In it, but not of it. TPM DC

WASHINGTON — Nothing infuriates Senate Democrats' budget chief Bernie Sanders quite like calls for cutting Social Security.

So the Vermont senator was livid when TPM asked him at a Capitol news conference about a proposal floated Tuesday in New Hampshire by Republican presidential hopeful and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to incrementally raise the Social Security retirement age to 69 and reduce benefits for upper earners.

"You take a deep breath and try to wonder what world these people live in," said Sanders, who is also considering a run for president. "What Governor Christie is saying is just the continuation of the war being waged by the Republican Party against the elderly, against the children, against the sick and against the poor, in order to benefit millionaires and billionaires. It is an outrage."

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WASHINGTON — Just two years after becoming a U.S. senator in 2011, Marco Rubio shot to the top of early polls for the Republican presidential nomination.

Over the next few months, he began a precipitous decline into the single digits, where he remained when he declared his bid to become the first Hispanic American president Monday at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami.

What happened at that critical juncture? In 2013, the Florida senator teamed up with Democrats to write and pass a sweeping (but ultimately doomed) bill that included a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. The fateful decision will loom large for the talented 43-year-old politician in the coming year — perhaps large enough to affect the outcome of the nomination fight, and with it, the presidency.

Eventually Rubio came out against his own bill and returned to his hardline opposition to reform, demanding stronger border security before anything else. (The timeline below explains his complicated evolution on the issue.)

But will Republican voters forgive him? A recent Washington Post-ABC poll found that 70 percent of GOP voters want the next president to oppose a path to citizenship. The issue is guaranteed to come up in the primary particularly given the crop of competing hard-right candidates like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, both of whom voted against the bill.

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WASHINGTON — Ted Cruz's biggest problem involves transcending his hyper-conservative voter base. Rand Paul's biggest problem is his foreign policy views. Marco Rubio's biggest problem is his support for immigration reform.

That's a synopsis of remarks by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), a tea party-aligned freshman who candidly discussed the paths ahead for his three friends and fellow GOP senators who are eying the party's presidential nomination in 2016.

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The overarching message of Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) newly launched presidential campaign is that he's “a different kind of Republican.”

If you take a glance at some of the secessionists, conspiracy theorists and other people who have floated in and out of Paul's orbit over the years, it's clear to see there's something to that.

Case in point: Rev. Jerry Stephenson, a local pastor who introduced Paul on Tuesday at his presidential campaign launch in Louisville, Kentucky. Speaking with journalists after the main event, Stephenson dog-whistled to those who believe President Obama is secretly a Muslim.

“In five years we’ll find out what [Obama’s] real religion is,” Stephenson said,according to BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins. The pastor added, "Once he’s out, he will ‘evolve’ like he did on gay marriage.”

Paul’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed on the pastor’s remarks.

Stephenson is far from the first person in the senator’s circle, however, to voice such a fringe belief. While it's important to note that Paul does not endorse every potentially inflammatory comment his associates make, these personalities within the senator's sphere could prove to be a liability to his presidential campaign.

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