Washington (CNN) – Five takeaways from this Sunday’s Inside Politics:
1. The Year of Governing is over: Sad but true – it’s highly unlikely anything big and controversial will get dealt with this year.
House Speaker John Boehner took the first step in this “governing retreat” when he all but took immigration reform off the table. Now, President Obama has joined the 2014 Politics Comes First Caucus by dropping from his new budget a Social Security reform he had included in last year’s.
Inevitable perhaps, but this is one of the reasons there is bipartisan disgust with Washington. Election Day is 254 days away, and both parties are so worried about the turnout of their political bases they are afraid to do anything to alienate them.
Conservatives don’t want certain immigration reform; liberals don’t want the more modest Social Security cost of living increase President Obama embraced last year but abandons now.
“It really is important to understanding how the White House is using this year in terms of focusing on how Democrats succeed in the midterm elections,” Associated Press White House Correspondent Julie Pace said on “Inside Politics.” Last year, the proposal was “a good faith gesture to Republicans.
“It was meant to start negotiations on a grand bargain budget deal. This year, it's out. It's the clearest sign that we have that a grand bargain on the budget is not going to happen this year and really nothing much else is, either.”
2. Patchwork Paul strikes again: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is all about coalition building: looking to blend tea party, Libertarian, social conservative and establishment factions as he explores a 2016 presidential bid.
They are pieces that don’t always seem comfortable in the same room, and then this week Paul added this: a demand that rocker Ted Nugent apologize for calling President Obama a “subhuman mongrel.”
What’s up with this Paul maneuver? On "Inside Politics," a discussion that suggests a play for independent voters, and for African Americans.
“He is trying to demonstrate that his outreach efforts to the African-American community are legit,” was the take of New York Times Political Correspondent Jonathan Martin.
Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter sees it as part of a bigger Paul definition effort. “In Rand Paul's case, this is where he is, right? He is going to be on all these different issues, not easily put into a box. Whether it's restoring felon's rights to vote or drug minimum sentencing, he is just going to call it like he sees it.”
And kudos to David Maraniss of The Washington Post for holding some truths to be self-evident:
“What are we doing here? We are giving people credit for being rational human beings.”
3. The minimum wage: not so much in Congress, but still a campaign issue: President Obama’s call for legislation raising the minimum wage was a giant question mark anyway because of Republican opposition, and then the Congressional Budget Office made the hill steeper with a report last week suggesting it would be a big job killer.
But don’t expect the issue to die as a 2014 campaign theme. It is a big part of the Democrats’ argument about economic fairness and inequality. And Amy Walter points out a political pressure point.
“This issues, says the AFL-CIO and their allies, is something that can actually divide Republicans,” she reports. “If you make less than $50,000 and you are Republican, you are much more likely to want to support a minimum wage. If you make more than $50,000, they have polls in five states showing this, you don't support this. Why not use this to not just pump up your base but also divide Republicans.”
4. Timing is everything in politics: The “avoid the landmines” strategy we have talked about the past few Sundays is in many ways dictated by the political calendar.
As Jonathan Martin smartly noted this morning, “Why are they punting on immigration for now? Here is one reason: next month, March, 90 House GOP members will have their filing deadlines.”
In other words, Speak Boehner doesn’t want to schedule votes that could entice tea party and other conservatives to challenge incumbent House Republicans.
5. Does it take a Bush to beat a Clinton? Too soon for most of us, but it is a question some Republicans are asking, especially now that some see New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as weakened.
Well, the final answer can wait until we know a lot more about the real 2016 terrain, not the 2014 speculation about it.
But this is worth noting: interest in a Jeb Bush run is up, and the former Florida governor appears to be giving the race more than just a rhetorical look.
In conversations with a half dozen GOP sources this past week, several reported having reliable information about Bush conversations with GOP moneymen. Nothing definitive, these sources said, in fact far from it. But the conversations were interpreted as the beginning of a serious discussion about 2016 viability. Stay tuned!