tipsheet
Matt Vespa - It’s No Big Deal, But ISIS Might Be In Afghanistan
Posted: 4/20/2015 6:30:00 PM EST

The Obama administration might have to reassess the strategic situation in Afghanistan after allegations that the horrific suicide bombing in Jalalabad on April 18 was the work of the Islamic State. People waiting to collect their salaries formed a line outside the New Kabul Bank branch, where a man detonated his vest, killing 35 and wounding over 100 people, according to NPR. The Taliban did not claim responsibility; they actually condemned the attack.

While the Afghan president has said ISIS claimed responsibility, this hasn’t been confirmed yet. If true, it complicates the withdrawal plans for the Obama administration, which is trying to draw down American presence in both theaters (via the Atlantic):

Appearing on national television after the attack, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani claimed that a local affiliate of the Islamic State, also referred to by its Arabic acronym Daesh, was responsible.

"Taliban did not claim responsibility, but Daesh claimed responsibility," he said.

The involvement of ISIS has not been independently confirmed. But if Ghani is correct, Saturday's attack is an ominous development in a country struggling to combat a brutal insurgency from the Taliban, an indigenous Afghan group recently strengthened by an influx of foreign fighters.

On Saturday, a Taliban spokesman denied responsibility for the attack. But the group remains a lethal presence in Afghanistan. According to the Council on Foreign Relations,

Taliban violence claimed the lives of over 8,600 civilians in 2013 alone, and the group threatens government control of an estimated 40 percent of the country's 373 districts. A military crackdown on Islamic extremism in Pakistan has caused militants to cross the border into Afghanistan, where they have found refuge with the Taliban. With the onset of spring—the traditional fighting season in Afghanistan—extremist violence will only intensify.

"Considering the influx of foreign fighters in Afghanistan, this fighting season will be the bloodiest fighting season," Atiqullah Amarkhel, a military analyst in Kabul, told the Washington Post.

Afghanistan's violence poses a significant problem for the Obama administration, which seeks to wind down American involvement in the country. In March, Ghani persuaded Obama to maintain around 10,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan through the end of 2015—double the number that Obama had planned. Additional revisions to Obama's plan appear likely.

It may come to a point where another influx of American forces is needed to provide further stability to the region. Moreover, the chances of American forces engaging ISIS are now increased if this does turn out to be an ISIS attack, which is something the Obama administration has been trying to avoid.

While jobs and the economy will be the central issues of the 2016 election, foreign policy looks as if it will play a larger, though not overbearing, role next year.  Another pickle for Hillary who will have to answer to the ongoing failure of Obama's foreign policy, which she presided over as our chief diplomat for much his presidency.  

Vivian Hughbanks  - ISIS Video Claims To Show Murders of 30 Ethiopian Christians
Posted: 4/20/2015 6:00:00 PM EST

A 29-minute video released by the Islamic State yesterday claims to show the slaughter of 30 Ethiopian Christian prisoners by Islamic State fighters.

The Ethiopian News Agency has confirmed the deaths of 30 citizens, captured in Libya by the Islamic State branch there, and shown to be executed in two groups in the video. The victims are given the choice to convert to Islam, or die, and are then shot in the head or beheaded.

“To the nation of the cross, we are back again,” the narrator says in Arabic, according to CNN. “Muslim blood that was shed under the hands of your religion is not cheap.”

“We swear to Allah... you will not have safety even in your dreams until you embrace Islam,” he continues, according to the Guardian.

The video is titled “Until There Came to Them Clear Evidence,” and primarily focuses on providing justification for the group’s targeting of Christians. The narrator claims that slaughtering Christians is permitted if they refuse to convert to Islam and fail to pay a protection tax to the Islamic State.

People who claim to be Christians are also featured in the video, testifying that they are living happily under the Islamic State in cities like Aleppo and Raqqa, Syria, after paying the tax.

