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What We Know About When Potential Presidential Candidates Will Announce

JPLDesigns/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With the 2016 presidential race heating up, tracking all the potential candidates can keep your head spinning.

Though the list of possible White House hopefuls is growing by the day, no one has officially declared -- yet.

Here's the cast of characters likely to be a part of the 2016 contest, and a look at what we know about when they plan to make it official:


Hillary Clinton

Announcement expected by: July

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama in 2008, said last September that -- hypothetically -- if she were to consider running for president again, “I am going to be making a decision probably around the first of the year.”

Although we don’t yet know whether she has made up her mind, it certainly seems like all systems are go.

Politico, citing "top Democrats," reported on Jan. 29 that Clinton could delay any official announcement until June, which would allow her to continue sculpting her campaign in private. According to Politico, Clinton could announce an exploratory committee in April.

Jim Webb

Announcement expected by: January or February

Former Sen. Jim Webb was the first potential 2016 candidate to launch an exploratory committee last November. In an appearance at the National Press Club last September, he said discussions about his potential run would continue through January or February.


Mitt Romney

Announcement expected by: Early February (if Larry King is to be believed)

Despite earlier assertions that he wouldn't run for president in 2016, Mitt Romney, the two-time presidential candidate who won his party's nomination in 2012, is reportedly thinking about mounting a third bid for the White House.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the former governor told a dozen top Republican donors on Jan. 9 that he may run again. And talk show host Larry King, who recently ran into the Romneys at the Salt Lake City airport, said Romney said "he'll decide about a run for president within two weeks."

Rick Perry

Announcement expected by: May or June

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who also ran in 2012, will announce his intentions in the 2016 presidential race in May or June, he told The New York Times. He held a series of fundraisers last November where he was likely met with potential supporters and Republican operatives, according to Politico.

Jeb Bush

Announcement expected by: Unknown

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced in a Facebook post in December 2014 that he would “actively explore the possibility of running for President.”

Though he hasn't publicly set a timeline for a formal announcement, Bush met with Mitt Romney earlier this month, fueling speculation that the two potential rivals were discussing their possible campaigns. Bush launched a leadership PAC called “Right to Rise” on Jan. 6.

Ted Cruz

Announcement expected by: June

Tea Party darling Sen. Ted Cruz, who says he believes that the field of GOP candidates will solidify in June, said on Fox & Friends that he is looking at a campaign very seriously.

Cruz has certainly proceeded as if he is already a candidate for 2016, visiting early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, expanding his staff, and even renouncing his Canadian citizenship.

Chris Christie

Announcement expected by: May or June

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to make a final decision about 2016 by “the end of the Spring,” according to Time magazine. He launched a political action committee, Leadership Matters for America, on Monday Jan. 26.

Marco Rubio

Announcement expected by: March to May

A Marco Rubio senior adviser told ABC News that Rubio has told them to “proceed as if he is running for president.” According to two unnamed Republicans, Rubio told about 30 core supporters that he would decide by the spring about whether or not to run for president.

Rand Paul

Announcement expected by: March to May

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul confirms he will certainly be on the ballot in 2016 -- but hasn't officially declared whether it will be as a presidential candidate or merely a senator. In September 2014, Paul announced that he will not make a decision about 2016 until the spring. He told the The Washington Times that ultimately, his decision to launch a bid will be depended on GOP’s willingness to endorse a “new kind” of Republican.

Scott Walker

Announcement expected by: June

Gov. Scott Walker established a political committee called “Our American Revival” on Tuesday. A Walker aide told ABC News that the governor plans to wait until late spring or summer to decide on 2016. He will most likely make his official announcement around June.

Ben Carson

Announcement expected by: May

Dr. Ben Carson said on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos that he would make a decision about running for president by May 1.

Despite a busy schedule, and the formation of a political action committee, “One Nation”, he says he's not ready to make any commitments to a presidential campaign yet.

"I don't know what my role will be in the future," Carson said, "but I know that I will continue to fight extremely hard for these principles."

Rick Santorum

Announcement expected by: Unknown

The former senator from Pennsylvania has been busy traveling to important primary states this past year. Although he has declined to identify a timeline for when he would make an official announcement, all signs point to another run for the White House.

Lindsey Graham

Announcement expected by: Unknown

Sen. Lindsey Graham launched an exploratory committee on Thursday to “test the waters” for a potential 2016 run. His supporters include 2008 GOP nominee Sen. John McCain, who has publicly supported his candidacy.

