TIME 2016 Election

Poll: Hillary’s Lead for 2016 Democratic Nomination Has Shrunk

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks onstage at the RFK Ripple Of Hope Gala on Dec. 16, 2014 in New York. Mike Coppola—Getty Images

December poll says 61% of likely Democratic voters say they would vote for Clinton

Hillary Clinton’s lead over possible candidates for the 2016 Democratic nomination has “shrunk significantly,” a new poll found.

61% of likely Democratic voters in December say they would vote for Clinton, according to a poll conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post, down from her lead of 63% in November, and 73% in January.

Vice President Joe Biden is in second place with 14%, the poll said, and Mass. Senator Elizabeth Warren is in third with 13%, though Warren has emphasized that she is not seeking a nomination.

For the Republican nomination, 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney is leading with 19%, with Florida Governor Jeb Bush in second at 14%, according to a McClatchy-Marist poll last week.

[ABC]

TIME 2016 Election

Rand Taunts Rubio On Cuba Policy

Rubio "is acting like an isolationist," Paul charges

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul took to Twitter Friday to criticize his Republican colleague and likely 2016 presidential-primary rival Sen. Marco Rubio for the latter’s continued support of the U.S. embargo of Cuba.

In a series of tweets, Paul taunted the Florida senator over Rubio’s opposition to President Barack Obama’s efforts to normalize relations between the two countries, accusing Rubio of “acting like an isolationist.” The charge was even more biting given that Paul has been criticized by Republican hawks for being an isolationist on foreign policy.

Paul said Obama’s move was “probably a good idea,” while Rubio has heavily criticized the move.

The tweets are only the latest digital assault that Paul’s team has launched against a potential primary rival. Earlier this week, Paul’s political-action committee began running Google search ads critical of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

TIME 2016 Election

Rand Paul Breaks with Other 2016 Candidates on Cuba

Georgia Senate Candidate David Perdue Campaigns With Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Rand Paul en. Rand Paul works a crowd during a campaign stop on October 24, 2014 in McDonough, Georgia. Jessica McGowan—Getty Images

The announcement from the White House Wednesday that the U.S. will move to re-establish full diplomatic ties with Cuba sparked a wave of condemnation from the likely Republican presidential candidates with one exception: Sen. Rand Paul.

The Kentucky Republican broke with the rest of the 2016 pack today when he said that President Obama’s decision was “a good idea.”

That fits with Paul’s broader effort to attract younger voters and expand the Republican Party, since younger Cuban-Americans are not as supportive of the trade and travel restrictions as their parents, though it could risk turning off some older Republican voters, especially in the crucial battleground of Florida.

It put him on the same side as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the leading contender on the Democratic side, who has argued that the trade embargo was counterproductive.

Here’s a look at what the major Republican contenders had to say about the change in U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Sen. Rand Paul: Supportive

What he said: “If the goal is regime change, it sure doesn’t seem to be working and probably it punishes the people more than the regime because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship. In the end, I think opening up Cuba is probably a good idea.” (WVHU)

What it meant: The libertarian-leaning son of former Rep. Ron Paul—a longtime critic of America’s Cuba policy—Paul is the rare Republican to come out in support of reestablishing diplomatic relations.

Sen. Marco Rubio: Opposed

What he said: “This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion. On a lie. The lie and the illusion that more access to goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people.” (C-SPAN)

What it meant: A longtime vocal critic of the Castro regime, it’s no surprise Rubio is hewing to his longstanding hardline position. As the son of Cuban immigrants, the likely 2016 presidential hopeful has ideological and personal motivations for his pro-embargo stance.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush: Opposed

What he said: “The beneficiaries of President Obama’s ill-advised move will be the heinous Castro brothers who have oppressed the Cuban people for decades.” (Facebook)

What it meant: A former Florida governor, Bush also has a long history of opposition to the Castro regime and he is sticking to his guns.

Sen. Ted Cruz: Opposed

What he said: “Fidel and Raul Castro have just received both international legitimacy and a badly-needed economic lifeline from President Obama. But they remain in control of a totalitarian police state modeled on their old state sponsor, the Soviet Union.” (Statement)

What it meant: Cruz is a Tea Party favorite who has staked out ideological territory on the far right of his party and been a consistent critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

Gov. Scott Walker: Opposed

What he said: “I think it’s a bad idea. I don’t think there’s been any noticeable change towards making that a more free and prosperous country. There’s a reason why we had the policy in the first place.” (Capital Times)

What it meant: As the governor of Wisconsin, Walker hasn’t had much reason to talk about Cuban policy in the past and has little incentive to break with the party on such a hot-button topic now.