The Guardian explains:

The video... begins with a recounting of the early history of Christianity and an outline of the schisms that led to the creation of the Coptic, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, as well as the development of Protestantism.

The video condemns the doctrine of the Trinity as a form of apostasy, and brands Christians as infidels. The narrator says Christians must pay the “jizya” – a protection tax imposed on them during the early Islamic conquests in Asia and Europe, or face slaughter.

“You pay (tax) with willing submission, feeling yourselves subdued,” the narrator says, according to CNN. “Our battle is a battle between faith and blasphemy, between truth and falsehood, until there is no more polytheism -- and obedience becomes Allah's on its entirety,” the narrator says.

The video mirrors one released by Islamic State showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya.

“We tell Christians everywhere that the Islamic State will spread, God willing,” the narrator says at the end of the video, according to the Guardian. “It will reach you even if you are in fortresses. Those who embrace Islam or jizya will be safe. But those who refuse... will have nothing from us but the edge of the sword. The men will be killed, the women and children enslaved, and the money seized. That is Allah and the prophet’s judgment.”

Cortney O'Brien - Pew: Highest Support for Gun Rights in 25 Years
Posted: 4/20/2015 6:00:00 PM EST
For the first time in 25 years, a majority of Americans say gun rights trump gun control, according to the Pew Research Center.

In a survey conducted in December 2014, it was revealed that 52 percent of Americans believe defending gun rights is more important than gun control, as opposed to 46 percent who believe gun ownership should be restricted.

Another shifting statistic revealed in the poll was the percentage of Americans who believe guns makes homes safer. While 15 years ago 51 percent said guns make a house more dangerous, today only 30 percent believe that, while a majority, 63 percent, say they provide more safety.

Americans are increasingly embracing their gun rights because they recognize firearms are an important resource for self-defense. In March 2013, Americans cited protection as the top reason for purchasing a gun - and it seems the trend has only continued.

These numbers suggest that Americans are rejecting the Obama administration's gun control agenda. Two years ago, after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, President Obama showed real remorse for the young lives lost, yet offered a misguided response by trying to push through anti-gun legislation. His gun control measure, which would have expanded background checks and banned "assault weapons," didn't get very far in Congress. Now, it's clear his gun control agenda is just as unpopular outside Capitol Hill. 

The Obama administration hasn't let this failed bill halt their anti-gun plans, however. One look at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' (ATF) efforts suggests he and his cohorts are more determined than ever to restrict gun access. However, some of his administration's methods are being exposed by members of Congress who are concerned about an unfair rollback of the Second Amendment rights. 

It's time the president stops following his misguided intuition and starts paying attention to the numbers.

Matt Vespa - Oh My: Graham Says Paul Is ‘Behind’ Obama And Hillary On Foreign Policy
Posted: 4/20/2015 5:30:00 PM EST

As Dan mentioned, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is 91 percent sure that he’ll run for president in 2016–with Meghan McCain saying he would do well; I'll just leave this here. While the 91 percent comment may have been somewhat facetious, it seems to be another event in the annals of what appears to be a Paul-Graham feud.

Now, Graham has said that his disagreements with Paul isn't personal. Earlier today, he noted on Morning Joe that both of them play golf, and have backed the similar legislation in the Senate, namely reforms bills for Social Security and Medicare. Foreign policy is where this (sort of) professional friendship hits rocky shoals. Graham contends that Paul has “a isolationist view of the world that I don’t share.” 

Joe Scarborough pushed Graham by asking if he supports Rand Paul or Hillary Clinton’s worldview. Graham said he’s more aligned with anyone who feels that America should be leading force in the world, but also said that Hillary backed a president who has led from behind. Then, he circled back to Paul:

Rand Paul is one step behind leading from behind. So yes, even Obama is more aggressive. Obama believes you can kill Anwar al-Awlaki, without getting a court order. Obama believes you can hold enemy combatants, unlawful enemy combatants at Gitmo, without a criminal trial because this is law-of-war detention. So Rand Paul is behind Obama, not just Hillary Clinton.

