TIME 2014 Election

10 People Who Will Face Pitchforks if Their Party Loses the Senate

Left: Reince Priebus; Right: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz
Left: Reince Priebus; Right: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Susan Walsh—AP; Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

The blame game is already in full swing, here’s a list of folks from both parties who’ll likely bear the brunt of the finger pointing should disaster strike

One side is going to lose, the Democrats or the Republicans. Such is the nature of most American elections. And that means someone will get blamed.

With polls showing a down-to-the-wire outcome in Senate races across the country, the blame game has already begun. The stakes, and tempers, will likely be higher if Republicans lose than Democrats, given the environmental headwinds that Democrats face. But neither side is immune from the fallout.

Below is a look at the top five folks who should, and probably already are, looking over their shoulders should their party lose the Senate this year.

If Republicans lose:

  1. Reince Priebus: The Republican National Committee chairman took over the party after the 2010 tea party wave and presided over its 2012 and 2014 strategy, promising voters and party leaders that the GOP would be resurgent. If the party falters next month, Priebus, whose two-year second term expires early next year, may find himself in the hot seat. The party’s much-publicized post-2012 autopsy remains a work in progress, and donors, who have helped the committee raise record amounts in recent years, may begin asking what he has to show for it. Working in Priebus’ favor is his firm control over the 168-member governing body of the party, but some are already threatening to abandon him if the GOP can’t take the Senate.
  2. Sen. Mitch McConnell: Even if the Senate minority leader survives the toughest challenge of his political career in what will surely by the most expensive Senate race in history, he’ll face a backlash from his conference if they lose the Senate. Not only will they say he sucked money from other races to fund an estimated $100 million battle to keep his seat, but he will now have overseen three consecutive losing cycles where odds and momentum should’ve handed Republicans control of the Senate. Sen. Ted Cruz has already refused to say if he’d vote for McConnell for leader—in the majority or the minority. Other candidates have also been muted or mum in their support for their potential leader. A loss of the Senate could mean a loss of McConnell’s leadership role if his party is outraged enough.
  3. Sen. Jerry Moran: The Kansas senator waged a stiff campaign to become the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee this cycle, promising to lead his party to the majority. In doing so, he edged out Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who was initially ambivalent about taking the post and became the vice chair of the group. But Moran’s leadership has been the subject of intense scrutiny among Republicans, many who would have preferred Portman to be in the top slot. The NRSC’s campaign against the insurgent Republican candidates has further put a target on his back should the party fail to win.
  4. Senate Conservatives Fund/ Sen. Ted Cruz: Boosting insurgent candidates against entrenched Senators forced Republicans to spend millions shoring up seats that would otherwise have been safe, waging primary battles instead of focusing on November. If Republicans lose, many moderate and business-types are sure to blame their party’s conservative elements. The Texas Senator was the face of that movement, and is hoping to capitalize on the scorn in order to boost a likely bid for the White House.
  5. Outside Money Groups: Republicans pioneered the use of Super PACs and shepherded in the rise of shadowy outside money groups in the 2010 and 2012 elections. But the groups’ outsized influence is waning, as Democrats have caught up on fundraising and have proven to deploy their resources more effectively. Republican donors were livid with former Bush political guru Karl Rove over the ineffective nature of his pro-Romney efforts in 2012. If Republicans fail to take the Senate, those calls will likely be louder and broader than ever before.

If Democrats Lose:

