Jeb Bush & Rand Paul's post-Romney moves

The Inside Politics Forecast
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Story highlights

  • Jeb Bush's post-Romney New Hampshire calculations
  • Rand Paul's weekend travel plans & surprising strategies
  • GOP immigration showdown: figuring out how "to cave"

Washington (CNN)Several post-Romney 2016 dynamics on the GOP side, plus two big debates with complications for congressional Republicans filled our Super Bowl Sunday trip around the "Inside Politics" table.

1. MITT BOWS OUT, AND JEB MOVES IN
With Mitt Romney now officially out of the 2016 GOP nomination chase, New Hampshire becomes a more wide-open race, and the Jeb Bush camp is hoping to make fast inroads.
    Battle for N.H: Jeb's post-Romney moves
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    Jonathan Martin of The New York Times notes with a crowded field, Iowa's vote likely will be splintered and the state is known for its strong evangelical base. South Carolina, stop three on the calendar, could be influenced by the possible candidacy of home state senator Lindsey Graham.
    Romney would have been the early New Hampshire favorite. But now?
    "I'm told that immediately after Mitt made his move on Friday, the Jeb folks started to figure out how they can get two key operatives in that state, Jim Merrill and Tom Rath, both old New Hampshire pros, both of whom were Mitt guys who had stayed loyal to Mitt but are now free agency," said Martin.
    2. COMING SOON: A PARADE OF LONGER THAN LONG SHOTS
    Watch New Hampshire over the next couple weeks and you might come to the conclusion it is easier to count the Republicans NOT considering a 2016 presidential run.
    On tap to visit soon: former GOP Govs. George Pataki of New York, Jim Gilmore of Virginia and Bob Ehrlich of Maryland. Also, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and former high tech CEO Carly Fiorina have New Hampshire travel plans.
    All of them are longer than long shots, should they run. But former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is due back, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, too.
    Team Christie views New Hampshire as critical -- and hopes the lack of a competitive Democratic race could help his case.
    In New Hampshire, independents can vote in either primary, and Team Christie thinks more of them might be inclined to cast their votes for a GOP candidate.
    3. RAND HITS THE ROAD
    Rand Paul was the most active GOP contender early on, and Politico's Mike Allen reports the freshman Kentucky senator has a busy travel schedule ahead as he tries to build his support -- and not always in predictable ways.
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    "We're told that Rand Paul is going to travel every weekend, going forward-- he's not going to do many cattle calls," said Allen. "Everybody else was in Iowa last weekend, he's in Iowa next weekend, because he can draw a crowd on his own."
    "And something that he's doing, as he travels the country, is meeting with physicians -- thinking about a way to bring in some people who are not necessarily politically active who can give, who can talk about among the community, so he's talking to the fellow doctors as he goes around."
    But Paul is also including some GOP stops that are a bit more predictable: "He's back to red meat next weekend in Iowa," said Allen. "He's doing a liberty event and his big rally is audit the Fed. That's about the reddest meat that you can get."
    4. GROUNDHOG DAY: BUT FOR SOME IN GOP, THIS OBAMACARE VOTE IS DIFFERENT
    House Republicans are planning to vote yet again on legislation that would repeal Obamacare, keeping a 2014 promise to voters even though they have no prayer of getting President Barack Obama to sign on.
    But for some GOPers, NPR's Juana Summers says, the calculations are a little different because the law has been in effect for a few years now -- and access to health care is expanding even in Red America.
    "This time, a lot of Republicans in this new Congress, many of them freshmen who are from conservative states, particularly in the South, are going to have to actually vote for something that's now in play, but is actually giving people in their districts -- whose votes that they're going to need -- health insurance," said Summers.
    "This could put some Republicans, who in two more years will have to run again, in really, really tricky place, especially if they have core constituents who are benefiting."
    5. BEST WAY TO CAVE? GOP LOOKS TO ESCAPE BORDER FUNDING FIGHT
    Republicans won big in 2014, and came to Washington full of energy to start 2015.
    So one might find it hard to believe the party's theme for the looming Department of Homeland Security spending fight might be best described as searching for the best way -- and time -- for the GOP establishment to cave.
    Jackie Kucinich of The Daily Beast laid out the calculations: "And whether that means letting it go off the cliff or what -- whether it means letting it go off the cliff and then coming back... They all kind of think they're going to cave, they just have to find the best way to do it."