By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
DES MOINES, Iowa — Get ready for another 2012 “cattle call” in this crucial early primary state as the field of possible candidates comes into focus and they test their messages in front of Hawkeye State voters who are serious about their role in the presidential nominating process.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former Senator Rick Santorum, Georgia businessman Herman Cain and even former Ambassador John Bolton, who says a presidential run could still be in the cards, will all be on hand for Iowa Rep. Steve King’s Conservative Principles Conference in Des Moines on Saturday. http://bit.ly/f9KYEi
Notably, this is Barbour's second visit to the state in just two weeks. And, he heads from Iowa to New Hampshire next week for his first-ever visit as a potential candidate. Not on the podium this weekend: The winner of the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who continues to be coy about his presidential ambitions.
Bob Vander Plaats, a well-known political figure in Iowa who ran unsuccessfully in the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary last year and chaired Huckabee’s campaign here during the last presidential cycle, said that Huckabee was still doing his “due diligence” and shouldn’t be counted out yet.
“He sees the depth of support in Iowa, he sees the national polls with him up against Obama and faring very well — probably the best of all Republicans," Vander Plaats told the Note in an interview last night. “My gut is he’s going to look at all options on how to get in versus how to get out.” (While Huckabee won’t be at King’s event he did make an appearance in Des Moines last night to speak at the Iowa Renewal Conference.)
Another absentee at King’s event will be former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who announced the unveiling of his presidential exploratory committee earlier this week. Still, no one can accuse Pawlenty of not paying attention to the state. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will also be a no-show — so far, he’s focused more on behind-the-scenes fundraising. Romney told a group of high-dollar donors in New York yesterday in that it would take at least $50 million to successfully win the GOP presidential nomination.
Vander Plaats, who now heads the influential conservative group, The Family Leader, predicted that someone like Huckabee could come in “with fire in his belly” before this August’s Iowa Straw poll or even around Labor Day and still run a successful campaign here.
Though some of the potential Republican hopefuls appear to be inching closer to making their bids official, others have taken pains to say that, at least right now, the “fire” just isn’t there. Yesterday the Washington Post quoted sources close to Sen. Jim De Mint, who will also be on hand in Des Moines this weekend to deliver the keynote address at King’s Saturday gathering, as saying that the South Carolina Republican has ruled out a presidential run.
“He doesn’t wake up every day with a burning desire to be the commander-in-chief,” the De Mint source said, “he knows without a deep burning desire to be president it is near impossible to successfully run for the job.” http://wapo.st/fMMRVM
So who has that “burning desire” and who can do well in this state? Political observers here say to keep an eye on someone like Bachmann, who likes to call herself an “Iowegian” — a nod to her birth in Waterloo, Iowa and her Norwegian ancestry. She told ABC’s Jonathan Karl this week that she wants “to be a part of the conversation in making sure that President Obama only serves one term” and all signs point to her running. And she’s already acting like the kind of candidate that Iowa voters might respond to, posing for pictures with supporters and the curious in the lobby of a West Des Moines hotel until late last night. http://abcn.ws/efsVRx
“You have to want to be president pretty bad to show up at a pizza place where eight people show up and say, ‘I’m running for president’” Vander Plaats told the Note. “It’s not until later on that the crowds start showing up and the media and the rope lines. It’s a very, very grueling process that we put them through here.”
NOTED: WHAT CAN 2010 TELL US ABOUT 2012? The Associated Press has crunched the numbers from the 2010 midterm election season and we’ve found some interesting nuggets. The Note’s favorite: “Almost 27 million advance ballots were cast in 2010, which was 30.5 percent of the total vote. This represents an increase from 2006, in which about 22.5 percent of the vote was advance, and a decrease from the historic high of 34 percnet reached in 2008.” If this pattern holds, could we see early vote at 40 percent in 2012? That has serious implications for how campaigns target and turnout voters. The term "election day" no longer means the first Tuesday in November.
LIBYA UPDATE: NATO TAKING LARGER ROLE. “NATO has agreed to relieve the United States of responsibility for enforcing the no-fly zone in Libya,” ABC’s Martha Raddatz, Alexander Marquardt and Luis Martinez report. “The announcement came on the same day that Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi challenged the no-fly zone, only to see one of his few remaining planes destroyed by a French jet. In acknowledging the transition to a NATO command, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this evening highlighted the successes of the no-fly zone's initial U.S.-led phase. ‘After only five days, we have made significant progress,’ she said. ‘A massacre in [the Libya rebel stronghold of] Benghazi was prevented. Gadhafi's air force and air defenses have been rendered largely ineffective. And the coalition is in control of the skies above Libya.’” http://abcn.ws/hlsRL0
Watch Raddatz’s “Good Morning America” report on the greater responsibilities NATO has assumed in Libya. http://abcn.ws/fOv9RG And ABC’s Jake Tapper takes a closer look at the vocabulary used by the White House to describe the military campaign in Libya — just what does “kinetic military action” mean? Jake’s take: http://abcn.ws/fPYBWk
TUNE INTO "THIS WEEK." ABC's Jake Tapper will host "This Week" on Sunday with an exclusive guest: Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Amy Walter and Karen Travers talk to former GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson of New Mexico, who is a 2012 Senate candidate to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. Also on the program, Reid Wilson, from the National Journal. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
