By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Leave it to Donald Trump to steal the show.
He swooped into New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state on Wednesday, and immediately declared victory for, as he put it, accomplishing “something that nobody else has been able to accomplish” — getting President Obama to release his long-form birth certificate.
Trump spent the rest of a 7-hour trip to the Granite State shaking hands with voters, meeting activists signing autographs and, well, just being The Donald. http://abcn.ws/j5hZFm
"Who else gets this crowd? Does anybody else get this crowd?" Trump boasted as he emerged from a high-dollar fundraiser in Portsmouth organized by the New Hampshire Republican Party. "I don't think so," he said, answering his own question.
New Hampshire voters The Note spoke with yesterday appeared divided on Trump, who continues to say he will announce his presidential intentions before June. Some welcome his trademark brand of straight talk, while others see him mainly as a celebrity but have a harder time imagining him as a presidential candidate.
“Donald Trump is a serious contender in New Hampshire because he is a well-known brand, he will have no money trouble, and he is somewhat like a circus sideshow in that he is very good at drawing a crowd,” said Patrick Griffin, a senior fellow at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester. “But he needs to be very, very careful here,” noting that more talk of the birth certificate and, recently, President Obama’s grades in high school and college could quickly turn off potential supporters.
But as the Trump road show rolled through New Hampshire yesterday, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., the chairman of the House Budget Committee, was shaping the contours of the 2012 race in other ways, sparking intense debate about Medicare reform.
During the Congressional recess, Ryan has been clicking through his “Path to Prosperity” PowerPoint presentation at a series of town hall meetings in his Wisconsin district. According to a dispatch from the Associated Press, Ryan has drawn standing-room-only crowds at four meetings this week and two events “drew so many people that police turned away dozens of supporters and reporters, citing capacity issues.”
Even as town halls have been raucous, they haven't been one sided.
There were plenty of detractors at Ryan’s events in Wisconsin as well as similar meetings held by Republican Reps. Dan Webster and Allen West in Florida, but there were also vocal defenders of the GOP plan. That's very different from the 2009 health care town hall situation when almost all the shouting came from opponents of the Democrats’ health reform plan.
And the discussion comes as a New Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds Americans divided on Medicare reform. The Foundation's April Health Tracking Poll, finds that 46 percent of Americans favor moving Medicare to a “premium support” model, while 50 percent don’t want to see any changes to the program. Overall, 40 percent said they wanted to cap how much the federal government spends on Medicare while 55 percent do not.
BOTTOM LINE: To be sure, says one GOP House insider, this recess has been rough on their incumbents. Even so, said this strategist, many members are getting more questions on sky-rocketing gas prices than on Medicare.
Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, R-Nev., is hoping to put moderate Republicans on the hot seat with a vote in the Senate on the Ryan plan. “Let’s bring it over here and see how people feel about it,” Reid told reporters on a conference call yesterday. For Republicans facing — or likely to face — serious primary opposition next year, this is going to be a tough balancing act. (We're looking at you Senators Olympia Snowe and Dick Lugar.)
While Washington may be knee deep in the budget battle, the rest of America has not even checked into the conversation. Instead, day-to-day worries about gas prices and a still struggling economy occupy their time and energy.
OBAMA REVIVES BIRTHER ISSUE (AFTER PUTTING IT TO BED). “President Barack Obama wrapped up three fundraising events for his reelection bid by tackling the birther issue head-on — again last night,” ABC News’ Emily Friedman and Alicia Tejada report. “‘My name is Barack Obama. I was born in Hawaii,’ he said as a crowd of 1,300 stood, screamed and applauded at a New York fundraiser. Just hours after trying to quash speculation about his birthplace by releasing his long-form birth certificate, Obama couldn't resist poking fun at the controversy. ‘Nobody has checked my ID but just in case…’ Obama said tongue-in-cheek, as he reached into his pocket pretending to reach for his credentials.” http://abcn.ws/jpWlhS
As ABC’s Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller note, earlier in the day, President Obama said, the American people were not going to be able to rise to the “enormous challenges out there” as long as issues like this persisted. “If we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts,” he said, “we’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.” http://abcn.ws/ggcL82
Watch Tapper’s “World News” report about an extraordinary day at the White House: http://abcn.ws/jBBFYr
