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Independent Senator Bernie Sanders Challenges Clinton in Presidential Race

The Gilmer Free Press

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will take on former New York senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Vermont candidate kicked off his presidential campaign outside of the Capitol on Thursday.

“After a year of travel, discussion and dialogue, I have decided to be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president,“ Sanders told his supporters in a statement. He is the first challenger facing Clinton in the Democratic primary.

Goals for combating income inequality, addressing climate change and reducing the influence of money in politics were laid out in his candidacy statement.

“I think it is time for the American people to say enough is enough,“ he said in an interview with The New York Times. “We need an economy that works for all of us and not just for a handful of billionaires.“

Although officially an Independent and a self-identified socialist, Sanders will vie for the Democratic nomination—a strategy with far greater odds of winning the presidency as opposed to running on the ballot as an independent, according to analysts.

Sanders is expected to launch his campaign with a rally in Vermont in a few weeks, Vermont Public Radio reported Wednesday.

One of his main platforms will be the welfare of the middle class in the United States, which Sanders believes has suffered in recent decades while the wealthy’s bottom lines have grown exponentially.

Last week, Sanders voiced opposition to the White House’s proposal for the largest international trade pact in history—the Trans Pacific Partnership—which is backed by 12 nations.

Congress had hoped to fast-track the trade deal but Sanders employed a little-used parliamentary tactic to delay work on the agreement because, he said, the American people deserve to know what the results of the pact will be.

“They told us NAFTA was going to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. NAFTA cost us jobs,“ Sanders said, likening the deal to the controversial 1994 NAFTA trade agreement under President Bill Clinton.

“Instead of rubber-stamping the agreement, Congress and the public deserve a fair chance to learn what’s in the proposal,“ he also said.

Sanders hinted last year that he was mulling a run for president.

The Surprise Issue of the 2016 Election?

The Gilmer Free Press

The 2016 election season is just beginning, but a surprise issue is already emerging among both Republican and Democratic candidates: Social Security. Some observers thought that conservative candidates would be inclined to avoid the so-called “third rail” of American politics this time around, but the opposite seems to be true. A lot of Republicans are eager to propose cutting it, even as many progressives talk of expanding it.

Where does that leave the Democratic Party and its odds-on favorite for the presidential nomination? Will Hillary Clinton embrace her party’s growing call to increase Social Security benefits?

It’s not an extreme idea, as some would have us believe, or even a particularly “leftist” one. In fact, Social Security expansion was a key part of the Republican agenda – in 1956. This new proposal turns out to have surprisingly old roots.


The Means Testing Bait-and-Switch

First, the Republican race: Social Security surfaced in the very first days of the campaign, thanks to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie, regurgitating the corporate-funded clichés of the self-described “center,” went after the program with the zeal of a born huckster. He wants to raise the retirement age, a benefit cut which would impose a heavy burden on working Americans.

Christie also trotted out some old, discredited arguments for means-testing, adding that by opposing it “the left are defending the rich.”

Nice try, Mr. Christie, but that bait-and-switch game has already been exposed. “Means testing” would deprive billionaires of a maximum monthly benefit of $2,663 in 2014. Think they care? Proposals from “the left,” on the other hand, would either lift the payroll tax cap altogether or reimpose it on earnings above a certain amount. That would add up to a significant amount for ultra-high earners.

Now who’s defending the rich, Governor?

Christie would start his means-tested cuts at earnings of $80,000 per year – but how long would that last? Conservative groups like the Concord Coalition have proposed doing it for average incomes as low as $20,000 per year.

Christie’s “bold plan” would become a race to the bottom for the American middle class. It would also convert Social Security from an insurance plan to a welfare program based on need. (And we know how Republicans feel about welfare, don’t we?)


Pandering

Jeb Bush soon joined in the act, trying to see Christie’s cuts and raise him – with other people’s benefit money. Bush insisted that “we need to raise the retirement age, not for the people that already nearing – receiving Social Security that are already on it [sic], but raise it gradually over a long period of time for people that are just entering the system.” (There’s that Bush syntax again. Did you miss it?)

But if Bush thinks raising the retirement age is such a good idea, why not do it for people who are “already nearing” it? It’s simple pandering. Both Bush and Christie know that older voters lean Republican, and they don’t want to alienate them. Bush and Christie want to get elected – and both want to protect their rich patrons from the plan to lift the payroll tax cap.

