TIME 2016 Election

Chris Christie Launches PAC in Preparation for 2016 Presidential Run

Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines
Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 24, 2015 Jim Young—Reuters

Several other Republican candidates have long-standing political groups as well

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie launched a federal political action committee, or PAC, Monday as he seeks to lay the groundwork for a likely 2016 presidential campaign.

The new group, Leadership Matters for America PAC, will allow the 52-year-old to travel the country to raise money and support like-minded politicians, but it can’t specifically advocate on his behalf. The launch comes two days after Christie appeared at a conservative cattle call in Iowa, where he sought to prove he could reach out to a skeptical party base.

The PAC’s website features a smiling Christie holding court at one of his signature town halls, and its mission statement hews closely to Christie’s rapidly developing stump speech. News of the PAC’s formation was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

“America has been a nation that has always controlled events and yet today events control us,” it states. “Why? Because leadership matters. It matters if we want to restore America’s role in the world, find the political will to take on the entrenched special interests that continually stand in the way of fundamental change, reform entitlement spending at every level of government, and ensure that every child, no matter their zip code, has access to a quality education.”

Former Republican National Committee Finance chairman Ray Washburne, who announced earlier this month he would step down to take a position with Christie, will hold the same role for the new group. Former Republican Governors Association executive director Phil Cox and longtime Christie strategist Mike DuHaime will serve as political advisers. Matt Mowers, the outgoing New Hampshire GOP executive director, and Phil Valenziano, a former aide to Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, will be the PAC’s on-the-ground presence in those two presidential early states.

Earlier this month, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush launched a leadership PAC and a super PAC in preparation for his presidential run. Several other Republican candidates have long-standing political groups as well.

Christie is set to return to Iowa on Feb. 9 to address the Dallas County Republican Party, and has planned trips across the country in coming weeks to fundraise and boost his political profile. He is not expected to make a final decision on his candidacy until the spring.

TIME 2016 Election

The Invisible Presidential Campaign Kicks Off in Earnest

Scott Walker
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks during the Freedom Summit, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall—AP

Presidential candidates-to-be, and a passel of well-known clingers on, converged in Iowa this weekend with all the flash and fun the nation has come to expect of the Grand Old Party.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina managed substantive introductions, alongside businessman Donald Trump, who declared there is “nobody like Trump,” and Sarah Palin, who struggled with diction and metaphor, offering phrases like “We don’t sit on our thumbs this next time when one of our own is being crucified.”

The real action, however, lay elsewhere, off the stage and out of sight, in an invisible primary taking place behind closed doors in states not known for their place in the nominating calendar. Candidates have been crisscrossing the nation and working the phones, dialing for dollars and loyalty in a contest that may prove far more consequential than speech that can be given before any crowd at this point.

The goal is not to win votes, but to win the support of Republicans like Bobbie Kilberg, who hosted an off-the-record event in Virginia for Christie last week with 96 corporate technology leaders. In recent months, she has taken not one, but two calls from Mitt Romney informing her of her thinking, as he edges toward another campaign. And having worked for the administrations of both Presidents Bush, she feels a special affinity for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, whose son, George P. Bush, she recently supported in his race for Texas land commissioner.

“I have three wonderful friends in this race,” said Kilberg, who runs the Northern Virginia Technology Council, but supports candidates only in a personal capacity. “My expectation is that all three of them will run.”

But the physics of political fundraising does not allow for her fealty to be equally divided for long. Connecters like Kilberg now face enormous pressure to decide on a single candidate to benefit from their vast Rolodexes. “I think there is enough donor bandwidth for all three of them in the center right lane,” Kilberg explains of the three candidates. “The finite group are the bundlers.”

Securing the 2012 nomination cost Romney $76.6 million, raised in increments up to the legal limit of $2,500. His super PAC, Restore Our Future, which could accept unlimited contributions, added nearly $50 million to the tally.

Operatives affiliated with multiple campaigns say candidates will need at least $50 million to win the nomination this time around, but predict more of the spending will tilt toward the outside groups.

Bush, Romney and Christie are especially squeezed by the fundraising pressures, as their candidacies are set to rely heavily on their predicted ability to match Hillary Clinton’s formidable potential. The early start to the race — candidates are traveling the country earlier and more frequently than ever on the Republican side — adds strain across the board. Complicating matters further are changes to the nominating calendar with fewer debate opportunities and a compressed timeline that favor well-funded candidates once voters get to the polls.

