TIME justice

Baltimore Picks Up Pieces, Wary of Another Night of Violence

After a night of violence, a city tries to turn the page

At the corner of North and Pennsylvania Avenues in West Baltimore, volunteers carried blackened shelves out of the scorched CVS pharmacy. Kids wearing surgical masks against acrid fumes loaded bags of trash into the bed of a truck. Motorcyclists in leather vests patrolled the crowd for signs of unrest. Students in college sweatshirts and peacekeepers in matching black tees linked arms to form a human chain separating the cops from the furious community they are paid to protect.

The scene in Baltimore on Tuesday might seem surreal if it weren’t sadly familiar by now. The riots that broke out here Monday torched buildings and stores, injured at least 20 officers and left a stricken community without faith in police or politicians searching for ways to channel the chaos into change. As night fell, the city braced for a return of violence, with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan overseeing a deployment of 2,000 National Guard troops and 1,000 more police to protect the city.

A Baltimore-wide curfew went into effect at 10 p.m., until 5 a.m., but groups of people around the city were still seen in the streets near lines of officers. Just before midnight, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts told reporters that only 10 arrests had been made. “The curfew is, in fact, working,” he said. “The city is stable.”

The death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died this month of severe injuries incurred while in police custody, may have been the spark that set this city ablaze. But the kindling has been piling up for decades, a combustible combination of crushing poverty, joblessness, segregation, poor schools and a police department with an ugly record of abuses. Baltimore, residents say, was ready to burn.

“We’ve reached a boiling point,” says Michael Coleman, 38, a leader of the Baltimore social-justice organization United Workers. “This isn’t the first case of police brutality, abuse or murder. It’s systematic.”

MORE: Baltimore Mayor Defends Handling of Riots

The list of grievances runs long in this stretch of West Baltimore, where groups of youths linger on corners and the gritty commercial strips are a blur of chop shops, check-cashing stores, beauty salons and carryout joints. Unlike in Ferguson, Mo., or New York City, where communities made martyrs last year of unarmed black men who died at the hands of police, Gray’s name was on few people’s lips. The unrest, people conceded, bore little connection to the man whose death catalyzed it.

“Behind your actions, you have to have something to say,” says Destiny Morning, 20. “It started off with a good message: justice.” But the Walmart employee—who said she wanted “a real protest, not riots”—saw the cause sidetracked by senseless destruction. Instead of mourning Gray or campaigning to reform police practices, a band of high-school kids threw bricks and snapped selfies in front of smoldering squad cars—macabre trophies in a city whose absence of hope or jobs can make kids feel like revenge is reward enough.

The causes of the unrest are similar in many ways to the structural problems afflicting hollowed-out communities around the country. But Baltimore, local residents say, is just a little different—grittier and angrier, a major city fierce with pride but plagued by gangs and largely bereft of opportunity for the impoverished. “Baltimore is a victim of its own insecurity,” says Gerard King, a 25-year-old hip hop artist. “This is something poverty breeds, specifically in men. Nothing makes you feel like a man more than being able to make a living.”

Even many people who condemned aspects of the rioting said they understood it on some levels as an expression of rage and hopelessness at an unequal society. “Some of it is necessary,” argues Michael Battle, 17, who said he supported the looting of stores but did not condone violence or setting fires. “It sends a bigger message.”

MORE: Baltimore Mom Explains Why She Smacked Son at Riot

As residents braced for another night of chaos, community leaders sought to impart a sense of purpose and peace. With public schools closed, kids packed a community room at Empowerment Temple Church in the city’s Park Heights neighborhood. Hunched at plastic tables spread across yellow-and-green floors, they listened to a series of speakers and ate a pizza lunch donated by locals. “They riot with no purpose because we give them no purpose,” says Anthony Reliford, a minister at the church. “Everything has been set back another 10, 15, 20 years – in one moment.”

When you don’t trust the city’s institutions to govern you, you have to govern yourselves. For much of Tuesday, the emotional crowds seemed to be winning that battle. Locals said cleanup crews were on site at the epicenter of the rioting early Tuesday morning. By the afternoon a crowd of hundreds flooded the intersection under sunny skies, singing, praying, yelling, kibitzing—waiting for the mayhem to erupt again, as everyone expected.

Sure enough, scattered tumult erupted early, in the form of a fistfight and a few water bottles tossed at police. But the cops, aided by the crowd, stamped it out quickly. “It contradicts all the good we’re trying to accomplish here,” says Robert Baker, 45, president of the Baltimore chapter of the Ruff Ryders motorcycle club, and part of a motley array of groups that assigned itself peacekeeping duties.