“My illegitimate son Lindsey Graham is exploring that option,” McCain joked in a news conference earlier this month. “I am strongly encouraging Senator Lindsey Graham particularly with the world the way it is today."

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Senators Introduce Legislation to Lift Cuba Travel Ban

Ruskpp/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Thursday that would end the travel ban between the U.S. and Cuba -– the first legislation to be introduced this year following President Obama’s executive action to start opening diplomatic relations with Cuba.

“We’ve tried this current policy that we have prohibiting travel for about 50 years, and it hasn’t worked, so it’s time for something new,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., one of the sponsors of the bill, said. “It’s time to allow Americans to travel freely to Cuba.”

“It makes no sense to have this prohibition,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., another sponsor of the bill, said.

The legislation, titled “The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015,” is sponsored by four Republican and four Democratic senators. The Republican senators include: Flake, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Mike Enzi of Wyoming and John Boozman of Arkansas. They said they expected other farm-state senators to join them in lifting the travel ban. The Democratic sponsors are Leahy, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Even though the bill has Republican support, it’s an open question whether the legislation to lift the travel ban will be called for a vote in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been critical of the administration’s Cuba policy, saying he defers to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is an ardent critic of lifting the travel ban or the embargo.

Earlier this month, the White House eased restrictions on the U.S. travel ban by permitting travel to Cuba for 12 categories of people, including Americans with family in Cuba, employees on official business for the U.S. and foreign governments, along with journalists.

Congress will need to pass legislation lifting the travel ban in order for all Americans to travel to the country located just 90 miles from the United States.

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McCain Calls Out Protesters Who Swarmed Henry Kissinger

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain earned some applause inside the Senate Armed Services hearing Thursday morning, after he erupted at protesters of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, calling them “low-life scum.”

“I've been a member of this committee for many years, and I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place,” said McCain, R-Ariz.

Protesters from the group CodePink swarmed behind Kissinger as he arrived alongside two other former secretaries of State -- Madeleine Albright and George Shultz -- for a hearing on U.S. national security strategy.  

They held up signs calling Kissinger a criminal and chanted “arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes,” citing some of his more controversial decisions during the Nixon and Ford administrations.

“You know, you're going to have to shut up, or I'm going to have you arrested,” McCain said as Capitol Hill Police tried to remove the protesters. “Get out of here you low-life scum.”

Kissinger didn’t acknowledge the protesters, who again interrupted him later in the hearing prior to his opening statement.

“Dr. Kissinger, I hope on behalf of all of the members of this committee on both sides of the aisle -- in fact, from all of my colleagues, I'd like to apologize for allowing such disgraceful behavior towards a man who served his country with the greatest distinction,” McCain said. “I apologize profusely.”

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Rand Paul Is Turning Out to Be the 2016 Troller-in-Chief

US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., may be mulling a bid to be the next commander-in-chief in 2016, but he may have already earned the unofficial title of troller-in-chief with his pointed digs at his potential rivals -- Democrats and Republicans alike.

The latest came Wednesday evening, when Paul used “#ThingsToRunFrom” to describe former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. 

The same old candidates running for President #ThingsToRunFrom

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) January 28, 2015

The first Republican-on-Republican trolling came in December, when Paul called out Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for opposing the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

Hey @marcorubio if the embargo doesn't hurt Cuba, why do you want to keep it?

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 19, 2014

Senator @marcorubio is acting like an isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat. I reject this isolationism.

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 19, 2014

The United States trades and engages with other communist nations, such as China and Vietnam. So @marcorubio why not Cuba?

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 19, 2014

He trolled Bush and Romney after their meeting in Utah earlier this month.

Jeb Bush apparently gave Mitt Romney a "third time's a charm" bracelet at their meeting in Utah today:

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) January 22, 2015

Mitt Romney's friendship band to Jeb Bush at today's meeting in Utah:

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) January 22, 2015

He’s aired his grievance on Festivus...

I've got a lot of problems with you people (mostly in DC), and today you're going to hear about it! Stayed tuned for #Festivus grievances

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 23, 2014

...and critiqued his fellow Republicans’ fashion choices.

We all know having a fashion forward campaign is important to success, as @RickSantorum showed us in 2012 #Festivus

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 23, 2014

No matter how many times I ask @Team_Mitch, he won't let me borrow this awesome sweater vest

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 23, 2014

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Romneys and Clintons to Attend NYC Lunch After MittÂ’s Attack on Hillary

/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The Romneys and the Clintons could meet sooner than in 2016. Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston confirms to ABC News that the two couples are expected to attend a New York City lunch together Friday to benefit the Ann Romney Center for Neurological Disorders.