Gov. Chris Christie: No Comment

What he said: Nothing, so far, though he talked at length about his encounters with Philadelphia Eagles fans at a recent football game in a radio interview Thursday morning.

What it meant: With some exceptions, Christie has mostly avoided talking about foreign policy, reflective of his role as governor and head of a group promoting Republican governors.

TIME 2016 Election

Why Democrats Changed Their Minds on Cuba

It used to be that national politicians of both parties would diligently travel to Florida during every election cycle and compete, in speeches and town hall meetings, over who could be more in favor of the embargo on Cuba.

It was, after all, common political sense: Cuban-Americans were, for decades, a fairly monolithic voting bloc and their feelings toward the embargo were unequivocal. They were for it. No ifs, ands, or maybes.

But in the last decade, all that has changed. The reason is shifting demographics—the same trend that rocketed President Obama to the White House in 2008 and 2012 and that will do more to influence the outcome of 2016 than perhaps anything else.

Younger Cuban-Americans are less into the embargo than their parents’ generation, and much more in favor of relaxing laws to make it easier to travel and trade with the island.

This shifting dynamic is going to play out in 2016, too. In fact, it already has. Jeb Bush, who announced yesterday that he is considering a run for the White House, takes the old-school hardline position. He’s in favor of the embargo, full stop.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s position has evolved over the years. In 2000, when she was running for Senate, and in 2008, when she was running for the Democratic nomination, she too took the old-school stance. In December 2007, she said rather clearly that the embargo was the law of the land, and it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“Until there is some recognition on the part of whoever is in charge of the Cuban government that they have to move toward democracy and freedom for the Cuban people, it will be very difficult for us to change our policy,” she said.

But then, as Secretary of State, her position began to crack, and then soften, and then flip entirely. She called on Obama to take a second look at the embargo, which she argued was actually helping Fidel and Raul Castro, not Americans. “It is my personal belief that the Castros do not want to see an end to the embargo and do not want to see normalization with the United States, because they would lose all of their excuses for what hasn’t happened in Cuba in the last 50 years,” she said in a 2010 speech in Kentucky.

And in her 2014 book, Hard Choices, she backs up that view: “I recommended to President Obama that he take another look at our embargo. It wasn’t achieving its goals, and it was holding back our broader agenda across Latin America.” In July this year, in an interview, she came right out and called the embargo “a failure.”

Jeb Bush’s hardline position and Hillary Clinton’s evolving one is a reflection of the larger demographic shifts happening the U.S. today.

Bush, if he runs, will no doubt lock down the older, more conservative Cuban-American vote, while Clinton, if she runs, will be in a position to lock down the younger, hipper, more liberal Cuban-American contingent.

So who wins? Right now, it’s a toss up. According to a 2014 poll by the Cuban Research Institute, 53 percent of Cuban-American registered voters said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who backed the normalization of diplomatic relations. But if you bore down a bit on the issues, it seems to lean heavily toward the Democrats: 90% of young Cuban-Americans are in favor of reestablishing diplomatic ties with Cuba; 68% of older Cuban-Americans share that view too.

But it doesn’t have to be a huge majority for it to make sense to Democrats to change positions. It just has to be more competitive than it used to be, and it now is.

TIME Foreign Policy

Here’s What Hillary Clinton Said About Alan Gross, U.S.-Cuba Relations in Hard Choices

Hillary
Hillary Rodham Clinton listens before delivering remarks at an event in New York City on Nov. 21, 2014. Bebeto Matthews—AP

Former Secretary of State Clinton considers the U.S.'s failure to bring Alan Gross home one of her "regrets"

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in her recent autobiography one of her biggest regrets of her tenure was that she was not able to bring home an American who was held as a prisoner in Cuba. Today, President Obama will announce that Alan Gross, a USAID contractor who was arrested in 2009 for bringing satellite equipment to Cuba, will return to the U.S.

In Hard Choices, Clinton calls the Cuban government’s refusal to release Gross unless the U.S. released five convicted Cuban spies a “double tragedy,” saying in part:

It is possible that hard liners within the regime exploited the Gross case as an opportunity to put the brakes on any possible rapprochement with the United States and the domestic reforms that would require. If so, it is a double tragedy, cosigning millions of Cubans to a kind of continued imprisonment as well.

On the embargo, she had this to say:

Near the end of my tenure I recommended to President Obama that he take another look at our embargo. It wasn’t achieving its goals and it was holding back our broader agenda across Latin America. After twenty years of observing and dealing with the U.S.-Cuba relationship, I thought we should shift the onus onto the Castros to explain why they remained undemocratic and abusive.