Shaking his head, Baker wandered off into the crowd in search of partners. Nearby a group of teenagers stood on the corner in front of the burnt-out CVS. Propped next to the entrance was a hand-lettered sign that read: “It’s Your World.”

TIME ted cruz

What the Flap Over a Ted Cruz Dinner Means

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a town hall event at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa on April 1, 2015.
Nati Harnik—AP Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a town hall event at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa on April 1, 2015.

Correction appended: April 29, 2015

This is a short parable about the polarized state of American politics.

A Republican candidate holds a dinner one Monday evening at the home of two gay businessmen. It is an unusual pairing: the businessmen are prominent gay-rights activists, while the politician is a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage. But they have similar views on Israel and decide that’s enough to set aside those differences.

By Thursday, the politician, under pressure from supporters, releases a defensive statement. His spokesman says the venue was an error.

By Sunday both businessmen, facing boycotts and vitriol from their allies, post apologies on Facebook, calling the event “a terrible mistake.”

The politician is Ted Cruz, the Texas Senator seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. The businessmen are Mati Weiderpass and Ian Reisner, New York hoteliers who own properties in Manhattan and off Long Island that are geared toward gay guests. The swift backlash from their shared dinner says as much as any tale about our factionalized politics, in which anyone who appears to stray from tribal alliances faces the prospect of excommunication.

In some ways, the most surprising aspect of the summit was that either party was surprised by the blowback. Both sides cast a classic political transaction — the exchange of money for proximity to power — as a function of mutual support for Israel. “It was all things Israel,” Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler told the Washington Examiner. “They were in a discussion about something they all agreed about.”

But Cruz’s path to the presidency runs through Iowa, where evangelical activists who oppose gay marriage dominate the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. An ardent social conservative, Cruz is seeking a constitutional amendment that would protect the right of states to define marriage as an institution between one man and one woman.

A New York Times report that Cruz took a conciliatory tone on marriage during the dinner appeared to jeopardize his outreach to social conservatives. It didn’t help that the dinner was held in a swank duplex abutting Central Park, where a 23-year-old gay man was found dead in a bathtub in an apparent drug overdose last fall, according to police sources.

Cruz released a statement to reporters decrying the flap as a media witch hunt. “When asked, I stated directly and unambiguously what everyone in the room already knew, that I oppose gay marriage and I support traditional marriage,” he said. “One person further asked how [Cruz’s wife] Heidi and I would react if we found out one of our (4- and 7-year-old) daughters were gay. My reply: ‘We would love her with all our hearts. We love our daughters unconditionally.’

“A conservative Republican who is willing to meet with individuals who do not agree on marriage and who loves his daughters unconditionally may not reflect the caricature of conservatives promoted by the left, but it’s hardly newsworthy,” he added.

If Cruz opted for damage control through defiance, Reisner and Weiderpass were more chastened. Gay rights activists, who argue opposition to same-sex marriage is intolerance, were furious with the hoteliers’ decision to host Cruz. Over several days last week, the two were hit with the threat of business boycotts, canceled events and a protest rally. On Sunday, they took to Facebook to issue separate apologies.

“I am shaken to my bones by the e-mails, texts, postings and phone calls of the past few days,” Reisner wrote. “I was ignorant, naive and much too quick in accepting a request to co-host a dinner with Cruz at my home without taking the time to completely understand all of his positions on gay rights.”

“I share in Ian’s remorse. I, too, lay humbled with what has happened in the last week,” Weiderpass wrote in a separate post. “I made a terrible mistake. Unfortunately, I cannot undo this. You taught me a painful but important lesson.”

The post doesn’t specify what lesson he learned. But the larger moral of the parable seems clear: in American politics today, what keeps us apart matters more than what brings us together.

Correction: The original version of this story mischaracterized the event attended by Ted Cruz on April 20 in New York City. It was a dinner.

TIME Scott Walker

Why Scott Walker’s Immigration Flip-Flop Could Hurt

Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during a meeting with area Republicans on April 19, 2015, in Derry, N.H.
Jim Cole—AP Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during a meeting with area Republicans on April 19, 2015, in Derry, N.H.

It sets him apart from primary rivals and party elites

In the early stages of a presidential campaign, the controversy du jour is often less important than it may seem. This is the season of listening tours and message testing, when the real drama is offstage and a trip to Chipotle can command the national news cycle.

