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How Walker and Jindal are drawing attention for 2016

Gwen Ifill talks to Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report about early efforts by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to make an impact on the 2016 presidential race, plus what HIllary Clinton is doing behind the scenes.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Call it front-runner-itis. That's what happens when early polls hurt more than they help.

    For now, the struggle for position is playing out among a handful of Republican governors and one politically larger-than-life Democrat.

    Joining us for our weekly look at how the 2016 race is shaping up are Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    Front-runner-itis, I coined that.

  • AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report:

    I like that. I like that. I do.

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, The Washington Post:

    You should trademark it.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Yes.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • GWEN IFILL:

    OK. Let's talk about the chess pieces on the board one by one.

    And the two governors I want to focus on this week are two who have been making some interesting moves. Scott Walker from Wisconsin.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Right.

    We had — the last time we talked, we talked about how he had surged into the lead, albeit a very narrow one, in Iowa. Now the latest polls out of New Hampshire show that he's gone from basically zero, nobody knew who he was in New Hampshire, to at least a top candidate in that state.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Because name recognition.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Absolutely. People now know who he is.

    And you know what he does? For a lot of Republicans, he fills a niche for them. They're looking for somebody who is new, who is different, who is shiny. And he is not offensive to any one of the different groups in the Republican coalition. There's not one group that says, well, he's not going to be good on our issues.

    So, right now, he's fulfilling the hopes of a lot of Republicans. They still want to check him out, but he's living up to in some ways this desire for Republicans for somebody different.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Let's talk about Bobby Jindal. He is another governor from a Southern state. What niche does he fill?

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

    Well, I think he's in the cultural warrior lane. And he initially started off as something of a wonk when he burst into the national scene.

    And what he's doing now is, he's talking about Islam in a sort of a cultural warrior — war on terrorism, he talks about it almost as a clash of civilizations. And in that way, he's getting a lot of traction among conservatives, on cable news, among folks in the blogosphere. So, that's what he is doing.

    He's in D.C. today talking about Common Core. He's going to be a thorn in the side — should he run, he's certainly going to be a thorn in the side for Jeb Bush. So that's his lane as sort of a Christian Southern moralist.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Let's back for a minute and explain this whole Common Core issue, because that seems to be also kind of a defining tipping point issue that allows candidates to say, this is who I am. Common Core, which is the common educational — these across-the-board educational standards, which has become very unpopular in conservative circles, Jeb Bush has endorsed.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Jeb Bush has endorsed. Bobby Jindal had endorsed.

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

    Had endorsed, exactly. Mike Huckabee had endorsed.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Mike Huckabee had endorsed.

    What Republicans like Jindal and Huckabee say is, well, we endorsed it before the Obama administration got their hands in it. Once they made it a federal issue by saying, if you live up to these Common Core standards, you are going to get federal money from the government, Race to the Top money, then it became a federal issue, we don't like that.

    But really, fundamentally, what it comes down to is, you're hearing a lot of grassroots~ anger too, a lot of it from parents, a lot of it from teachers. This is actually this funny issue that cuts both ways. There are a lot of liberals in the teaching profession. Teachers union don't like it. They think it's too prescriptive.

    And on the conservative side, they don't like it because it has a federal component to it. Jeb Bush, though, you're right, still standing by this. This is one of those issues that you will see a Bobby Jindal and others go after Jeb Bush to show he's not a true conservative.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    How we begun to see Jeb Bush try to adjust to this new world that he's anticipating joining, where he's campaigning in states where there are very strong social conservative bases like Iowa?

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

    Not yet.

    He's going to Iowa next month. We saw him of course in Detroit last week, where he was the reform conservative, not really touching on many of the issues that are so important to social conservatives, talking about immigration reform. Tomorrow, we will see him release more of his e-mails. He's going to release, I think, a chapter from his e-book. So, not yet.

    I don't think he knows what this new world is going to be in terms of social conservative. And I think his candidacy, should he run, will be a test of how strong…

    (LAUGHTER)

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

    Right — of how strong that strain of the party still is.

    Every year, they talk about consolidating behind one candidate. You saw that in different years with Rick Santorum, with Mike Huckabee. And these are candidates who ran as shoestring candidates, right? They were sort of living off the fat of the land. This time, I think you will have probably more serious candidates.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Speaking of "should he run," air quotes, "should she run", air quotes…

  • AMY WALTER:

    Oh, yes. Perfect.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, sits on the sidelines, the elephant in the room, to kind of flip the whole donkey-elephant thing.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Yes.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And she must be pretty happy watching this. What's happening within Clinton world that is either anticipating the rise of these governors or of these candidates or just sitting back and letting it play out?

  • AMY WALTER:

    A lot of it is sitting and letting it play out.

    A lot of it, though, is she is behind the scenes doing a lot of work, so hiring up a brand-new team. This is a team that is comprised now of different parts of the Democratic consultancy world, I guess you would say.

    Some of them are old-time Clinton handlers, but a lot of them come from Obama world. And it's really an attempt by the Clinton establishment to say, you know what, this is going to be a different kind of campaign. First of all, we're going to have better relationships apparently with the press. They were terrible during the 2008 campaign.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Yes. We will see.

  • AMY WALTER:

    We will see how that works.

    We are going to bring in different voices. It's not just going to be same voices we have listened to since 1992. And we are going to be a cohesive Democratic Party. The Republicans, there is going to be a lot of fighting.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And yet, and yet, in your newspaper today, this afternoon, they posted a story about disagreements breaking out among the fund-raisers, that amorphous world of fund-raisers, who had allied together to raise money for Hillary Clinton. That's already beginning to surface.

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

    Yes.

    And this shows how difficult it is going to be to bring all of these disparate groups together. And that's been one of the challenges, I think, so far, of the super PACs, because there are all of these groups out there who are looking to define the candidate.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Not coordinating with the candidate.

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

    Right, not coordinating, right, right, but having a message that supports the candidate. I think that's some early signs of dissension in the ranks.

    And also you have had in terms of the folks she's brought around her, you have had some people criticize her for not bringing around more diverse people. Where are the African-Americans, where are the Latinos in some of these top ranks?

    And the Clinton campaign has said, well, she's committed to it. As she fills out her campaign more, you will see some various different faces.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    We're expecting still not any kind of announcement before the spring from…

  • AMY WALTER:

    That is sure what it seems like. She also has to come up with a rationale for her candidacy. And that's a lot of the frustration from a lot of Democrats, which is, you can put the infrastructure in place, but where is the rationale for your candidacy?

    And, also, you can change the paint on the car, but are you changing the engine? In other words, is Hillary Clinton still going to be the same candidate?

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Amy Walter and Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you both very much.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Thank you.

  • NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

    Thank you.

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