Kilberg and her husband Bill, a prominent Washington lawyer, helped bundle together more than $100,000 in checks of less than $2,000 in 2004 for George W. Bush. In 2012, she helped lead Mitt Romney’s fundraising in Virginia, bringing in a reported $322,000 at just one event at her home. The Tuesday event Kilberg had with Christie and northern Virginia technology executives was not a fundraiser, she said, but a get-to-know-you session.

At almost the same time the event was happening, Bush was meeting in the offices of Dirk Van Dongen, a Republican fundraiser who runs the National Association of Wholesalers. Dongen, a Washington fundraiser for another White House aspirant, Marco Rubio, plans to support Jeb Bush this time, if he runs.

The Bush events were not fundraisers either, though forms were distributed inviting donors to begin bundling for Bush’s new political action committee, Right to Rise. The main purpose, as with the Virginia events, was to win over the networkers who traditionally hold the purse strings of presidential politics. According to people who attended, Bush spoke broadly about his views of the country and the best way to approach the presidential race. He said a winning candidate would have to connect with middle-class anxiety by walking in the shoes of regular people, said one attendee.

“The contrast was obvious,” the attendee said, explaining how Bush appeared to be contrasting himself with Romney’s 2012 campaign. “That’s 100 degrees from the 47% comment.”

Romney, meanwhile, has been reactivating his own donor base, having chosen a donor event in New York early in the month to formally announce his decision to begin pursuing a third presidential campaign. The former private-equity executive has been working the phones since then, telling donors he is serious about considering another bid.

Senator Marco Rubio, meanwhile, held his annual retreat for his top donors in Miami over the weekend, a move designed to keep his loyalists close while he considers his options. He later joined fellow Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul on stage in Palm Springs at the winter meeting of the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a spending vehicle for the billionaire GOP megadonor Koch brothers and their allies. Also in attendance, after a well-received appearance in Iowa, was Walker, who was making the first stop on a multi-day West Coast fundraising swing for his new fundraising committee, which will be announced as soon as Monday.

While Republican voters have more than a year to decide on the candidate they want to take on Democrats in 2016, the donors clock is ticking. Quarterly fundraising totals, which will come out early this summer and again in the fall, will help shape the race, determining which candidates have the money to mount serious contests, with the grassroots organizing ability and television firepower to withstand the early contests.

“It’s really what we would call in the business a pre-sell,” says a senior Republican strategist about Bush’s visit to Washington this week. “They’ll come back in the next 60 days and do some big fundraising, and they’ll hope to get a lot of those same people to be on their committee.”

For those keeping score, the results of such appeals will be the ones that count, not the applause of activist crowds. In this democratic process, the voices of the people only matter after the first waves of money have been counted.

TIME Education

What the New Senate Education Chair Thinks About No Child Left Behind

Lamar Alexander, Patty Murray
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., right, and the committee's ranking member Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, for the committee's hearing looking at ways to fix the No Child Left Behind law. Susan Walsh—AP

Sen. Lamar Alexander, the new chairman of the Senate committee on education, walked into Congress this month with guns a-blazin’.

Twelve years after the passage of George W. Bush’s signature education bill, No Child Left Behind, and eight years after that troubled law was supposed to be revised and updated, the Tennessee Republican says now is the time for its long-neglected makeover.

He plans to take a revised version of the law to the Senate floor by the end of February, with hopes of pushing it through Congress “in the first half of this year.”

What exactly that makeover will look like is now the subject of hot debate on Capitol Hill.

The primary issue at stake is testing. Under No Child Left Behind, students are required to take a raft of standardized exams, each of which are used to assess whether schools are succeeding or failing, and, increasingly, to hold individual teachers accountable for their performance in the classroom.

Critics of No Child Left Behind—and there are lots and lots of them—generally hate the testing mandate. Conservatives and Tea Party activists decry it as “government overreach,” while liberals, local teachers unions and parents lament the reliance on “high-stakes testing.” Even Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said that too much testing can “rob school buildings of joy.”

So far, Alexander says that while he sees the benefits of aggregating and breaking down federal testing results, “the jury is still out” on whether an updated No Child Left Behind should require federal standardized tests at all, and if they do, whether the government should be barred from imposing consequences on schools with bad test scores.