But the brewing kerfuffle over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s new immigration position is a case where there’s more to the matter than meets the eye. His shift on the issue this week could alter the GOP primary, both by setting him apart from key rivals on a critical issue and by reinforcing questions about whether the Wisconsin governor has a habit of revising his policy positions for political gain.

“The next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, protecting American workers and American wages,” Walker said Monday during an interview with Glenn Beck. “It is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today—what is this doing, not only to American workers looking for jobs, but what is it doing to the wages, and we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward.”

Walker’s remarks — which also name-checked GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions, an outspoken opponent of immigration reform — were a departure from many of his past comments on the issue. By raising questions about legal immigration levels, he appeared to espouse a protectionist approach that positions him to the right of much of the GOP primary field.

“Sad to see the full, Olympics-quality flip-flop by a former boss today,” tweeted Liz Mair, who quit her job as a political aide to Walker amid a controversy over her prior criticism of Iowa’s prominent role in the presidential nominating contest.

The shift in policy separates the Badger State Republican from top primary opponents on one of the party’s most dramatic fault lines. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio have supported an overhaul of U.S. immigration law. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has decried the idea of mass deportations and supported work visas and a legal status for the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S.

“Governor Walker supports American workers’ wages and the U.S. economy and thinks both should be considered when crafting a policy for legal immigration,” said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Our American Revival, an organization formed to support Walker’s presidential bid. “He strongly supports legal immigration, and like many Americans, believes that our economic situation should be considered instead of arbitrary caps on the amount of immigrants that can enter.”

Walker’s position hasn’t gone over well with some of the party’s top strategists, who believe a more inclusive approach to immigration is both sound policy and smart politics. Nor does it wash with some of the GOP’s most influential donors and thinkers, a group that can alter the trajectory of the presidential primary.

A vast cross-section of business organizations, special-interest groups and Republican bigwigs favor immigration reform — from industrialists who need cheap farm labor to Silicon Valley tech firms that are lobbying to loosen restrictions on H1B visas. Walker’s stance could inhibit his ability to attract the big money he needs behind his campaign. The billionaire Koch brothers, for example, have seeded an organization, known as the Libre Initiative, whose goal is to pitch conservative principles to the Latino voters who overwhelmingly backed Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. “Any call, by anyone, to further restrict legal immigration is not a viable, nor an acceptable policy remedy,” Daniel Garza, the executive director of the Libre Initiative, said Tuesday.

“The overwhelming majority of Americans, Democrats as well as Republicans, want the federal government to secure our borders,” says former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who has worked to drum up support for an immigration overhaul that make undocumented workers who meet various conditions eligible to apply for green cards. “That same majority understands that we need to increase the number of H1B visas, that there are essential jobs for which we need immigrants, particularly agriculture … we need guest workers in those essential jobs.”

But from a short-term perspective, Walker’s shift may be shrewd politics. He is tapping into a deep vein of populism that runs through the party, especially in early voting states like Iowa, where antipathy toward “amnesty” is an animating value. A January Gallup poll revealed that 60% of Americans are dissatisfied with current immigration levels, including 84% of Republicans.

One veteran GOP strategist said simply that Walker “has got to perform well in Iowa” and that he wouldn’t do so with the more centrist approach he’s taken in the past.

In 2006, when Walker served as Milwaukee County executive, he urged the Senate to pass a bipartisan immigration reform bill. In 2010, when controversial legislation in Arizona became a national flashpoint, Walker criticized the bill. (Just days later, he reversed his position after further researching the issue, according to his then-campaign manager.) In 2013, as Senate leaders worked to craft a bipartisan rewrite of U.S. immigration law, Walker supported a path to citizenship. Asked the same year if he could envision citizenship for immigrants after penalties, waiting periods and other conditions were put in place, Walker told the Wausau Daily Herald: “Sure. Yeah. I think it makes sense.”

And now? “My view has changed,” Walker told Fox News on March 1, opposing a path to citizenship in any form.

Every politician, like every constituent, has a right to change his or her mind. But a windblown approach to policy could shatter the steadfast image Walker earned in the Wisconsin union brawl, and which he hoped to leverage as a cornerstone of his all-but-certain presidential campaign. “It shreds your argument if you say you’re going to be the principled guy,” says the GOP strategist, “but here are all these examples of where he flipped.”

