TIME 2016 Election

GOP Donors Buoyant About 2016 Prospects at Retreat

Jeb Bush speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.
Mark Peterson—Redux for TIME Jeb Bush speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.

Good news for the GOP, bad news for Hillary Clinton

Republican donors gathered at an exclusive retreat this weekend to compare notes on the 2016 presidential field and hear the candidates’ pitches directly.

The celebratory mood was palpable, buoyed by another strong fundraising month for the party, the impending launch of the primary contest and a spate of negative stories about Hillary Clinton.

Donors in custom pins designed by the party backslapped their way through the pinkish walls of the Waldorf Astoria Resort and Club, as many of the candidates they elected in 2014, and the ones they are hoping to elect in 2016 preened for their support. Sean Spicer, the RNC’s chief strategist and communications director, said it was the “largest pre-nomination retreat in terms of both donor attendance and speakers.”

Throughout the weekend, the presidential contenders held private meetings with the assembled donors, broken into classes like “Eagles” ($15,000+), “Regents” ($60,000+), and “Team 100” ($100,000+). New this year, thanks to congressional action dramatically increasing donation limits to national parties, were the members of the “RNC Trust,” who have pledged to give the more than $330,000 legal limit annually.

The lavish resort is nestled between a golf course and a marina and across a sound from the beach, though the 36-hour conference was jammed with sessions on party data and messaging. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus sought to leverage the celebrity and celebration to plug the more mundane mechanics, as party staffers held briefings on technology and field program advances in the GOP since 2012. Pollster Frank Luntz held court in a session and Republican senators held a closed-door panel where they laid into the emerging nuclear deal with Iran.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio delivered well-regarded remarks Friday evening, highlighting their domestic themes of growing the party and criticizing President Obama’s foreign policy. Each, attendees said, was interrupted by multiple rounds of applause. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker focused his remarks on the economy, delivering, like the others, a modified version of his stump speech for the well-heeled audience.

On Saturday evening, New Jersey Gov. Christie called on the party to avoid flip-floppers in a pre-dinner reception before joining the Team 100 dinner, along with a coterie of Republican members of Congress. Texas Gov. Rick Perry rotated among the class dinners, while Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal addressed the post-dinner dessert. Former Sen. Rick Santorum and former New York Gov. George Pataki attended the weekend gathering, as well as businessman Donald Trump, who spoke Friday evening and, according to multiple attendees, spent much of his speech trying to show off his connections to the assembled donors.

Among the members of Congress in attendance for the weekend were Sens. Cory Gardner, Pat Roberts, Mike Rounds, Thom Tillis, David Perdue and Deb Fischer and Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Renee Elmers.

A large number of benefactors remain on the fence, according to party and campaign sources, using the meetings to grill candidates on the issues important to them. In the hallways, donors shared notes from their private meetings, gossiping about Walker’s flip-flop on immigration reform, the burdens of Bush’s family name and Christie’s narrowing path to the nomination.

One donor, who has pledged five-figure sums to groups affiliated with at least three GOP candidates, said he and many of his peers believe it’s still a wide-open field.

“You want to get in on the ground floor,” said the donor, who didn’t want his name used to avoid attracting more suitors, “and so many of these guys can go all the way.”

TIME 2016 Election

Jindal, Perry Back Senate Letter to Iran

CPAC 2015
Bill Clark—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 26, 2015.

A pair of Republican governors eyeing the White House are supporting a controversial letter sent by Republican Senators to the Iranian government warning against an emerging nuclear deal.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal led the effort Tuesday, calling on all Republican presidential candidates to support the letter, organized by Sen. Tom Cotton, which has drawn the ire of the Obama administration.

Signed by 47 GOP Senators, including presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul, the Monday letter warned the Iranian government that the next president would not be bound by the agreement. He was followed shortly after by former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

“Every single person thinking about running for President, on both sides, should sign on to this letter to make clear to Iran that they are negotiating with a lame duck President,” Jindal said in a statement released by his political group America Next. “Make no mistake – any Iran deal that President Obama makes is not binding on a future president.”

The White House condemned the letter, with Vice President Joe Biden penning a harsh statement Monday evening, calling it an unprecedented encroachment on the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy. “This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments—a message that is as false as it is dangerous,” he said.