How Alexander and the Senate education committee ultimately come down on this issue could fundamentally alter the way that public education works in this country.

In a conversation with TIME last week, Alexander offered a peek into what he thinks might come next.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You’ve said you’re not sure how you stand on the testing issue, but what is your thinking at the moment?

The thing that worked with No Child Left Behind is to take tests results, break them down and aggregate them so that we know that children really aren’t being left behind—so you can’t have an overall average for a school that’s pretty good, but still leave all the Latino kids in a ditch somewhere. But what’s increasingly obvious to me is that the biggest failure of No Child Left Behind has been the federal accountability system—the effort to decide in Washington whether schools or teachers are succeeding or failing. That just doesn’t work. But I think the jury’s still out on the tests.

How so?

What I didn’t realize when we started was the large number of tests that are required by state and local governments. [Former Florida Gov.] Jeb Bush’s Foundation of Excellence in Education in Florida found that there are between eight and 200 additional tests required by state and local government in Florida. That is a lot more than the 17 tests that No Child Left Behind requires.

So you’re not necessarily opposed to keeping those 17 federally mandated tests?

Dr. [Martin] West at Harvard [who testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee last week] suggested keeping the [17] tests but making the decision about success, failure and accountability part of a state’s system. … Dr. West argues that that’s the real culprit—trying to [design accountability systems] from Washington—and I think that’s a pretty persuasive argument. I mean, it may not be the federal tests so much as letting someone at such great a distance assign so much weight to a single test and such arbitrary consequences to it.

So there may still be a federal testing mandate in a revised No Child Left Behind?

Most of the controversy that exists today is the result of Washington getting involved [in state education policy] over the last six or seven years. People don’t like that. Teachers and their unions do not like being evaluated from Washington, and communities do not like being told what their academic standards are, i.e. Common Core, from Washington. They might adopt it for themselves, but they’re not going to be told what to do. … [Washington’s involvement] actually creates a backlash, making higher standards more difficult to hold onto and teacher evaluation systems more difficult to create because of all the anger. … It’s just not the way you make permanent improvements in 100,000 public schools. The community has to own the change. The teachers in the school have to own the evaluation system and believe it’s fair or it’ll never work.

So keep the federally mandated tests, but leave the consequences portion to the states.

That’s right. That’s what Dr. West argues: you have to have the annual test. You have to disaggregate it. You have to report it, so we know how schools and children and school districts are doing. But after that, it’s up to the states, who spend the money and have the children and take care of them and it’s their responsibility to devise what’s success, what’s failure and [what the] consequences [should be].

You’re saying that Dr. West’s position, but it sounds like you’re pretty sympathetic to it.

The jury’s still out for me. What I know is the biggest failure of No Child Left Behind is the idea that Washington should tell 100,000 public schools and their teachers whether they’re succeeding, whether they’re failing and what the consequences of that should be. That hasn’t worked.

TIME Military

The U.S. Needs a New Yardstick for a New Kind of War

IRAQ-CONFLICT
Buildings burn Saturday during a military operation launched by the Iraqi army to retake positions held by Islamic State outside the village Sharween, north of Baghdad. YOUNIS AL-BAYATI / AFP / Getty Images

America keeps measuring progress on a battlefield that no longer exists

Body counts are never a good a yardstick for measuring progress in a war of ideas. That’s why the Pentagon freaked out Thursday when Stuart Jones, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told the Al Arabiya News Channel that America and its allies “have now killed more than 6,000 ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq.”

The first counter-fire came, within hours, from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “I was in a war where there was a lot of body counts every day,” the outgoing defense chief, who served as an Army sergeant in the Vietnam War, said in one of his most pungent observations in his two years on the job. “And we lost that war.”

Hagel’s spokesman piled on Friday. “It’s not a metric that we’re going to hang our hat on when it comes to talking to the success of this strategy,” Rear Admiral John Kirby said of the Pentagon’s internal body-count estimate. “This is not a uniformed army with identification cards and recruiting posters.”

While Ambassador Jones added that the 6,000 number was “not so important” in the overall scheme of things, the catnip was out of the bag. That’s because Americans, impatient over wars that drag on (like Hagel’s Vietnam and George W. Bush’s Afghanistan and Iraq), crave measurements that suggest progress.