  1. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: The knives were already out of Wasserman Schultz’s back before early voting even began. Questions remain about how much President Obama supports the chair of the Democratic National Committee after his press secretary was asked if he has “complete confidence” in her last month and Josh Earnest responded that Obama had “strong confidence” in Wasserman Schultz. Strong does not equal complete. Though her second term does not expire until 2016, there are ways to force her out and certainly having the President turn against her publically would be hard to overcome.
  2. President Barack Obama: With approval ratings at 40%, the lowest they’ve been during his presidency, Obama was a pariah on the campaign trail. The most accomplished campaigner of the last six years, he was invited to just Illinois, Connecticut and Maine in 2014 to stump for candidates. With such stubby coattails, a loss of the Senate would be a tough referendum on the President’s legacy, especially since his astronomical popularity is what helped Democrats to historic majorities in the House and Senate in 2008. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. And oh, how angry Democrats will be with the President for dragging him down with him should they lose the Senate.
  3. Organizing for Action: The President’s historic “movement,” Organizing for Action, was supposed to be the magic bullet that could whip believers into a frenzy of electoral activity. If Democrats lose, critics will surely blame the overhyped OFA machine, which drew money early on from other needy areas and then never delivered. So much for hope and change.
  4. Guy Cecil: By all accounts the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ran the best possible campaign against the prevailing headwinds. The wizard had turned out a previous miracles, salvaging the Senate from odds and expectations in 2012. Losing it in 2014 won’t kill his career. But it may cost him his rumored next job: campaign manager of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid, especially if Democrats start blaming the lady herself for not helping enough.
  5. Hillary Clinton: The former Secretary of State is likely to declare a repeat bid for the White House in the coming months, but for years multiple groups have raised millions plotting her re-ascendance. Some Democrats have already argued that this money could have been better spent on 2014 Senate races, a chorus that may grow if the Democrats lose by a hair. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have been in demand among vulnerable Democrats all year, but she only hit the road after completing much of her book and paid-speaking tour. As Clinton gears up to run for president the last thing she may want to hear is ‘could you have done more.’
TIME 2016 Election

Rand Paul Visits Ferguson Ahead of Fresh Protests

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) while speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, Sept. 26, 2014. Doug Mills—The New York Times/Redux

Paul is the first potential 2016 contender to visit the city

Sen. Rand Paul met with civil rights leaders Friday in Ferguson, Missouri, the city torn apart by racial unrest following the August shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer. During his visit, the Republican Senator, who is seen as a likely presidential candidate, stated his concerns about long prison sentences for nonviolent crimes, the loss of voting rights for felons and military programs to give unused equipment to local police departments.

“I wanted to find out what we could do to make the situation better,” Paul said of his visit Friday.

“Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them,” Paul wrote in an opinion piece for TIME this summer.

The meeting came just days after another young black man was shot by police in nearby St. Louis, after allegedly firing a stolen handgun at an officer. And it came on the eve of a weekend series of protests organized to keep national attention on the state’s issues.

Paul joined the leaders in the conference room of a real estate office across the street from an art installation Friday, where residents had tied ribbons to a metal fence with messages commemorating the protests that began in August after the shooting of 18-year-old African-American student Michael Brown. Paul arrived in town Thursday for a round table discussion at the Show Me Institute, a conservative think tank in St. Louis. That event, like the discussion with local and civil rights leaders in Ferguson, was not open to the press.

Friday’s discussion was free-ranging, less a speech than a question and answer session. People at the event said that they remained concerned about the GOP’s opposition to federal funding for job training and education and other social programs. Paul said that he would support increases in federal spending for job training in urban communities that could be paid for with cuts to the costs of incarceration. “I think there would be money for job training if you greatly lessened criminal sentencing,” he said.

“They are also frustrated that things aren’t happening fast enough,” Paul said after the meeting, which was organized by the NAACP.

Paul’s trip to Ferguson—the first by a 2016 candidate—is a reminder of how his position on criminal justice reform can make a Republican more palatable to the African-American community. As riots turned violent in Ferguson, Paul distinguished himself among Republicans by striking a more forceful tone in addressing the root of the protesters’ anger and putting forth potential solutions.

“He is stumping like he should be trying to stump if he wants to run for President,” said John Gaskin II, who participated in Friday’s event.

The fatal police shooting of Brown on August 9 revealed a deeper crisis of trust between the authorities and Ferguson community and sparked a discussion about race relations in America. While the armored trucks are gone and the air free from tear gas, this weekend demonstrators are expected to continue calling for the arrest of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who has remained free but silent since killing Brown.

TIME Republican Party

GOP Candidates May Benefit From Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Decision

Supreme Court Gay Marriage
Demonstrators in support of same sex marriage stand during the second annual "March for Marriage" in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington on June 19, 2014. Karen Bleier—AFP/Getty Images

Some strategists hope the legal decision helps push the issue of gay marriage off the political agenda

The Supreme Court’s decision Monday clearing the way for same-sex marriages in five states may benefit an unlikely group: Republican lawmakers who can’t wait to stop talking about gay marriage, an issue that is increasingly becoming a drag for the party.

Advisors to multiple likely 2016 candidates told TIME after the news broke that they are hopeful that swift action by the Supreme Court will provide them cover. “We don’t have to agree with the decision, but as long as we’re not against it we should be okay,” said one aide to a 2016 contender who declined to be named to speak candidly on the sensitive topic. “The base, meanwhile, will focus its anger on the Court, and not on us.”

