By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and the Granite State. Is New Hampshire big enough for the both of them?
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, plans to officially open his second White House bid at noon today at Bittersweet Farm in Stratham, NH, declaring that “Barack Obama has failed America.” http://abcn.ws/lgIOYT
“Government under President Obama has grown to consume almost 40 percent of our economy. We are only inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy,” Romney plans to say, according to excerpts of his remarks prepared for delivery. “I will insist that Washington learns to respect the Constitution, including the 10th amendment. We will return responsibility and authority to the states for dozens of government programs — and that begins with a complete repeal of Obamacare. From my first day in office my number one job will be to see that America once again is number one in job creation.”
Still, despite his best efforts, Romney won’t be able to escape questions about his rationale for repealing “Obamacare” after having passed “Romneycare” several years earlier in Massachusetts. ABC’s John Berman will sit down with Romney today in New Hampshire to talk to the newly-minted candidate about his 2012 strategy.
By all objective measures, he’s the frontrunner. He'll have the most money — recall his $10 million-plus take at a Las Vegas dialing-for-dollars event last month as well as his aggressive courting of well-heeled donors across the country.
He's on top in national polls, he's way ahead in New Hampshire, and yet most of the punditocracy has already decided that former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the guy who barely registers in the polls and has not yet proven his fundraiser mettle, may have an even better shot at winning the nomination this time around.
This may actually be a good thing for Romney. Pawlenty has yet to endure the sort of probing that comes with being in the front of the pack. Maybe he does well. Maybe he doesn't. But, it does level the playing field. Instead of Mitt Romney running against himself and his record, he will now be able to compare and contrast himself with someone else.
And speaking of contrast, Romney won’t have New Hampshire all to himself today. The state’s Union-Leader newspaper reported that Sarah Palin has decided to hold a clambake tonight in the Seacoast area of the state. It’s just another stop on her “One Nation” bus tour of the East Coast. Palin, who has been swarmed with attention throughout her excursion this week may just be hoping to steal some of the spotlight from Romney — and she will. http://bit.ly/kAezzk
Also in the Granite State: former Romney rival, Rudy Giuliani, who is said to be seriously considering another try for the Republican nomination this year. Giuliani is making several stops around the state, and will headline a New Hampshire GOP fundraiser tonight.
LOOK AHEAD: JOBS NUMBERS. Former George W. Bush White House and John McCain campaign veteran Matt McDonald, now a partner at the Washington, DC-based consulting firm, Hamilton Place Strategies, has crunched the numbers and they don’t look great for President Obama ahead of tomorrow’s jobs report. He writes that last month’s mixed jobs numbers seem “to have foreshadowed the weak numbers that we have seen over the past several weeks, with jobless claims back above 400,000 per week, continued decline in housing, slowing growth in manufacturing, and most notably anemic GDP growth of just 1.8 percent during the first quarter. … The bad news looks set to continue with this week’s job report. [The] consensus for Friday’s job report, according to a Bloomberg survey, is an increase of 175,000 jobs. For the unemployment rate to fall below 8 percent by Election Day, the economy needs to create 209,000 jobs per month going forward. This is a significant increase from last month, and represents a steeper climb for the President’s reelection campaign.” Read the memo: http://bit.ly/lwvD9X
BACKSTORY: WHY IS 8 PERCENT THE MAGIC NUMBER? From McDonald: “Since 1960, the unemployment rate has been above 7 percent during four elections: 1976, 1980, 1984 and 1992. In three of these 4 elections, the incumbent party lost. Only in 1984 did Reagan win with 7.2 percent unemployment, which was in the context of a 1.3 percentage point drop in unemployment during the year prior to the election.”
BOTTOM LINE: The Obama White House has to be happy watching the Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Chris Christie activity suck up all the attention of the political press this week. It means less focus on some bad economic news. Between the housing market double-dip, a steep slide on Wall Street and what is likely to be a weaker-than-expected jobs report on Friday, this hasn't been a good week for the economy.
As we noted above, president's win re-election when unemployment is low or the trend line is going down (i.e. Ronald Reagan in 1984). They lose re-election when trend line is going up (i.e. George H.W. Bush in 1992). But what happens when the rate flat-lines around 8 percent — not getting worse but not getting much better?
“If the current modest job growth continues and the unemployment rate is still above eight percent in November 2012, it is difficult to see how the President makes a credible argument that he has improved the economy, and difficult to see how he is reelected,” Hamilton Place’s McDonald writes. “If the rate goes below eight percent, the President will be able to argue that things are getting better, but would still face a challenge with a historically high rate.”