The examples are mounting. There was Walker’s reversal on ethanol subsides, another Iowa hot-button which he backed this spring after formerly opposing. There was his push to repeal Common Core when it became politically toxic in 2014, after previously supporting the standards. There was his decision to sign a right-to-work law after years of disavowing interest in pursuing such a policy.

Walker started well in the Republican nominating contest this year, riding a wave of momentum generated by a strong performance in an early Iowa cattle call. But he is a newcomer to the national stage. Many Republican voters have yet to form their first impression of the Wisconsin governor. Getting tagged with a flip-flopper label could prove an impassable obstacle.

“You do not want to be in a position where you build up a track record of moving around on issues,” says another veteran Republican consultant. “It’s absolutely fatal.”

With reporting by Zeke J. Miller

TIME 2016 Election

Influential GOP Group Backs Cruz, Paul and Rubio

U.S. Senator Rubio announces bid for the Republican nomination in the 2016 U.S. presidential election race during speech in Miami
Joe Skipper–Reuters U.S. Senator Marco Rubio announces his bid for the Republican nomination in the 2016 U.S. presidential election race during a speech in Miami, Fla. on April 13, 2015.

Conservative outside groups could be poised to play a kingmaker role in the 2016 nominating contest

The first three candidates to enter the race for the Republican presidential nomination earned rave reviews Thursday from a powerful conservative group.

The Club for Growth, a deep-pocketed network of economic conservatives, published detailed analyses of the voting records of Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio that heaped praise on each of the candidates.

“Cruz, Paul, and Rubio are the real deal,” said Club for Growth President David McIntosh. “We’ve looked at their records and their rhetoric, and they give us hope for the future of the GOP on fiscal policies.”

The verdicts weren’t a surprise. The Club backed each of the candidates in their campaigns for the Senate, and all three have amassed staunchly conservative voting records during their short stints on Capitol Hill. But the rave reviews were a reminder that conservative interest groups are poised to play a kingmaker role in the 2016 nominating contest, pulling candidates to the right in the process.

The Club has long been known for spending large sums to oppose candidates who stray on economic issues. But it is considering a more aggressive role in this year’s GOP primary, including a possible endorsement. In late February the group drew a range of presidential hopefuls — including Cruz, Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — to address a donors’ conclave in Florida.

The group found quibbles with each of the first three candidates, from Cruz and Paul’s support of special tax credits for NASCAR to Rubio’s proposed top marginal tax rate. But overall, it spared little praise for the Senators. “Cruz has shown extraordinary determination in the fight against Obamacare,” McIntosh said. “Paul’s budget proposals are a blueprint for limited government, and Rubio has drafted a massively pro-growth tax cut and reform plan.”

It’s a far cry from the 2012 presidential race, when the group was lukewarm or worse on candidates ranging from Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty to Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum. And there will surely be 2016 candidates who don’t fare as well. (Keep an eye out for a withering assessment of Mike Huckabee.) But the first batch of reviews was a early sign that this cycle’s crop of candidates will produce a far more competitive — and potentially just as conservative — race after the yawner of four years ago.

TIME Sen. Marco Rubio

Why Marco Rubio’s Presidential Bid Makes Republicans Nervous

U.S. Senator Rubio announces bid for the Republican nomination in the 2016 U.S. presidential election race during speech in Miami
Joe Skipper–Reuters U.S. Senator Marco Rubio announces his bid for the Republican nomination in the 2016 U.S. presidential election race during a speech in Miami, Fla. on April 13, 2015.

It throws a costly, competitive Senate race up for grabs

When he announced his campaign for President on Monday, Sen. Marco Rubio noted that not everyone in his party was thrilled about the idea. “I have heard some suggest that I should step aside and wait my turn,” the Florida Republican told supporters gathered at Miami’s Freedom Tower.

Rubio wasn’t just alluding to critics who question his decision to run for the White House while still in his first term in the Senate. He was also talking about some of his allies on Capitol Hill, who were tracking his deliberations for an entirely different reason.

The freshman Senator, 43, is also up for re-election in 2016. And when he jumped into the race for the White House, Rubio reaffirmed his decision not to defend his Senate seat. “If you’ve decided that you want to serve this country as its president, that’s what you should be running for,” he explained to NPR in the wake of his campaign launch.

Rubio’s decision to ditch the Senate puts the GOP in a bit of a bind. Republicans recaptured the chamber last fall, but in 2016 they will be defending 24 seats to the Democrats’ 10. With a shaky majority and an unforgiving electoral map this go-round, the GOP was counting on Rubio — a proven fundraiser with name recognition and some cross-party appeal — to win re-election in one of the nation’s few true swing states.

