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Story highlights

Jeb Bush donors are worried about an ad campaign against Marco Rubio

A big recruiting miss for Senate Republicans in Colorado

What Joe Biden's team is thinking as he is "rounding third base"

Washington CNN  — 

Two insights into a tough moment for the Jeb Bush campaign, questions about Rand Paul’s staying power, a GOP 2016 recruiting miss and Joe Biden’s debate about the first debate are in the “Inside Politics” forecast this week.

1. Jeb gets tough on his ‘friend,’ and some Bush donors don’t like it

It’s hardly a surprise when a candidate slipping in the polls takes after a candidate who is on the way up.

So, on the one hand, it’s no big deal that Jeb Bush is getting a lot more critical of Sen. Marco Rubio.

But political reporters aren’t the only ones taking notice of the Florida family feud. CNN’s Sara Murray says the tougher Bush tone is not going over well with some of those giving big money to the former Florida governor’s campaign.

Donors “are worried that the pro-Bush super PAC is going to train its fire on Marco Rubio,” said Murray.

“So why do pro-Bush donors care about this? Because they actually like Rubio, and they think he could be a good second choice if Bush can’t get his poll numbers up. They do not want to see him annihilated by super PAC spending.”

2. Can money buy Jeb love in New Hampshire?

One advantage of big early fundraising is the ability to spend money on TV ads – and Team Bush hopes a spending blitz now will help change recent disappointing poll numbers.

The immediate focus is New Hampshire. Jonathan Martin of The New York Times told us the Granite State remains critical to the Bush strategy, and as such the current ad push is being closely watched.

“Has money bought Jeb some love? One of Jeb Bush’s rivals told me yesterday that in the last few weeks, Jeb Bush and the super PAC have spent over $3 million on New Hampshire TV,” said Martin.

“This is what you call, John, pre-butting the polls. This campaign is anticipating a little bump in Jeb’s numbers in New Hampshire, and they’re trying to get ahead of that. It also, by the way, is yet another indication of the more muscular combative phase of the campaign that we’re seeing this fall.”

3. VP said to be nearing decision, but not likely to debate

Vice President Joe Biden is said to be close to making his decision about the 2016 race – “rounding third base” is how one close adviser puts it.

But even if he decides in the next few days, and it’s a yes, don’t expect to see the VP at the first Democratic debate next week in Las Vegas.

Team Biden says because there is no Biden campaign, it does not have the infrastructure in place for debate preparations or the mechanics necessary for such an event, like a rapid response media team or a VIP spin room presence.

For weeks, several Biden advisers have described the vice president as leaning in favor of a run while wrestling with both the personal and political complications. Now, as a decision nears, they say that remains the case, tough they are very quick to add wanting to run doesn’t guarantee that the VP will run.

4. Rand goes from most interesting to most likely to drop out

If you think back to the earliest reporting about the 2016 presidential race, you might recall a ton of Rand Paul buzz – to the point where some media accounts dubbed him the “most interesting man” in American politics.

Now, Paul is struggling on the national stage, slipping in the polls and posting disappointing fundraising numbers.

The Atlantic’s Molly Ball says that the Paul presidential campaign insists all will be fine, but that others aren’t so sure.

“The Rand Paul campaign, which once showed so much promise, is now officially on death watch,” said Ball.

“It’s never a good look for your campaign when every interview with the Des Moines Register starts with: ‘so are you dropping out,’ ” said Ball.

“Disappointing fundraising numbers – he’s not going to be able to keep up the pace of spending that he previously had. He’s not getting very big crowds. He’s polling so low that it’s actually in question whether he’ll make the main stage for the next Republican debate at the end of the month.”

“So, you know, he has said multiple times he’s still in this. He’s going to still be in this when people vote, but it’s looking very dicey for him.”

5. The Senate is also in play, and the GOP suffers a setback

Winning the White House is a big 2016 Republican goal. But protecting the House and Senate majorities also is a top priority – and the GOP suffered a big setback in that effort this past week when the prosecutor of the Colorado theater shooting declined to run in the Senate race.

CNN’s Manu Raju took us inside the recruiting miss in Colorado, where Republicans are looking to defeat Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democratic incumbent.

George Brauchler “was seen as probably the last best candidate to take on Bennet in that race,” Raju said.

“But Brauchler surprised a lot by saying he would not run against Bennet, and the Republicans that I talked to out there, and in Washington, are very fearful that Michael Bennet, who is vulnerable, is going to skate into that seat next year.”

“It’s going to really tell us a lot about the full Senate picture. All the Democratic senators who are running for reelection right now, they could all be safe in 2016, which is a huge surprise.”