National Journal reports today that some GOP operatives believe the 2016 race will be less about the economy and more about foreign policy, which is interesting, given the deep concern among GOP candidates about inequality and stagnating wages.

The Journal report describes an internal GOP poll that finds security issues at the top of voter concerns. The idea is that these issues will come to the fore for a confluence of reasons: The rise of ISIS. The possible implementation of an Iran deal over years. The fact that Hillary Clinton’s record as Secretary of State will be front and center.

You shouldn’t place much stuck in such polling, but this is interesting as a window into GOP thinking, and surely these issues will play an important role. So I want to plant a flag on a question: Could Clinton broaden the debate over national security to her advantage by parlaying the contrast over the proper extent of U.S. international engagement into an advantage among key Dem voter groups?

According to the report, GOP operatives see national security as a way to cut into Clinton’s expected advantage among women. One GOP strategist suggests the fact that “swing, often suburban, soft partisan or independent women are becoming more concerned about security issues” could cut into Clinton’s ability to drive a 2012-sized gender gap.

But the key will be how the national security debate is defined. That debate could focus heavily on the pros and cons of building on Obama’s legacy in terms of ongoing efforts to deepen international engagement. The Obama doctrine, as defined by Tom Friedman, is that engagement with countries like Iran and Cuba may require taking “calculated risks to open important new possibilities,” but if it works, it could end up “serving American interests far better than endless sanction and isolation.” We should have the confidence to take those risks, because if these efforts fail, we can always reboot.

The 2016 election may feature a sharp contrast on this notion. The GOP candidates are already pledging to undo any Iran deal and cancel engagement with Cuba. And Obama’s efforts at international engagement could also include a global climate treaty — which also entails the risk that other countries (China) will not meet their end of the bargain. The eventual GOP nominee will likely have pledged to withdraw from a climate treaty, too. The battle over national security could be deeply colored by an argument over the virtues of international engagement, in which the GOP candidate is advocating for retreat.

This could matter in the battle for the female vote. As Ron Brownstein has explained, one of Clinton’s most important strengths in the coming election will likely be her support among college educated women, a key pillar of the new coalition that is powering Dem victories in national elections. The Democratic argument about international engagement could well resonate with them — as a kind of proxy for which party represents the future and which is trapped in the past — and also among millennials, another key Dem voter group. So this is an argument Clinton should lean into.


* KEY CONCESSION IN NEW CORKER-MENENDEZ AGREEMENT? Yesterday Senators agreed on a new Corker-Menendez framework for a Congressional vote on an Iran deal, and the White House grudgingly accepted it. Buried in the Post’s write-up is a key assertion from White House press secretary Josh Earnest:

Earnest said negotiations with senators included assurances that the bill would be “the one and only mechanism for codifying precisely what the Congress’s oversight is into this matter.”

If this is true, it’s key. It means that, if Congress cannot pass disapproval of the final deal over Obama’s veto, the deal moves forward — and Congress will hold no more votes to block the deal after that. But will Congress really hold to that?

 * PARTIES GEAR UP FOR BATTLE OVER ESTATE TAX: The Hill has a curtain-raiser on the looming battle in Congress over the House GOP drive to repeal the estate tax, and while Democrats think it’s a political winner, Republicans are persuaded the politics favor them:

Republicans are making the vote the centerpiece of their agenda during a week when millions of taxpayers face the annual IRS filing deadline….Republican leaders insist it’s patently unfair that people pay taxes as they accumulate wealth through the years, only for their heirs to pay additional taxes on that wealth after they die…Republicans believe that voters agree with them on that point, even as polls have long suggested that most people believe the wealthiest Americans don’t pay enough in taxes.

Of course, what probably matters most to GOP leaders is what Republican voters think (though, in fairness, this is probably about revving up the base on both sides).


It is an extraordinarily candid expression of the majority’s priorities: A tax cut costing the treasury $269 billion over a decade that would exclusively benefit individuals with wealth of more than $5.4 million and couples with wealth of more than $10.9 million…this at a time when the gap between rich and poor is already worse than it has been since the Great Depression? Never in the history of plutocracy has so much been given away to so few who need it so little.

Of course, Republicans are already repeating endlessly that this would hurt “family farms” and “small businesses,” a claim Glenn Kessler takes a deep look at right here.

* MORE AMERICANS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT IRAN DEAL: A new Bloomberg poll finds that 49 percent of Americans are “more optimistic” that the recently-struck Iran deal framework would “make the world safer by containing Iran’s ability to obtain nuclear weapons,” versus 43 percent who are “more pessimistic” that this is the case. Interestingly, this is the case, even though the poll finds that Americans are split on whether America should support Israel even if our interests diverge, with 45 percent believing we should.

I would be curious to know whether most Americans view the Iran debate through the prism of whether a nuclear deal poses a threat to Israel, as many have argued.

* MAJORITY SAYS HILLARY PURPOSEFULLY WITHHELD EMAILS: The new Bloomberg poll also finds that 53 percent believe Hillary Clinton “purposely withheld or deleted” emails “relevant to her time as Secretary of State,” while only 29 percent say she was truthful in saying she turned over all relevant emails, and 18 percent are not sure either way. It’s unclear how much this matters, but these sorts of numbers will likely encourage Republicans to keep up the attacks and investigations.

* ELIZABETH WARREN TO PULL HILLARY TO LEFT? The Los Angeles Times notes that even if Elizabeth Warren is not running, she will still play a major role in ensuring a vigorous debate among Democrats. Warren has privately tried to pull Clinton to the left:

The senator outlined some of the policies she’d like to see: an increase in Social Security benefits, a much higher minimum wage and stronger financial regulation to force big banks to get smaller. And one more request: Warren urged Clinton to distance herself from the Wall Street fat cats who she thinks have amassed too much influence in Democratic administrations, including both Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s.

There won’t be a real primary, but we can still hope for a real debate…

* GOP INSIDERS PRAISE HILLARY’S LAUNCH: There was a lot of mockery of Hillary’s campaign launch and video, but it may not be all that sincere:

A significant — and surprising — majority of GOP insiders in the early states offered at least some praise for her presidential campaign roll-out in a special Wednesday edition of The POLITICO Caucus, our weekly bipartisan survey of the most important activists, operatives and elected officials in Iowa and New Hampshire…While most Republicans thought the former secretary of state’s announcement was contrived or phony, they nevertheless viewed it as a savvy and effective campaign launch.

One wonders what the Beltway GOP strategists who are actually paid to win elections really thought of it.