TIME 2016 Election

Gay Rights Activists Fire Early Shot At GOP Field

Governor Chris Christie in NH
Rick Friedman—Corbis N.J. Governor Chris Christie speaks at the Concord and Merrimack County GOP's 3rd Annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner in Concord, N.H. on Feb. 16, 2015.

The Human Rights Campaign is firing an early shot at the emerging presidential field, releasing polling and research highlighting their opposition to same-sex marriage.

On Wednesday, the group unveiled a micro-site highlighting GOP rhetoric on LGBT issues, including their positions on marriage, conversion therapy and bullying. The launch is pegged to this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference, which has blocked the sponsorship of the GOP gay group Log Cabin Republicans. (Although the group will participate in a panel discussion.)

The group is highlighting the results of a survey it commissioned of 1,000 self-identified LGBT voters showing that few would even consider supporting Republican candidates. Only 15 percent would consider New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; 12 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; 9 percent, Sen. Rand Paul; 9 percent, Sen. Marco Rubio; and 5 percent former Sen. Rick Santorum.

“For those committed to LGBT equality, actions speak louder than words,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs in a statement. “It’s unfortunate that a field with so many Republican candidates is so united against basic LGBT rights, from marriage equality to protecting LGBT Americans from discrimination.”

Among a sub-sample of 120 self-identified Republicans a majority say they would not back either Paul or Santorum, while the remaining candidates poll within the margin of error.

The GOP’s autopsy into the 2012 election found that gay rights issues are a gateway subject for LGBT voters, but also for young voters of all stripes. “We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too,” the Growth and Opportunity Project report stated. But while a number of Republican governors have dropped opposition to same-sex marriage in their states after court rulings, none have personally said they are supportive of such unions. The issue is a litmus test for many conservative voters in Iowa, and is set to be injected into the political debate once again as the Supreme Court ways the issue nationally.

The survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for the Human Rights Campaign by surveying 1,000 self-identifying lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals on Jan. 25-31. The full sample has a margin of error of ±3.1 percent, while the small sample of Republicans has a margin of error of ±8.28 percent.

Correction: The original version of this story mischaracterized the Log Cabin Republican’s involvement in CPAC. The group was invited to participate in the conference.

TIME 2016 Election

Chris Christie Looks to Get His Groove Back With Union Talks

Conservative Activists And Leaders Attend The Iowa Freedom Summit
Daniel Acker—Bloomberg/Getty Images Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, speaks during the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 24, 2015.

A long overdue reset for the governor of New Jersey

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wants to get his mojo back.

The can-do, tough-as-nails, straight-talking governor has spent the last several months tossed around in the shifting seas of presidential politics. Jeb Bush raided his prospective campaign piggy bank. Scott Walker claimed his old crown—the conservative fighter willing to put taxpayers ahead of government workers. And an imprecise vaccine comment in London left Christie fleeing reporters has he sped to his plane back home.

Just last week, during a speech in Washington, a deflated Christie seemed to distance himself from his own state’s economic record, blaming the state legislature for the status quo. “I don’t know exactly whose economic plan has been implemented or not,” he said of the state he runs. It was a far cry from the victorious Christie, who declared upon winning reelection in 2013, “I did not seek a second term to do small things. I sought a second term to finish the job. Now watch me do it.”

“Now” will finally arrive on Tuesday, his advisers promise, when he reveals a new plan to address New Jersey’s struggling finances, a new schedule for another statewide tour and a well-kept secret: For months, he has been breaking bread with his one-time union foes, the New Jersey Education Association, discussing further reforms to the state’s underwater state pension system Christie began to reform with controversial legislation during his first term.

“I did not come here just to identify the problem, shrug my shoulders and return to business as usual,” he plans to say later today, returning to his old rhetorical style. “And that is why I am here today to ask you to do what may be politically difficult, but what is morally and physically the right thing to do. This is what it is about. Coming together. Thinking differently. Serving the people. Addressing the long term. This is how we get things done.”