Later Tuesday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement that any deal with Iran should be subject to congressional review, echoing the letter’s argument that the next president would “not be bound” by any agreement struck by President Obama. He did not directly address the letter, however.

Likewise, Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said in a statement to TIME that he understood the senators’ decision, but didn’t explicitly say if he supported it.

“The Senators are reacting to reports of a bad deal that will likely enable Iran to become a nuclear state over time,” he said in a statement. “They would not have been put in this position had the Administration consulted regularly with them rather than ignoring their input.”

A spokesperson for Chris Christie did not immediately comment on whether their likely-candidates would sign on.

TIME 2016 Election

Bill Clinton Addresses Charity’s Donor Controversy in Hillary’s Stead

<> on March 7, 2015 in Coral Gables, Florida.
Joe Raedle—2015 Getty Images Hillary Clinton speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative University meeting at the University of Miami on March 7, 2015.

The 42nd president answered questions about his family's charity, while Hillary introduced a new philanthropic initiative

Likely presidential candidate Hillary Clinton avoided any mention Saturday night of the political controversy sparked by donations to her family foundation from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others with business before the State Department during her time in the Obama Administration. Instead, at a foundation event in the University of Miami, she left that work to her husband.

“We do get money from other countries, and some of them are in the Middle East,” former President Bill Clinton said, after being prompted on stage in a question and answer session. “The United Arab Emirates gave us money, do we agree with everything they do? No, but they’re helping us fight ISIS and they helped build a university with NYU. . . . My theory about all this is, disclose everything, and let people make their judgments.”

“I have a lot of people who help me but who never voted for me,” Clinton continued. “We ought to bring people together across great divides around things that they can agree on and find something to do to make peoples lives better.”

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton lobbied for the interests abroad of corporations like Walmart and General Electric that also gave to her family’s charity. The Clinton foundation also has accepted donations from foreign governments. Unlike most charities, the Clinton Foundation publicly discloses a list of all its donors.

Hillary, meanwhile, devoted her joint discussion with her daughter, Chelsea, to the work the foundation is doing, instead of the questions surrounding it. She announced the “No Ceilings” project, an advocacy and data repository intended to encourage gender equality around the world.

“This is a global data project that measures the gains that women and girls have made around the world in the last 20 years, but also identify the gaps that remain,” said the former Secretary of State. “Whether it’s women’s rights or civil rights or LGBT rights, we’re counting on you to lead the way, and that’s what the No Ceilings initiative is really all about.”

The packed gathering of volunteer-minded students was a friendly audience, and they gave Hillary a standing ovation as she entered. All day a relentless loop of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” heralded speakers onstage.

It was the culmination of a three-day event hosted by the Clinton Foundation called the Clinton Global Initiative University, an incubator of sorts for student volunteers and activists who have committed to address jaundice in India and nutrition in West Philadelphia.

“We couldn’t think of a better audience to be the first to share this data with, because a lot of the changes that we need to make to build a future is the work of every one of you,” Hillary Clinton said, before turning the focus on continued problems in the United States.

“Even in wealthier countries like our own, it really makes a difference as to your economic status whether or not you are going to be able to participate fully, get the healthcare we need—although we’ve made a lot of progress on that—and get the education we need, though it needs to be more affordable,” she said. “We have seen progress everywhere, but we have also seen concerted efforts to stop that progress or even turn it back in too many places.”

The Clinton Foundation owes much of its success and its billions in funding to the Clinton name, and to Bill and Hillary’s deep web of political and business connections. For the Clintons, politics and philanthropy make temperamental bedfellows. In his remarks, Bill addressed the questions critics have posed of his wife.

“I believe we’ve done a lot more good than harm,” he said of his family’s charity. “So I’m going to tell you who gave us the money, and you can make your own decisions.”

TIME 2016 Election

What the Walk-Up Music for 2016 Candidates Tells Us

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, MD on Feb. 26, 2015.
Mark Peterson—Redux for TIME Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at CPAC in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 26, 2015.

Like Major League Baseball players getting ready for their turn at bat, presidential candidates have their own walk-up music.

Most of the likely 2016 Republican contenders spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week near Washington, D.C., and while they didn’t choose the songs, the picks gave a hint of what people are thinking about their campaigns.

Here’s a look at the songs introducing the 2016ers.