The initial comments of politicians also hinted at a desire to turn the page. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 contender locked in a tough re-election fight this fall, told the Associated Press that the fight to prevent same-sex marriage would end. “It’s over in Wisconsin,” he said.

“The federal courts have ruled that this decision by this court of appeals decision is the law of the land and we will be upholding it,” Walker added, echoing the statement of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who called the issue “settled” in his state over the summer, despite his personal opposition to such unions. Christie declined to address the decision when asked about it Monday.

At a forum in Washington, D.C., Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is also considering a run for the White House, said the issue was moving out of the political sphere. “The law is certainly in the Court’s court,” Jindal said. Neither man said the court ruling had dented their own opposition to same sex marriage, but their statements indicated they hope to set the issue aside as they eye bids for the White House.

Wary of this possibility, evangelical leaders vowed election year fights. “For candidates running in 2014 and those who run for president in 2016, there will be no avoiding this issue,” said the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Ralph Reed in a statement after the Supreme Court ruling. Yet many in the party are preparing to do just that.

“The GOP is a culturally conservative party and should remain so,” said Alex Castellanos, one of the dozens of GOP political operatives to sign on to an amicus curiae brief against the Defense of Marriage Act last year. “Increasingly, there is less room in the GOP for ‘big-government’ social conservatives, i.e., social conservatives who believe in using the power of the state to tell people whom they can love or marry. Instead, there is growing agreement, in an ever younger and increasingly libertarian Republican party, that the role of the state in prohibiting relationships should be minimized.”

In the decision Monday, the high court declined to hear challenges to appellate court rulings that five state same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, effectively approving the rulings and erecting a legal barrier to states seeking to prevent the practice from taking hold. The decision is the latest step in a whirlwind legal push in support of same-sex marriages that has the backing of the majority of the national electorate, but has polarized the GOP.

Fifty-five percent of all Americans believe that same-sex marriage should be legal, including 30% of self-identified Republicans and 31% of self-identified conservatives. But the issue is far more pronounced among younger voters, for whom it is more likely to be a threshold issue: 78% support same-sex marriage according to a Gallup poll conducted earlier this year.

Over the summer the Republican National Committee took control of the primary debate process with the expressed goal of reducing their focus on social issues, in hopes of keeping the eventual nominee from emerging from the primary process as unelectable to the national public.

Evangelical conservative leaders are likely to call upon Republican candidates to support a federal “marriage amendment” to prohibit same-sex coupling. Such an effort has the backing of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who is preparing to mount another campaign for the White House, and has been backed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. An aide to Jindal said Monday he remains supportive of efforts to pass a federal marriage amendment. But few, if any, of its proponents, believe it can be passed in practice, given Constitutional requirement that two-thirds of the House and Senate and three-fourths of the states’ legislatures.

Sen. Ted Cruz announced Monday he would introduce a Constitutional amendment preventing the Supreme Court from striking down marriage laws. “The Supreme Court’s decision to let rulings by lower court judges stand that redefine marriage is both tragic and indefensible,” he said in a statement, declaring the Court’s decision not to hear arguments on the gay marriage cases “judicial activism at its worst.”

Keith Appell, a Republican political consultant working with many social conservative groups, predicted that Republicans will turn the debate to focus on the judicial appointments likely to open up under the next president. “Filling those vacancies will shape the court for the next generation and it’ll be a huge issue in both the primaries and the general election,” he said. “Do we want activist judges who literally make the law up from the bench and impose it on the people, as is happening with these appellate rulings? Or do we want judges that fairly apply the law and leave the lawmaking to Congress, state and local legislatures?”

TIME 2016 Election

A Study in Contrasts for Rand Paul and Ted Cruz

U.S. Senator Cruz delivers remarks at Values Voter Summit in Washington
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) delivers his remarks at the morning plenary session of the Values Voter Summit in Washington on Sept. 26, 2014. Gary Cameron—Reuters

Two potential presidential candidates come to a conservative Christian cattle call

Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, two Tea Party senators in the hunt for the White House, find themselves in a nearly identical position these days. Both sons of celebrated conservative leaders, they regularly speak at the same events, criticize the same Democratic President with a similar message of back-to-basics constitutionalism, and poll nationally at about 10% among Republicans in the way-too-early 2016 polls.