The shift in tone is long overdue for a governor who has never played defense as well as offense. Just a year ago, he was a formidable force in the Republican Party, with a mainline connection to the establishment looking for someone to take on Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. But an uneven message, a distracting criminal investigation over his staff’s involvement in a politically motivated road closure and deteriorating economic conditions in his state have tarnished his reputation.

“There’s an opportunity here for a comeback, because the press will love that,” says John Weaver, a former presidential strategist for Republicans John McCain and Jon Huntsman. “But they have to act fast or he will go down in history having squandered a great opportunity.”

The state’s fiscal situation, which will be the focus on Tuesday’s address, may prove the problem least fixable by a quick shift in strategy. On Monday, just a day before the planned pivot, a state judge ruled that Christie had failed to live up to his own signature legislative accomplishment by failing to fully fund the state’s share of recalculated public employee pensions. In her ruling, state judge Mary Jocobson took a shot at Christie’s public claims to have achieved a historic reforms during his first term, since he had since decided not to fund the state’s share of his own plan. “The governor now takes the unusual position in this court of claiming that this legislative contractual guarantee, which embodied significant reforms for which he took substantial credit with great national fanfare, violates the New Jersey Constitution,” she wrote.

Christie has promised to appeal the ruling which requires him to spend $1.57 billion more on pensions this year, arguing that other state governors have also failed to fully fund the program in the past. But such explanations won’t make good campaign slogans. In part because of the standoff, credit-ratings agencies have repeatedly cut New Jersey’s standing, a fact that could be easily used against the governor in 2016 campaign ads.

Christie’s pre-campaign messaging will also need some attention, as the early state voting map provides him with few credible paths to the nomination. “Christie’s path has narrowed considerably,” said one veteran GOP operative, who is not yet working for a 2016 presidential contender. “Lesser-known candidates have thicker skin with the media and even Rand Paul exhibits more discipline.”

On the road in Iowa or New Hampshire, Christie’s message has thus far boiled down largely to his personality, a move that worked well through two elections in New Jersey. He tells audiences of his family upbringing in an attempt to turn his legendarily brash persona into an asset. “You’ll always know what I believe and you’ll always know where I stand,” he said in Iowa last month.

But the personality pitch depends on a state record to back it up, and may need to be refined for voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. That’s where a potential truce with the unions could come in handy. Just a few years ago, union leaders were circulating an email joking about Christie’s death, and the governor was regularly lobbing words like “greed and self-interest” in the direction of the union. Now Christie has another talking point to add to his claim that he can bring conservative ideas to a blue state and make divided government work.

The New Jersey teacher’s union was a party to the lawsuit that resulted in Monday’s decision, but in a statement to reporters, Christie aides said the new negotiations represented a new chapter in the relationship. “The issue has come full circle – back in 2010 and 2011 when Governor Christie first took on pension and health benefits reform, the NJEA was opposed to any changes,” reads the guidance from the governor’s office. “But today, just five years later, the Governor has reached out to a political adversary and offered them partnership in working toward a solution and they have accepted.”

Any new chapter is a welcome one for Christie at this point. But this won’t be enough. In the coming months, he will need several more to win the nomination of his party.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy Is Ready to Rumble

CT Gov. Dannel Malloy Signs Broad Gun Control Bill
Christopher Capozziello—Getty Images Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy speaks during the gun-control-law-signing event at the Connecticut Capitol on April 4, 2013, in Hartford, Conn.

"When we run as Republican-lite we lose"

Governors tend to pull their punches when it comes to criticizing their peers. Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy is playing a different game.

Attacking New Jersey Governor Chris Christie by name, taking a shot at Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s concern over terrorist attacks in Milwaukee, and mocking Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s presidential aspirations, the New England Democrat has no qualms about taking the fight to the GOP. “Such a charitable man,” Malloy said of Christie, with a proverbial tongue in his cheek. “He has spread goodwill to so many places. He’s really quite remarkable, isn’t he.”

Moments earlier, in an interview with TIME on Thursday, he muffled a laugh as he described Jindal, whose remarks he once called “the most insane statement I’ve ever heard,” as the “toughest one to beat in the Republican field.”

