1. Avoid the landmines: That might be the best way to describe the GOP’s evolving 2014 strategy. House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to slow-walk immigration, and now his effort to get a debt ceiling increase with minimal drama, is part of an effort to keep GOP internal tensions to a minimum, and the focus on President Barack Obama and his health care law to a maximum.
2. The rise of Rand: Our new CNN/ORC Poll looking at early GOP favorites for 2016 showed a big drop for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and that slide drew most of the media commentary. But what also stands out is Rand Paul at 13%. Yes, a modest number. And yes, it is too early to put too much stock in any poll. But he is working at it harder than any other 2016 GOP prospect so far, both in terms of travels and with consistently tough criticism of both Bill and Hillary Clinton.
3. Two for the price of one?: That was an early slogan back in 1991 and early 1992 when then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton was running for president and Hillary Clinton was viewed as a big campaign asset. Any chance of seeing them together on the trail in 2014? Will we see much of Secretary Clinton at all?
TBD, as we wait for her to finish a memoir of her time as secretary of state, and for candidates to assess whether she would help or hurt.
4. There’s no place like home: Unless you don’t have one. Jonathan Martin discussed his scoop that veteran Kansas GOP Sen. Pat Roberts doesn’t have a home back home, and raised the question worth watching: Will outside conservative groups that enjoy targeting the GOP establishment let it slide, or see an opening to boost a tea party challenger who to date was seen as beyond a long shot?
5. Early test: Look for the Chamber of Commerce and other GOP allies to flood the zone with spending in Florida’s 13th Congressional District over the next couple weeks. There is a March 11 special election for the seat last held by the late Republican Rep. Bill Young. But the outcome could in essence be decided sooner: Absentee ballots are likely to count for more than half, maybe 60%, of the vote, and the race is viewed as very tight.
Because the President’s health care plan has been a major flashpoint, the results will be seen as an early test of the GOP strategy to make 2014 a referendum on Obamacare.