In an interview with Fusion TV in July, Clinton repeated that the embargo has been a failure and said she would like to visit Cuba one day.

Read next: U.S. and Cuba Move to Thaw Relations After Prisoner Exchange

TIME 2016 Election

Rand Paul is Already Running an Ad Against Jeb Bush

Sen. Rand Paul Speaks To The Detroit Economic Club
Sen. Rand Paul speaks with the news media after delivering a speech at the Detroit Economic Club on Dec. 6, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. Bill Pugliano—Getty Images

That didn't take long

The 2016 Republican primary battle is up and running—at least on Google.

Hours after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced he would “actively explore” a run for the White House, the political action committee for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who appears certain to announce a bid for the Oval Office in the coming months, took out a Google search ad on his name, with a not-so-subtle dig at the more moderate Republican.

“Join a movement working to shrink government. Not grow it,” the ad states, with a link to RandPAC, Paul’s longstanding federal leadership committee, and a page asking supporters to give their email address and zip code to “Stand With Rand.” Bush announced Tuesday he would form a similar leadership committee in January. His Facebook announcement didn’t include any attempts to gather data on potential donors or supporters.

Paul’s PAC recently hired on Texas digital strategist Vincent Harris and his firm, Harris Media, in preparation for a 2016 run. Harris had also done work for another likely 2016 contender, Sen. Ted Cruz.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 4.25.47 PM

UPDATE: Later Tuesday, RandPAC added a second ad to its digital buy, implicitly attacking Bush’s strong defense of the Common Core education standards. “We need leaders who will stand against common core,” the search ad stated, with a link to Paul’s political action committee.unnamed

 

TIME 2016 Election

Rubio Spokesman Says Jeb Bush Announcement Won’t Stop Him

Senator Rubio speaks on the economy
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio speaks on strategies for sparking economic growth in Washington on March 10, 2014. Brooks Kraft—Corbis

A spokesman for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio praised former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush Tuesday hours after he announced he is beginning to “actively explore” a run for the White House, but said the younger Republican’s decision on whether to run himself is unaltered by Bush’s entrance.

Bush was a mentor and political ally to Rubio in Florida, where the senator was previously Speaker of the State House of Representatives. (When Rubio first took over as Speaker in 2005, Bush presented him with a golden sword named “Chang.”)

Rubio, who has been open about his own ambitions and said he’d make up his mind about running for president or re-election in the Senate in the coming weeks, and Bush share supporters and donors, many of whom believe that the pair would not run against each other in a primary.

“Marco has a lot of respect for Governor Bush, and believes he would be a formidable candidate,” said Rubio spokesman Alex Conant. “However, Marco’s decision on whether to run for President or re-election will be based on where he can best achieve his agenda to restore the American Dream—not on who else might be running.”

TIME 2016 Election

The One Issue that Will Complicate Jeb Bush’s Campaign

Jeb Bush
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks in Hollywood, Fla. on Jan. 29, 2014. Wilfredo Lee—AP

Jeb Bush loves Common Core. The Republican base hates it.

Bush’s announcement this morning that he plans to “explore the possibility of running for President of the United States” means that the Republican Party is going to have to sort out where it stands on this tinderbox of an issue.

Common Core is a set of academic standards put together by a bipartisan group of governors and promoted by the Obama administration. While both Republicans and Democrats first embraced the standards back in 2010 and 2011, they have fallen out of favor in the last few years. Grassroots conservatives and Republican office-holders now regularly condemn it as “federal overreach” and parents have protested changes in how subjects like math are taught under states’ new Common Core-aligned curricula.

Common Core now represents a kind of shorthand among Republicans: if you’re a real conservative, you’re against it; if you’re a faker, you’re for it. As a result, Republican governors in Oklahoma, Indiana, South Carolina and Missouri have scrambled to get on the right side of that divide, angrily decrying Common Core as “shameless government overreach” or even smearing it as “Obama-core.”

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who is often listed among the potential Republican presidential hopefuls, used to support Common Core, but now is so publicly against it that he has launched lawsuits against his own state and the U.S. Department of Education, claiming that the standards are a violation of state rights.

While most of that is shameless political theater, it still leaves Jeb Bush in a tricky position: in order to win the Republican nomination, he’s going to have to win over the Republican conservative base, which hates Common Core with the fire of a thousand suns. The easiest way to do that would be to disown Common Core. But that’s not likely to be in the cards.

