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2016 notebook: Republicans try to dent Clinton's armor

The 2016 notebook includes notes, quotes, and newsworthy tidbits of what potential presidential candidates are doing and have done that could be significant to 2016. It will run occasionally on Fridays on First Read between now and when candidates actually start declaring.


Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is more popular than almost any political figure in Washington over the past four years. And that's exactly why Democrats think Republicans are going so hard after Benghazi.

"It's obvious it's an attempt to embarrass President Obama and embarrass Hillary Clinton," Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told Capitol Hill reporters. He added, “I mean, most everyone knows, if she wants to run for president, she's going to get that nomination.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) made a similar point on CBS's Face the Nation Sunday. "This has been caught up in the 2016 presidential campaign, this effort to go after Hillary Clinton," Durbin said.

Former Obama adviser David Axelrod told MSNBC’s Morning Joe also went there. "I really view the Benghazi flare-up right now as throwing a high hard one at Hillary Clinton to try and dissuade her from running for president," he said.

For his part, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa insisted on Meet the Press Sunday that simply was not the case. "Hillary Clinton's not a target,” Issa said of his committee's investigation.

Still, there was plenty of criticism of the Clinton, the likely 2016 Democratic front-runner if she runs, from others, as First Read noted May 9. Lindsey Graham also this week said if Clinton were “in the military, she wouldn’t be promoted.” And opponents are readying a scandal-filled movie about her life.

Rand Paul, another likely 2016 candidate who told Clinton she should have been fired during questioning, said this on FOX: "It sounds like Hillary Clinton’s fingerprints are all over these talking points. And really her resignation was a beginning, but she never really accepted culpability, and I think she really needs to accept culpability for this disaster.”

Yet Clinton continues to lead in 2016 hypothetical polls. A New England College poll showed her winning a New Hampshire Democratic primary 65%-10% over Vice President Joe Biden.

In that same poll, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Paul were all in a statistical dead heat.

Clinton also beats Rubio in Virginia, 51%-38%.

Clinton is a linchpin in many ways for 2016. Democrats know they have few other choices. Biden cannot be dismissed, but it's not helpful to his cause that he continues to be a punchline for late-night comics.

“Remember in the old days when President Obama's biggest embarrassment was Joe Biden?" quipped Tonight Show host Jay Leno.

Clinton not only leads, but is up by sizable margins over potential GOP rivals. Republicans have to take notice. 

Other 2016 notes:

Speaking of Clinton, by the way, former Michigan Gov.-turned-TV-personality Jennifer Granholm lent her name to a draft Hillary group fundraising email.

Paul hit the op-ed circuit this week, going after President Obama. He went after the president in an one, calling the firing of the IRS acting commissioner “not enough. The executive branch has been aware of this scandal for nearly two years and now, only as a result of massive public pressure, the administration has found a scapegoat.”

He wrote another op-ed Thursday, in which he said, “Lincoln wrote that nearly any man can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man, give him power. I think Mr. Obama has failed that test of power. From the cover-up in Benghazi to letting the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) target the Tea Party to First and Fourth Amendment violations in obtaining records from the press, Mr. Obama has shown disregard for the Bill of Rights and his responsibilities as commander in chief.”

Paul, by the way, is going to New Hampshire Monday, headlining the first-ever -- and sold-out -- Liberty Dinner in Concord, N.H. with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. It’s designed to merge factions of the GOP.

McClatchy looked at the preparations Biden has made to run in 2016. His 2012 financial disclosure was released. It showed that he took out a second home loan in two years, this one valued between $100,000 and $250,000. Biden’s net worth is between $239,000 and $867,000. He could have needed the home-equity line for his daughter’s June wedding reception which he hosted at his Delaware home.

And it showed he made virtually nothing -- $0 to $201 -- in book royalties.

Joked Biden during his commencement address at the University of Pennsylvania Monday: “When I did my financial disclosure as Vice President the first time, the Washington Post said ‘It’s probable: no man has assumed the office of Vice President with fewer assets than Joe Biden,’ I hope they were talking financial assets. Then there was all this discussion why I had no money. I’ll tell you why I had no money: four years at Penn, three years of Syracuse, four years at Georgetown, three years at Yale, two years at Tulane, two years at Penn, and now a granddaughter at Penn. … This is a much cheaper way to get a degree.”

Speaking of that commencement speech at Penn, FactCheck.org says he flubbed some details: “Vice President Joe Biden falsely claimed that U.S. workers ‘are three times as productive as any worker in the world.’ He’s not even close. By the standard measure for productivity, American workers ranked third in the world behind Norway and Ireland in 2011.Biden also stated that the U.S. economy is ‘two and a half times bigger than any other in the world.’ That’s close, but still wrong. Last year the U.S. economy was not quite double the size of China’s economy, which is the second largest in the world.” 

And there was the hand-written note Biden sent to a 7-year-old in Wisconsin about guns being able to shoot chocolate: “Dear Myles, I am sorry it took so very long to respond to your letter. I really like your idea. If we had guns that shot chocolate, not only would our country be safer, it would be happier. People love chocolate. You are a good boy, Joe Biden.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s financial disclosure was also filed (but it doesn’t show a net worth). The main source of his income was his $128,000 a year salary with some dividends from stocks.

Jindal, as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, is calling on President Obama to appoint a special prosecutor in the IRS controversy. Jindal was also in New Hampshire last weekend. "We don't need to be focused on 2016 right now,” he said. “Let's focus on the debate. Let's win the debate.”

Martin O’Malley, who got 0% in the New Hampshire poll, “signed a gun-control bill that is among the country's most sweeping legislative responses to the December mass shooting in Newtown, Conn,” the Baltimore Sun writes. “The law bans the sale of assault-style rifles, including the AR-15 used in the Newtown killing of six educators and 20 first- and second-graders. The law limits gun ownership for people with mental illness, outlaws the sale of high-capacity magazines and establishes the nation's first new handgun licensing scheme in two decades. Maryland will join five other states in requiring such licenses, a move that O'Malley said "will substantially lower gun deaths."

He also signed into law “Maryland's first gas tax increase in 20 years into law on Thursday and announced $1.2 billion in highway and transit projects,” NBC Washington reports. So if you live in Maryland, that means it’ll cost you about 4 cents a gallon more to fill up your tank.

If Clinton doesn’t run, some have floated Kirsten Gillibrand as a potential candidate. She’s taken the lead on a host of family related issues and been out front on military sexual assault cases.

Or could it be Elizabeth Warren, who proposed legislation reducing student-loan rates and she wants the Obama Justice Department to take the big banks to court.

Marco Rubio accused the White House of creating a “culture of intimidation” on MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd. He echoed that on FOX: “The president doesn’t have clean hands in this because, as I said yesterday on the floor of the Senate … this administration has created a culture of intimidation.” He added, “These are things you typically see in the Third World from unestablished republics and other places.”

Some conservatives are still hammering him for his pursuit of comprehensive immigration.

Chris Christie was showing Prince Harry around the Jersey Shore. He also went negative despite huge leads in his bid for reelection this year.

Bob McDonnell’s approval “dipped to his lowest job-approval rating in two years,” AP wrote of his 49% rating in Quinnipiac. But “few voters are aware” of the FBI inquiry into his accepting of money from a major donor for his daughter’s wedding.

Meanwhile, Jeb Bush was honored as a “Friend of Armenians.”

Rick Santorum has an op-ed with another heart-tugging story of a child who died.