Chelsea Clinton's husband Marc Mezvinsky is on the board of the center.

The lunch was first reported by The New York Times.

The Times points out the lunch will now be quite awkward after Romney went on the attack against Clinton Wednesday night in his speech to Mississippi State University.

In his speech, he said, “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia, which smiled and then invaded Ukraine, a sovereign nation,” Romney said.  He also went after Clinton on the economy and he joked about his own wealth by also jabbing Clinton: "I’m not even thinking about the speaking fees I can earn,” Romney said. “As you no doubt heard, I’m already rich.”

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Sen. Lindsey Graham Launches 2016 Exploratory Committee

US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has officially launched an exploratory committee to “test the waters” for a potential 2016 run, a spokesman for the South Carolina senator confirms.

The exploratory committee is dubbed “Security Through Strength” and is described on its website as a “political committee helping United States Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. ‘test the waters’ for a potential 2016 run for president. The committee will fund the infrastructure and operations allowing Graham to travel the country, listen to Americans, and gauge support for a potential presidential candidacy.”

Graham, who was first elected to the Senate in 2002 and the House of Representatives in 1994, has long said he would consider a White House run and has been urged by his friend and colleague Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, to run in 2016.

“My illegitimate son Lindsey Graham is exploring that option,” McCain said in a news conference earlier this month. “I am strongly encouraging Senator Lindsey Graham particularly with the world the way it is today.”

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What Obama's Bro Hugs, Parade Visits in India Mean for the US

Pankaj Nangia/India Today Group/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- During his landmark visit to India this week, President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi swapped hugs, sat side-by-side at India’s Republic Day Parade, and declared an era of “new trust” between the two nations.

But for all the colorful festivities and declarations of good will, what did the visit actually accomplish?

ABC News/Yahoo! News posed the question to the highest ranking U.S. diplomat to India, Ambassador Richard Verma, who explained why he believes the visit had “historic” implications.

“We talk about transformational moments, and transformational visits, I think this was one of them,” Verma said.

Obama’s visit to India -- his second as president -- came just four months after he welcomed Modi to the White House as India’s new prime minister.

“He was the first president to be here for India's Republic Day; he was the first sitting president to visit India twice; and although these are symbolic gestures, they're really indicative of where I think he wants to see the relationship go,” Verma said. “It's very rare for two heads of state to come together, shake hands, [and] outline a very ambitious agenda.”

Verma pointed to the expansive scope of issues on which the two leaders declared cooperation as one measure of the trip’s success.

“If you look at the range of issues that the president and the prime minister talked about, I don't think there's hardly a subject that wasn't covered,” Verma said. “From education to health to climate to energy, defense, nuclear energy, nuclear power, intelligence cooperation, homeland security, people-to-people contact, culture, intellectual property -- they ran the gamut on subjects.”

In real terms, the visit produced specific agreements on a civil nuclear development program for India and also marked the renewal of a decade-long defense partnership deal, among other measures.

And though Verma said he would argue that India and the U.S. have had a good relationship for many years, he acknowledged certain tensions in the past.

“We can't ignore history,” Verma said. “India had a proud and still has a proud history of being an independent country. …I would say we've been close, we've gotten closer over the last decade, and now I think, we have got a really great opportunity to take it even further.”

The display of a new U.S.-Indian friendship also had the effect of exposing fissures in the U.S. and India’s relationship with one of India’s neighbors: China.

“Our relationship with China, like India, has elements of cooperation and elements of competition,” Verma said. “To the extent that India and the United States can help promote democracy, can help promote a rules based border and defend the kind of peaceful resolution of these disputes in Asia, across the Indo-Pacific and into East Asia, that's important.”

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Farewell Ceremony Held for Resigning Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is still on the job until his successor -- Ash Carter -- is confirmed by the Senate, but on Wednesday the military held a farewell ceremony for the resigning secretary.

The event, held at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, including a marching honor guard and the Marine Band. President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey all attended and spoke about Hagel's commitment to service. Obama and Biden also shared stories of their time spent with Hagel in the Senate.

The president thanked Hagel for his "guiding hand" and said that because of him "this institution is better positioned for the future."

"We have a lot of obligations as a country," Vice President Biden said during his remarks. "We only have one truly sacred equip those who we sent to war and care for them and their families while and when they come home from war."

