By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
For the last 48-hours, the biggest mystery in political circles was where Sarah Palin and her giant tour bus, draped in images of the American flag and the Constitution, were going next.
Washington, DC, Mount Vernon, Fort McHenry in Maryland. Today she starts in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and her next stops continue to be the subject of intense speculation.
“Many of the mainstream media are looking for kind of a conventional campaign type tour and I’ve said from that beginning that this isn’t a campaign tour except to campaign on our Constitution, our charters of liberty,” Palin told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren in an interview broadcast last night. “I don’t think I owe anything to the mainstream media … I want them to have to do a little bit of work on a tour like this.”
So, if Palin’s goal is to bypass traditional media, the bigger mystery may be why we keep scrambling to cover her like a traditional candidate.
The narrative of her trip is beginning to sound a lot like a grade school, “What I did on my summer vacation” routine. Palin’s getting asked mostly the same question about her 2012 presidential ambitions at each stop along the way, and giving mostly the same non-committal answer.
"I don’t know. I honestly don’t know,” she told reporters on Monday. “It’s still a matter of looking at the field and considering much. There truly is a lot to consider before you throw yourself out there in the name of service to the public because it’s so all-consuming.” http://nyti.ms/iTASVv
As we noted yesterday, there’s evidence that despite her ability to get non-stop, almost obsessive (just check your Twitter feed) attention from the press, she garners only a fraction of that interest from voters in her own party.
A recent Gallup survey found that while she has almost universal name recognition among Republican voters, her approval rating is just 48 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the nominal frontrunner in this still-fluid primary, has a 56 percent approval rating. As ABC’s Jonathan Karl noted on “Good Morning America” today, in that same survey “none of the above” comes in first as the choice of GOP voters — ahead of everyone in the field — including Palin herself. http://abcn.ws/lzm5Wc
Even so, Palin has already succeeded in doing two things this week: making herself the center of the story and poking the mainstream media in the eye.
Will she try to crash Romney's parade too and pull the bus into New Hampshire later this week? (Romney is expected to officially kick off his presidential campaign in the Granite State on Thursday.)
BOTTOM LINE: While we in the so-called mainstream media may be wringing our hands over how and why to cover someone who is actively dismissive, voters aren't having the same angst. As we noted, her approval rating is hovering below 50 percent, and those who say they do like her, don't feel that strongly about it. Instead, it's two dark horse candidates — former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain and Rep. Michele Bachmann who "generate the strongest positive reactions" according to Gallup.
BACHMANN ON PALIN: ‘I DON’T CONSIDER HER A COMPETITOR’. “It’s all systems go for Rep. Michele Bachmann. Her last daughter leaves the nest this week and she scheduled an announcement next month in Iowa,” writes ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who interviewed Bachmann on “Good Morning America” today. “We’ll be making it in the city where I was born, conveniently enough in Waterloo, Iowa. So I’m looking forward to that,” she said. And Sarah Palin’s not going to stop her either. The Minnesota Republican insisted there was enough room for two Tea Party favorites in the race. And she told Stephanopoulos she would have no problem running against the woman she considers a friend. “All I want to say that I like Sarah Palin a lot, we’re friends. And I don’t consider her a competitor, I consider her a friend. But my comparison ultimately is to Barack Obama,” Bachmann said. If she does make it to the White House, would President Bachmann sign the proposed GOP Medicare plan that Congresswoman Bachmann voted for? “I think some version of this bill because Paul is right, we have to sustain Medicare. We can’t let it just go away for senior citizens, and that’s exactly what he’s trying to do. I agree with what Paul is trying to do,” she said. http://abcn.ws/md4DGS
Watch George’s full interview with Bachmann: http://abcn.ws/lW4aeE
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter interview Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga. Also on the program, CQ-Roll Call’s political reporter, Shira Toeplitz. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
PAUL RYAN: TROUBLE ON THE HOMEFRONT. “Rob Zerban thinks he can knock off a Wisconsin giant next fall. And Democrats on Capitol Hill agree that this 42-year-old businessman, a former Republican with limited experience in county politics, could be their best shot at defeating House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R) in more than a decade,” Roll Call’s Steve Peoples reports. “‘Nobody had any illusions about how difficult the race would be,’ Zerban said late last week, reflecting on recruitment calls from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other groups that persuaded him to enter the race last month. ‘They said: ‘You have to realize it would take a lot of money and would be an uphill battle. But now it’s a good time to try.’ Indeed, as Ryan’s national profile balloons, his 2012 re-election campaign in Wisconsin’s 1st district could be growing more difficult. The seven-term Congressman is now the face of the GOP plan to transform Medicare, an issue largely blamed for an embarrassing Republican defeat in western New York’s special election last week. And recent polling suggests that Ryan’s popularity among independents and Democrats, a group he will need to hold his moderate district, is falling.” http://bit.ly/jh8Ow1