Seizing an opportunity in a party depleted of household names not Clinton or Obama, Malloy is rising to the occasion, positioning himself as one of the party’s top attack dogs as the 2016 cycle approaches.

But Malloy is also envisioning a larger role for himself within the party too.

Addressing the winter meeting of the Association of State Democratic Chairs on Thursday he delivered a fiery speech, imploring the party to refocus on its core values.

“When we run as Republican-lite we lose,” he said. “Let us be Democrats once again,” he added, earning a standing ovation and whooping cheers.

Malloy was one of the few Democratic success stories of 2014, expanding his margin of victory in a repeat of his 2010 grudge match with Republican Tom Foley. He holds up his support of gun-control laws and minimum-wage hikes as a model for other Democrats.

As the chair designate of the Democratic Governors’ Association, it will be Malloy’s job next year to try to pick up seats from Republicans, who now hold a near record 31 governorships.

Speaking to TIME, Malloy wasn’t shy about attacking his GOP colleagues, and expanded on his call for the Democratic Party to stop being “Republicans-lite.”

Below is a lightly edited and condensed transcript:

My message is first of all we’ve got to elect a Democratic President. Otherwise the hard fought gains that we made under this president will be swept away. We’ve got to begin the process of changing the Congress and each election we need to pick up seats and we need to be on the offensive. What I’m hoping to do is see Democrats get elected. That’s what I’m trying to contribute to.

But you’re saying the right type of Democrat, right?
I think any Democrat is better. But I think what my message is, it’s about running as a Democrat. It’s about talking about Democratic values. I think we have to talk about Democratic values in this country again, because I think Republicans and their allies on Fox and elsewhere have done a good job of confusing people about who is actually pulling for them. You know and I know and economists know that trickle-down economics doesn’t work. But we’ve got all kinds of people in this country who are confused by what they hear on Fox everyday or elsewhere everyday and actually believe that somehow that’s going to trickle down to them even though during the last 25-30 years when trickle-down has been so often rolled out by Republicans, the middle class has not gotten bigger, wages are not up, quality of life for many of our citizens is not increasing the way that it should. So I think we need to be talking about our values vs. their values. Listen, I’ve got rich friend. I don’t mind the rich getting richer, but the poor shouldn’t be getting poorer and there should be more people moving into the middle class.

Are some Democrats in Washington not doing enough of that? Did that contribute to the defeats in 2014?
I think there are a lot of people who consciously or unconsciously, ran away from the President and the ideals of the party, and I’m not going to name names, but I think it’s important that we do what Republicans do, and view elections as a portion of the continuum, not as a stand-alone event. And every election needs to be built in part on the prior one and every new success needs to be built upon a prior success. And if we do that I think we’ll be stronger.

Looking ahead to 2016, should there be other Democrats entering the race to have this sort of dialogue?
That’s up to other people. I think people have to make their decisions about whether they want to run. I think there are a lot of Democrats who want Hillary to run and I think she would be an extremely strong candidate for the nomination and to be elected. I’m glad we don’t have 23 people running for President right now, although, as I said, I think the toughest one to beat would be Bobby Jindal. So we have to worry about him. People are either going to run for President or not, she’s going to either run for President or not, I think it looks more and more like that she’s going to, but she’ll cross that bridge when she gets to it.

Have you ever given it any thought?
No. Whenever people say you should President, I say, ‘I thought you liked me.’ Listen, I thought being mayor of Stamford was a wonderful job. Being governor of a state for a period of time is a wonderful job, and I’m not sure I’m at all attracted to Washington.

Governor Chris Christie to your south seems to be having a bit of a rough turn.
Such a charitable man. He has spread goodwill to so many places. He’s really quite remarkable, isn’t he?

He’s been facing some budget issues and dealing with pension reform …
Dealing with pension reform. He’s in the process of destroying public pensions, which by the way comes out of the Republican playbook. He hasn’t told the truth about what he’s doing, but that’s what he’s doing. The level of defunding that’s taken place under his administration is remarkable and I think the state’s bond rating will pay perhaps not a permanent price, but a long-term price. He’ll saddle that problem to some unfortunate Democrat who’s going to have to come in and do the right thing. That’s the hard part about being a Democrat, you have to clean up after Republicans.

