Hillary lets Dems twist on her email scandal

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Buzz Cut:
• Hillary lets Dems twist on her email scandal
• Clintons count on cowed, complicit press
• Can Jeb do Iowa?
• Perry super PAC launches
• They don’t cover pre-existing conditions

Democrats are having plenty of Ralph Kramden moments when asked about Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. If anything frightens lawmakers more than 4 inches of snow, it is the prospect of getting crossways with Clinton’s communications cutthroats. But they’re not giving Democrats much to work with here. Lashing out at the NYT and trying to shift the blame to the Obama administration is not exactly putting Hill Democrats in their sweet spot. And when the subject – lack of transparency and ethical concerns – goes to the heart of the party’s misgivings about its presumptive nominee, it’s that much tougher.

[Literally? – “I literally don’t know anything about her home internet system.” – Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., when asked about the scandal by National Journal.]

While the party will eventually unite (mostly) behind Clinton, seeking to defend her from the “vast right wing conspiracy” she will blame for this debacle, this will leave a stain. The subtle shift in thinking that may be the most consequential is this: Once Democrats wondered if they needed a primary challenger to Hillary to get her to move left and to tune her up for the general. Now they wonder if one won’t be necessary in case Hillary blows up like the Death Star. That shift opens the door for potential challengers, particularly Biden and O’Malley to make a case for their candidacies that is not explicitly ideological, but a practical consideration for the party. For Liz Warren, meanwhile, the moment may be growing nearer when she could deliver what is the single gravest threat to the Clintons’ effort to return to power.

Just in case you ever need them… - Vice President Joe Biden will address gay rights activists tonight in Washington D.C. and Former Gov. Martin O’Malley, D-Md., is set to spend the weekend in New Hampshire, delivering a keynote address tonight at a fundraiser for the Merrimack County Democratic Committee and the Concord City Democrats. On Saturday, he will appear at a fundraiser for the New Hampshire Democratic Party and later will deliver the keynote address at the Washington Days banquet in Topeka, Kansas.

Use discredit to discredit - Jackie Kucinich and Tim Mak report on how Democrats are using the new revelations about Clinton’s secret email server to attack the House committee charged with unraveling the causes and cover-up of the 2012 Islamist raid on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.

[NYT: “‘It’s a ball of wool that won’t go away until the questions are answered,’ said David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to Mr. Obama.”]

How does Hillary Clinton think that she will get away with blowing off reporters even as she attends public events that are part of her still-unregistered presidential campaign, including a weekend shindig for her controversial family foundation? Or even more overtly political events and not answer for a mounting list of questions about her decision to evade federal rules about her emails as Secretary of State? She is counting on a complicit press. And she is likely to be largely obliged.

Walls of stone - Jennifer Epstein gives us a valuable view from the Clinton war room: “The hope of Clinton’s inner circle is that she’ll be able to address the e-mail controversy as a minor element of her expected announcement. Agreeing to an interview now or at any time before she’s ready to launch her campaign would be potentially detrimental, signaling that she’s shifted into damage control mode and drawing attention to an issue about which many voters are still unaware, said a former Clinton campaign aide who has knowledge of the current team’s thinking. It would also appear to challenge her aides’ assertions that she did nothing wrong.”

Royal treatment - Peggy Noonan, never more indispensable than in moments like these, explains why some in the press are going knock-kneed: With the exception of the moment Wednesday when a hardy reporter from TMZ actually went to an airport and shouted a query at Mrs. Clinton—it was just like the old days of journalism, with a stakeout and shouted queries—Mrs. Clinton hasn’t been subjected to any questions from the press. She’s slide, she’ll glide, she’ll skate. (With TMZ she just walked on, smiling.) … Why doesn’t the legacy press swarm her on this? Because she is political royalty. They are used to seeing her as a regal, queenly figure. They’ve been habituated to understand that Mrs. Clinton is not to be harried, not to be subjected to gotcha questions or impertinent grilling. She is a Democrat, a star, not some grubby Republican governor from nowhere. And they don’t want to be muscled by her spokesmen.”

[Fox News: “Hillary Clinton appears to have established multiple email addresses for her private use, and possibly the use of her aides, under the domain of ‘clintonemail.com,’ according to a prominent member of the hacking community who supplied independent research data, conducted with high-tech tools, to Fox News.”]

