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Rubio's bet on Nevada

The Inside Politics Forecast
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Story highlights

  • Does Hillary Clinton have a "Cousin Pookie" problem?
  • Jeb Bush's tale of two cities: Washington and Tallahassee
  • 2016ers set to court Joni Ernst at Roast and Ride

Washington (CNN)Updates on Hillary Clinton's emails and African-American outreach, a Jeb Bush strategy debate, the impact of Nevada on Florida, plus the role of a new Iowa political fixture -- those stories were in the spotlight as we circled the "Inside Politics" table on Sunday.

1. Does Hillary Clinton have a 'Cousin Pookie' problem?

As Clinton strives to hold the Obama coalition largely intact, there are some grumblings about a staff hire that could create a "Cousin Pookie" problem.
    Don't get the reference? It's worth a quick search engine foray if you have a minute.
    But in short, as CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson reminded us, it was the approach Team Obama credits with driving up African-American turnout in 2008 and 2012.
    Now, Team Clinton is a tad on the defensive over a staff hire that to some Obama veterans seems a little too old-school.
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    Clinton and 'Cousin Pookie' 00:51
    "The Clinton campaign named LaDavia Drane to coordinate their African-American outreach," said Henderson. "And she was a former executive director of the CBC (Congressional Black Caucus). I got some calls from grass-roots activists, the ones who really were helpful in getting Obama to turn out the black vote, and their question was, how does someone with CBC ties actually turn out the Cousin Pookie vote, right?"
    "The Clinton campaign says they have a new strategy, which is part CBC, but partly grass-roots strategy as well, to motivate Cousin Pookie. And they also say that Drane has ties to Ohio, which of course will be very important in the general election. A large black vote there that will be crucial for Clinton's candidacy."

    2. The courts dictate the email pace, and some in Clintonland grumble

    Clinton's emails from that now-infamous private server are being made public under court order. Some already have been released, and there is a schedule in place for the next round.
    It could take a while to fully play out, and Lisa Lerer of The Associated Press reported that having no control over the schedule irritates some in the Clinton campaign.
    "That's bad news for the Clinton campaign, which now is going to face this slow drip of email news that comes out," said Lerer. "Just about every month, there will be a spate of stories."
    "(Republicans) are salivating at the prospect of these things coming out. We'll have to see what happens in the next few months."

    3. Jeb Bush's tale of two cities -- Washington and Tallahassee

    Ed O'Keefe of The Washington Post spends most of his time these days following Jeb Bush on the campaign trail. Yes, Ed is officially covering Jeb even as Jeb insists he isn't yet officially a candidate.
    And at times, O'Keefe reports, the Florida governor seems to be violating or at least questioning his own advice to voters when it comes to processing the family name and history.
    "What's interesting about this is over the last three weeks, since he stumbled on Iraq, he's been telling reporters, don't compare me to 1988, when my dad ran, don't compare me to 2000, when my brother ran," said O'Keefe. "Focus on right now."
    "His argument is, as a conservative governor, he got a lot of things done, worked with Democrats, shrunk the size of government, and the economy grew. Here in Washington, Obama's been bucking Democrats, the economy is in a mess and his poll numbers are down."

    4. She's back: A 2014 star set to make s 2016 splash

    Joni Ernst is a United States senator and a rising GOP star about to dip her toe into 2016 presidential politics.
    Remember Ernst? Maybe you recall her response to President Obama's State of the Union address. Maybe you remember that 2014 primary ad that added hog castration to the campaign lexicon.
    Now, Jeff Zeleny of CNN tells us her coming "Roast and Ride" political event -- yes, she rides a motorcycle -- is catching the attention of the Republicans who would be president (and there are a lot of them).
    "She is going to play a central role in the Iowa nominating process for the next six months," said Zeleny. "She probably won't endorse, but all the candidates will be seeking her endorsement, wanting to stand at her side. So keep an eye on Joni Ernst and her Roast and Ride next weekend in Iowa."

    5. Where to place a big bet? Team Rubio eyes Vegas

    Marco Rubio campaigned in Las Vegas the other day and promised folks in Nevada they would be seeing lot of him.
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    Rubio's Nevada strategy 01:03
    Smart campaigns have a Plan A and a Plan B, and it's increasingly clear Nevada is a critical piece of both for the Florida senator.
    Plan A: Get at least one win in the first three states (Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina) and then win Nevada as the exclamation point before heading home to the giant Florida GOP primary.
    Plan B: Win Nevada after going 0-3 to open the race so that Rubio survives to compete in his home state primary.
    Team Rubio is pretty confident these days that it has good odds of working off Plan A. But key allies also know nothing is certain in this muddled, crowded Republican race. One thing, though, is fairly certain: Rubio would have a hard time raising new money -- and convincing voters and donors he is viable -- if he were asking for votes in Florida without a win in one of those early states.
    "If we are 0-4, the money dries up and we're out before Florida," a Rubio insider said this past week during a conversation about the calendar. And the political writers' dream of a Rubio showdown in Florida with his former mentor, Jeb Bush, goes away.
    Now, Rubio allies say Bush may have the same issue -- where is he going to win in the early states, they ask?
    But, worrying about their own house, it is clear Nevada is emerging as a firewall. Rubio lived there briefly as a child and was a Mormon before choosing to be Catholic. And while the politics of immigration are tricky, his team hopes his Cuban heritage and Spanish skills help.