March 2nd, 2014
09:05 AM ET
5 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. MaryM

    lol, yes please repubs, do nominate Rafeal "McCarthy" Cruz for your candidate. While you are at it, please do pick Bachman as your VP choice

    March 2, 2014 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  2. gary

    "Will CPac be the Launch of Cruz?
    Only if CPac means Cuban Pac or Canadian Pac.
    You can't win a national election when only a small majority of Texans will vote for you. The rest of America knows what this fool is all about.

    March 2, 2014 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  3. Rick McDaniel

    This country has embraced dictatorial socialism, as a preferred way of life. That is going to bring the country to its knees, and make us a ripe target for attack, and for subversion, from within.

    This country is truly on the precipice, of its demise.

    March 2, 2014 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  4. vidal808

    Oh my God, do we have to get tortured by Cruz running? I can't believe that people are so $&87$ – please spare us the pain of listening to this guy and, please stop even suggesting that he is running.....

    March 2, 2014 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  5. rick

    Cruz, Paul, Jeb, none of these dimwits could win on the national level, if they didn't come from heavily gerrymandered districts they never have won any elections.

    March 2, 2014 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  6. Chris-E...al

    Everyone is a repub ! You just dont no it yet .

    March 2, 2014 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  7. Stuffitu

    Let's hope so. Maybe we can get some honesty and integrity at the head of the government rather tha lying, corrupt thugs we have currently. Of course the democrat liberal response is Hillary, more lying, corrupt, murdering thugs.

    March 2, 2014 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  8. drake mallard

    Um, Ted Cruz's father was not American at the time of his birth. He was Cuban. That's right... who happily fought alongside Fidel Castro as a teen TED CRUZ's FATHER IS A CUBAN. Rafael Bienvenido Cruz, who immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba, told NPR that though he came to the country legally, he essentially bribed an official to get out of Cuba so he could come over.In an interview near his home outside Dallas, the elder Cruz says that as a teenager, he fought alongside Fidel Castro’s forces to overthrow Cuba’s U.S.-backed dictator, Fulgencio Batista. He was caught by Batista’s forces, he says, and jailed and beaten before being released. It was 1957, and Cruz decided to get out of Cuba by applying to the University of Texas. Upon being admitted, he adds, he got a four-year student visa at the U.S. Consulate in Havana. And his mother was an American. And he was born in Calgary Alberta. I don't know how having a Cuban father makes you more American than Obama somehow.

    March 2, 2014 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  9. drake mallard

    The Tea Party and other extremists are destroying the GOP, and
    permanently stripping it of any credibility in the minds of thinking
    people. In 10 years time, provided they don't get us all killed, we'll
    be wondering how anyone could ever buy such a bill of spoiled goods.

    March 2, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  10. American Worker

    Pay attention to the 2014 and 2016 Primaries for Congress.

    Congress is where the power of the People is.

    If we don't like Congress and we haven't been engaged in 'and' voted in the Primaries, we have relegated our representation to the party oligarchs that gives us the candidates for President to choose between. The primaries are where the People have the most say in who is in the General Election. If the Party Oligarchs don't like it then they run their candidate against the Primary Nominee with the expectation that their dominate numbers of loyalist will over-ride the Primary selection. Which makes it obvious that they do not respect the process.

    The Presidential Election has become more of a party Cheerleader rally than an effort to protect our Liberty and to Balance the Powers. The General Election has also become the election where the dominate demographic imposes their Social Doctrine/Religion upon the whole of the Nation. A tyranny by a majority is not an inclusive or representative Democracy and is an affront to our Republic.

    March 2, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  11. American Worker

    Trying to make Cruz the Presidential nominee removes him from influence in the Senate.
    We must keep and expand upon the people's influence in Congress.

    Presidents must honor their Oath of Office by impartially enforcing Laws and Regulations. Congress must rescind the powers that it has given the Executive Branch. Especially powers that are effectively Slates that the President and his Political Loyalist, that are in the Agencies, use to write their imposing Activism, Social Doctrine/Religion, and Fiat.