IS IT A WINNING ISSUE? GOP STRATGESTS WORRY. “The question of whether President Barack Obama was born on U.S. soil will have zero impact on the 2012 campaign but could significantly damage Republicans’ prospects for retaking the White House if it lingers. That was the consensus analysis of more than a dozen experienced GOP political strategists, consultants and operatives who were interviewed Wednesday within an hour of Obama going on national television to publicly release the long-form version of his birth certificate,” according to Roll Call’s David Drucker. “These Republicans were nearly unanimous in their desire to see the issue permanently put to rest because they fear it could make the party seem too extreme. … [They] worry that any attention given to the birth certificate issue could paint the Republican Party as out of touch and extreme, making it anathema to independents and swing voters while protecting Obama from the glare of what they view as troubling economic indicators that should sink his re-election bid.” http://bit.ly/lQftIU
PROMISES, PROMISES. So will Donald Trump release his tax returns now? Remember that Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in a recent interview “maybe I’m going to do the tax returns when Obama does his birth certificate.” Yesterday in New Hampshire, The Note pressed Trump on whether he would follow through: “That’s something I would be thinking about doing anyway. That is certainly something I’d be thinking about doing anyway. But before I do anything I have to make the decision in June and the first thing I’m going to be releasing will be financials,” Trump said. When pressed about the release of this tax returns, Trump said: “Yeah, at the appropriate time I’m going to do it.” http://abcn.ws/enNYO9
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl interview freshman Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., about what he’s been hearing from his constituents during recess on the budget, Medicare and other issues. Also on the program, a conversation with Time Magazine’s Jay Newton-Small. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
“TOP LINE” REPLAY: JIM MARTIN. The president of the 60 Plus Association, an advocacy group for seniors, told “Top Line” that the idea of “ending Medicare as we know it” is an outdated concept. “Ending Medicare as we know it happened a year ago in March, when Obamacare passed,” he said. “Because it radically changed Medicare as we seniors know it by cutting a half a trillion dollars out of Medicare.” Martin acknowledged that Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan would phase out Medicare for those who are under 55, but added, “at least [Ryan is] trying to save Medicare for the future.” http://abcn.ws/iBIicD
DEMOCRATS LAUNCH ROYAL WEDDING-THEMED ATTACK. “Democrats are taking a cheeky shot at Republicans pegged to the pending regal nuptials in England, popping up a new website that dubs the GOP's relationship the with petroleum industry the ‘R-Oil Wedding,’” the Huffington Post’s Michael McAuliff notes. “House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) recent flirtation with ending oil company tax breaks notwithstanding — he told ABC News this week that Congress ‘oughta take a look’ at ending those subsidies before spokesman Michael Steel pulled him back – Democrats see the coupling as a natural fit. … Information provided by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee highlights the gas and oil haul of several top Republicans, including career totals of $346,700 for Boehner, $295,550 for Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and $677,164 for National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas). Republicans have repeatedly blocked attempts to roll back subsidies for oil companies, which are expected to announce record profits Thursday.’For this wedding, in lieu of gifts, the happy couple would surely prefer more Big Oil tax breaks,’ quipped the DCCC's Jesse Ferguson.” http://huff.to/izyJtS
GINGRICH OPENS UP ABOUT RELIGIOUS CONVERSION. “Before a presumed White House bid for 2012, Newt Gingrich is for the first time expounding on why he converted to Catholicism after 65 years spent as a Southern Baptist,” ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports. “‘It would be more accurate to say that I gradually became Catholic and then realized one day that I should accept the faith that surrounded me,’ Gingrich, 67, told a crowd at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast today in Washington yesterday. The former House speaker credited his wife, Callista, and time they’ve spent together at her Washington, D.C., church for his conversion. But Gingrich also attributed it to the ‘crisis of secularism’ that the Catholic Church had fought against in Europe, and which he said is now creeping across the U.S. … Gingrich also explained his conversation in a column for the National Catholic Register called ‘Why I Became Catholic.’” http://abcn.ws/kJIAr5
MITCH DANIELS FACES BIG DECISION (NOT THAT ONE). “Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who irked many conservatives last year with his call for a ‘truce’ on social issues, has been thrust into the debate over federal funding for Planned Parenthood,” The Hill’s Shane D’Aprile notes. “The state's Republican-led legislature has sent to the governor's desk a measure to defund the group. If Daniels signs it, Planned Parenthood would be barred from receiving federal dollars in Indiana. The measure also bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with an exception for the health of the mother. Planned Parenthood warns that the measure will cost the state some $4 million in Medicaid family planning funds from the federal government. For Daniels, who is weighing a decision on a 2012 presidential run, the bill presents an opportunity to assuage concerns among social conservatives, who could stand between him and the GOP nomination next year.” http://bit.ly/j7XBQ7
