Look Who's Trying To Change How Presidential Candidates Debate

By MICHAEL FALCONE

NOTABLES

  • GROUP SEEKS TO 'CHANGE THE RULE': Much like America's political system, presidential debates are dominated by the major parties and their candidates. But a group called Change the Rule, which announced its national launch today, is lobbying to make it easier for third party candidates to join the debates in 2016 by changing how they can qualify, ABC's BENJAMIN SIEGEL reports. Since 1988, the Commission on Presidential Debates - founded by the Republican and Democratic parties - has organized presidential and vice presidential debates. According to the commission's rules, candidates must poll higher than 15 percent in numerous polls prior to the debates in order to appear. Instead, the campaign proposes a ballot contest: A third party candidate would have to get access to ballots in enough states to reach 270 electoral votes, giving them a mathematical shot at the presidency. If more than one candidate meets this threshold, whoever gathered the most signatures as part of the access process would participate in the fall debates. http://abcn.ws/19yAhrP
  • WHO'S INVOLVED? Those who are backing the effort, include: Former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman; Admiral Dennis Blair; Former Sen. William S. Cohen; Dr. Francis Fukuyama; Former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton; General Michael Hayden; Former Sen. Robert Kerrey; Former Rep. Christopher Shays; Admiral James G. Stavridis; Former Rep. Vin Weber; Former Gov. Christine Todd-Whitman.
  • WORD FROM THE COMMISSION: A spokesperson for the CPD, which reviews its debate policy between election cycles, said that the ballot signatures idea has been considered in the past, and that a prior review concluded it was "not the same measure of strength of a campaign" as public support. But one CPD board member, Dorothy Ridings, expects to discuss the initiative at the CPD's April 1 hearing. http://abcn.ws/19yAhrP

ANALYSIS

ABC's RICK KLEIN: Two weeks after the world learned of Hillary Clinton's unusual email arrangement, her answers are incomplete, Democrats are anxious, she's still not a candidate - and none of it matters in terms of her likelihood to become the 2016 nominee. For all the churn beneath the surface, Clinton is still essentially running against herself on the Democratic side. Her would-be challengers have barely whispered a critique of an email setup that strayed from State Department custom, if not rule or law, for reason that appear to include a desire for secrecy. It's an instructive episode for the emerging Clinton team, on that may actually confirm the instincts of those who think any "new Hillary" wouldn't be worth the downside. Of course these last few weeks haven't been helpful. But would anyone argue they have seriously hurt her chances of capturing the nomination?

MARCH MADNESS!: PAUL RYAN, GOP LAWMAKERS PICK 2015 NCAA BRACKETS. In Washington, even sports are political. Not only has President Obama made it a tradition to pick his brackets with ESPN, but this year, ABC News joined forces with ESPN to get an unofficial Republican response. Former vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan was among the Republicans who took part. The Wisconsin Republican picked his home state's Badgers to go all the way in the tournament, with their final matchup predicted against Gonzaga University. "I'm going with Wisconsin, I think Bo Ryan has got this team at a really good place," Ryan told "Power Players," putting his political capital behind the University of Wisconsin men's basketball coach. More from ABC's RICK KLEIN, ESPN's ANDY KATZ and ABC's JORDYN PHELPS. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/1Evwc1V

THE BUZZ

with ABC's VERONICA STRACQUALURSI

ON THE PRESIDENT'S AGENDA: President Obama heads to Cleveland, Ohio today to deliver remarks on the economy at the City Club of Cleveland. The president will also take part in a tour at MAGNET (Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network).

