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Off to the races: 2016 numbers to chew on

Hillary Clinton continues to lead the 2016 field. Quinnipiac has her beating Jeb Bush 48%-40%, and Rand Paul 49%-41%. But some of the sheen is already starting to come off Clinton’s favorability rating. She goes from 61%/38% in February to 52% /40% now after the Benghazi hearings and attacks from Republicans. (Her drop off is mostly with Republicans but also with independents.)

And regarding Joe Biden, he loses to both Bush (44%-38%) and Paul (43%-39%). And Biden is a net-negative – 37%/44%. Paul is a net-positive – 32%-24% and Bush is 29%/29%.

Mitt Romney is looking to get back on the national stage: “The former Republican presidential nominee plans to welcome 200 friends and supporters to a three-day summit next week that he will host at a Utah mountain resort. He is considering writing a book and a series of opinion pieces, and has plans to campaign for 2014 candidates. But he is wary of overdoing it." But, he added, “I'm not going to be bothering the airwaves with a constant series of speeches."

ARKANSAS: NBC’s Kasie Hunt reports: Arkansas Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor - arguably the most endangered Democrat who's up for reelection in 2014 - has started airing TV ads defending himself against attacks from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's gun control group.  It's his first ad of the 2014 cycle - and begins airing today, about 18 months before Election Day. "The mayor of New York City is running ads against me because I opposed President Obama's gun control legislation. Nothing in the Obama plan would have prevented tragedies like Newtown Aurora, Tucson or even Jonesboro," Pryor says in an ad straight to the camera. "I'm Mark Pryor, I approved this message because no one from New York or Washington tells me what to do. I listen to Arkansas," he says.

MASSACHUSETTS: Gabriel Gomez (R) still won’t say if he would have voted for the Blunt Amendment, which would have given employers the option to not pay for their workers’ birth control.

Is Gomez having trouble raising money?

NEW MEXICO: “Jamie Estrada, fired campaign manager to Susana Martinez, was indicted today on computer intrusion and false statement charges,” KOB TV reports. “The charges stem from the interception of emails between Martinez and members of her staff between July 2011 and June 2012.” Martinez said in a statement: “The federal felony indictment today vindicates what I have been saying for almost a full year – that the personal and political emails of dozens of people, including my own, were hijacked, stolen, and never received by the intended recipients.”

NEW YORK: Ouch. The New York Times on Christine Quinn’s forthcoming memoir: "Ms. Quinn's candor about her personal life is as notable as her vagueness about politics. There is not a single reference to the slush-fund scandal that has been her lowest point as speaker. She says little about her relationship with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whom she calls 'my colleague.' The battle over term limits is disposed of in two pages, while thousands of words are devoted to her wedding last year." (h/t Political Wire.)

NORTH CAROLINA: State House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) is throwing his hat in the ring against Kay Hagan (D). He’s considered by Republicans to be a “very serious” candidate.

The News & Observer: “Tillis could face a crowded primary. Others named as possible contenders include U.S. Reps. Virginia Foxx of Banner Elk and Renee Ellmers of Dunn; state Sen. Phil Berger; and former ambassador Jim Cain. So far, however, Dr. Greg Bannon, a Cary OB-GYN, is the only Republican Senate candidate who has announced.”

VIRGINIA: Terry McAuliffe (D) claimed some measure of credit for the transportation bill in the state passing, despite holding no elective office. In a recent ad, an announcer says, “...(T)ea party Republicans refuse to support the plan, but Terry McAuliffe thinks this is too important a time for partisan politics. McAuliffe reaches out to Democrats and urges them to support the bill, and the bill passes.”

AP fact checks that today: “As a high-profile booster, McAuliffe certainly did no harm. But to imply a role much beyond that is like hailing a team mascot for a decisive buzzer-beating 3-point basket. Far more credit is owed to House and Senate Democratic leaders who kept their caucuses together and worked quietly for weeks alongside McDonnell and select Republicans to keep the bill afloat in turbulent and treacherous seas.”

Buzzfeed dug up a McAuliffe CSPAN bite in which he blames Bush for his father’s death. “There are many reasons why people thought Jack had died. He was 83 years old. And I said the main reason is that he could not go into a new year knowing that a Republican was actually moving into the White House. I just don’t think he could’ve handled that. He had eight great years. President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton were so nice to my mother and father, they’d come down all the time. So he had a great eight years when President Clinton and Vice President Gore were in office, and he just wasn’t going into a new year with a Democrat not being in the White House Steve, he just couldn’t handle it.”