But on Friday, as conservative Christians gathered in Washington for the Values Voter Summit, their differences were far more apparent than their similarities. Paul stood behind the podium in blue jeans, quoting the Founding Fathers and modern authors off a teleprompter, ever the iconoclastic intellect. Cruz roamed the stage in a boxy suit, preaching a passage from Psalms again and again in a call for spiritual rebirth.

Both cast the political crisis now facing the country as a crises of the spirit, but from there they began to diverge. While they both boasted of anti-abortion credentials, only Cruz raised the issues of gay marriage and Iran, building his nearly hour-long address around Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” The night, he said, was the current rule of a Harry Reid in the Senate and Barack Obama in the White House, and dawn would come in two stages, in this year’s midterm elections and in 2016, with twin Democratic defeats.

“How do we turn this country around? We offer a choice not an echo,” Cruz said, offering himself as a sort of condensed Republican, without the fluff of the others. “We defend the values that are American values. We stand for life. We stand for marriage. We stand for Israel.”

Paul was introduced to the stage with a different sort of branding. “He is on the edge, he has an edge and it gives him and edge,” went the sales pitch, and he did his best to cast himself as a non-conformist over the course of about 17 minutes. At multiple points, he noted that both political parties had failed to adhere to the proper path, which he described as faith in God and close adherence to the Constitution. “What America needs is not just another politician or promises,” he said. “What America really needs is a revival.”

It was a neat recasting of the revolution metaphor that has accompanied his—and his father Ron Paul’s—rapid political rises over the last decade. Unlike Cruz, who limited his foreign policy criticism to the President and the lack of effort to make Christian persecution a priority in diplomatic relations, Paul called for a shift in the way the nation approaches intervention, arguing that even detestable secular dictatorships in the Middle Sast were preferable to the chaos following their toppling. “It’s time to put a stop to this madness,” Paul said, “And take a good heard look at what our foreign policy has done.”

Paul has generally been more supportive than Cruz of efforts to negotiate a resolution to the nuclear stand-off with Iran, and chose not to raise the issue specifically before the Christian, Zionist audience. Cruz, by contrast, joked of U.S. diplomats “swilling chardonnay in New York City” with their Iranian counterparts.

Cruz spoke at length about his pastor father, Rafael, his journey to the United States from Cuba and his Christian faith. Paul made no mention of his father, who won delegates for both the 2008 and 2012 Republican National conventions.

Judging from the noise of the applause, at the Omni Shoreham ballroom, Cruz’s presentation was received with somewhat more enthusiasm, though both were rewarded at the end with standing ovations. But the two men had come to the room with different missions. For a Cruz campaign, Christian conservative support will have to be core pillar of support. For Paul, the focus in on assuaging Christian conservative doubts as he focuses on building out new parts of the electorate from more libertarian leaning Americans.

“Where the spirit of the lord is there is liberty,” Paul said in conclusion, quoting from Corinthians 3:17. Then he said the opposite was also true. “Where there is liberty, there is always space for God.”

The message: The conservative Christian community, long an anchor of the Republican Party, has nothing to fear from the new edgy candidate in their midst.

TIME 2016 Election

Why Ted Cruz Was Booed Off Stage at a Christian Event

The Senator's remarks about Israel set off the confrontation

While the nation watched President Obama primetime address the threat of ISIS Wednesday night, something else was happening in Washington: Senator Ted Cruz was getting booed off the stage of a Christian event.

Cruz is often considered a rising darling of the American Christian right. He speaks at evangelical gatherings in the country, talks to groups of conservative pastors and headlines events with the Family Research Council. But Wednesday night, his Christian audience was largely Eastern and Arab. The brand of conservative, American evangelicalism that Cruz often champions—one that often aligns itself with the state of Israel’s interests—did not sit well with everyone in attendance.

Cruz was keynoting a gala for In Defense of Christians (IDC), an advocacy and awareness group that aims to bring the U.S.’s attention to the plight of ancient Christian communities in the Middle East, and to protect the rights of other religious minority groups in the region. This week, IDC is hosting a three-day Summit, a conference bringing together a range of Middle Eastern Christians—Orthodox, Catholic, Coptic, Syriac, Lebanese, Assyrian, to name a few—to foster a new sense of unity in the midst of a politically fraught season. Most of the panels at the summit are of a religious nature, but a handful of political leaders are slated gave remarks as well, including Senator Rob Portman (R-OH). Former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was Wednesday’s gala’s master of ceremonies, but Cruz was tapped to give a keynote.

