March 7th, 2014
06:05 PM ET
1 month ago

CNN's GUT CHECK for March 7, 2014

CNN's GUT CHECK | for March 7, 2014 | 5 p.m.
- n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle

CPAC PROVES THE GAME IS ON FOLKS

RAND PAUL TO THE GOP: DON’T DILUTE OUR MESSAGE … “It isn’t good enough to pick the lesser of two evils. We must elect men – we must elect men and women of principle and conviction and action who will lead us back to greatness. There is a great and tumultuous battle underway for the future – not of the Republican Party, but the future of the entire country. The question is will we be bold and proclaim our message with passion or will we be sunshine patriots retreating under adverse fire? Will we be firm in our convictions or will we cower, defeated and meekly dilute our message?”

RAND PAUL TO THE GOVERNMENT: LEAVE OUR CELL PHONES ALONE: “We will not submit and we will not trade our liberty for security. Not now and not ever! Yet, as our voices rise in protest the NSA monitors your every phone call. If you have a cellphone you are under surveillance. I believe what you do on your cellphone is none of their damn business!”

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CNN's GUT CHECK for March 6, 2014
March 6th, 2014
06:20 PM ET
1 month ago

CNN's GUT CHECK for March 6, 2014

CNN's GUT CHECK | for March 6, 2014 | 5 p.m.
- n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle

DEVELOPING …. PRESIDENT OBAMA SAYS REFERENDUM IN CRIMEA WOULD VIOLATE INTERNATIONAL LAW: “The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law. Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine. In 2014 we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads over the heads of democratic leaders.”

MEANWHILE … REPUBLICANS RALLY, TESTING MESSAGES FOR 2014… On day one of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), GOP rising stars and presidential hopefuls took to the stage at a convention center at National Harbor, Maryland.
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CNN's GUT CHECK for March 5, 2014
March 5th, 2014
06:39 PM ET
1 month ago

CNN's GUT CHECK for March 5, 2014

CNN's GUT CHECK | for March 5, 2014 | 5 p.m.
- n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle

CLINTON EXPLAINS HITLER COMMENTS … Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought on Wednesday to explain her remarks comparing Vladimir Putin's military intervention in Ukraine to Adolf Hitler's European aggression ahead of World War II. The former secretary of state told an audience in Los Angeles that her comments on Tuesday were an attempt for "people to have a little historic perspective." – Dan Merica

The Los Angeles Daily News has the audio of Clinton’s original remarks

AS FEARS OF INSTABILITY RISE IN CRIMEA … Tensions mounted on the ground in Crimea when U.N. Ukraine Envoy Robert Serry was threatened by armed men in Sevastopol.
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March 4th, 2014
07:09 PM ET
2 months ago

CNN's GUT CHECK for March 4, 2014

CNN's GUT CHECK | for March 4, 2014 | 5 p.m.
- n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle

TENSIONS REMAIN HIGH IN UKRAINE …

WARNING SHOTS FIRED AT UKRAINIAN BASE … but tempers cooled before the situation escalated. See video: http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/world/2014/03/04/vo-ukraine-belbek-air-base-standoff.cnn.html

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry both said today that Russia was violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and called for Russia to “de-escalate” the situation.

OBAMA IN WASHINGTON: “I know President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations but I don't think that's fooling anybody I think everybody recognizes that although Russia has legitimate interests in what happens in a neighboring state that does not give it the right to use force as a means of exerting influence inside of that state."

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CNN's GUT CHECK for March 3, 2014
March 3rd, 2014
05:58 PM ET
2 months ago

CNN's GUT CHECK for March 3, 2014

CNN's GUT CHECK | for  March 3, 2014 | 5 p.m.
- n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle

CRISIS IN UKRAINE …OBAMA THREATENS TO ‘ISOLATE’ RUSSIA:
President Barack Obama said Monday that the U.S. was examining a series of steps to “isolate Russia” if Moscow continued its current trajectory into Ukraine:

“I spent the weekend talking to leaders across Europe and I think the world is largely united in recognizing that the steps Russia has taken are a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, Ukraine’s territorial integrity, that they’re a violation of international law. They’re a violation of previous agreements Russia has made with respect to how it treats and respects its neighbors. And as a consequence, we got strong statements from NATO and from the G7 condemning the actions that Russia’s taken … What cannot be done is for Russia with impunity to put its soldiers on ground and violate basic principles that are recognized around the world

