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I appreciate Salena Zito’s latest column because, once again, it’s about what’s important to Beltway pundits and what’s important to real people living in America’s heartland. This week, Ms. Zito’s column focuses on the fight between getting distracted by gimmickry or focusing on fundamentals:

Though he never was called up to serve in Vietnam, Garfein, out of Fort Lewis, Wash., led an armored reconnaissance unit and a field artillery battery. “I’ve always felt a connection to the men who fought in the Civil War.”

His conversation turned to leadership, honoring the past, the government scandals of the last five years and the country’s future: “I was taught at a young age to value your community and to serve it. We need more emphasis on that from those who want to lead our country. “And we need to hold those in power in check; stop chasing the unicorns and start chasing and revealing the truth and demanding competency.”

A week later, more than two dozen reporters chased the next presidential cycle’s first unicorn, Hillary Clinton, around an Iowa community college on her first official campaign stop. The optics of that was as comical as a tiny car releasing scores of clowns into a circus ring. But it doesn’t amuse people like Garfein, who wish the media would chase down government corruption and incompetency with the same gusto.

The ‘reporters’ covering Hillary on the campaign trail are making asses of themselves. They breathlessly told us that Queen Hillary had ordered the burrito bowl from a Chipotle in Ohio. They informed us that she’d ordered the “guac”, though Jon Stewart noticed that they didn’t tell us how many napkins she took:

The media are, for all intents and purposes, Hillary’s puppets. For all the talk about how Hillary won’t get the same kid glove treatment from the media like then-candidate Obama did, it’s looking like the media isn’t exactly fired up to investigate Hillary. While she won’t get the slobbering coverage that President Obama got, she’ll get kid glove treatment.

This week, we saw the Hillary ‘correspondents’ do some embarrassing things. First, they acted like puppets chasing her vehicle around a community college building. This morning, veteran NPR political reporter Mara Liasson told media critic Howard Kurtz “For some reason that I’ve never understood, the public wants to know everything that the Clintons do.” That’s what Beltway reporters think about the people’s appetite for the Clintons? Seriously?

There’s no finer example of the difference between real reporters from America’s heartland and ‘reporters’ from inside the DC Beltway.

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You’ll want to read Scott Rasmussen’s article if you want to what’s driving the 2016 election. I’ll highlight here a couple things that Mr. Rasmussen things are important:

It’s all about personal finances—Some believe it’s about the economy, which is a close substitute. But what really matters is how people feel about their own personal finances. If people are feeling much better about their own finances in a year, that would be good news for the Democratic nominee. If things stay the same or get worse, it’s bad news for the president’s party.

The White House has regurgitated their chanting points on the economy whenever there’s a monthly jobs report or a quarterly GDP report. Their economic team could probably recited it in their sleep. That means nothing to voters.

Because the Obama administration’s policies help big corporations, people working for big corporations have done well, especially with their stock market investments. They weren’t hurt by excessive regulations like small businesses have been hurt.

Small businesses have gotten hit with tons of additional costs through regulations. Because much of their would-be profits have gotten eaten by compliance costs, they haven’t been able to expand their businesses or give employees raises.

The Big Blue Wall is a Myth—Democrats argue that all they have to do is win states that consistently voted for their party since 1992 and they just about have the Electoral College locked up. The problem with this theory is that it’s the result of the Republicans winning a majority of the popular vote only once in the past six elections. If a Republican does better in the popular vote, he or she will win some of those states Democrats think they have locked up.

I recently sat down with the red state-blue state map for 2012. Democrats, we’re told, have 242 electoral votes in their column. Republicans have 199 electoral votes in their column. It’s likely that Florida will flip back into the red column. That’s 29 EVs. I can’t picture Hillary doing well in blue collar Ohio. If that’s flipped into the red column, that’s another 18 EVs. Those states’ results suddenly put the race 246 Republicans, 242 Democrats. Colorado will likely flip for the Republicans, too. That’s another 9 EVs, putting the GOP ticket at 255 EVs. Winning Iowa’s 6 EVs and Wisconsin’s 12 EVs puts Republicans at 273. That’s before talking about Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada and New Hampshire.