Unfortunately, that metric mindset has little utility in wars against ideology. “I don’t know whether 6,000 [ISIS] people have been killed or not,” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. “But that is not going to do it.”

That’s because conflicts like the one now underway against the Islamist fundamentalism represented by the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) are not constrained by national boundaries, or the national pressure points that have traditionally been the trigger of wars (and the foundation of ending them) among states.

Without the trappings of formal government—a capital, commerce, standing armies—non-state actors like ISIS or al-Qaeda deny military powers like the U.S. the kinds of targets they prefer. Their allegiance to ideology—be it theology or something else—takes away the fulcrum that victors used to leverage to bring wars to an end.

Industrial powers created industrial militaries, where rear-echelon bean-counters could tote up tanks, ball-bearing factories and troops destroyed—and thereby chart progress, or the lack thereof. But ideological war isn’t industrial in scope. Instead, it’s more like information warfare, where ideas, shared online, create alliances that ripple across borders and oceans.

It took a Detroit to build an industrial arsenal of democracy, with each weapon requiring dollars and sweat to assemble. Today, it merely takes a keyboard to build an ideological alliance, each member a low-cost addition requiring little more than fervor and an Internet connection.

The Administration of George W. Bush concluded the way to prevail after the 9/11 attacks was to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq. Following wars that eventually will cost $3 trillion or more, and at least 6,845 American lives, his successor has decided not to tag along. Instead, President Barack Obama has told the nations involved—those with the most at risk—to step up to the plate to do the fighting, with the U.S. filling the role of best supporting actor.

Some see such a policy as too timid. “The U.S. efforts have always been halfhearted, half-resourced and focused on exit strategies rather than on success,” says David Sedney, who ran the Pentagon office responsible for Afghanistan, Pakistan and central Asia from 2009 to 2013. “We always want to have an exit, and the problem with real life is there’s no exit.” He argues that the U.S. needs to launch nation-building strategies in failed states that currently serve as incubators for ISIS and other groups.

Politicians aren’t calling for such radical action. But some believe the U.S. needs to step up the fight. “We need more boots on the ground,” Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, the new chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told CBS on Sunday. “I know that is a tough thing to say and a tough thing for Americans to swallow, but it doesn’t mean the 82nd Airborne. It means forward air controllers. It means special forces. It means intelligence and it means other capabilities.”

The U.S., McCain said, can’t simply direct wars against ISIS and similar foes from relative safety behind the front lines. “For [the Administration] to say, ‘we expect [Iraq and Yemen] to do it on their own,’ they’re not doing it on their own,” he said. “And they are losing.”

The last clear victory scored by the U.S. military was against Iraq in 1991, led by President George H.W. Bush, a Cold War commander-in-chief. It was a bespoke war tailor-made for the Pentagon: Iraq’s massive army stormed into Kuwait, occupied it, and waited for the U.S. and its allies to drive it out.

The world watched that conflict and decided, given Washington’s overwhelming advantages in that kind of war, not to fight it again. Unfortunately, too many Americans seem unaware that the rules have changed. So they continue to want to measure progress in today’s conflicts with yesterday’s yardsticks.

But such yearnings are doomed. Persistence and will, not body bags, are the keys to winning these kinds of wars.

TIME White House

Obama Moves to Protect 12 Million Acres of Alaskan Wildlife

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Polar bears in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Getty Images

It would be the largest such designation in more than 50 years

The Obama Administration will ask Congress to protect millions of acres of land in Alaska from a range of human activity including drilling and road construction, officials said Sunday.

If approved by Congress, the move would designate more than 12 million acres as wilderness, the highest level of federal protection, and protect native wildlife including caribou, polar bears and wolves. It would be the largest such designation in more than 50 years.

“Designating vast areas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Wilderness reflects the significance this landscape holds for America and its wildlife,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement. “Just like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of our nation’s crown jewels and we have an obligation to preserve this spectacular place for generations to come.”

The proposal will undoubtedly meet opposition in Congress. Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski condemned the move immediately as an act of federal overreach.

“It’s clear this administration does not care about us, and sees us as nothing but a territory,” she said in a statement. “The promises made to us at statehood, and since then, mean absolutely nothing to them.”

