March 2nd, 2014
09:05 AM ET
9 months ago

Inside Politics: Will CPAC be the launch of Cruz 2016?

Washington (CNN) – Some advice truly is timeless. Some elections are extra special. Jeb Bush is looking hard at 2016, but many close to him have doubts. If you keep saying something over and over again and you are Joe Biden, does that make it true? And can "severely conservative" be topped?

Here are five takeaways from this Sunday’s “Inside Politics:”

1. Coaching Hillary: As she geared up to run for Senate, Hillary Clinton received some advice from media consultant Mandy Grunwald.

"Don't be defensive. Look like you want the questions," Grunwald wrote in a memo to the first lady that was included in the more than 3,500 pages of Clinton White House documents made public Friday.

She also added that Clinton should "look for opportunities for humor" and told her "don't use the Administration's record as her own."

It was the summer of 1999, and Clinton was making the transition from first lady to political candidate - one of her many evolutions. She won that Senate race, ran for president in 2008 and then served as secretary of state in the administration of the man who bested her for the Democratic nomination.

As she ponders a 2016 run, could that 1999 Grunwald memo be recycled?

"The same advice she got then is the same advice she can and is getting now," Politico's Maggie Haberman said as we opened our conversation with a look at the latest Clinton news. "She did manage to achieve some of this at State. The question is whether this can translate to another campaign."

Will there be another campaign?

Most of political Washington assumes yes, and Clinton tested some possible 2016 themes during a speech last week in Miami. Yet some acquaintances who have spent time with her in recent weeks aren't so sure.

Another priceless nugget in the first wave of these new Clinton records, a reference to "Internet" as a new source for information.

The 1995 memo suggested then first lady Hillary Clinton use the Internet to speak to young women because it "has become a very popular mode of communication."

"Reading these documents was like going through a time machine," was how Nia-Malika Henderson of the Washington Post put it.

2. Coaching himself: The answer is no. Joe Biden is emphatic every time he is asked, as he was again this past week on "The View."

The question: Will his decision about whether to run for president in 2016 be affected by Hillary Clinton's choice?

"Whether she runs or not will not affect my decision" was the way he put it this latest time.

"He really wants to be in the conversation," CNN"s Peter Hamby said in our "Inside Politics" discussion. "He is staying in touch, making phone calls."

He is. And he is traveling to key states. He wants to run. And he hopes to use the 2014 midterms to strengthen his standing. But, for reasons that go well beyond the Clinton factor - his age and his son's health among them - we could be watching Biden's last campaign.

The VP's answer to the Hillary question is understandable as a personal talking point, but it is ludicrous to think he won't be influenced by her.

While she was runner-up to then-Sen. Obama in 2008, Biden trailed both of them, and badly. Early 2016 polls show she has a giant lead. And top party strategists and fundraisers, including many Obama-Biden campaign veterans, are part of the unprecedented Hillary In Waiting campaign.

It has to sting Biden, given his loyal service to the President and the party over the years. But it is what it is, and he can't – and won't – ignore it come 2016 decision time. If she is a "yes," it is hard to see suitable space for a Biden run.

But, for now, ask about a Hillary hold on Biden's decision and the answer will remain no.

3. CPAC's turn: Last week it was a tea party birthday celebration. This coming week, the group that brought us "severely conservative" comes to town, to provide new clues about the mood of the conservative movement.

The timing is interesting: the tea party vs. the establishment civil war is boiling on several fronts, and the early jockeying among potential 2016 GOP contenders is intensifying.

"We are going to see a couple of tension points," Politico's Haberman said. "Immigration and gay marriage. I'm looking closely to see what the language is going to be on both of these issues."

Remember, it was during the 2012 CPAC "cattle call" that Mitt Romney tried to quiet conservative doubts with the awkward, OK ridiculous, line that he had been "severely conservative" as Massachusetts governor.

We know for sure Chris Christie won't borrow that line when he addresses the conference, a year after he was not even invited. But the New Jersey governor does face a similar challenge convincing conservatives he is one of them. Tough media scrutiny over so-called “Bridgegate” could help him with a group that frequently derides what CPAC favorite Sarah Palin calls the “Lamestream Media.”

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul will try to advance his presidential ambitions at a forum that was usually welcoming to his father, former Congressman Ron Paul.

