By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
When former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney formally unveiled his presidential exploratory committee in a video message yesterday, he did so without once mentioning the issue that could potentially make or break his campaign: health care reform.
In a more than two-and-a-half minute clip, Romney stuck with a jobs-and-economy theme, touting his achievements in politics and business and warning that “America has been put on a dangerous course by Washington politicians." http://abcn.ws/dY0jmj
But it escaped no one’s notice that five years ago today, Romney signed into law a Massachusetts health care reform measure that bears striking similarities to the national law President Obama backed last year.
The irony certainly hasn’t been lost on Obama or his political team either. The president has been heaping praise on Romney lately for passing the Massachusetts bill, and yesterday after his exploratory committee announcement, the Democratic National Committee sent a flurry of emails highlighting the timing.
“If I was getting dogged with this story, I'd seek a distraction too,” DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse wrote in one of the missives, “like maybe announcing a Presidential Exploratory Committee, perhaps.”
The DNC’s Woodhouse included a photograph of Romney signing the Massachusetts health care law with former Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy squarely in the shot along with no fewer than two dozen news clippings pointing out how Democrats were mocking the five-year anniversary of what they like to refer to as “Romneycare.” (Twitter critics even created a special hashtag “thanking” Romney for the health care law: #TYMitt)
A source close to Romney said the timing of his announcement proves “he is ready to talk about it” and “draw contrasts on present and future.” Another Romney adviser simply said: “In our view, any day is a good day to talk about jobs and the economy."
BOTTOM LINE: It’s already clear Romney, who has already been accorded “front-runner” status in the Republican field, will be taking heat from all sides for the law he signed five years ago. And there's little doubt that Romney's health care plan is going to be a liability in the GOP primary.
But is “Romneycare” going to be the equivalent of Hillary Clinton’s Iraq vote, which ultimately undermined her ability to connect with the base as a true "change" agent? Or will it be more like Sen. McCain's immigration stance, an issue that most thought would kill him among social conservatives especially in places like South Carolina, but ended up being a non-issue in the end?
NOTABLE: ROMNEY HITS THE FUNDRAISING CIRCUIT. “[Romney] will spend the next six weeks crisscrossing the country, primarily in a drive to raise enough money to separate himself from the other potential 2012 Republican candidates,” Roll Call’s David Drucker notes. “Romney is scheduled to hold a fundraiser at New York’s Harbor Club on Tuesday. Wednesday includes a national conference call with key campaign donors and bundlers to discuss strategy and fundraising goals for the exploratory phase of what is expected to be Romney’s second run for president. And he plans to hold a national fundraising call day on May 16 in Las Vegas; a similar event held in Boston in 2007 raised more than $6 million. Romney’s itinerary is also likely to be heavy on visits to states with significant GOP donor communities — including California, Florida and Texas — with an additional emphasis on appearances in the early primary states.” http://bit.ly/f9Y2Fs
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS. “Lost in all the excitement last Friday over lawmakers reaching a deal to avert a government shutdown was one major detail: no one knows precisely what's in the budget deal yet,” ABC’s Matthew Jaffe and John R. Parkinson report today. “The top leaders on both sides of the aisle said they had agreed on $38.5 billion in spending cuts for the remaining six months of the fiscal year and also reached accord on a number of policy matters, like keeping federal funding for Planned Parenthood, but restricting the local government of Washington, D.C., from funding abortions itself. That agreement between federal lawmakers led Washington mayor Vincent Gray and five city council members to protest. They were arrested — albeit symbolically — by Capitol Police Monday.”
“Republicans succeeded in inserting certain provisions, such as a ban spending money to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States, and a ban on taxpayer funding for abortion in Washington. The GOP also won $1.5 billion in cuts to President Obama's planned national high-speed rail project. Just as important as what's being cut from the budget is what is not cut in the end. While $450 million of federal funding for an extra engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter plane was cut in H.R. 1” http://abcn.ws/e7Swgc
And Politico’s David Rogers’ reporting suggests that many Republicans, especially Tea Party types, aren't going be happy with what they got from budget deal. “Republicans are still confident they can minimize their losses and win House passage without embarrassment to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). But beyond numbers, policy riders were an active part of the final negotiations between House and Senate Appropriations Committees,” Rogers writes. “No less than House Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) mounted a last-ditch — and unsuccessful –campaign to overturn surface mining stream protection rules opposed by the coal industry.” http://politi.co/hHkQMa The question now is if a vote on Ryan plan later this week will be enough to placate them.
