It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like 2016

. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at a news conference in the Capitol to oppose the immigration reform bill in the Senate. Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, left, and David Vitter, R-La., also appear. Photo Credit: Tom Williams/Getty Images

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • IF IT'S AUGUST 2013, IT MUST BE CAMPAIGN SEASON IN IOWA: There's something in the air in the Hawkeye State, and it's not just scent of fried Oreo cookies and pork chops on-a-stick at the Iowa State Fair. No, it's the sweet smell of presidential politics. Over the next few days, Iowa is getting an early taste of the 2016 campaign. On Saturday, a prominent evangelical Christian group, The Family Leader, is holding a summit featuring Sen. Ted Cruz and his father, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump and Iowa political figures like Sen. Chuck Grassley, Rep. Steve King and Gov. Terry Branstad. And at least a few of those Republicans will be stopping at the state fair to see the famed Butter Cow and press the flesh with voters, who just a few years from now will be potential caucus-goers.
  • LOOKS LIKE A LADY IN 2016?: Democrats, meanwhile, aren't letting the big GOP gathering in Ames, Iowa go unanswered. Emily's List is holding what it is billing as a "Madam President" forum in Des Moines tomorrow featuring Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, the group's president, Stephanie Schriock, and several Iowa women political candidates. McCaskill, Schriock and the other panelists will be talking about what it's going to take to put a woman in the White House in 2016. Notably, McCaskill has already thrown her support behind the pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC, Ready for Hillary, so there is no mistaking where her allegiances lie.
  • A VERY SANTORUM HOMECOMING: Bright and early this morning former presidential candidate Rick Santorum who scored a belated victory over Mitt Romney in the 2012 Iowa caucuses will wake up Council Bluffs to begin long day of political events. For Santorum, who accomplished the marathon political feat of visiting all of Iowa's 99 counties during the last election cycle, his three-day visit will take him on roads he's traveled before, to small towns where he knows the person who's scooping his ice cream sundae by name, and to event halls where he will encounter voters and elected officials he's already met not once or twice but three and four times. He will even be driving in the same Ram 1500 pickup (nicknamed the "Chuck Truck" after owner Chuck Laudner) that ferried him around the state in 2011. He'll start his day with coffee and scrambled eggs at a private breakfast fundraiser for Iowa congressman Tom Latham. By sunset, Santorum will have traveled more than 160 miles, arriving in Rock Rapids where he will deliver the keynote address at a Lyon County and Northwest Iowa Republican Party fundraising dinner. From there Santorum will make his way back to the Des Moines area (another 270 miles) where he plans to visit the Iowa State Fair on Friday.


ABC's RICK KLEIN: Defense cuts, of course, were the part of the sequester that Republicans were supposed to hate so much that it never went into effect. We know how that worked out. But how will this work out? President Obama used a relatively low-profile speech to Marines at Camp Pendleton to side with the military on the subject of budget cuts. "That's not how a great nation should be treating its military and military families," the commander-in-chief said. No big surprises there, but there might be a hint as to White House strategy in the next rounds of budget talks, just weeks away. We might be seeing the president trying to flip the script when it comes to defense cuts. Republicans, take note.

ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: Rick Santorum's visit to Iowa this week has all the hallmarks of a presidential campaign swing. His political team even released a media advisory detailing Santorum's stops over the next few days that bears a striking resemblance to his old campaign schedules. As a presidential candidate, Santorum logged more days and attended more events in Iowa than any of his competitors. Sometimes holding as many as eight events per day, he showed up at diners, libraries, and countless Pizza Ranch franchises all over the state. Sometimes his crowds numbered in the hundreds; other times, only a dozen people turned out to take the measure of the staunchly conservative, family values-friendly candidate. In the nine months since Romney's loss to President Obama last November, Santorum has been anything but a political wallflower. He has spoken out on a variety of political issues through his Patriot Voices PAC. He's also expanded his business interests, becoming CEO of a faith-based movie company, and been a ubiquitous guest on cable news. His visit to the Hawkeye State will only heighten the speculation that he is gearing up for a second try at the Republican nomination and that he sees Iowa as crucial to his chances for a do-over. "I miss not being there," Santorum said in a recent interview, recalling his time in the state that has become almost a second home to him. "I made a lot of great friends, really connected to the people there. I'm very excited about coming back, traveling around and seeing some cornfields again."

ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is hitting the campaign trail in New Jersey today with Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Booker's Democratic primary for U.S Senate is next week so he's stumping for the would-be senator in Trenton and Paterson before a late night event kicking off Booker's bus tour in Newark. It all seems standard enough, but are we looking at a possible 2016 ticket? They both are already being talked about for possible presidential and VP contenders so today they will get a feel for how each other handles the stump although Trenton and Paterson are a world away from Iowa City and Concord. Their relationship hasn't always been so BFF, though. ABC's Josh Margolin reported in September, 2012 while still at the New York Post that Booker asked O'Malley twice to intervene when he was thinking of running for governor, not U.S. Senator. According to Margolin, O'Malley, the head of the Democratic Governors Association "rebuffed Booker's requests for the association to intervene in the New Jersey governor's race - a rare tactic designed to clear potential competitors from the field."


MARK ZUCKERBERG'S IMMIGRATION REFORM GROUP LAUNCHES AUGUST RECESS AD OFFENSIVE. Just days after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered his first public comments about immigration reform since launching a political action committee devoted to the issue in April, the group,, is taking to the television airwaves with a six-figure ad buy aimed at persuading on-the-fence members of Congress to back reform, ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE reports. Timed to coincide with the month-long Congressional recess - a prelude to a contentious fall debate over immigration issues on Capitol Hill - the new ad features Alejandro Morales, an undocumented immigrant who came to the United States from Mexico when he was seven months old. Morales attended the Marine Math and Science Academy in Chicago and joined the junior ROTC. However, because of his immigration status, he says he is barred from serving. "I want to be a U.S. citizen. I want to be a Marine. I'm going to be a Marine because I care. I care about this country. I care about those around me. I care about my family, my neighbors," Morales says in the one-minute commercial. "I do want to give back. I believe 100 percent in what this country stands for. Let me earn it. Let me serve." The ad will be backed up by a "mid-six-figure ad buy," according to a source close to the group. It will run starting Wednesday on cable channels and online across the country. It will also air on local stations in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Mexico, Texas and Washington, D.C.

-FROM THE FOUNDER OF FWD.US: "We are running this ad to put a very human face on our broken immigration system," president and founder Joe Green said in a statement. "While Alejandro's story is powerful, it is not unique. Undocumented immigrants already contributing to our communities want to be recognized as Americans, and want the opportunity to continue to serve our country and contribute to its success - as members of the armed forces, as teachers, scientists, entrepreneurs and business owners, and in many other capacities. Green and Zuckerberg both spoke Monday night at the West Coast screening of the film "Documented," which chronicles the struggles of immigration reform activist Jose Antonio Vargas, who is an undocumented immigrant from the Philippines and a former journalist. Those who attended the screening included technology executives such as Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, elected officials including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, reporters, and some of the immigrants whose lives would change if immigration reform makes its way out of Congress.

'WE DON'T GET TERRORIZED,' SAYS PRESIDENT OBAMA. Speaking in an airplane hangar at Camp Pendleton Wednesday afternoon, President Obama thanked nearly 3,000 troops and their families for their service but warned that the country must continue to be vigilant against terrorist threats, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports. "Even as we decimated the al Qaeda leadership that attacked us on 9/11, al Qaeda affiliates and likeminded extremists still threaten our homeland, still threaten our diplomatic facilities, still threaten our businesses abroad. And we've got to take these threats seriously and do all we can to confront them," President Obama said. "For these extremists, here's what those who would cowardly attack our civilians don't get: The United States is never going to retreat from the world. We don't get terrorized," he said. Obama alluded to the temporary closing of U.S. diplomatic posts and the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen and praised the diplomatic and military personnel working to protect these facilities. "I want to take a special time out to salute all our brave diplomats and tireless intelligence and military personnel who have been working around the clock to safeguard our embassies and our consulates and our fellow Americans serving overseas, including all of those vigilant Marines standing guard at our embassies around the world," he said.