For the past two years, Bush has been one of the loudest proponents of Common Core, among both Republicans and Democrats, boldly refusing to walk back his support—even when members of the Florida Tea Party called for his head, and even when the issue threatened to derail Republican Rick Scott’s tight race during this year’s midterms.

In late November, Bush told a crowd at a national education summit hosted by his group, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, that while he found the debate about Common Core “troubling,” he support was unwavering. He seemed to suggest that conservatives had been tricked into thinking that the Common Core was a federal program. “Education should be a national priority, not turned into a federal program,” he told the crowd, before urging them to keep fighting for reform and for Common Core.

This leaves Bush—and the Republican Party, too—with two basic choices. Bush can continue to embrace Common Core, but work with the Republican Party to rebrand it as an essentially Republican, states rights issue. Or he can walk back his support for the standards, which would be seen by many moderate Republicans, as well as his supporters in the education reform community, as a shameless cop-out.

Alternatively, Bush could take a page out of Mitch McConnell’s book, and do a little of both. After all, during the November midterm, McConnell angrily condemned Obamacare, while simultaneously supporting Kynect, which is Kentucky’s version of Obamacare. Voters didn’t seem to care.

While all of this politicking makes it seem like Common Core must be a wildly exciting—innovative! disruptive! far-reaching!—federal policy, it’s actually none of those things. It’s not even federal policy.

The Common Core State Standards—or CCSS, as they’re known in official documents—are a set of academic benchmarks. They list what students should be able to do, in math and English, after the end of each grade. For example, under Common Core, all kindergarteners should be able to count from 0 to 100; all eighth graders should be able to cite evidence for their argument in a text.

Common Core is not a national curriculum. It does not tell districts what books they have to buy, nor does it tell teachers how they need to teach. (Under Common Core, states and local school districts still have complete control over that stuff.) And perhaps most importantly, it’s not even a federal program. In March 2010, 40 state governors and their state chiefs of schools formally adopted the Common Core. By the end of the next year, a total of 46 states—led by both Republicans and Democrats—had signed on.

One reason that bipartisan moment didn’t last for long is that Obama’s Department of Education began to tie federal funding, though the Reach for the Top grants, to whether states had adopted either the Common Core standards or a state version that was equally robust. That gave the Common Core standards the sheen of being a top-down federal government program—which angered the Republican base.

The other main reason that Republicans turned against Common Core was that the program was poorly implemented. In some states, teachers were asked to teach to the Common Core standards before the states had even come up with an adequate curriculum or corresponding tests. In other states, new “Common Core-aligned” curricula were so confusing that teachers, parents, and students rebelled. According to an October Gallup poll, 58% of Republican parents now hold a negative view of Common Core—up from just 42% disapproval in April. Fewer than one in five Republican parents think the Common Core is a good idea.

If Bush wants the Republican nomination, he’s going to have to find a way to change some hearts and minds.

TIME 2016 Election

Jeb Bush Bets on a Sunshine State of Mind

Jeb Bush
Jeb Bush Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush flashes a power watch before giving his keynote address at the National Summit on Education Reform in Washington on Nov. 20, 2014. Susan Walsh—AP

The son and brother of Presidents past moves towards a campaign of his own built around a psychological diagnosis

At a time like this, joy is an awfully strange thing to build a presidential campaign around. But here’s Jeb Bush, and he just can’t stop talking about that most delightful and fleeting of human emotions as he edges towards becoming the Republican frontrunner in 2016.

It started months ago, when he began speculating in public over whether the country, and his own party, could handle a candidate with a “hopeful, optimistic message.” “In my case that means, can one do it joyfully?” he told The Today Show in April.

He slipped from the spotlight, but never dropped the talking point. In November, he mentioned the “joy in my heart” when asked by the Wall Street Journal about a presidential run. Then on Monday, at a commencement address in the primary state of South Carolina, he implored students to reach for joy in all they did. “I think we need to have candidates lift our spirits,” he said, one day before announcing his formal intention to explore a campaign. “It’s a pretty pessimistic country right now.”

That’s the bet of the third man named Bush to pursue the presidency in three decades. After a 13 years of relentlessly bad news and increasingly divisive politics, the former Sunshine State governor thinks the country might just be ready for some sunshine of its own. Joy will be his weapon against who accuse him of ideological weakness, hereditary entitlement or establishment blandness. If he ever does face Hillary Clinton in a general election campaign, he can repurpose the vibe to counter rival whose laugh has been so honed by political necessity as to echo in mechanical rhythms.