Hillary Clinton

The Song: “I’m Every Woman,” by Chaka Khan

What it Means: Clinton’s campaign is reportedly going to play up the historic nature of being the first female president in 2016, much more than it did in 2008. So it makes sense that she took the stage at a recent event in San Francisco to Khan’s funk-inflected 1978 hit, which has become part of the feminist pop canon.

Bottom Line: She wants every woman’s vote.

Chris Christie

The Song: “Enter Sandman,” by Metallica

What it Means: After hitting a rough patch, Christie is attempting a comeback by emphasizing his outspoken nature and taking jabs at his opponents. He came on stage at CPAC to heavy metal band Metallica’s intense 1991 hit about children’s nightmares.

The Bottom Line: He wants to be Hillary’s worst nightmare.

Scott Walker

The Song: “Coming Home,” by Avenged Sevenfold

What it Means: After Walker took heat from the Dropkick Murphys for using their song at an earlier event, it was probably a good idea for Walker to come on stage to a more generic riff. It doesn’t hurt that Avenged Sevenfold, while not a Christian band, takes its name from Genesis 4:24.

The Bottom Line: It’s not going to be the Dropkick Murphys again.

Ted Cruz

The Song: “Wave on Wave,” by Pat Green

What it Means: At CPAC this year, Republicans mostly took the stage to either country or heavy metal. Cruz came on to the former, a song from a popular Texas musician that was also used by George W. Bush’s re-election campaign.

The Bottom Line: He’s the candidate from Texas.

Marco Rubio

The Song: “Cruise,” by Florida Georgia Line

What it Means: Like Cruz, Rubio came on stage to a local country act. One of the members grew up in Florida (the other in Georgia, hence the name) and the duo, who met at a campus worship group in college, are heavily influenced by Christian music.

The Bottom Line: He wants take his Florida act north.

Rick Perry

The Song: “Back in Black,” by AC/DC

What it Means: Perry’s 2012 campaign suffered because he didn’t get enough sleep. It’s no surprise that he’d take the stage at CPAC to heavy metal’s ultimate comeback anthem, written in honor of former singer Bon Scott, which even has the lyrics “back in black, I hit the sack.”

The Bottom Line: He’s tanned, rested and ready.

Bobby Jindal

The Song: “Country Must Be Country Wide,” by Brantley Gilbert

What it Means: Jindal is pitching himself as the ultimate political strategist for Republicans. At CPAC, he came on stage to a song about how there are country music fans all over the United States, or as the songwriter put it, “there are rednecks everywhere.”

The Bottom Line: He’s ready to serve country, er, his country.

Carly Fiorina

The Song: “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams

What it Means: The former Hewlett-Packard CEO is running at the back of the pack, but she hopes her ability to bring the heat to Clinton will help her break out. At CPAC, she came on stage to a song that went from being buried on the “Despicable Me 2″ soundtrack to being the hit of the summer.

The Bottom Line: She’s planning on being a happy warrior.

Ben Carson

The Song: “Life is a Highway,” cover version by Rascal Flatts

What it Means: Carson made a name for himself among conservatives with fiercely partisan rhetoric, hitting President Obama hard on issues like religion and healthcare. But his speech at CPAC was more subdued, starting with the song he came on stage to, a mainstream country cover that was on the soundtrack to Pixar’s Cars.

The Bottom Line: He’s moving into the center lane.

TIME 2016 Election

Perry Says 2016 Plans ‘Moving Right Along’ Despite Indictment

Former Governor of Texas Rick Perry speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 24, 2015.
Jim Young—Reuters Former Governor of Texas Rick Perry speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 24, 2015.

Still expects to announce a run in May or June.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said his plans to run for president in 2016 are “moving right along” despite a Texas judge’s decision Tuesday not to throw out a pair of indictments against him.

A Texas grand jury indicted the then-governor in August on two abuse-of-power charges which claim he violated the law when he threatened and ultimately vetoed funding for the Travis County District Attorney’s office following a high-profile drunk driving arrest for its district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg. The longest-serving Texas governor and his legal team argue the charges are baseless and amount to a “criminalization of politics,” and Perry reiterated Wednesday that he’d do it again if he had the chance.