It’s likely that Hillary will run a ‘War on Women’ campaign. The question isn’t whether that will be Hillary’s strategy. The question is whether she’s a terrible candidate who’ll be seen as manipulative and contrived. Thus far, Hillary hasn’t shown that she’s got the political talent required to pull that off. I think that the thing that other pundits have called rust is really Hillary’s lack of talent. If her last name was Miller, I don’t think the DC punditry would call her a top tier talent.

Hillary Clinton’s grass roots appeal is a bit underwhelming. Last night, I wrote this article talking about how there were more reporters that greeted her at her first official event than there were activists. This post will be the perfect ‘Part II’ to that article. According to this article, Hillary’s Astroturf operation is operating at peak efficiency even if she isn’t:

Hillary Clinton’s AstroTurf candidacy is in full swing in Iowa.

Her Tuesday morning visit to a coffee shop in LeClaire, Iowa was staged from beginning to end, according to Austin Bird, one of the men pictured sitting at the table with Mrs. Clinton. Bird told Daily Mail Online that campaign staffer Troy Price called and asked him and two other young people to meet him Tuesday morning at a restaurant in Davenport, a nearby city. Price then drove them to the coffee house to meet Clinton after vetting them for about a half-hour.

The three got the lion’s share of Mrs. Clinton’s time and participated in what breathless news reports described as a ’roundtable’– the first of many in her brief Iowa campaign swing. Bird himself is a frequent participant in Iowa Democratic Party events. He interned with President Obama’s 2012 presidential re-election campaign, and was tapped to chauffeur Vice President Joe Biden in October 2014 when he visited Davenport. ‘What happened is, we were just asked to be there by Troy,’ Bird said Wednesday in a phone interview.

Hillary meeting with ‘ordinary people’ is off to a glorious start. Who knew that she’d just happen to find some former Obama campaign volunteers at that quaint little diner? If that isn’t the most coincidental meeting in the history of campaigns, it’s close.

It’s still too early to be certain but the hunch I’m getting is that Hillary’s campaign is suffering through an enthusiasm gap. This staged event isn’t the only indicator. The fact that there’s a ‘Draft Elizabeth Warren’ organization after all the times Sen. Warren has said she isn’t running indicates Democrats just don’t like Hillary.

Price was executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party until a month ago. Clinton’s team tapped him last week to be its political director in Iowa. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Bird is a government and community relations coordinator at Genesis Health System in Davenport, Iowa, according to his LinkedIn profile. A coworker at Genesis said Wednesday that Bird is ‘basically a lobbyist in training. That’s what he wants to do.’ Bird disagreed, saying his role was ‘more public relations.’

I’m betting that Iowa Democrats don’t care that Hillary’s events are staged. They just care about winning. Hillary’s problem with this publicity is that it feeds the narrative that Hillary is distant and doesn’t connect with voters.

Clinton’s nascent campaign has carefully coordinated her image as a spontaneous, handshaking populist in her first days as a candidate, posing with Pennsylvanians at a gas station and venturing into an Ohio Chipotle restaurant for lunch. When no one recognized the former first lady – she was wearing sunglasses – the campaign leaked information to The New York Times so its reporters could get security-camera footage to prove she had tried to mingle with voters.

If Hillary doesn’t change things, she’ll need to raise that $2,500,000,000 just to bribe enough ‘activists’ to attend her events.

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If there’s anything that’s constant about Hillary, it’s that she’s constantly re-inventing herself. If people gave me a $10 bill for every time Hillary’s re-invented herself, I’d have enough money to make the house payments on the Clintons’ Georgetown mansion when they were dead broke.

Prior to her announcement Sunday, someone must’ve told Hillary that she was too distant. We know this because Mark Halperin admitted as much:

Check this out:

“Her problem now is not to prove to people that she’s ready to be president because people think she is,” Halperin observed. “The two words she needs are ‘fun’ and ‘new.’”