Are you concerned that momentum Republicans are showing?
Yeah, that’s why I gave a speech. That’s why I think we have to rise as Democrats. I understand that everybody’s got to make tough choices in elections, but to defund your pension system by billions and billions of dollars, which is what New Jersey has done is not the right thing to do. To take away people’s rights to collectively negotiate their contracts, that’s not the right thing to do. And neither one of those things is going to help the middle class of those states. It’s just not going to. In some states it works to bash people who are a little bit better off than you to maybe make you feel better, but it is not a proven way to raise up the middle class, to raise the size of the middle class or to raise people’s standards of living.

On gun control, do you see a path to revitalizing the national conversation around gun control?
There will be more and more events like Sandy Hook. Look at the number of children that have been killed in schools since Sandy Hook. I’ve stopped counting, it’s astronomical when you think about the killing of children or babies. This discussion is not done. People actually understand that mentally ill people should not be able to buy guns, that people with violent-felony backgrounds should not be able to buy guns. They understand that. It’s when the other side wraps it with rhetoric like ‘they want to take your gun away.’ Well, no one wants to take your gun away, unless you’re, you know, a violent felon or you’re mentally ill, or you’ve threatened someone with it. That’s not happening anywhere. This conversation’s going to play out over a long period of time, and then the states that have done something about it, like my state, we continue to see a precipitous drop in homicides, and crime falling in Connecticut at three times the national average.

Where do you stand on the legalization of marijuana?
That’s not something I’m interested in. I decriminalized marijuana. We have 6,000 fewer arrests as a result of decriminalizing it, and we passed medical marijuana and I’m comfortable with where we are. I think it would be a mistake to become involved in the sale of marijuana for income purposes. It should be a stand-alone decision, it shouldn’t be based on whether you’re going to get a little money for it.

You’re taking over as chair of the DGA next year, what are you hoping to accomplish?
There are not a lot of Democratic governors, and we need to go our and fight the fight and take some of those states back and lay the groundwork for taking others back four years from now. I’ve always played a leadership role in any organization I’ve been apart of and I certainly have been the beneficiary of other governors, so I want to pay that back. I think this is important work. I think what Republicans pulled off in state legislatures following the census and their wins in 2010 has been very hurtful to the country. We have too few districts in the country that are in play, and as a result the Congress of the United States doesn’t do what it was intended to do, and that is to actually represent the majority will of the people. They’ve in other words, been gerrymandered.

Do you plan to step up your role in the party?
Obviously I’m here, and I was asked to speak, and there weren’t a whole lot of wins, so they’ve asked me to participate. And yes I’m going to play a role in trying to get more people elected as Democrats to the Houses and Senates and Assemblies, and more governors, and I’m on the lookout for good candidates for governor in the 2016 cycle. Some of those are pretty well set and some of those are going to be pretty wide open.

Have you started the recruitment process?
We are engaged in the recruitment process. That begins with talking to people who are expressing interest and making sure that people understand what it is to be a candidate in a statewide election. You have a lot of folks who want to run who’ve never run statewide and it’s not an easy thing to do. Part of our job is to make sure people understand and are sufficiently committed to doing that.

What are your thoughts on the Republican governors who have warned about the threat of ISIS as their party is embroiled in a shutdown fight over the Department of Homeland Security?
Those Republican governors should talk to the Republican members of Congress who are threatening to defund the agency that they are otherwise relying on. You know, it’s a wonderful thing, Republicans have both sides of their mouth and they’re able to use them well. The governor complains that there is a threat of ISIS in Milwaukee, but the Republican members of the Congress vote against funding the agency that’s charged with protecting us from it because they have a disagreement with the President over the ability of the people who were brought to this country as children and who have graduated from our school systems, to stay in this country. When they only speak English. That’s what this fight’s about. Republicans — they want to have both sides of the immigration issue, they want to have both sides of the job issue, they want to have both sides of the healthcare issue, and it’s incumbent on some of us not to let them get away with it.

