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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: What Shopping at Kohl’s Has to Do With His White House Hopes


Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the first big 2016 name to take the stage at the Iowa Freedom Summit, got a rousing reception on Saturday from the conservative activists gathered and promised to "be back many more times in the future."

"I'm hopeful to work together with you to help us provide that type of leadership that is new and fresh and bold and aggressive that has been proven, that commonsense conservative reforms from outside Washington, D.C., can help and with your help I have no doubt we can move this country forward, we can have our own American revival," he said in what sounded like a debut of a presidential campaign speech.

It was one of his first big national addresses and Walker stressed his governing credentials and how -- due to a recall -- he's been successfully re-elected "three times in the last four years," something he will undoubtedly repeat on the campaign trail, if he runs.

"Three times mind you in a state that hasn't gone Republican for president since I was in high school more than 30 years ago, how about that," Walker said to applause. "I think that sends a powerful message to Republicans in Washington and around the country, if you are not afraid to go big and bold you can actually get results."

While walking back and forth across the stage, Walker also portrayed himself as a fighter, describing in detail how protesters during the 2012 re-call sent him and his family "assassination" threats.

"Someone literally sent me a threat that said they were going to gut my wife like a deer," Walker said, noting he didn't back down, but the threats reminded him "how important it was to stand up for the people of my state."

He ticked off his conservative successes in his state, saying he's "taken on aggressive agenda" including cutting taxes and reducing spending, merit education hiring, anti-abortion rights measures, voter ID laws, and other victories for the approving crowd.

He stressed that in Wisconsin -- as opposed to Washington -- he is focused on how to "give more money back to the people who earned it."

Describing in detail how thrifty he and his wife are, he told the crowd that next month he will celebrate his 23rd wedding anniversary with his wife Tonette, but when they were first married he "made a critical mistake."

"I went to a Kohl's department store and I bought something for the price it was marked at," Walker said. "My wife said to me, 'You can never go back there ever again until you learn how to shop at Kohl's.'"

He then detailed his frugal shopping skills in order to get so much money off the price of a shirt "the next thing you know they are paying me to buy that shirt!"

The crowd cheered his budget-cutting ways, and although he didn't mention any of his possible Republican rivals by name, he set up quite a contrast with at least two of his wealthy possible opponents, Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney.

He said "hard work" is not just a "buzzword" for him, describing his background and noting his humble beginnings, which included part of his childhood spent in the first caucus state of Iowa.

"In America, the opportunity is equal for each and every one of us, but in America the ultimate outcome is up to each and every one of us individually," he said, towards the end of his speech, which he finished to a rousing standing ovation from the crowd.

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Trump Blasts Romney, Jeb Bush; 'Seriously Thinking' About Presidential Run


Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- Donald Trump arrived at a high-profile GOP gathering in Iowa to train his fire on his fellow Republicans, telling the audience that neither Mitt Romney nor Jeb Bush can win the presidential nomination.

He drew applause for those lines at the Freedom Summit on Saturday, a gathering that neither of those men attended.

"It can't be Mitt, because Mitt ran and failed. He failed," Trump said, bringing cheers from the audience. "He choked. He had that election won."

Turning to Bush, Trump cited the former Florida governor's support of Common Core education standards and a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants as straying too far from conservative ideology.

He also condemned Bush's brother President George W. Bush's appointment of Chief Justice John Roberts to the Supreme Court, since Roberts authored the opinion that saved Obamacare.

"The last thing we need is another Bush," Trump said, drawing more applause.

Trump also told the Iowa Freedom Summit what he's been telling interviewers and audiences for weeks, even though his history would leave many doubting his sincerity.

"I am seriously thinking of running for president," he said. "We have a presidential election coming up. We have some good people -- nobody like Trump, of course."

In a brief interview with ABC News, Trump insisted that he's serious about running for president this time -- even though he flirted with and rejected White House runs in 1988, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012.

Seeking to demonstrate that, he brought handouts to the Freedom Summit, the conservative confab that drew as many as 10 potential Republican candidates for president, although Bush, Romney, and Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul were among the prominent no-shows.

Attendees got postcard-sized two-sided pictures featuring Trump. Included were a younger Trump shaking hands with the late President Ronald Reagan -- and a much, much younger Trump in his Presbyterian confirmation class, in 1959.

One of the cards also includes a glossy family photo, with bold type at the top: "THE KEY TO SUCCESS IS HAPPINESS THROUGH FAMILY."