DEBT CEILING DEBATE: A TALE OF TWO OBAMAS. ABC’s Jake Tapper takes a closer look at Obama’s evolving position on whether or not to raise the debt ceiling circa 2006 and, then, today:
“In March 2006, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., found the notion of raising the debt ceiling quite distasteful. ‘The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure,’ he said. ‘It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.’ He did. It passed narrowly — by a vote of 52-48. … On Sunday, senior White House adviser David Plouffe [said:] ‘He believes that vote was a mistake,’ Plouffe told ‘Fox News Sunday.’ And yesterday White House press secretary Jay Carney said that ‘the president, as David Plouffe said Sunday, regrets that vote and thinks it was a mistake. He realizes now that raising the debt ceiling is so important to the health of this economy and the global economy that it is not a vote that, even when you are protesting an administration's policies, you can play around with, and you need to take very seriously the need to raise the debt limit so that the full faith and credit of the United States government is maintained around the globe.’” http://abcn.ws/frRaCb
As the fight over the national debt ceiling takes center stage, ABC’s Huma Khan explores what the debate means to you: http://abcn.ws/hJssIa
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl welcome Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, a freshman Republican congressman. Also on the show, Karen Tumulty from the Washington Post. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
“TOP LINE” REPLAY: DAVID CICILLINE. The Rhode Island Democratic congressman expressed concern that the $38.5 billion in cuts included in last week's deal follows the broad outline of the budget priorities endorsed by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “We obviously have to look at what's in that proposal. But if it reflects the same kinds of priorities that are in the Ryan budget, which is the Republican budget, then I won't support it,” Cicilline told "Top Line" yesterday. On Medicare and Medicaid: “We invested a lot in the development of that legislation, and it’s going to produce a lot of savings,” Cicilline said. “I think that's the first step, but certainly guaranteeing that our seniors have access to quality health care has to remain a priority in our budget. And I'm going to fight to make sure that's a priority in the budget the Republicans pass." http://abcn.ws/dIzs9s
BRADY CAMPAIGN INVOKES TUSCON SHOOTING. ABC’s Amy Bingham reports: The Brady Campaign, an advocacy group for stricter gun laws, will release a 30-second television ad today urging the President and Congress to ban assault clips. The group is teaming up with the Kelly O’Brien, the fiancée of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ Congressional staffer, Gabe Zimmerman, who was killed in January’s shooting rampage in Tucson. O’Brien will be on Capitol Hill today to pledge support for legislation to ban assault clips like the one Tucson gunman Jared Lee Loughner used to kill six and injure 13. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-NY. You can see the ad here: http://bit.ly/ew8ioD
GOV. WALKER GOES TO WASHINGTON. “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is coming to Washington to testify on a topic that brought him to national prominence: state debt,” The Wall Street Journal’s Scott L. Greenberg notes. “House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) said in a statement that Mr. Walker will appear before his committee Thursday to testify at a hearing entitled, “State and Municipal Debt: Tough Choices Ahead.” Other witnesses include Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute, and Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. … Mr. Walker’s testimony follows a fierce battle earlier this year over a bill he pushed to curb unionized public workers’ ability to organize and bargain collectively. The bill became law but has been suspended while legal challenges make their way through the courts, possibly ending up at the state Supreme Court where another battle is under way to elect a Supreme Court judge.” http://on.wsj.com/f0FSWp
WILL GOP VIOLATE ITS OWN TRANSPARENCY OATH ON BUDGET? “The eleventh-hour budget deal struck late last week poses a challenge for the promises that House Republicans made to increase transparency,” The Hill’s Russell Berman reports. “Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has scheduled a vote on the final spending bill for Wednesday, but that timetable was in doubt Tuesday morning. Congressional appropriators had been scrambling to finish writing the bill and post it by midnight Monday, which would have allowed Republicans to hold a Wednesday vote while adhering to their requirement that lawmakers have at least three calendar days to read legislation that comes to the floor. Because the legislation was not introduced until nearly 2 a.m. Tuesday, Republicans would have to waive the ‘three-day rule’ or find a way around it.” http://bit.ly/hamhog
PAWLENTY’S CAMPAIGN MANGER CALLS TPAW A ‘GOOD INVESTMENT.’ The National Review has an interview with new Tim Pawlenty presidential campaign manager Nick Ayers, the 28-year-old former executive director of the Republican Governors Associartion. “My view on Governor Pawlenty is that he is like a good investment or a good start-up company,” Ayers said. “The time to invest is when the price is low. My theory was, invest low, win high. I don’t believe that there is a better investment in Republican politics right now.” http://bit.ly/eOadL1
BACHMANN WOULD BE A ONE-TERM PRESIDENT. “If Republican Michele Bachmann decides to make a run for the presidency, she said it will be without any thoughts of a second term,” writes Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register. “’I’m a principled reformer, and my goal is to see the country turn around,’ she said. ‘I’m also committed to being a one-term president if that’s what it takes in order to turn things around, because this is not about a personal ambition.’ She said she intends to return many times to Iowa. Bachmann beat presumed national front-runner Mitt Romney of Massachusetts in fundraising last quarter.” http://bit.ly/gnufeY
OBAMA’S SISTER REJECTS TRUMP ‘BIRTHER’ TALK. “I think it’s unfortunate,” President Obama’s half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng said in an interview with CNN. “He was born in Hawaii. There is a tremendous amount of proof that has already been presented. I think that it is time for people put that to bed, to rest completely.” http://abcn.ws/idEvKW
HUCKABEE MET WITH TRUMP; ‘EVERY INDICATION’ DONALD WILL RUN. In an interview set to air next week on SiriusXM Radio’s “Here’s Barbara” show, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee tells Barbara Walters that he has “every indication” that Donald Trump is “definitely going to run” for President in 2012. “I met with him a few weeks ago in New York and I got every indication that he is definitely going to run.” Huckabee told Walters, “we just had a very honest and open conversation about the process of running…it was kind of like two dogs sniffing around a fire hydrant together.” The full interview will air Monday, April 25 at 6:00 pm ET on SiriusXM Radio.
* Herman Cain will be in Jefferson City, Missouri to deliver a keynote address at the Citizens United for Missouri Rally. He will then travel to Fargo, North Dakota to speak at Third Annual Securing the American Dream Dinner
* Rudy Giuliani will speak at the Town Hall in Naples, Florida as a part of their Distinguished Speakers Series. He is expected to talk about how he dealt with the September 11, 2001 attacks as mayor of New York City.
* Newt and Callista Gingrich will host a screening of "Nine Days that Changed the World," a William Waldo Cameron Forum on Public Affairs in College Station, Texas. The film explores Pope John Paul II's nine-day pilgrimage to Poland in June 1979.
The Note Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV
* Get The Note delivered to your inbox every day.