Will Trump's reversals be his Achilles' heel?

The 'Inside Politics' forecast
The 'Inside Politics' forecast

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Story highlights

  • A Jeb Bush-Marco Rubio battleground brewing in Nevada
  • The mastermind behind John Kasich's New Hampshire playbook
  • Will Donald Trump's flip-flops be debate weapons for his rivals?

Washington (CNN)What did Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Joe Biden and Marco Rubio share this Sunday? A little time in our trip around the "Inside Politics" table.

1. Flip-flop or changing times? When will Trump get his due?
Trump once had high praise for Hillary Clinton but now says she stinks. He once praised President Barack Obama yet later questioned whether he was born in the United States.
    And then there's that interview where he says he probably aligns more with Democrats because, in his view, the economy tends to fare better in Democratic administrations.
    With Trump atop polls among GOP candidates, and the first debate little more than a week away, Lisa Lerer of The Associated Press raised a question under discussion in rival Republican camps: "You can bet that a lot of Republican candidates are studying up on these reversals. The only question, what we're all going to be watching for, is when they use them, and if that happens in two weeks, in the next debate."
    2. The McCain, or Kasich, playbook has a familiar ring to it
    Kasich, the Ohio governor, is running way behind in the GOP presidential polls, and he's counting on a New Hampshire upset to make him a player.
    He is getting advice from a strategist who can tell the candidate he was right there when it worked before.
    Flashback to 2000, when Sen. John McCain of Arizona shocked George W. Bush in New Hampshire. One of McCain's top strategists was John Weaver, who now has the lead role in the Kasich campaign.
    The Washington Post's Robert Costa says years later the campaign playbook is the same:
    "(Kasich) drew huge crowds this week and few if any questions about Donald Trump. They believe he's drawing a different kind of crowd -- people who are looking for someone besides (Jeb) Bush but more center-right establishment within the party. They think slow and steady just like McCain in 2000 could win the race."
    3. Nevada could make or break the candidates from Florida
    Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina.
    The presidential primary calendar is a familiar routine.
    But Nevada follows, and it's taking on added importance this year, especially for the two Floridians hoping to secure a win right before the Sunshine State holds its primary.
    Maeve Reston of CNN reports that Sen. Rand Paul's summer struggles add to the intrigue.
    "It's looking like it could turn into a fight between Jeb Bush and Rubio out there," Reston said.
    "You've got as few as 40,000 voters who will be coming out to caucus -- that's a little like a needle in a haystack. It's going to take intensive groundwork, and both of them are really getting started on that front. "
    4. Ridin' with Biden? A draft the VP moment nears decision day
    Vice President Joe Biden's self-imposed deadline for deciding whether to mount another presidential campaign is fast approaching: sometime in early August.
    CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson points out most signs suggest the vice president will not run, but she also details the work of a group hoping it can lure Biden into the Democratic race.
    "They released a video touting Joe Biden as the best successor to carry on Obama's legacy and the person who really has backed the younger generation," Henderson said. "They've got something of a ground game and people in the early states, I think the question is, if Biden doesn't run, and folks think it's pretty unlikely that he actually gets in this thing, where does this support go?"
    5. Cruz calls the Senate leader a liar; was the Koch summit a factor?
    The bad blood between Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is well-documented.
    But the feud hit a new high -- or low -- last week when the freshman senator and presidential candidate took to the Senate floor to label McConnell a liar publicly, and repeatedly.
    It was a shock in a chamber where decorum once was the norm, and where the rules still say it is out of bounds to question the character of another senator.
    At issue in the "liar" speech was a McConnell decision to allow a vote to revive funding for the Export-Import Bank.
    It is a priority for establishment forces such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But tea party groups call it corporate welfare and government meddling in the markets. Among the fiercest critics? The deep-pocketed Koch brothers and the tea party groups they fund.
    Cruz insists his harsh language was simple Senate business because of what he says was a McConnell pledge there would be no deal for an Export-Import Bank vote.
    But some looking for a reason he would use such striking language found one on this week's calendar. There is a Koch brothers retreat this coming weekend, and there are those who believe Cruz ratcheted up the rhetoric so as to make an early mark as he and several other GOP contenders vie for Koch support.