"I was friendly with Reagan," Trump told ABC. "I got along with him great. I'm a big fan of his. I had a great relationship with him."

Asked why voters should take him seriously this time around, when he's made similar noises about a presidential run so many previous times, Trump insisted that he's in a better place in his own life, and therefore really, really serious this time.

"Because I'm in a great position from every standpoint. My children are in executive positions. And from every standpoint I'm in a great position," Trump said.

Trump indicated to the crowd that if he runs, he'll offer an aggressive alternative to his fellow Republicans. With customary braggadocio -- he said his company is "incredible," that he owns "many, many" websites, and that the American people will be "very proud of me" if and when he files financial disclosure forms.

He expressed anger not just with President Obama but Republicans in Congress.

"I'm very disappointed by our Republican politicians, because they let the president get away with absolute murder," he said.

He said he'd build a "beauty" of a border fence if elected president, and tweaked Republican doctrine that favors curbing entitlement reform.

"I'll probably be the only Republican who doesn't want to cut Social Security," he said. "I'm not a cutter of Social Security. I want to make the country rich so we can afford Social Security, and Medicare, and Medicaid."


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High-Alert in Delhi as President Obama Arrives for Republic Day


sihasakprachum/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW DELHI) -- U.S. and Indian security agencies and intelligence services are mounting an unprecedented operation to keep President Obama safe on foreign soil as he arrives in India for a historic visit as “chief guest” of Republic Day.   

Driving it all is the fact that the president will spend more than two hours outdoors Monday on an open-air viewing platform in the center of the city – a situation U.S. Secret Service tries very hard to avoid – made more complicated with foreign military aircraft crisscrossing overhead, tens of thousands of residents clogging surrounding streets (and escape routes), and Pakistani militants threatening terror.

“There’s not been a similar event that he’s attended overseas,” said deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. “So this is unique.”

The memory of the September 2008 series of deadly coordinated bombings around Delhi is fresh on peoples’ minds in addition to the assault on a Mumbai hotel by alleged Pakistani militants two months later. India’s top military officials have warned in recent days of potential terror strikes by Pakistani militants against soft targets in and around New Delhi, a threat Pakistan denies.

The U.S. Secret Service and its Indian counterpart are not taking any chances. There will be more than 80,000 Indian police and paramilitary officers in the streets, officials say.  

At least 15,000 closed-circuit TV cameras have been installed to watch the crowds and every inch of the parade route has been scouted for pre-planted bombs.

A city trying desperately to clean up its image has even overturned thousands of trash cans within a mile radius around the ceremonial area, which is also lined with steel fence.

An Indian AWACS plane will for the first time be watching all of this from above, monitoring any incoming projectiles or errant aircraft.

While Indian security forces turned down American demands for their snipers, they will for the first time let their chief guest arrive to the viewing stand in his own car – an American non-negotiable, according to officials.


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Seven People President Obama Has Agreed to Meet With (Not Named Netanyahu)


Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Citing a “long-standing practice” that precludes American presidents from meeting with heads of state on the eve of their elections, the White House announced this week President Obama has declined to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he comes to Washington in March to advocate for new sanctions against Iran.

House Speaker John Boehner had just announced he invited the Israeli leader to address Congress without consulting the White House -- perceived to be a dig at the president, who promised in his State of the Union address on Tuesday to veto any new sanctions. (For his part, Boehner said, “I don't believe I'm poking anyone in the eye.”)

Obama’s National Security Council spokeswoman said Thursday that, even though the president has met with Netanyahu several times at the White House in the past, the administration is seeking to “avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country.”

The Israeli elections come just two weeks after Netanyahu is slated to visit Washington.

“The president has spent more time talking to Prime Minister Netanyahu than any other world leader,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stressed to reporters Friday. “This president has certainly not allowed the disagreement over our Iran approach to in any way shake the commitment of the United States to the national security of Israel.”

Regardless of the reasoning, here are some of the other people the president has carved out time in his schedule to see. That list includes a woman who bathes in cereal, several pop stars and a man whose TV show concept revolves around green leafy plants:

1. GloZell Green

This Los Angeles comedian, who calls herself the “Queen of YouTube,” scored a coveted interview with Obama on Thursday. GloZell, who posts videos of hijinks such as attempting the cinnamon challenge and eating Fruit Loops in a bathtub full of milk, interviewed the president on more serious topics such as Cuba and race relations.