On Tuesday, a judge poked holes in the prosecution’s indictment, but declined to throw out the two charges, saying he was unable to do so before trial. Perry’s legal team is filing an appeal of that decision, an effort expected to take several months.

Perry, who ran for the White House unsuccessfully in 2012, has been laying the groundwork for a repeat bid for more than two years, traveling heavily to the early presidential states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to support local candidates and build a network of supporters. He said in a press conference that his plans are continuing despite the ongoing criminal proceedings against him.

“We’re going to continue on,” he told reporters, suggesting that the prosecution would bolster his argument to voters. ” Americans are looking for a leader who’s not afraid of standing up, who won’t be intimidated.”

Perry indicated he has already made a decision to seek the White House, and is planning an announcement in the spring.

“We’ll make a decision—or, actually, make an announcement, it’s a better term—in the May, June timetable just like we intended to,” Perry said Wednesday.

After the indictment, Perry’s political team sold t-shirts showing his smiling booking photo with the slogan “Wanted: For securing the border and defeating Democrats” on one side, and Lehmberg’s less-glamorous one and the text: “Guilty: driving while intoxicated and the perversion of justice.”

Likely GOP rivals, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Govs. Chris Christie Scott Walker, released statements Tuesday in support of Perry.

 

TIME 2016 Election

Jindal Blurs the Lines With Prayer Rally This Weekend

Bobby Jindal
John Minchillo—AP Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La. speaks in New York on Oct. 16, 2014.

It is no secret that Bobby Jindal is praying very seriously about a run for the White House. This weekend, his prayer will look a lot like a giant evangelical rally in Baton Rouge.

The governor of Louisiana is keynoting a six-hour worship gathering on Saturday called “The Response: A Call To Prayer For a Nation In Crisis” at Louisiana State University. The event, sponsored by the conservative and controversial American Family Association, aims to spiritually reawaken America in light of “unprecedented struggles” the country is facing: “financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters … fatherless homes, an epidemic of drugs and crime in our inner cities, a saturation of pornography in our homes, abortion, and racism.” The American Renewal Project, a non-profit spearheaded by conservative political operative David Lane that aims to get more Christians involved in politics, is also behind the event. Lane hopes to recruit 1,000 pastors to run for political office this campaign cycle. The Response coincides with the state’s Right to Life March, which is also happening Saturday on LSU’s campus and which Jindal is also keynoting. Together, the events are poised to draw thousands.

Organizers say the Response is purely about spiritual renewal, not politics. But from the get-go, those lines are blurred. Jindal invited 49 other governors to attend the Response. “This gathering will be apolitical in nature and open to all who would like to join us in humble posture before our Creator to intervene on behalf of our people and nation,” Jindal explained to the governors, in a letter obtained by the Christian Broadcasting Network. “There will only be one name lifted up that day–Jesus!”

The irony in the event has several layers. To begin, Jindal’s invitation to the governors, like most of the Response’s promotional materials, draws inspiration only from passages in the Hebrew Scriptures, what Christians call the Old Testament, to support an event aimed at lifting up Jesus Christ. His letter primarily cites the Hebrew prophet Joel, who likely lived in Judah during the Persian period of Jewish history (539-331 BC). Joel tells the Hebrew people to “declare a holy fast,” “call a solemn assembly,” and “summon the elders,” to “cry out to the Lord.” The Response organizers are trying to imitate those instructions with this event, but conflating Joel’s call to return to the Hebrew God with a contemporary evangelical call to return to Jesus changes the prophet’s original context and the significance of the words for today’s Jewish community.

Next, for the Hebrew prophet Joel, to call the elders is actually a political move, not just a spiritual one. The prophet goes on to lament a plague of locusts, that like an invading army that has destroyed his own nation’s fields and farming prospects. His call to God for aid is a political plea on behalf of his people. Jindal and fellow organizers are using a political Bible passage to promote an event that they say has a solely spiritual ambition. And yet, even as Jindal says the event is apolitical, he wrote an open invitation to the event on official state letterhead, and hosted 72 organizers for the event at the Governor’s mansion in December.

Perhaps most importantly, the Response in the United States is becoming more than a spiritual institution: It is a prelude to a presidential run. Five days after Rick Perry held a Response rally in August of 2011, he declared his candidacy for president. Neither Perry nor Jindal are evangelicals—Perry is a life-long Methodist and Jindal is Catholic—but for both, the Response event is a way to harness the spirituality of the conservative evangelical base for their own political ambitions. It is no small reward, either. Perry’s event drew some 30,000 people in Houston.