HILLARY CLINTON'S CAMPAIGN TEAM TAKES SHAPE. Hillary Clinton has not yet officially announced her presidential campaign, but the wheels are ready to be swiftly in motion when she does. Over the past few months, Clinton's been steadily building out a team of advisers, strategists and staffers for her likely campaign, with most of the top spots already filled. A major focus over the past few weeks has been to build up Clinton's communication team. The handling of the email controversy served as a signal to many in her inner-circle that a more robust communications team was much needed -and fast. Jennifer Palmieri, the current director of communications at the White House, will take on the top role as communications director. Palmieri's last day at the White House is Friday. She starts working for the Clinton team on Monday. Kristina Schake will serve as the deputy communications director. Schake was formerly Michelle Obama's communications director. She has already started advising Clinton. Current spokesperson for Attorney General Eric Holder, Brian Fallon, will be Clinton's press secretary. ABC'S JONATHAN KARL and LIZ KREUTZ has more. http://abcn.ws/19xoh9Z

BOEHNER DEMANDS HILLARY CLINTON TURN OVER EMAIL SERVER TO 3RD PARTY. Speaker John Boehner demanded that Hillary Clinton turn over her private email server to a third party administrator Tuesday, but stopped short of directing House Republicans to subpoena the former Secretary of State's personal records. "The way forward is for the Secretary to turn over all of her emails that pertain to the public," Boehner, R-Ohio, insisted during a news conference on Capitol Hill. "But some neutral third party's gonna have to make some decision about what documents are quote personal and which ones are public record. And thus far she's been unwilling to do this." At her own news conference last week, Clinton admitted that more than 31,000 emails were destroyed because she determined them to be personal. Boehner said he believes that turning the server over to an independent party "is the fairest way" to ensure all public documents are turned over, particularly in regard to the deadly terrorist attack in Benghazi on Sept 11, 2012, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON reports. http://abcn.ws/1EZQgft

CLINTON GOES ON TWITTER TIRADE. Once again Hillary Clinton took to Twitter to take on House Republicans, ABC's LIZ KREUTZ notes. Earlier this week she tweeted (twice) about what she called a congressional "trifecta against women. And last night she tweeted against Obamacare repeal: @HillaryClinton: Budgets reflect our priorities. They should help families get ahead, educate our kids, and spark small business growth. @HillaryClinton: Our nation's future - jobs & economic growth - depends on investments made today. The GOP budget fails Americans on these principles. @HillaryClinton: Making college more affordable is an investment in our kids and economic growth. Cuts to Pell Grants hold our kids back. @HillaryClinton: Repeal of the ACA would let insurers write their own rules again, and wipe out coverage for 16 million Americans.

AARON SCHOCK RESIGNING FROM CONGRESS UNDER ETHICS CLOUD. Embattled Illinois Republican Rep. Aaron Schock announced Tuesday that he is resigning, ending a tumultuous period where the four-term lawmaker has faced incredible scrutiny over his congressional office and campaign expenditures, ABC News confirmed. "Today, I am announcing my resignation as a Member of the United States House of Representatives effective March 31," Schock, 33, wrote in a statement. Schock wrote that "constant questions" over the past six weeks "have proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of the 18th District with the high standards that they deserve and which I have set for myself." "I have always sought to do what's best for my constituents and I thank them for the opportunity to serve," he added. Schock did not notify House Republican leaders prior to his decision to resign, catching the GOP leadership off-guard, according to a senior GOP leadership aide, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON and BEN SIEGEL write. http://abcn.ws/1EnDMZJ ABC's JONATHAN KARL has the latest on "Good Morning America": http://abcn.ws/1FzXDJE

-THE SPEAKER SPEAKS: "With this decision, Rep. Schock has put the best interests of his constituents and the House first," House Speaker John Boehner wrote in a brief statement. "I appreciate Aaron's years of service, and I wish him well in the future."

WHO'S TWEETING?

@JamesPindell: . @realDonaldTrump "Americans deserve better than what they get from their politicians - who are all talk and no action!" #fitn

@rollcall: Why Primaries Aren't All Bad http://roll.cl/1FwDiET via @nathanlgonzales

@jestei: Mildly fascinated by the Iowa backlash, which sweeps in Walker criticism. http://bit.ly/1Evx32p Wonder if it has legs.

@mateagold: In fundraising e-mail, Barbara Bush says Jeb 'is our best chance of taking back the White House in 16' via @edatpost http://wpo.st/f0H90

@csmonitor: The darkest of dark horse possibilities: Al Gore for president. http://trib.al/iPTm5VV @husnahaq

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