 

Selfie with @BarackObama @BethanyMota @hankgreen #YouTubeAsksObama #GloZellAsksObama pic.twitter.com/OhlG0c2Pf1

— GloZell Green (@GloZell) January 23, 2015



2. Katy Perry

Singer Katy Perry -- of “Firework,” “Roar,” and “Teenage Dream” fame -- is one of the president’s “favorite people.” Perhaps that’s why he agreed to meet with the pop star at a White House gala celebrating the Special Olympics in July 2014 with her Republican mother in tow.

 

 

May I exclusively present what might be the cutest photo ever taken: Me, Gma & POTUS! Happy voting tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/9CDZmuil

— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) November 6, 2012



3. Zach Galifianakis

In March 2014, Obama sat down with Between Two Ferns comedian Zach Galifianakis to plug healthcare.gov. The decidedly irreverent interview, aired on the website Funny or Die, was panned by some as “beneath the dignity of the office.” But according to then-Press Secretary Jay Carney, the video was designed “to reach Americans where they live." “It’s fair to say that I wouldn’t be with you here today if I didn’t had something to plug,” Obama deadpanned on the show.

 



4. George Clooney

In October 2010, the president met up with George Clooney to discuss U.S. involvement in southern Sudan. The president called the movie star a “a good man and a good friend,” as well as a “terrific advocate on behalf of the people in Darfur.”

5. Beyoncé and Jay Z

Power couple Bey and Jay have rubbed elbows with the president and the first lady a few times. Obama tweeted out this picture from a fundraiser at Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club back in 2012.

 

 

PHOTO: A couple supporters in a New York state of mind last night. pic.twitter.com/vL3XyiZA

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 19, 2012



6. Girl Scouts

White House photographer Pete Souza caught a fun moment featuring President Obama in a tiara. Girl Scout Troop 2612 met Obama this past year at the White House’s annual science fair.

 

A photo posted by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on Dec 24, 2014 at 1:33pm PST

 

7. Kid President

Also famous from YouTube, 9-year-old Robby Novak, or, as he is better known, Kid President, got to share an embrace with President Obama in the Oval Office.

 

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President Obama’s Weekly Address: 'The Choice Is Clear’


Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In his weekly address, President Obama repeated calls for some of the programs he spoke of in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, such paid leave, greater access to child care, and two free years of community college.

“Middle-class economics means doing more to help Americans upgrade their skills through opportunities like apprenticeships and two years of free community college, so we can keep earning higher wages down the road,” Obama said.

The president also suggested tax reform in in “closing loopholes” in the tax code.

Obama said that he knows there are Republicans in the new Congress that disagree with his latest proposals, but that he looks forward to “hearing their ideas for how we can pay for what the middle class needs to grow.”

Read the full transcript of the president's address:

Hi, everybody.  This week, in my State of the Union Address, I talked about what we can do to make sure middle-class economics helps more Americans get ahead in the new economy.  

See, after some tough years, and thanks to some tough decisions we made, our economy is creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.  Our deficits are shrinking.  Our energy production is booming.  Our troops are coming home.  Thanks to the hard work and resilience of Americans like you, we’ve risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.  

Now we have to choose what we want that future to look like.  Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?  Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and rising chances for everyone who makes the effort?

I believe the choice is clear.  Today, thanks to a growing economy, the recovery is touching more and more lives.  Wages are finally starting to rise again.  Let’s keep that going – let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.  

That’s what middle-class economics is – the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.  

Middle-class economics means helping workers feel more secure in a world of constant change – making it easier to afford childcare, college, paid leave, health care, a home, and retirement.  

Middle-class economics means doing more to help Americans upgrade their skills through opportunities like apprenticeships and two years of free community college, so we can keep earning higher wages down the road.  

Middle-class economics means building the most competitive economy in the world, by building the best infrastructure, opening new markets so we can sell our products around the world, and investing in research – so that businesses keep creating good jobs right here.

And we can afford to do these things by closing loopholes in our tax code that stack the decks for special interests and the superrich, and against responsible companies and the middle class.

This is where we have to go if we’re going to succeed in the new economy.  I know that there are Republicans in Congress who disagree with my approach, and I look forward to hearing their ideas for how we can pay for what the middle class needs to grow.  But what we can’t do is simply pretend that things like child care or college aren’t important, or pretend there’s nothing we can do to help middle class families get ahead.  

Because we’ve got work to do.  As a country, we have made it through some hard times.  But we’ve laid a new foundation.  We’ve got a new future to write.  And I’m eager to get to work.  