NOTED: RYAN FOR PRESIDENT? “Further evidence that this is the summer of Republicans' discontent: Just as one group of well-heeled Iowans jets east today in hopes of persuading New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to reconsider the 2012 GOP presidential race, another group of monied types is launching DraftRyanNow.com, an online petition — and, they hope, national movement — to coax House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., into the contest,” the National Journal’s Kathy Kiely reports. “The group is headed by Denison Smith, a northern Virginia-based communications investor, and Charles Kozak, a Nevada lawyer and GOP political activist who briefly sought his state's GOP Senate nomination last year before throwing his support to Sharron Angle. The group, which includes members from the early-voting states of Iowa and Florida, and has "top-flight" online communications skills to get the movement launched, Smith told National Journal.” http://bit.ly/iqvtJ7
THE 2012 BATTLE FOR NORTH CAROLINA. “By any number of indicators, President Obama shouldn’t have much of a chance in North Carolina next year. In no state was Obama’s 2008 win closer — he won by just 14,177 votes, or 0.3 percent of the electorate — and he’s less popular now. The economy, now Obama’s economy, is in worse shape. And voters here have turned against many Democrats, ousting a congressman and a slew of state lawmakers last fall. But if Republican activists are feeling confident, you wouldn’t know it by what they’re doing and saying,” The Washington Post’s Amy Gardner reports. “Republicans are poring over the details of how Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since Jimmy Carter. They are trying to pass laws in the legislature to restrict the early-voting system that Obama used to such remarkable effect. And Republicans are preaching to anyone who will listen that those who think Obama couldn’t possibly win here again had better wake up and get to work. ‘They turned out voters in record numbers last time, and we need to be ready,’ said Robin Hayes, chairman of the North Carolina GOP and a former congressman who was defeated in the 2008 wave that Obama led. ‘We expect them to be as good and probably better. We know they’ll have more money. And if you think that’s not the case, you’re making a foolish mistake.’ The dynamics in North Carolina that worry Republicans — a booming minority population, an influx of more moderate voters and a changing set of priorities — are on display across other parts of the South as well, notably in Virginia and Florida, where Obama also won in 2008.” http://wapo.st/lVRcex
NOTED: ECONOMISTS DOWNGRADE U.S. GROWTH OUTLOOK. “The world's largest economy may be facing a growth problem,” the Wall Street Journal’s Sara Murray and Jon Hilsenrath report. “After a disappointing first quarter, economists largely predicted the U.S. recovery would ramp back up as short-term disruptions such as higher gas prices, bad weather and supply problems in Japan subsided. But there's little indication that's happening. Manufacturing is cooling, the housing market is struggling and consumers are keeping a close eye on spending, meaning the U.S. economy might be on a slower path to full health than expected.” http://on.wsj.com/mRbYWD
REP. WEINER ON THE HOT SEAT. “For nine months, Representative Anthony D. Weiner has been tweaking others via Twitter, poking fun at Sarah Palin, John A. Boehner and especially Michele Bachmann as he offers his 46,000-plus followers an unusually candid window into the thoughts, activities and edgy humor of a politically ambitious congressman,” The New York Times’ Ashley Parker reports. “But over the weekend, Twitter trouble found Mr. Weiner in an unexpected way. A sexually suggestive photograph of a man from the waist down, in nothing but underwear, was sent from Mr. Weiner’s Twitter-related photo-sharing account to a woman in Seattle. Mr. Weiner dismissed the picture, saying his account had been hacked and writing on Saturday in a Twitter message (of course): ‘Tivo shot. FB hacked. Is my blender gonna attack me next?’ He told Politico, ‘The wiener gags never get old, I guess,’ and his office issued a statement on Sunday saying, ‘Anthony’s accounts were obviously hacked.’ Mr. Weiner’s spokesman, Dave Arnold, said on Monday, ‘We’ve retained counsel to explore the proper next steps and to advise us on what civil or criminal actions should be taken. This was a prank. We are loath to treat it as more, but we are relying on professional advice.’ The episode was quickly dubbed Weinergate, and proved a cautionary moment for Mr. Weiner, who has embraced Twitter as an outlet for his feisty, in-your-face and occasionally off-color personality.” http://nyti.ms/j44YHj
* Michele Bachmann holds events in New Hampshire.
* Tim Pawlenty campaigns in Iowa.
* Sarah Palin continues her East Coast bus tour, starting in Gettsyburg, Pa.
* Rick Santorum will spend the day in New Hampshire. In the morning he appears on Fox News, then he will meet with employees of Ruger Firearms in Newport, NH. In the afternoon he will visit with local elected officials and volunteers at the new Sullivan County Republican office. In the evening, he speaks at a New Hampshire Young Republican Fundraiser in Manchester, NH.
* Ron Paul is scheduled to hold a meet and greet at the Rose Bowl in Mason City, Iowa.
The Note Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV
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