2016 here we come!

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • The GOP 2016 field starts to move.
  • Romney shows he is serious.
  • Ryan, Pataki on whether they are in or out.
  • Mr. Santorum goes to Washington.

Romney is serious after all: Well, the jockeying for the White House in 2016 kicked into a second gear Monday. First, there was the Mitt Romney news (see below for other action). We wrote yesterday that we would be more convinced that Romney was serious about a third bid if we saw him starting to build a real campaign. Now the Washington Post reports he appears to be doing just that. Over the weekend Romney made several calls trying to lock down longtime key supporters in New Hampshire, where he owns a home and governed bordering Massachusetts. He also shared lunch at his home in Utah with conservative talk-radio host Laura Ingraham. And the former Massachusetts governor reached out to former rivals to gauge their leanings. Now, these are the makings of someone who is getting serious. The wildcard here is still Romney’s wife Ann. Joked one veteran of both campaigns, “She has always had more message discipline than him.” And she’s never wavered in her opposition to another campaign. That said, he ran twice when she was essentially against it.

So what would Romney entering mean? It would upend the race. He leads in national GOP polls, but more importantly, Romney would start as the favorite in New Hampshire. The winner of the New Hampshire primary on the Republican side has gone on to the be the party’s nominee in nine of the last 11 presidential elections. Notably, that includes all of the last three cycles. Romney would also threaten former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and move New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie down a notch for the establishment track, setting up the potential for a protracted nomination fight between a couple of establishment candidates, the most viable harder-line conservative and possibly Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Of course, Romney came within 34 caucus votes of winning Iowa. And if conservatives split like they did last time, a Romney Iowa and New Hampshire sweep is possible. We’re getting way ahead of things, but that’s the path Romney knows, is looking at, and thinking, “Why not me?”

Lots of other 2016 action, too: Paul Ryan said he’s not running; Former New York Gov. George Pataki is again “seriously considering” a bid, the Boston Globe’s James Pindell reports; Marco Rubio’s book is out; Mike Huckabee, likely in the race, is out with a book that is already landing in controversy for chapter titles like, “Bend Over and Take It Like a Prisoner!”; and Rick Santorum, the man who WON the Iowa caucuses over Romney on a shoestring budget by visiting all 99 counties in 2012, indicated to the Washington Post in December that he is running again.

Santorum meets with key circle of advisers: In fact, Santorum meets Tuesday in Washington for a meeting with former senior staffers from his Senate days, a veteran of his 2012 campaign told Morning Line. This will be the group of people Santorum will rely on for advice if he runs, as expected in 2016. It’s the kind of event a potential candidate holds as he’s laying the groundwork. And he’s heading to Iowa at the end of this month. The former Pennsylvania senator is talking at the Steve King Iowa Freedom Summit and then also will attend a March on Life in Sioux County, the conservative area bordering Nebraska and close to South Dakota that is a big base of support for him. True to form, he’ll stop by a coffee shop out there to meet and greet voters, too. That’s right, meeting voters in Iowa, in January, 22 months before Election Day 2016. Santorum’s timeline, per this official: Late spring/early summer. Last time, he declared in June in 2011 and is aiming for a similar rollout. Gentlemen (and women), start your engines!

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 2002, President George W. Bush fainted after choking on a pretzel. What was Bush doing at the time of the choking incident? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to David Schooler (@GandTMan) for guessing Monday’s trivia: What was the name given to the military operation to help liberate Kuwait? The answer: Operation Desert Storm.


  • President Obama will discuss the economy and national security with congressional leaders at The White House Tuesday morning. At 2:35 p.m. EST, Mr. Obama will visit the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia.

  • The Senate voted 63-32 to begin debate on the bill that would allow for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

  • The president signed a six-year renewal of terrorism risk insurance Monday for owners of skyscrapers, stadiums and malls. But the bill also exempts some ranchers and energy businesses from derivatives regulations that are part of Dodd-Frank.

  • After seven years of legal battles, the Justice Department said Monday that New York Times reporter James Risen will not be called to testify in the leak trial of a former CIA officer.

  • The House Rules Committee has introduced a bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security, but would also limit the president’s action on immigration. On the Senate side, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is sending around a memo on Capitol Hill, stating, “Congress must not allow the president a single dime” to carry out his executive order on immigration.

  • Mr. Obama’s nominee for the third-ranking spot at the Treasury Department, Antonio Weiss, withdrew his nomination because of resistance from liberal Democrats worried about his lack of regulatory experience. He’ll instead serve as a counselor to Secretary Jack Lew.

  • A federal judge in South Dakota struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage, but issued a stay pending an appeal, which the state’s attorney general they will soon do.

  • California Attorney General Kamala Harris will announce her plans to run for retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer’s seat on Tuesday. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is also considering a campaign for the seat. And while billionaire Tom Steyer can certainly afford to run, his lack of name recognition and political inexperience could set him behind.

  • During an interview with Kansas City’s public radio station, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., announced she will not run for Missouri governor in 2016, and added she will “very likely” seek re-election in 2018.

  • The Department of Justice is asking a federal court to drop a case in which Twitter claims the company’s First Amendment rights were violated.

  • Mitt Romney will attend the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting near San Diego this week. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will also be in attendance.

  • Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, after an event at the Heritage Foundation Monday: “There are some who believe that the path to Republican victory is to run to the mushy middle, is to blur distinctions. I think recent history has shown us that’s not a path to success. It doesn’t work. It’s a failed electoral strategy.”

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie canceled plans to attend the inaugurations of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Illinois Governor-elect Bruce Rauner, due to weather. But his campaign appears to be heating up, with reports that he’s hired a finance chair.

  • The New Jersey Republican party is picking up the tab for all those inauguration trips Christie is going on, just as they’ve paid for his Christmas cards to Iowa voters and legal expenses related to the George Washington Bridge lane closures.

  • Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is headed to New Hampshire Wednesday, and will end the week with visits to Phoenix and Las Vegas. And the Des Moines Register is preparing readers to get to know Paul.

  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will travel to Florida to attend a conservative Catholic conference.

  • Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad told Republican legislators during a breakfast Monday: “We Republicans are going to have a wide open and a very talented field of candidates. There’s a lesson for us, though. Instead of attacking each other we need to focus on restoring America.”

  • Maine Gov. Paul LePage told a Boston talk-radio host that he’s considering challenging Sen. Angus King in 2018, but his advisors wouldn’t confirm how serious that was. At another point in the interview, when asked if any of his 18 siblings who still live in Maine voted for him, LePage responded, “I doubt it.”

  • Fifty-one percent of Americans believe torture is at least sometimes justified, and 72 percent feel the government is doing very or fairly well in their efforts to combat terrorism, according a new Pew poll.

  • 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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