At the tea party gathering on Thursday, Paul continued what I call his "patchwork politics" by trying to build a coalition that includes his dad's libertarian base and the senator's tea party support - and more.

"In order for us to be a bigger party, we have to reach out to more people, not just those of us here," Paul said. "It has to be a bigger party: it has to be a bigger movement."

Look for something similar at CPAC. And look for a continuation of what is, for now anyway, a friendly rivalry between Paul and another freshman senator with an eye on the White House, Ted Cruz of Texas.

"There's no one right now that's more a favorite with the conservative base," than Cruz, is a point Robert Costa was quick to make. "This may be the launch, informally, of Cruz 2016."

4. Jeb watch: We created some buzz last week with new information about Jeb Bush conversations with fundraisers about a possible 2016 run. This week, Haberman added a touch of skepticism.

"But I am also hearing that people who are close to him do not believe ultimately that he will run," she said. "They think he is going to go through a process of exploration and ultimately decide this is not for him."

5. Extra special GOP test: Special elections early in a big year often tell us little about what will actually happen in November. And yet there is often a giant reaction to their results. So watch the final days of the race in Florida's 13th Congressional District.

It has been an "Inside Politics" topic of conversation before, and it will be again. It's a dead heat, early voting started Saturday, and Republicans are a little nervous.

The Democratic candidate, Alex Sink, ran for governor in 2010 and is a veteran of Florida politics. The Republican, David Jolly, was recruited by the GOP establishment but isn't as well known and is being attacked for his work as a lobbyist. Plus there is a Libertarian candidate the GOP worries could siphon votes from Jolly.

The seat has been in GOP hands for 31 years, so a Democratic win would be spun as proof 2014 perhaps won't be as good for Republicans as they hope. And the Republicans have made the race a referendum on Obamacare, so a Democratic win would be spun as evidence the GOP is betting too many chips on the unpopularity of the health care law.

Fair? Maybe. But maybe not.

Remember early Democratic success in a 2009 House special election in New York? That was spun as a big deal; November 2010 was a Republican romp.

But here is one FL-13 result that could be telling: After getting trounced in the technology wars in recent years, the GOP has vowed to catch up, and its new voter ID and turnout tools are about to get their first big test.

See you next Sunday.


Filed under: CPAC • Florida • Hillary Clinton • Jeb Bush • Joe Biden • Ted Cruz
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. Marie MD

    @rick, we are already being attacked by the American Taliban better known as the teaklans.
    Their messiah cannot be president as he was born in Canada. What we are missing here is that he thinks that a terrorist from Canada can even think he can run. Where are the birthers and the bad hair leader when you need them.
    Can you imagine an American born to a Canadian mother and Cuban crazy pastor father thinking he can be prime minister? Not sure Canadians would be happy and don't know if they have to be REAL Canadians.

    March 2, 2014 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  2. gstlab3

    I hope none of these corporate stooge puppets run and the people finally rise up and do some serious Darwinian culling of the political class first.

    March 2, 2014 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  3. Juergen

    I didn't know that most of the GOP even knew what a computer was.

    March 2, 2014 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  4. juanmoretime

    Cruz is a no go, he wasn't born here, he is Canadian by birth. Let him run for prime minister.

    March 3, 2014 02:01 am at 2:01 am |
  5. mountainlady

    Ted Cruz as president? The stuff of nightmares.

    March 3, 2014 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  6. Lizzie

    It does not matter who runs, if the press wants a certain candidate than that's what we will get.

    March 3, 2014 05:33 am at 5:33 am |
  7. Kimki

    Don't sell the man short. He did what he was elected for, he stood up for his voters. Evidently a man of principle which is more then I can say for the current White House administration. I think we need new faces all the way around.

    March 3, 2014 05:39 am at 5:39 am |
  8. Bob

    The list of GOP candidates for 2016 is pretty bad/awful. Rand Paul is too libertarian. Jeb Bush is – well – just another Bush and we all know the last one. Cruz is nuts. Mike Lee is a Tea Party nut. Is the GOP serious with these clowns? Hillary could win with this with absolutely no problem.

    March 3, 2014 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  9. Dave

    No, it won't be CPAC, but rather a dysfunctional media – the very same that made Cruz in the first place. If CNN and the rest didn't carry so much water for the guy nobody would have heard of him.

    March 3, 2014 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
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