2016 contenders to hit the road

Today in the Morning Line:

  • 2016 contenders making noise
  • Democrats push equal pay
  • Turning Koch into Bain
  • Jobless benefits, Ryan budget to get votes

2016 is all around: The 2014 midterm elections may not have quite kicked into full gear just yet, but there’s a lot of 2016 activity taking place. Just look at what happened this weekend and is going on this week. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., made news over the weekend speaking at a reunion of alums of his father’s White House, Mike Huckabee’s heading to Iowa Tuesday; Paul Ryan will be there Friday; Huckabee, Rand Paul, and others will be in New Hampshire Saturday. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is out on the West Coast making speeches Tuesday in San Francisco and Portland. (She’s also speaking by satellite Friday at a health-care event in San Diego.)

The Morning LineIs the GOP ready for Jeb? Jeb Bush made some waves over the weekend saying Republicans needed a “bigger and broader” message. But he made news when he waded into the immigration debate, asserting that people who come to the United States illegally do so out of “love.” “Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony; it’s an act of love,” he said. “It’s a different kind of crime. There should be a price paid. It shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to provide for their families.” The crowd embraced his message, but that’s his base. Would a Republican primary crowd get behind his positions on immigration and Common Core (he’s for it), for example? It hasn’t on immigration the past two presidential elections and few issues seem to fire up the GOP base like Common Core now. And don’t miss that the the New York Times notes, “former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice seemed to generate more enthusiastic applause earlier in the weekend.” By the way, anyone remember, Bush was lampooned after saying at a conservative event that “Immigrants are more fertile”?) But there’s one reason Bush has seen renewed momentum — Chris Christie. They would be competing for the same nominating wing in the two-track GOP primary. And speaking of Christie, the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza profiles Christie post-bridge scandal. He begins with a scene April 1 at a roast for former Gov. Brendan Byrne, where Christie took some of the heat. Said one New Jersey comedian, “It really is an honor to be standing next to what could be the next President of the—.” But, as part of the schtick, he shuffled his papers, and added, “I’m sorry, these are the wrong notes. I’m doing a roast next week with Jeb Bush.”

Democrats to tout equal pay: Following through on the pen part of his “pen and phone” approach, President Obama plans to take a pair of executive actions this week to promote equal pay for women. The Associated Press’ Jim Kuhnhenn reports the president “will sign an executive order Tuesday barring federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their pay with each other.” That mirrors language in a bill sponsored by Senate Democrats aimed at closing the pay gap between men and women. Democrats plan to push for a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act on Tuesday, but the measure faces an uphill climb. Mr. Obama will also issue a memorandum requiring government contractors provide compensation data based on sex and race. The president will be joined Tuesday by Lilly Ledbetter, whose name appears on the equal pay law signed by Mr. Obama shortly after taking office in 2009. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also intends to highlight the paycheck fairness issue Tuesday with a social media effort targeting Republican lawmakers. The steps are all tied to “Equal Pay Day,” which Christi Parsons of the Los Angeles Times explains is “the day on the year’s calendar that marks the approximate extra time the average American woman would need to earn as much as the average man did in the prior year.” For Democrats, the equal pay push is part of the party’s strategy to engage women voters in the hopes they will turn out in November’s midterm elections.

2014 watch – Turning Koch into Bain: After months of being on the defensive about “Obamacare,” vulnerable Democrats are crafting a new line of attack. Forget Dan Sullivan, Tom Cotton, and Thomas Tillis; no, this fight is still being waged with Americans for Prosperity and more specifically the Kochs themselves. Instead of the knee-jerk response that the Koch brothers-backed health-care ads are false, Democrats in Alaska, Arkansas, and North Carolina are hitting their business interests directly in a similar way that the Obama campaign went after Mitt Romney and Bain Capital. An oil refinery in Alaska, a chemical plant in North Carolina, a lumber operation in Arkansas; Democrats are making examples of job cuts and environmental risks from those Koch subsidiaries to tarnish the credibility of their attackers and tie them to their GOP opponents.

This week on Capitol Hill: The Senate is expected to approve legislation Monday to extend long-term unemployment insurance benefits to about 3 million people, but the path forward in the Republican-controlled House remains murky. The New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman notes that seven House GOP lawmakers plan to send House Speaker John Boehner a letter urging him to take up the Senate measure or one like it. Others want to see key GOP priorities (such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline) attached, while some are opposed to any extension. Boehner has said repeatedly he is not interested in taking up the Senate version. And, speaking of items that stand zero chance of passing the opposite chamber, the House is scheduled to vote at some point this week on House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s 2015 fiscal blueprint.

Democrats’ down-ballot risk: Conservative outside groups, meanwhile, continue to make a strong push into state-legislative efforts. The New Yorker chronicles how they have figured out where even small amounts of money can go a long way at the state level. Environmental and industrial deregulation are now the norm in West Virginia, where Americans for Prosperity recently and quietly formed a state chapter. Democrats don’t have anything like it. California billionaire Tom Steyer is spending big to elect gubernatorial and congressional candidates committed to fighting climate change, but liberal donors of his stature aren’t drilling down into the states and trying to influence legislative races (that we’ve seen) the way conservatives have for a decade. For as much as Obama’s organization has blown out national politics, Republicans have a big advantage at the more granular state level right now — and unless Democrats do something about it in the next five years, they could be out of power in the House for another decade as the next wave of redistricting begins. Of course, Democrats feel they have an advantage at the governors’ level this year.


  • Dan Balz notes that the election will come down to the health care law. The coming debate will challenge Republicans most, he writes, but opposition to the law remains a much stronger motivator for voters.
  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s deputy communications manager Colin Reed will manage his old boss Scott Brown’s Senate campaign in New Hampshire. Reed has been subpoenaed as part of the investigation into lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak, meanwhile, testified before a federal grand jury Friday.
  • The longest-serving White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler will step down in mid-May.
  • Gay rights advocates in Mississippi protested a new “religious freedom” bill signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant lastweek over fears it could lead to discrimination. The bill’s original language was toned down after criticism from civil rights groups and the state’s chamber of commerce, and does not go as far as the controversial Arizona bill vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer last month would have. The new law goes into effect July 1.
  • Colorado’s not the typical Republican pick-up state, which means that Rep. Cory Gardner’s bid for Senate will say a lot about the GOP’s prospects with racially diverse and well educated voters in 2016, writes National Journal’s Alex Roarty.
  • If state wildlife agents hadn’t seized his pet raccoon, he probably wouldn’t be running for governor. But Mark “Coonrippy” Brown has qualified to run against Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in the August GOP primary to find out what happened to his coon.
  • Ted Kennedy Jr. reportedly will announce his candidacy for Connecticut state Senate Tuesday.
  • 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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Editor’s Note: This report incorrectly reported that Paul Ryan would be attending New Hampshire on Saturday. The article has been corrected.