TIME White House

White House Chief of Staff Reaffirms ‘Deep and Abiding’ U.S.-Israel Ties

Meet the Press - Season 68
Denis McDonough White House Chief of Staff appears on "Meet the Press" in Washington D.C. on Jan. 25, 2015. William B. Plowman—NBC/Getty Images

Amid reports of a rift with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough repudiated reports of a widening rift between the Obama administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday’s morning talk shows.

An unnamed administration official was quoted by Israeli newspaper Haaretz as saying Netanyahu “spat in our face publicly” when he agreed to accept an invitation to speak to the United States Congress in March without President Obama having been consulted first.

But McDonough said on NBC’s Meet the Press that the alliance between the U.S. and Israel remained strong. “Our relationship with Israel is many-faceted, deep and abiding,” he said. “It’s focused on a shared series of threats, but also, on a shared series of values that one particular instance is not going to inform overwhelmingly.”

The White House Chief of Staff said he could not “guarantee” that an administration official hadn’t made the remarks about Netanyahu, but said he had no idea who might have said them. “It’s not me. It’s not the President,” McDonough told interviewer Chuck Todd.

House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to deliver an address to a joint session of Congress when he visits the U.S. in March, without informing the White House first. The trip coincides with negotiations between the U.S. and others with Iran on their nuclear capabilities, which are strongly opposed by Israel and by some in Congress.

The White House said President Obama would not be meeting with Netanyahu during his visit, out of concerns that it might influence the Israeli elections due to take place two weeks after his trip.

The decision has been portrayed as a snub by the Israeli media, though McDonough said on Meet the Press that the principle would be the same for any other ally. “We think as a general matter we in the U.S. stay out of internal politics of our closest allies,” he said.

In a separate interview on ABC’s This Week Sunday, McDonough urged Congress not to pass new sanctions on Iran while the nuclear negotiations are ongoing.

“We’ve asked Congress for forbearance, for some time to allow us to run these negotiations so that it is we who are, united with our allies, maintaining Iran isolated, rather than going with some kind of premature action up there on the Hill that would risk really splintering the international community, making it we, not the Iranians, who are isolated,” he said.

TIME 2016 Election

Christie Seeks Common Ground With Iowa Conservatives

Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie arrives to speak at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines
Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie arrives to speak at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 24, 2015. Jim Youg—Reuters

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie brought a clear message to skeptical Iowa conservatives Saturday: We may not always agree, but you can work with me.

Christie spoke toward the end of a daylong 2016 presidential cattle call hosted by Iowa Representative Steve King, highlighting his fights with unions in his home state and his pro-life stance on abortion. Christie’s participation in the event turned heads, given King’s hard-line position on immigration and the audience’s more conservative bent. Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney both skipped the event on account of scheduling issues, and proved to be frequent targets on stage from other would-be candidates and activists.

Christie has spent years trying to reach across the aisle in preparation for a presidential run but has been dogged by questions whether he could win over the party’s base.

“I have heard and read all the conventional wisdom that somehow a guy from New Jersey would not be welcomed or understood at the Iowa Freedom Summit — that somehow I’m too loud, I’m too blunt, and I’m too direct,” Christie said, as the crowd chuckled. “The conventional wisdom from Washington, D.C., that says we aren’t friends … They’re wrong again today.”

King used his introduction to boost Christie’s conservative credentials. “He vetoed the gay-marriage bill in New jersey,” he said. “He is pro-life.” Christie has since declared gay marriage a “settled” issue in his state after the state supreme court declined to stop same-sex unions in 2013.

Speaking calmly and slowly, Christie was self-effacing about “the blunt New Jersey stuff,” using it to introduce himself to Iowa voters with the story of his childhood.

“In a trusting relationship, you need to tell people what you really believe and what you’re thinking,” he said, noting he’s sure that not everyone would agree with him on every issue. “You’ll always know who I am, you’ll always know what I believe, and you’ll always know where I stand.”

He argued that if the party is looking for purity, “we will never win another national election. Ever.”

Reading off prepared remarks, Christie’s speech was an amalgamation of his notable addresses of the past several years, presenting the clearest preview of a full-fledged presidential stump speech.

“The next century does not have to be a Chinese century,” he said, calling for stronger American leadership overseas. “The world can’t do without a second American century.” His opposition to abortion was juxtaposed with his efforts in improving his state’s drug treatment programs to be “pro-life” at all stages of life.

He highlighted his electoral success in his blue home state, noting he won Hispanic voters and made inroads with black voters in his last election.