Instead Republicans now seem destined for a contested primary and competitive general election that will force them to spend extravagantly to keep the seat. “It’s a problem,” says a former senior official with the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). “The challenge that Rubio presents is that there’s a $20 million hole that was just blown in the NRSC budget.”

To skirt this problem, some Republicans quietly sought to persuade Rubio to stay in the Senate, arguing he faced an uphill contest against former Gov. Jeb Bush, a fellow Floridian who has been soaking up the support and largesse of the party’s most powerful donors. If strategists in Washington fretted about shelling out millions to protect the seat, some GOP operatives and donors in the Sunshine State were shocked Rubio would run against Bush, who remains a dominant figure in the state and whom Rubio has described as a mentor.

“There’s a lot of angst about him running” for President, says one veteran Republican consultant, who believes Rubio’s bid for the Oval Office is a long shot. “He would’ve held onto the [Senate] seat. He’s a terrific fundraiser, and it probably wouldn’t have been as competitive.”

Republicans have a deep bench in Florida. “Florida Republicans have consistently demonstrated a proven capacity to win statewide races and we look forward to electing another strong Republican like Senator Rubio,” says Kevin McLaughlin, deputy executive director of the NRSC. But the GOP Senate campaign arm may struggle to recruit a candidate of comparable strength. Already two top potential candidates, state chief financial officer Jeff Atwater and former state House speaker Will Weatherford, have passed on the race.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy has announced a run for the Democratic nomination. In the absence of Rubio, the race could be one of the nation’s toughest. Last month the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling surveyed hypothetical match-ups between eight leading prospective contenders from both parties; on average, the Democrat led by less than one point. Rubio, in contrast, was running well ahead of top Democratic rivals.

That’s why some Republicans are holding out hope that he reconsiders his decision if his presidential run fails to gather steam. As Rubio has noted, Florida election law bars a candidate from running for two offices on the same ballot. But the filing deadline to jump into the Senate race isn’t until May 2016, leaving plenty of time to test the waters in Iowa and New Hampshire. It would hardly be an unusual strategy. Fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul is running for re-election in Kentucky as he mounts a bid for the White House after lobbying the state party to change its election laws to allow him to do both.

But Rubio has always been a man in a hurry, and as he’s confessed to allies, the Senate’s sclerosis has frustrated him. This dissatisfaction with the job helps explain why he’s ready to relinquish it for a shot at the presidency. And some longtime Florida political hands argue Rubio’s stock in the GOP primary is undervalued.

“There were a lot of Republicans who were shocked, at times even indignant, that Marco would step out of line,” says Steve Schale, a Florida Democratic strategist who served as a top adviser to both of Barack Obama’s Florida campaigns. “I’m in the camp that thinks he’s going to do better than most people have been saying.”

With reporting by Alex Rogers and Zeke J. Miller

TIME Sen. Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio Waits for His Moment

Slow and steady wins the race, he hopes

When Marco Rubio launched his presidential campaign Monday evening in Miami, it’s a safe bet the speech made a lot of Republicans remember why they dubbed him presidential material.

Nobody in the GOP can spin a yarn like the freshman Senator from Florida. Rubio’s bootstrap narrative, rhetorical flourishes and emphasis on American exceptionalism have made him one of the few national figures capable of bridging the chasms between the party’s grassroots base, billionaire donors and the Washington establishment.

These gifts were on display in Rubio’s announcement speech, which framed the 2016 presidential election as a clash between leaders “stuck in the 2oth century” and those looking toward the future.

“Yesterday is over, and we are never going back” he told supporters. “We must change the decisions we are making by changing the people who are making them.”

The question is whether now is Rubio’s time. For much of the past two years, it hasn’t looked that way.

Rubio, 43, was a conservative sensation in 2013 when he joined a bipartisan group of Senators to craft a rewrite of U.S. immigration laws. (TIME put him on the cover, anointing him “The Republican Savior.”) Rubio became the face of the GOP effort to rebrand itself with Hispanics in the wake of an election in which they got clobbered in the contest for the nation’s fastest-growing demographic group, winning just 27% of the Latino vote.

The gamble backfired. Comprehensive immigration reform collapsed amid a revolt from conservatives, who were incensed by a deal they decried as “amnesty.” And Rubio, whose upset Senate victory in 2010 was driven by Tea Party activists, was left to labor offstage as his presidential rivals vacuumed up money and hype.