MADE IN CHINA: A PROBLEM FOR TRUMP? “In exploring a run for president Donald Trump has repeatedly accused China of taking manufacturing jobs from the U.S., saying ‘the problem with our country is that we don't make anything anymore.’ But an array of Trump-branded products from ties, dress shirts and other clothing in the Donald J. Trump Signature Collection, to hats, stuffed animals, cufflinks and tie clips are stamped "Made in China,’” ABC’s Joel Siegel reports. “Visitors to the Trump Store in the lobby of the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York City, or to the displays of Trump clothing at Macy's in New York?s Herald Square, would be hard-pressed to find much labeled ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ … At the same time Trump was speaking [in New Hampshire yesterday], his Trump Store was contributing to the growth of Chinese manufacturing at the expense of American jobs, selling $80 Trump-branded cotton sweaters and $70 Trump-branded warm-up tops, all made in China. Also available with the made in China tag: golf hats stamped with the Trump crest and Trump teddy bears.” http://abcn.ws/msfggB
NOTABLE: THE DONALD’S POLITICAL CHECKBOOK. “Republican presidential hopeful and Tea Party darling Donald Trump may be flirting with a run for President as a Republican, but he has not discriminated with his political donations in the past 15 years,” reports ABC’s Nick Gass. “An ABC News analysis of Trump’s various federal campaign contributions to political action committees, soft money and joint fundraising yielded very close results between Democratic and Republican donations. Between 1997 and 2011, Trump donated $280,100 to Republican candidates and related PACs and $270,200 to Democrats and Dem-backed PACs. Still, Trump donated more to Republicans than Democrats in soft money and joint fundraising. In soft money, Trump’s donations totaled $45,000 for Democrats and $86,000 for Republicans, while in joint fundraising, Democrats received $30,100 and Republicans got $43,850.” http://abcn.ws/jdTtY9
INSIDE PANETTA'S MOVE TO THE PENTAGON. “At 72, Leon Panetta will be the oldest man nominated as defense secretary. He has more experience in walnut farming than in military matters, though he did briefly serve in the Army — almost a half-century ago,” the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock writes. “But what Panetta would bring with him to the Pentagon are two critical skill sets: how to play power politics in Washington, and how to manage enormous sums of taxpayer money. ‘What I bring is a broad range of experiences to this job,’ he said. ‘I know Washington. I think I know how it works. I think I also know why it fails to work.’ Panetta made that statement in February 2009, after President Obama picked him for a different job in which he had very little experience: as director of the CIA. At first, senators and spies alike expressed skepticism that an outsider with scant background in intelligence could survive at the shadowy bureaucracy. During his stint at Langley, however, Panetta has largely swayed his critics by restoring calm to an agency still recovering from allegations that it tortured terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.” http://wapo.st/laHLsi
WHITE HOUSE WATCH. A packed day at the White House for President Obama. ABC’s Sunlen Miller has the details: The president will convene a meeting on the situation in Libya this morning, and afterwards he will meet privately and one-on-one with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office. Later in the day in the Rose Garden he will announce a shuffling of his national security team: CIA director Leon Panetta will be nominated to be Secretary of Defense; International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Commander Gen. David Petreaus will be nominated to be CIA director; Marine General John Allen will be nominated to replace Petraeus at ISAF in Kabul, Afghanistan; and former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker will be nominated to be US Ambassador to Afghanistan. Later in the afternoon, the President will meet behind-closed-doors with a group of “influential Hispanics” from across the country in the Roosevelt Room about immigration reform. Afterwards President Obama will meet for the first time with Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli in the Oval Office and then the two leaders will deliver statements to the press.
NOTED: HUNTSMAN'S SON HEADS TO THE NAVAL ACADEMY. As U.S. Ambassador to China John Huntsman prepares to return stateside in advance of a likely White House bid, his son, Will, will be making a move of his own. “Will Huntsman, son of Mary Kaye and Jon Huntsman, Jr., will attend the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and will have the opportunity to play football for the Midshipmen,” according to a note posted on the website of Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. “Huntsman signed his letter of intent in February in a most unusual place, the Marine House attached to the United States Embassy in Beijing, China. ‘I chose the Naval Academy because service to country means a lot to me, especially in uncertain times,’ said Huntsman. ‘I want to be a part of something bigger and make my own path. Being able to play football there is just a bonus because it is not a school that someone goes to just to play a sport or have a great social experience. It has been my goal all along.’” http://bit.ly/kjo2eb
@viser: Rand Paul, in Concord, NH: I want to see the original long form certificate…of Donald Trump’s Republican
- Rick Santorum will deliver a foreign policy speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
The Note Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV
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