Earlier this month, Politico  had a piece that charted the clashes between these two men, which at times have become heated; the “Crazy Bastard” fight on the Senate floor over Guantanamo Bay probably serves as the best example of the deep, ideological differences these men have on foreign policy.  As the article mentioned, It's probably the reason why Graham feels compelled to enter the race to stop Paul:

In 2012, Paul’s political action committee began airing TV ads attacking West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat who was up for reelection, for opposing a Paul-sponsored bill that would have blocked foreign aid to Egypt, Pakistan and Libya. In response, Graham, who oversees a key Appropriations subcommittee charged with disbursing foreign aid, went so far as to appear on a conference call with Manchin to argue that cutting off the packages could have adverse effects in the region.

Paul steamed. “I don’t see myself campaigning against a Republican in a general election ever, that’s why I think it’s extraordinary that Graham is supporting a Democrat in a general election,” he said at the time.

A month later, Graham and Paul appeared on the Senate floor to debate whether to close the Guantánamo Bay terrorist detention facility. What ensued would soon become known as “The Crazy Bastard Fight.”

“Simply stated,” Graham said, “the American people don’t want to close Guantánamo Bay, which is an isolated, military-controlled facility, and bring these crazy bastards who want to kill us all to the United States.”

“I want to make formal objection to the ‘crazy bastard’ standard,” Paul swung back. “If we’re going to lock up all the crazy bastards, for goodness sakes would you not want, if you’re a crazy bastard, to have a right of trial by jury?”

In 2013, Graham appeared on the floor to lash Paul for his nearly 12-hour protest over the Obama administration’s drone policy — which the South Carolina senator labeled a “disservice.”

The most recent flareup came on Sunday, when Graham, appearing on Fox News, said Paul’s “foreign policy is to the left of President Obama.” He added that any Republican candidate would have struck a better Iran deal than Obama. “Except maybe Rand Paul.”

The publication added that Graham’s aides are saying the South Carolina Senator is setting himself up as “foil” to be used to attack Rand’s views, especially during the debates. Paul supporters have refused to comment thus far, fearing it will only add fuel to a Graham candidacy. Then again, Jesse Benton, a former Paul campaign manager who is helping running point on a pro-Rand super PAC, told Politico, “Punching down third-tier candidates doesn’t often make a lot of sense.”

If Graham decides to run–and it sounds as if he's more than willing–his 2016 game plan is to “exceed expectations in Iowa, finish in the top-tier in New Hampshire, and win South Carolina.” He figures by then, only three of four candidates would be in a condition to move on with their presidential aspirations–and he think he can be in that group.

It’s a becoming a mighty crowded field, Senator. That’s all I’ll say.

Christine Rousselle - NARAL Colorado Not Fans of Bill That Would Criminalize the Murder of a Fetus
Posted: 4/20/2015 5:26:00 PM EST

The nation was stunned by the vicious assault on Michelle Wilkins, a 26-year-old woman in Colorado whose unborn child was ripped from her womb while she answered a Craigslist ad for baby clothes. Even though her unborn child was killed in the attack, the attacker, Dynel Lane, would not face murder charges as it was uncertain whether or not the infant was alive outside of the womb. People were furious with this development, and a YouGov poll showed that vast majorities of people say that they feel the attack should have been classified as a murder. Colorado's legislature is considering the "Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act," which would allow for murder charges to be filed in a case like the attack on Wilkins.

Apparently the people of NARAL Colorado are not among the 76 percent who think that the attack was more than an assault. Earlier today, they tweeted this:

Call me crazy, but I'm not seeing how this is exactly a bad thing. Even trying to see the bill from the point of view held by NARAL's employees, I'm at a loss as to how someone could be against a murder charge for someone who literally ripped open a woman's body to extract her baby during an assault. This isn't even close to the same thing as a woman going in for an abortion--this was an assault that resulted in the death of a person.

