Politics Now
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GOP senators, and possible 2016 rivals, vie at Koch brothers retreat

Three potential Republican presidential contenders parried on issues including Cuba policy and the qualities necessary to win the White House during a Sunday night panel discussion that also afforded an unprecedented, if limited, peek into the workings of influential band of conservative donors.

Freedom Partners, part of the web of political organizations financed by Charles and David Koch and other wealthy donors, broke with its tradition of privacy to allow a live stream of a debate of sorts among Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky. It was held at a resort in Palm Springs after days of closed meetings.

The result was a detailed discussion of issues that at this early stage of the campaign have largely been explored only in broad brushstrokes. And it illustrated differences that will be discussed at length in the Republican primaries should the three men -- currently all exploring the 2016 race -- jump in.

Stark disagreement came in the area of...

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Cruz, Christie, Walker, other Republicans land in Iowa. But no Romney or Bush

The 2016 presidential contest descended upon Iowa on Saturday in a marathon bout of political speed-dating that did little to clarify the vast choices likely to face Republican voters over the next year.

In 20-minute bursts of staccato flirting, more than half a dozen more-or-less top-tier Republican presidential possibilities paraded across a stage in a historic theater near downtown Des Moines, their appearances interspersed with those from Iowa elected officials.

The blandishments — over more than nine hours and from a cast that ranged from serious contenders to Sarah Palin and Donald Trump — came about a year before Iowans will cast the first votes on the road to the White House, a road that will take most candidates through nearly all of this state's 99 counties.

By the end Saturday night, two themes were evident: the persistent cleavages in the party as it seeks to unify control over Washington by seizing the White House in 2016, and the gravitational pull to the right that will...

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Donald Trump slams a Romney bid for 2016: 'He choked'

President Obama has been, hands down, the least popular figure at Saturday’s Freedom Summit in Iowa—blistered for what Republicans here cast as his unconstitutional overreach, for scandals at the Veterans Affairs Department and the IRS, and for his policies on immigration and abortion rights.

A close second? The unofficial front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

Donald Trump, the showman who perennially threatens to run for president—and who said Saturday that he was pondering 2016 again—searingly criticized both Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, the leading establishment presences at this exceedingly early stage of the campaign.

“It can’t be Mitt because Mitt ran and failed. You can’t have Romney; he choked,” said Trump, revving the crowd.

But then he went on: “You can’t have Bush. The last thing we need is another Bush.”

Trump blamed Bush’s brother, former President George W. Bush, for being the man who “gave us Obama,” and he criticized the former Florida...

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Sarah Palin, back in Iowa, and back to hinting at a White House run

Sarah Palin is back in Iowa, hinting at a potential run for president.

Heard this before? You betcha.

Yes, it happened in the run-up to the 2012 election. And now, again, in the run-up to 2016.

Palin told thousands of Iowa political activists gathered Saturday for a multi-candidate speechmaking fest near downtown Des Moines that it was time for the sign "that says no girls allowed" to be taken off the Oval office door.

"If you want something said, you ask a man; if you want something done, you ask a woman," she told the crowd, adding "Now I'm ready for Hillary, are you?"

It was not exactly an announcement: Palin came closer to that in a hotel lobby late Friday when she told a Washington Post reporter that she was "seriously interested" in pursuing the presidency.

None of it, of course, means that Palin will actually run. The 2008 vice presidential nominee who quit as governor of Alaska before her first term was up is something of an echo of Donald Trump when it comes to teasing a...

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Jeb Bush sketches out 2016 themes, prods GOP to be upbeat

Sketching the broad outlines of a presidential campaign that is undeclared but well underway, Jeb Bush on Friday mixed familiar calls for lower taxes and less regulation with an admonishment to fellow Republicans to stay upbeat and offer hope as their central message in 2016.

"Just a lot of reasons to be angry or grumpy and negative and then react to the overreach," the former Florida governor told a gathering of the nation’s auto dealers in San Francisco after delivering a long and scathing assessment of President Obama’s time in office, both domestically and on the world stage.

But, he went on, "we’re not going to win votes as Republicans unless we can lay out a hopeful, optimistic message that’s based in reality, that’s grounded in a set of policies that are real, that people believe can actually happen. Hope and a positive agenda wins out over anger and reaction every day of the week."

Bush’s appearance before an overflow audience of several thousand was his first campaign-style...

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Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson brings NBA showmanship to White House

President Obama is used to getting a very earnest, often heartfelt introduction from a nervous ordinary person before he takes the podium for a speech.

But on Friday, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson broke the mold.

Introducing the president at a White House meeting with mayors, Johnson, a former NBA point guard, called the president “a really cool dude" and “a smooth president” who croons Al Green and slow jams the news with Jimmy Fallon.

“He’s even been known to talk a little hoop and maybe even play a little hoop,” Johnson said. “I thought I’d give him an introduction befitting to a star.”

At that point, Johnson took out his smartphone and began playing the Chicago Bulls introduction theme music made famous during the team's Michael Jordan era. Soon the buttoned-down crowd gathered in the East Room of the White House was clapping along.

“Ladies and gentlemen, standing 6 foot 1, 180 pounds, southpaw from Columbia University, via Punahou High School in Honolulu,” Johnson boomed into the...

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