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CNN's GUT CHECK for February 28, 2014
February 28th, 2014
06:24 PM ET
2 months ago

CNN's GUT CHECK for February 28, 2014

CNN's GUT CHECK | for February 28, 2014 | 5 p.m.
- n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle

BREAKING … PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA WARNED RUSSIA ON UKRAINE WITH A STERN STATEMENT FROM THE PODIUM: President Barack Obama said the United States is "deeply concerned" by reports of Russian military movements in Ukraine, adding that any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty would be "deeply destabilizing."

THE CLINTON FILES… PREVIOUSLY SECRET, NOW SEARCHABLE
CNN combed through 3,546 pages of newly released documents from President Bill Clinton’s administration on Friday, the first in a series of disclosures that could shed new light on how decisions were made during his time in the White House. Of particular interest could be, what day-to-day role his wife, Hillary, played in helping to shape policy and how she interacted with his top aides.

WHAT WE’RE LEARNING …

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CNN's GUT CHECK for February 27, 2014
February 27th, 2014
06:26 PM ET
2 months ago

CNN's GUT CHECK for February 27, 2014

CNN's GUT CHECK | February 27, 2014 | 5 p.m.
- n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle

PRESIDENT OBAMA GETS PERSONAL …

RAW LANGUAGE FROM THE PRESIDENTIAL PODIUM ANNOUNCING INITIATIVE TO HELP YOUNG PEOPLE OF COLOR: Announcing “My Brother’s Keeper,” an administration initiative where leading foundations and businesses will donate at least $200 million over five years towards mentoring programs aimed at minority youth of color, President Obama talked about the mistakes he made when he was younger: “When I was their age, I was a lot like them. I didn’t have a dad in the house. And I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices. I got high, not always thinking about the harm that it would do. I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short.”

MORE OBAMA: “… In the aftermath of the Trayvon martin verdict, with all of the emotions and controversy that it sparked, I spoke about the need to bolster and reinforce our young men and give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them and I’m grateful that Trayvon’s parents, Sabrina and Tracy are here.”

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CNN's GUT CHECK for February 26, 2014
February 26th, 2014
06:25 PM ET
2 months ago

CNN's GUT CHECK for February 26, 2014

CNN’s POLITICAL GUT CHECK | for February 26, 2014 | 5 p.m.
— n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle

BREAKING … COLORADO SENATE RACE JUST GOT A LOT MORE INTERESTING: John King reports: Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner, a Republican elected in 2010, has decided to run for Senate, two sources tell CNN.  The 39-year-old Gardner joins a crowded field of Republicans seeking the GOP nomination, and will be considered a serious contender for the nod. Among those in the race are Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, state Sen. Owen Hill, and state Rep. Amy Stephens.

The winner of the June 24 GOP primary will face Sen. Mark Udall in November. Udall was elected in 2008.

Just last year Gardner stated he would not run for the Senate in 2014, but as the political landscape appeared to be getting better for Republicans he reconsidered, said one of the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Republicans only need a net gain of six seats to win back control of the Senate chamber in November.

MIDTERM SUB-PLOT:  HARRY REID VS. KOCH BROTHERS …

REID:  “What is going on with these two brothers who made millions of dollars last year in an attempt to buy our democracy is dishonest, deceptive, false and unfair. Just because you have huge amounts of money you should not be able to run these false, misleading ads by the hundreds of millions of dollars. They hide behind all kinds of entities, Mr. President.  It’s not just their front organization, American for Prosperity. They give money to all kinds of organizations Lots of money. See when you make billions of dollars a year, you can be as immoral and dishonest as your money will allow you to be. It’s too bad they’re trying to buy American and it’s time that the American people spoke out against this terrible dishonesty of these two brothers who are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine.”

AND THE RESPONSE… From Philip Ellender, Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC: “We are disappointed, but not surprised, that Senate Majority Leader Reid has once again falsely attacked Charles Koch and David Koch today on the Senate floor. The Democrats in general and Senator Reid in particular have targeted Charles Koch and David Koch and tried to silence their disagreement on important public policy issues since 2010.”