If the GOP nominates a youthful ticket with a thoughtful reform agenda, Hillary can reinvent herself once a month for the rest of the campaign and it won’t matter. It won’t matter because Hillary is stiff and inauthentic. Hillary isn’t spontaneous like Bill was on the campaign trail.

Hillary’s had to reinvent herself because she rubs people the wrong way too often. Moments like this cement that image:

At the time, progressives praised Hillary’s response. The rest of America flinched. They flinched because they couldn’t believe that a US Secretary of State was that flippant about the assassination of a US ambassador.

Immediately after Hillary’s ‘defense’ of Bill, they quarantined her. Bill’s staff quarantined her because of her “vast right wing conspiracy” statement. That quarantine ended with Hillary’s “pretty in pink” puff piece interview.

Halperin is right in that America has formed an opinion about Hillary. Unfortunately for her, she’s been one of the most polarizing political figures of this generation. Hillary’s advisors understand that, which is why they’ve instructed her to run on her ‘champion of every day people’ theme. Between that and her ‘Let’s crack that last glass ceiling’ theme and the certainty to run one of the most negative campaigns in presidential history, many more reinventions will be required before election day.

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CNN’s Brooke Baldwin and Dana Bash talked about Sen. Rubio’s youth and turning it around now vs. how they criticized then-Sen. Obama about it in 2008:

Here’s what Baldwin said that caught my attention:

BROOKE BALDWIN: Well, they tried to slam the then-Sen. Obama for it and now you have all these freshman GOP senators in the same situation.

It’s fair game to ask whether Republicans should’ve criticized then-Sen. Obama. The answer to that question is simple. Yes, it was fair that Republicans questioned then-Sen. Obama because he was just 2 years removed from being a back-bench state senator when he started running for president.

First, let’s remember that Barack Obama served only a total of 4 years in the Senate. In 2003, Obama was a state senator who frequently voted present. He didn’t have any accomplishments to speak of. Upon joining the Senate, he essentially started running for president. Just 2 years after getting elected to the US Senate, Obama announced that he was running for president. As a result, he didn’t take his committee assignments seriously. That’s one of the reasons why President Obama’s policies have been disastrous. (The other reason why they’ve been disastrous is because of his belief in a failed ideology.)

By comparison, Sen. Rubio and Sen. Paul are in the fifth year of their respective terms in office. They’ve taken their committee assignments seriously. Sen. Rubio, for all his faults, is an expert on national security and terrorism. I said here that Sen. Rubio would mop the floor with Hillary’s behind if they ever debated foreign policy or national security.

It’s substantially different to go from being a state senator to president in 5 years than to go from Speaker of the Florida House to presidential candidate in 7 years. Sen. Rubio’s understanding of the issues is significantly better than President Obama’s understanding of the issues.

I don’t doubt that Sen. Rubio was nervous initially when he started his presentation. It’s an emotional moment for him and his family. I’d be worried if he wasn’t a little emotional. It’s worth noticing that Ms. Bash said that he settled down once he got a little ways into the speech. That’s why I wrote that Sen. Rubio blew Hillary away.

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Brian Beutler is one of the left’s most prominent attack puppies. He didn’t even wait for Sen. Rubio to declare his intention to run for the White House before launching an intellectually feeble attack. If this is the Left’s best shot, they’re in trouble:

Senator Marco Rubio, who will announce his candidacy for president on Monday, was supposed to lead a GOP breakaway faction in support of comprehensive immigration reform, but was unable to persuade House Republicans to ignore the nativist right, and the whole thing blew up in his face. In regrouping, he’s determined that the key to restoring Republican viability in presidential elections is to woo middle class voters with fiscal policies that challenge conservative orthodoxy.

His new basic insight is correct. The GOP’s obsession with distributing resources up the income scale is the single biggest factor impeding it from reaching new constituencies, both because it reflects unpopular values and because it makes them unable to address emerging national needs that require spending money.

It also happens to be the raison d’être of the conservative establishment. Challenging the right’s commitment to lowering taxes on high earners, and reducing transfers to the poor and working classes, will encounter vast resistance. Where Paul can appeal to the moral and religious sensibilities of elderly whites who might otherwise oppose criminal justice reforms, a real challenge to GOP fiscal orthodoxy will get no quarter from GOP donors.

