Today in the Morning Line:
Well, that ended quickly: We apparently are in an age in politics when candidates drop out before they even get in. The only thing that surprises your Morning Line authors about the evaporation of Mitt Romney’s third bid for the presidency Friday was the speed with which it happened. It seemed like a slow leak was happening — from someone telling reporters Romney was taking a helicopter to get to a dinner he was keynoting for the Republican National Committee to the donors who went with Jeb Bush instead, and then the dagger defection of his former Iowa director, Dave Kochel, going to Bush as well. It seemed Romney could survive all that until he would be hit again with the cable loop of the 47 percent video that would have almost surely really ended things. In the end, third time wouldn’t be the charm for Romney because the very people he needed — donors, staff, and rank-and-file activists — were over him. “Mitt Romney found he had walked out on stage without his pants,” Romney’s former 2008 campaign ad maker Alex Castellanos acerbically told Maureen Dowd. Instead of enduring the slow leak of his trial balloon, Romney popped it instead.
Why was the appetite so small for another Romney, even among Republicans? Not everyone has short memories. Democrats were salivating at the chance to re-run their playbook against Romney, especially at a time when they are signaling 2016 will again be about “middle class economics” — or what conservatives call “class warfare.” Even President Obama made a thinly-veiled joke at Romney’s expense at the Democratic retreat before Romney decided against a run. Romney proved to be the perfect foil in 2012 for the Democratic message of Republicans not being caring. By the time the campaign was over — with charges of “vulture capitalism,” reinforced by the Romney tax plan that benefited the wealthy and that 47 percent video — Democrats had shredded the former Bain Capital CEO’s image. When Election Day rolled around, voters said Obama “cares more about people like me” by a whopping 81 to 18 percent margin, according to exit polls.
So who benefits from Romney dropping out? Bush is the obvious likely beneficiary of Romney dropping out. But he had enough of a donor network to compete with him head to head if necessary. Chris Christie of New Jersey probably didn’t have enough to compete with both Romney AND Bush, so Christie has to be feeling a bit better about his prospects (though some of us are doubtful he can appeal to Republicans outside the Northeast). Marco Rubio is also helped, but he somehow has to edge out Bush, someone from the same state with similar statewide donors.
Walker, Wisconsin Ranger — ‘$10,000 bet’?: But with one less big name in the race, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker may be one of the biggest beneficiaries. Of any other potential candidate, he has the mo’ right now. Don’t miss that after his well-received speech at Steve King’s “Freedom Summit,” Walker moved into the top spot in the gold-standard Selzer poll paid for by Bloomberg and the Des Moines Register. He got 15 percent, followed by Rand Paul at 14 percent, Romney 13 percent, Mike Huckabee 10 percent, Ben Carson 9 percent, and Jeb Bush at just 8 percent.
And that highlights just how much Bush is no lock. Remember, the last Republican to win both Iowa and New Hampshire was Jeb’s brother George W. But, because of his stances on Common Core and immigration, Jeb clearly does not have the conservative base wrapped up like his brother did. Don’t miss this quote from Walker on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday: “After three elections for governor in four years in a state that hasn’t gone Republican since 1984 for president, I wouldn’t bet against me on anything.”
Who does Romney endorse? Romney still wants to be relevant within the party, and he still has a very strong network of donors any candidate could benefit from. It’s pretty obvious, based on Romney’s statement Friday, he won’t be endorsing Bush (at least until/if he becomes the likely nominee). Romney called on Republicans to nominate someone of the “next generation of Republican leaders” and “one who is just getting started.” That’s not Bush. Romney wanted Bush’s endorsement in the 2012 primary to help him seal the deal in Florida. He never got it. Bush instead later criticized Romney on immigration and said he should “change the tone.”
By the way, remember that “awkward” meeting between Romney and Bush in Utah a couple weeks ago that supposedly had “no strategic implications?” Well, that wasn’t exactly the case. The Washington Post’s Dan Balz and Philip Rucker reported, “Romney arrived armed with a mountain of polling data that his team had collected, which seemed to shape his view of the race. Romney shared the information as a way of explaining his motivation to think about running again.” Romney felt he could win from the polling that showed him ahead of Bush and others. He wanted to do it, but the party had moved on.