CRUZ MISSILE … CRUZ ANGERS GOP COLLEAGUES –AGAIN. Ted Barrett and Dana Bash report: Several Republican senators said Wednesday they were surprised and angered after a news report revealed that their GOP colleague, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, made a recent fundraising appeal for a tea party group that is trying to defeat GOP incumbents it doesn’t believe are conservative enough.

The senators said Cruz’s efforts appeared to violate his own pledge to no longer target sitting Republican senators in favor of tea party-backed candidates in the hard-fought 2014 campaign in which Republicans believe they have a chance to win back control of the Senate. In addition, the fundraising appears at odds with Cruz’s position as Vice Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the organization that works to elect and re-elect Republicans to the Senate.

“I am stunned that Sen. Cruz is involved in this fundraising effort for a group that has targeted his colleagues in the Republican caucus,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told CNN. “I’m particularly surprised because I thought he had agreed to no longer engage in that kind of activity of supporting groups that were targeting people he serves with every day in the Republican caucus.”

Collins is running for re-election but doesn’t appear to be a target of the group for whom Cruz did the appeal.

CHRISTIE: WHAT, ME WORRY?

WATCH ME THROW THE POLLSTERS UNDER THE BUS … Gov. Chris Christie drew laughter from a room full of New Jersey residents when he cracked wise about poll numbers:   "The only two professions in America where you keep getting paid even when you are always wrong affect my life everyday - pollsters and weathermen," said the Governor, as snow came down in Long Hill, New Jersey.

“I mean, they don’t ever have to have it right and then they come back the next day and they sound just as authoritative as they used to right? It’s crazy.” – Ashley Killough

BUT PERHAPS HE SHOULD WORRY … LESS THAN A THIRD OF REPUBLICANS WANT CHRISTIE TO RUN … More Republicans say they wouldn't like Chris Christie to run for president in 2016 than those who say they want him to launch a White House bid, according to a new national poll released Wednesday … Forty-one percent of Republicans questioned in the poll say the New Jersey governor should not run for the GOP nomination in 2016, while 31% say Christie should launch a bid.

… AND A CHENEY DISSES RAND PAUL

Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney)

Must read by @JRubinBlogger re @SenRandPaul recent naive & dangerous foreign policy pronouncements. tinyurl.com/ldevllj

IN THE STATES … Texas' ban on SAME SEX marriage ruled unconstitutional A federal judge has struck down Texas' ban on same-sex marriage, ruling Wednesday it has no "rational relation to a legitimate government purpose." The decision is the latest in a series of federal and state court moves to overturn current laws forbidding gay and lesbians from legal wedlock.. – Bill Mears

PERRY: DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS

TEXAS GOV. RICK PERRY AFTER THE RULING: "Texans spoke loud and clear by overwhelmingly voting to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in our Constitution, and it is not the role of the federal government to overturn the will of our citizens. The 10th Amendment guarantees Texas voters the freedom to make these decisions, and this is yet another attempt to achieve via the courts what couldn't be achieved at the ballot box. We will continue to fight for the rights of Texans to self-determine the laws of our state."

THE BUZZ: PAPAL INTRIGUE  As the anniversary of his surprising resignation approaches, Pope Benedict XVI has rejected as “simply absurd” the speculation that he was forced to step down, and he said he still wears the distinctive white papal cassock for “purely practical reasons.”

“At the moment of my resignation there were no other clothes available,” Benedict wrote in a brief letter to an Italian journalist that was published on Wednesday. – Religious News Service’s David Gibson

MARKET WATCH: U.S. stocks end lower. Dow slips 26 points. NASDAQ and S&P 500 drop 0.1%.

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February 25th, 2014
06:14 PM ET
2 months ago

CNN's GUT CHECK for February 25, 2014

CNN's GUT CHECK | for February 25, 2014 | 5 p.m.
- n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle

DEVELOPING … RUBIO ON 2016: HILLARY CLINTON WOULD ‘STRUGGLE’ … Sen. Marco Rubio, said he thinks if Hillary Clinton runs for president she would "struggle to win on multiple fronts." Rubio, speaking to Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s “The Situation Room,” said, “I think she's going to be asked to account for her time as secretary of State and I don't think it's the sterling success people think it is. Quite frankly, much of the foreign policy failures we see in place today began when she ran the Department of State."

