2016 GOP Power Index: Rand so far away, but gaining

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Buzz Cut:
• 2016 GOP Power Index: Rand so far away, but gaining
• Huckabee targets middle class with ‘maximum wage’
• Hillary picks hard-hitting loyalist as top talker
• Senate polls: Portman down, Toomey up, Fla. wide open
• His dignity was offended, no doubt

The legacy game is a tricky thing. Republican establishment frontrunner Jeb Bush is trying to show that he can be as good at running for president as his older brother. The former Florida governor is even using a similar outreach to evangelical voters to replicate George W. Bush’s 2000 success. But for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, the question is instead how he can differ from his famous father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination in 2008 and 2012. As the younger Paul makes ready for his Tuesday announcement, his campaign offers a trailer-style video in which he promises to be “a different kind of Republican.” His father was certainly that. The question for the son is whether he can be more successful.

[Watch Fox: Chris Stirewalt joins “The Real Story” in the 2 p.m. ET hour with the latest on who’s up and who’s down in the 2016 Power Index.]

As the latest round of polls shows, Paul is in about the same spot his dad was in 2012: lots of buzz and fired-up grassroots support but with numbers in the high single digits. Can he change the trajectory and broaden his appeal without losing the core libertarian support he inherited from his father? How does Paul reach out to get in the top tier without seeing his base crumble underneath him? So far, Paul has been given remarkable latitude to reach a truce with the GOP establishment and to even modify stances on core positions, particularly with a recent call for a huge hike in Defense spending. There’s danger, though, in the form of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who has publicly feuded with Paul in the past and is now targeting the same group of voters as Paul. While Paul has latitude in dealing with ultra-hawk Cruz, Cruz will certainly be poised to hit Paul for any other perceived apostasies. Cruz’s candidacy will be a limiting reagent for Paul’s.

Paul’s best argument in the months to come will likely center on general-election viability. If his core supporters and media backers can keep Paul in the game through the early debate rounds, he can position himself as a chance worth taking for a party desperate to regain the White House. As last week’s Quinnipiac University polls show, Paul connects with the general electorate in a way that frontrunners Bush and Gov. Scott Walker struggle to do. If there is a problem at the top of the pack and Paul has maintained his viability through the first furlongs of the race, he might end up in the discussion. At the very least, Paul is poised to be near the top of the short list for running mates, particularly if Bush is the nominee. And wouldn’t that be fitting? Rand Paul would help Jeb Bush exorcise the foreign policy problems he inherited from brother while Jeb Bush helped Rand Paul unload the baggage from his famous name.

Graham praises Hillary, disses Rand - During an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation”, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he wanted to blow up the nuclear deal with Iran so President Obama’s successor could start over: “The best deal, I think, comes with a new president. Hillary Clinton would do better. I think everybody on our side, except maybe Rand Paul, could do better,” Graham said.

In his first in a series of videos, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark, makes his pitch to the middle class by offering his solutions to low wages and high unemployment. In the video provided first to Fox News First, Huckabee shares the story of an unemployed Texas woman who states, “I don’t have to be on welfare because I know if you believe and you have faith it will come.” In casting his vision for what he calls a “maximum wage” Huckabee appears saying, “I’m not a Republican because I grew up rich, I’m a Republican because I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life poor, waiting for the government to rescue me,” adding, “Instead of fighting over the minimum wage, why don’t we focus on solutions that help every American earn his or her maximum wage.” Huckabee takes a back seat to no one in the GOP field on social issues, but has a greater gift for making his case without saying incendiary things. This move to roll out his economic strategy in a way that’s accessible to voters, however, is a much-needed step in Huckabee’s broader outreach.

Whoops - NYT: “[Jeb Bush] a former Florida governor and likely [Republican] presidential candidate, was born in Texas and hails from one of America’s most prominent political dynasties. But on at least one occasion, it appears he got carried away with his appeal to Spanish-speaking voters and claimed he actually was Hispanic. In a 2009 voter-registration application, obtained from the Miami-Dade County Elections Department, Mr. Bush marked Hispanic in the field labeled ‘race/ethnicity.”’

2016 GOP Power Index: This week’s ranking…
1) Jeb Bush; 2) Scott Walker; 3) Rand Paul [+2]; 4) Marco Rubio; 5) Ted Cruz [-2]; 6) Mike Huckabee [+2]; 7) John Kasich [-1]; 8) Carly Fiorina [-1]; 9) Rick Perry [-1]; 10) Chris Christie

On the Radar
- Ben Carson, Rick SantorumBobby Jindal

What would you say? - Give us your take on the GOP field and we will share the best and brightest with the whole class. Send your thoughts to


Carly Fiorina
will talk about women in business at the Center of Strategic and International Studies in today Washington.

Rick Perry addresses the Citadel Republican Society at the venerable South Carolina military academy today.

