Obama gets candid about Hillary Clinton's candidacy

Inside Politics Forecast for March 20
Inside Politics Forecast for March 20

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Inside Politics Forecast for March 20 03:53

Story highlights

  • Obama gets candid about Clinton's candidacy behind closed doors
  • Trump tries to woo Mormon voters as the votes move west
  • Kasich camp has a new strategy about how to win

Washington (CNN)President Obama's candor about Hillary Clinton, insights on Donald Trump's issues with Mormons, John Kasich's strategy, and the race to replace Marco Rubio in the Senate -- those are just a few of tomorrow's headlines today in our "Inside Politics" forecast.

1) A candid president discusses Clinton's weaknesses

    President Obama took a turn as a pundit this past week, talking candidly at a fund-raiser in Texas about the 2016 campaign and the perceived weaknesses of the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton.
    Obama's Clinton candor
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    Maggie Haberman of The New York Times shared source accounts that included the President making the case that it was near time for the party to rally around Clinton and prepare for a tough general election context.
    His talk also addressed worries about Clinton.
    "He talked about how some people are not excited about her candidacy. ... He went on to point to his predecessor, George W. Bush, and said he was seen as authentic, and let it trail off."

    2) Off to Cuba, with an eye on blunting GOP opposition

    Obama's historic trip to Cuba comes 232 days before American voters pick his replacement. And since he can't be sure the next president won't be a Republican, the President is trying to make it harder for any successor to reverse his diplomatic opening.
    Obama's CEO entourage for his first Cuba trip
    Obama's CEO entourage for his first Cuba trip

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    Among those in the U.S. delegation will be American business leaders eager to explore opportunities in Cuba. Obama wishes them well, believing his legacy could benefit.
    Julie Pace of The Associated Press walked us through the politics.
    "The idea is that if a Republican is elected president and tries to close off the opening with Cuba, they wouldn't be just taking away an Obama priority. They would also be hurting American businesses. Suddenly that may not look so favorable for a Republican."

    3) Kasich soldiers on, but needs to prove he can win again

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich has just one win so far -- his home state last week.
    He would need 108% of the remaining delegates to clinch the Republican nomination -- meaning he cannot clinch before the GOP convention.
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    Kasich's new math 00:52
    Because of that, Sen. Ted Cruz has argued this week that by staying in the race, all Kasich is doing is helping Donald Trump. Cruz specifically questioned why Kasich was campaigning in Utah this weekend, noting that it could put Cruz under the 50% threshold for the state's winner-take-all convention delegates.
    Team Kasich says Cruz had no standing to tell their candidate to leave the race. But the governor's aides also know he needs to prove he can get additional wins, and additional delegates -- and the sooner the better.
    That is why they targeted Utah. Next up is Wisconsin, which holds its primary April 5. Kasich aides point to late May contests in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Connecticut as potentially friendly terrain.
    They note fund-raising has been strong since Kasich's Ohio win. But, with efforts to stop Trump gaining more urgency, Team Kasich also knows it can't wait too long for proof it has a viable strategy to amass delegates for an anticipated open convention.
    So, insiders concede Utah and then Wisconsin are big tests, and that making the case to stay in will be harder if Kasich's delegate math isn't improved after those contests.

    4) Donald Trump may have a Mormon problem

    Look at the map of Donald Trump's primary victories and one fact is indisputable: He has run very well in states where evangelicals are a critical GOP constituency.
    That has been a deep source of frustration for Cruz, the son of a Christian pastor, who was counting on evangelicals to rally to his candidacy.
    As the calendar turns west, though, Trump faces a test with another conservative religious group: Mormons, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
    CNN's MJ Lee noted that Cruz has already performed well in the West, and is hoping to build on that this week in Utah and Arizona.
    "Remember that Trump lost Idaho and Wyoming. Both are states with substantial LDS populations. And I think it's worth pointing out also that Utah and Arizona are coming up, and Trump is not polling so well in Utah. And the fact that he has been going after Mitt Romney, in fact, mocking Romney, probably is not going to help him there."

    5) Rubio hopes to help his choice to fill his Senate seat

    Marco Rubio was back at work in the Senate this past week, and made clear he has no intention of backing away from his decision not to seek re-election.
    In fact, Ed O'Keefe of The Washington Post shared reporting that Rubio is asking his supporters to help his favorite candidate for his Senate seat in the GOP field: Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.
    "On Tuesday, here in Washington, a bunch of Rubio's former financial backers are expected to hold a fund-raiser for Carlos Lopez-Cantera. This fight will continue through August 30 when there's a primary and then of course in November."