By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
These last few days should be giving Republicans a little spring in their step.
Weak economic numbers have erased the President's Osama bin Laden bounce. Meanwhile, the Weiner-gate scandal on Capitol Hill has, for the first time in weeks, put House Democrats on the defensive.
So why can't Republicans, who traditionally fall in line behind a putative front-runner, find happiness with their field of candidates?
Mitt Romney, arguably the best positioned Republican today, drew fresh criticism this week from conservative heavy weights like Rush Limbaugh, for telling a town hall meeting in New Hampshire last week that humans are contributing to global warming.
As the Washington Post's Phillip Rucker reports, Romney's answer to a question about climate change during a town hall meeting in New Hampshire last week, “served as a fresh indicator of Romney’s great quandary. He must shed the flip-flopper reputation that haunted his last presidential campaign while also appealing to conservative voters wary of his past support for near-universal health care, abortion rights, same-sex marriage and other positions befitting a politician elected in liberal Massachusetts. So far, Romney’s reviews from the right are not positive. His views about climate change in particular put him at odds with many in his party’s base." http://wapo.st/lgBdYE
Meanwhile, the Rudy and Rick drumbeats are also getting louder. We’re talking about former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol wrote yesterday that he's got "two reliable sources" telling him that form New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani "intends to run." http://bit.ly/iwzdvD
A source close to Giuliani told the Note: "I feel very strongly he will pull the trigger in the coming weeks…but none of it is guaranteed." While another Rudy backer reminds us that "only Rudy really knows," what he'll do.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal both give ink to the growing evidence that Gov. Perry is serious about a potential run (more on that below). A Texas insider we spoke with yesterday said he thinks that Perry wants to be a player in 2012 in any way possible whether as a presidential candidate or as a vice presidential pick. http://on.WSJ.com/m31 http://wapo.st/jywS7k
BOTTOM LINE: In some ways a bigger, deeper field could help former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. As the frontrunner, Romney's the guy with the target on his back. This offers Pawlenty the opportunity to stay out of the fray and present himself as the safe, and unscarred alternative.
Still, it's hard to see how Rudy beats Romney from the left. Moreover, in a year where the economy is the issue, his background as the 9/11 mayor is no longer quite as compelling. Perry has the better political profile. But one Texas insider warns us that he's also burned some bridges in recent months and his donor base may not be as revved up as he needs them to be.
But, the more attention that Rudy, Rick and the other potentials get, the harder it is for Pawlenty to establish a national political profile that helps generate the all important buzz donors and voters are looking for.
NO LIE: REP. JOE WILSON ENDORSES PAWLENTY. From Team Pawlenty this morning: “Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's presidential campaign announced today that Congressman Joe Wilson will help lead its efforts in South Carolina. The senior congressman from Lexington will serve as a co-chair in the critical ‘First In The South’ Presidential Primary. ‘Congressman Wilson has been a strong conservative voice for the people of South Carolina over the past decade,’ Governor Pawlenty said. … ‘Governor Pawlenty is the best man to get our nation back on the right track,’ said Congressman Wilson.”
WEINERGATE UPDATE: RESIGNATION CHORUS GROWS STRONGER. One by one we're watching Democrats distance themselves from their philandering colleague, Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-NY. Even so, House insiders tell us that they expect Weiner to hang on — at least for now. The most important constituencies Weiner must listen to aren't those in his caucus but those at home: his voters and his wife. And right now, neither are saying he should resign. If another bombshell drops, however, all bets are off.
WEINER’S WIFE IS PREGNANT. “Their marriage has become the subject of intense speculation and scrutiny amid an embarrassing online sex scandal. Now, Representative Anthony D. Weiner and Huma Abedin are about to make news of a different kind: they are expecting their first child,” The New York Times’ Michael Barbaro and Ashley Parker report. “Ms. Abedin, 35, is in the early stages of pregnancy, according to three people with knowledge of the situation. The pregnancy, which the couple has disclosed to close friends and family, adds a new dimension to questions about the future of their marriage. … ‘We will weather this,’ Mr. Weiner said on Monday, during his emotional news conference. ‘I love her very much, and she loves me.’” http://nyti.ms/kwx9mA
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: SEN. RON JOHNSON. ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl interview Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc. Also on the program, Carl Hulse, congressional correspondent at The New York Times. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
TARGET BIN LADEN, BY JAKE TAPPER. Just weeks after the U.S. took down Osama bin Laden, ABC News has released a new video eBook diving deep into the story of the mission, bin Laden's rise to power, the impact of his acts of terrorism on the U.S. and the world, and the future of al Qaeda. "TARGET: Bin Laden – The Death and Life of Public Enemy Number One," by ABC News' Terry Moran, Martha Raddatz, Nick Schifrin, Brian Ross and Jake Tapper, is available for sale on the iBooks, Kindle and Nook eBook stores. What follows is an exclusive excerpt from "TARGET: Bin Laden," a complete chapter by ABC News' Chief White House Correspondent Jake Tapper.