NARAL Colorado followed up their tweet with this one, which didn't do much to explain their point of view:

Again, this simply isn't true. Wilkins' infant was seven months along, and had the baby been born in a hospital instead of in a bathtub following a botched Cesarian section, he would probably still be alive today. Despite this life that was snuffed out, Lane won't be charged with murder because Colorado law won't allow this. That's absurd.

It's also interesting that NARAL chose to use the term "mother" in their first tweet. What, pray tell, is the woman a mother of if (in NARAL's view) they are not a person until they are born?

Guy Benson - Revealed: How Partisan Prosecutors Harassed and Intimidated Wisconsin Conservatives
Posted: 4/20/2015 4:07:00 PM EST

Those of you who've followed the Left's crusade against Scott Walker in Wisconsin are probably at least passingly familiar with the secret "John Doe" investigations that were launched by abusive prosecutors, then egregiously misreported by the media.  With Walker safely re-re-elected and his budget victories won, observers can now examine the truly frightening treatment of the governor's friends and allies at the hands of an out-of-control, partisan prosecutor, free from the passions and urgency of a contested election.  Make no mistake: The Left's tactics were aimed squarely at achieving partisan ends, not serving the interests of justice.  But just because they failed to destroy Walker doesn't make their actions any less heinous, nor does it mean that conservatives should drop the issue because the immediate political threat has passed.  Writing at National Review OnlineDavid French interviews some of the victims of the "John Doe" persecution, giving voice to those who were simultaneously targeted, humiliated, intimidated and muzzled. Here's one of several terrifying vignettes:

Cindy Archer, one of the lead architects of Wisconsin’s Act 10 — also called the “Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill,” it limited public-employee benefits and altered collective-bargaining rules for public-employee unions — was jolted awake by yelling, loud pounding at the door, and her dogs’ frantic barking. The entire house — the windows and walls — was shaking. She looked outside to see up to a dozen police officers, yelling to open the door. They were carrying a battering ram. She wasn’t dressed, but she started to run toward the door, her body in full view of the police. Some yelled at her to grab some clothes, others yelled for her to open the door. “I was so afraid,” she says. “I did not know what to do.” She grabbed some clothes, opened the door, and dressed right in front of the police. The dogs were still frantic. TOP STORY: Carly Fiorina Has Hillary Defenders Worried “I begged and begged, ‘Please don’t shoot my dogs, please don’t shoot my dogs, just don’t shoot my dogs.’ I couldn’t get them to stop barking, and I couldn’t get them outside quick enough. I saw a gun and barking dogs. I was scared and knew this was a bad mix.” She got the dogs safely out of the house, just as multiple armed agents rushed inside. Some even barged into the bathroom, where her partner was in the shower. The officer or agent in charge demanded that Cindy sit on the couch, but she wanted to get up and get a cup of coffee. “I told him this was my house and I could do what I wanted.” Wrong thing to say. “This made the agent in charge furious. He towered over me with his finger in my face and yelled like a drill sergeant that I either do it his way or he would handcuff me.” They wouldn’t let her speak to a lawyer. She looked outside and saw a person who appeared to be a reporter. Someone had tipped him off. The neighbors started to come outside, curious at the commotion, and all the while the police searched her house, making a mess, and — according to Cindy — leaving her “dead mother’s belongings strewn across the basement floor in a most disrespectful way.” Then they left, carrying with them only a cellphone and a laptop.

Click through to read similar accounts from "Anne" and "Rachel," both of whom were similarly instructed not to contact their lawyers, and not to share the details of their ordeal with anyone:

Don’t call your lawyer. Don’t talk to anyone about this. Don’t tell your friends. The kids watched — alarmed — as the school bus drove by, with the students inside watching the spectacle of uniformed police surrounding the house, carrying out the family’s belongings. Yet they were told they couldn’t tell anyone at school. They, too, had to remain silent. The mom watched as her entire life was laid open before the police. Her professional files, her personal files, everything. She knew this was all politics. She knew a rogue prosecutor was targeting her for her political beliefs. And she realized, “Every aspect of my life is in their hands. And they hate me.”