"No one has been more committed to fulfilling that obligation than you," Biden told the secretary of defense.

Hagel also gave what was billed as a farewell address. Among the points Hagel made in the speech was the need to hold those who serve in the U.S. military to high standards, the ability of the U.S. to self-correct from mistakes and the acknowledgement that the U.S. does make mistakes. Hagel also called for the wise use of America's power, praising the "courage and dignity of America's servicemen and women all over the world."

"With all the world's travails and problems," Hagel said, "it is still a hopeful world. This, I believe."

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Civilian Army Contractor Charged in Bribery Case

VladimirCetinski/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. Army civilian contractor was charged on Wednesday with soliciting bribes from executives bidding on a contract that he managed out of the Pentagon.

James Glenn Warner, 44, allegedly made arrangements to meet with two executives of a Virginia-based company which held a five-year contract with the U.S. Army worth up to $120 million. During the meeting, the FBI claims that Warner had the two executives from the company communicate by typing into his cell phone, then later passed a menu to the executives containing a piece of paper with outlines soliciting a bribe and extortion.

Specifically, Warner allegedly suggested that if the company paid $500,000 it would secure a contract renewal with the Army, even suggesting that damaging information about the company would be destroyed.

The FBI says that the executives declined the offer, reported the conduct and cooperated with law enforcement agents. At the direction of law enforcement, a company executive met with Warner four subsequent times, paying him a total of $50,000 cash bribes.

If convicted, Warner faces up to 15 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1.5 million.

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Why Mitt Romney May Have A Mansion Problem (Again)

ABC/Donna Svennevik(WASHINGTON) -- Mitt Romney’s lavish homes, especially his one in La Jolla, California, were steady targets of Democratic criticism during the 2012 presidential campaign.

And as Romney now appears to be edging towards a third presidential bid, he’s reportedly considering selling the beachfront mansion, which he’s currently in the process of renovating.

An aide would not comment on Romney’s real estate plans, but did send a statement dinging potential Democratic candidate and, if she runs, likely front-runner Hillary Clinton: "It's going to be hard for Hillary Clinton to make Mitt Romney's wealth a fruitful line of attack, with her multi-million-dollar mansions in Georgetown and Chappaqua and her jet-setting lifestyle of the rich and famous."

On a recent weekend, ABC News caught Romney and his wife Ann inspecting the house’s construction site, walking through the framework of the second floor before descending a ladder to get down to the first.

Romney had been in town giving a speech at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting, held on nearby Coronado Island.

The 2012 Romney camp also had to answer Democratic attacks on the trappings of the former Massachusetts governor’s personal fortune, which they painted as an indication that he couldn’t relate to average Americans -- especially one particular element of the La Jolla renovation, a “car elevator” that would be used to store multiple vehicles in tight spaces.

“While Governor Romney has been quite specific about putting the finishing touches on his car elevator in La Jolla, he has hid many of his domestic and foreign policy plans under lock and key,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt told reporters at the time.

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Democrats Propose Legislation to Consolidate Food Safety into Single Agency

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- A pair of Democrats in Congress proposed legislation on Wednesday that would consolidate 15 different agencies currently in charge of food safety oversight into one independent food safety agency.

"The fragmented nature of our food safety system has left us more vulnerable to the risk of foodborne illness," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement. The proposed legislation "would transfer and consolidate food safety authorities for inspections, enforcement, labeling and research into a single food safety agency." The two Democrats also note that a single food safety agency could "allow us to prioritize system-wide food safety goals and targets."

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., added that the fact that the food safety system is "hopelessly fragmented and outdated" means that "lives are unnecessarily put at risk."

Co-sponsors for the bill include Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

The proposal would additionally provide authority to require the recall of unsafe food, require risk assessments and preventive control plans to minimize adulteration of food products, strengthen contaminant performance standards, improve the inspection of foreign food and require full traceability to identify the sources of outbreaks.

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White House Declines Comment on Michelle Obama's Decision Not to Wear Headscarf in Saudi Arabia

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House on Wednesday declined to say whether first lady Michelle Obama's decision not to wear a headscarf while in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday was intended to be a political statement.

Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters that "the attire the first lady wore on this trip was consistent with what first ladies in the past have worn," naming Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as examples.

Schultz responded to a question regarding a tweet from Sen. Ted Cruz which congratulated the first lady for "standing up for women," saying only that Michelle Obama "felt like she was warmly welcomed by the King" and "very much enjoyed her visit to both India and Saudi Arabia."


