Ayotte among the 2016 GOPers who worry about Trump atop the ticket

Story highlights

  • Will the GOP establishment step up to make the case against a President Cruz?
  • The Bush campaign's next move after concentrated ad spending fails to move his numbers

Washington (CNN)A domestic policy split between President Obama and Hillary Clinton, a rising GOP star and new calculations about the Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz campaigns -- those stories filled the "Inside Politics" forecast on Sunday.

1. Education split between top Dems might become a $$ issue

Obama and Clinton have a bit of a disagreement about charter schools, and it is a policy divide that might have a financial impact on the 2016 presidential race.
    Clinton of late has been more and more critical of what she sees as shortcomings of the current -- meaning Obama administration -- charter school policy.
    Maggie Haberman of The New York Times shared reporting on how this is a dispute that might not register with many voters, but it is being watched by Democratic insiders, including some prominent Democratic fund-raisers, who are supporters of the President's approach.
    "Hillary Clinton drew some private chatter and ire from some Democratic donors who support Barack Obama's education reform agenda, particularly when it comes to charter schools," said Haberman.
    "She gave a comment recently where she was sort of critical of charter schools. It was at odds with what she has said in the past. And there's a lot of concern among these Democratic donors about what this means in terms of what a President Clinton will look like."
    "She got early backing from the unions. She's talking about a lot of their priorities. That's of concern to those that have disagreed with the unions over the last few years."

    2. Team Bush promised a November to remember. So now what?

    Go back a few weeks and find the clips: Jeb Bush and his allies scornfully dismissing talk of a campaign on life support. They had a plan, they insisted, and they promised a November to remember.
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    Well, with a week left in the month, there is evidence the former Florida governor has stabilized in the polls -- but in most surveys in fifth place and in anemic single digits.
    So, Julie Pace of The Associated Press told us Team Bush now faces questions -- and skepticism -- about its promises of a turnaround.
    "We talked on this show a few weeks ago how November was a really crucial month for Jeb Bush," said Pace. "His advisers on his campaign and super PAC were telling supporters that by the end of November you would see signs their big TV ads buys were making an impact with voters, particularly in the early voting states. Well, we're at the end of November and you're not seeing any sign of that."
    "So the question that Bush aides will have to answer over the next week or so is what's next, and more specifically, is it time for them to finally make good on the promises that they keep making about going negative -- drawing contrasts with Rubio and perhaps Trump?"

    3. New Hampshire's Ayotte among 2016 Republicans who worry about Trump atop the ticket

    Veteran New Hampshire GOP operatives and activists for months have shared the view, like many of their brethren in Washington, that Donald Trump was a temporary phenomenon and would implode by the time the first-in-the-nation primary rolled around.
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    Now, though, with just six weeks left in 2015, these Granite State veterans are coming to the conclusion Trump is for real -- and might well keep his current lead and win the state. Especially, they say, if the GOP field stays so crowded.
    With that realization comes a discussion about the impact a Trump-led ticket would have down-ballot, and that is not a conversation that most veteran New Hampshire GOP operatives find reassuring.
    GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte is New Hampshire's biggest Republican star, and she faces a tough 2016 re-election battle. And Ayotte allies in the state tell CNN there is a clear sense a Trump-led ticket would not help Ayotte in a state that has voted Democratic for president in four of the past five elections.
    Ayotte isn't planning to endorse in the GOP primary. But allies say her team is making its concerns about Trump clear to friends in the state who are supporting the businessman, hoping an "all politics is local" mindset might kick in and get some to reconsider.

    4. An establishment worried about Trump now worries, too, about Cruz

    To be an establishment Republican these days is to worry. About Donald Trump. About Ben Carson. And, increasingly now, about a freshman GOP senator who has made a career of attacking the establishment: Ted Cruz of Texas.
    Cruz still lags in the presidential polls, but his improving trajectory is impossible to ignore.
    And CNN's MJ Lee says one debate is whether party leaders need to be more public with their doubts -- and attacks.
    "He's not someone personally liked in Washington, even by many of his colleagues in the Senate," said Lee. "So far other than maybe Bob Dole, people are not speaking out against him. And I think Cruz presents a different kind of test for establishment Republicans than someone like Carson or Trump."

    5. On the radio this weekend, a new GOP face on security issues

    If you live outside of Arizona, the name Martha McSally most likely does not ring a bell. But if foreign policy and national security remain big issues heading into 2016, that is likely to change.
    McSally is a freshman GOP representative who won a close race for the seat once held by Democrat Gabrielle Giffords.
    House freshmen in Congress normally don't get high-profile messaging roles. But Ed O'Keefe of The Washington Post says a resume that shows McSally is a retired Air Force colonel is a key reason her colleagues view her as a great spokeswoman.
    "She gave the Saturday morning radio address in response to President Obama, saying that the U.S. needs to be more forceful with its military might in the Middle East," said O'Keefe.
    "GOP aides tell me she had a standout week behind closed doors, because using her military experience, she was actually walking her colleagues through the details of what a military response might look like."
    "For a party in desperate need of younger and female faces and voices, especially on the House side, she stands out, and many believe she has quite a future ahead of her."