If Rubio were both serious and talented enough to move his party away from its most inhibiting orthodoxy, in defiance of those donors, his candidacy would represent a watershed. His appeal to constituencies outside of the GOP base would be both sincere and persuasive.

The first point worth making is that Mr. Beutler’s opinion is based on his belief that conservatism has been rejected. Starting from the perspective that a political philosophy is antiquated means the person thinks that philosophy isn’t viable. The next point worth making is that Mr. Beutler believes that the book John Judis co-wrote with Ruy Teixeira titled The Emerging Democratic Majority is still Gospel truth. It isn’t. Third, Mr. Beutler apparently thinks that Rand Paul appeals “to the moral and religious sensibilities of elderly whites.” That’s delusional thinking. Rand Paul has a following but it isn’t with Christian conservatives. Let’s examine Beutler’s opinions one at a time.

Conservatism wasn’t rejected by the public. It’s been rejected by politicians like John McCain, John Boehner, Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham. These politicians have spent too much time listening to the DC Echochamber. When conservative principles are applied, like they’ve been applied in Wisconsin and Texas, they’ve produced fantastic results. Further proof that conservatism still resonates with people is that Marco Rubio repeatedly got standing ovations in his announcement speech and Scott Walker, supposedly a guy who was too boring to be a top tier candidate, got rave reviews for his speech in Iowa.

Next, The Emerging Democratic Majority worked for a couple of election cycles before failing the last 2 cycles. It’s even more pronounced during the midterms. The number of state legislative seats, not to mention the number of legislative majorities that flipped from blue to red, was nothing short of overwhelming.

Finally, Rand Paul isn’t, and never will be, beloved by Christian conservatives. I won’t say that libertarianism and Christian conservatism fit together like metric wrenches fit together with standard bolts. They’re not that incompatible. Rather, I’d say they aren’t a close fit and leave it at that.

There’s no question that the Clinton Machine will do its best to bloody the Republican nominee. It’s their only hope against young, attractive candidates like Gov. Walker and Sen. Rubio and their reform-centric agendas. If they can’t vilify these candidates, Hillary can’t win.

That’s why Hillary’s consultants are drinking Maalox like it was Gatorade on a hot summer’s day.

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I’ve frequently said that Marco Rubio will highlight the image that he’s the future and that Hillary’s ‘sell-by date’ had passed. This article verifies that I was on the right track:

Portraying Clinton as a candidate of the past, Rubio, 43, talked about the opportunity awaiting the GOP as it seeks to recapture the White House after eight years out of power.

“The Republican Party, for the first time in a long time, has a chance in this election to be the party of the future,” Rubio said on the call. “Just yesterday, we heard from a leader from yesterday who wants to take us back to yesterday, but I feel that this country has always been about tomorrow.”

Hillary will do her best to run away from Washington, DC, partially because the average voter doesn’t have a positive opinion of DC but partially because she’s had a high profile, non-productive career as a Washington fixture. When initially asked what her accomplishments were, State Department officials touted the fact that she’d put on more air miles as Secretary of State than any of her predecessors.

Appropriately, Carly Fiorina brought the house down at CPAC with this riff:

In a debate on foreign policy, there’s no question in my mind that Sen. Rubio would convincingly win that debate with Hillary, starting with her giving the Russian foreign minister that gimmicky-looking reset button. Part of the reason why Sen. Rubio would convincingly win that debate is because Hillary would either have to defend a pathetic Obama foreign policy or she’d have to distance herself from President Obama’s foreign policy.

If Hillary runs away from the Obama administration’s foreign policy, she’d open herself up to charges of being less than forthright. That plays into the narrative that’s haunted Hillary for 25 years in DC. That’s a damned if you, damned if you don’t situation.

The other thing working against Hillary is the fact that he’s youthful and energetic, 2 words that aren’t associated with Hillary. That isn’t sexist. It’s politics in the TV age. Starting in 1960, image has mattered. In that Kennedy-Nixon debate, people that listened to the debate thought Nixon won it. People that watched it thought JFK won it.