The Response may be the largest religious base Jindal is courting, but it is not the only one. After the Response, Jindal is headed to Naples to speak at the Legatus Summit, a annual conference for Catholic business leaders. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is speaking at the event, but Fox News’ Bret Baier and actor Gary Sinise withdrew their participation earlier this month due to controversy over the group’s opposition to gay marriage.

It is not surprising that Jindal would appeal to this conservative religious base. He is a Hindu convert and a Rhodes scholar biology major who supports creationism. He’s continually fought the courts and the Obama administration for his signature school voucher program that uses public dollars to pay for private and religious schooling. This week, he went after the U.S. House of Representatives for failing to pass an anti-abortion measure on the eve of the national March for Life. “It shouldn’t take a lot of political courage to stand up and say we are going to end late-term abortions in America,” Jindal told Fox News Thursday night.

Jindal has also been hammering radical Islam. During a 10-day economic and foreign policy trip to Europe, Jindal blasted so-called “no-go” zones, supposed communities in Europe where non-Muslims are not allowed and where sharia law runs rampant. Fox News later issued an apology for promoting the term, clarifying that no such zones exist. Jindal didn’t slow down. “Radical Islamists do not believe in freedom or common decency nor are they willing to accommodate them in any way and anywhere,” he said in a speech to the Henry Jackson Society in London. “We are fools to pretend otherwise. How many Muslims in this world agree with these radicals? I have no idea, I hope it is a small minority.” He added: “Let’s be honest here, Islam has a problem. If Islam does not support what is happening in the name of Islam, then they need to stand up and stop it.”

Jindal’s past history of blending of religious and political themes only makes it even more clear that the Response will not be strictly spiritual, despite what organizers say.

TIME Drugs

Texas Lawmaker Proposes Lower Marijuana Possession Penalties

File picture shows marijuana plants at a indoor cultivation in Montevideo
Andres Stapff—Reuters Marijuana plants are seen at a indoor cultivation.

A new bill would make the possession of up to one oz. punishable with a $100 ticket

On Monday, Texas State Rep. Joe Moody introduced a bill that would remove criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“Our current marijuana policy in Texas just isn’t working,” Moody said in a statement. “We need a new approach that allows us to more effectively utilize our limited criminal justice resources. This legislation is a much-needed step in the right direction.”

Under current Texas law, possessing up to two oz. of weed can yield six months of jail time and a $2,000 penalty. Under the proposal, adults caught with up to one oz. would get a $100 ticket, similar to a parking violation. Larger amounts would still lead to criminal penalties. The measure would make Texas the 20th state plus the District of Columbia to remove the threat of jail time for the possession of small amounts of weed.

The bill is backed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the pro-legalization group that spearheaded the passage of Colorado’s historic legalization measure. The bill is also the first in a series that the MPP expects to be introduced in Texas this year, the next attempting to legalize medical marijuana and the third attempting to legalize recreational marijuana.

The latter two are long shots, and the first won’t be an easy sell to the Republican-controlled legislature. Texas Governor Rick Perry has said he opposes legalization. He has intimated that he supports decriminalizing weed, but has also said that the state has “kind of done that.” In 2007, Texas passed a measure giving local governments the power to respond to marijuana possession with a summons rather than an arrest, but few counties have adopted it and someone issued a summons may still end up in jail.

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, another pro-legalization group, says that Texas is in a tier of states that are the least likely to ease marijuana restrictions. These “third tier” states, he says, are ones in which “the legislature has never shown any want to move in this direction and/or there is an executive at the top who is going to oppose and veto any reforms.”

A poll commissioned by MPP in 2013 found that 61% of Texas residents would support a penalty reduction like the one Moody is proposing, while 58% would support the legalization of medical and recreational weed.

At a press conference on Monday, Moody was joined by representatives from other groups who support the bill, such as the ACLU of Texas and Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. Support from such libertarian-leaning conservatives will be crucial in the heavily Republican state.

“Texas doesn’t seem to be ready for a full legal market,” acknowledges Heather Fazio, a representative for MPP in Texas. “That doesn’t mean that the conversation shouldn’t be happening.”