“We need a coalition that covers all parts of the country, all ethnicities, a coalition that is comprised at its core of our proud, yet underserved and underrepresented working class in this nation,” he said, in an implicit critique of former Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. He even alluded to growing income inequality, adding, “The rich are doing fine, that’s great. We don’t demonize the wealthy like so many folks in the Democratic Party, but nor should we cater to the wealthy at the expense of our middle-income workers and the working poor who are the backbone of every American community.”

Christie’s reception paled in comparison to Senator Ted Cruz, whose faith-themed address was red meat for the audience. But Christie accomplished what he sought out: demonstrating he is unafraid to appear before social conservatives and proving that he could even earn a standing ovation. In a crowded field where he will hope to have the support of the party’s establishment, that may be enough to go the distance.

TIME 2016 Election

Walker Shows His Dark-Horse Strategy in Iowa

Scott Walker
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker waits backstage before speaking at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 24, 2015. Charlie Neibergall—AP

Scott Walker isn’t the first choice for president of most Republicans, but he’s banking he can win the White House by being their second.

The Wisconsin governor arrived at the Iowa Freedom Summit, a conservative cattle call organized by Rep. Steve King Saturday, set to be overshadowed by stem-winder speech-givers like Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee. Instead he proved why he will be a player in the Iowa caucuses and the coming nominating fight with a stem-winder of his own, highlighting his ability to appeal to all corners of a fractured party.

Coming off a 2012 cycle fueled by flavor-of-the-moment front-runners, Walker is preparing to run a slow-and-steady campaign, hoping that Republicans dissatisfied with one or another of the front-runners will slowly move his way.

“We’ll leave the ‘shock and awe’ to other people,” said an adviser. “This is about going the distance.”

The populist son of a preacher, Walker is betting that Republicans will find Jeb Bush too moderate; Chris Christie’s style off-putting; and Huckabee, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz too far from the party’s mainstream. In Iowa, he smoothly combined the social and economic conservative messages that could attract both camps into a passionate 20-minute speech touching on everything from gun rights to education reform.

Walker highlighted his the massive protests in his state over his efforts to weaken the state’s public sector unions that resulted in a 2012 recall election to cast himself as a fighter for conservative principles.

“Someone sent a letter saying they would gut my wife like a deer,” Walker said, eliciting a smattering of gasps, and thanked Iowans for their support and prayers as he won his third election in four years last November.

He also took jabs at Christie and Bush. “Our property taxes are lower today than they were four years ago, how many governors can say that,” he said, as he trumpeted his state’s fully-funded retirement accounts, both sore points for Christie. He highlighted his efforts to tackle teacher tenure rules, allowing the state to remove poor-performing teachers, while calling for local control of schools in a reference to the unpopular Bush-backed Common Core standards.

“In every fight for conservative principles Gov. Scott Walker has stood firm,” said David Bossie, president of the conservative group Citizens United in an impassioned introduction. “This country is a better place because Scott Walker answered the call to lead.”

A week before, Walker was in Coronado, Calif., to make his case before the Republican Party elite, but his potential appeal on the stump was more apparent in Iowa, as he paced the stage in shirtsleeves telling stories about his frugality shopping at Kohl’s.

“Scott Walker’s a guy you want to have a beer with — a Miller Lite,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said of Walker last week.

Walker won’t formally announce a bid until he passes his budget in Milwaukee around June, but he is hiring staff and embarking this week on a cross-country fundraising swing for his soon-to-be-announced political organization. He announced a trip to New Hampshire next month and is planning a South Carolina swing for the weeks after. From Iowa, he will attend the Koch Brother’s summit on Sunday in Palm Springs, bringing together top-dollar donors and business leaders.

Last week Walker announced the hiring of veteran Iowa operative David Polyansky to run his efforts in the presidential early state, while former Republican National Committee political director Rick Wiley will serve as his campaign manager. Further staffing announcements are expected in the coming days.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad called Walker “a proven vote-getter,” and highlighted his ties to the state, where he went to school until the third grade.

“I think he will relate well [in Iowa],” he said.

