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Why the fight over access to Hillary Clinton matters

The escalating tensions between the press and the Clinton campaign exposes what could end up looking like a big strategic blunder for the Democratic candidate.

The fight over press access to Hillary Clinton and the coronation argument … New CNN/ORC poll shows some bad news for Hillary … Clinton camp announces NYC campaign launch event … Big news for Rand Paul in Nevada … Paul keeps up the NSA fight, and keeps the fundraising pleas coming … Goodbye, Run Warren Run … and GOP candidates head to Rick Scott’s economic summit

*** Why the fight over access to Hillary Clinton matters: Journalists complaining about getting more access to political candidates is nothing new, but the escalating tensions between the press and the Clinton campaign exposes what we think could end up looking like a big strategic blunder for the Democratic candidate. Clinton, staffed by plenty of White House alums, is essentially running as a presidential incumbent, except without a day job. By trying to play by the same set of rules that govern the White House press corps (background briefings, tightly regulated pool coverage, and very limited questions to the principal), Team Clinton is playing into the exact narrative they’ve pledged to avoid – appearing to hold a coronation, not a contest. If the media feels as if Clinton has the attitude that her campaign is above press accountability, the coverage is going to reflect that. And by the way, this isn’t just about playing nice with reporters and bringing donuts to the back of the campaign bus. It’s about treating the process with respect.

*** And it’s showing: Clinton backers make a point we gave a nod to yesterday, which is that the bad press and perceived controversies are resonating a LOT more in the Acela Corridor than with the base in primary states right now. (See the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll showing Clinton holding strong with Iowa Democrats.) But these issues ARE making a dent in her national support. A new CNN/ORC poll out this morning shows that a majority – 57% – now say that Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, up from 49% in March. And she’s now upside-down on favorability (46% favorable/50% unfavorable) – a reversal from earlier this year. Yes, she’s primarily hurting with independents and still holding strong with Dems, but does anyone think that she can afford to have erosion like this all year? She has to act like she's willing to work for this. And dealing with the press corps that has little problem getting access to the 16 Republicans running is one of the necessary evils of running for president. Ultimately, Clinton is playing to type and what she needs right now are moments that do exactly the opposite.  

*** Could June 13 be a chance for Clinton to turn the page? Team Clinton announced yesterday that her “official campaign launch” will be held at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park in New York City on June 13. Between a campaign office in Brooklyn and a launch on Roosevelt Island, she’s certainly all-in on New York. We have some pause about this geographic strategy. Too much NYC can turn off Midwestern voters. And, like it or not, by wrapping her arms around the Roosevelts, she’s all-in on the dynasty issue too. As our sister publication The Lid wrote yesterday, the big speech could give her a chance to turn the page on any negative coverage from her “low-key” rollout. And the locale is somewhat of an unexpected choice, given all the speculation that – if she was to choose New York for the launch – she’d have opted to make her backdrop Seneca Falls or the Susan B. Anthony house in Rochester. Those picks would have been an explicit nod to the glass ceiling argument. Instead, she’s pointing to the duo of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt as a model. It's historically ambitious. Obviously, many a Democrat would love Roosevelt comparisons, but can a campaign be too ham handed about grasping for the comparison? 

*** Big news for Rand Paul in Nevada: During the chaotic end to the legislative session in Nevada, lawmakers failed to hold a vote on a bill that would have allowed the state to swap its presidential caucus for a primary. From the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “Republicans had argued that the change would preserve the state’s early role in the presidential selection process and boost voter participation. The change would have weakened the influence of grass-roots party activists who are more motivated to turn out for precinct caucuses and in recent years have gained control of the state Republican Party.” Bottom line: this is big news for Rand Paul, who can keep banking on his dedicated supporters to turn out for the more time-intensive caucuses. And it’s disappointing for GOP candidates who were hoping that a primary would turn out a broader swathe of Nevada’s GOP primary voters and hand someone a boost after the Iowa-New Hampshire-South Carolina trifecta.

*** Paul’s NSA gambit continues: The standoff over NSA surveillance didn’t end Monday, with Rand Paul using objections to further delay votes on the USA Freedom Act. As the Washington Post writes today, patience is wearing thin on the Hill with Paul, especially since there doesn’t seem to be an endgame to his plan. The new version of the surveillance legislation remains on a path to pass, even if it comes after delays. A bigger problem for Paul might be how much his presidential campaign is highlighting his NSA fight – and asking for cash. (See this campaign ad, for example.) It’s an easy leap for critics to accuse Paul of fundraising off of national security.

*** Two side notes from Lindsey Graham’s announcement: Aside from his actual announcement speech yesterday, two things struck us about Lindsey Graham’s bid to introduce himself to a national electorate. One: His sister Darline stole the show with her emotional description of how her big brother raised her after the death of both parents. It was a case study of the benefits of holding an announcement event in a place that highlights your roots and makes you three-dimensional to voters. His touching personal story is largely unknown, even inside Washington, and she made it real, accessible, and deeply personal. Second, Graham’s apparently being no slouch when it comes to reaching out to folks outside the Beltway crowd. This morning, he used an interview with e-mail newsletter The Skimm (founded by NBC alums and aimed primarily at millennials) to make his pitch, writing “I've never been more worried about our nation and the threats we face at home and abroad. If I'm president, I promise America that I will strengthen our nation's economy and security to keep the war against Radical Islam over there so that it doesn't come here again.”