Downtrend - In the latest Fox News poll, taken just before the email scandal broke, found that 61 percent of voters thought the foreign donations to Clinton’s family foundation represented a conflict of interest. Only 44 percent of respondents said they would describe Hillary as honest, down 10 points from last year and just 1 point better than President Obama.

Power Play: Did you have to let it linger? - Hillary Clinton’s decision to use private email as Secretary of State is raising major questions about her secrecy and accountability. Brad Blakeman, former George W. Bush adviser and radio host Garland Nixon join Chris Stirewalt ponder whether this scandal will stick and end Clinton’s prospects for a White House bid. WATCH HERE.

[What if Clinton crumbles? Blakeman and Nixon flesh out the possibilities. WATCH HERE.]

The Motown hit, “My Girl” became The Temptations’ first number one hit on this day 50 years ago. Written by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, this was the first all-male group to have a number one Motown. In this previous interview with WSJ, Robinson provides some insight into the song’s origins, saying, “I didn’t set out to write ‘My Girl’ for the Miracles and me to record. My wife at the time wasn’t the inspiration, either…I wrote ‘My Girl’ in 1964 specifically for the Temptations, with hopes they would make it a hit.” Wanting to do something different, Robinson focused on composing a song with David Ruffin in the lead role rather than Eddie Kendricks. He had key and chord changes in mind and the melody simply came after that. The single was quickly released and a few months later, Berry Gordy, Motown’s owner, gave Robinson a $1,000 bonus check saying, “You’ve got a number one record coming.”

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 43.9 percent//Disapprove – 51.5 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 32.2 percent//Wrong Track – 59.3 percent

As top 2016 contender Jeb Bush makes his first foray into Iowa today, a big question looms: Can he block conservative challenger, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker? The former Florida governor will be starting on friendly turf as he courts members of a trade group looking to preserve ethanol subsidies, but how will he fare with the social and small government conservatives who dominate the state? As the latest Fox News poll shows, the Bush name provides an advantage over lesser known rivals. And while Jeb will score points with ethanol enthusiasts like Gov. Terry Branstad, his moderate views don’t sit well with Iowa’s conservative caucus goers.

[Jeb Bush will appear at a fundraiser tonight for Rep. David Young, R-Iowa in Urbandale, Iowa]

Needs a base crack up - If Walker can hold his spot as the consensus conservative choice, a posture which won him a 15-point advantage in the Quinnipiac Iowa poll out this week, Bush could be frozen out of the nomination. One way for Jeb to achieve a breakout would be the approach his brother used in 2000 to win Iowa: Appeal to the social conservatives who are less concerned about issues that trouble other activists on the right, particularly immigration, and who share Bush’s opposition to abortion and fervent faith. If Bush can peel off enough of those caucus goers to add to his moderate, pro-business coalition, he could emerge ahead of a crowded field for an Iowa win.

[Hawkeye happenings - The Iowa Agriculture Summit is set to kick off Saturday at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines with numerous presidential contenders scheduled to appear including former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., former Gov. George Pataki, R-N.Y., former Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., businessman Donald Trump and Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis.]

“[Jeb Bush] reminds me of the man who grumbles about his old-fashioned and boring Episcopalian church, but can’t bring himself to leave because his great-grandfather donated the church bell, and his mother was buried in the graveyard.” – Cary Gordon, a Christian conservative pastor at a Sioux City church talking to The Des Moines Register about why Bush is still a Republican.

[The AEI World Forum in Sea Island, Georgia continues. Former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., are slated to speak today with Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., Governor Bobby Jindal, R-La., and Governor Mike Pence, R-Ind. scheduled for Saturday.]