Cruz initially received applause for his opening remarks that the group was united in defense of Christians, Jews, and “people of good faith who are standing together against those who would persecute and murder those who dare to disagree with their religious teachings.”

Things turned sour within minutes. “ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and their state sponsors like Syria and Iran, are all engaged in a vicious genocidal campaign to destroy religious minorities in the Middle East,” Cruz said. “Sometimes we are told not to lump these groups together, but we have to understand their so-called nuances and differences. . . . In 1948 Jews throughout the Middle East faced murder and extermination and fled to the nation of Israel. And today Christians have no better ally than the Jewish state.”

His audience at the Omni Shoreham Hotel began to boo.

At first, Cruz continued undeterred. “Let me say this: those who hate Israel hate America. And those who hate Jews hate Christians.”

The booing got louder.

Cruz pressed on, adding that his heart “weeps that the men and women here will not stand in solidarity with Jews and Christians alike who are persecuted by radicals who seek to murder them.”

IDC’s president Toufic Baaklini tried to calm the crowd, which appeared to have a divided reaction to Cruz’s words, but by that point Cruz had had enough. “I am saddened to see some here, not everyone, but some here are so consumed with hate,” he said (to which someone in the audience shouted, “We are not consumed with hate, no, you are consumed with hate”).“If you will not stand with Israel and Jews, then I will not stand with you,” Cruz said. “Thank you and God bless you.”

With that, Cruz walked off stage.

Later Cruz reacted to the event on his Facebook page. “Tonight in Washington should have been a night of unity as we came together for the inaugural event for a group that calls itself ‘In Defense of Christians,’” he wrote. “Instead, it unfortunately deteriorated into a shameful display of bigotry and hatred. . . . Anti-Semitism is a corrosive evil, and it reared its ugly head tonight.”

Baaklini attempted to smooth over the situation. “As Cardinal Rai so eloquently put it to the attendees of the In Defense of Christians’ inaugural Summit gala dinner: ‘At every wedding, there are a few problems,’” he said in a statement following the incident. “In this case, a few politically motivated opportunists chose to divide a room that for more than 48 hours sought unity in opposing the shared threat of genocide, faced not only by our Christian brothers and sisters, but our Jewish brothers and sisters and people of all other faiths and all people of good will.”

At its core, Cruz’s problem was one of context. First, he pinned his remarks to the conflict between Israel and Hamas when one of the group’s primary agenda points was actually the plight of Iraqi Christians. Second, Christians are far from a monolithic group, especially when it comes to views on policy on Israel and the Middle East. The American evangelicals Cruz typically addresses tend to be worlds apart historically, culturally, theologically, and politically from the Christian leaders in attendance.

Most American evangelicals are likely not even familiar with the Christian leaders gathered at this event, even though the headliners are the Rick Warrens, Cardinal Dolans, and even Pope Francises of their own Eastern Christendom communities, who also met with Obama at the White House on Thursday: Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Cardinal Raï, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East; Gregorios III Laham, Melkite Greek Catholic Patirarch of Antioch and All the East, Alexandria, and Jerusalem; Ignatius Youssef III Younan, Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East; Aram I Keshishian, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church; Metropolitan Joseph Al-Zehlawi, Archbishop of New York and All North America for the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America; Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria; Ibrahim Ibrahim, Bishop Emeritus of Chaldean Eparchy of Saint Thomas the Apostle.

Whether or not Cruz meant to rile up the crowd to rally his own base or whether it was all a giant mistake is hard to parse. Whatever the case, it caused quite a stir. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute and another speaker at IDC’s conference, calls Cruz’s performance “bizarre” yet “expected.” “Like most other blind ideologues on the far right, he cared not a bit for the reality and the sensitivities of Middle East Christians,” he says. “If policy makers want to help Christians, they will first listen to them, before they try to lecture them. Having an ‘I love Israel, and I don’t care about the rest of the Arab World’ mindset may work in US politics, but it’s why we are in the mess we are in across the region.”

Baaklini, the IDC president, says the incident only serves as a reminder that unity, especially among diverse Christian groups, is still needed. “Tonight’s events make clearer than ever, that In Defense of Christians is desperately needed in a world that remains divided to the point where even the most fundamental value of life and human dignity are cast aside,” he said. “We remain undaunted and focused on achieving our goals.”