TIME 2016 Election

Jeb Bush Hopes to Win the General Election by Losing the Weight

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush Keynote
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, speaks during a keynote session at the National Automobile Dealer Association conference in San Francisco, Calif. on Jan. 23, 2015.

Jeb Bush’s campaign to slim down the federal government appears to begin with himself.

At a fundraiser in Florida today, the former Florida governor admitted that he’s on the paleo diet, a new diet based on the idea that you should eat like early humans did before the invention of farming and animal husbandry. That means avoiding refined sugar, breads and beans and focusing more on eating meat and non-starchy vegetables.

“I’m really appreciative of the support that you’ve given me and I hope that you pray for my family, pray for me,” Bush joked. “Continue to pray that I stick on this paleo diet where my pants fall down. Perpetually starving to death apparently is the source of losing weight.”

Bush has joined a long line of recent presidential candidates who’ve lost weight while hoping to win a campaign.

• Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee took up running and weightlifting and began eating less before the 2008 Republican primary, then later wrote a book, “Quit Digging Your Grave With a Knife and Fork.”

• New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose struggle with weight led some helpful voters to send him 77 diet books, underwent gastric-band surgery in 2013 to help shed some pounds.

• Texas Sen. Ted Cruz hasn’t spoken publicly about any weight-loss regimens (other than a joke about Obama), but the Beltway publication Politico noted that he’s “looking trim these days.”

• Even 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who was hardly overweight, was known to pull the skin off his fried chicken when eating out on the campaign trail.

The candidates aren’t just being vain. Running for president is a physically grueling experience and being in better shape can help. But no one put it better than former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who considered a run in 2012.

“If you see me losing 40 pounds, that means I’m either running or have cancer,” he said.

By that measure, Jeb Bush just officially declared his candidacy.

TIME vaccines

Watch the Science Cop Take on Chris Christie’s Vaccine Talk

Christie isn't a doctor, so why is he dishing out advice on vaccines?

Chris Christie called for “balance” this week between public health and parents’ right to choose when it comes to vaccinating their children, going against the prevailing science.

Christie’s office was quick to walk back his comments and say “with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated.” But TIME’s Science Cop Jeffrey Kluger explains why statements like this, and the ongoing decision by many to forego vaccinations, are harming America’s children.

TIME 2016 Election

Christie’s London Trip Goes Awry

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Meets U.K. Chancellor Of The Exchequer George Osborne
Simon Dawson—Bloomberg/Getty Images British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, right, follows Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, center, and his wife Mary Pat Christie, out of 11 Downing Street following their meeting in London, U.K., on Feb. 3, 2015.

LONDON—Reporters were told to expect brief remarks for the press from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Tuesday when he emerged from meeting with British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. And as he emerged from 11 Downing Street—the Chancellor’s official residence—Christie stayed true to his word, but just barely. “We had a lot of fun,” he said, before joining his wife in a waiting car and driving away.

This capped off a bumpy three-day visit to the United Kingdom for Christie, as a perfunctory visit to a stalwart American ally in advance of a presidential run went awry. The “trade mission” featured all the staples of a pre-campaign visit, including meetings with senior government officials and tours designed to complement his agenda at home. Christie also attended a Premier League soccer match, met with Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street and visited a pharmaceutical company that makes vaccines in Cambridge.

But a question from a reporter Monday morning on vaccinations after the Cambridge roundtable, in light of an outbreak of measles in the United States, sent the carefully planned trip off the rails.

“I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well so that’s the balance that the government has to decide,” Christie said, adding that his own children have been vaccinated. But the line created a furor among Democrats and even some Republicans, who linked his remarks to the views of so-called “vaccine truthers” who believe, despite scientific consensus to the contrary, that vaccines are linked to autism.

A Christie aide tried to clean up the remark in an email to reporters. “The Governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated,” a spokesman said.

Christie’s full remarks show him in line with the broader political thinking on the issues of vaccinations—where mandates vary by state and are usually tied to enrollment in schools or daycare. “I can just tell people from our perspective, Mary Pat and I have had our children vaccinated and we think it’s an important part of making sure we protect their health and the public health,” Christie said. But on an overseas trip, every politicians’ words are parsed with talmudic vigor.

