Obama's congressional full-court press

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

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The 'Inside Politics' forecast 03:29

Story highlights

  • Benghazi, Clinton and potential GOP pitfalls
  • Signs the GOP money men lining up to block Trump?
  • Why Cruz has long-term 2016 potential

Washington (CNN)A big date for Hillary Clinton on Capitol Hill, a new leaf for President Obama when it comes to Congress, and insights on three of the Republican presidential contenders filled our Sunday trip around the "Inside Politics" table.

1. Congressman, this is President Obama calling ... no, really ...
One constant bipartisan criticism of President Obama has been that he doesn't like the nitty gritty of developing relationships with members of Congress.
    Obama's congressional full court press
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    But with the Iran nuclear deal facing such profound skepticism on Capitol Hill, Julie Pace of The Associated Press shared reporting that the President is front and center in an aggressive new White House charm offensive -- one that has Capitol Hill praising him for his outreach to lawmakers.
    "The President has gone so far as to invite lawmakers to come back to the White House in the evenings," said Pace. "He guards his time in the evenings ferociously, but he's invited them to come back, have two-hour meetings in the Blue Room where they can ask questions endlessly."
    "Anyone who wants a meeting with a top official can get it. One senior Republican I talked to even gave them credit for the outreach, but then said, 'I still don't plan to vote for it.'"
    2. October 22 is Benghazi day for Clinton
    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has officially scheduled her testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi for October 22.
    It's a big test for her, but also for the Republican House majority. CNN's Jeff Zeleny took us through the calculations.
    "Republicans are fearing it in one respect: They're worrying about overreach," said Zeleny. "This is the day that things finally come to a head, that Hillary Clinton looks like a victim, looks sympathetic.
    "The Democrats are worried about this drip, drip, drip of the email story. They think Benghazi is not necessarily as big of a deal as the credibility from this email server."
    3. Sign that GOP money men are lining up to block Trump?
    Scott Walker is a Brewers fan. But don't be too shocked if you see him don a Cubs cap.
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    The Wisconsin governor and presidential hopeful is in the top tier among Republicans running for president, and can thank a prominent Chicago family for helping him hold his own in the fund-raising department.
    Robert Costa of The Washington Post has the scoop on why Walker hooking a GOP finance whale is a telling sign about the establishment's game plan to try to block a Trump nomination.
    "The Ricketts family owns the Chicago Cubs -- that family, Joe and his wife Marlene, gave $5 million to Walker's super PAC," said Costa. "Walker's super PAC has about $20 million raised this year. That's less than Bush, but it gives him a powerful donor who's ready to help him."
    "And it's also a sign that many of these GOP establishment types want to help some of the candidates get millions in case Trump really continues to rise."
    4. Carly goes high tech as she looks for a breakthrough
    It is unlikely former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina will crack the top tier for the first GOP debate this week.
    But she promises to stay in for the long haul, and is getting some help from Silicon Valley, according to new reports released this week. CNN's MJ Lee took a close look at the super PAC money chase.
    "It was interesting that she got some donations from very big-name, high-powered Silicon Valley people: Tom Perkins, Paul Otellini, Jim Barksdale gave to her campaign," said Lee.
    "So, you know, people have said for a while we get that she hasn't gained traction, but she may have a moment some time later in the cycle. If and when she does, she does have a network of financiers that she could turn to."
    5. Cruz isn't burning up the race, but he also has the incentive and money to think long term
    With the first GOP debate this week, there's a natural conversation about the state of the race.
    With so many candidates, and so many perspectives, you get very different opinions about, say, whether Sens. Rand Paul or Marco Rubio should be worried about so-so poll standings. And even though he has shot up in the polls since announcing recently, some in the party question whether Ohio Gov. John Kasich is smart to be targeting Jeb Bush from the get-go, or would be wiser instead to first try to marginalize fellow Midwestern governor Scott Walker.
    But there is near unanimity in the party on this question: Why is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz viewed as a candidate in the race for the long term, despite relatively weak poll numbers?
    * Well, he isn't very well liked by most Senate colleagues. So it isn't like he could decide instead to try to rise up through the Senate leadership ladder.
    * He has opened a lot of eyes with his impressive fund-raising numbers, especially his super PAC.
    * The crowded field and delegate distribution rules in the early states have most GOP veterans thinking this race is going to drag on for a good bit. For Team Cruz, the thinking is that Donald Trump is more than likely to fade by then, and that even if he struggles early there will be openings to regain footing when the race heads South.