Then came an unexpected ploy by Mike Huckabee, who is attempting to outflank his opponents from the left on this issue. “I’m getting slammed by some in the GOP ruling class for thinking it wrong to involuntarily take money from people’s paychecks for 50 years,” said Huckabee, “and then not keep the promise government made.”

By opposing all Social Security cuts, Huckabee has staked out a position which is more progressive than that of President Obama through much of his administration – or, for that matter, of Sen. Hillary Clinton during the 2008 campaign. That’s a politically savvy move. Voters across the political spectrum oppose benefit cuts by wide margins.


Squandering

Social Security would seem like a natural issue for the Democrats. Their party created this popular and successful program, after all, and Democrats led the fight to thwart George W. Bush’s unpopular and potentially disastrous privatization plan.

But in recent years Democrats have had a knack for giving away the advantages Social Security brings to their party. That’s what happened in 2010, after two years of equivocation and deficit-reduction obsession from President Obama squandered their good will on this issue.

Polling figures from that time tell the story: a 20-point advantage on Social Security in 2005 had been turned into a dis-advantage of several points by the time the 2010 election rolled around. That’s the year the ever-cynical and ever-inventive Republicans invented something called the “Seniors’ Bill Of Rights,” ran to the rhetorical left of Democrats on Medicare and Social Security – and recaptured the House.


Changing Places

How is this year shaping up for Democrats? Secretary Clinton had this to say when asked this week about Social Security:

“I think there will be some big political arguments about Social Security. And my only question to everybody who thinks we can privatize Social Security or undermine it in some way – (is) what is going to happen to all these people …? … It’s just wrong.”

While that’s a firmer defense of the program than she offered in 2008, it’s not likely to satisfy voters on the left – or across the political spectrum. They’re likely to remember that Barack Obama offered similar reassurances in 2008, only to reverse himself once elected.

Obama the campaigner talked of lifting the payroll tax cap to protect the program, while then-Senator Clinton said “I don’t want to raise taxes on anybody.” Clinton called lifting the cap “a one trillion dollar tax increase” and said “I am for getting back to fiscal responsibility.” She talked of a plan to “rein in the budget” – that is, to impose benefit cuts – and proposed a “bipartisan commission” to ensure that the program was “solvent.”

We know what happened next. Obama won the nomination and the presidency. He then pivoted to Clinton’s approach, by convening a bipartisan “deficit commission” empowered to look at Social Security (Social Security does not contribute to the deficit) and appointing two longtime benefit-cut advocates to co-chair it.

These reversals may give rise to greater voter skepticism this time around.


Where The Voters Are

That means generalities and vague reassurances are less likely to be effective this year, especially when Social Security has become such a hot political issue. An endorsement of its expansion represents a firmer, more concrete commitment to the program. And expansion isn’t just a nod to the “Warren wing” of the party, as pundits have suggested. It’s also a nod to voters across the political spectrum.

Social Security expansion has “overwhelming” support, regardless of party affiliation, according to political consultant Celinda Lake. Lake’s research on this issue showed that 90 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of Republicans, and 73 percent of independents support “increasing Social Security benefits and paying for that increase by having wealthy Americans pay the same rate into Social Security as everybody else.”

To her credit, Secretary Clinton has been talking a lot about wealth inequality this time around. But how is that problem addressed? One concrete way is by increasing Social Security benefits.


Where The Party Is

Anything less than an embrace of expansion is likely to leave the base unsatisfied. And a refusal to commit to expansion would put Clinton at odds with most or all of the other potential candidates currently being discussed, most of whom (including Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, and reluctant draftee Sen. Elizabeth Warren) have already endorsed the idea.

Anything less than expansion would also place Secretary Clinton to the right of Senate Democrats, 42 out of 44 of whom voted to expand Social Security in an amendment which resembled the one studied in Lake’s research.


Tell ‘Em Ike Sent You.

Come to think of it: If the Democratic nominee endorses anything less than Social Security expansion, that would place the party to the right of Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Republicans.

The GOP boasted about its accomplishments in the 1956 Republican Party platform. “Social Security has been extended to an additional 10 million workers,” said the platform, “and the benefits raised for 6 1/2 million.”

Eisenhower’s platform goes on to say: “We are proud of and shall continue our far-reaching and sound advances in matters of basic human needs – expansion of Social Security.”