The trip was funded by Choose New Jersey, a state economic development group founded by Christie early in his tenure to recruit businesses to his state, which has also paid for his recent trips to Mexico and Canada, and a 2012 visit to Israel. These politically tinged excursions have helped Christie burnish his foreign policy credentials, even as they have raised questions about transparency.

Overshadowed by the vaccine brouhaha was Christie breaking with established protocol to criticize President Obama on foreign soil. “I think the President has shown over and over again that he’s not the most effective negotiator, whether you’re talking about the Iranian nuclear talks or whether you’re talking about his recent foray into Cuba,” Christie said in response to a question about trade, the Star-Ledger reported. “The president has not proven himself to be the most adept negotiator, in my opinion, on behalf of American interests.”

By Tuesday, Christie was in full damage-control mode. Reporters on the trip had been told to expect two question-and-answer sessions with the governor, the first after attending a “conversation about drug rehabilitation and treatment with action on addiction,” and the second later in the day. Both were scrubbed.




Some foreign travel has long been a prerequisite for presidential candidates, especially governors who lack the average senators’ familiarity with foreign policy issues. But it is frequently not without its pitfalls. In the summer of 2012, Mitt Romney’s overseas trip made him a mockery abroad after he questioned London’s preparedness to host the Olympic Games, and scores of negative headlines at home after an aide shouted an expletive at reporters trying to question him in Poland.

TIME 2016 Election

Hillary Clinton Enters Vaccinations Debate to Rebuke Likely 2016 Rivals

2014 Robert F. Kennedy Ripple Of Hope Award
Taylor Hill—Getty Images Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the 2014 Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Gala at New York Hilton on Dec. 16, 2014, in New York City

"The science is clear," Clinton tweeted

Former U.S. Secretary of State and likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton re-emerged on the political scene Monday evening to critique several likely rivals.

In a tweet, Clinton dismissed those who believe that vaccinations are linked to autism, hours after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul suggested that parents be granted some element of control over what inoculations their children receive. Her public comments follow a period of relative quiet from Clintonland as she gears up for an all-but-certain presidential campaign in 2016.

On Monday morning, Christie said parents should have “some measure of choice” over how their children are vaccinated, when asked about an outbreak of measles in the U.S. His office later backtracked, saying the dad of four believes “with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated. At the same time different states require different degrees of vaccination, which is why he was calling for balance in which ones government should mandate.”

In a contentious interview with CNBC on Monday afternoon, Paul said he didn’t see why his position that most vaccines should be voluntary would be controversial. “For most of our history, they have been voluntary. So I don’t think I’m arguing for anything out of the ordinary,” he said.

“I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” Paul added, repeating claims that have extremely dubious scientific grounds.

Clinton’s statement follows something of a change of heart from 2008 when she filled out a survey from a group known as the Autism Action Network, saying, “I am committed to make investments to find the causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines.”

TIME 2016 Election

Watch 5 Elevator Pitches from 2016 GOP Contenders

Cruz, Paul, Christie, Walker and Fiorina make their best argument in less than a minute

The Republican politicians who hope to be the party’s presidential nominee in 2016 have some very different theories about why they would be best.

Not all of them have perfected the message they’ll take to next year’s primaries. But some of them have given a good preview of their best elevator pitch and they have very different arguments on what it takes to win.

Below are five one-minute excerpts of speeches by contenders for the GOP presidential nomination.

Sen. Ted Cruz

The setting: The 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual event for grassroots organizers

What he said: “When you don’t stand for principle, Democrats celebrate.”

The argument: The Texas Senator argued that Republicans lost recent elections when their candidates “stood for nothing” and that the party should pick a strongly conservative candidate to draw a contrast with Democrats.

Sen. Rand Paul

The setting: The 2014 CPAC convention

What he said: “It isn’t good enough to pick the lesser of two evils. We must elect men and women of principle.”

The argument: The Kentucky Senator made a similar argument to Cruz, but the difference is that he is pitching a libertarian strand of thought to draw a contrast with politicians of both parties.

Gov. Chris Christie

The setting: The 2012 Republican National Convention

What he said: “It’s possible to work together, achieve principled compromise and get results. The people have no patience for any other way.”

The argument: Though he was talking about then-nominee Mitt Romney, the New Jersey Governor’s argument that voters are looking for politicians who can cross the aisle also fits his own potential candidacy.

Gov. Scott Walker

The setting: The Iowa Freedom Summit, a gathering of grassroots conservatives

What he said: “”If you’re not afraid to go big and go bold, you can actually get results. And if you get the job done, the voters will actually stand up with you.”

The argument: The Wisconsin Governor’s message is a blend of Cruz and Christie. He calling for politicians to stand on principle, but also making the case that results matter.

Carly Fiorina

The setting: The Iowa Freedom Summit

What she said: “Our founders actually never envisioned a professional political class. They envisioned that … leaders would emerge from agriculture or commerce and would serve their nation.”

The argument: The former Hewlett-Packard CEO argued that voters weren’t seeking politicians who compromise or don’t, but rather the clean break that an outsider would bring.

TIME 2016 Election

Christie Walks Back Measles Vaccine Comments

Chris Christie
Patrick Semansky—AP New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks with reporters as he leaves an inaugural ceremony for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in Annapolis, Md. on Jan. 21, 2015.

Republican 2016 hopeful splits with Obama but then backtracks

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Monday that the government should “balance” parent choice and public health when it comes to measles vaccinations, in comments that broke with President Barack Obama—and prevailing science on the issue. His office quickly walked back the comments and said Christie believes “there is no question kids should be vaccinated.”

The initial comment from the 2016 Republican presidential contender came during remarks to reporters in England, the Washington Post reports, and follows news that a measles outbreak in the United States has infected more than 100 people in 14 states.

“Mary Pat and I have had our children vaccinated and we think that it’s an important part of being sure we protect their health and the public health,” Christie said. “I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”

MORE: Meet the Latest Driver of the Anti-Vaccine Clown Car

Christie’s office later sought to clarify his remarks and sent reporters a full transcript showing that Christie made a point not to side with vaccination skeptics when asked if he thinks the shots are dangerous.

“I didn’t say that,” Christie said, according to the transcript. “I said different disease types can be more lethal so that the concern would be measuring whatever the perceived danger is by vaccine and we’ve had plenty of that over a period of time versus what the risk to public health is and you have to have that balance and that’s exactly what I mean by what I said.”

“The Governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated,” Christie’s office said. “At the same time different states require different degrees of vaccination, which is why he was calling for balance in which ones government should mandate.”

Anti-vaccination activists say the shots can lead to autism and other conditions, but the overwhelming scientific consensus says that’s not the case. Christie’s statement came the day after Obama called on parents to vaccinate their children.

“The science is, you know, pretty indisputable,” Obama told NBC News. “We’ve looked at this again and again. There is every reason to get vaccinated, but there aren’t reasons to not.”

Christie struck a notably different public health stance at the height of the Ebola fears in the U.S., forcibly quarantining a nurse who had returned from treating patients in Africa despite her testing negative for the virus—and also against the advice of public health experts.

Christie is traveling to England on a trade mission that is largely seen as an attempt to boost his foreign policy credentials ahead of a likely 2016 run.

TIME 2016 Election

Lindsey Graham Forces Foreign Policy On 2016 GOP Field

Senator Lindsey Graham
Samuel Corum—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Senator Lindsey Graham speaks at a press conference in Washington on January 13, 2015.

The talk on the trail these days is focused on Main Street. But that could change.

At the moment his staff hit publish on a new pre-presidential campaign website, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham had distinguished himself from the rest of the already unwieldy Republican 2016 field. “Security Through Strength,” was the name of his new group, with a military-style combat unit shield as its logo.

Foreign policy would be Graham’s focus, and his tack would be unmistakable: He would be the candidate who could update Ronald Reagan’s Cold War vision of “Peace Through Strength” for the ongoing battle against radical Islam. Visitors had to read a couple hundred words of filler before any mention of domestic policy appeared. “Graham is also a leader in cutting spending,” the copy reads. Also, as if it were an afterthought.