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

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GOP Weekly Address: 'It's Time We Embrace The Opportunities Before Us'


United States Congress(WASHINGTON) -- In this week's Republican Address, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska spoke on how the Keystone XL pipeline represents an important infrastructure project following President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Murkowski, chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, says she believes America is ready for the role of an energy superpower and lawmakers in Washington can start by passing legislation approving construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, and President Obama signing the bill into law.

"It’s time we embrace the opportunities before us. Republicans have a positive agenda that will help create jobs, keep energy affordable, and increase our security,” Murkowski said.  “Over the next two years, it is our hope that President Obama will be a partner in our efforts, and that he will start by finally approving the Keystone XL pipeline.’

Murkowski argues the benefits of the construction of the pipeline will create jobs and keep energy prices affordable for all Americans.

Read the full transcript of the Republican address:

Hello. I’m Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.  This past week, President Obama, in his State of the Union address, laid out his plans for America.  And as part of his speech, he called on Congress to pass an infrastructure bill that will create jobs and make our nation stronger for decades to come.

I welcomed that message, and the fact is, we’ve already started.  For over two weeks now, the Senate has been working hard on a bipartisan bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.  This important infrastructure project will support thousands of jobs.  It would carry both American and Canadian oil, in the cleanest and safest way, and help keep energy affordable for American families.

After more than 2,300 days of presidential indecision, it’s important for us to act.  The world is watching to see whether the United States is willing to lead as a global energy superpower that respects its neighbors, trades with its allies, and builds needed infrastructure.  I believe we are ready for that role – and our leadership can start with the approval of Keystone XL.

The new Republican congress you elected has only been in office a few weeks now, but already we’ve made important strides towards making congress function again and getting Washington back to work. We’re fulfilling the promises made in the recent elections, and considering legislation in an open and a transparent manner where both Republicans and Democrats can offer their ideas.

Now, here’s an interesting fact: more amendments were voted on in the Senate just this past week, than were voted on during all of 2014.  Our approach to this energy infrastructure bill is one that allows members from both parties – and every state – the chance to have their voices heard.

Once Congress approves the Keystone XL pipeline with bipartisan support, we will have an opportunity to put forth additional energy solutions that will grow our economy and help hardworking Americans.

We are focusing on energy because it is vital to our prosperity, and a strategic asset that we can use to assist our allies and trading partners.  It is in our interest to continue making our energy abundant, affordable, clean, diverse, and secure.  And I am confident we can reach those goals by strengthening our supply, modernizing our infrastructure, supporting energy efficiency, and ensuring federal accountability.

As Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I will do my best to ensure the Senate approves broad energy legislation this year.  The last time that happened was in 2007.  That was a time of scarcity, but America is now producing more energy than ever before. We’ve seen firsthand that American supply matters to global prices – and the only question now is whether we’re going to take the steps necessary to keep energy affordable.

We can start by looking to Alaska, where we have tremendous amounts of oil just waiting to be produced.  We have prolific resources in our National Petroleum Reserve and offshore.  If we also unlock just a fraction of the non-wilderness portion of ANWR, we could bring about a huge range of economic benefits.  Some may consider this controversial, but it really is not.  Even the head of the Alaska Democratic Party wrote a piece this week, urged that it be opened. It’s time we embrace the opportunities before us.

Republicans have a positive agenda that will help create jobs, keep energy affordable, and increase our security.  Over the next two years, it is our hope that President Obama will be a partner in our efforts, and that he will start by finally approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

Thank you for listening.

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Obama Returns to India: Five Reasons His Trip Makes History


Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images(NEW DELHI) -- With new bounce in his step at home amid rising poll numbers, President Obama is pivoting to his agenda abroad. 

Mr. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama depart Saturday morning for a three-day visit to India aimed at bolstering ties with a rising economic and military ally, and garnishing his legacy on foreign affairs.

“He sees this as a potentially transitional if not transformational moment for the relationship because we have a very strong and clear indication from India’s leadership that they want to elevate our bilateral cooperation and our global cooperation,” said deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.

The trip may end up being more symbolic in nature than producing many major policy agreements.  Still, experts say Obama will make history on several fronts:

1. First American President to Visit India Twice:

Six U.S. presidents have visited India since its independence in 1947. Barack Obama will become the only one to visit twice.