Kudos to @FLOTUS for standing up for women & refusing to wear Sharia-mandated head-scarf in Saudi Arabia. Nicely done

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 28, 2015


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Air Force Says Boeing 747-8 Will Be Next Air Force One

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Air Force has selected the Boeing 747-8 as the next Air Force One.

Presidents have been flying aboard Boeing 747s since 1989, and the trend will continue with the latest selection. "The presidential aircraft is one of the most visible symbols of the United States of America and the office of the president of the United States," Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a statement. She noted that the Boeing 747-8 "is the only aircraft manufactured in the United States [that], when fully missionized meets the necessary capabilities established to execute the presidential support mission, while reflecting the office of the president of the United States of America consistent with the national public interest."

Previously completed analyses determined that the only two aircraft that met the needs of Air Force One's mission -- four-engine, wide-bodied aircraft -- were the 747-8 and the A380 manufactured by Airbus in France.

"The current fleet of VC-25 presidential aircraft has performed exceptionally well," James said. "Yet, it is time to upgrade." She cited obsolete parts, diminishing sources for manufacturing and increased maintenance need as reasons to field a new aircraft.

The decision, Col. Amy McCain, the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program manager, said, "is not a contract award to procure 747-8 aircraft," noting that both the "overall acquisition strategy" and "risk-reduction activities" must be completed to define the planes' capabilities and cost.

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Romney Will Portray Hillary Clinton as 'Clueless' on Jobs, Foreign Policy

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  Mitt Romney spoke about poverty in a speech in the nation’s poorest state Wednesday evening -- while directly taking aim at Hillary Clinton, saying she “cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia.”

Romney addressed students at Mississippi State University, and in excerpts provided to ABC News before the speech by an aide, Romney outlined an early line of attack he may employ if he again runs for president.

“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cluelessly pressed a reset button for Russia, which smiled and then invaded Ukraine, a sovereign nation,” Romney said. “The Middle East and much of North Africa is in chaos. China grows more assertive and builds a navy that will be larger than ours in five years. We shrink our nuclear capabilities as Russia upgrades theirs.”

Romney also described three issues the nation needs to improve, likely topics he would build his campaign on, including the “need to help make the world a safer place,” the “need to restore opportunity, particularly for the middle class" and the “need to lift people out of poverty.”

In what looks like an early attack against Clinton, trying to align her with President Obama, Romney asked, “How can Secretary Clinton provide opportunity for all if she doesn't know where jobs come from in the first place?”

Romney then jabbed the president, asking how he expects to “make America the best place on earth for businesses, as he promised in his State of the Union address” if there are high business taxes, regulations that “favor the biggest banks and crush the small ones,” as well as a “complex and burdensome health care plan,” an attack he tried to employ in his last campaign unsuccessfully.

The president’s health care plan was repeatedly compared to Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts, something he denied, but an issue that will likely come up again by GOP opponents in a future campaign.

Romney added the country needs a president who will “do what it takes to bring more good paying jobs to the placement offices of our college campuses.”

He also called the president’s foreign policy “timid” because he walked “away from his red line in Syria, of paring back our military budget, and of insulting friends like Israel and Poland? Strong American leadership is desperately needed for the world, and for America.”

If Romney does run again in 2016, he will of course have a competitive GOP primary first before being able to take on Hillary Clinton if she is the nominee, or any Democrat. In his first run for the White House in 2008 he also went after Clinton during the GOP primary. That year he lost the primary to Sen. John McCain.

Romney’s 2012 campaign did not focus on poverty, although his running mate Paul Ryan did address the issue at times during his part of campaign, but it’s clear this will be a central issue to Romney if he does move forward.

In the speech, he said during that last campaign he “met folks…almost every week during my campaign” who had “fallen into poverty as result of an unfortunate event, like losing a job.”

“These folks were almost uniformly optimistic about finding their way back into the middle class,” the former Massachusetts governor said. “But I also met folks who had been in poverty from generation to generation. These we have to help escape the tragedy and the trap of chronic generational poverty.”

Romney said “for fifty years and with trillions of dollars,” Washington has tried to fight the “war on poverty with failed liberal policies,” but it hasn’t worked.

“It's finally time to apply conservative policies that improve America's education system, promote family formation and create good-paying jobs,” he added.

In the 2012 campaign, Romney was ridiculed and called unrelatable for his “47 percent” comments or when he said following his win in the Florida primary that he is “not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.” Comments that will definitely come up or find their way into television ads if he were to run again.