-SUMMER OF SEQUESTRATION: On Wednesday, Obama acknowledged the impact sequestration has had on families at Camp Pendleton and criticized Congress for not developing a solution to the budget cuts. "Here at Pendleton, you're feeling it. Hardworking folks are getting furloughed, families getting by on less, fewer shifts available for your training exercises, the commissary your families rely on closed a day a week," Obama said. "We can do better than that. That's not how a great nation should be treating its military and military families." "That's why I'm going to keep on working to get rid of this sequester. You get up and do your jobs every day. Let's make sure Washington gets up and does its job," he said.

COMING SOON: RON PAUL TV. The former Texas congressman Ron Paul may have left his long career in politics, but he isn't leaving his avid followers hanging. In just a few short weeks, they'll be able to catch all the Ron Paul they want on his new WebTV channel, slated to launch on Aug. 12, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP notes. "I will have several programs a week, and if it goes well, there'll be more," Paul told ABC News' Reena Ninan in an interview. "And it's trying to use the vehicle that has been available to me for five or six years where, especially young people, want to know what my opinion is about the freedom we have lost and what we can do to restore it." For as little as $9.95 a month, Paul is offering unlimited access to the live and on demand programming-ad free, and mainstream-media free. "No advertisers, no corporate agenda - just the truth delivered exclusively to subscribers like you," boasts the new website. It has been more than a year since the effective end of his failed presidential bid in 2012. Since then, Paul ended his own congressional career and has kept a relatively low profile in the public sphere. Paul says he has already harnessed some of the grassroots support that fueled his presidential bid into this new venture. According to a press release, more than 200,000 people have signed up for information about the channel. "It's going to be something like nothing you've ever seen before on mainstream media," Paul says in a video message on the channel's website.

OBAMA 'WOULD SAVE SOME MONEY' BY REFINANCING CHICAGO HOME. President Obama personalized the promotion his housing agenda yesterday, saying he would save money by refinancing his family's home in Chicago, ABC's MARY BRUCE notes. "I would probably benefit from refinancing right now. I would save some money," the president said in an online forum hosted by real estate website Zillow. "When you're president, you have to be a little careful about these transactions, so we haven't refinanced. But there's no doubt that somebody like Michelle and I, who bought our house, you know, several years ago, that if we went out to the market right now, we'd end up saving some money," he said. The Obamas' interest rate on their Kenwood home, which they purchased for $1.65 million in 2005, is 5.625 percent, significantly higher than today's rates. The president joked that their White House home is just a "rental." Zillow estimates that it's worth roughly $319 million, although it's obviously not for sale.

REPUBLICANS MAY BE CHANGING MINDS ON IMMIGRATION REFORM. Members of Congress have been on recess for only a few days, but it already seems the time away from Washington means more support for a pathway to citizenship among some Republicans, ABC's SERENA MARSHALL notes. This week, two Republican members of the House of Representatives - Daniel Webster in Florida, Aaron Schock in Illinois - have expressed preliminary support for a way to legalize undocumented immigrants and allow them to eventually earn full citizenship. Even the House GOP whip, Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), announced support for legal status, although he stopped just short of supporting full citizenship. The announcements come on the cusp of an intense campaign by pro-immigration advocates targeting key House members at town-hall events; it's all part of a larger five-week plan for hundreds of rallies, petition drives and other events across the country timed for the Congressional recess. "Our movement is taking the fight for immigration reform to every corner of the country," Frank Sharry, executive director at immigration reform advocacy organization America's Voice, told ABC News in a statement. "Advocates from the left, right and center are intent on surrounding House Republicans with some simple messages: immigration reform is an idea whose time has come, a proposal deserving of your support and an issue that deserves a vote in the House of Representatives where a bipartisan majority in support of it already exists."

