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First Thoughts: And we're off

The Daily Rundown guest host Peter Alexander rounds-up all things 2016.

And we’re off: Look at all of today’s (and this month’s) 2016 activity… Rubio takes incoming from the right and responds… Is Biden a 2016 long shot? Only if Hillary runs…. Hillary, Christie headline Clinton Global Initiative gathering in Chicago next month… Our weekly 2016 roundup… April jobs report: 165,000 jobs created, unemployment rate falls to 7.5% (and check out the upward revisions)… Previewing Obama’s speech in Mexico City… And a Senate race watch.

*** And we’re off: Yes, President Obama’s second term is just over 100 days old. And, yes, the 2014 midterms are still a whopping 18 months from now. But like it or not, the early jockeying, traveling, and speechifying for 2016 is now well under way. Tonight, both Vice President Biden and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) deliver remarks in Columbia, SC (Biden addresses the state Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner beginning at 7:30 pm ET, while Cruz speaks to the South Carolina GOP’s Silver Elephant event). Also today, Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and other Republicans give speeches at the National Rifle Association’s confab in Houston, TX. Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) finds himself on the cover of National Review (although not in a flattering way), and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is on the cover of the Washington Monthly (with the title: “Should This Man Be President?”). Then are the other 2016-related events later this month: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks in Iowa (on May 10) and New Hampshire (May 20); Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker heads to the Hawkeye State (May 23); and Cruz addresses the New York Republican Party (May 29).

Jason Reed / Reuters

Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., part of the Senate's "Gang on Eight", speaks during a news briefing on Capitol Hill, April 18, 2013.

*** Rubio takes incoming from the right -- and responds: Speaking of the new National Review cover -- entitled “Rubio’s Folly” -- here’s the article by immigration-reform opponent Mark Krikorian: After the 2012 election, “the Republican establishment turns its hopeful eyes, once again, to so-called comprehensive immigration reform. The same senators who pushed such a bill in 2007, prominently including Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham and Democrat Chuck Schumer, are at it again. They have devised a plan that would ease the path to legality for illegal immigrants while making some gestures toward enforcement. But a new element this time around is Marco Rubio.” But the junior Florida senator has a response of sorts in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, defending the pillars of comprehensive immigration reform but also arguing that any shortcomings to the “Gang of Eight” legislation can be improved. “Since my colleagues and I introduced immigration legislation, intense public scrutiny has helped identify shortcomings and unintended consequences that need to be addressed. Many concerned citizens have gone a step further and offered specific ideas to improve it. This kind of constructive criticism is a positive force that should always be welcomed in the political process.”

*** Cover photo of Rubio edits out other Republicans: As an aside to that National Review cover of Rubio, which shows him surrounded by Sens. John McCain and Chuck Schumer, the liberal site Talking Points Memo has this scoop: “The photo on the cover appears to be stripped down version … missing some unlikely attendees at the event. Look closer over Rubio's shoulder and you'll spot anti-tax crusader and right-wing hero Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.” The full photo also includes GOP Sen. Jeff Flake.

*** Is Biden a 2016 long shot? Only if Hillary runs: Also today, with Biden traveling to South Carolina, the Washington Post runs a pretty tough piece on the current vice president. The title: “Biden ponders a 2016 bid, but a promotion to the top job seems to be a long shot.” From the article: “Biden clearly has the experience and gravitas to ascend to the presidency, but many Democrats say he may have been in Washington too long (since 1973) to win an election. He is President Obama’s governing partner yet is rarely seen as Obama’s heir apparent.” We agree that Biden is the longshot (and in fact most likely to run) if Hillary Clinton gets in the race. But if she doesn’t? It would be hard to call him a long shot, at least in a Democratic primary. Yes, Hillary’s absence would likely create a more crowded Democratic field -- with O’Malley, Andrew Cuomo, and others getting into the race. Yet it would be a leap to label Biden a long shot in that competition. Who would have a stronger base than Biden (especially if Obama endorses him)? Who would have better name ID? Of course, this is the reason why so many Democrats are pining for Hillary to run in 2016: The rest of the field isn’t as strong. But it’s not a given -- at least right now -- she gets in the race.

*** Hillary, Christie to headline Clinton Global Initiative gathering: As for Hillary, Politico reports that she and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will headline Bill Clinton’s Clinton Global Initiative event in Chicago on June 13-14. “The focus of the gathering … is on speeding up the United States' economic recovery and the nation's long-term outlook. But the short-term political outlook will be equally interesting, given that Clinton and Christie top most 2016 polls in their respective parties. It marks the first time Hillary Clinton will appear at CGI America, which has become a signature event in her husband's post-White House portfolio. The event will also feature Chelsea Clinton, Clinton ally and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and a slew of business, labor and government officials.”

*** Our weekly 2016 roundup: And here’s a look at all the other 2016 news this week: Two polls showed (here and here) Hillary Clinton blowing away the competition, and EMILY’s List wants her to run… Andrew Cuomo signed a book deal to write his memoir, set to come out next year.  “This is a private book, not a government book,” he insists. But he added, “It’s going to be a book about my experiences, my thoughts, my thoughts about government and the role of government.”… Martin O’Malley signed a death-penalty repeal, making Maryland the 18th state to abolish the death penalty…. In the Quinnipiac poll, Marco Rubio narrowly leads the GOP with 18%, followed by Jeb Bush 16%, Chris Christie 14%, Rick Santorum 9%.... National Review reported that Ted Cruz is likely to run for president… Rand Paul endorsed Mark Sanford… And Chris Christie’s out with his first ad of his reelection.

*** April jobs report -- 165,000 jobs created, unemployment rate ticks down to 7.5%: In non-2016 news, the April jobs report shows a big improvement from last month’s numbers. The AP: “U.S. employers added 165,000 jobs in April, and hiring was much stronger in the previous two months than first thought. The gains trimmed the unemployment rate to a four-year low of 7.5 percent. The Labor Department report showed the job market is improving despite higher taxes and government spending cuts. In addition to the April gains, the government said employers added 138,000 jobs in March and 332,000 in February. That's 114,000 more over the two months.” Read that February number again: 332,000 jobs.

*** Previewing Obama’s speech in Mexico: NBC’s Kristen Welker report that President Obama's speech at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City at 10:15 am ET will be equally aimed at a U.S. audience, according to a White House official. Obama’s hope is to recast many Americans' impression of Mexico as a poor country plagued by a violent drug war. The president is expected to say that while Mexico still struggles with those problems, it is also a country that has seen major economic strides in recent years.  In addition, Obama's larger theme will be that comprehensive immigration reform will be important to enhancing both economies and will be important for US-Mexico trade, which totaled $500 billion dollars last year. 

*** Senate race watch: And via your authors and our colleague Jessica Taylor, here’s some Senate race-related news to watch: First Lady Michelle Obama will help raise money for Rep. Ed Markey May 29, in what will be her first fundraising effort after the November 2012 election… “U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa of Hawaii announced her candidacy for U.S. Senate on Thursday, setting up a primary showdown that almost certainly will be the state’s marquee race next year,” AP writes… Republicans are still having a difficult time finding a Senate candidate in Iowa… And in Georgia, GOP Rep. Jack Kingston became the third House member to throw his hat into the growing Senate primary, joining his fellow congressmen Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey.

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