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Politics

Clinton Political Network Gathers Amid 2016 Talk

LITTLE ROCK, AR — Former President Bill Clinton’s political family reunited Arkansas Friday, reminiscing about his two terms in office and relishing the prospect of a first for his wife.

What the future might mean for the couple depends heavily on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s decision on whether to attempt for a second time to run for president in 2016. If she does, the other question is to which the degree the former secretary of state would defend or distance herself from President Barack Obama and her husband’s terms in office.

Even as the Clinton allies streamed to Little Rock, Arkansas, the former first couple took a touch of friendly fire from Vice President Joe Biden, a potential Clinton presidential rival, on her husband’s record of creating jobs during the 1990s.

The Clintons often speak of having created 23 million jobs and cutting the poverty rate during Mr. Clinton’s presidency. But in a speech Thursday, Biden highlighted that how that period is remembered will be important to Mrs. Clinton’s ambitions.

The “middle class started to get into trouble in the late ’80s,” Biden said. “All through the ’90s … the middle class was declining except the last two years.”

Republicans, still giddy about their midterm election triumph that handed them complete control of Congress, are busily preparing for 2016.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul assembled his political team at a Washington hotel this week for strategy sessions while former President George W. Bush has encouraged his brother, former Gov. Jeb Bush, to run. Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana will head to Florida next week for an annual Republican Governors Association meeting replete with presidential overtones.

The activity signaled that while the Clintonites insisted on an upbeat focus on Mr. Clinton’s presidential stewardship two decades ago, the 2016 presidential race has effectively begun.

Even in the Clintons’ orbit, unnamed former campaign operatives were reportedly trying to shape Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign staff even before she has any such campaign. ABC News reported Friday that a Democrat on a private distribution list of ex-campaign staffers leaked bravado email exchanges between two former operatives the source does not support for senior roles in a potential Clinton campaign.

Indeed, the Clinton homecoming offered a window into one of the most extensive networks in American politics.

The event included appearances by Sandy Berger, Clinton’s former national security adviser; former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman; former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles; and Gene Sperling, a top economic adviser in both the Clinton and Obama administrations.

KEN THOMAS, Associated Press

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