By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
After months of speculation that Sarah Palin had all but taken herself out of contention for the Republican presidential nomination, she firmly re-inserted herself into the 2012 narrative yesterday.
With the news that the former Alaska governor is opening a multi-city bus tour of the northeast in Washington, DC this weekend, everyone’s wondering will she or won’t she ultimately jump into the race. As ABC’s Jonathan Karl reported on “Good Morning America” today, a source close to Palin said that Palin’s tour does not mean she’s about to launch a campaign — at least not yet.
WHY SHE MAY BE RUNNING. The signs are all there. In addition to the bus extravaganza, she’s purchased a new $1.7 million home in Arizona — a much more convenient base of operations for a potential national campaign than Alaska.
A glowing documentary, “The Undefeated,” about her record as governor is soon to be released, premiering in Iowa and other early nominating states. She’s reportedly seen it and loved it.
And she’s been reshuffling her staff, another sign that she may be gearing up for a bid. Several months ago she hired a chief of staff in an effort to coordinate and professionalize her far-flung political organization.
She also likely sees an opening. With little enthusiasm among GOP primary voters for the current crop of candidates, Palin could easily swoop in and make waves, commanding tremendous media attention. (Anyone remember that Rick Santorum announced yesterday — just before news of Palin’s bus tour broke — that he was planning an official campaign kick-off in Pennsylvania next month? Anyone?)
WHY SHE MIGHT NOT BE RUNNING. ABC’s John Berman noted recently that while Palin’s team has been laying the foundation she would need should she decide to run, she still hasn’t started building any ground game in key early primary states. Screening a movie in Iowa is one thing, but actually mounting a serious campaign effort is quite another.
The situation is much the same in other important states like South Carolina. A strategist there told the Washington Post, “There has been zero outreach, zero effort.”
Although she has taken steps to streamline her political organization, her staff is said to have no real sense of what she will do. She makes almost all key decisions alone or with her one chief adviser — her husband, Todd. That may have worked for her thus far, but it’s going to be impossible if she really wants to run for president.
As Karl noted on “Good Morning America” this morning, running would be a costly decision for her too. It’s much the same calculation that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee made before he decided not to jump into the race. Palin would be leaving even more cash on the table — she’d be abandoning a lucrative career of books, six-figure speeches and a contract with Fox News. (Fox, by the way, said yesterday that the network was “not changing Sarah Palin’s status” even as she begins her bus tour).
She’s got universal name recognition, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into support. A recent CNN-WMUR survey conducted by the University of New Hampshire found her polling at 5 percent in the Granite State. And a new Gallup poll shows that among Republican voters, only former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has higher negatives.
Republican insiders are betting against a run, according to the Washington Examiner’s chief political correspondent, Byron York. “Has she contacted one major donor across the country about putting together an organization? Has she talked to one member of the Republican National Committee about working for a campaign, or one governor, or one former governor about working for a campaign? The answer is no,” one close adviser to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told York. http://bit.ly/mbxDd2
And while there may be a great deal of angst in Republican circles about the GOP presidential field, there is at least one possibly viable alternative to Palin: Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Should Bachmann enter the race — and she sure looks like she’s in — the two conservative women would be competing for many of the same voters.
“I think there is less room for Sarah Palin with Michele Bachmann taking off like she has. She is the full package that a lot of folks are looking for,” Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council told CNN.
BOTTOM LINE: Although the White House loves the idea of a really messy Republican presidential primary, they may not get it.
ENTER BACHMANN. “Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., will announce her plans for a presidential campaign next month in Waterloo, Iowa, the town where she was born, she told reporters last night,” ABC’s Russell Goldman reports. “Bachmann was scheduled to speak at a GOP dinner tonight in Des Moines, but chose to remain in Washington to vote on anti-terror legislation. She spoke to the reporters gathered in Iowa via speaker phone and delivered a video message to the dinner attendees. Reportedly, Bachmann said she could still decide not to run in 2012 but was confident about making a go of it. For weeks, Bachmann, a tea party favorite, has said she would announce her decision in June. She did not indicate on what day next month she will visit Waterloo.”
AND ROMNEY. “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will make his presidential aspirations formal on Thursday, June 2. A source close to the campaign says Romney will make the announcement at a BBQ at the Bittersweet Farm in Stratham, New Hampshire at noon,” ABC’s Emily Friedman notes.
