Open season

It should be an interesting few days in US politics. Hillary Clinton is expected to declare her Presidential candidacy online at noon ET on Sunday, possibly even while she is on the plane en route to Iowa.

But even as she released a new epilogue to her Hard Choices book, the RNC has already rolled out its first Stop Hillary spot, basically signaling the start of open season:

(GOP)

Republican-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee continues to do the talk show rounds to directly criticize Mrs Clinton over her vote in favor of the Iraq war. “I would argue that anybody who voted for the Iraq War should not be president, and certainly anybody who voted for the Iraq War should not lead the Democratic Party into an election,” Chafee told Politico.

Is he a stalking horse to allow Mrs Clinton to avoid the appearance of a coronation? Time may tell. It may have been revealing that in an appearance on MSNBC’s The Cycle on Friday, Chafee appeared less than enthusiastic about putting his own money behind his campaign (although to his credit, he did have a pretty decent get-out line: “What’s needed for a Presidential campaign is well beyond what my family can afford.”)

One place where they may be cheering Hillary Clinton’s announcement – or at least the timing of it – is over at HBO, where season four of “Veep” begins on Sunday night:

Poor, embattled Selina Meyer has finally hit the jackpot. She’s returning to television on the very weekend that a real-life politician is trying to become what she already is: the first woman to be president of the United States. You can’t buy that kind of publicity.

(HBO)

Former Maryland Gov Martin O’Malley, meanwhile, said in Iowa that the Presidency is “not a hereditary right” to be “passed between families” and appears to be gearing up for an announcement on a “colossal undertaking” next month.

On the GOP side, with attention largely focused on the weekend’s NRA convention, Sen Marco Rubio – with a freshly-formed SuperPAC – is set to announce his campaign launch on Monday, seemingly a clear sign that his fellow Floridian Jeb Bush isn’t a lock for the nomination despite early success with big donors. According to Politico, Rubio has shown some healthy upside in the early primary states.

The New York Times writes:

Both men are eager to tamp down the tension. “What do you think,” Mr. Rubio recently asked an associate somewhat sheepishly, “about two friends running for the same office?”

Allies of Mr. Rubio, 43, and Mr. Bush, 62, have rendered an unmistakable verdict: It is an awful idea, upending loyalties and destroying relationships. Many of them, dispensing with the diplomacy that has long surrounded the Bush-Rubio alliance, are starting to lash out.

***

* WORLD * The stage is set for an historic meeting on Saturday between President Obama and Cuban President Raoul Castro at the Summit of the Americas in Panama.

Ahead of a possible vote next week on a Senate proposal that could kill an Iran nuclear deal, Democrats find themselves in a crucial position with regard to the Corker-Menendez bill. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine is one of the prominent Democratic supporters. In a very good interview with the Plumline’s Gerg Sargent in the Washington Post, he looks at the hypothetical and possible outcomes.

As if to focus minds on the issue, were any focus needed, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told CNN on Friday that a military option is still on the table.

“We have the capability to shut down, set back and destroy the Iranian nuclear program and I believe the Iranians know that and understand that.”

***

* BUSINESS * A shakeup at GE will see the company dispose of most of its financial services operations and return to its industrial roots, the FT writes.

Amazon is now able to test its Prime Air delivery drones in the US, after  being granted an exemption by the FAA, “as long as Amazon flies the drones under 400 feet and at a maximum speed of 100 miles per hour,” Wired reports.

Apple Watch, blah blah blah…

***

* BRITISH ELECTION * After a week that saw Labour take the lead in opinion polls in the wake of counter-productive negative attacks on its leader Ed Miliband, the Conseratives are “revamping their strategy” ahead of their manifesto launch on Tuesday, according to The Independent.

Some of the negativity certainly backfired by bolstering Miliband’s popularity – particularly recent stories about the leader’s love life.  

Hannah Jane Parkinson writes at The Guardian:

The Tories’ message on Ed is all over the place. He’s a geek! He’s weak! He’s meek and he’s weird! No wait, he’s a ruthless operator ambitious and determined to become PM, plus he’s a hit with the ladies.

And now, with his back-stabbing, profligate spending plans and rampant sex drive, he is basically Caligula. If the Tories carry on like this, they are in danger of gifting Labour an overall majority in the Commons, and the only thing hung will be Ed.

***

* CULTURE * Game of Thrones Season Five premieres on HBO Sunday night.

(The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon)

***

* SPORTS * Big weekend – Grand National on Saturday, Final weekend of the NHL’s regular season; US Masters culminates on Sunday.

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