Today’s news… Obama’s budget: President Obama’s budget is being sent to Congress Monday — full of the president’s “middle class economics” priorities he laid out in the State of the Union. Budgets are not much more than political documents, and this one is no different. It’s going nowhere in the Republican-led House and Senate, but it will add numbers to those priorities. Showing what a priority fully funding the Department of Homeland Security is, Obama will deliver a speech at 11:55 am EST on the budget from DHS. The AP and USA Today break down some of what’s in it:
Daily Presidential Trivia:
On this day in 1998, President Clinton introduced the first balanced budget in decades. Who was the last president before Clinton to present a balanced budget? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to CTBobL (@CTBobL) for guessing Thursday’s trivia: What countries were included in Bush’s “axis of evil”? The answer: Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie traveled to London this weekend and will attend official meetings Monday. Christie is just one among a group of GOP presidential hopefuls trying to boost their foreign affairs resumes.
A tax exempt organization called Choose New Jersey has been paying for Christie’s overseas travel. The organization, created at Christie’s behest in 2010, is intended to attract business to the state, but many of its key donors are large firms, unions and contractors that lobby the governor in Trenton. Meanwhile, Arsenal fans in London were mostly unfamiliar with the Jersey guy in their midst.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has not yet been able to turn his raw political potential into concrete policy success during his four years in the U.S. Senate. But now he plans to run as the policy reformer in the 2016 election.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul railed against former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for admitting to smoking marijuana in prep school, but being opposed to the legalization of the substance. “I think that’s the real hypocrisy, is that people on our side, which include a lot of people who made mistakes growing up, admit their mistakes but now still want to put people in jail for that,” Paul said.
The Washington Post’s David Farenthold looks at “one of Paul’s biggest flops” — the creation and management of his own Board of Ophthalmology.
During an interview with CNN Sunday, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee compared homosexuality to drinking and cursing. Huckabee also said asking Christians to accept same-sex marriage was “like asking someone who’s Jewish to start serving bacon-wrapped shrimp in their deli.”
What would happen if Hillary Clinton decided to stay out of the race for president in 2016? Republicans chances of reclaiming the White House would increase exponentially.
A new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll shows that Republicans in Iowa believe terrorism should be the top concern of the next president, while Hawkeye Democrats feel jobs and unemployment should be the main focus.
Rep. Paul Ryan told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that, as chair of the Presidential Trust, he’ll remain neutral during the GOP primary. But he said he would have endorsed Mitt Romney.
Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee Paul Ryan, in an interview about Mr. Obama’s budget, admitted inequality is a problem, saying, “The wealthy are doing really well. They’re practicing trickle-down economics now.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is keeping his cards close when it comes to key policy issues. But he’s established routine meetings with both leaders and newcomers in the Senate, sends a nightly email to all GOP senators and even keeps tabs on Democrats through information that Whip John Cornyn gleans from his early morning workouts with Democrat Chuck Schumer.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley objects to Mr. Obama’s decision to allow drilling along the East Coast in a New York Times op-ed.
Defense Secretary nominee Ash Carter is determined to have a better confirmation than Chuck Hagel did, and he’s been spending a lot of time on the Hill meeting with Armed Services Committee members ahead of Wednesday’s hearing.
The Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe reports that Mr. Obama’s decision making on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was influenced by moments alone with wounded soldiers and talking privately to troops abroad, in addition to meetings with his top military advisers.
Punxsutawney Phil saw his damn shadow. http://t.co/iyzJBLvEdN
— Reid Wilson (@PostReid) February 2, 2015
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlakeWP) February 2, 2015
I'm just a Member of Congress, but shouldn't they have just ran it in?
— Mark Takano (@RepMarkTakano) February 2, 2015
Chris Christie is touring a lab outside of Cambridge, learning about molecular biology pic.twitter.com/fD2PHlcNMR
— Jill Colvin (@colvinj) February 2, 2015
I asked Gov. Christie if Americans should vaccinate their kids. He says his kids are — but says approach should be "balanced"
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) February 2, 2015
Dems are everywhere at the Super Bowl pic.twitter.com/v4vUb581h5
— Jim Messina (@Messina2012) February 1, 2015
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