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Wild card picks fly for potential GOP open convention

'Inside Politics' Forecast for April 10
'Inside Politics' Forecast for April 10

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'Inside Politics' Forecast for April 10 04:22

Story highlights

  • Some wild card candidates being suggested if there's a GOP open convention
  • Ryan says again he's not interested in being the GOP's white knight
  • Trump 2.0: A toned down version of The Donald?

Washington (CNN)Behind-the-curtain calculations about a contested GOP convention, Donald Trump toned down, and what Bernie Sanders can take away from a certain 2014 race -- those stories and more fill our "Inside Politics" forecast this week.

1) Paul Ryan is totally, absolutely, without a doubt NOT interested in being president. Really?

    House Speaker Paul Ryan is not interested in being the GOP's white knight.
    Why Paul Ryan says he won't be the GOP nominee
    Why Paul Ryan says he won't be the GOP nominee

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    Why Paul Ryan says he won't be the GOP nominee 00:41
    Absolutely not. Definitely not. Under no circumstances. Got it?
    Check your inbox.
    Jonathan Martin of The New York Times shared some of the details -- and denials of interest -- that arrived via email late Saturday when he checked in with sources close to the speaker.
    "The length they went to explain the fact that he's not running for president made me even more suspicious that possibly he might be, in the back of his mind, keeping the slightest possibility open that he will, in fact, be a candidate. I'm reminded of the old saying of 'protest too much.'"

    2) Palace intrigue: Allies of the ambitious are talking, but that Ryan thing? It's real.

    The prospect of a contested GOP convention has all Republicans in a chatty mood -- but some more than others.
    Possible GOP wild cards, if there is an open convention
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    At the Capitol. On K Street. At the conservative think tanks and interest groups. In state capitals across the country. The same conversation: Well, if it came to three or four or five ballots, and the convention started looking for a new candidate, just who would it be?
    South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley comes up a lot, as does her state's junior senator, Tim Scott. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, a tea party favorite, also is mentioned as a possible fresh face consensus candidate. Allies of two GOP governors, Rick Scott of Florida and Bruce Rauner of Illinois, are said to be curious about how an open convention would work.
    But the overwhelming "winner" of such conversations is the aforementioned Speaker Paul Ryan, who insists he isn't interested.
    Fiscal conservatives and anti-tax forces in the GOP love Ryan. He is an anti-abortion Catholic who gets favorable reviews from evangelicals. The GOP establishment is smitten. There are some doubts among tea party House colleagues, though most are over tactics and not doubts about Ryan's conservatism.
    And, given his high profile as speaker and as the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, Ryan in these conversations is usually rated by far the best option when it comes to the "ready for the job" test.
    But, remember, he is absolutely, positively, definitely not interested. And says a convention draft will never happen.
    There are still a lot of Republicans betting otherwise.

    3) Trump 2.0: A more measured tone? That's the plan

    Donald Trump is in the early stages of a campaign reboot, with a new, first-things-first approach that puts a big emphasis on the New York primary and on showcasing a more presidential candidate.
    So Trump was uncharacteristically quiet for a few days, as new strategist Paul Manafort puts his stamp on the candidate and the operation.
    West Coast travel was canceled. New York is priority No. 1. Also, there's an effort to refine Trump's campaign message -- to keep the stuff that makes Trump so appealing to his voters, but to also work in more conservative nuts and bolts as part of an effort to consolidate support.
    CNN's Sara Murray shared reporting on the goals -- and the immediate, visible changes.
    "His advisers say he's working on these policy speeches. But in the coming states, they want to do smaller events like this. They want him to mix it up in a more intimate setting with voters. They want him to do these kind of photo ops that send a message that may not be quite as loud and brash as Donald Trump screaming from the stump or showing up on every television network."

    4) Deja vu 1: Can Sanders channel his inner Zephyr?

    Bernie Sanders is hoping history more than repeats itself in New York.
    Sanders' NY strategy? Lessons learned from 2014
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    Sanders' NY strategy? Lessons learned from 2014 00:42
    Two years ago, a little known liberal law professor, Zephyr Teachout, ran a surprisingly strong primary challenge against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- losing in the end, but exposing broad dissatisfaction in the liberal base.
    It is a road map for Sanders now, as he positions himself as the liberal insurgent challenging overwhelming establishment favorite Hillary Clinton.
    Lisa Lerer of The Associated Press detailed the strategy -- and its potential shortcomings.
    "She won liberals in New York City by talking about reforming the campaign finance system. Sanders is trying to do the same. We should see that in the next week and a half. His only problem is that for Teachout, won about one-third of the vote. He needs to win more than double that if he wants to make a real play for this nomination."

    5) Deja vu 2: Crush the tea party? McConnell's 2014 motto has a 2016 revival

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell largely succeeded in his 2014 effort, self-described, to "crush" the tea party. With a lot of establishment help, most insurgent challengers, including McConnell's own, were defeated in primaries.
    Well, in Indiana and elsewhere, it is deja vu all over again.
    Todd Young is the establishment favorite in the GOP Senate primary. Marlin Stutzman is the tea party darling, in part because as a member of the House, he was among the upstarts who opposed John Boehner's election as speaker.
    CNN's Manu Raju says McConnell favors Young because he sees Stutzman as "another Ted Cruz."
    "Stutzman voted against John Boehner when he was a congressman and McConnell and the Chamber of Commerce and his super PAC are spending big bucks trying to stop Stutzman and promote establishment-friendly candidate Todd Young in that state."