    March 2, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  12. The Right Left

    Boy, I sure hope these rightwing people put up Cruz and learn once and for all how undesirable they are to the country. Either Cruz and Rand Paul will ensure a landslide victory for the Dems.

    March 2, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  13. leefstrong

    Why no mention of Huckabee in 2016? He's leading in some polls.j

    March 2, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  14. leefstrong

    In looking ahead to the potential GOP 2016 candidate, why no mention of Huckabee? He's leading in some polls.

    March 2, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  15. Thomas

    Ted Cruz / Sarah Palin 2016

    Predicting the future is a gift .

    March 2, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  16. Kenneth

    "CPAC favorite Sarah Palin"

    Says all you need to know about CPAC, doesn't it?

    March 2, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  17. Gurgyl

    TedCruz/Rush Limbaugh16.

    March 2, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  18. Virginia Buttrill

    CPAC should NEVER run Cruz. He is too divisive ! We need a MODERATE Republican to show the country that we will respond to the call from the right to change with the changing times. His grandstanding on Obama care may have expressed frustration from the right as we all felt. But it was embarassing and left us looking like we were just unable to move forward and at least pretend to at least want to draw the country together. Let's do ourselves a favor and run someone in 2016 that can actually WIN. !!!!

    March 2, 2014 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  19. Randy, San Francisco

    Sen Ted Cruz running for president will be a gift to the Democrats like Palin in 2008. His run will label the national Republican brand as extremist and out of touch with the majority of voters.

    March 2, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  20. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the repub/tea bag majority

    @Rick McDaniel: "This country has embraced dictatorial socialism, as a preferred way of life. That is going to bring the country to its knees, and make us a ripe target for attack, and for subversion, from within. This country is truly on the precipice, of its demise."

    President Obama is a dictator – yet he is also weak. Right, Rick?

    Make up your mind ... oh, my bad, your brain went dark a long time ago.

    March 2, 2014 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  21. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the repub/tea bag majority

    Until August of last year, Cruz was claiming he wasn't aware he was still legally tied to Canada until the Dallas newspaper raised the issue.

    Cruz is incredibly dim or he was lying about his Canadian citizenship.

    The former makes him unfit for office and the latter disqualifies him (Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the U.S. C O N S T I T U T I O N; my source=The Heritage Foundation's "The Heritage Guide to the C O N S T I T U T I O N" ).

    March 2, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the repub/tea bag majority

    Ted Cruz's father, Rafael Cruz, only became a U.S. citizen in 2005, which means Ted is ineligible to be POTUS because the requirement for foreign-born folks to be U.S. citizens is for BOTH parents to be U.S. citizens at the time of their birth.

    Why isn't the birther crowd all over this? Where's Orly Taitz when you need her?

    March 2, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  23. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the repub/tea bag majority

    At this year's CPAC, will Norquist once again tell attendees that they don't need to think about who they want as candidates, because all that's necessary is for the elected to have "10 working digits" to sign legislation that he and ALEC come up with?

    For a bunch of folks who claim they love freedom, they sure line up behind authoritarians (who are intolerant of anyone not goose-stepping to the party line) QUICK.

    March 2, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  24. Larry L

    I never thought the Republicans could put together a more ridiculous group than that in the 2012 GOP Clown Car. I may be wrong.

    I suppose their radical base remains unchanged. Rick McDaniel's idiotic phrase "dictatorial socialism" is proof the Republicans are still driven by mindless conspiracies, deeply ingrained bigotry, and a fearful paranoia regarding America's role in a modern era. They've alienated the GOP from moderate Republicans, women, minorities, and independent voters everywhere.

    March 2, 2014 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  25. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the repub/tea bag majority

    @American Worker: I'm guessing by your Overuse of Capitals, that You are a Libertarian.

    Anyway, just curious: Leading up to the government shutdown, did you support House Resolution 368 that changed the rules so that a vote on a clean continuing resolution could only be brought by Majority Leader or his designee? Prior to that, clause 4 of rule XXII could be brought up by any member of the House of Representatives to push a bill forward despite disagreements.

    in other words, did you support stopping the will of the American people by the small minority of House Reps who caused the government shutdown?

    March 2, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
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