The Note: After Sleepy Start, GOP Candidates Waking Up To 2012 Race

May 11, 2011 9:13am


After a botched roll out back in March, former Newt Gingrich  today plans to take to Twitter to officially announce that he is running for president, becoming the first major candidate to do so with a tweet.

But make no mistake, the former House Speaker won’t be limiting himself to 140 characters or less for very long. We’ll be hearing a lot more from him over the next week or so as he introduces himself to voters as a declared presidential candidate.

As ABC’s Jonathan Karl notes, Gingrich will be in Washington, DC Friday morning to deliver an economics speech, and that night, the former Georgia congressman will give his first real campaign speech in Atlanta. On Saturday, he’ll be in Illinois to give the commencement speech at Ronald Reagan’s alma mater, Eureka College.  And on Sunday, he will appear on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Gingrich will spend almost all of next week in Iowa where he has a dozen campaign events planned.

But Gingrich isn’t the only one making the early state rounds. Former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman has a multi-day trip to New Hampshire planned next week, the centerpiece of which will be a commencement speech to the graduates of Southern New Hampshire University on May 21.

Huntsman is staffing up and traveling the country — California, New York and Pennsylvania, among other stops — meeting with potential donors. He appeared last night in Florida.

“I never thought I'd be standing in somebody's living room with my Florida better half talking about these things,” he told a room full of Republicans, according to the St. Petersburg Times. “This is a surreal moment, I've got to tell you that. Normal people don't just wake up in the morning and say I think it'd be a good idea to run for president of the United States.”

And speaking of surreal moments, real estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump is making his second visit to the Granite State in less than a month today. He will again travel by private helicopter to deliver a sold-out speech to the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce. We’re told that time permitting he may swing by downtown Nashua to meet local residents and pop into local business much like he did last month in Portsmouth where police had to temporarily close down streets to make room for a throng of followers asking The Donald for autographs and photos.

When he returns to New York on Thursday, Trump will be meeting with a group of evangelical pastors from around the country.

Fellow New Yorker Rudy Giuliani is also still actively considering a presidential campaign. Tomorrow the former mayor will pay a visit to local New Hampshire “kingmaker” and former Senate candidate Ovide Lamontange’s home in Manchester and he’ll give a speech the next day in Nashua.

Yesterday reports surfaced that Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., might use a visit to Iowa later this month to officially enter the presidential race. Sources close to Bachmann tell The Note that it’s not likely she’ll do it there, but it’s also unlikely she’ll stay quiet for much longer.

And former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney plans to outline his approach to health care reform in Michigan tomorrow, announcing a proposal  to “repeal and replace” the law that Democrats enacted last year.

Looks like what has so far been a sleepy 2012 race is finally waking up.


THE NEWT FACTOR. Why choose Twitter for his presidential announcement? Turns out that Gingrich is the master of this domain with 1.3 million followers. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who announced his exploratory effort via Facebook has just 32,000. While former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who made a low key announcement of his interest in running via a web video, has 39,000.

Gingrich’s success in amassing an online following is no accident. He has spent more than a decade since leaving Congress building a network of political and non-profit organizations, stockpiling voter and donor contacts and raising money — more than $32 million over the last two years alone.

But is this Gingrich’s moment?

As our Jon Karl notes on “Good Morning America” today, Gingrich Newt's biggest problem may be baggage — political and personal. He's been through two divorces and hasn’t done himself many favors trying to explain away his marital infidelity.

The Associated Press notes today that “questions about his temperament still surface.” The AP’s Shannon McCaffrey writes, “Gingrich allies have privately urged him to tone down the bomb-throwing rhetoric, arguing he should strive to be seen as the adult in the room presenting the battle-tested big ideas rather than a conservative firebrand who flies off the handle.”

His strategy, reports Politico’s Jonathan Martin, “leave no state behind”: “Unlike some of his likely rivals, who are looking to downplay or even flat out skip some states on the primary calendar, Gingrich is headed down a different path, a more traditional route in which he competes aggressively all across the early-state map and among all blocs within the party.”

What Gingrich is not, however, is the fresh face that many in the Republican Party seem to be looking for this year.

DEMS WORRIED ABOUT HUNTSMAN. ABC’s Jake Tapper reports that “top Democrats in and outside the White House, speaking on background so they could be more candid, suggest that former US Ambassador to China and Utah Governor Jon Huntsman would be the GOP candidate President Obama would least like to face in 2012 — but they think he can't win the nomination. The very qualities that make Huntsman formidable in November 2012 — his centrism and bipartisanship — will work against him in Iowa and South Carolina, Democrats say. White House senior adviser David Plouffe was years ago quoted saying the notion of a Huntsman candidacy made him ‘queasy.’ Another possible tough contender would be Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, they say, while also envisioning ways that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty would mount tough campaigns. Many top Democrats say they anticipate Romney will be the nominee since Republican party has a history of giving the nomination to the next guy in line.”


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter welcome Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. Also on the program Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R- S.C. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.



HOW TO CUT TRILLIONS. “As budget talks beef up ahead of the quickly approaching debt ceiling deadline, both Republicans and Democrats are on the same page about the dollar figure of cuts, but remain wide apart — both politically and ideologically — on where those cuts should be centered,” ABC’s Huma Khan notes. “While it may sound big, the "trillions of dollars" in cuts would be spread over a decade, if not more. … Where the two sides differ — and what will ultimately impact Americans — is what should be put on the chopping block. About half of Obama's budget proposal entails spending cuts that would take away money from defense and some domestic programs, including community grants. The rest includes additional revenues from higher taxes on the wealthy, and fewer tax breaks for corporations. … Meanwhile, GOP members are looking at entitlement programs for savings. They are proposing a significant re-haul in Medicare and Medicaid that would ultimately impact the poor and the elderly — specifically those currently under the age of 55. A report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation Tuesday found that the block grant system that the GOP is proposing for Medicaid would eliminate coverage for between 31 and 44 million low-income Americans.”

