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Hmm: Hillary Weighs Skipping Democratic Debates in 2016?

Politico's Mike Allen (who'd probably qualify as management, not rank-and-file, in the publication's coming labor disputes) opens his piece today on Hillary Clinton's 2016 ambitions with an intriguing lede: "Not only is she running, but we have a very good idea of what her campaign will look like."  Some analysts have bandied about the possibility that Hillary won't run for president again.  She's tired.  She's old.  She's ready to 
retire comfortably and be a doting grandmother.  Nonsense. She circled November 8, 2016 on her calendar the very moment she conceded the Democratic primary to Barack Obama in 2008, and she's been positioning herself to seek the crown again ever since.  She's running, period. And its understandably unlikely that polling like this has done anything to dampen her enthusiasm.  Allen's story previews Team Hillary's early stages game plan, which entails "integrating Bill" from the get-go and improving somewhat frosty relations with the news media by casting the candidate in a "good cop" role.  It also raises the possibility that Clinton may prove such a juggernaut that she'll run virtually unopposed (the report mentions that her team is already debating the running mate selection process, with an emphasis on "diversity") and may consider declining to participate in primary debates:

Clinton will enter the Democratic race with a bang — and virtually no opposition to speak of. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who could mount a serious campaign from the left, has said she won’t run, and is making no behind-the-scenes preparations. Vice President Joe Biden says he might very well run — but mainly wants his name in the mix in case Clinton implodes. This leaves a trio of long shots with scant money: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia. The potential opposition is so weak that Clinton might wind up not even debating during the primaries, which many Democrats view as a mixed blessing.

It's an unalloyed blessing because she'll stockpile cash and endorsements, face little public push-back from the Hillary-skeptic Left (especially thanks to Elizabeth Warren's seemingly final decision not to run), and effectively campaign as a general election nominee and prohibitive front-runner from word one.  The "mixed" bit refers to concerns that voters won't necessarily take kindly to a campaign rooted in resistance-is-futile-style inevitability, and that a totally uncompetitive primary may yield an untested, rusty nominee.  Mitt Romney's debating skills were sharpened and honed over the grinding GOP contest in 2012, leading to his historic blowout of President Obama in their first head-to-head encounter. Obama hadn't seriously debating anyone in years.  He was much sharper against John McCain in 2008, having worked himself into fighting shape over the course of a tough, protracted battle against Hillary.  On balance, though, the advantages of a coronation outstrip any relatively minor risks, and Her Royal Highness is acting accordingly -- and taking all the hypocritical steps that ascension requires.  Back to the Politico piece.  What to make of this?

Bill Clinton is already deeply engaged in the campaign, warning that Jeb Bush is a real threat, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is probably just a sideshow. The former president got a heads-up from the camp of President George H.W. Bush a few days before former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made his surprise Facebook announcement in December that he would “actively explore” a campaign. The two former presidents have developed a friendly bond, partly because of their work together on relief for the 2004 Asian tsunami.

So Bill Clinton got tipped off that Jeb was getting into the race before many top Republicans did?  Interesting.  That's...exactly the sort of nugget that may entrench grassroots conservatives' suspicions of Bush as a ruling class establishmentarian.  Question: Does Bubba authentically see Jeb as a real threat, or is he letting that assessment be known publicly because he's quite confident Jeb is eminently beatable, especially after he and his wife overcome their much-discussed affection for the Bushes and spend six months savaging the Bush political brand?  Or maybe Bill's just being a peach and saying something nice about his pal's kid.  Regardless, beware Clintons bearing compliments, Republicans.  Elsewhere in Republicanland, while Scott Walker made his impressive showing in Iowa last weekend, another likely 2016 entrant was wowing another crowd:

If the first half of the discussion was a draw, Rubio stood out in the discussion of foreign policy and national security. It was clear that he has a command of the issues that far surpasses both Paul and Cruz – a fact that’s perhaps not surprising given Rubio’s service on both the Senate Foreign Relations committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee. Rubio demonstrated a fluency on matters of national security that one might expect from a senator who has been in Washington much longer than four years.

Stephen Hayes' full dispatch
from the Koch event suggests that Rand Paul is going to find himself at the center of some heated debates on foreign policy in the GOP primary, as he dug in his heels in siding with President Obama on Cuba and Iran policy during the forum.  I'll leave you with a less sympathetic review of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy, delivered by a Congressional Democrat (whom we mentioned last week) and who we can safely say won't end up as Hillary's "diverse" VP pick: 

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