“There's a third family living in the compound, the CIA director told the president. And we think it could be the bin Ladens. President Obama took in this news. This was, potentially, huge. It was certainly the U.S. government's best lead on Osama bin Laden since 2001, when the terrorist leader had eluded U.S. troops in the mountains of Tora Bora. That was more than nine years ago. President Obama was sitting in the Oval Office with CIA Director Leon Panetta, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, and other members of his national security team. They were following up on a lead Panetta first shared with the president in August: after years of hunting, the agency had finally located a man called Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, thought to be bin Laden's favorite courier. Al-Kuwaiti had received a phone call captured by intelligence agencies, one that must have seemed benign enough at the time. It was a friend of al-Kuwaiti's, calling to catch up. What was he up to?”
READ MORE: http://abcn.ws/lHtWEN
“TOP LINE” REPLAY: BILL BURTON. “Bill Burton left his post as deputy White House press secretary this spring to head up a new outside group dedicated to President Obama’s reelection — the same kind of group, it should be noted, that the president says should not exist because it doesn’t have to disclose its donors,” ABC’s Rick Klein notes. On ABC’s ‘Top Line’ on Wednesday, Burton previewed some of the messaging that Priorities USA Action is likely to use in taking on the president’s possible challengers. … ‘Mitt Romney's positions, which have changed throughout the years, I think will help to make the case that he's a phony, he hasn't said anything that he's really stuck by on any issue that matters over the course of his decades running for public service.’” http://abcn.ws/kZa5SE
OBAMA 2012 TEAM NAMES POLITICAL DIRECTOR… The political director for President Obama’s re-election operation will be Katherine Archuleta. In that position, she will “be in charge of all the political outreach to elected officials and groups,” sources close to the campaign said. Archuleta, currently serves as chief of staff to U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and previously served as chief of staff to former U.S. Transportation Secretary Federico Pena. A Denver native, Archuleta also worked for then Denver mayor John Hickenlooper and was involved in the planning for the 2008 Democratic National Convention in the city. Sources said, “she is the first Latina to hold the political director position on a major presidential campaign.”
…SEES ENLARGED 2012 MAP. “President Barack Obama’s campaign team is gaming out complex state-by-state scenarios for 2012 that anticipate uphill battles in recession-ravaged blue states — and new opportunities in Arizona and Georgia,” Politico’s Glen Thrush writes under a Chicago dateline. “Their underlying assumption is that the GOP presidential field remains so fluid — and the country’s economic outlook so devilishly unpredictable — that Obama must construct robust grassroots field operations in nearly every competitive state in order to hit the magic number of 270 electoral votes and win re-election. If the famously expanded ‘Obama map’ of 2008 was a gesture of emancipation from the cramped Democratic geography of the party’s past presidential campaigns, the equally big 2012 map is a reflection of the reality that there’s not yet a way to know the combination of red, blue and purple states that will add up to victory. ‘We are preparing a variety of scenarios to get to 270. We are not putting our cards on any one state and don’t foresee doing that,’ Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told POLITICO, rebuffing GOP suggestions that the president’s electoral horizons are shrinking. ‘We’re building our ground campaign now,’ Messina said, adding that “2011 is about infrastructure.’ Messina would not confirm the content of the half-dozen or so campaign scenarios floating around Obama headquarters – but other Democrats say one map points to alternative pathways if the president underperforms in the Midwest, especially in Ohio, which has suffered disproportionately from the economic downturn, and where Democrats suffered heavy losses in 2010.” http://politi.co/k80Xed