Rubio’s wealthy backers make big bets - WaPo: “Jeb Bush’s success in rounding up GOP donors as he pursues a likely presidential run has created a big question for his fellow Floridian Marco Rubio: Will there be any money left for him? That’s where Norman Braman comes in. The billionaire Miami auto dealer and longtime Rubio benefactor is expected to put as much as $10 million into a pro-Rubio super PAC if the senator decides to run, according to people familiar with his plans. ‘If there is a super PAC that’s founded, I will give substantially,’ Braman said in an interview, declining to be more specific. ‘I don’t pay any attention to that other distinguished Floridian,’ he added, referring to the former governor…Support from Braman, a former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles football team, is exactly what the 43-year-old first-term senator needs…”

Rand bagged ‘Parks and Recreation’ cameo - The Hill: “Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) turned down a cameo on the NBC television show ‘Parks and Recreation’ at the last minute, its co-creator said in an interview published Wednesday. ‘We also wanted Rand Paul to be in the Washington episode, and he agreed, but then bailed at the eleventh hour,’ Mike Schur said in a conversation with HitFix. ‘I think he thought we were making fun of him, or something, which we were not, at all. We were in fact flattering him, by linking him to Ron. I get the sense that maybe interpreting writing and humor is not his strong suit.’”

[Watch Fox: Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is featured in the latest installment of the 2016 contender series on “Special Report with Bret Baier” tonight at 6 p.m. ET.]

Bowling Green bound - Rand Paul will be in his home commonwealth tonight delivering remarks at the Southern Kentucky Lincoln Day Dinner.

#mediabuzz - Howard Kurtz welcomes Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., for an in-depth interview about his battle with the media and his aggressiveness toward other Republicans. Watch “#mediabuzz” Sunday at 11 a.m. ET, with a second airing at 5 p.m.

Perry super PAC launches - AP: “As former Texas Gov. Rick Perry readies a second presidential campaign his supporters have created a super PAC devoted to his 2016 ambitions. A handful of former aides and allies on Thursday launched the Opportunity and Freedom PAC, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on Perry's behalf. ‘We want to focus on introducing Rick Perry to the voters of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina - and throughout the country,’ Austin Barbour, a senior adviser for the new organization, said in an interview with The Associated Press. ‘I don't think when he ran in `11 and `12 many people got a chance to truly understand his background. He's got an incredible story to tell.’”

Pro-Hillary group leader on Christie: ‘We want to kill him dead’ - Daily Caller: “The president of a Democrat super PAC dedicated to digging up opposition research on Republicans said of New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie: ‘We want to kill him dead.’ Brad Woodhouse, the president of the liberal super PAC American Bridge, made the provocative comments in a profile of the organization published by Bloomberg Politics. The story notes that American Bridge would not back off its attacks on Christie. ‘We’re not going to pull resources from Christie,’ Woodhouse told the outlet. ‘We want to kill him dead.’ Woodhouse, a longtime Democratic operative, has often accused Republicans of using offensive rhetoric against President Obama.

Warm up - Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., will be in Palm Beach, Fla., today for a PAC reception followed by his keynote address tonight at the Palm Beach County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner.

Fiorina for Florida - Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina will be a featured guest at a weekend retreat sponsored by the Maverick PAC in Coral Gables, Fla.

Probably not pecan - Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is the guest of honor for the first ‘Politics & Pies’ series hosted by the Concord Republican City Committee Sunday in Concord, N.H.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the March on Selma, Chris Wallace welcomes Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who is the sole person still living today who delivered an address during the March on Washington in 1963. “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” airs at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET on Fox News. Check local listings for air times in your area.

AP: “Authorities say a Pennsylvania man called an insurance company from a crash scene to buy auto coverage and later claimed his wreck happened after he got the policy. The Altoona Mirror reports that the insurance fraud charges filed this week against 33-year-old Michael Traveny stem from an Aug. 21 crash in Duncansville. State prosecutors say Traveny didn’t have insurance when he crashed that night so he called Safe Auto Insurance from the scene and purchased coverage without mentioning the wreck. Prosecutors say Traveny filed a $3,900 claim the next day claiming the crash happened after the policy took effect. Online court records don’t list an attorney for Traveny. He faces a preliminary hearing March 17.”

“This is not a new story, and that’s the reason why the Democrats are so dismayed…she’s a Clinton and what the Clintons do is never clear the air. They spend the first month or two, surrogates, the machine attacking the accusers, as in the Lewinsky scandal and later, if you have to confess, if you’re caught red-handed, you admit it…And then she’s going to have to answer, why don’t you turn them over?…She can’t do it because, the answers to the questions, if remotely honest, are self-indicting.” —Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier” Watch here.

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