Benefits increases? Social Security expansion? Ike’s 1956 Republicans sound a lot like today’s Democratic “Warren wing.”

If the Democrats want to win on this issue in 2016, they might be wise to follow the trail Republicans blazed for them 60 years earlier.

~~  Richard Eskow ~~

Does the Presidential Aspirant Blame Himself?

Rand Paul Blames ‘Lack of Fathers’ for Baltimore Unrest
But His Own Son Was Just Arrested for Drunk Driving

The Gilmer Free Press

Republican presidential candidate Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has done more outreach to the minority community than anyone in his party, denouncing the drug war and mass incarceration.

Yet this week he was apparently in full GOP primary mode as he put all of that aside to instead blame the whole thing on “lack of fathers”: “I came through the train on Baltimore (sic) last night, I’m glad the train didn’t stop,“ he said, laughing, during an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham.

Railing against what he repeatedly called “thuggery and thievery” in the streets of Baltimore, Paul told Ingraham that talking about “root causes” was not appropriate in the middle of a riot.

“The police have to do what they have to do, and I am very sympathetic to the plight of the police in this,“ he said.

As for root causes, Paul listed some ideas of his own. “There are so many things we can talk about,“ the senator said, “the breakdown of the family structure, the lack of fathers, the lack of a moral code in our society.“

It’s a pretty interesting explanation, given what happened with Paul’s own son earlier this month. Young William Hilton Paul, 22, crashed his car into an occupied car after driving drunk, “the third time that William Paul has had a run-in with the law involving alcohol.” Perhaps the Senator shouldn’t throw rocks while living in a glass house?

~~  Zaid Jilani ~~

Political Forecaster Says 2016 Governor’s Race ‘Leans Republican’

The Gilmer Free Press

CHARLESTON, WV – More than a year ahead of West Virginia’s primary election, a political prognosticator from the University of Virginia is classifying the 2016 race for governor as “leans Republican.”

The status was “toss-up” last week before U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) declined to enter the race.

Kyle Kondik, managing editor for Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said the change has everything to do with Manchin’s decision.

“Ultimately, West Virginia’s movement toward the GOP in recent elections suggests that the Republicans should start this race with a small edge,” Kondik wrote before appearing on MetroNews “Talkline.”

“I don’t think that it’s a slam dunk or anything for the Republicans but, just given the way the political winds have shifted, I do think that in an open seat without someone like Manchin in the race, I do think you have to look at the Republicans as a favorite,” Kondik said.

Republicans now hold one U.S. Senate seat in WV, all three U.S. House seats, an 18-16 advantage in the state Senate and a 64-36 edge in the state House of Delegates.

Within the GOP, three candidates have confirmed they’re “seriously considering” runs for governor: 1st District Congressman David McKinley (R-WV), state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Senate President Bill Cole (R-Mercer, 06).

For the Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall, 02) has filed pre-candidacy papers.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin’s name has been mentioned multiple times as a potential Democratic candidate while Jim Justice, owner of The Greenbrier Resort, has said he’ll make a decision on a possible campaign in the coming weeks.

“Obviously, the guy’s going to have a ton of resources and, if he runs a smart campaign, he could very well win it,” Kondik said of Justice. “(But) Just because he can spend unlimited amounts of money essentially on advertising, doesn’t necessarily mean he can win the race.”

Kondik called Manchin’s decision not to run for governor a “substantial break” for U.S. Senate Democrats.

“They would have had serious trouble holding his Senate seat,” Kondik wrote. “Even Manchin will have to fight hard for re-election (in 2018), but he retains strong favorability ratings.”

What Ted Cruz and Rand Paul Fail to Grasp About the Constitution

The Gilmer Free Press      The Gilmer Free Press

With the 2016 election cycle having kicked into first-gear already, any American who hasn’t inured themselves to the monotonous (and often ultimately meaningless) repetition of the word “Constitution” is advised to get to self-desensitizing — and quick.

Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have already made a fetishized version of the U.S.’s supreme governing document central to their campaign rhetoric; and even politicians less beloved by the supposedly Constitution-crazy Tea Party, like Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton, are likely to soon follow suit. That’s how American politics functions now, in the era of the NSA, Guantanamo Bay, lethal drone strikes and endless war.