ROMNEY KEEPS EYES ON THE MONEY. “Mitt Romney has been quietly, steadily focused primarily on one thing: raising money,” The Washington Post’s T.W. Farnam and Dan Eggen report. “The presumed Republican front-runner, who took a pass on the first party debate last Thursday, has spent his early weeks as an exploratory candidate soliciting pledges in hopes of amassing a war chest that would put him far ahead of his competitors, according to donors, advisers and others close to Romney’s team. And much of that effort has been targeted at wealthy banking and corporate executives on Wall Street. … Romney easily beats other candidates, including Obama, in the proportion of money raised from the financial and banking industry, according to a Washington Post analysis of contribution data. During the 2010 cycle, $4 of every $10 in itemized donations to Romney’s main political action committee came from finance-related companies and their employees, for a total of $1.8 million, the data show. The list of donors at Romney’s first presidential fundraiser, held April 12 at the Harvard Club of New York City, reads like a who’s who of the Wall Street elite, including Goldman Sachs bankers and in­dependent financiers.”

GOP UNVEILS SECOND INSTALLMENT OF ONLINE VOTER-ENGAGEMENT PROJECT.  “Republicans will unveil Wednesday YouCut, the sequel, their newly-improved crowd-sourced spending cuts program that allows Americans to vote online for which bloated bureaucracy ought to get the ax,” the Daily Caller’s Jonathan Strong reports. “Now, the stakes are real. The ‘winning’ government program each week will more than likely actually get a House vote to cut its funding, sending the proposal over to the Senate, where Republicans hope public participation will spur action there. ‘The biggest difference will be we’ll actually get a chance to get ‘em passed,’ freshman GOP Rep. Mick Mulvaney, one of three freshman hand-picked by Majority Leader Eric Cantor to coordinate the program, told The Daily Caller. Cantor is handing over YouCut to the freshmen, giving them a place to channel the Tea Party energy that swept Republicans into power. Highlighting government’s embarrassing excesses could also give the GOP political momentum at key moments in the more important debt ceiling and appropriations debates.”

AMERICAN CROSSROADS PLAYING IN NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL RACE. “A conservative group formed with help from the Republican strategist Karl Rove has jumped into a special Congressional election in upstate New York that has become important to the two major parties,” The New York Times’ Raymond Hernandez reports. “The group, American Crossroads, is beginning a $350,000 advertising campaign to support Jane L. Corwin, the Republican running for the vacant House seat representing New York’s 26th Congressional District. Ms. Corwin has lost ground in opinion polls in recent weeks as her Democratic opponent, Kathy Hochul, has sharply criticized a deficit-cutting plan adopted by House Republicans that calls for overhauling Medicare. … American Crossroads’ involvement reflects the campaign’s growing national prominence, with top Democrats trying to turn it into a referendum on the policies Republicans are championing in Washington. On Monday, the House speaker, John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, campaigned in the district for Ms. Corwin. American Crossroads, a so-called 527 political organization, has set a fund-raising goal of $120 million in preparation for the battle with Democrats in the 2012 elections.”

FORMER GENERAL RICARDO SANCHEZ ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY IN TEXAS. “Former Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who oversaw coalition forces in Iraq before retiring in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, is running for Senate in Texas as a Democrat,” the AP reports. “Sanchez, 59, was raised in Rio Grande Valley and lives in San Antonio. He is the only Democrat to declare for the race to replace outgoing Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. National Democrats worked to recruit Sanchez into a race they think he can make competitive because of his appeal to the state's ballooning Hispanic population. Democrats also believe a congested Republican primary will weaken the eventual nominee.” The National Republican Senatorial Committee is up with it’s response: “Our confidence in this race comes down to the simple fact that Texans do not support Barack Obama’s liberal, tax-and-spend agenda and whoever the Democratic nominee ultimately is, that individual will be campaigning side-by-side at the top of the ticket next year with President Obama,” NRSC communications director Brian Walsh said in a stament. “So we’ll leave it to national Democrats to crow about their latest hand-picked candidate because as any observer of Texas politics knows, we’ve heard it all before and we have no doubt this seat will remain in Republican hands.”

JEB BUSH HONORED IN DC. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is in Washington, DC today to receive an award from the The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation at an event at the Kennedy Center tonight. Bush will be honored along with New York University Law Professor Richard A. Epstein, Harvard University Professor Harvey Mansfield, and economist Allan Meltzer. According to the Foundation, the annual awards, which come with a $250,000 stipend, go to individuals who show a commitment to the “promotion of liberal democracy, democratic capitalism, and a vigorous defense of American institutions.” Conservative columnist (and 2005 Bradley Prize recipient) George F. Will will be tonight’s master of ceremonies.



@markknoller: VP Biden is doing some re-election campaign fundraising today. He's got events today in St. Louis and Minneapolis.

@froomkin: Reassessing The Cost Of The Post-9/11 Era, Post Bin Laden

@RepJoeWalsh: I ran for Congress b/c I felt like I was losing my country… Now that I'm here, I'm fighting to restore it. #tcot

@shushwalshe: RT @maghabepolitico: Trump: ""I actually don't have a bad hairline..When you think about it, it's not bad."

@rickklein: astounding and a great read: Harvard to graduate 1st Wampanoag Indian since… 1665.


* Donald Trump visits New Hampshire, including a meeting with the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce in Nashua, NH.

* Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will be in Washington, DC to receive an award at the 8th Annual Bradley Prize Honorees Ceremony at the Kennedy Center.

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