Straw polls, caucuses and cold are hallmarks of Iowa’s leading role in choosing presidential candidates and so far when it comes to the Hawkeye State, the 2016 hopefuls are all in.  Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds, R-Iowa, joins Chris Stirewalt to talk about how the issues important to winning over Iowans reflect the same concerns of the national electorate.  WATCH HERE

Baseball is back. Big-league play got underway Sunday night with a shutout victory by the St. Louis Cardinals over the Chicago Cubs in an, um, inauspicious beginning of a new era for Wrigley Field. And as the rest of the teams hit the field today, we’ll get to see lots of Americana on display (WashEx offers an impressive catalogue of presidential first pitches) and baseball fans everywhere will deeply delight. But for those of you baseball haters – and we know you are legion – perhaps consider this meditation from Michael Brendan Dougherty on the virtues of the game in this era of acrimony: “Because unlike nearly every other part of American life right now, in baseball, the rules and stakes are relatively clear. At the end of the game there is no dispute over who won or lost. The teams and their fans do not get to walk away with a conflicting set of facts. The greatness of an opponent is a threat only to your team, not to your sense of self-worth, or your feeling of membership in your country.”

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 45.6 percent//Disapprove – 49.9 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 35 percent//Wrong Track – 60.8 percent

In the latest sign of the bare-knuckled approach from Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee has tapped her former press secretary, Karen Finney, as her campaign’s top spokeswoman. Finney has been part of Clinton’s shadow campaign network since last year following the cancellation of Finney’s short-lived MSNBC show “Disrupt.” During her television career, Finney was famous for pulling no punches and partisan attacks. Finney once referred to “crazy crackers on the right” who opposed a comprehensive immigration bill and another time likened Republicans to the defenders of Apartheid. Clinton, who has reportedly selected a campaign headquarters, is expected to make her candidacy official in the next week or two.

[The Finney hire, first reported by CNN and confirmed to Fox News, is paired with that of Oren Shur, who managed Gov. Jay Nixon’s, D-Mo., 2012 campaign, to head up Clinton’s television, mail, radio and digital advertising efforts.]

Gary Hart lacerates Hillary: ‘We need new leaders’ - The prospect of a billion-dollar Clinton campaign “ought to frighten every American,” former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart told Politico. Hart, who has been the recent beneficiary of some historical revisionism about his disastrous 1988 presidential run, says his party needs a competitive primary challenge to force Hillary to get “specific” on issues. Hart adds he likes the Democratic frontrunner, “but we need new leaders.”

O’Malley, Webb head for Hawkeye State - A pair of potential Hillary challengers are headed for Iowa later this week. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb will be in the first-in-the-nation caucus state for multi-day trips starting Thursday. O’Malley’s two-day swing begins in Indianola and Des Moines and is his first sojourn to Iowa since he ramped-up criticism of an inevitable Clinton coronation. Webb will spend four days in the Hawkeye State. Both potential contenders will speak at an awards dinner put on by Polk County Democrats on Friday.

2016 Democratic Power Index - 1) Hillary Clinton; 2) Martin O’Malley; 3) Joe Biden; 4) Jim Webb [+1]; 5) Elizabeth Warren [-1]

A new Quinnipiac University swing state poll of 2016 Senate contests released today shows Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio trailing lead Democrat, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland by 9 points. Helped by independent voters, Strickland leads 48 percent to Portman’s 39 percent.  The incumbent Republican In Pennsylvania, Sen. Pat Toomey, leads Democratic challenger Joe Sestak 48 - 35 percent, according to the survey. In Florida, where Sen. Marco Rubio expected to make his 2016 presidential intentions known next week, the contest looks wide open if he passes on re-election. Republican State Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is the strongest candidate, getting 38 percent to 34 percent for Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla. Atwater leads another possible Democratic candidate, Rep. Alan Grayson, 42 - 32 percent. In other possible matchups sans Rubio, Murphy gets 35 percent to 31 percent for GOP Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Lopez-Cantera gets 33 percent to 32 percent for Grayson.

A Tampa Bay-area man says he feels he is being discriminated against because a local movie theater will not allow him to bring in his Cookie Monster-emblazoned messenger bag while women are allowed to bring in purses. Zac Adams told Bay News 9, “I feel discriminated against, because…the only reason that they stopped me was because I was a guy with a bag.”  Adams filmed the exchange with a theater staffer told him, “ladies carry big bags, that’s the normal thing for ladies to do.” When Adams asked the staffer if he were a lady would he be allowed in, the manager replied, “yes.”  The theater’s manager went on to say, “You could be holding onto recording devices, but ladies, it’s normal for them. Every lady carries a purse. Not every man carries a purse.” Indignant, Adams defended his “Sesame Street” accessory: “It’s not a purse, it’s a bag. I have my glasses in there, my credit card.” According to Adams, he takes the bag everywhere and that it contains, “just general accessories any guy would have.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News.  Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here