But as that list of questionable policies suggests, there’s an unanswered question lurking behind so much of our happy talk about the Constitution — namely, do we even understand it? As dozens of polls and public surveys will attest, the answer is, not really. And that’s one of the reasons that Yale Law School professor Akhil Reed Amar has decided to write a multi-book series about the Constitution so many Americans claim to love, but so few seem to understand. “The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of our Constitutional Republic,” released earlier this month, is that project’s latest addition.

Recently, Salon spoke over the phone with Amar about the Constitution, his books, and why he sees Abraham Lincoln as perhaps the United States’s real founding father. Our conversation is below and has been edited for clarity and length.

So this book is part of a larger, multi-book project on the Constitution. The first was a biography of the document, the second was about its “unwritten” provisions, and this is the third. What’s your focus this time?

The third book in this project is a geographical slicing of the story; ours is a vast republic of massive diversity, and the Constitution looks a little different in different states and regions. I try to show all of that that through 12 stories … each of which says something general about the United States Constitution but does so through the window of a particular state. It discusses a person or an idea or a case or an event particularly associated with that region that also casts light, more generally, on our Constitutional project.

So how did what you call “brute geography” influence the way we understand the Constitution today?

The very breadth of the American landmass and its distance from the old world were huge elements in the American founding and in the Civil War experience. The idea of creating an indivisible union in the 1780s, the idea of forming a more perfect union, was an idea powerfully influenced by these two geographic factors: a wide moat between the Old World and the New World (known as the Atlantic Ocean) would be able to protect Americans from Old World tyranny in the same way the English Channel protected Britain from much of the militarism of the European Continent…

But in 1787, as Americans looked around the world, they saw that Britain was free, and Britain was free because England and Scotland had merged, had formed an indivisible, perfect union that would protect liberty because they had gotten rid of land borders on the island and only needed a navy to protect themselves. That worked for England and that would work for America even better, because we’d have an English Channel times 50.

This will become manifest destiny and the Monroe Doctrine; we’ll control our hemisphere and we’ll be protected from Europe … Our Constitution largely succeeds because there’s no major standing army in peacetime for most of American history, and that fact is created by some brute geographic realities.

I’m speaking to you now right around the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination. He looms very large in your book; you describe him in some ways as almost prophetic. What made Lincoln’s understanding of the country and the Constitution so profound?

We live in Lincoln’s house. The Framers’ house was divided against itself; and, because of slavery, it fell. That failure is called the Civil War, and Lincoln rebuilt [the country] on a solid anti-slavery foundation, a foundation that would be strengthened after his death by the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment (which abolished slavery everywhere, irrevocably), the Fourteenth Amendment (which promised racial equality) and the Fifteenth Amendment (which promised equal voting rights).

I begin the book with Lincoln because he transformed the Union. He saved it and transformed it and … his story was very much influenced by, literally, where he came from. He has a vision of the Constitution that’s very much influenced by Illinois, in particular, and by the Midwest more generally. He comes from a part of the country that was the Northwest Territory, that was always free soil even before the Constitution, and he has a very free-soil vision.

How so?

The language of the 13th Amendment is borrowed, word-for-word, from the language of the Northwest Ordinance. Lincoln thinks that the nation created the states, which, of course, Robert E. Lee … could never buy into. Robert E. Lee would say that the states created the Union; but the Midwest [perspective] would say … before Illinois was a state, it was a territory; the Union created these new states out of nothing. That’s a very Midwestern perspective on the Constitution.

Lincoln is, far and away, the most important constitutional decision-maker of the last two centuries; and arguably the most important constitutional decision-maker and interpreter ever.

But Lincoln was never a judge nor a constitutional scholar. He was a politician.

Most people are taught in high school that the most important constitutional decision is Marbury v. Madison, but that’s not even the most important constitutional decision of 1803. The Louisiana Purchase was far more important than Marbury v. Madison, because it doubled the landmass of America and made sure that the country would survive. When you understand that, you understand that many important constitutional decisions are made not by judges but by presidents.

The two most important constitutional decisions ever are Lincoln’s decision to resist [the South’s] unilateral secession, and Lincoln’s decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which would lead to an end of slavery — that is transformative, and Lincoln made those decisions unilaterally as president. Had these issues reached the U.S. Supreme Court, controlled as it was [during Lincoln’s time] by Roger Taney, a fierce opponent of Lincoln, the Court might very well have tried to invalidate Lincoln’s projects.

We live in a Constitution utterly transformed by the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, and we would have none of those but for Lincoln.