It’s been that way ever since.

The other thing that’s working against Hillary is that she isn’t a great campaigner. Her book tour was a disaster. Yesterday, Hillary’s team botched it with this:

Bill’s people never would’ve made that mistake. Period. For all the credit she’s been given for being a top-tier candidate, there’s ample proof that suggests she isn’t. Winning the Democratic nomination will be relatively easy. Winning the general election is an entirely different matter.

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Much has been written recently by conservatives about narrative-driven reporting. That’s the latest nickname for something I started talking about in March, 2006. Back then, I coined the phrase Agenda Media. Glenn Reynolds’ USA Today column is just a newer way of talking about the same thing. Here’s how Reynolds breaks things down:

Why did Rolling Stone make such a colossal — and, potentially, very expensive — mistake? Like The Times editors, the editors at Rolling Stone had bought thoroughly into a narrative. For The Times, it was the hypocritical NRA. For Rolling Stone, it was sexually predatory fraternity members. In both cases, excitement about this narrative led to the reporting of things that weren’t true, and humiliation for the reporters and editors.

Ultimately, Rolling Stone and the NYTimes published those articles for this reason:

The other thing these stories have in common is that they all served Democratic Party talking points, whether based on anti-gun thinking, “war on women” sloganeering, or pro-Hillary sentiment. For whom journalists are rooting, of course, is no mystery to most news media consumers, but it’s telling that the errors so often point in the same direction. (As columnist Kurt Schlichter tweeted, the corrections to news stories never seem to make conservatives look worse than the original.) That’s a diversity problem, too, of course: When everyone in the newsroom shares the same political leaning, groupthink and outright propagandizing get a lot easier.

That’s just a more polished way of saying what I’ve written about since 2006. The Agenda Media isn’t interested in reporting the truth. They have to oppose the truth if they want to stay on the Democratic Party’s good side. The Agenda Media isn’t about old-fashioned reporting of facts. It’s about advancing the hardline progressives’ agenda. If that requires lying, then that’s what they’ll do without hesitation.

The secret to being an accepted member of the Agenda Media just requires a few things. First, you can’t have a conscience. Next, you have to love the hardline progressives’ political agenda more than you love the truth. Third, you have to follow the hardline progressives’ chanting points without question. Finally, you must enthusiastically deny that you have an agenda even if a conservative exposes your agenda.

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Earlier today, Hillary officially announced that she’s running for the Democratic nomination for president. That’s surprising like finding out Bill Gates made money is surprising. Hillary’s gaffe-tastic announcement will soon be swept away. Marco Rubio’s candidacy won’t be swept aside:

Rubio was elected in 2010 as part of that year’s tea party wave. Since then, he’s delivered the official republican response to President Obama’s state of the union address, played a key role in passing bipartisan immigration reform through the Senate and proven himself a powerful rising star in the Republican Party. His announcement Monday that he is running for President should scare Democrats, and here’s why.

First off, Rubio is a confident and effective public speaker. He’s likable without sounding weak, and he’s powerful without being arrogant. He responded to an unfortunate gaffe during his response to the state of the union in which he awkwardly reached for a water bottle in the middle of his speech, with humor and political savvy. This leads to my next point. On likability, Rubio is a great foil to Clinton.

Clinton is a very seasoned political insider at 67 years old who has played crucial roles in two Presidential administrations, and has run in a previous campaign for the office. The 43-year-old Rubio, on the other hand, is a fresh face, who was elected over an establishment Republican (the now Democrat Charlie Crist) just five years ago.

Hillary isn’t likable. Further, she’s secretive and calculating. In making her announcement, Hillary said she wanted to be everyday Americans’ champion. Marco Rubio is the personification of America’s rags-to-riches dream-come-true. It’s possible to disagree with him on policies but there’s no denying he’s an appealing candidate.

