By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
A week that began with a huge win for the Obama administration — the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden — ends today with mixed news for the president: a jobs picture that while improving, came with an accompanying increase in the nation's unemployment rate.
The government’s monthly jobs report showed that the U.S. economy added 244,000 jobs during the month of April, beating economists’ expectations. The private sector saw 268,000 new jobs — the best monthly jobs growth from the private employers since February 2006, according to the ABC News Business Unit.
But, the picture is not all rosy: Today’s report also showed the unemployment rate rose from 8.8 percent to 9.0 percent.
The pace of growth and the rise in the unemployment rate is exactly the kind of news that members of the potential field of 2012 Republican presidential candidates will be ready to pounce on during a week that saw otherwise glowing headlines and photo-ops for President Obama.
“The economy — if it’s improving at all — is only doing so very slowly and not by big margins,” former Minnesota governor and likely presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” today. http://abcn.ws/iFOFQ7
Pawlenty accused the president of letting federal spending get “out of control” and failing to solve the nation’s health care crisis. “The list goes on and on. He made all these promises and he broke most of them," he said.
The Minnesota Republican was the biggest name potential candidate on hand for the first debate of the presidential primary season last night in South Carolina. Other possible contenders like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, took a pass. Despite the best efforts of the Fox News moderators to try and create some sparks, the candidates stayed away from attacking each other — or even those who weren’t on stage. http://abcn.ws/mLNfo2
Was Pawlenty worried about Mike Huckabee (also not in attendance last night) beating him in Iowa, asked a moderator? “I love the Huck,” was Pawlenty’s reply.
The hosts tried to get former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a well-known social conservative, to tee off on Gingrich’s messy personal life, but Santorum didn’t take the bait. “Just because you fall short doesn’t mean you can’t stand up and say this is the right way,” Santorum replied.
Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain emerged as a crowd favorite, winning an informal Fox News focus group conducted by GOP pollster Frank Luntz after the debate
While some thought that Pawlenty would be diminished by his appearance on stage with some of the more fringe elements in the party (Rep. Ron Paul and former New Mexico Gov. Johnson, for example, both explained their support for legalizing drugs), he was able to stay above the fray and on message.
The debate was also notable for how little time was spent on jobs and the economy — the issues that are most likely to drive the outcome of the election in November 2012 and the ones that GOP primary voters are focused on.
A new Gallup poll (taken before the death of bin Laden) finds that 36 percent of Republicans say “business and the economy are the most important political issues to them” — an increase in four percentage points from March. http://bit.ly/ks4jhs
“Fewer Republicans choose either social issues and moral values or national security and foreign policy as their top political priorities,” according to Gallup.
NOTED: SPEAKER BOEHNER ON 2012 FIELD ‘MORE TIME FOR PEOPLE TO GET IN.’ “House Speaker John Boehner, the highest-ranking Republican in the country, decided not to watch Thursday night's debate among Republican presidential contenders, the first debate of the 2012 presidential cycle,” reports CBS News’ Brian Montopoli and Christine Delargy. The reporters spotted Boehner at a Washington, DC steakhouse “enjoying a bottle of Cabernet – and a couple of cigarettes. Speaking of the debate, Boehner told Hotsheet that he will ‘read about it tomorrow.’ ‘There's more time for people to get in,’ he added.” http://bit.ly/jVhbky
‘SUBWAY SERIES’: SEN. CARL LEVIN: PAKISTAN ‘KNEW’ WHERE BIN LADEN WAS HIDING. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, tells ABC News he is "deeply disturbed" about U.S. aid to Pakistan and has launched an informal investigation into whether high levels of the Pakistani government knew Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. "We need these questions about whether or not the top level of the Pakistan government knew or was told by the ISI, their intelligence service, about anything about this suspicious activity for 5 years in a very, very centralized place," Levin said in an interview for the ABC News "Subway Series with Jonathan Karl." Levin, for one, believes high levels of the Pakistani government had to know where Bin Laden was. "I think at high levels, high levels being the intelligence service, at high levels they knew it," Levin said. "I can't prove it. I just think it's counterintuitive not to." http://abcn.ws/mAPckk
BIN LADEN POST MORTEM: MORE DETAILS ON DNA TESTS COMING. ABC’s Jake Tapper reports that “the public will learn more today about the way officials identified that the corpse of Osama bin Laden, as well as other information gleaned from the trove of date taken from the compound. After Navy SEALs took photographs of bin Laden, CIA officials used facial recognition analysis to confirm that the man SEALs shot was in fact bin Laden. DNA samples matched those of bin Laden's relatives with 99.9 percent certainty. … The government will also release more information from the computers seized in the raid on bin Laden's compound. Yesterday ABC News reported on evidence of discussions about targeting US rail lines and a possible attack marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11. … President Obama travels to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, today, where he will meet with members of the Navy SEALs and Army helicopter unit that took part in the bin Laden operation.” http://abcn.ws/ihbd05
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf and Devin Dwyer welcome Garrett Graff, the editor of Washingtonian Magazine and the author of a new book called “The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global Terror” (http://amzn.to/eEhgyl). Today’s “Top Line” will also feature Jonathan Karl’s interview with U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (preview above). Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