Lincoln aside, though, you also argue that geography has played a big role in the Supreme Court — which, of course, is supposed to be the chief interpreter of the Constitution. How did geography influence the Court’s history?

Let’s take the most infamous judicial ruling of all time, the Dred Scott decision of 1857. It emerges from a Supreme Court that’s profoundly malapportioned: five of the nine justices on the Dred Scott court come from the slave-holding South, even though only a third of the population lives in that region.

Part of that is because entire antebellum system is skewed towards the South because of the three-fifths clause, which gives slave states extra clout in the House of Representatives and therefore the Electoral College. Presidents are picking justices, and the presidency tilts towards the South because of the three-fifths clause; almost all your early presidents are either slave-holding Southerners or “Northern men of Southern sympathies” — that is, pro-slavery Northerners.

If we view the Constitution and American history with more of a focus on the role played by geography, what are some the implications for U.S. politics today and in the near-future?

One of the things I’m trying to tell you in this book is how we can see presidential elections and our political polarization in new ways if we’re attentive to states and regions.

Our parties are polarized geographically; that this is not the first time that’s so (early on, it was the South against the North; Jefferson against Adams). The geographic alignment is remarkably similar to the geographic alignment in Lincoln’s time with this interesting twist: the Democrats have become the party of the North and the coasts and the Republicans have become the party of the former Confederacy. The parties have basically flipped, but it’s the same basic alignment…

One of the other big things I want you to see is how regions and states are hugely important in, for example, presidential politics. I talk about the significance in this book, in particular, of Ohio and Florida in the Electoral College and also of Texas. Is it a coincidence that Marco Rubio comes from Florida? That Jeb Bush is the governor of Florida who was born in Texas and whose father and brother had their political bases in Texas? That Rand Paul was born in Texas and his father ran for president from Texas? That Ted Cruz is from Texas? That Rick Perry is a former governor of Texas?

   

~~  Elias Isquith - Salon ~~

Why Clinton Now Pushes Campaign-Money Reform

The Gilmer Free Press

Why has Hillary Clinton taken up campaign-finance reform as a big issue in her presidential campaign? Some people say she is trying to inoculate herself from attacks on her own campaign’s prodigious fundraising and on contributions to the Clinton Foundation. Others say it must be because campaign finance is emerging as a populist issue for 2016.

I doubt either is the main incentive. The most logical reason for Clinton to be talking about campaign finance right now has to do with her unusual position as the presumptive Democratic nominee more than a year before swing voters are paying attention.

In theory, the best strategy for all candidates this far from Election Day is to be as vague as possible. Committing to specific policies on Iran or health care or the economy risks the possibility that events may undermine whatever a candidate says now.

But most candidates face some opposition at this point for their party’s nomination, and they (in this case, the Republicans) have little choice. General-election swing voters may not be paying attention in April 2015, but many of the people who choose their party’s nominee are. Party actors who care most about nominations want specific positions spelled out as proof that the candidate will be a reliable ally if elected. At the same time, candidates who hold nearly identical positions have to find new angles in their policies to differentiate themselves.

Those incentives don’t exist for a candidate who has virtually wrapped up the nomination already. Yet Clinton can’t quite avoid talking about her positions altogether. The norms of campaigning demand a platform.

Campaign-finance reform is a safe subject. It’s hard to see how events will make current talking points on it look silly or embarrassing in the future. Restricting money in politics is broadly popular (especially with a lot reporters and their editors), even if it isn’t something that will sway a lot of votes in the general election next year.

It’s also a low-cost way of appealing to Democrats who tend to support insurgent candidates – that is, those who make a stink about money in politics. It’s a lot less risky issue for Clinton than engaging in antiwar oratory or committing to some specific economic proposals.

Of course, Clinton may simply care about campaign-finance reform. Or there could be some other calculation at work. We aren’t privy to the decision-making inside her campaign. All we know is that she has incentives to discuss it now.

Expect to hear more on this and on other subjects that fit the same profile, all summer and into the fall. Clinton will eventually have to give serious speeches on foreign policy, the economy and plenty of other things. But she’s likely to put that off as long as possible, just as she delayed the beginning of the open phase of her candidacy.

That’s bad news for party groups that want to impose constraints on Clinton for the future. But she has presumably assured enough of them about her reliability, or she wouldn’t be in such a commanding position within the Democratic Party.