Megan McArdle sums things up:


Read the whole thing (and here's what SWATing is, for those who haven't heard of it).  French's reporting identifies the chief culprit in all of this as hardcore Democrat and Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisolm, who was skewered in this lengthy piece by Stuart Taylor last year.  Taylor quoted a former prosecutor explaining how Chisolm, at the prodding of his wife -- a fanatical Walker opponent -- made bringing down Walker his "personal duty."  Posters depicting the pro-union 'blue fist' emblem hung on the walls of Chisolm's supposedly nonpartisan office.  Milwaukee's top prosecutor became the Democratic Party's top hatchet man, abetted by a rubber-stamp judge (who has since recused herself), and vested with the full powers of the state.  His partisan thuggery was carried out by men with badges and guns, all under the pretense of a legitimate criminal investigation.  The probe has gone nowhere, incidentally, having been halted by two separate court rulings; it's has been the subject of legal wrangling ever since.  French notes that the intense dispute is approaching its denouement, on two separate tracks:

Largely hidden from the public eye, this traumatic process, however, is now heading toward a legal climax, with two key rulings expected in the late spring or early summer. The first ruling, from the Wisconsin supreme court, could halt the investigations for good, in part by declaring that the “misconduct” being investigated isn’t misconduct at all but the simple exercise of First Amendment rights. The second ruling, from the United States Supreme Court, could grant review on a federal lawsuit brought by Wisconsin political activist Eric O’Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth, the first conservatives to challenge the investigations head-on. If the Court grants review, it could not only halt the investigations but also begin the process of holding accountable those public officials who have so abused their powers.

Sooner than later, we'll know if John Doe's targets will finally be freed from this unnerving legal purgatory, and if they'll be afforded a path to seek legal relief against their tormentors.  I'll leave you with another piece of political news out of the Badger State:



Katie Pavlich - White House on New Clinton Donor Revelations: President Obama is Proud of Hillary's Work at State
Posted: 4/20/2015 3:15:00 PM EST

A new book by investigator Peter Schweizer and set to be published May 5, Clinton Cash, will reportedly show that Hillary Clinton traded political favors for donations from foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation during her time as Secretary of State.

“We will see a pattern of financial transactions involving the Clintons that occurred contemporaneous with favorable U.S. policy decisions benefiting those providing the funds,” Schweizer writes in the book.

The White House is calling that accusation "spurious," lacking in evidence and is reassuring the press that President Obama is "proud" of Clinton's work at the State Department. Further, Press Secretary Josh Earnest refused to say if foreign governments received preferential treatment in return for donations as part of the administration. 

"I know there's been a lot of accusations made about this but not a lot of evidence," Earnest said Monday. "The president continues to be extraordinarily proud of the work that Secretary Clinton did as the Secretary of State."

"There are lots of accusations like this but there's nobody that's marshaled in an evidence to indicate this," Earnest continued. "I'm not sure there's anybody that has any tangible evidence to indicate that it did [happened. I'm not going to be in the positions here that anytime somebody raises a spurious claim that I'm going to be the one who says it's not true...for these specific accusations that are presented without any evidence I'd refer you the political types who are more well versed in those types of things."

The New York Times reported yesterday. Bolding is mine:

"Clinton Cash” is potentially more unsettling, both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book.  

He writes mainly in the voice of a neutral journalist and meticulously documents his sources, including tax records and government documents, while leaving little doubt about his view of the Clintons.

His reporting largely focuses on payments made to Mr. Clinton for speeches, which increased while his wife served as secretary of state, writing that “of the 13 Clinton speeches that fetched $500,000 or more, only two occurred during the years his wife was not secretary of state.”

