Breaking Thursday morning: The Washington Post’s Robert Costa reports that Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has expanded his political network to all 50 states in an effort to broaden his base and lay the groundwork for a presidential campaign.
Costa joined CNN's "Inside Politics" to discuss his report that Paul’s nationwide team of 200 people blends traditional Republicans with the more libertarian-minded supporters of Paul’s father, Ron, who ran for president in 2008 and 2012.
Rand Paul’s challenge as a Republican, like his father’s, is to convince the national party that his views work with theirs. He opposes the war on drugs, for instance. He also opposes the use of drones to combat terrorism and the National Security Agency’s ability to collect phone and Internet data. Those are issues that draw support from national security hawks who have dominated the GOP for years.
Here's what Paul tweeted about President Obama's meeting today with Pope Francis:
Jeb Bush is a Vegas VIP: A more mainstream alternative for Republicans would be former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has quietly teased a potential run for president. Bush will be the guest of honor Thursday night at a dinner hosted by GOP super-donor Sheldon Adelson.
Adelson is hosting a week of events with the Republican Jewish Coalition and featuring a number of potential GOP candidates.
Santorum “open” to White House run: Not present at Adelson’s gathering in Las Vegas is Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania who mounted a spirited in 2012. Surprising no one, Santorum traveled to Iowa and said Wednesday that he might run again.
"I'm very open to taking on another run, and right now I'm just doing everything that I would be doing if I was going to run,” he said.
“The former senator from Pennsylvania and GOP presidential candidate who battled eventual nominee Mitt Romney deep into the 2012 Republican primary calendar has a jam-packed 24-hour visit to Iowa. Besides the ‘Iowa Press’ interview, Santorum was scheduled to speak with other Iowa media outlets and hold a press gaggle with local reporters,” writes CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser.
Hog-wild Iowa candidate vows to cut “pork”: On Wednesday, we covered Iowa Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley’s foot-in-mouth description of Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa as a “farmer” with no law degree and also mentioned Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican running in her party’s primary for the same seat, although using “farmer” as a badge of honor.
In what must be one of the most unconventional TV ads of 2014, Ernst says that castrating hogs during her childhood means she’s going to be effective at cutting a different kind of pork in Washington. “Let’s make ‘em squeal,” she says at the end of the ad.
It drew the attention of Sarah Palin, who endorsed Ernst in a Facebook post.
Open season on Obamacare: The other conservative video that has people talking is out of Alabama, where congressional candidate Will Brooke shoots a variety of guns at a paper copy of the Affordable Care Act. But the law is so long that his bullets don’t penetrate it. So he ends up throwing the law into a wood chipper.
Democrats don’t want to destroy the law like Brooke, but some are increasingly interested in tweaking it. The Wall Street Journal reports a group of moderate Senate Democrats facing tough re-election battles will unveil a new proposal to “fix” the law. Their proposals would include a new, cheaper level of coverage that would still be compliant with the law and a provision that would allow companies to sell insurance across state lines.
Pope and change: President Barack Obama was once a powerful new leader with transformative potential, but now Pope Francis is one to watch. The two men met for nearly an hour Thursday morning at the Vatican - their first in-person interaction.
The President has borrowed on the Pope’s egalitarian message to make political arguments about income equality.
For all their similarities on some economic ideas, the two men have little in common on social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, although the Pope has said the church needs to reassess some of its priorities.
Obama lauded the Pope in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera before the meeting.
“The Holy Father has been an inspiration to people around the world, including me, with his commitment to social justice and his message of love and compassion, especially for the poor and the vulnerable among us,” he said.
Popes and presidents: 5 important things to know
Obama on why Iraq's different from Crimea: Obama went out of his way Wednesday to say Russia’s move into Crimea is nothing like the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It was an odd situation for a president who as a candidate called American involvement in Iraq a “dumb war.”
"I happened to oppose our military intervention there, but even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system,” said Obama, speaking about the Ukraine crisis at a European Union-U.S. summit in Brussels, Belgium. “We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory, nor did we grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state could make decisions about its own future.”