RUMORS FLY ABOUT POTENTIAL RICK PERRY 2012 RUN. “For months, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has told potential donors and Republican higher-ups he has no interest in running for the White House in 2012. But over the past two weeks, political advisers and friends say, Mr. Perry has changed his tune on a possible presidential campaign. In private conversations, they say, the three-term governor said he worries that the current GOP contenders have yet to stir real excitement within the party and may struggle when facing President Barack Obama,” the Wall Street Journal’s Neil King Jr. notes.” "‘He thinks there is a void [in the current field of candidates], and that he might be uniquely positioned to fill that void,’ said one Perry confidant who talked to the governor last week. … [Various] signs suggest the Perry camp may be setting the groundwork for a potential White House run. One Perry ally who talked to him recently said the governor has been struck by how ‘pivotal’ the next election will be, and how his resume may be a better fit for the campaign than that of anyone now in the race. Republican operatives in Washington and elsewhere say they have received calls recently from prominent Texas GOP donors seeking advice on how Mr. Perry might navigate a late entry into the field. It was unclear whether Mr. Perry or anyone on his team had instigated the calls.” http://on.wsj.com/kaiHFs
HUNTSMAN ATTENDS POWER DINNER. “Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman had dinner Wednesday with five influential Republican senators in Washington as he puts the finishing touches on his near-certain presidential campaign,” CNN’s Peter Hamby reports. “Huntsman and wife Mary Kaye were seen entering The Monocle, a popular steakhouse and political watering hole on the Senate side of Capitol Hill, according to a GOP source. The Huntsmans shared a meal with five GOP senators: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Thune of South Dakota, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Huntsman is in Washington for a series of meetings and will depart for New Hampshire, a primary state critical to his presidential chances, on Thursday.” http://bit.ly/kloInM
SARAH PALIN E-MAIL DUMP SET FOR FRIDAY. “Emails sent by Sarah Palin during her tenure as governor of Alaska will be released Friday morning at 9 A.M at the state capitol in Juneau,” the Washington Post’s Rachel Weiner notes. “The messages were requested by a number of journalists and citizens during the 2008 campaign when Palin was the Republican vice presidential nominee but the governor’s office — under both Palin and her successor, Gov. Sean Parnell (R) — has repeatedly sought to delay the release. Officials said they were simply technologically unprepared to handle the requests. In January, after about a thousand days of delay, the Alaska attorney general declared that the emails had to be released by the end of May. (New requests for copies delayed the printing until now). Some long-time Palin observers are skeptical that the release will bring anything revelatory. Last year, MSNBC obtained and released 1,200 emails sent and received by Palin’s husband Todd. Just this month, former Palin aide Frank Bailey released a tell-all book about his old boss entitled: ‘Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin.’ There’s a sense that the most interesting Palin material is already out in the world.” http://wapo.st/kJ5rdS
NOTED: ABC News will be on site in Juneau, Alaska tomorrow for the release of the documents, bringing you all the juiciest tidbits as fast as we can. The gargantuan task of sorting through all of the messages — nearly 25,000 of them — will be made even more difficult by the fact that they are not being released electronically but rather on paper. Each requestor of the e-mails will receive five 55-pound boxes from the State of Alaska (the printing cost totals more than $700). Some of the documents will be redacted, other will be withheld altogether for privacy reasons, according to state officials.
PALIN SCOLDS PRESS. “Sarah Palin isn't relying on the media to tell the story of her ‘One Nation’ tour,” ABC’s Sheila Marikar points out. “On Wednesday, she posted a statement on SarahPAC.com alluding to the media's focus on her unconventional interpretation of Paul Revere's midnight ride. She also posted her own clip reel of highlights from her visits to the Northeast's historic sites. ‘Even though the media too often sadly chose soundbites over substance, they did get lots of substance during our 'One Nation' tour from the nearly two dozen opportunities I got to speak candidly with them and talk about policy, politics, history and everything in between,’ she wrote. ‘Not surprising, some members of the media missed a lot of this due to their relentless and futile search for scuttlebutt. So, we assembled this video to capture the amazing Americana spirit of the places and people we visited.’ Palin emphasized that ‘we'll keep moving forward … and we'll keep reporting on it ourselves.’” http://abcn.ws/jsYtFN
* Mitt Romney will campaign in Livonia, Mich., where he will meet with voters at The Senate Coney Island Restaurant at 8 a.m. At 9 a.m., Romney will take a business tour and hold a roundtable discussion at Bizdom U in Detroit. Bizdom U is a business development center dedicated to help entrepreneurs start up businesses in the state.
The Note Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV
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