With Congressional Republicans scrambling to avoid a government shutdown amid the push by conservatives to defund Planned Parenthood, Hillary Clinton aligned herself squarely with the group in a Sunday interview with “Face the Nation,” defending the health care services it provides for women and hitting GOP shutdown chatter as “the height of irresponsibility.”

Since Planned Parenthood is probably going to be a major issue in 2016, it’s worth recalling: The Obama campaign attacked Mitt Romney for months over his position on the group. Obama’s team turned Romney’s offhand suggestion, captured on video, that “we’re gonna get rid of that,” into an emblem of Romney’s paternalism and dismissive attitude towards women, in the quest to win over undecided female voters.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about those Planned Parenthood videos. Have you watched them?
CLINTON: I have seen excerpts from them. And I have certainly read about them. And what I am troubled by are the misleading, inaccurate allegations about them that we heard from Republicans at their debate. This is really an attack on Planned Parenthood, which provides a lot of health services, from cancer screenings , to contraceptive services, to so many other of the needs women have.
And to shut down the government, which some Republicans are advocating, over funding for Planned Parenthood, which takes care of millions of women’s health needs, is just the height of irresponsibility.

On Meet the Press, Chuck Todd suggested the unthinkable: What if this issue might actually prove a winner for Clinton and Democrats in the coming national election? Todd recalled that in 2012, the Obama campaign used GOP attacks on Planned Parenthood “to motivate women voters in places like Virginia and Colorado.”

Indeed. In fact, as recounted in “Double Down,” the book about the 2012 campaign by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, the Obama campaign’s research found that the “we’re gonna get rid of that” quote stuck to Romney like a dated tattoo, and female voters didn’t like it:

In focus group after focus group, undecided female voters voiced hostility towards Mitt for his supposed desire to abolish Planned Parenthood; they saw him as paternalistic and controlling. One member of Mitt’s ad team described the quote as the “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” of social issues.

That Romney quote was from 2011; but the Obama camp repeatedly put the footage in ads that ran in key swing states throughout 2012, using it to paint Romney as out of touch on women’s health. There is of course now footage of multiple Republican presidential candidates at last week’s debate agreeing with the push to defund the group, with some even saying Congressional Republicans must not surrender even if it means a government shutdown. And there will likely be a whole lot more like this from the GOP candidates in coming weeks.

A key difference this time, of course, is that the Democratic presidential nominee is likely to be a woman. And this time, Clinton is fully embracing the idea that electing a female president would be groundbreaking. As explained by Dem pollster Celinda Lake, the underlying calculation behind showcasing her gender is that a woman represents a credible voice on how to make the economy work for American families. In this context, Democrats will strive to portray women’s health care as an economic issue, just as Obama did last time around. A female candidate embracing the health services the group provides for women even as her (virtually all) male Republican rivals vow to defund the group is probably a general-election contrast that the Clinton camp relishes.


They said they were increasingly convinced that Donald J. Trump could exploit openings created by the party’s revised rules to capture the nomination or, short of that, to amass enough delegates to be a power broker at the convention….what once seemed unthinkable — that Mr. Trump could win the Republican nomination — is being treated by many within the Republican establishment as a serious possibility.

Remember, Trump is all about gaining “leverage,” so one imagines he won’t be too queasy about creating as much disruption as possible throughout.

* HILLARY’S LEAD OVER SANDERS GROWS: A new CNN poll finds that Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders among Democrats nationally is 42-24, a clear improvement over the 37-27 lead she held last month. Remove Joe Biden from the equation and Clinton leads Sanders by 57-28.

Notably, Clinton leads Sanders among Democratic women by 30 points — 50-20 — which will no doubt get folks to rethink that widely balleyhood story-line which held that Clinton is in trouble with that demographic.

* BATTLE OVER DEBATES GETTING VERY LOUD: At New Hampshire’s annual Democratic Party convention over the weekend, DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz was heckled by audience members who shouted: “We want debates, we want debates!

With Nancy Pelosi now calling for more debates, it would not be surprising if more major party figures do the same in coming days, though it remains unclear if anything can move Wasserman Schultz. It’s also unclear whether Clinton actively wants more debates.

* SANDERS DRAWING LARGE CROWDS: John Wagner runs the numbers:

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders drew an estimated 3,000 people to a boisterous rally here Sunday night at the University of New Hampshire, about five times as many people as Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton attracted to an event two days ago at the same campus.

As always, the key question will be how Sanders fares in the states after Iowa and New Hampshire, where the demographic breadth of Clinton’s coalition will presumably give her an advantage.

* TRUMP SLIPS; FIORINA SURGES; WALKER ABSOLUTELY TANKS: Another CNN poll taken entirely after the recent GOP debate finds Trump’s support among Republicans nationally is at 24 percent, a drop from 32 percent earlier this month. Carly Fiorina has surged from three percent all the way up to 15 percent.

And Scott Walker is now down below one percent. Quick, better find some more hecklers to take on!

* HOW WILL REPUBLICANS RECEIVE THE POPE? With Pope Francis coming to town, E.J. Dionne games out what both sides are looking to hear from him. Note:

Someone speaking in Spanish…about justice, poverty, a warming planet and the imperative of welcoming immigrants would not have gotten a warm reception at the Republicans’ presidential debate last week.Francis’s searing words about the injustices that capitalism leaves in its wake have led many conservatives to denounce him as a Marxist. One imagines more uncomfortable moments for those who don’t like anyone to point out imperfections of the market system.

The Hill’s headline seems apt: “GOP braces for Pope Francis.”

* QUOTE OF THE DAY, HOW’S-THAT-GOP-MAKEOVER-GOING EDITION: On Meet the Press, Ben Carson said he doesn’t think Islam is consistent with the Constitution, adding: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” Here’s the response from GOP strategist Steve Schmidt:

“Of course it’s worrisome if you have a party that’s perceived as anti-Latino, anti-Asian, anti-gay, intolerant of Muslims.”

You’d think, anyway!