TIME 2016 Election

Here’s Why Carly Fiorina Thinks She Can Best Criticize Hillary Clinton

US-POLITICS-HERITAGE
Carly Fiorina speaks about the economy at the Heritage Foundation on December 18, 2014. SAUL LOEB—AFP/Getty Images

Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is gearing up to announce a White House bid this year, positioning herself as the Republican party’s chief critic of likely Democratic nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Fiorina begins as a relative unknown, and trails far in the polls. In a speech to the Iowa Freedom Summit, a conservative cattle call hosted by Rep. Steve King, Fiorina offered a preview of her anti-Clinton message, which she believes she, as the only other woman in the race, is best equipped to offer.

“Like Hillary Clinton, I too have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe,” she said. “But unlike her, I have actually accomplished something. Mrs. Clinton, flying is an activity not an accomplishment.”

The full Clinton excerpt is below:

“We must understand our role in the world – which is to lead – and the nature of our allies and especially, our adversaries. Like Hillary Clinton, I too have travelled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe. But unlike her, I have actually accomplished something. Mrs. Clinton, flying is not an accomplishment, it’s an activity. I have met Vladimir Putin and know that it will take more to halt his ambitions than a gimmicky red ‘Reset’ button. Having done business in over 80 countries and having served as the Chairman of the External Advisory Board at the CIA for several eyars, I know that China and Russia are state-sponsors of cyberwarfare and have a strategy to steal our intellectual property. I know Bibi Netanyahu and know that when he warns us that Iran is a danger to this nation as well as to his own, that we must listen. And unlike Hillary Clinton I know what difference it makes that our American Ambassador and three other brave Americans were killed in a deliberate terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9-11 in Libya. And apparently unlike Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, I know that the response of our nation must be more forceful that the arrest of a single individual a year later.”

A Republican strategist told TIME last year that Fiorina could be a potent weapon for the GOP in the coming cycle. “The most effective way to criticize a woman is to have another woman do it.”

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: January 24

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Fuel’s Paradise

A majority of Americans are paying less than $2 per gallon for gas for the first time since 2009, and the ever-cheapening fuel is helping put more money in consumers’ pockets and bolster the economy

NASA Finds ‘Super Earths’

NASA’s Kepler Mission has found many planets in the “Goldilocks zone,” where it isn’t too hot or cold for water to exist

McDonald’s CEO Asks for Time

McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson cited a litany of actions the company is taking to reverse steep declines in sales

Federal Judge Strikes Down Gay-Marriage Ban in Alabama

A U.S. district judge ruled Friday in favor of two Mobile women who sued to challenge Alabama’s refusal to recognize their marriage performed in California. The judge said a state statute and 2006 amendment to the Alabama Constitution violated the U.S. Constitution

Big Storm Headed for the East Coast

A nor’easter could wreak havoc all along the East Coast this weekend, with a mix of rain and snow that will likely cause airline and traffic delays along the I-81 and I-95 corridors. Up to a foot of snow could accumulate in some locations

Obama to Cut Short India Trip to Visit Saudi Arabia

The schedule change, announced shortly before Obama left for India, means the president will skip plans to see the Taj Mahal, and instead pay a call on an influential U.S. ally in the volatile Mideast. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah died Friday at age 90

An Asteroid Will Fly Close to Earth on Monday

It doesn’t sound like a close shave, but in astronomical terms, it is. An asteroid will fly within 745,000 miles of Earth on Monday, NASA said, the closest a space rock will fly to Earth until 2027

Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks Dies at 83

Ernie Banks, the Hall of Fame slugger and two-time MVP who always maintained his boundless enthusiasm for baseball despite decades of playing on miserable teams, died Friday night. He was 83

Emma Watson Launches New Anti-Sexism Initiative

Harry Potter star and U.N. Women Global Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson unveiled the the HeForShe IMPACT initiative, a one-year pilot project geared toward advancing women by working with governments, companies and universities

Ebola Vaccines Get Tested in Liberia

The long-awaited vaccine for Ebola is heading to clinical trials in Liberia. Two vaccines, with the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) support, will start efficacy testing in Liberia in the beginning of February

SkyMall Files for Bankruptcy

The parent company of in-flight shopping catalog SkyMall has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing an increased prevalence of mobile devices on planes as the primary reason for the company’s flagging sales

Apple Store Chief Gets the Big Bucks

How much does Apple care about its retail stores? Enough to pay more than $70 million to the woman heading them up, making her the highest-paid exec at the company. Angela Ahrendts earned $73.4 million in 2014, almost all of it in stock awards

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