TIME 2016 Election

Republican Governors Blast President Obama’s Immigration Plans

Rick Perry
Gerry Broome—AP Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a conservative rally in Smithfield, N.C. on Oct. 24, 2014.

Without any announced candidacies, Republican governors appear to be jockeying for position in 2016

BOCA RATON, Fla.

As President Barack Obama prepares to announce executive action on immigration reform in a Thursday evening primetime address to the nation, he is already facing criticism from many of his would-be replacements.

At the annual retreat of the Republican Governors Association, a cohort of governors eyeing bids at the White House blasted Obama’s planned announcement even as they were silent on any counter-proposals to address the President’s concerns. The immigration debate, operatives in both parties say, is likely to be front-and-center in 2016.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence called Obama’s forthcoming announcement a “profound mistake.” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called it “the height of arrogance for this president to go around the Congress.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said someone should sue to stop it. Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that his state would.

But the governors were by-and-large loath to offer their own vision for how to address the nation’s immigration issues. In 2013, after the party’s 2012 defeat, the Republican National Committee identified immigration reform as a must-pass issue for the GOP. But the GOP successfully bet on an older, whiter electorate in 2014 to justify the delay internally. House Republicans have refused to take up a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in 2013, a move that Obama has said prompted his unilateral action.

The only apparent consensus among the governors was that Obama was going down the wrong path and should first deal with securing the border. “You will not get Americans to support an immigration reform bill until—not together, but until—the border is secure,” Perry said.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he would wait to see what Obama announced before weighing in. “We will have to wait and see what he says and what he does and what the legal implications are,” he said.

The governors encouraged congressional Republicans to avoid a government funding show-down this December over Obama’s immigration actions, saying a shutdown would be counterproductive. Christie said he has “confidence” in Speaker of the House John Boehner and Majority Leader-elect Mitch McConnell can keep the government open. “All this kind of hysteria about shutdown to me is just people wanting to make news,” Christie added. “I wouldn’t push a shutdown, I think you go to court,” Walker said.

Pence called on Republicans to use the budget process to push back against Obama’s action. “The president has an opportunity now to work with the Congress after it convenes in January and to find a piece-by-piece approach in dealing with the issue of immigration reform,” he said. “The power of the Congress is the power of the purse.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday the action would affect “millions,” while advocates familiar with the action say roughly five million will be affected.

Asked about specific immigration reform proposals, Christie repeatedly declined to weigh in. “If I run [for president], we’ll see,” he said. “If I were to run for president, I would then articulate the basis for my candidacy.”

Only Kasich explicitly stated he was open to a pathway to citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally. “I’m open to it, I will tell you that,” he said.

“There already is a path to citizenship in this country and I would suggest it shouldn’t be changed,” Perry said, breaking with Kasich.

TIME 2016 Election

The Starting Gun: Your Guide to the 2016 GOP Primary Field

Too soon? The candidates have been preparing campaigns for months

Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus has been working for years to bring order to the 2016 nominating process. He’s increased penalties for states that try to move up their primaries and caucuses, threatened to punish candidates who participate in debates not sanctioned by the party, and moved the convention to mid-summer, allowing for a longer general election season.

But Priebus has no control over who decides to run. And as the starting gun sounds on 2016, all signs point to another unwieldy pack of candidates competing, in many cases, for the same segments of their party.

Here is a look at the top contenders openly considering a run.

Jeb Bush: The Other Son

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

At a recent event in Washington, former President George W. Bush made a pitch for his brother’s candidacy before a group of skeptical GOP donors. “What’s the difference if it’s Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-Clinton or Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama-Bush?” he said. That’s the question many Republicans are asking as they look to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to enter the race. His family is rallying around. His donor ties remain deep. The question is whether he has a path to the nomination. Out of office for more than a decade, the avowed immigration and education reformer now finds himself out of step with his party’s most conservative voters. But he has a case to make that he was born to take on Hillary Clinton.

Scott Walker: The Main Street Fighter

Scott Walker
Jeffrey Phelps—APWisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker speaks in Milwaukee on May 3, 2014.