In national exit polls after the 2012 loss, President Obama won 81 percent to Romney’s 18 percent of voters who said the candidate quality that was most important to them was he “cares about people like me.”

With Romney’s early pivot to focus on poverty, he is likely trying to avoid those issues that derailed him last time. Of course, it won’t be that easy. On Wednesday, the Boston Globe reported extensively about Romney’s four luxurious homes including an 11,000 square foot one in La Jolla, California he may be trying to sell, possibly before another presidential bid. The home has a spa and a car elevator, a luxury that Democrats jumped on during the last campaign and will likely once more if he runs again.

Romney aides believe Clinton’s own wealth will make his no longer a political liability, with an aide telling ABC News in the same statement given to the Globe: "It's going to be hard for Hillary Clinton to make Mitt Romney's wealth a fruitful line of attack, with her multi-million dollar mansions in Georgetown and Chappaqua and her jet-setting lifestyle of the rich and famous.”

A spokesman for Clinton declined to comment.

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Senator to AG Nominee Loretta Lynch: 'You're Not Eric Holder, Are You?'

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- "You're not Eric Holder, are you?"

That question, posed to Loretta Lynch nearly two hours into her confirmation hearing to be the next attorney general, seemed to encapsulate what every Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee was likely thinking.

"No, I'm not," Lynch assured the man who asked the question, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, with a wry smile. "I will be myself. I will be Loretta Lynch [if confirmed.]"

Cornyn said Holder's record has weighed "heavily" on some of his fellow senators' minds, insisting Holder was "openly contentious" toward Republican lawmakers, "stonewalled legitimate" oversight investigations, and "harassed" states that passed laws requiring certain forms of identification for voters to cast ballots in elections.

At the opening of the hearing, committee chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said he hoped Lynch “has what it takes” to “fix” President Obama’s Justice Department.

Still, by lunchtime much of the hearing remained tame -- with Lynch and senators from both sides of the aisle calmly trading questions and answers on issues that have been debated in such hearings for years.

However, Republicans also took sharp aim at the Obama administration’s plan to bring sweeping changes to the U.S. immigration system, using executive action to offer temporary legal status to nearly five million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Many Republicans on the Senate committee derided the move as a deliberate violation of the U.S. Constitution and pressed Lynch over how she would handle the executive action.

Lynch rebuffed Republican suggestions that the executive action amounted to a refusal to enforce the law, saying it was instead an attempt to set priorities.

She echoed the Obama administration in suggesting the point of the executive action was to “prioritize” deportations of the “most dangerous” people, namely criminals, terrorists and other violent offenders. And she called it all a “reasonable way to marshal limited resources.”

She said she has not seen regulations laying out exactly how the Department of Homeland Security will enact the new action, but she said she has reviewed an opinion from the Department of Justice assessing the president’s legal authority to take such action.

She said that assessment seemed reasonable, noting the department did conclude in some instances that certain administration proposals were not allowed under the law.

Pressed by Sen. Jeff Sessions over whether undocumented immigrants have a right to citizenship, Lynch called citizenship a “right” for those born in the United States and “a privilege” for others. Sessions agreed.

But when asked by Sessions whether she, as attorney general, would take legal action against any employers who preferred to hire undocumented immigrants over U.S. citizens, Lynch called it an “important point” that should be reviewed.

On the immigration issue, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., strongly defended the Obama administration, saying it’s a “myth” that prioritizing law enforcement resources -- known as “prosecutorial discretion” -- amounts to a failure to enforce laws.

There are 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, and Congress “only allocates” enough resources for Homeland Security to deport 400,000 of them, so suggesting that the Obama administration is willfully skirting the law is “absurd,” Schumer said.

“Obviously, you have to make some choices here,” Schumer said. “This idea of going after higher-level dangerous crimes first is how law enforcement has gone on for hundreds of years, and should.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., took strong issue with Republicans’ criticism of Holder, saying he had no opportunity to defend himself at the hearing and insisting their claims “would not withstand” further scrutiny.

It’s “easy to...blame him” and history will show that Holder “actually brought the department back from a place where it had sadly been politicized” under the Bush administration, Whitehouse said.

Over and over, Lynch vowed to be an “independent and objective” attorney general, pointing to her long record as U.S. attorney.

And, she pledged, when she and lawmakers inevitably disagree on an issue, she will hear their concerns and “be open to discussion.”

She said it was important “to work with people who might disagree.”

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