*** Run Warren Run winds down: In a piece in POLITICO, the activists behind an effort to push Elizabeth Warren into the presidential race say that they’re suspending their campaign – but they’re still declaring victory for thrusting more progressive issues into the spotlight. They write: “Echoing Warren’s famous adage that “the game is rigged,” Hillary Clinton declared in her campaign announcement that “the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top.” Bernie Sanders emerged out of the gate as a far stronger contender than political bookmakers could have imagined just a few months ago. And Martin O’Malley launched his campaign on Saturday calling for the breaking up of big banks and jailing of Wall Street crooks.”

*** They’re going to Disney World! Today’s big event in Florida has six Republican presidential candidates heading to Rick Scott’s economic summit in Orlando. Speaking today: Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal and Jeb Bush. (Marco Rubio was scheduled to attend but will miss the event due to votes in the Senate, per an aide.)

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OFF TO THE RACES: Florida, Florida, Florida

Today’s big event in Florida, previewed by the Palm Beach Post: “Seven Republican presidential candidates — including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has suggested he might concede Florida’s expensive 2016 primary to home-state hopefuls Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio — will visit Disney World Tuesday to talk about jobs and the economy at a forum hosted by Gov. Rick Scott.” (Note: Rubio is now missing the event due to Senate votes)

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “One casualty of the 2015 legislative session was a GOP-supported bill that would have allowed political parties to end Nevada’s presidential caucus system and switch to a secret-ballot primary… Republicans had argued that the change would preserve the state’s early role in the presidential selection process and boost voter participation. The change would have weakened the influence of grass-roots party activists who are more motivated to turn out for precinct caucuses and in recent years have gained control of the state Republican Party.”

Democrats are vying for an endorsement from the American Federation of Teachers, writes the New York Times.

BUSH: The New York Times writes that Jeb Bush is having a tough time securing support from his brother’s former allies. “A sampling conducted largely by email of about 120 people who worked for George W. Bush — from cabinet secretaries to foreign policy advisers to advance aides — found about 25 who said they were supporting his younger brother. Fifty others said they were neutral or supporting another candidate, while the rest did not respond, apparently passing up a chance to declare allegiance to the next Bush candidacy.”

Don’t miss this big New York Mag piece on Jeb Bush: “[I]t’s easiest to understand Jeb if one looks at him through the prism of Florida and, even more specifically, Miami. It explains his sensibilities (bicultural), his politics (particularly his views on immigration), his business dealings (especially their seedier side), and, perhaps most critically, his confidence in the face of lackluster polls and butterfingered fumbling.”

CLINTON: “Hillary Clinton’s allies are working to win over unenthusiastic rich liberals by pitting her against the Koch brothers and prospective GOP rivals rather than more progressive Democrats, according to a draft of a secret memo obtained by POLITICO.”

PAUL: The AP: “The Kentucky senator has aggressively tried to raise money around his effort to curtail the surveillance powers of the National Security Agency, emailing supporters and posting messages on social media imploring people to "celebrate this victory" with their cash. In doing so, he's exacerbated the perception among some of the GOP's most generous donors that his positions on foreign policy make him an unacceptable choice for the White House.”

CONGRESS: NSA fight drags on

Here’s how the path forward on the USA Freedom Act is likely to pan out, via the New York Times.

The Washington Post writes that irritation with Rand Paul is getting even more pronounced in the Senate after further delays in addressing the surveillance issue.

More, from The Hill: “Senate Republicans came under growing pressure on Monday to restore just-expired parts of the Patriot Act as soon as possible. The White House and House Republicans both piled on, scolding the Senate GOP for not quickly passing the USA Freedom Act, a bill reforming the National Security Agency’s spying programs that was overwhelmingly approved by the House.”


The Wall Street Journal: “Top-level Obama administration envoys met secretly last week for the first time with Yemen’s Houthi rebels and pressed for a cease-fire in their country and the release of Americans detained by the group, according to U.S. and Arab officials.”

From NBC’s Tom Costello: “The acting head of the Transportation Security Administration was reassigned Monday after an internal investigation by the Department of Homeland Security found security failures at dozens of the nation's busiest airports. The breaches allowed undercover investigators to smuggle weapons, fake explosives and other contraband through numerous checkpoints.”

POLITICO’s Michael Grunwald talks to Trade Rep. Michael Froman: “T he public debate has focused on the adequacy of TPP’s environmental and labor safeguards, its potential to feather the nests of well-connected pharmaceutical, software and finance interests, and the secrecy of its negotiations. But the heart of the deal is an effort by the twelve participating countries to phase out tariffs and other export barriers for more than 11,000 categories of commodities, and Froman is frustrated that isn’t getting more attention.