bush’s shadow. For as well prepared as they’ve looked elsewhere, Jeb’s answer in May on Iraq was so ill prepared for what everyone knew was coming.  

*** U.S., Cuba to open embassies in each country’s respective capital: Outside of the 2016 presidential race, here’s today’s top political story: “The United States and Cuba will officially re-establish diplomatic relations on Wednesday morning with the announcement of a deal to open foreign embassies in each country's respective capitals,” NBC’s Andrea Mitchell and Peter Alexander reported. President Obama will deliver his statement on this at 11:00 a.m. ET – before heading to Nashville, Tennessee, to talk health care. Marco Rubio is out with a statement criticizing the embassy move. “I intend to oppose the confirmation of an Ambassador to Cuba until these issues are addressed. It is time for our unilateral concessions to this odious regime to end.” As with gay marriage, the GOP’s risk here on Cuba is that it looks like it’s fighting old fights. And that’s especially dangerous for the candidates who are trying to cast themselves as the ones representing the future.

*** De Blasio vs. Cuomo: Finally, don’t miss the fireworks that the New York tabloids have to love. The New York Daily News: “Mayor de Blasio lit Gov. Cuomo up Tuesday with a double-barreled blast of political payback. In stunningly frank language, the mayor accused the governor of deliberately thwarting his Albany agenda out of political pique and revenge — and hurting New Yorkers in the process. Hours before leaving on a vacation out West, de Blasio called reporters into his office and spoke calmly in a calculated decision to take off the gloves and reveal the ‘frenemies’ were really enemies. He described his relationship with Cuomo as a series of painful letdowns. ‘I have been disappointed at every turn,’ de Blasio said.” This feud is going to keep political reporters in NYC busy and entertained for some time.

*** On the 2016 trail: Ben Carson is in South Carolina … Rand Paul campaigns in Iowa … Chris Christie remains in New Hampshire … And Bernie Sanders hits Wisconsin.

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OBAMA AGENDA: Embassy Libre

From the AP: "The United States and Cuba have agreed to open embassies in each other's capitals, the biggest tangible step in the countries' historic bid to restore ties after more than a half-century of hostilities."

The latest on Greece, from Bloomberg: "Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accepted creditors’ proposals as a basis for compromise to end a standoff over its bailout. In a letter to European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, Tsipras signaled sticking points remain on pensions and tax discounts to Greek islands. The appeal suggests Tsipras is yielding as his country buckles under capital controls."

The Washington Post looks ahead on the Supreme Court: "In the next term, the court could be pressed to decide whether states that restricted abortion rights or voting procedures or gun ownership have gone beyond what the Constitution protects. Already, the justices have chosen to again examine the use of race in college admissions. In each of these instances, the court may allow states to adopt widely diverging rules."

POLITICO got its hands on part of the TPP draft. "A recent draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal would give U.S. pharmaceutical firms unprecedented protections against competition from cheaper generic drugs, possibly transcending the patent protections in U.S. law."

The White House will start letting tourists take photos.

CONGRESS: No pressure vs. pressure John Harwood writes in the New York Times that Nancy Pelosi doesn't face questions from young members about how long she'll stay in the job. "I don’t feel any pressure from younger members of Congress,” Ms. Pelosi of California said in an interview, adding with a laugh: “Maybe other members of Congress, but not necessarily younger members.”

Members of Congress are putting pressure on OPM head Katherine Archuleta to resign after the government network hack, the Hill writes.

OFF TO THE RACES: Walker maintains his lead in Iowa

A new Quinnipiac poll in Iowa shows Scott Walker in the lead at 18% with Ben Carson and Donald Trump at 10%, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul at nine percent and Jeb Bush at 8%.

BUSH: Here's our story on what we learned from the Jeb Bush tax returns.

CLINTON: What we learned from the Clinton emails: "Senior Obama administration staff members knew in 2009 that Hillary Clinton was using a personal email account for her government correspondence, according to emails released by the State Department Tuesday."

The New York Times: "The State Department said late Tuesday that portions of two dozen emails from this tranche had been redacted because they were upgraded to “classified status." The emails were sent in 2009, and their contents were apparently not sensitive enough to national security at the time to have required a higher classification status. The State Department described the move “routine” when the government discloses documents to the public."

CHRISTIE: His first stop in New Hampshire was off the beaten path, writes

The Star-Ledger looks at Christie's relationship with the interim superintendent of Livingston Public Schools, who got some press for his refusal to attend Christie's presidential announcement.

JINDAL: The Des Moines Register wraps his Iowa visit yesterday.

PAUL: He's the latest 2016 hopeful to Guest Skimm at the newsletter aimed at young female professionals.

WEBB: He said he'll make an announcement about a presidential run "in the next few days," per NBC's Alex Stambaugh.

And around the country...

NEW YORK: NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an interview that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is blocking the city's legislative goals out of "revenge."

NBC News' Carrie Dann contributed.