WHO WANTS THE JOB ANYWAY? “Republicans who flirted with running for president in 2012 — and decided not to try — showed little appetite for the relentless demands and punishing grind of a campaign. Their candid characterizations now make one wonder who would,” writes ABC’s Devin Dwyer. “Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who ran an insurgent campaign in 2008 and had led in many 2012 pre-primary polls, said he wasn’t ready to be pushed ‘to the limit of his…human capacity.’ Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who lamented he couldn’t resolve family ‘considerations,’ said a campaign is “not a mountain you jump off of by yourself.’ …. So what type of person takes the presidential plunge anyway? Someone with an insatiable hunger for the “number one job in the world,” Richard Ben Cramer, author of ‘What It Takes: The Way to the White House,’ said. … Research shows presidential candidates also share an above-average desire for power. ‘They like the idea of exerting influence both on reality itself and other individuals,’ said Chris Federico, director of the Center for Political Psychology at the University of Minnesota. They have a ‘need for achievement, a need to achieve excellence in some realm,’ he said. “And some are after affiliation, to have connections with other people.’” http://abcn.ws/mO8oF4
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl sit down with Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. As well as Politico’s Congressional bureau chief, Marty Kady. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
LAST-MINUTE DEBT DEAL IN THE WORKS? “Representative James Clyburn, the assistant Democratic leader in the U.S. House, said the ‘odds are very, very good’ that negotiators will agree on a $3 trillion to $6 trillion package of spending cuts and tax increases in time to raise the U.S. debt limit before an Aug. 2 deadline,” Bloomberg’s James Rowley reports. “Any agreement with Republicans ‘absolutely’ must include provisions to raise more revenue, even if it also cuts corporate tax rates, said the South Carolina lawmaker, who holds the third-ranking position in the House Democratic leadership and is part of a bipartisan negotiating group of Senate and House members led by Vice President Joe Biden. ‘We cannot get an agreement without revenues’ being raised, and absent that I don’t think we can get to what our goals are,’ Clyburn said on Bloomberg Television’s ‘Political Capital with Al Hunt,’ airing this weekend. Democrats will resist any Republican plan to reduce Medicare benefits for future recipients, he said. ‘We are not going to reduce benefits at all’ because Medicare is “a very important part of the safety net’ in American society, Clyburn said. His comments underscore the difficulty negotiators face in reaching an agreement, as Republicans insist on no tax increases and demand significant cuts in spending, including a readjustment of entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.” http://bloom.bg/mJACZz
GINGRICH TAKES THE ‘COMEBACK KID’ APPROACH. In Washington, pundits and campaign watchers can’t stop talking about Newt Gingrich’s pricey purchases at the luxury jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co., which granted him and his wife up to $500,000 in no-interest credit two years in a row. But here in this seacoast town on Thursday morning, a group of Republican women had a different question for the presidential candidate: If anyone brings up the Tiffany issue, can we boo them?” the Washington Post’s Nia-Malika Henderson writes. “As it turns out, they never got their chance. During the former House speaker’s two-day campaign swing through New Hampshire, the roughly 600 people who came to see him were largely uninterested in his jewelry-buying habits. Nor did they ask about his criticism — since retracted — of a GOP plan to replace Medicare insurance with vouchers. Instead, the crowds heard Gingrich declare at nearly every stop that his campaign is alive and well, casting himself as a ‘comeback kid’ — a moniker once widely applied to his old nemesis Bill Clinton. ‘Look what happened to me over the last 10 days: We had every Washington analyst, except one, explain that my campaign was dead,’ he said at one stop. ‘I just relaxed. They were in a feeding frenzy, they had to get it out of their system, and I knew they would eventually calm down. The trick is, we need to stay focused on talking about what matters for America.’” http://wapo.st/mJyERW
PAWLENTY DENOUNCES STIMULUS. “Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty today denounced the federal stimulus program, even though under his leadership his state benefited from billions of dollars of the federal aid,” The Boston Globe’s Shira Schoenberg reports. “During his first trip New Hampshire as an official candidate for president, the Republican also said for the first time that he could support Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program. Pawlenty said he would publish his own plan with some differences, but, he said, ‘If that was the only bill that came to my desk and I wasn’t able to pass my own plan, I would sign it.’ … Asked about the stimulus, Pawlenty acknowledged that many governments and businesses used the money. ‘The real question is did it work,’ Pawlenty said. ‘We had an economy that has not recovered substantially. We’ve got people who are experiencing unbearable levels of unemployment.’ … Pawlenty, like other Republican candidates, has often derided the stimulus — a $787 billion package of federal grants, benefits and tax breaks signed by President Obama in 2009. Pawlenty has called it ‘reckless,’ ‘rresponsible,’ and ineffective at creating new private sector jobs. But he has also used the money.” http://bit.ly/kspz6T
FEC COMMISSIONER BLASTS ENFORCEMENT MUSCLE. “New statistics show that the Federal Election Commission has become “less aggressive” at enforcing the nation’s campaign finance laws than it was a few years ago, the most senior member of the agency said Thursday,” Roll Call’s Alex Knott notes. “Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub’s criticism came minutes before FEC members passed a new policy on exculpatory evidence, which she said could further hamper FEC investigations. ‘The notion that we are a fierce investigative agency that people are quaking in their boots about is probably not the case. If it ever was the case, it certainly is not today,’ she said during the FEC’s meeting Thursday. … From fiscal 2006 to 2010, the average fine levied against campaigns, parties and political action committees for violating campaign finance law dropped from $180,000 to $42,000, Weintraub said. Similarly, the number of conciliation agreements, deals on penalties hammered out between the FEC and those under investigation, fell from 91 in fiscal 2007 to 29 in fiscal 2010, which Weintraub called a ‘pretty sharp drop.’” http://bit.ly/iWrqJS
@apparrish: On the road today making stops in Iowa with Rep. Bachmann. Will be a great day!
@RealClearScott: Palin candidacy could be good for Romney…unless, you know, she BEATS Romney.
* Mitt Romney will make his first stop of the year in Des Moines, Iowa. The trip will include a meeting with employees at AgVision Agriculture Software, a speech at the State Historical Center which will be moderated by the Franklin Center, a national nonprofit journalism organization, and a picnic at the Hughes Farm, hosted by the Johnson and Linn County GOP, in Cedar Rapids.
* Newt Gingrich will deliver remarks to the Five Points Rotary Club in Columbia, SC.
* Michele Bachmann attends an event in Davenport, Iowa.
* Rick Santorum will host a panel “The Role of Churches in Promoting Democracy in Latin America” in Washington, DC.
The Note Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV
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