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The week in 2016: What mattered (and what didn't)

A look back at the past week in the 2016 presidential contest, making sense of the developments and events that we think mattered -- and those that didn't.

In today's rapid-fire political news cycle, it's easy to get overwhelmed by all the different news out there. So here's a look back at the past week in the 2016 presidential contest, making sense of the developments and events that we think mattered -- and those that didn't.

What mattered

  1. Who's Afraid of Donald Trump? The GOP Is: The Republican Party's inability/refusal/worry to kick Donald Trump to the curb (because it could alienate key GOP voters, because he could mount an independent bid) is a big warning sign for the party heading into 2016. Then again, it was the same party whose presidential nominee embraced Trump in 2012 and gave him a role at the GOP convention (before that night got rained out).
  2. Jeb's Big Bucks: Jeb Bush's money haul -- $103 million for his Super PAC, $11.4 million for the campaign -- doesn't mean he's a lock to win the GOP nomination. Far from it. But it does mean he's the aircraft carrier in the Republican field; a single strike isn't going to sink him.
  3. The Wild, Wild West of The Super PAC Era: Speaking of Jeb's Super PAC money, the Washington Post this week underscored that there really are no rules when it comes to coordination between Super PACs and the campaigns they're supporting. One reason why: "Since 2010, the FEC has yet to open an investigation into alleged illegal super PAC coordination, closing 29 such complaints. In 28 of those cases, the agency's general counsel did not recommend pursuing the matters, according to Goodman of the FEC."
  4. Hillary's Immigration Play: Yes, Hillary Clinton struggled to explain her email system in that CNN interview. But one thing she was happy to talk about was immigration -- tying the GOP field to Donald Trump, and making the point that Jeb Bush doesn't support a path to citizenship like she does.

RELATED: Jeb Bush’s $114 million haul: By the numbers

What didn't matter as much

  1. Trump's Poll Position: It might not happen tomorrow, or next month before the first debate, or the month after that. But it's safe to make this prediction: Donald Trump's poll numbers will eventually go down, especially after GOP voters see his quotes from 1999. "I'm pro-choice." "I believe in universal health care."
  2. The Narrowing Democratic Horserace in Iowa: Here's a little cold water on the possibility that Bernie Sanders could beat Hillary Clinton in Iowa: Her lead there is still at least 19 points; Iowa Democrats have sided with the eventual Dem nominee in the last three battles there (Gore, Kerry, Obama); and Sanders looks more like Howard Dean (or even Ron Paul) than Barack Obama. Sure, Hillary could lose Iowa. But she's in a MUCH stronger position there than she ever was in 2008.
  3. Jim Gilmore to Join GOP Race: The news that former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore will get into the presidential contest next month -- making it a field of 17 Republicans -- means only that one additional person will be left off that first debate stage that's limited to the Top 10 in polling.
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