Is the White House really going to go against statements from the New York Times that the book is well researched, investigated and documented? That appears to be the case. The bigger question is whether Hillary Clinton, who is now running for president, was bought and paid for by foreign governments.

Katie Pavlich - White House Won't Require Iran to Release Americans As Part of Nuclear Deal
Posted: 4/20/2015 2:30:00 PM EST

Speaking to reporters at the White House Monday, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the release of American journalist Jason Rezaian, who works as a correspondent for the Washington Post, will not be required as part of a deal over Iran's nuclear program. 

"On the Jason Rezaian case, why can't you just say to the Iranians on a condition of making this deal final you've got to free Jason Rezaian? I understand you're not going to resolve all of your issues with Iran exporting terrorism throughout the region, all of those issues that are very complicated perhaps? Some would argue maybe not but here you have one case of an American who has been held prisoner since July of last year now brought up on what you just said are absurd charges, why not say, 'Look we're  not going to sign a deal until you let him go,'" ABC's Jon Karl asked.

"The effort to build the international community's strong support for a diplomatic resolution or a diplomatic agreement that would shut down every pathway Iran has for a nuclear weapon is extraordinarily complicated and so we are trying to focus on these issues one at a time and that's why you continue to see regular, consistent and pretty forceful statements from the United States that these Americans should be released," Earnest responded.

Rezaian has been held by the Iranian regime since July 2014. Today his attorney told CNN he has been charged by the Iranians with four different crimes, including espionage. The White House is calling the charges outrageous, but still won't include his release in the upcoming nuclear deal with the terror state.

Other Americans being held by Iran include American Marine Amir Hekmati and Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini.

Daniel Doherty - Graham: There's a '91 Percent' Chance I'm Taking the Plunge in 2016
Posted: 4/20/2015 2:30:00 PM EST

That statement might seem a little bizarre at first blush. Ninety-one percent? But I think context is important here.

Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace prefaced his question about whether or not Lindsey Graham is running for president by reminding him that Carly Fiorina recently noted on his show that her chances of running were “higher than 90 percent.”

“What’s the percent chance that you’re going to get in?” he then asked him.

“91 percent ... I think I got a good message, I think I've been more right than wrong on foreign policy ... I've been a problem-solver in Washington. And I think I've got something to offer the party and the nation. I’ll make that decision in May [and] if I can raise the money, I’ll do it.”

Presumably, however, if you ask grassroots conservatives what they think of Lindsey Graham running for president in 2016, the responses would range from mild amusement to intense anger for all the reasons Wallace brings up. But maybe he’s got two things going for him: First, he would likely be running for president at a time when national security issues are at the forefront. Consequently, as a foreign policy hawk, this would be a distinct advantage, especially as ISIS continues its murderous atrocities and Iran moves closer to the bomb. Second, he’s also a deft and savvy campaigner. Graham, as he points out in the interview, soundly defeated six primary opponents in 2014 when he was largely viewed as extremely vulnerable. It also doesn’t hurt that South Carolina is conveniently situated as a key early primary state—a state he thinks he can win despite what the polls say.

“If I’m on the ballot, I’m going to win South Carolina,” he told Chris Wallace.

Perhaps. But where does he go from there? Newt Gingrich won South Carolina in 2012—and flamed out shortly thereafter. Graham therefore would not only need to win South Carolina, but not lose any momentum (or deplete his coffers) for months afterwards. And how likely is that?

In any case, he’s going to run, or so it seems. So I guess a reasonable question might be why shouldn’t he?

Hell, everyone else is.