His comeback strategy was simple. Rubio adopted an intentionally low profile as he repaired his relationship with the party base. In Washington he focused his efforts on foreign policy, returning to his roots as one of the Senate’s pre-eminent hawks. And he quietly wooed bigwig donors in small meetings and private conferences, nurturing a small yet loyal cadre of backers.

Rubio’s plunge into the 2016 pool will make a splash. But don’t be surprised if he soon returns to the low-profile approach on the campaign trail. There will be visits to early states and countless meetings with donors, but Rubio doesn’t expect to rocket to the front of the primary pack anytime soon. A protégé of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Rubio can’t match the fundraising prowess of the son and brother of Presidents. (His jab at Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton Monday as “a leader from yesterday” appeared to be a shot at Bush as well.) Nor can he squash Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s surge in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Instead Rubio’s path to the party’s nomination relies on running a lean, upbeat campaign that blooms late, advisers say. At this stage, being a lot of voters’ second choice can be a first-rate strategy. The campaign hopes the base never warms to Bush, its romance with Walker proves fleeting and the social-conservative vote is divvied up between the various candidates vying for it. Then Rubio’s lean campaign operation will expand rapidly, and he can capitalize on his personal magnetism through the platform provided by the presidential debates. Rubio aides point to the roller-coaster GOP primary in 2012 as evidence that strategy can work.

Rubio has never lost an election, and his gifts as a candidate are easy to spot. In a race dominated by scuffed dynasties, he offers optimism and freshness: a youthful face who can connect with new constituencies by speaking Spanish, talking football and quoting rappers. In a party of aging white guys, a 43-year-old Hispanic who hails from a top swing state carries certain benefits.

The son of Cuban refugees will lean heavily on his biography. Rubio’s mother made a living as a hotel maid; his dad worked as a bartender. Their son called the journey from serving drinks in the back of the room to announcing a presidential campaign at the front of one “the essence of the American dream.”

His announcement at Miami’s Freedom Tower, the so-called Ellis Island for thousands of Cuban refugees — “a symbol of our nation’s identity as a land of opportunity,” Rubio said — highlights the role that his personal narrative will play in his pitch. And Rubio’s campaign will rely on his charisma: polls show his approval ratings among the highest in the party.

This strategy is a proven winner at the presidential level, but perhaps not in a way that Rubio’s backers are eager to point out. As a freshman Senator with a minority background, a compelling personal story and dazzling oratorical chops, Rubio is the closest thing in the Republican Party to Barack Obama. At this time in 2007, Obama was an underdog, polling well behind the Clinton juggernaut. His victory illustrates the viability of Rubio’s strategy.

At the same time, the GOP has spent the past seven years decrying Obama as a nice guy with a light résumé who proved to be out of his depth in the Oval Office. The challenge for Rubio will be to bottle Obama’s campaign magic without reminding them too much of the man he’s seeking to succeed.

TIME Rand Paul

A Changed Rand Paul Vows to Change the Republican Party

A Tea Party favorite must play to the GOP base before he can expand the electorate

Sen. Rand Paul announced a run for the White House Tuesday, armed with a message he said was “loud and clear and does not mince words: We have come to take our country back.”

Paul’s speech nodded at his younger fans, as well as making a pitch as a presidential candidate for limited government and fiscal conservatism. A campaign video released Monday had set up the Kentucky Senator as the one man who can “defeat the Washington machine and unleash the American dream.” The words linger atop a silhouette of the candidate as supporters chant “President Paul.”

Forgive Paul for going generic with his slogan; there are only so many active verbs and available bromides left in our shared campaign storage unit. But the choice is emblematic of a larger branding decision that could help shape the fate of his presidential bid. Paul rose through the ranks by promising to change the Republican Party, but on the cusp of his campaign he has tweaked his own positions to fit within the GOP.

Ever since his 2013 filibuster against Barack Obama’s drone policy vaulted him from Tea Party curiosity to the forefront of the GOP, Paul has boasted a clearer rationale for a presidential bid than any of his rivals. He has been telling audiences that a party staring down the barrel of demographic change must become bigger, broader and more inclusive to win back the White House. His campaign is predicated on the promise that he can attract a younger, more diverse coalition of voters through issues ranging from a more restrained foreign policy to criminal-justice reforms to reining in domestic spying.

The pitch has made Paul a powerful player in the GOP presidential field. He is running at or near the top of the polls, with a stocked bank account and a political network wired through key early states. Instead of downplaying expectations, Paul prefers to stoke the hype. “Nobody is running better against Hillary Clinton than myself,” he told Fox News.

