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Rand Paul rises, Jeb Bush jockeys: a big week for possible 2016 contenders (+video)

It was a week of serious maneuvering for Sen. Rand Paul, former Gov. Jeb Bush, and the others who could be presidential contenders in 2016. Who helped or hurt themselves the most?

By Correspondent / March 8, 2013

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks in Austin, Texas, last month.

Eric Gay/AP/File

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The 2016 presidential race may be a long way off – but, as NBC's First Read notes, there was a striking amount of maneuvering among potential candidates this past week. While Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky probably "won" the week with his now-famous filibuster, he wasn't the only one who may have helped himself in the run-up to the 2016 campaign.

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Correspondent

Liz Marlantes covers politics for the Monitor and is a regular contributor to the Monitor's political blog, DC Decoder.

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Here's a look at some of the possible contenders jockeying for position, and how they may have scrambled the race:

Rand Paul 

The junior senator from Kentucky set the rest of the field on notice that he is a force to be reckoned with by staging an old-fashioned talking filibuster, protesting the Obama administration's drone policy. Critics called it a political "stunt," but as stunts go, this one clearly worked. On a snow day when little else was going on, the unexpected spectacle of a legislator embracing physical discomfort to make a point drew unabashed praise from partisans on both the right and the left, and it put Senator Paul squarely in the media spotlight.

He earned a piece in Thursday's Politico saying that he was now in "the top tier of Republican power players" – and Paul himself "confidently" acknowledged that he was seriously considering a White House run.

Still, we're not sure this really changes things as much as it might seem. We've been saying all along that we think Paul will be a player to watch in 2016, since he has the potential to take his father's campaign apparatus and elevate it to another level. But we still aren't willing to remove the "dark horse" label from Paul – since so many of his views are outside the Republican mainstream, and some may prove deal breakers for GOP primary voters. 

Jeb Bush 

The former Florida governor inserted himself into the 2016 conversation in a big way in a series of interviews promoting a new book on immigration, in which for the first time he openly expressed interest in a possible presidential run. While not yet declaring himself a candidate, Mr. Bush's comments were direct enough to set donors and operatives on notice that they might want to wait before aligning themselves with anyone else (like, say, the junior senator from Florida).

But Bush also got into a bit of trouble on the issue of immigration, by appearing to change his position on a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. He'd previously expressed support for creating such a path – which is a key plank in the bipartisan legislation being hashed out on the Hill – but in his new book, he explicitly opposes it.

It remains unclear whether his positioning on immigration will simply wind up offending both sides or whether, despite charges of inconsistency, it will give him cover on an issue that remains tricky for Republicans (particularly if the legislation currently being crafted fails to pass).

Hillary Rodham Clinton 

While the most overt maneuvering may be happening on the Republican side, Mrs. Clinton has the ability to make news even when she does nothing. This week, we got a reminder of how formidable a candidate she would be. A new Quinnipiac poll found that Clinton would handily defeat New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (R) in head-to-head matchups (the latter two by double digits).

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