In it, but not of it. TPM DC

It was not a good week for Hillary Clinton.

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza declared Clinton had the "worst week in Washington" after the campaign experienced "collapsing poll numbers on the eve of actual votes" in Iowa and New Hampshire.

"Bill Clinton Questioning Hillary Clinton's Super Tuesday Plan," Politico wrote Thursday in a detailed report on how the former president has been in "almost daily" contact with campaign manager Robby Mook over whether Hillary Clinton is really as prepped and ready as she needs to be to fend off a primary challenge from Sanders.

Polls in Iowa, increasingly show Sanders closing the gap with Clinton, putting into serious question whether the former secretary of state can escape the curse of her 2008 caucus meltdown even as her campaign has hustled to build an extensive grassroots operation from rural Dickinson County to Polk County, home of Des Moines.

With just one week to go until Iowa, even observers on the ground are admitting that Sanders's ground game looks like it has finally caught up to Clinton's.

"She learned her lesson and she said she was not going to be outworked this time, but again, Sanders has more enthusiasm. That might be what we see on caucus night," said Timothy Hagle, an expert on the caucus process in Iowa and a professor of political science at the University of Iowa. "Every time there is a dump of emails, it hurts her."

In New Hampshire, a CNN poll Tuesday showed Sanders with a staggering 27-point lead.

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It was not unexpected that the Supreme Court took up a case Tuesday challenging the Obama administration's executive actions on immigration. But it was somewhat of a surprise that in doing so, the court asked to be briefed on whether the memo outlining the administration's policy “violates the Take Care Clause of the Constitution” -- a question which was not addressed directly in lower court decisions and not among those the U.S. government included in its petition.

Its inclusion by the Supreme Court raises the stakes on the suit by opening up the possibility that the court is interested in hearing arguments that the executive action has violated not just administrative protocol or even statutory law, but the Constitution. A ruling by the court on that basis could redefine the parameters of executive power just as Obama is maximizing his use of unilateral action to bypass Congress in the waning days of his presidency.

“It would certainly be quite a surprising and dramatic result to say people can sue the government to say you're not enforcing the law the way we’d like. That would be a very dramatic change,” Andrew Pincus, a Supreme Court advocate supportive of the administration's position, told TPM.

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This month, Republicans in Congress achieved what they declared to be a major victory: they sent an Obamacare repeal to the president’s desk as test-run for next year, when they say there will be a Republican president in office to sign it.

But there’s just one problem with that plan. The details have been scant as to what the GOP presidential candidates -- who have uniformly railed against the Affordable Care Act -- intend to enact in its place.

After five years of promises to deliver an Obamacare replacement plan -- more than 20 such promises by one count --the GOP Congress still hasn't produced. And the same mix of political perils and policy paralysis that has hamstrung the Republicans on the Hill has left the party's presidential contenders with paltry real health care proposals that are short on details and long on vague assurances. The party that has spent years avoiding grappling with the economic, political, and policy complexities of health care reform seems no closer now that it was when Obamacare first became law.

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The answer to the question of whether Ted Cruz is eligible to be president of the United States lies deep in the recesses of English political history, according to a constitutional law expert who has researched the issue.

Mary Brigid McManamon, a law professor at Widener University’s Delaware Law School, makes the case that Ted Cruz is not eligible to be president because “natural born citizen” applies only to those born within U.S. territories. She wrote a Washington Post op-ed this week arguing as such, and previously wrote a 2014 legal paper on the topic.

What is certain is that the Constitution's definition of “natural born citizen” has not been tested and remains open to interpretation. As Michael Ramsey, a former clerk of Justice Antonin Scalia, put it in a 2013 essay otherwise defending Cruz’s eligibility: “[I]t's a mystery to me why any one thinks it's an easy question.”

TPM talked with McManamon by phone Wednesday to ask her a few more questions about her theory, which she said rested on English common law stretching all the way back to 1350.

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President Obama spent much of his 2016 State of the Union addressing -- in thinly veiled language -- the Republican rhetoric in the race to replace him. But in doing so, he left out or glossed over some major Democratic policy positions, including policies that have been priority of his own administration.

Weeks after Obama signed executive orders refortifying gun laws, his biggest State of the Union statement on gun violence was visual: an empty seat in first lady Michelle Obama's viewing box to represent victims. In the speech itself gun violence was mentioned only once, when Obama was making the point that the speech wouldn't be a traditional State of the Union.

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President Obama promised a “non-traditional” State of the Union and indeed, his remarks in the U.S. Capitol sounded less like the usual laundry list of policy priorities and more like the President’s response to some of the gloom-and-doom rhetoric being bandied about on the 2016 campaign.

“I don’t want to talk just about the next year. I want to focus on the next five years, ten years, and beyond,” Obama said.

Though he didn’t mention Donald Trump by name, some of Obama’s strongest lines were geared specifically at the GOP frontrunner’s proposals -- including deporting undocumented immigrants and banning Muslim immigration -- in the name of “making America great again.”

In particular, Obama denounced the recent anti-Muslim rhetoric espoused not just by Trump but by others in the GOP field. He also rebutted claims that the economy was in decline or that the country was no longer safe from foreign threats.

Here are those and other shots he took at Trump:

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A morning of tough questioning Monday at the Supreme Court suggested public unions have an uphill battle in convincing the court not to overrule a 1977 decision that allows them to charge non-members "agency fees" -- fees that subsidize the collective bargaining that benefits all employees.

The swing justices whom union forces had hoped to bring to their side seemed skeptical, if not hostile, to their arguments. The best alternative liberals could put forward is that at the very least more fact-finding in the case is needed, considering what a major deal upending Supreme Court precedent is.

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You can learn a lot about the upcoming Supreme Court case that threatens to cripple public unions by looking at who is behind it.

Friedrichs v. California Teacher’s Association is being brought, in name, by Rebecca Friedrichs, a California elementary school teacher who objects to a state law requiring her and other public employees to pay a portion of union dues even though they are not union members.

But behind her in the case is a coalition of legal forces known for using the court to attack progressive laws. The case touches upon all sorts of conservative pet causes including wages, school voucher programs and health care benefits. Many of the players in this case have been involved in a broader pattern of pushing conservative causes through the judicial system when their efforts have failed in the political process.

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