“The path to the nomination is virtually set up for us,” says Doug Wead, a friend and adviser to Paul who notes the senator’s organizational strength and ideological appeal in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. “It’s within the realm of possibility that we could have three sequential wins” out of the gate.

But even as he claims frontrunner status, there’s a question of whether the Kentucky senator has missed his ideological moment. Paul’s rise in the polls over the past two years came as the Republican Party warmed to the merits of Paul’s non-interventionist foreign policy after more than a decade of war. In one June 2014 survey, 53% of Republicans said the U.S. should “mind its own business” abroad, up from just 22% in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Yet in recent months, as the U.S. ramped up nuclear negotiations that would ease sanctions on Iran and the Islamic State released a series of ghastly beheading videos, the GOP has rediscovered its hawkish impulses. A Quinnipiac poll last month found that 73% of Republicans now support sending ground troops to battle ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Paul has reacted to the Republican regression on foreign policy with an apparent evolution of his own. Lately he’s shelved his signature non-interventionism in favor of more conventionally muscular rhetoric. When it comes to federal spending, he told the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, “for me, the priority is always national defense.” A few weeks later, he introduced an amendment calling for a $190 billion boost to the defense budget—a head-snapping reversal from his 2011 proposal to cut defense spending and reduce war funding from $159 billion to zero.

Paul supporters say the shift is a function of changing conditions in the Middle East, not a strategic repositioning. (His campaign spokesman did not return a request for comment for this story.) In any event, it may do little to assuage GOP hawks, who remain deeply leery of Paul. Meanwhile, it may may complicate matters on another front. To win the primary contest, Paul has to pull off a delicate balancing act: expand his political coalition without alienating the demanding libertarian supporters inherited from his father. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign was derided by the political class as more farce than force, but to fans he was a beacon of clarity. His son risks irking the libertarian faithful by softening his stances to suit the political climate.

Foreign policy isn’t the only realm where Paul has modulated his message. He has long argued the federal government should let states decide the question of gay marriage. “The Republican Party,” he told CNN, “can have people on both sides of the issue.” Now he is telling socially conservative audiences that gay marriage is a “moral crisis” which “offends myself and a lot of other people.”

This kind of talk may help Paul with Evangelicals in Iowa. But it won’t win over the young voters or independents he often brags about bringing into the GOP fold. Nor is there much proof that the bridge-building he’s done with communities of color will translate into votes. And on issues where Paul’s positions once stood out, such as criminal-justice reform or drug policy, some of his Republican competitors have since caught up.

What’s left if Paul sands down his edges? Perhaps a relatively conventional Republican candidate. Paul’s campaign calls him “a different kind of Republican,” but the issues he emphasizes in his debut video are standard GOP fare, from term limits to a balanced budget to jabs at Congress and the failures of liberalism. His political operation is a vast and motley assemblage, with top staffers who worked for the likes of Rick Santorum and George W. Bush. A man who made his name inveighing against foreign misadventures will campaign in South Carolina this week atop a World War II-era aircraft carrier, a totem of American military might. He is running against Washington from a perch in the Senate, using testimonials from D.C. talking heads to argue he is different.

Paul has undertaken the ambitious project of selling a hidebound party on the merits of reinvention. And if it may seem to some as though he has reinvented himself in the process, supporters say the occasional shift in tone is just part of the larger deal.

“The overriding goal for Rand Paul is to make government smaller,” says David Adams, his former Senate campaign manager. “Anything that needs to be tweaked or massaged or polished to get from here to there is fair game. He will come under a lot of criticism for saying things that sound different from what he may have said at another time, but he has consistently and persistently moved toward making government smaller and winning the ultimate battle.”

Read next: What Happened When Rand Paul First Got Into Politics

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TIME Mike Pence

Indiana’s Mike Pence Takes Blows, Burnishes Credentials In Religious Freedom Fight

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks during a press conference at the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis on March 31, 2015.
Aaron P. Bernstein—Getty Images Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks during a press conference at the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis on March 31, 2015.

Becoming a liberal pariah can be good politics for a conservative

There are few immutable rules in politics. But here’s one: anytime you call a televised press conference to explain that you “abhor discrimination,” something’s gone awry.