No one got louder cheers at the 2012 Republican convention than Wisconsin Gov. Walker, the man who had taken on what he likes to call the “big government union bosses” in his state and won. Collective bargaining rights were curtailed for state teachers and other workers, and Walker survived a union-backed effort to recall him. This year’s reelection tight at times, but he pulled off a victory. Now he can focus on the message he has been trying to hone as a candidate on the national level. He will present himself as a common-sense Republican from Main Street—far from the dysfunction of Washington.

Rand Paul: The Reinventor

Georgia Senate Candidate David Perdue Campaigns With Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Jessica McGowan—Getty ImagesSen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to an audience of supporters of Georgia Senate candidate David Perdue during a campaign stop in McDonough, Ga. on Oct. 24, 2014.

No modern Republican nomination fight would be complete without a Paul on the stage, but the next generation of the political dynasty doesn’t look or talk like the last. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has been touring the country with his new vision for growing the party with “libertarianish” ideas that appeal beyond the current GOP base. “The Republican Party brand sucks,” he said on a recent visit to Detroit, a line that is certain to reemerge again. His father, Ron Paul, ran as a principled prophet, uninterested in doing the difficult work of building a winning coalition. The same cannot be said for the son.

Mike Pence: The Stalwart

Mike Pence
Michael Conroy—AP9, 2014, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence answers questions in Indianapolis on Sept. 9, 2014.

A Midwestern governor with years in House leadership under his belt, Pence has standing with social conservatives, fiscal credibility and deep ties to the party’s money men, especially the Koch fundraising network. He’s also got a feel for the national mood—note his quick and early decision to pull Indiana out of the Common Core state standards—and a slashing style on the stump honed by stints in talk radio. Pence would have to overcome questions about his decision to expand Medicaid in Indiana, but count him as a sleeper threat.

Rick Santorum: The Believer

Rick Santorum
Charlie Neibergall—APFormer Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum speaks during The Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa on Aug. 9, 2014.

With little money, no pollster and few staff, Santorum spent months crisscrossing Iowa in 2011, fueled by faith that his candidacy would catch on. And it did. The former Pennsylvania senator pulled an upset in the caucuses and went on to win 11 states, finishing runner-up in the nominating contest to Mitt Romney. Now Santorum, who’s been running a Christian movie studio, sounds ready to try again with a campaign that would marry his religious conservatism to an economic message geared toward blue-collar populists. Pundits have written him off again, but there is no sign his faith is wavering.

Ted Cruz: The Evangelist

Values Voters Summit
Mark Peterson/ReduxSen. Ted Cruz (R – Texas) at the 2014 Value Voters Summit in Washington on Sept. 26, 2014.

Blessed with a supple mind and silver tongue, the Texas freshman became the Senate’s foremost spokesman for Tea Party values after he won election in 2012. A push to defund Obamacare made Cruz a superstar in conservative circles, and he’s been touring the country for more than a year, laying the groundwork for his next campaign. He sells a back-to-basics, no-apology conservatism, with policies wrapped in the rhetoric of right and wrong. And he trashes his Republican colleagues almost as much as Democrats. The fiery rhetoric has burned some of the bridges he’ll need on the way to the nomination, but nobody is better at preaching to the frustrated party faithful. The question now is whether he can convert unbelievers as well.

Chris Christie: The Tough Talker

Governor Chris Christie is Reelected to a Second Term
Brooks Kraft—CorbisNew Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie celebrates his reelection in Asbury Park, N.J. on Nov. 5, 2013.

After a 2013 landslide reelection election in a blue state, the take-no-bull governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, was considered a frontrunner. He had taken on teacher’s unions and public pensions while balancing the budget and creating jobs. Then allegations surfaced that his staff closed down lanes on the George Washington Bridge for political retribution, and ratings agencies started delivering bad news about his state’s finances. Christie never stopped trudging forward, and he has yet to curb his abrasive stump persona, which could become a problem in the heckler-filled primary state. But as Chair of the Republican Governor’s Association, with lots of New York area donors in his pocket, he will certainly be a contender.

Rick Perry: The Do-Over

Rick Perry
Gerry Broome—APTexas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a conservative rally in Smithfield, N.C. on Oct. 24, 2014.