ANTHONY WEINER CALLED 'PUNK' AFTER HE MOCKS 'GRANDPA' OPPONENT. A candidate for mayor of New York who was mocked by Anthony Weiner as "grandpa" at an AARP forum said that their confrontation began when Weiner "slammed me a couple of times on my chest." Weiner acted "like some punk challenging me," George McDonald said yesterday, according to ABC's ABBY PHILLIP. Weiner, 48, and McDonald, 69, became locked in a tense exchange Tuesday night before the AARP Mayoral Town Hall. "Last week at a forum I had called into question Weiner's character and experience and judgment as a legitimate issue in the campaign; I guess he didn't like that very much," McDonald told ABC News. "He came up behind me and slammed me a couple of times on my chest as a greeting." "I've never greeted anybody like that and I've never had anybody do that to me," he said. "Keep your hands off me," McDonald told Weiner. "Don't put your hands on me ever again." "What's going to happen if I do," Weiner countered. "You're a tough guy now?" Weiner then said McDonald had "anger issues," which McDonald immediately denied. "But you do, grandpa," Weiner insisted. In an interview with WWRL radio station yesterday Weiner said he used the word "grandpa" because McDonald always talks about his granddaughter on the campaign trail, according to the New York Post. "He talks about his granddaughter in every answer on the campaign trail," Weiner said.

GOATS UNLEASHED AT CONGRESSIONAL CEMETERY. Goats were unleashed at The Historic Congressional Cemetery yesterday, ABC's CHRIS GOOD. Taking a page from Los Angeles's playbook, the cemetery has hired goats to eat up one and a half acres of overgrowth at the edge of its lot-a stretch of land behind a chain-link fence that borders the Anacostia River, where trees have been weighed down by invasive ivy and weeds. Cemetery organizers worry that the trees will die, fall, and damage headstones. As a remedy, they're paying $4,000 to Eco-Goats, a Davidsonville, Md., farm that rents out its goats for ecologically sustainable grazing-in other words, relatively cheap labor for anyone badly in need of weeding. If all goes to plan, 60-70 goats will have ravaged the cemetery foliage by next Tuesday. They'll stay 24 hours a day, chomping on vegetation for the next six days straight. Brian Knox, who runs Eco-Goats, released 25 of them into the cemetery forest just after 10 a.m. The goats rushed back into their trailer, spooked by TV cameras and still photographers, and had to be coaxed back out. "Every goat's got its own personality, and out of the hundred plus that we have on the farm, there's only a handful that I really won't work with," Knox said.


OBAMA CANCELS SUMMIT WITH PUTIN AFTER RUSSIA GRANTS ASYLUM TO SNOWDEN. President Obama will not travel to Moscow next month to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the White House announced yesterday, citing Russia's "disappointing decision" to grant asylum to National Security Agency-leaker Edward Snowden and a lack of progress in the U.S.-Russian bilateral agenda, ABC's MARY BRUCE reports. "Even though we don't have an extradition treaty with them, traditionally, we have tried to respect if there's a law breaker or alleged law breaker in their country. We evaluate it, and we try to work with them," Obama told Jay Leno on NBC's "The Tonight Show" Tuesday. "They didn't do that with us, and in some ways it's reflective of some underlying challenges that we've had with Russia lately. "There have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality, and what I consistently say to them and what I say to President Putin is that's the past, and we've got to think about the future, and there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to cooperate more effectively than we do," he said. The White House cited a long list of reasons for canceling the bilateral summit with Putin. "Following a careful review begun in July, we have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a U.S.-Russia Summit in early September," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a written statement.


@MLevineReports: Feds in bulletin:"We remain concerned" Qaeda affiliates "continue to adjust tactics, techniques & procedures for targeting" Western aviation

@davidaxelrod: To paraphrase the first Republican President, a House GOP divided against itself cannot stand.

@ZekeJMiller: Really great @aaltman82 profile of Ted Cruz in this week's magazine: ($),33009,2149130,00.html … Excerpt: …

@PostReid: Hey check it out, new Twitter handle! And don't forget to follow @GovBeat for more.

@matthewjdowd: Good Thursday am! i hope we each realize that until we are healthy and happy ourselves, it will be hard to have healthy relationships.