“It is extremely significant for the president to go back to India a second time, to do it only as an India trip, to be the guest for Republic Day,” said Richard Rossow, an expert in U.S.-India relations at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Obama scheduled his State of the Union address to specifically accommodate this trip, his aides say.  He could have had an easy excuse to pass on the invitation.  It also comes unusually soon after the two leaders held a summit in Washington four months ago.

“The symbolism of all this is tremendous,” Rossow said.

The Obamas most recently visited in November 2010, becoming only the second president after Richard Nixon to visit India in his first term.  

2. First American as ‘Chief Guest’ of Republic Day

For the first time in India’s 65 year history, an American president has the high honor to be the nation’s chief guest for an elaborate pageant of military and cultural pride on Republic Day.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin has had the honor. So, too, Nelson Mandela, the president of Iran, Queen of England, Japanese prime minister – even high-level officials from neighboring rival Pakistan.

“Frankly it took us by some surprise,” Rhodes said of the invitation to Obama from Prime Minister Narenda Modi.

“There’s great affinity between the U.S. and India. But there’s also a history that is complicated and that would have made it seem highly unlikely that a US leader would be sitting with India’s leaders at a Republic Day ceremony as chief guest,” he said.

The president and first lady will spend several hours viewing the parade and participating in ceremonial events and receptions that mark the 1950 birth of the world’s largest democracy.

3. Unprecedented: POTUS to Spend Hours Outdoors Amid Terror Threats

Wherever the American president goes, so does his super-sized security apparatus.  But never before has it been brought to bear on another country’s biggest national holiday celebration, in a capital city that’s one of the most densely-populated in the world.

Obama and Modi will spend several hours outdoors on an open-air viewing platform watching the Republic Day parade as tens of thousands of Indians pour into the streets – a potentially risky setting that U.S. Secret Service generally prefers to avoid. 

“There’s not been a similar event that he’s attended overseas,” Rhodes said. “So this is unique in that case.”

There will be a seven-layer ring of security along the Republic Day route, according to local media reports. Satellites and drones – operated both by Indian and American security services – are expected to fly overhead. 

More than 15,000 closed-circuit TV cameras will monitor the crowd, while more than 100,000 Indian policy and paramilitary forces are on the ground, according to India’s Mail Online.

India’s top military officials have warned of potential terror strikes by Pakistani militants against soft targets in and around New Delhi ahead of Obama’s visit, putting officials and security services on high alert.

4. From Blacklist to Best Friend: Modi & Obama

Perhaps never before has a world leader gone from being on a U.S. blacklist – denied a visa and cutoff from diplomatic outreach – to being a top priority of an American president in such a short turn.

Just one year ago, Modi was still sidelined by the U.S. for his alleged role in one of the deadliest religious riots in modern Indian history. He was accused of condoning the killing of some 2,000 Muslims in the state where he was governor; a complicity he has denied.

But all has been absolved, at least from the U.S. diplomatic perspective. After a summit with Obama in September, their relationship blossomed in unexpectedly positive ways, diplomatic observers and administration officials say. 

“This is a seminal moment in the bilateral relationship,” said Phil Reiner, the administration’s top adviser for South Asia.  “The extension of this invitation by the Prime Minister really continues to set a different tone for our reinvigorated partnership.”

5. Doubling Down on Defense Deals

President Obama will see an awful lot of Russian military hardware paraded before him on Republic Day. The Russians have been India’s top defense supplier for decades.

But that’s starting to change, and Obama hopes to accelerate U.S. defense deals.

Overhead on Monday, he may spot an American-made C130J Hercules transport plane or a C17 Globemaster during the ceremonial fly-over. Soon the Indians could be adding a new batch of Chinook and Apache helicopters to their fleet as well.

A number of defense deals are waiting in the wings, including one to bring production of lightweight American-designed Howitzer artillery to India. Some are expected to be sealed shortly after Obama leaves.

There’s also word that renewal of the 10-year Defense Framework between the two countries is in the works – a key piece of Obama’s “pivot to Asia” program and plan to counterbalance the rise of China.

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President Obama Introduced to Chicago Bulls Theme


Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Kevin Johnson may have lost to the Chicago Bulls in the 1993 NBA Finals, but he swallowed his pride and gave a Bulls-themed introduction for President Obama at the White House on Friday.

Johnson, the Sacramento mayor and former Phoenix Suns guard, took the podium in the East Room before the president delivered remarks to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. After raving about the president's political and governing achievements, Johnson referenced Obama's reputation for talking--and playing--"a little hoop."

Johnson then pulled out his smartphone and played The Alan Parsons Project's "Siruis," used by the Chicago Bulls as the team's theme song.

Delivering an NBA-esque announcement, Johnson listed Obama as "standing six foot one, 180 pounds, southpaw, from Columbia University, via Punahou High School in Honolulu, the point guard of Pennsylvania Ave., the 44th president of the United States of America, Barack Obama!"

Obama thanked Johnson and noted that he thought Bulls walkout music must bring back bad memories for the former Suns guard.


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Potential 2016 GOP Hopefuls Flock to Iowa Freedom Summit


Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The date for the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus isn’t even set yet, but Republicans are already descending on the key presidential state’s capital for the Iowa Freedom Summit -- one of the first showcases for prospective 2016 GOP candidates, but definitely not the last.

The summit is hosted by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, whose events have become must-attends for politicians looking to build up credibility with conservative voters in Iowa.

Who’s going?

Many of the most buzzed-about potential Republican White House hopefuls will be at Saturday’s summit at the Hoyt Sherman Place event space in Des Moines, including conservative darling Ben Carson, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Arkansas governor and Fox News star Mike Huckabee.

Who’s not going?

Almost as important as the attendees will be those potential candidates who aren’t hobnobbing with Iowa conservatives this weekend: Mitt Romney, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Why is Steve King so important?

King may have views on issues like immigration that some Republicans find unhelpful -- he infamously tweeted that Michele Obama brought a “deportable” to the State of the Union address -- but he’s fashioned himself a conservative kingmaker who brings with him a slew of caucus voters. King held a similar forum in 2011 and has also hosted many lawmakers at his annual pheasant hunt, including Christie and Cruz. King is branding this event as “a launch point for conservative ideas as we head towards 2016.”

So what exactly is going to happen?


The event starts at 9 a.m., and each guest will appear individually and speak for several minutes. The conversation will, according to the event’s Web page, “focus on how we can get America back on track by focusing on our core conservative principles of pro-growth economics, social conservatism and a strong national defense.” But apparently, there won’t be too much opportunity to meet potential caucus-goers: Citing scheduling constraints, the website said “there will not be an opportunity to interact (shake hands, autographs, etc.) with the featured speakers.”

Is King the only host?


No. The political group Citizens United, which spurred the Supreme Court case that allowed unlimited political spending by corporations and unions, is co-hosting the event with King.

So, is this the start of the 2016 election?


It sure looks like it -- even if none of the attendees have actually declared they’re running for president yet. But attending this event, and kissing the ring of King and his fellow Iowa conservatives, is a clear way for future candidates to start telegraphing their intent and to start trying to secure caucus votes.

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White House Pokes Fun at Tom Brady


File photo. Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) -- White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest weighed in on "deflate-gate" on Friday, having a little fun at Tom Brady’s expense.

“For years, it's been clear that there is no risk that I was going to take Tom Brady's job as quarterback of the New England Patriots. But I can tell you that as of today, it's pretty clear that there's no risk of him taking my job either,” he joked of Brady’s widely-panned news conference Thursday and failure to explain the team's alleged use of deflated footballs.

“That was kind of fun, right?” Earnest proudly boasted of his zinger. “Actually, I came up with that on my own.”

Earnest went on to tout their similarities.

“The thing that is clear, though, about Mr. Brady's job is that it does cause him to make snap decisions in very high-pressure situations, and he does it very well. He also is in a position where those decisions are regularly second-guessed. So I think certainly on that level, he and I can relate to one another,” he said.

“But at the same time, he also is preparing for his sixth Super Bowl, so...”

Jokes aside, Earnest would not weigh in on whether he thought Brady or the Patriots should be penalized by the NFL.

And he also did not have any reaction from the president to pass along.


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Sarah Palin on 2016: 'Of Course' She's Interested


Pete Marovich/Getty Images(LAS VEGAS) -- Just before she heads to Iowa for the first major conservative showcase of the 2016 election cycle, Sarah Palin said “of course” she’s interested in the 2016 presidential election.

“Yeah, I mean, of course, when you have a servant’s heart, when you know that there is opportunity to do all you can to put yourself forward in the name of offering service, anybody would be interested,” Palin told ABC News' Neal Karlinsky while serving wild boar chili to the homeless in Las Vegas Thursday.

When asked again if she could be “possibly” interested in a presidential campaign, she answered, “We definitely had enough of seeing that -- America has had enough of seeing that -- sign on the Oval Office door saying, 'No Girls Allowed.' I know that.”

While serving up bowls to those gathered in line, the former Alaska governor clarified, “It doesn’t necessarily have to be me, though, but no, America is definitely ready for real change.”

“It doesn't have to be myself, but yes...happy to drive that competition, because competition will make everyone better and produce more and be more candid regarding their solutions they will offer this country. I am very interested in that competitive process and, again, not necessarily me,” she said.

Palin was in Las Vegas for the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show and made a side trip to serve chili at the Salvation Army in downtown Las Vegas. She was joined by her daughter, Bristol Palin, and they both wore hats and aprons advertising The Sportsman Channel, where Palin hosts Amazing America with Sarah Palin.

Palin will be one of many big Republican names and possible presidential candidates in the Hawkeye State Saturday for the Iowa Freedom Summit, a conservative confab hosted by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. Others taking the stage include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and former neurosurgeon and conservative star Ben Carson.

When asked about the familiar names already popping up in the potential GOP primary, including Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, neither of whom will attend the Iowa Freedom Summit, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee quipped, “I can’t wait for new energy.” She added there had “better be a competition and not a coronation,” making it clear that she thinks that’s the only way Republicans can beat Hillary Clinton, if the former first lady and secretary of state emerges as the Democratic nominee.

“Big competition, and that competition in the GOP...will surface that candidate who can take on Hillary, be ready for Hillary and show the nation what it is going to take to get the country back on the right track -- because we can't afford status quo, because status quo lately has been Latin for, 'We are getting screwed,' and status quo has got to go,” she said.

As for who she wants to see as that “right candidate,” she described the person as someone who will “turn things around, someone who will, in some respects, I don’t know, maybe be considered a bit avant garde, to the establishment anyway, because this next person has got to realize this is war, this is war for our hunters’ future.”

“I want to help find that candidate that realizes that [their standing in the next election is] not what matters, that’s not what is at stake,” Palin said. “What's at stake is our children and our grandchildren’s future.”

Palin even weighed in on the “ready for” campaigns, while not specifically referring to “Ready for Hillary” or “Ready for Warren.”

"[I] wonder what are our friends in the White House think when their peeps are out there trucking around chirping we are ready for change, for someone else," Palin said. "You wonder what they think they are going to accomplish in the next two years if even their own people are going, ‘Man, this isn't working. We need change.’”

Palin added she doesn’t believe 2016 is “going to be about the establishment on either side of the aisle.”


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DNC Announces Date for 2016 Convention


Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Democratic National Committee announced on Friday that next year's Democratic National Convention will be held the week of July 25, 2016.

Three cities -- Columbus, Ohio; New York and Philadelphia -- remain in contention to host the convention. The DNC is expected to announce its pick for host city in the coming weeks.

“This is the next step to finalize where and when we will nominate the 45th President of the United States, highlight the Democratic Party’s agenda of fighting  for expanded opportunity and contrast it with the Republican Party’s commitment to the fortunate few,” DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement Friday.

“We are still in discussions with three excellent cities and are looking forward to a diverse and inclusive convention that displays our party’s values,” she added.

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Here's What Rep. Steve King Thinks of Seven Likely GOP 2016ers


ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- As a congressman from Iowa, Republican Steve King will be in a unique position to have his say in 2016 presidential politics.

While the outspoken conservative says he’s not picking favorites among the crop of likely Republican candidates just yet, ABC News’ Jeff Zeleny got an early glimpse at King’s 2016 thinking by asking him to offer one-word descriptions of some of the likely Republican candidates.

Here's the exchange between Zeleny and King:

Jeff Zeleny: So we're going to go through a little bit of a lightning round here. [What’s] the first word that comes to your mind to describe this list of people. Mitt Romney.

Steve King: I have to think about that a little bit -- consummate businessman.

Zeleny: Okay, that's two words but I'll take it. Marco Rubio.

King: American exceptionalism. Two words again.

Zeleny: Rick Santorum.

King: Faithful Catholic.

Zeleny: Ted Cruz.

King: Constitutionalist.

Zeleny: Jeb Bush.

King: Family success, generational family success.

Zeleny: Okay, that's three words. This is government expansion. Chris Christie.

King: Strong, bold and confident, if I'm going to three words here.

Zeleny: Final one here: Mike Huckabee.

King: I think it would be faithful pastor to America.

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Rep. Steve King to Host 2016 GOP Hopefuls at Iowa Summit


US House of Represenatatives(WASHINGTON) -- For 2016 political spectators, all eyes will be on Iowa this weekend, as a group of likely Republican presidential contenders converge in the state to attend the Iowa Freedom Summit hosted by Rep. Steve King.

Before heading to the summit, the Iowa Republican sat down with ABC News/Yahoo! News at The Dubliner pub in Washington, D.C. to discuss the field of GOP candidates, which he believes to be “the biggest and most robust ever.”

King, an outspoken conservative who hopes to wield his influence over the next presidential race, said he plans to endorse a candidate at some point, but he’s not picking favorites yet.

And when it comes to finding an alternative to President Obama, he isn’t picky. King said he’d gladly take any among a half-dozen of the current likely contenders over Obama.

“There are a half-a-dozen candidates, plus or minus a little bit, that I would put their names in a hat and draw one out and be really happy as a replacement to the president we have today,” King said.

King directly praised former 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney as a potential 2016 contender.

“I personally like Mitt Romney and [his wife] Ann, and I respect him and his family, and I have said that their five sons were in 99 counties in Iowa, and there's not a negative narrative that came out of all of that,” he said. “I'm not making an endorsement nor leaning in a direction, but I want to encourage those who are looking at the presidency to come to Iowa and compete.”

In addition to Romney, there are many faces among the crop of likely candidates who are familiar to Iowa voters.

But that’s not a concern to King.

“The experience of being a candidate before is valuable in a contest like this…especially in Iowa,” he said. “The nomination process is a crucible that brings out the best in the candidates, sorts things out, and the ideas, the planks for the platform, emerge also in that kind of competition.”

One issue that is of particular interest to King when it comes to deciding whom he will endorse: their stance on immigration reform. King is strongly against giving immigrants who came to the United States illegally a pathway to citizenship.

“I am looking for a full-spectrum constitutional conservative who has reverence for their own oath to the Constitution, and one who will work to restore the rule of law, and one who will be used to restore the soul of America,” King said.

He explained that his stance on the issue is grounded in a strict interpretation of the Constitution and respect for the rule of law -- something he says has been “damaged severely under this president.”

King stirred up controversy on Twitter earlier this week when he called one of the guests invited to sit with first lady Michelle Obama during the State of the Union -- someone the White House would call a “DREAMer” -- a “deportable.”

King defended his use of the term “deportable,” calling it an accurate “legal term.”

“I would just direct people that have any question about that to AUSC 1227, which is the section in the U.S. Code that is titled this: ‘Deportable Aliens,’” he said. “I mean, it is a legal term.”

Asked if his uncompromising stance on immigration makes him an “outlier” in his party, King embraced the label.

“If by outlier you mean, in the classical sense, that my voice on these issues leads us to the place where a lot of the rest of the public is going to get eventually, once they think that through, perhaps I am an outlier,” he said.

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ABC EXCLUSIVE: Marco Rubio Moves Toward 2016 Presidential Bid


US Senate(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Marco Rubio has begun taking concrete steps toward launching a presidential bid, asking his top advisors to prepare for a campaign, signing on a leading Republican fundraiser, and planning extensive travel to early-voting states in the coming weeks, ABC News has learned.

"He has told us to proceed as if he is running for president," a senior Rubio advisor tells ABC News.

Leading the effort to raise the $50 million or more he’ll need to run in the Republican primaries will be Anna Rogers, currently the finance director for American Crossroads, the conservative group started by Karl Rove that raised more than $200 million to help elect Republicans over the past two elections.

Rogers will begin working at Rubio’s political action committee on Feb. 1 and would become the finance director of Rubio’s presidential campaign.

Rubio, 43, will gather on Friday and Saturday at the Delano Hotel in Miami with 300 supporters and major donors to his Reclaim America PAC to discuss his political future.

Aides expect Rubio will make a final decision in the comings weeks, but his schedule for the next month already looks more like the schedule of a presidential candidate than a senator.

ABC News has learned Rubio plans to skip all votes in the Senate next week and instead take a campaign fundraising swing through California with events in Beverly Hills, Newport Beach, Rancho Sante Fe and Costa Mesa. He also plans fundraising stops in Texas and Chicago.

Rubio has also scheduled a book tour that will take him to all the early primary states. A senior aide to the Florida senator tells ABC News Rubio’s book tour will include stops in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada. The first stop is tentatively scheduled for February 13 in Des Moines.

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