Relentless and even irrational optimism, of course, is not a novel pose for a presidential contender, but it is hard to remember a candidate so committed to a psychological analysis of the political landscape this early in the cycle. To hear Bush tell it, the nation is “mopey,” beaten down by war, economic stagnation and the furious politics that accompany each.

To Bush, the solutions are right in front of all of us, if only we can pop some Prozac and kick the blues: Reform the immigration system to flood the nation with brilliant entrepreneurs from a abroad, open the taps of domestic energy production, kick the K-12 education system in the rear and fix the tax, regulatory and entitlement nonsense that hangs like a weight around our future. “We are moping around like we are France,” he said on Dec. 1. “The crisis of opportunity is we are not seizing the moment. We are not aspiring to be young and dynamic again.”

To his own party, the shrink’s critique has a neat corollary. “You don’t do well in bringing people together if you are carping, criticizing, turning around and saying you are not as good as me,” he said in an interview with Florida reporters broadcast on Sunday.

That line of attack—which transfers the fight from ideology to feeling—could serve him well in what is certain to be a brutal primary against a monstrously unwieldy field of politicians far more conservative, religious and attuned to tapping the ever-evolving grassroots Id than him. It’s also a message that is likely to work against his most fearsome rival for the establishment crown, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose spirit animal is more carnivorous than cuddly.

“He is going to be a very effective candidate if he runs, because he is going to talk about the future without backing down or pandering to the Tea Party side,” explains Charlie Black, a Republican lobbyist who’s long run in presidential politics started in 1976 on the Ronald Reagan campaign.

The question for Bush is whether there are enough Republicans left, and partial to voting in early primary states, who will put the promise of glee before their deep feelings of grievance and need for reform. Bush last ran for public office in 2002, long before conservatives, libertarians and the Tea Party decided that his family’s tradition of big government conservatism was the problem, not the solution. As Bush has wisely observed, his best route victory in 2016 will require him to lose the debate stage policy argument in the primary while still finding a way to get more votes.

That’s a tough circle to square if all you are working with are facts and figures. But joy exists outside the realm of what is. That’s why we all seek it out: To make something else of who we are.

TIME 2016 Election

Jeb Bush Isn’t Much Closer to Actually Running for President

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, speaks at an event at Illuminating Technologies Inc., in Greensboro, N.C. on Sept. 24, 2014.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, speaks at an event at Illuminating Technologies Inc., in Greensboro, N.C. on Sept. 24, 2014. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call

Legally speaking, nothing changed

When Jeb Bush announced Tuesday he is beginning to “actively explore the possibility of running” for the White House in 2016, it may have been the most forward statement on the subject of his Republican colleagues, but it doesn’t mean much.

First off, he’s been thinking thinking about doing this for a while, discussing the possibility both in public settings and in private meetings with donors. And the verbal imprecision aside—is there any other way to ‘explore’ other than ‘actively?’ The possibility of running?—Bush is taking advantage of a gray area in federal election law to go about “testing the waters” instead of establishing a formal “exploratory committee.” Besides keeping his fundraising and spending records private, this will allow Bush and his aides more time to coordinate with outside Republican groups who he’d be forced to be firewalled from should he formally announce.

Bush’s low-tech Facebook announcement wasn’t accompanied by a call to donate or even to sign up for his non-existent campaign website. Instead his statement was designed to placate increasingly jumpy donors wary of a likely 2016 candidacy by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and are under pressure to lend their support to an array of other likely Republican candidates. It also helps him avoid the appearance of playing hard-to-get with the GOP establishment that has been calling on him to swiftly make up his mind.

Indeed, while Bush has said the most, other 2016 candidates have done more in terms of looking to run for the presidency. Besides leadership PACs and political nonprofits, many of the senators and governors spent much of the past year on the road meeting donors, boosting local elected officials, and reaching out to potential campaign staffers.

Larry Noble, the former FEC general counsel and senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, says the whole idea of “testing the waters” was designed to be a private process, and there’s no way to tell which other potential 2016-ers may be doing it.

“What you received and spent was never reported if you decided not to run, so there wouldn’t be any embarrassment” he said. In Bush’s case, fundraising will certainly not be an issue, but operating under the radar is a key benefit. Instead of filing monthly reports, he will be required to report his donations and spending only once he decides to run.

Bush said in January he will form a federal Leadership PAC “to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.” While Bush could fly around the country to support local candidates in Iowa, New Hampshire, and other early states (a practice other Leadership-PAC holders like Sens. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz put to use heavily in 2014) he couldn’t spend more than $5,000 on his presidential flirtations, or else run afoul of federal election law.

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