~~  Jonathan Bernstein ~~

Rubio’s Trail Journey Begins with a New Hampshire Swing

The Gilmer Free Press

MANCHESTER, NH — Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), sleeves rolled up at a cramped house gathering here, was fielding questions from locals on sensitive topics like Common Core, his shift on immigration and how he plans to win the presidency. Also — and much more critically — baseball.

“Are you a Boston Red Sox fan?” a young boy asked the Miami native and sports fan. The newly minted presidential candidate, a Miami Marlins booster, responded carefully: “How about this: I’m not a Yankees fan.” The crowd clapped approvingly. “That’s just as good!” one person remarked.

In his inaugural campaign trip since officially jumping into the presidential fray this week, here on the ground in this high-stakes state, Rubio was both deliberate and seemingly at-ease as he looked to make headway in a state where he still lags far behind the top tier.

Rubio’s visit came four days after he launched his campaign in Miami, amid news of some early momentum. He raised about $1.25 million in his first full day as a candidate, with reports of eight-digit commitments from deep-pocketed donors swirling late in the week. A pro-Rubio super PAC declined to comment.

The Floridian started his day at Manchester Community College, where he met with students and toured the welding and automotive shops.

Upon learning during his shop tour that someone with a master’s degree in journalism had joined one of the school’s programs, Rubio needled the press corps trailing him: “There you go, guys. There’s the future calling.”

At a Republican summit in Nashua, where more than a dozen other current and potential presidential candidates were also set to appear on Friday and Saturday, Rubio drew a plum Friday evening spot. After his speech, he was asked by an attendee which Democrats he could work with in Washington.

“I think I get along personally with everyone, even people that call me a loser,” joked Rubio, in reference to Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-NV) panning the GOP field.

The day of stops at traditional Granite State markers — the school, the house party, the rubber-chicken dinner — were his first steps on what could be a long road to serious contender status in this first-in-the-nation primary state. The Real Clear Politics average of New Hampshire polling shows Rubio at 6.4%, putting him in sixth place.

Still, his first foray onto the trail was a brief one: Rubio will head home Saturday morning, hitting the fundraising circuit again next week with events in Texas on Monday and Tuesday.

Throughout the day, Rubio, 43, sought to pitch himself as a next-generation candidate best capable of steering the country into a “new American century,” the theme of his campaign.

But Democrats have already sought to undercut Rubio’s message, calling attention to how his views on abortion and same-sex marriage align with the Republican orthodoxy.

A reporter asked Rubio about some of the criticism, specifically how his hard line toward Cuba — a position that resonates much more strongly with older Cuban Americans than younger ones, polling shows — and opposition to same-sex marriage, among other things, square with his effort to pitch himself as a fresh voice.

“There are some things that are universally true throughout their time,” he responded.

Rubio declined to directly criticize his likely rival and longtime mentor Jeb Bush — who along with Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, is seen as an implicit target of his rhetoric about the need to focus on new ideas, not old ones.

“If he announces for president, he’s going to be a very strong candidate,” Rubio said of Bush. “I imagine he will put forth a policy agenda that outlines his position on various issues. And then we can make that judgement.”

One area where the two disagree is on Common Core, the math and English education standards that Rubio, like many conservatives, oppose, but Bush has defended. Rubio explained his opposition at the house gathering by arguing in favor of local control of education benchmarks.

Rubio was also asked to explain his stance on immigration, seen as a potential trouble spot for him because of his 2013 push for a comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate. The plan Rubio pushed — which went nowhere in the GOP-controlled House — included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

“You have to show the American people that you’re serious about enforcement and that future illegal immigration will be under control,” said Rubio, who now says a piecemeal approach, not a big, sweeping measure, is the best strategy.

Rubio did interviews during the day with the New Hampshire Union-Leader newspaper and CBS’s “Face The Nation.”

The senator from Florida has hired an aide to help him break though in the state: Jim Merrill, a veteran campaign strategist who worked for Mitt Romney and who shadowed the senator all day long.

But other Republicans are staffing up too — some more rapidly. According to a Boston Globe analysis, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Texas governor Rick Perry each have three paid operatives in the Granite State.

Petro, the community college student, said in an interview that Rubio and Paul are both on his short list. In an interview after the Manchester house gathering, Bryan Lord of Bedford, who asked Rubio during the event what his plan to win was, said he has also met with Paul.

“I live in New Hampshire. I don’t decide until the last day,” Lord said.

~~  Sean Sullivan ~~

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