TIME Congress

Cruz Floats Bill to Revoke Citizenship of Americans Who Fight for ISIS

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pauses as he addresses attendees at the 2014 Red State Gathering on Aug. 8, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas.v
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pauses as he addresses attendees at the 2014 Red State Gathering on Aug. 8, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Tony Gutierrez—AP

As westerners traveling to fight with the group raise alarm

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) will introduce legislation Monday designed to strip U.S. citizenship from Americans who join Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq.

The new legislation, titled the Expatriate Terrorists Act, would change the conditions for stripping U.S. citizenship to include becoming a member of, fighting for, or providing “material assistance” to a “designated foreign terrorist organization” that the citizen has reason to believe will terrorize the United States. The militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has captured broad swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, has publicly beheaded Western journalists and has also attracted some western fighters to its side.

“Americans who choose to go to Syria or Iraq to fight with vicious ISIS terrorists are party to a terrorist organization committing horrific acts of violence, including beheading innocent American journalists who they have captured,” Cruz said in a statement. “There can be no clearer renunciation of their citizenship in the United States, and we need to do everything we can to preempt any attempt on their part to re-enter our country and carry out further attacks on American civilians.”

President Barack Obama has intensified U.S. airstrikes against the group’s fighters in Iraq and indicated Sunday that he thinks he has the executive authority to increase American military efforts against the group in Syria.

Obama will meet with top congressional leaders on Tuesday to discuss his options to counter ISIS, and will outline his plans to the public on Wednesday.

TIME 2016 Election

The Starting Gun Has Sounded in Iowa on 2016 Presidential Race

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during The Family Leadership Summit on August 9, 2014, in Ames, Iowa.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during The Family Leadership Summit on August 9, 2014, in Ames, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall—AP

Seven big name Republicans have visited the state already this month

Don’t let anyone tell you the 2016 presidential campaign has yet to begin. Seven likely Republican candidates have visited Iowa in the last 11 days. “Part of my role as the state party chair is to make sure that there is a welcome mat out there for every single person that wants to come into this state,” said Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufman Sunday, as he introduced Perry at a fundraiser for a state senate candidate in Grand Mound.

The welcome mat already is in danger of getting worn down.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz appeared at influential GOP donor Bruce Rastetter’s annual party in rural Iowa, with Rubio, the only speaker, wowing the audience, according to attendees. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul then arrived, embarking on a 3-day, 724-mile tour across the state to stump for candidates like Iowa Rep. Steve King. And Saturday, Cruz returned, joining four more would-be candidates, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Gov. Perry, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, at the Iowa Family Leader Summit, an annual cattle-call for the state’s social conservative grassroots. Perry used the event to embark on a 500-mile, four day tour on behalf of local candidates, meeting with influential state politicos.

On stage, in fundraisers and at the state fair, the candidates are road-testing their messages, “I wondered long and hard which is it, is this the most ideologically extreme or the most incompetent [administration],” Jindal said Saturday, mixing jokes with a speech heavy on his efforts to bring about education reform in his state. “The best answer I could come up with was Secretary Clinton’s statement, ‘What difference does it make?'”

Cruz spoke at the Des Moines Register soapbox at the state fair Saturday, and blasted Obama’s economic record. “We are trapped in the great stagnation,” he said, comparing Obama to former President Jimmy Carter. At the Family Leader summit, he listed off conservative victories since he took office, including efforts to block gun control. Santorum, meanwhile, repeated his call for the GOP to focus less on business owners and more on the workers they employ. Perry is due to face the notoriously heckle-prone audience on Tuesday.

Politicos in the state say Paul, Perry, Jindal, Santorum, and New Jersey Gov. Christie, who was in Iowa boosting Gov. Terry Branstad’s re-election just last month, have done the most to assist local politicians this fall—a key way to build support for the caucuses.

With the likely candidacy of Hillary Clinton, Democratic contenders have had much lower visibility, attending the occasional fundraiser for a candidate or the state party, but eschewing outright campaigning. Yet rumors abound that Clinton or her husband, former President Bill Clinton, will attend retiring-Sen. Tom Harkin’s final annual steak fry before his retirement next year. Their attendance at the Sept. 14 event, which was Obama’s first Iowa event in 2006, may be disrupted by the upcoming arrival of the Clinton’s first grandchild.

