March 2nd, 2014
09:05 AM ET
9 years 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:”

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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. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the repub/tea bag majority

    @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. !!!!"


    Virginia, you do realize, don't you, that if you were an elected official who said this, Rove and the Koch brothers would primary you with a tea bag opponent, grinding you into the ground? The current incarnation of the GOP is extremist, destructive, intolerant and proud of their efforts to thwart the will of the American people. The tea bags are being played by domestic and foreign big-money interests who laugh at them behind their backs, amused by how easily they are manipulated by pride and fear to vote against their own self-interests ... again and again and again and again.

    The sooner you wake up to that reality, the better your life will be.

    March 2, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  2. janesauric

    Oh, I think a better ticket would be Ted Cruz and Ted Nugent; what a pair!

    March 2, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. it must be said

    I wonder when the American Communist/Progressive Conference is being held so the Democrats can determine who their candidate will be?

    March 2, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  4. Bob Marley

    That's fine with me. Wonder how a centre-left Hillary Clinton will do against an extreme right Ted Cruz. Probably pretty well.

    March 2, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  5. JC

    It's always interesting to me to hear a liberals spin on GOP politics. According to this article the entirety of the GOP platform is ACA related. It could have nothing to do with economic stagnation, foreign affairs, or other domestic laws. The left is going to try as hard as it can to prop its platform up on early returns on the ACA, but that's a bit dangerous. If for the next 3-4 months the left uses the ACA as it's proof of liberal success, come October when the exchanges and the federal budget committee release their quarter 2 report together it might pull the plug. Liberals would be far better off leaving the ACA out of the conversation and hope its useful in 2016.

    March 2, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  6. Thomas

    Sarah Palin / Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu 2016

    It is written !

    March 2, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  7. Larry Colin

    The best thing you can do is to nominate teddy the cruz. He is not native born american so he cannot run. That means Hillary will win with no opposition.

    March 2, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  8. ChrisM

    Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution

    No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

    March 2, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  9. 2L

    I agree, good advice – also respond to attacks immediately so as not to allow the voters to form a negative opinion of you, if they haven't already.

    March 2, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  10. 2L

    I don't see Cruz getting the nomination – he didn't do himself any favors by plotting w/TP candidates to oppose his establishment Republican colleagues when he said he wouldn't do that.

    March 2, 2014 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |

    HILARIOUS watching Guns Over People tea potty wingnuts walk the plank toward another November. CPAC will be loaded with dopey loose cannons as usual.

    March 2, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  12. rs

    See, the danger for the GOP in starting the 2016 campaign now is that events like CPAC (which seem to inspire the GOP to turn hard Right) gives then three years to wind up so far out in the weeds that White Supremacists will look positively liberal by comparison. The GOP is turning off women; they've written off the Hispanics; they lag by a large margin with Asians; they've written off Gays; Black-Americans are lost almost completely to the GOP and never mind the "47%"- and they want three years to launch a harder-to-the-Right, anti-American crusade of Mr. Cruz. Good luck with that gentlemen.

    March 2, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  13. rs

    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.
    Truly insane. As opposed to the GOP selling America out to the plutocrats? Utter nonsense. As far as subversion- completely correct- it's called the TEA Party.

    March 2, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  14. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    It doesn't matter what the GOP foes till 3026, their SIX yEARS of GOP OBSTRUCTION and INCOMPETENCE has SZoILED the GOP For YEARS to come!!!!!!!!!!!!!!'m

    March 2, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  15. The REAL TRUTH...

    Who cares? Cruz isn't even eligible.. by definition he's not an nbc. It will come up if he tries to run.

    March 2, 2014 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  16. Ken

    Cruz launchpad for 2016? Why is Ted Cruz a part of the discussion for the Presidency? He doesn't fulfill the Constitutional requirement of a Natural Born Citizen!!!

    March 2, 2014 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  17. Jack Be Humble

    I like "Fundamentalist Conservative" myself. Someone should start calling themselves that.

    March 2, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  18. mike in NH

    I like Cruz' alka seltzer comment, but we all know that Cruz would benefit from a laxative.

    March 2, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  19. Nameraymond

    GOP/Tp haven't got a "Pragmatic"(ability to SOLVE this Naton's problems) in their ranks. They will be out in the Cold (literally) & Politically for years to come.

    March 2, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  20. Ken

    Why is Ted Cruz even in a discussion about the 2016 Presidential race?

    March 2, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  21. Jim Jimson

    Ted Cruz has no chance whatsoever of ever living in the White House.

    He's nuts.

    March 2, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  22. okiejoe

    We've been through this Natural Born Citizen stuff before. Ted's mother was a citizen when he was born so he qualifies, of course he is frickin' maniac so he shouldn't be allowed to play with matches, much less nuclear weapons.

    March 2, 2014 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  23. may40

    Why do liberals hate and fear Cruz????? He wants smaller government and less taxes. That frightens you because???? This administration is killing the country and you liberals just sit back and applaud the president. What rock are you all hiding under????

    March 2, 2014 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  24. Serge Storms

    Joe Biden, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz have one thing in common. None are likely to ever be President.

    March 2, 2014 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  25. Juergen

    Cruz is a snake. But more and more, he reminds me of a bottle rocket that lit off and didn't make it out of the container it was propped up in.

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