As a political strategy, this was a bold move, given that most of his challengers have been focused their rhetorical fire on the cause du jour, the economic frustrations of the struggling American middle class. But then presidential campaigns rarely end where they begin, as Graham’s biggest backer, Arizona Sen. John McCain learned well in his 2008 race. That contest began squarely in McCain’s wheelhouse, as a foreign policy debate over the Iraq War. But it ended with an economic crises that McCain was not equipped to handle. “The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should,” he was on record admitting in 2007.

There is a real potential for 2016 to follow the same pattern in reverse. Domestically, the economy remains stuck in neutral for most Americans, but gas prices are dropping, the labor market is firming, and the ground may be set for incomes begin to rise again. Overseas, however, the world is as tumultuous as it has been in a decade, with terrorist attacks in Europe, a virtual proxy war bubbling up between NATO and Russia in Ukraine, tense nuclear negotiations with Iran and Sunni radicals redrawing national boundaries in the Middle East.

In this environment, Graham stands relatively alone in clearly presenting a foreign policy vision. “I don’t think we’re anywhere close to the point where we need to be,” former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told TIME. Bolton is contemplating a run for president to keep foreign policy in the national conversation. “Having two paragraphs in a stump speech should not be confused with having a foreign policy,” he said.

Some would-be candidates have talked about foreign policy more than others. On Sunday evening at a panel hosted by a group affiliated with the Koch brothers, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who sits on the Foreign Relations committee, had as much criticism for the governors as he had for ideological rival Sen. Rand Paul, who has presented a more modest vision of U.S. power abroad. “Taking a trip to some foreign city for two days does not make you Henry Kissinger,” Rubio said, in apparent reference to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who was at the Koch event and is planning a trip to the United Kingdom next month.

Similarly, Mitt Romney has made clear that foreign policy will be a central theme of his third run, should he choose to continue with the race. “The President’s dismissal of real global threats in his State of the Union address was naive at best and deceptive at worst,” Romney said Wednesday, in a speech before students in Mississippi.

But other Republicans, especially the deep bench of governors with White House ambitions, have yet to find their footing. Instead of offering a vision, they have been focused on schooling themselves in the arts of international trade craft.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been receiving briefings by a team including Bob Zoellick, the former president of the World Bank and U.S. Trade Representative, and Brian Hook, a former assistant secretary of state and Romney campaign advisor. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been soliciting briefings from foreign and domestic policy experts for more than a year to study up for a second campaign. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has co-authored a hawkish foreign policy white paper last year with former Sen. Jim Talent. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who launched his political organization this week, is expected to start receiving policy briefings in the next several weeks, with Marc Thiessen, the American Enterprise Institute scholar—and co-author of Walker’s book—expected to play a key role.

The former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, supported his brother’s foreign policy while in office, but has rarely spoken out on more recent threats. Last month he called for strengthening, rather than weakening, the U.S. embargo on Cuba, for instance. It is not clear whether he has started formal briefings, but he has been reaching out to an array of experts in recent weeks, according to a person familiar with the calls.

Some Senate aides have pointed out that the state leaders could find themselves at a steep disadvantage in the general election. “We need someone who can credibly push back against Hillary Clinton’s failed record,” said an aide to one Senator eyeing the White House. “And the governors can’t do that.”

But governors may also have an advantage, not having their foreign policy so clearly defined before they run. Paul has been largely defined as an isolationist, while Rubio and Graham are affiliated with neo-conservatives, and Ted Cruz is has taken a hawkish line on many issues but favors budget cuts to defense programs.

“We don’t know very much of the foreign policy viewpoints of Jeb, Christie, and Walker,” said a veteran Republican policy aide to presidential candidates. “They have an opportunity to formulate and articulate the worldview that makes the most sense given time and space.”

That strategy works better if no one is forcing foreign policy questions into the debate at this early point in the cycle. In other words, a good day for Lindsey Graham, who enjoys easy access to the national press off the Senate floor, may be a bad one for many of his rivals in the months to come.

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