Cruz is already scheduled to be back in Iowa next month for the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual fall conference, while Perry, Christie, and Jindal all plan to be back in the state before the midterm election.

But that doesn’t mean they’re the biggest celebrities in town. A write-up of Rubio’s appearance at the Rastetter event in the Des Moines Register also noted the attendance of Chris Soules, the Iowa farmer who appeared on the latest season of ABC’s Bachelorette. The headline: “Rubio gains notice, but ‘Bachelorette’ hunk steals show.”

TIME Foreign Policy

Ted Cruz: Obama Must Seek Congressional Authorization For Iraq Strikes

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during The Family Leadership Summit on August 9, 2014, in Ames, Iowa.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during The Family Leadership Summit on August 9, 2014, in Ames, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall—AP

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Saturday that President Barack Obama must seek congressional authorization for U.S. strikes on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) if they continue.

Speaking to reporters following a speech to Iowa conservatives, Cruz declared the rise of the islamist militant group “the latest manifestation of the failures of the Obama-Clinton foreign policies.”

While Obama has said the strikes are “limited” to protect American forces and personnel, as well as vulnerable Iraqi refugees, Cruz said Obama had yet to articulate a “clear military objective” for the strikes, calling on the president to focus on U.S. national security interests instead of trying to solve a “sectarian civil war that has been waging for over 1,500-years” between Sunnis and Shiites, calling political reconciliation in Iraq something that doesn’t “makes any sense.”

Cruz said he does not believe the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq or the War Power Act provide Obama the authority to continue airstrikes against ISIS. “I believe initiating new military hostilities in a sustained basis in Iraq obligates the president to go back to Congress and to make the case and to seek congressional authorization,” Cruz said. “I hope that if he intends to continue this that he does that.”

Most Republicans in Congress, including conservatives like Cruz, have been largely supportive of the administration’s bombing and humanitarian campaign to protect U.S. forces and assist tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees surrounded on Mount Sinjar, but Republicans have called on Obama to outline a broader plan for the region. “”I am glad that President Obama is finally beginning to take the threat of ISIS seriously,” Cruz said.

Cruz’s criticism topped off a day-long barrage from conservatives at the Iowa Family Leader Summit in Ames, where several 2016 presidential contenders sought to appeal to the early-state grassroots with critiques of Obama’s handling of the situation in Iraq. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal applauded Obama for launching the campaign against ISIS, but said Obama must outline a broader vision to rout ISIS forces from Iraq and Syria. “I think he owes it to the American people, he owes it to our troops in uniform to define what the strategic vision is, what the strategic plan is,” Jindal said. “I believe it is unacceptable to allow ISIS to occupy territory in Iraq, in Syria, to continue to grow in strength.”

“These are terrorists who disagree with our fundamental values and our beliefs,” Jindal said. “This is a group that will, if it has the capabilities, bring that fight to us.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008, said Obama should not stop with bombing the group, but should finally arm Kurdish forces in northern Iraq and endorse the creation of an independent Kurdish state. ““If we had good sense, we would arm the Kurds as we said we would,” Huckabee said.

Obama has offered “A foreign policy that is absolutely—it’s not distinguishable from anything,” said Texas Gov. Rick Perry, adding, “we have to get Washington back.”

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum criticized Obama for removing all U.S. troops in Iraq in 2011, saying he should have used his “eloquence” to win over Iraqi leaders to support a status of forces agreement. “It’s stunning that they fall back on that it wasn’t their fault,” Santorum said. “That’s false.”

TIME 2016 Election

Why Rand Paul Is Attacking Hillary Clinton

Conservative Political Action Conference
Rand Paul at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland on March 7, 2014 Mark Peterson—Redux

Meet the GOP's top Hillary attack dog

Some politicians attack in prose. Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul can do it in poetry—with color, precision and language that’s hard to forget.

Over the last week, he didn’t just blame Hillary Clinton for the current state of Libya, he said she created a “Jihadist wonderland” there. He didn’t just knock her for not fortifying the Benghazi embassy, he said she treated the place “as if it were Paris.”

“While she was turning down request for security, she spent $650,000 on Facebook ads, trying to get more friends for the State Department,” he said. “They spent $700,000 on landscaping at the Brussels embassy. They spent $5 million on crystal glassware for the embassies around the world.”