Guy Benson - Polls: Rubio Rises Among GOP Voters, Leads Hillary in Florida
Posted: 4/20/2015 1:16:00 PM EST

Marco Rubio's strong campaign launch week has propelled him into the top tier of contention for the GOP nomination, according to a new CNN poll. Despite his strong favorability numbers among Republican voters, the Florida Senator had been stuck in the mid-single digits on 2016 primary ballot questions. That's changed, at least for now, as Rubio has bounced into double-digit territory and is tied for third place:

Overall, 17% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents back Bush for the GOP nomination, while 12% support Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Paul and Rubio stand at 11% each, with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 9% and Cruz at 7%… On one metric, however, Bush has an emerging challenger. While 18% see Bush as the candidate who best represents the future of the Republican Party, the same share say fellow Floridian Rubio is the best representation of the GOP’s future. Paul, at 10%, is the only other candidate in double digits on this question…

Rubio also fares best in CNN's national head-to-head numbers against Hillary Clinton, "only" trailing her by...14 points.  He's the only Republican who breaks into the 40's against Hillary, with most others mired in the high 30's.  Ted Cruz fares worst, pulling in 36 percent against Hillary's cool 60 percent.  Three caveats: CNN's general election polling has been especially unfavorable to Republicans so far, Hillary Clinton has universal name recognition (unlike virtually every Republican in the race), and swing-state polling has been much more competitive -- in Iowa, Colorado, and now Florida, too:

Both leading Republican candidates from the Sunshine State now lead Democrat Hillary Clinton in Florida. Statewide, former governor Jeb Bush leads Clinton 47%-43% and Senator Marco Rubio, who trailed Clinton in January, has a slightly larger 49%-43% advantage. Predictably, support divides sharply along partisan lines, with Bush and Rubio holding strong leads among Republican voters and Clinton well ahead among Democrats. Bush and Rubio are ahead because both are running stronger with independents. The gender gap, which Clinton hopes to exploit in her quest to become the first female president, is present. However, that gap exposes that her deficit among men is a stronger force than her advantage among women.

Florida is a must-have for the GOP in 2016.  Take a gander at this map:


You can play around with various states (flip New Mexico/Colorado/Nevada to Blue, and Florida to red, for example, and Republicans win), but without the Sunshine State's 29 electoral votes, the GOP's path to victory is basically nonexistent.  And then there's the small matter of winning back Ohio and Virginia, too.  In any case, it'd be wise not to get too excited or alarmed by any 2016 polling at this stage.  Current surveys tend to reflect several trends that aren't likely to budge anytime soon: Hillary Clinton, despite staggering flaws, will be formidable.  The Republican nominating contest features a deep field and will be very competitive.  And the GOP electorate is far from settled in its preferences.  The good news for Rubio is that his announcement made a splash and moved the needle.  He helped himself, broke through with primary voters, and reportedly made a good impression on the big money class to boot.  But with a parade of announcements scheduled over the coming weeks, it won't necessarily be surprising to see his surge subside a bit, as future news cycles showcase new entrants.  Meanwhile, while the Obama/Hillary foreign policy continues to crater, young Muslim Americans try to join ISIS in disturbing numbers, the national debt churns ever higher, Obamacare harms millions of consumers, and the economy limps along in its historically tepid recovery, the media is busy tallying which Republican candidates would attend a loved one's same-sex wedding.  Rubio got the question first, and handled it well.  He's a "yes" (adding that he believes sexual orientation is innate, not chosen).  Rick Santorum is a "no," Ted Cruz dismissed the hypothetical and instead addressed the Constitutional and policy questions, and now Scott Walker weighs in with a, "yes, and I already have, actually."  At some point, Republicans are going to need unify and address "gotcha" questions with a hybrid Rubio/Cruz approach.  Address the underlying issue succinctly and smartly, then emphasize how frivolous some lines of questioning have become.  And while the whole GOP field is getting quizzed on hypotheticals involving the potential nuptials of roughly three percent of the population, the effective Democratic nominee is taking zero questions, period.  I'll leave you with CBS News asking if President Rubio would sign the 'Gang of Eight' immigration bill he co-sponsored in the Senate: