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Is Clinton’s book tour a prelude to a presidential campaign?

BY Terence Burlij, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe  June 10, 2014 at 9:01 AM EST
Does Hillary Clinton's new book, due out Tuesday, give a hint at what a Clinton presidency would look like? Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton’s memoir, “Hard Choices” was released today. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Clinton kicks off carefully orchestrated book campaign
  • Talks with ABC, NPR, USA Today about 2016, Benghazi and more
  • Potential slip-up on speaking fees?
  • Primary day in South Carolina, Virginia

The prelude to a presidential bid?: It’s the million-dollar question that Hillary Clinton so far isn’t answering, but the carefully orchestrated publicity campaign for her new memoir has all the trappings of a presidential run. The former Secretary of State kicked things off Monday the way most prospective candidates do — sitting down for a wide-ranging interview with a network news anchor to discuss her record and vision for the future. In addition to the interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer, Clinton also spoke Tuesday with ABC’s Robin Roberts and Renee Montagne of NPR. Clinton is scheduled to sign copies of her book, “Hard Choices,” at a Barnes and Noble in New York at 11 a.m. Tuesday. The rest of her week includes events in Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington and Arlington, Virginia.

2016 talk: Asked if the White House was hers to lose in 2016, Clinton responded that if she decided to launch another presidential bid she would work as hard an “underdog or any newcomer,” adding, “I don’t want to take anything for granted if I decide to do it.” Clinton said she would not make a decision before the end of the year in order to focus on her book tour and “help in the midterm elections this fall.” In an interview with USA Today, Clinton said that a woman running in 2016 would likely face a friendlier political environment than she encountered during her 2008 campaign. “It feels different,” she told Susan Page. “It feels like our country, our society — we’ve gone through a learning process.” Clinton also delivered some advice to other women with high career aspirations — “toughen up.” She quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, saying women need to develop “skin as thick as the hide of a rhinoceros” because they will be “held to a different standard.”

Benghazi pushback: In the ABC interview, Clinton said she felt “crushed” by the loss of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, in the September 2012 terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. But she also criticized Republicans in Congress for playing politics with a national tragedy. “What I do not appreciate is politicizing this at the expense of four dead Americans. That’s not what we used to do in this country,” she said. “When 258 Americans were killed in Beirut in two separate attacks, people mourned. People were shocked. Decisions were made. Bring them out. You know, strengthen the embassy.” Asked whether the criticism of her role in the administration’s handling of the episode would be reason not to run for president, Clinton responded: “Actually, it’s more of a reason to run, because I do not believe our great country should be playing minor league ball. We ought to be in the majors.”

Slip-up on speaking fees?: Sawyer also pressed Clinton about the speaking fees she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, earned after leaving office. “We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt,” Clinton said, referring to the enormous legal fees accrued in their White House years. “We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea’s education. You know, it was not easy.” Clinton’s use of the word “houses” could be a problem down the road, when it comes to relating to the concerns of everyday voters. The comment is reminiscent of John McCain’s failure in 2008 to recall how many homes he owned, or the plans by Mitt Romney to build a car elevator in his California home. Clinton added: “Bill has worked really hard — and it’s been amazing to me — he’s worked very hard. First of all, we had to pay off all our debts, which was, you know, he had to make double the money because of obviously taxes and then pay off the debts and get us houses and take care of family members.” According to CNN, Bill Clinton has made more than $100 million in paid speeches since leaving the White House in 2001, and Hillary Clinton has earned $5 million on the speaking circuit since leaving the State Department last year.

Primary Day: Voters in Virginia, South Carolina, Maine, North Dakota and Nevada head to the polls Tuesday, in addition to a runoff election in Arkansas. The two major primary races in South Carolina and Virginia will test two firmly established Republicans in Congress. As we previewed in this space Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is likely to secure a win Tuesday in a field with six opponents. Graham can win outright the nomination outright if he secures at least 50 percent of the vote. If he falls short, he will head to a runoff election on June 24. Despite Graham’s unpopularity among some conservative voters in the Palmetto State, not one of his six challengers has garnered enough support to give the two-term senator a real scare. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is also the projected winner of his primary contest, but his race has proved to be much more of a challenge. Economics professor Dave Brat has secured grassroots support in Virginia’s 7th District, and has gained attention from a handful right wing media personalities. The real question at the polls Tuesday is how close will Brat come to unseating the six-term congressman. NewsHour’s Rachel Wellford travelled to Cantor’s district to preview the contest, which you can find here.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1854, The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, held its first graduation. Who is the only president to have graduated from the Naval Academy?
Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia, and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Jeff Bowersox ‏(@trouser34) for guessing Monday’s trivia: Who was the leader of Yugoslavia in 1998? The answer was: Slobodan Milosevic.

LINE ITEMS

  • At 4 p.m. EDT, President Obama will answer questions about college costs and the importance of education during a Tumblr session, hosted by the company’s CEO David Karp.

  • In spite of their slim-to-none chance of winning the majority, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has outraised the National Republican Congressional Committee $106.5 million to $85.8 million so far this year.

  • Colorado GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner will release his first television ad Tuesday that features his daughter and declares the need for “a new generation of Coloradans to lead the next generation.” The campaign for Democratic Sen. Mark Udall pushed back on Gardner’s call for Washington to “get along,” issuing a statement that charged: “You don’t rack up the 10th most partisan Republican voting record in the House and then shut down the government if you’re interested in working together to solve problems.”

  • In one of the closest congressional districts to Washington, filled with government employees, Don Beyer is looking to lock up the Democratic nomination Tuesday by running toward the president; his recent fundraiser had the “distinct feel of an Obama reunion tour,” Ashley Parker writes in the New York Times.

  • If Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, are any indication, Democrats in competitive races outside of coal country aren’t running from the E.P.A.’s new carbon emissions standards as they recognize the broad acceptance of the need to address climate change.

  • Meanwhile, Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes never mentioned coal at a fundraiser with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that she had promised to use as a forum to promote her state’s reliance on coal and opposition to the E.P.A rules.

  • Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., is depicted as a protector of jobs being threatened by China in a new campaign ad. A second ad highlights Hagan’s efforts to help an ex-Marine whose daughter died from leukemia.

  • Although FreedomWorks, a tea party-affiliated group, endorsed two challengers to GOP incumbents this cycle, their PAC is considering attacking Democrats like North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan on behalf of GOP candidate Thom Tillis, whom they opposed in the primary.

  • Chris McDaniel’s candidacy, Bob Costa writes in the Washington Post, “has come to represent everything establishment Republicans fear about the tea party” — not that McDaniel will cost the party a seat in Mississippi, but that his image and statements could cost them elsewhere.

  • The husband of Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst called Hillary Clinton “a hag” in a Facebook post last year.

  • A new survey by the Pew Research Center and USA Today finds that 43 percent of Americans see the exchange of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Guantanamo detainees as the “wrong thing” to do. A little more than a third of respondents said it was the “right thing” to do, while 23 percent did not offer an opinion.

  • Despite her lackluster fundraising, New Hampshire state Rep. Marilinda Garcia is getting some help from powerful Hispanic Republicans in her GOP primary challenge to take on Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster in the Granite State’s 2nd District.

  • According to an invoice released Monday, the law firm New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie hired to investigate lane closures on the George Washington Bridge has now billed taxpayers a total of $3.26 million.

  • Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a bill to increase the state’s minimum wage to $10.50 an hour gradually over the next four years.

  • Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., wants June 11 to be designated National Seersucker Day, and has organized a photo shoot for members on Wednesday. The Senate canceled its “Seersucker Thursday” tradition in 2012 after members decided the event was too frivolous given the level of disagreement over major issues.

  • You’ve got the ghost writers starting on your political memoir, but what to call it? Time’s political memoir title generator is here to help you out.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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