Most importantly, he’s comfortable with himself in a way that Hillary isn’t. Sen. Rubio is young, charismatic and knowledgeable. Hillary is secretive, distant and cold. That isn’t the match-up Democrats are looking forward to. Clearly, they’re worried:

It’d be naïve for democrats to think that these demographic and geographic advantages won’t boost the young, handsome and telegenic Senator into a pretty good position against their all-but-anointed nominee. Add this cross party appeal to the possibility that Rubio uses his unique background to unite establishment Republicans and grassroots conservatives in November 2016 and you’ve got a possible disaster for Democrats, who were pummeled in last year’s mid-term elections.

Around a dozen Republicans will announce presidential bids for 2016. Only about five of them will have any chance at winning. I’m firm in my belief that the best shot for Republicans is to nominate a young charismatic senator with cross party appeal to go up against a well-known national figure. Democrats did just that in 1960 with a guy named John F. Kennedy. In case you didn’t hear, he won.

Sen. Rubio has the potential to be a transcendent candidate. It isn’t known how strong of a campaign he’ll run but, to use sports phrase, Sen. Rubio’s got a high upside. Hillary is a known quantity. She isn’t an ‘X-Factor candidate’. Neither is Jeb Bush. Sen. Rubio and Gov. Walker are X-Factor candidates.

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The woman who claimed she was dead broke after leaving the White House now is insisting that “everyday Americans need a champion.” To prove her commitment to “everyday Americans,” she issued this statement:

Clinton’s press office left an embarrassing typo in its press announcement, saying that she had ‘fought children and families all her career’

Michael Kinsley defined a gaffe in Washington as accidentally telling the truth. While this isn’t a perfect fit for Kinsley’s definition, it’s certainly proof that Hillary can’t stop making unforced mistakes. A year ago, Hillary’s book tour was supposed to be the pre-launch of her presidential campaign. It failed terribly. The book tour was cut short to limit the self-inflicted damage she did to herself.

After that, Hillary disappeared for an extended period of time. The next time we heard from her, it was at the United Nations:

The biggest question facing Hillary’s campaign is whether Clinton Fatigue 3.0 will set in. Hillary’s team understands that Hillary isn’t popular:

The Clinton 2016 presidential campaign, launched on Sunday afternoon, has set a goal for itself: Showing that she’s likable. Period. Her advisers lay out a theory of the case. At large rallies Mrs. Clinton has trouble charming the audience. She can seem distant and unapproachable.

Put her in a room with a small number of people and it is a different story, Team Clinton says. In more intimate settings she displays an ease and warmth that is crucial to earning the trust of voters—and not always evident when she is reading from the teleprompter.

So, her aides are planning a different sort of campaign this time around. She will be meeting with small clusters of voters in diners, coffee shops and private homes. She won’t always have a prepared speech in front of her. That can be dicey. Candidates pay a high price these days when they blurt out an incautious thought. But her advisers predict voters will see a less scripted, more disarming candidate than was on display eight years ago.

In 2000, George W. Bush took advantage of Al Gore’s lack of public charm. They peppered him with accusations of constantly changing to fit the political moment. After the election, pundits across the political spectrum attributed his defeat to Gore’s lack of authenticity. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)

Hillary is a known commodity. She’ll attempt to re-invent herself again but that’s pretty much impossible. She’s got 100% name recognition. She’s been on the national stage since 1991. She’s said some incredibly stupid things:

HILLARY CLINTON: I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.

The woman who wants to be “everyday Americans’ champion isn’t in touch with them. Here’s part of Hillary’s exchange with Diane Sawyer:

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, if you — you have no reason to remember, but we came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt. We had no money when we got there and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea’s education, you know, it was not easy. Bill has worked really hard and it’s been amazing to me. He’s worked very hard, first of all, we had to pay off all our debts which was, you know, we had to make double the money because of obviously taxes, and pay you have at debts, and get us houses and take care of family members.

SAWYER: But do you think Americans will understand five times the median income in this country for one speech?

There’s no doubt that Hillary will attempt to wrap herself in the role of Everywoman and Grandma. The question is whether she can pull off that con job. I’m betting she isn’t that politically talented. I’m betting she fails badly.

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