“TOP LINE” REPLAY: ELIOT ENGEL. The New York congressman said on “Top Line” yesterday that President Obama may be acting beyond his constitutional responsibilities if the U.S. continues to lead operations in Libya beyond “the first week or so.” He said, “I think that Congress could give him a stamp of approval for doing this. Congress obviously has powers that we take very seriously.” On the GOP’s criticism of Obama, Engel added, “It really is disheartening for me to see my Republican colleagues criticize the president and say he waited too long, or he shouldn't have gone, or he's out of the country. Whatever they can think of to criticize him, they do it. But when President Bush was leading the war in Iraq they kept saying that everyone should rally around the president in time of war.” http://abcn.ws/hIpDFZ
PRESSURE BUILD ON OBAMA. “Of all the decisions that a president must make, none calls for more clarity than the one to go to war,” the Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty writes. “Thus far, President Obama’s move to join other nations in intervening militarily in Libya appears to have generated confusion instead — both as to the scope of the mission and to its ultimate end. With the potential for prolonged conflict, calls are growing louder on Capitol Hill and elsewhere for a fuller explanation of precisely what the United States hopes to achieve and how it intends to achieve it. … [Part] of the confusion comes from the fact that the administration has shifted over the past weeks — from resisting military action, to leading the first assault, to positioning itself to hand over control to its partners. That seems to have left almost no one satisfied. Those who were urging Obama from the start to charge in — neoconservatives on the right; humanitarian interventionists on the left — say he dithered too long. Those who warned against yet another incursion into the Muslim world, particularly in a country where U.S. interests are limited, say he has been reckless. He has been accused of being too deferential to other governments, and not enough so to Congress.” http://wapo.st/hiDE9q
SAMANTHA POWER’S POWER. “As a young journalist covering the war in Bosnia in the early 1990s, Samantha Power berated Peter Galbraith, then the U.S. ambassador to Croatia, for 'not doing enough to stop the slaughter' Galbraith recalls. Last week, when President Barack Obama was considering whether to intervene to stop Muammar Qaddafi’s assault on rebels in Libya, Galbraith turned the tables on his friend Power, who had won a Pulitzer Prize for her book on genocide and now serves on Obama’s National Security Council staff,” Bloomberg’s Indira A.R. Lakshmanan and Hans Nichols report. “In White House meetings, Power, a public advocate of government efforts to halt human rights abuses before she joined the administration, pressed for U.S. intervention on humanitarian grounds, according to people involved in the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity. … Power, who sought the limelight as a writer and public intellectual, has learned to be a behind-the-scenes policymaker over the past two years, associates say. The transition wasn’t seamless.” http://bloom.bg/gv3n98
MITT ROMNEY’S PATH LOOKS MORE LIKE A ‘SLOG.’ “Mitt Romney is sketching a path to the GOP nomination that looks nothing like the one blazed by Republicans before him. Romney’s plan, by necessity, more closely resembles the outline of the epic 2008 Democratic presidential primary than the GOP’s recent victory-by-early-knockout design,” Politico’s Jonathan Martin writes. “With glaring weaknesses in two of the traditional early states, an increased number of contests allocating delegates on a proportional basis and a capacity, thanks to his own deep pockets and a growing stable of donors, to raise significant cash, Romney’s second White House bid relies on outlasting the competition. Much will depend on the still-unsettled primary calendar and the eventual field of candidates. But the former Massachusetts governor’s aim, according to multiple aides and advisers, is to exceed expectations his team is working feverishly to lower in Iowa, to come back strong with a win in New Hampshire, to survive South Carolina in part by picking up an off-setting victory in Nevada and then to settle in for what many described as ‘a slog’ that they’ll emerge from thanks to superior money and organization.” http://politi.co/fJ49eK
GOP ESTABLISHMENT COOL TO SHARRON ANGLE. “Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle is back, but Republicans aren't welcoming her with open arms. It's been nearly five months since Angle, a former Nevada state senator, was soundly defeated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.” the Washington Examiner’s Susan Ferrechio notes. “Angle's seven-point loss to Reid, blamed in part on a badly managed campaign riddled with the candidate's own gaffes, did not stop her from jumping into the race to fill Nevada's 2nd District seat, up for grabs in 2012 now that current Rep. Dean Heller has decided to run for the Senate. … The state's Republican establishment, however, is not so eager for an Angle comeback and is far more likely to back the state's Republican lieutenant governor, Brian Krolicki, who is also expected to run in next year's GOP primary. ‘A lot of people in the national GOP don't want her to win,’ said University of Nevada political science professor Ted Jelen. ‘I think she would win a general election if she were nominated, but the GOP would have to spend resources on Angle that they could spent elsewhere if another candidate without her baggage were on the ticket.’” http://bit.ly/ho3UNK
DC LOBBYING SHOP TAKES HIT OVER MIDDLE EAST UNREST. “One of Washington's best-known lobbying and public relations firms has been upended in the wake of the turmoil in the Middle East due in part to its representation of some of the region's autocratic governments,” The Huffington Post’s Marcus Baram reports. “In the last two months, more than a third of the partners at Qorvis have left the firm to start their own lobby shops, partly because of the firm's work on behalf of such clients as Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the Central African nation of Equatorial Guinea, say former employees. ‘I just have trouble working with despotic dictators killing their own people,’ a former Qorvis insider tells The Huffington Post. ‘People don't want to be seen representing all these countries — you take a look at the State Department's list of human rights violators and some of our clients were on there.’” http://huff.to/gPslAo
@PounderFile: Observing DC: Slowly stirring your coffee while others are waiting because you're reading your blackberry is not a sign of importance.
* Haley Barbour will attend a Rediscover God in America Breakfast in Des Moines, IA. Then Barbour travel to Cedar Rapids for a Linn Eagles Luncheon. Finally Barbour will attend the Johnson County Republican Party Annual Spaghetti Dinner in Tiffin, IA.
* Newt Gingrich will screen Rediscovering God in America in Des Moines, IA at 7 p.m. Following the video Gingrich will speak to the Iowa Renewal Project.
The Note Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV
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