“Oops.” That one word killed Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign, a clumsy, last-minute shot at the nomination from the start. But he has persevered, making repeated trips to the early primary states as his governorship winds down. This time around, with a new pair of glasses, Perry is out to show that he’s smarter than you may think. Thus far he’s been winning rave reviews, despite a recent indictment on two felony charges for allegedly abusing his power in pressuring a local district attorney to resign. Perry’s a long shot in 2016, but he’s keen to rewrite his political obituary.

Marco Rubio: The Next Generation

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

Marco Rubio has made a career as the fresh face with an all-American story, the “son of exiles” who lived the dream of hard work and upward mobility. In 2010, that message won statewide in Florida, and Rubio has been carefully building the legislative record of a presidential candidate. He backed bipartisan immigration reform, before blaming its failure on Democrats, and has spent months laying out a hawkish vision of foreign policy far closer to John McCain than Rand Paul. Whether he makes a comeback depends on which end of the Republican Party wins its existential struggle on immigration reform. But Rubio remains popular with young and minority voters that other Republicans struggle to reach.

Mike Huckabee: The Pastor

Conservative Political Action Conference
Bill Clark—CQ Roll Call/Getty ImagesFormer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks during the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., March 7, 2014.

Eight years ago, Mike Huckabee was an Arkansas Governor with no money or political machine, betting bible-belt charisma and conservative populism could make him President. His 2008 campaign won Iowa, showed in New Hampshire and placed in South Carolina. It also earned him a TV show on Fox News, which Republican primary voters have been watching each Saturday nights for six years. With the new national profile and a heap of lessons learned, he has begun to bring his hardscrabble campaign crew back together, with an eye at trying again, this time with the money and organization he needs. He spent his youth as a radio and television broadcaster, and few are more comfortable before a camera. Watch for him in the debates.

Bobby Jindal: The Wonk

Bobby Jindal
Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call/Getty ImagesLouisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal delivers a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington on Oct. 6, 2014.

The fast-talking Louisiana Gov. got off to a rough start on the national stage in 2009, when he delivered a lumbering response to President Barack Obama’s first address to the nation. But Jindal is hoping to reintroduce himself to the nation as the party’s ideas man. Warning that the GOP needs to stop being the “stupid party,” Jindal has been most aggressive among 2016 contenders at putting policy proposals up front, and has proven to be an influencer with GOP candidates nationwide. In moves meant to please the base Jindal embraced the cast of Duck Dynasty and flip-flopped on Common Core education standards. Look for him to push his opponents to lay out specific policy plans—if he can get noticed.

John Kasich: The Pragmatist

John Kasich
Al Behrman—APOhio Gov. John Kasich speaks to supporters at Darke County GOP headquarters in Greenville, Ohio on Oct. 13, 2014.

Just two years ago, Ohio Gov. John Kasich was politically down for the count. His popularity plummeted as he tried to revamp the state’s collective bargaining rules and he earned the ire of conservatives for embracing Medicaid expansion from Obamacare. But on Tuesday, Kasich, a former chairman of the House Budget Committee, pulled off a massive victory in the swingiest of swing states that has the 2016 bells ringing. Kasich made an early unsuccessful bid for the White House in 2000, and is likely to let the field develop this time around before making any decisions. If he does run, expect him to highlight his state’s economic recovery and his education reform plans.

TIME ebola

Rick Perry Wants to Ban Air Travel From West Africa Amid Ebola Outbreak

Rick Perry
Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call,Inc. Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, delivers the keynote address at a Heritage Foundation event titled "The Border Crisis and New Politics of Immigration," August 21, 2014.

He joins a growing list of politicians calling for such a ban

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday called on the federal government to impose a ban on air travel from the West African countries hardest hit by Ebola, joining a growing list of politicians supporting such a travel restriction.

Perry reasoned a ban is the right move given that the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Thomas Eric Duncan, traveled from Ebola-ridden Liberia to eventually reach Texas, the Associated Press reports. The governor’s call for travel restrictions is a reversal of his stance from just 10 days ago when he said an enhanced medical screening process would be more effective at keeping Ebola out of the country.

“The impact from banning flights from these areas is not going to be an efficient way to deal with this,” Perry said last week, according to The Hill. Referring to a travel ban, Perry added, “There are some that would make the argument that it would [hamper the fight against Ebola].”

Several prominent Republican politicians in particular, including Mitt Romney, have called for flight restrictions, but many health officials say that such a ban would only hurt efforts to contain the disease.

[AP]

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