Why Obama's going to India after his State of the Union speech

The Inside Politics Forecast
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Story highlights

  • What's the thinking behind President Obama's "Passage to India"?
  • Mitt Romney's next step is a corporate speech -- with a Q&A
  • What Hillary Clinton's new team says about her 2016 strategy

Washington (CNN)The strategy behind President Barack Obama's India trip. Race and the State of the Union speech. Mitt Romney's next steps. Sen. Lindsey Graham's big money goal. How Hillary Clinton's new team compares with her 2008 staff.

These are all the hot topics around the "Inside Politics" table this week:

1. What Obama's trip to India reveals about his SOTU agenda

    President Obama says he's on the offensive, and he has certainly unveiled an ambitious list of proposals in the weeks leading up to the State of the Union speech Tuesday night.
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    But Julie Pace of The Associated Press notes that his schedule contradicts his rhetoric as he crosses into one of the indisputable stages of a lame-duck presidency: nonessential foreign travel.
    "He's going to India basically for a parade and a visit to the Taj Mahal," said Pace.
    "Think about the timing of this. The President is going to India three days after his State of the Union address. A period of time when he normally would be out trying to rally Congress and the public behind his agenda. I think this says all you need to know about the likelihood that anything he announces on Tuesday actually gets done."

    2. Race and the State of the Union

    What will Obama say about race and policing in the SOTU?
    Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post points out the issue has receded from the national conversation even as Attorney General Eric Holder has been taking the White House's message on increasing trust between law enforcement and communities around the country.
    And members of the Congressional Black Caucus, while celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy in Ferguson this weekend, are also pressing the President to include funding for body cameras in his annual budget.
    "A lot of people waiting to see what the President will say, if anything, about race and policing on Tuesday," Henderson said.

    3. More Romney hints coming soon?

    On Friday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he's "seriously considering" a 2016 presidential run but didn't reveal any more details about his plans. But The Washington Post's Robert Costa says Romney watchers might be getting additional information on Monday, when he is scheduled to give a paid speech -- with a Q&A scheduled -- to a corporate audience.
    "This is his first public appearance since he spoke at the Republican National Committee on Friday," said Costa. "And we're really going to have to see how much farther is Romney going to move? Is he going to send some more signals about his message and his pitch should he run for president?"

    4. Graham's half a million dollar 2016 goal

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie might be telling Republicans to "relax" about the race for the White House, but Sen. Lindsey Graham wants the GOP to get serious --- about his candidacy.
    CNN's Peter Hamby reports that Graham had a meeting with some of his top donors about a week ago in South Carolina and told them: "In the first quarter of this year, I'm going to raise half a million dollars, go to early states, and see if there's a space for me in this field."
    While Graham's candidacy might end up being more of an issue-driven campaign rather than a serious bid for the nation's top office, his run might cause some trouble for other candidates in an important early contest.
    "If he does run, remember South Carolina is an early primary state and that would put a lot of his top donors and operatives in a pickle because usually they have their choice of candidates to support," said Hamby. "But if their hometown guy runs for president, they're going to have a choice to make."

    5. The Obama roots of 'Team Hillary'

    It has been more than a month now since Hillary Clinton held a public event, but that doesn't mean she is taking a break from politics. To the contrary. As has been widely reported, the former secretary of state is building a 2016 campaign team that looks very different from her 2008 high command.
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    Team Hillary's Obama roots 00:46
    Her husband's former chief of staff -- John Podesta -- is leaving the Obama White House to lead "Team Hillary." And two veterans of the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns will serve as Clinton's top strategist and chief media adviser.
    The biggest question is whether Clinton has been using this down time to hone her campaign rationale -- to answer liberal critics who say she is too cozy with Wall Street or Republican critics who label her more about the past than the future. But while awaiting her return to the public stage on Wednesday, even senior Republicans -- and those Democrats pushing to draft Elizabeth Warren -- concede her 2016 staff recruits are top notch.