On Friday, he asked the crowd for a moment of silence, to pray for Clinton’s bank account. “Somebody must have been praying for her, because she’s now worth $100, $200 million,” he followed, deadpan. “I tell you, it was really tough giving those speeches.” Then on Tuesday, at an event for a fellow ophthalmologist running for Congress in Iowa City, offered his crowning rhetorical turn. “Hillary’s war in Libya, Hillary’s war in Syria,” he said. “None of this was ever approved by Congress.”

Of course, all of these attacks were unfair, as political attacks tend to be. Hillary did not choose to bomb Libya, though she supported the policy, and she has broken from President Barack Obama on the strategy in Syria. There is no evidence the question of additional security for the Benghazi embassy ever rose to her desk at the State Department, her net worth includes her husband’s substantial earnings, and no one serious has ever suggested an actual connection between Belgian landscaping budgets and American security.

But what matters at the moment is not accuracy, but political calculation and execution. And Paul is quickly establishing himself as the Republican Party’s preeminent basher of Hillary Clinton, a title that could bring him rewards over the coming months as the 2016 presidential race heats up.

The strategy plays to two of Paul’s natural advantages in the current Republican field. He is not a sitting Governor, and therefore far more free to dip his tongue in the partisan mud. He is also running for President—albeit without an official campaign—on the idea that he can best distinguish himself from Clinton on key matters of foreign policy that are likely to resonate with independent and young voters. “There are definitely areas where Clinton has vulnerabilities that Rand is uniquely situated to attack,” said Tim Miller, who spends his days attacking Hillary Clinton for America Rising, an opposition research group.

Other would-be Clinton challengers have, of course, tried to get on the Hillary-bashing bandwagon, but with lesser results. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio made an early splash by calling Clinton a “20th century candidate,” but most of his attacks have sounded more like Senate speeches than a sonnet. “If she’s going to run on her record as Secretary of State, she’s also going to have to answer for its massive failures,” he says. Texas Sen. Tex Cruz, meanwhile, remains more likely to focus his fire on Obama, or their joint efforts, than Hillary alone. “Internationally, the Obama-Clinton foreign policy is a disaster,” he says.

Paul’s focus on Clinton clearly looks like a strategy to elevate himself early in the Republican field. Soon Republicans nationwide will pivot to focus on what may the central question of the Republican primary: Who can actually take on Hillary Clinton and win? As far back as February, Paul was already working on these credentials. He started by calling former President Bill Clinton a “sexual predator” in interviews. His point was that Democrats should be called to account for Clinton’s personal life if they wanted to claim to be champions of women.

Those jabs were widely condemned as political malpractice, a misfire aimed at a popular former President for failures that were long ago digested by the public. “I’m not sure he has a strategy,” Karl Rove jabbed on Fox News. “Frankly, Rand Paul spending a lot of time talking about the mistakes of Bill Clinton does not look like a big agenda for the future of the country.”

Paul never really let up. For weeks in February, he found himself in headlines pitted against the presumptive Democratic nominee.

In a crowded field, he was in pole position—where he remains to this day.

TIME Congress

As Time Runs Out, Congress Is Gridlocked on Immigration Reform

John Boehner
House Speaker John Boehner, center, walks to the House chamber on Capitol Hill on July 31, 2014 J. Scott Applewhite—AP

The House of Representatives has consequently had to delay its recess by a day

On Thursday, Republicans in the Senate stymied the bill that would have allotted $2.7 billion to resolving the issue of Central American minors illegally crossing the border into the U.S., which many politicians have deemed a national crisis.

The bill received 50 yeas and 44 nays, falling short of the 60 it needed in order to end up on President Barack Obama’s desk. In July, Obama had asked legislators for a comprehensive emergency plan dedicated to resolving the immigration issue.

Republicans, according to a CNN report, took issue with the legislation’s dearth of provisions concerning the deportation of illegal immigrants. A bloc of far-right Congressmen within the party also managed to successfully suspend the vote on a bill in the House of Representatives intended to facilitate the deportation process, deeming the legislation too moderate.

The squabbling has forced the House to delay its August recess by one day.

Not all was gridlocked in Congress, though. The Senate voted almost unanimously in favor of a bill that will provide the Department of Veterans Affairs with over $16 billion to address some issues concerning health care services for veterans, including reduction of delays and the hiring of more doctors.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser