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Political Rewind: What The Failed Trade Vote Means For Democrats

President Obama's own party dealt him a stinging rebuke when it rejected a key part of the fast-track trade promotion authority the White House wanted. Not even 11th-hour visits to both the Congressional Baseball Game Thursday night and to Capitol Hill Friday morning could cobble together enough support from his own party to advance the legislation. House Republicans say they will try again next week thanks to a procedural maneuver and the White House has dismissed it as a "snafu," but still it's something this president has spent a lot of political capital on.

It's a win for progressive groups and labor, who aggressively pressured many members to oppose the trade bill. Liberal groups, like Democracy for America, founded by the brother of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, threatened to primary Democrats who voted for the bill. And labor groups began running ads against some members. If there is a litmus test for the left that will be remembered this election, this vote is it.

It's a turn of the tables from what's been seen in recent years with Republicans battling with conservative groups, who threaten repercussions at the ballot box for out-of-step votes. It's already spilled over into the presidential race, as well. Hillary Clinton has so far stayed mum on how she would have voted, while her increasingly insurgent challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, was a top opponent. It's something Sanders has gained traction on, saying he doesn't understand how she doesn't have an opinion on this. Now, with her campaign "officially" kicking off Saturday, the drumbeat for her to tip her hand will grow even louder.

In her official presidential kickoff on Saturday, Hillary Clinton will tell how her mother, the late Dorothy Rodham, influenced who she is today.
Ron Frehm / Associated Press
Associated Press
In her official presidential kickoff on Saturday, Hillary Clinton will tell how her mother, the late Dorothy Rodham, influenced who she is today.

Presidential candidates with something to prove — it's never too late for a first impression? Speaking of Clinton's kickoff, expect to see a another side of Clinton. Her speech Saturday will try to reintroduce her and show a softer side while she tries to home in on a middle-class economic message. Remember the Saturday Night Live characterizations of her as an awkward and determined politician? That's the narrative her campaigns wants to shed — especially with voters increasingly saying they don't trust her and don't think she understands them. Her speech will largely tell the story about her late mother Dorothy's struggles and how that informs her push for the middle class.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, too, will be trying to recast himself as he launches his presidential bid on Monday. The good news for the Republican is that his trip overseas didn't generate the kind of negative headlines, like in the way that happened to some of his likely rivals, that could have overshadowed his announcement. But he's had a bumpy lead up to this point — flubbing the Iraq question, a campaign staff shakeup and a controversy over his 1995 book in which he called for the "restoration of shame" for unwed mothers. Bush said while abroad that his views have "evolved" but that "his views about the importance of dads being involved in the lives of children hasn't changed at all." That explanation isn't going to put it to rest, especially if he and Hillary Clinton makes it through their respective primaries.

Businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump has been hinting that he'll announce his presidential candidacy decision on Tuesday, June 16.
Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press
Associated Press
Businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump has been hinting that he'll announce his presidential candidacy decision on Tuesday, June 16.

The Donald problem. Republicans could quickly have a Donald Trump problem if the boisterous businessman does, indeed, get in the presidential race on Tuesday, as he keeps teasing. If anyone was going to stage a big event and not make a presidential announcement this week, it's Trump. Remember, in 2011 he wooed media to New Hampshire, claiming triumph for getting President Obama to release his long-form birth certificate and then later passed on a bid.

But he seems closer than ever to actually doing it. The problem for Republicans is, as they are trying to stop their presidential debates from being a sideshow, Trump on stage threatens to make it become just that. And he's polling in the top 10, which could put him on the A-stage of both the first Fox News and CNN debates later this summer. That could push out potential candidates like Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. In an already crowded, chaotic field, it's a headache national Republicans don't want, or need. The big question is if Trump does get in, does he release his finances? He's got 30 days from the day he files to do so. Does he just forego it and get fined by the Federal Election Commission — in four years?

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jessica Taylor
Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politicsand is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.