Asked about his mentor, Jeb Bush, Rubio said that Bush, who served two terms as the Sunshine State governor, wouldn't be a factor on his own decision making process for a White House run. The senator said Bush would be a "formidable candidate," but added "my decision will be based on me, not what anybody else decides."

"If I feel I can make a difference…from that office, to lead us in that direction, that's something I would have to strongly consider," Rubio told Blitzer, adding he'll make a decision "later this year, early next year."

THE COMEBACK KID HITS THE BLUEGRASS STATE

GRIMES CALLS IN CLINTON 8+ MONTHS BEFORE THE GENERAL ELECTION… Bill Clinton, arguably the most effective Democratic surrogate in politics, traveled to Kentucky Tuesday to campaign for Alison Lundergan Grimes, who hopes she can knock off Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in one of the most watched Senate races of 2014. Clinton is a long-time friend of Grimes’ father, Jerry, who chaired Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign in Kentucky.

BILL CLINTON: “I watched both the Kentucky victory and the Louisville victory over the last few days and I like both the coaches, both the teams and I cheer for them both to win. But I don’t have a problem making a choice in this race for the Senate.”

GRIMES MAKES HER SOUNDTRACK …. AND SHE SHOULD HAVE STOPPED AT KATY PERRY? “For the pundits that are here in the room in case you are wondering what our theme song is, well I will tell you. I am a Neil Diamond ‘Kentucky Woman’ through and through but you will hear, over the course of this campaign especially on behalf of the women of this state – 53% of the electorate – a little Katy Perry ‘Roar’ and by the end of this, by the end of this race, eight months from now we will be bringing home our Kentucky girl Miley Cyrus with a little “Wrecking Ball” straight to the Guardian of Gridlock.”

CLINTON TO KENTUCKY: YOU’VE BEEN GOOD TO ME
“I love Kentucky. You’ve been good to me. You voted for me twice. You have been great to Hillary.”

AND MCCONNELL GETS THE RETORT … SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KENTUCKY, AT A GOP PARTY STAKEOUT: “In 2008 both Bill and Hillary Clinton came to town including the day before the election and I won by a 100,000 votes. So I welcome President Clinton back to Kentucky. Every time he has come it has been really good for me.”

ARIZONA GOV. JAN BREWER EXPECTED TO VETO 'RELIGIOUS FREEDOM' BILL Dana Bash reports: All signs indicate Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer will likely veto politically-charged legislation that supporters say promotes religious freedom and opponents contend discriminates against gays and lesbians. Brewer did not signal her intention either way in an exclusive interview with CNN on Monday at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington."I can assure you, as always, I will do the right thing for the state of Arizona," she said.

DNC HUNTS FOR 2016 CONVENTION CITY … Mark Preston reports: As many as three dozen mayors from Atlanta to Sacramento received a letter earlier this month inquiring whether their cities were interested in hosting the 2016 Democratic National Convention. It was no small request.

Hosting a national political convention comes with a hefty price tag, between $50 million to $60 million, but the payout could be triple the investment or more. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who hosted the 2012 Republican National Convention, estimated that the economic impact to his city was “well beyond $200 million.”

Among the cities that received letters from the DNC are: Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus-Ohio, Dallas, Detroit, El Paso, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville-Davidson, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Orlando, New Orleans, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa.

AMERICANS' CONFIDENCE IN THE ECONOMY IMPROVES SLIGHTLY
More believe the U.S. economy is getting better than said this in prior weeks – Gallup’s Rebecca Riffin

THE BUZZ: WE’LL TOAST TO THAT … Hall of Fame shortstop, Ozzie Smith, has partnered with Budweiser, the Official Beer of Major League Baseball, to make Opening Day a holiday, beginning with a petition launched today at WhiteHouse.gov.

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CNN's GUT CHECK for February 24, 2014
February 24th, 2014
06:32 PM ET
2 months ago

CNN's GUT CHECK for February 24, 2014

CNN's GUT CHECK | for February 24, 2014| 5 p.m.
- n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle

JEB BUSH … BRINGING IT ON
Bush was the featured guest Monday at the Long Island Association's biannual luncheon, a popular stop for White House hopefuls, and his comments added to the buzz around his own potential 2016 run:
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