Such was the plight of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who was dragged into the searing glare of the national spotlight Tuesday to defend a new state law that critics say will invite discrimination. That 37-minute gauntlet followed another televised grilling in which Pence dodged hypothetical questions about whether a wedding florist could deny service to gay couples. The controversy over Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) enveloped the Hoosier State this week, sparking a massive outcry from businesses, activists and ordinary citizens.

But in gauging the damage inflicted on Pence, it’s worth recalling another of politics’ Newtonian laws: in partisan warfare, taking enemy fire for a cherished cause always mobilizes your own troops. For a conservative like Pence, becoming a liberal pariah is pretty good politics.

In other words, for a governor with half an eye on national office, there are worse moves than planting yourself at the center of a national controversy. Just ask Scott Walker, who vaulted from obscurity to the top of the early presidential pack primarily by picking a bruising fight with Wisconsin’s unions. Pence may have underestimated the blowback he’d get from signing the so-called religious-freedom statute. But the skirmish could help more than hurt in the long run.

In the near term, the battle of Indiana has raised the national profile of a first-term governor whom many Republicans have long dubbed a dark horse contender in the 2016 race. Pence has yet to spring from the starting gate: he hasn’t hired staff, built a fundraising apparatus or made the early trips to primary states that are reliable signs of presidential ambitions. But on paper, he is the kind of candidate capable of catching fire.

“Mike has a unique ability to rally people from all different sectors of the conservative movement,” says his former chief of staff Marc Short, who is now president of Freedom Partners, the political fund for the billionaire Koch brothers. “Mike models servant-leadership better than any politician or public official I know.”

Pence, 55, has described himself as a “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” This week’s legislative fight showcased the Christian part. But over six terms in the House of Representatives, Pence also built up glittering conservative credentials as he battled the Bush Administration on policies ranging from the bank bailout to No Child Left Behind to Medicare Part D. He left a coveted spot as chair of the GOP Republican Conference for the statehouse in Indianapolis, a perfect perch from which to mount a national campaign.

Pence is more likely than not to pass up a campaign. For one thing, Walker and perhaps Ohio Gov. John Kasich have already occupied the Midwestern governor’s lane on the road to the nomination. But after months off the national radar tending to the legislative session in Indiana, the RFRA fight “puts Pence right back in the center of the storm,” says a longtime party strategist. If he survives the tempest, he could steer himself into contention as a champion of an issue that is particularly dear to voters in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. “Pence right now has the opportunity to win the Republican nomination by standing firm,” argues Mike Farris, a conservative lawyer who helped draft the federal RFRA in 1993.

At the same time, a dramatic confrontation on a divisive social issue was hardly the best way to introduce himself to the mainstream voters Pence would need to mount a credible campaign. “Does it help him? I doubt it,” says one top Republican strategist who believes Pence’s team bungled the issue. “If the primary voters think you aren’t skilled enough to beat Hillary, you’re going to be in a bad spot whether you have a good [voting] scorecard or not.”

With reporting by Sam Frizell and Zeke J. Miller

TIME States

Arkansas Governor Asks for Changes to Controversial Religious Freedom Bill

His own son signed a petition against it

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson called Wednesday for the state legislature to make changes to a religious freedom bill that prompted an angry outcry from prominent businesses and activists who say it could lead to discrimination against gays.

“I’ve asked the leaders of the General Assembly to recall the bill so that it can be amended,” Hutchinson, a Republican, announced in a news conference Wednesday morning.

Hutchinson had promised last week to sign the bill into law when it reached his desk, and on Tuesday the Arkansas state House affixed its final approval to the measure. But as a backlash over a similar bill built against Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Hutchinson reconsidered his decision.

MORE: Uproar Over Religious Freedom Law Trips Up Indiana Governor

Noting that his own son signed a petition urging a veto, Hutchinson urged the Arkansas state legislature to tweak the language of the statute to make it mirror the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed into law with bipartisan support by then-President Clinton.

“This is a bill that in ordinary times would not be controversial. But these are not ordinary times,” Hutchinson said.

Pressure had mounted on Hutchinson to reject the legislation, as powerful corporations publicly exhorted the Republican governor to reverse his decision. On Tuesday evening, the Arkansas-based retail giant Walmart posted a statement on Twitter arguing the bill undermined the state’s “spirit of inclusion” and asking Hutchinson to veto it.

“My responsibility is to speak out on my own convictions,” Hutchinson said, “and to do what I can, as governor, to make sure this bill reflects the values of the people of Arkansas, protects those of religious conscience. But also, minimizes the chance of discrimination in the workplace.”

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