WASHINGTON (AP) — Five things to know about the state of play in the 2016 presidential contest, unless you’re at the beach, in which case all of this can wait. Really.
1. IT’S NOT OVER TILL IT’S OVER AND IT HASN’T EVEN BEGUN
Hillary Rodham Clinton has it locked up if she wants it, right? Nothing can stop her, could it? Let’s flash back to her previous bid for the Democratic nomination.
In a 2006 Gallup poll, she topped her nearest potential rival by a 2-to-1 margin. That was noncandidate Al Gore. When everyone in the poll was asked who should be president, this guy from Chicago named Obama scored 1 percent. Barack who?
A year later, everything still seemed to be coming up roses for Clinton. Pundits judged her the winner of debates. She had the broadest Democratic coalition. She was racking up the marquee endorsements.
Then came the voting in Iowa, a shocking third place finish in the state’s caucuses and an epic, bruising — losing — struggle.
This time, until she decides what she’s doing, the Democratic contest is sitting on cinder blocks like a race car without wheels.
For months Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Vice President Joe Biden have been doing the early networking necessary if they decide to run. But the only non-Clinton buzz these days surrounds Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who says she isn’t running.
Then again, that’s what Obama said, too.
2. THERE HE MOWS AGAIN
“Mowed grass, put down some sod by side of my driveway & unloaded some mulch,” Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., posted recently on Facebook. “Another brown bag lunch,” he posted another day, with a link to a photo of a brown bag but not its contents. He’s also linked to a photo of his cheesy quesadilla at a Qdoba restaurant.
Clinton’s Twitter debut caused a sensation and her recent selfie with daughter Chelsea also excited some people. But she is much like some other prospective candidates in how she actually uses the media. Many just go through the motions. Some have hired hands do it. None can afford to ignore it.
But there are some powerhouse posters, too, Sen. Rand Paul among them. The Kentucky Republican has used social media aggressively for policy promotion, minority outreach and spats with Govs. Chris Christie, R-N.J., and Rick Perry, R-Texas.
Twitter is preferred over Facebook for the most part, as you might expect from masters of sound bites.
3. POLITICS STARTS AT THE WATER’S EDGE
Foreign policy is an early flashpoint in the GOP, with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Perry the most outspoken proponents of an activist foreign policy “on the side of human rights and freedom and the dignity of all people,” as Rubio put it. Paul stands against interventionism.
In a Washington Post opinion piece, Perry said Paul “seems curiously blind” to security threats and would “create a giant moat where superpowers can retire from the world.”
Paul, on Politico, poked fun at the governor’s sober spectacles and said “Perry couldn’t be more stuck in the past, doubling down on formulas that haven’t worked, parroting rhetoric that doesn’t make sense and reinforcing petulant attitudes that have cost our nation a great deal.”
So, it’s game on there.
4. PURPOSE-DRIVEN TRAVEL
Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida is alone among the big Republican names in not having been to Iowa since the 2012 election. Instead, Iowans go to him.
Bush hosted a fundraiser in his state in May for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and plans the same for Iowa’s GOP Senate nominee, Joni Ernst, in September.
Potential rivals have been all over the Iowa map, among them Paul, Perry and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Christie made a splashy Iowa visit in July. New Hampshire and South Carolina, also big early-voting states, are getting plenty of attention, too.
Among Democrats, Clinton, like Bush, has avoided destinations that send speculation about a presidential campaign through the roof. She toured elsewhere to sell her new book. Activists who want her to run, though, have been busy in the early states for months.
5. A VARIATION OF PAY IT FORWARD
Running for president is enormously expensive, and you could say prospective candidates in both parties are earning-it-forward.
They are aggressively raising money for candidates running in November, meeting big donors who can be called on later and attracting cash to their political action committees, which are also a place to park valued advisers until it’s time to start an official campaign.
Despite the political payback scandal dogging him in New Jersey, Christie is raising record sums for GOP candidates as head of the party’s governors association.
The supremely well-connected Clinton is staying that way through her work with the family’s charitable foundation and her speeches, while Hillary-focused PACs are raising millions so she can plunge right in if she decides surf’s up.
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