WILL BIN LADEN'S DEATH CHANGE AFGHNANISTAN TIMELINE? “On Capitol Hill, the death of Osama bin Laden has triggered renewed calls from legislators in both parties for the United States to speed up its withdrawal from Afghanistan. But it does not seem to have removed the two political obstacles that have kept these same lawmakers from putting real pressure on the White House in the past,” The Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold and Paul Kane report. “They still lack the support of either party’s leadership. And they still do not have an urgent piece of legislation — a bill central to the war effort — to force a distracted Congress to focus on Afghanistan. ‘We’re inept. We are inept and irrelevant,’ Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said about Congress. Chaffetz said bin Laden’s death should force a reevaluation of the war, because the terrorist leader was found not by the 100,000 ground troops in Afghanistan but by a small contingent of Special Operations forces — and in Pakistan. … In the past week, the lawmakers urging a speedy withdrawal have come from both parties, some of them high-ranking voices on foreign policy. … But many of these legislators have said similar things in the past. Back then, they didn’t have what lawmakers call a ‘legislative vehicle’ — a bill or a budget measure that would let them seize Capitol Hill’s spotlight and focus it on Afghanistan. And they still don’t.” http://wapo.st/jusqLN
DEBT CEILING DEADLINE LOOMS. “With the debt ceiling deadline looming over Congress, Democrats and Republicans appear to be inching closer together to a plan that would keep the country from spiraling into default,” ABC’s Huma Khan notes. Both sides are expressing optimism that they can come together on a budget compromise that would reduce the country's deficit — expected to reach $1.6 trillion this year — and help earn the support of conservative lawmakers who say the debt ceiling should not be raised without spending cuts. Lawmakers say they are looking for common ground in the 2012 budget proposals submitted by President Obama and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the chairman of the House Budget Committee. But the two sides remain divided on key issues such as how to tackle entitlement reforms. And with the budget issue taking center stage in the coming weeks, the heated rhetoric is likely to get more so.” http://abcn.ws/kMuvGw
GOP BACKING AWAY FROM MEDICARE OVERHAUL? House Republicans signaled Thursday that they were backing away from the centerpiece of their budget plan — a proposal to overhaul Medicare – in a decision that underscored both the difficulties and political perils of addressing the nation’s long-term fiscal problems,” The New York Times’ Carl Hulse writes. “While top Republicans insisted that they remained committed to the Medicare initiative, which had become the target of intense attacks by Democrats and liberal groups in recent weeks, the lawmaker who would have to turn the proposal into legislation said he had no plans to do so any time soon. The lawmaker, Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said that while he still supports the party’s Medicare approach, opposition from Democrats made it pointless to proceed. ‘I’m not interested in talking about whether the House is going to pass a bill that the Senate shows no interest in,’ Mr. Camp said in an appearance at the National Press Club. ‘I’m not interested in laying down more markers. I am interested in solutions.’” http://nyti.ms/lf3eHN
The Note’s Take: For House Republicans the changing tune on Medicare is akin to getting thrown under the bus — think of it as the GOP’s version of cap-and-trade. But White House hopefuls have to love this idea. Yes House Republicans are stuck with this vote, but they get a chance to get out from under the weight of Ryan budget.
HUNTSMAN GETS (MOSTLY) HIGH MARKS ON THE HILL. “While Jon Huntsman's service in the Obama administration could pose a major challenge to his possible presidential campaign, Republicans on Capitol Hill say it's not a fatal blow to his candidacy. Some Republicans said Huntsman's time as ambassador to China could even be an asset in his possible bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Others say his service is hardly the nonstarter with GOP primary voters many political observers have presumed,” The Hill’s Michael O’Brien reports. “Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) said Huntsman would ‘absolutely’ make for an acceptable Republican nominee. … ‘I think that that helps him, in my view,’ said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a survivor of a conservative primary challenge last year, of Huntsman's service. ‘But you have to understand that there are other Republicans that look at that and say, 'Hey, he was an ambassador in the Obama administration.’ Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who served as Huntsman's chief of staff before running for Congress, said he expects his former boss to run, and if he does, Chaffetz said, Huntsman will ‘play to win.’” http://bit.ly/jieHu
DANIELS’ ANNOUNCEMENT COMING WITHIN WEEKS. “Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels said he would announce within weeks whether he will seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination ‘I know I owe a lot of people an answer,’ he said on Bloomberg Television’s ‘Political Capital with Al Hunt,’ airing this weekend. Daniels, 62, described his family as apprehensive about the prospect of a national campaign. Their concerns, he said, are “a very, very important factor” in his decision. ‘I may be up for bungee-jumping, but this is one where you have to strap on some other people,’ he said. The two-term governor and former budget director for President George W. Bush said he would be ready to debate President Barack Obama on foreign policy, if he were to run. ‘I would spend a lot of time very promptly and be ready in plenty of time’ to discuss that topic, he said. ‘There’s no need for me to shoot my mouth off until I’m pretty confident I know what I think.’” http://bloom.bg/jMZ89F
@BreakingNews: Al-Qaida has confirmed Osama bin Laden's death in an Internet statement, AP and Reuters report
@LCGpolling: Obama had good week but when voters turn attn back to economy his approval is likely to fall back to pre-Bin Laden level within 2 weeks.
@ezraklein: Putting aside Census months, I think this is the best month of job growth we've had since the crash.
* On Saturday former U.S. Ambassador to China and potential presidential candidate Jon Huntsman will be the commencement speaker at the University of South Carolina.
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