TUNE IN: RICK SANTORUM 2012 ANNOUNCEMENT COMING MONDAY. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is set to formally kick off his presidential campaign in Pennsylvania on Monday. But before he does, he will talk to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos first and exclusively on “Good Morning America” that morning. George invites you to send in your questions for Santorum: http://abcn.ws/mwXekj
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl sit down with former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown to talk about the government’s response to recent natural disasters around the country. Also on the program a clip of Karl’s “Subway Series” interview with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (preview below). Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
ABC’s “SUBWAY SERIES”: NANCY PELOSI’S CRYSTAL BALL — DEMOCRATS HAVE A ‘VERY GOOD CHANCE’ OF TAKING BACK THE HOUSE. “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told ABC News in an exclusive interview that Democrats "have a very good chance of winning the House" majority in the 2012 elections, pointing to Medicare as the key issue that could propel her party back into control of the lower chamber of Congress. ‘We just take it, as I say to the members, one day, one good day, one good week, one good month, one good quarter at a time,’ said Pelosi, D-Calif., in an interview for ABC News' Subway Series with Jonathan Karl. Pelosi discussed a wide array of subjects, ranging from military withdrawal in Afghanistan and Libya to the controversy surrounding Rep. Anthony Weiner's Twitter account and the timing of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' return to Capitol Hill. Asked directly whether she thinks she will be elected speaker again, Pelosi pointed to 63 congressional districts that President Obama carried in 2008 that are now held by Republicans. House Democrats need to win just 24 of those seats to regain control of the House. ‘It takes a strong message … which enables us to have the mobilization at grass-roots level,’ Pelosi said. ‘I was talking about the M's: message, mobilization, the money to get the message out, and management — management of the campaign by the candidates so that it can be effective.’” http://abcn.ws/luF5yg (h/t ABC’s John R. Parkinson and Gregory Catherine Simmons for steady camerawork)
PALIN BUS TOUR ROLLS INTO BOSTON. “Sarah Palin’s mystery tour/summer vacation/media scavenger hunt rolled into Boston last night, putting the former Alaska governor on a potential collision course with her possible Republican presidential rival, Mitt Romney, who is set to announce his second bid for the White House in New Hampshire today,” the Boston Globe’s Michael Levenson notes. “Palin’s One Nation tour bus pulled quietly into the Marriott Long Wharf at about 8 p.m., drawing tourists and onlookers. … Palin did not hobnob with voters, at least initially, said Andrew Babb, a bartender who watched Palin disembark with a small entourage. “She shook hands with a few people and went inside,’’ he said. As has been her practice throughout the tour, Palin is not saying what, precisely, she will do in Boston. She is rumored, however, to be planning a walk along the Freedom Trail today. Local residents have also speculated that she might visit Old North Bridge in Concord, although the National Park Service said it had not been notified of a visit.” http://bo.st/kwSr2D
Where’s Sarah? ABC News’ interactive map of the “One Nation” bus tour: http://abcn.ws/j6SU8y
WEINER LACKS ‘CERTITUDE.’ “In a moment that will probably go down in the annals of how not to handle a crisis, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) insisted again on Wednesday that he was not the one who sent a suggestive photo from his Twitter account – but he told NBC News that ‘I can’t say with certitude’ whether the now-famous image is of his own crotch,” The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty and Felicia Sonmez write. “Weiner gave a series of television interviews in an attempt to tamp down the furor that began over the weekend when a waist-down photograph of a man in his underwear appeared briefly on his Twitter page. The tweet, which Weiner said he deleted when he saw it, was addressed to a college student who follows him on the social-networking site. The questions regarding the incident continued into a fourth day, fueled in part by the fact that the controversy is perfect early-summer fodder for cable news and that it involves a lawmaker who is both an intense partisan and an adept user of new media. As CNN showed the image on the screen, a puzzled Wolf Blitzer pressed the congressman: ‘You would know if this was your underpants.’ … Most puzzling to many veterans of Washington imbroglios is why Weiner would not clarify whether he is indeed the person in the photo, which is presumably something he would have a pretty good idea about. His answer ranks ‘somewhere below ‘no controlling legal authority’ and above ‘wide stance,’ said Democratic crisis-management specialist Chris Lehane.” http://wapo.st/kWyBDQ
PAWLENTY TAKES THE ‘OLD-FASHIONED’ ROUTE TO 2012. “[Tim] Pawlenty logged yet another visit to the state whose caucuses early next year could be the first big test of whether the path to the White House has been upended by a frenzied media and celebrity culture,” The New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny reports under a Le Mars, Iowa dateline today. “Mr. Pawlenty is doing it the old-fashioned way, trying to build a campaign organization one voter at a time. By the time he arrived here to meet with 20 Republicans for afternoon coffee, he had already had lunch with 15 people in nearby Orange City, where his campaign picked up the tab for the all-you-can-eat buffet at the Pizza Ranch. He started his day at a bakery in Sioux Center, where eight people formed a semicircle around him. Along the way, he did interviews with local radio stations and newspapers, and also helped fill sandbags for flood victims in Sioux City. … It may not be known for months whether Mr. Pawlenty and other candidates taking a traditional route in the party’s nominating contest — a word-of-mouth campaign that spreads through organization — will ultimately be rewarded or left behind. But there was a growing sense among party activists interviewed here over two days that the presidential campaign needed to be treated with a greater seriousness and urgency.” http://nyti.ms/jKrwVG
FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT EYES U.S. SENATE. “His job was once to protect President Obama. Now he aspires to be a politician in his own right. This former Secret Service agent, Daniel Bongino, retired in May so he could run as a Republican for a U.S. Senate seat in Maryland. He announced his candidacy this week,” the Daily Caller’s Alex Pappas reports. “In a phone interview with The Daily Caller, Bongino, 36, said he’s running because ‘we need real people… normal folks’ to serve in office. ‘I left everything behind to do this,’ he said by phone. ‘I left a secure, promising 12-year career with the Secret Service. I left with a fantastic reputation. I left it all on the line, with my wife’s support, to do this.’ At the time of his retirement, Bongino was working in the Secret Service field office in Baltimore. He also worked on President George W. Bush’s detail, but said that doesn’t mean he has a cache of top-secret knowledge about Obama and Bush. Bongino refused to criticize Obama directly — saying he’s focused on the seat’s incumbent, Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin. But he didn’t hide the fact that he doesn’t like the president’s political philosophy. ‘The whole idea of the government being a backstop for the private economy when we’re in recession or near depression just hasn’t worked. The stimulus bill was a failure,’ he said.” http://bit.ly/isbR0g
BOEHNER TO OBAMA: GET INVOLVED. “House Speaker John Boehner, intensifying pressure for a quick and far-reaching deal to slash U.S. government spending, said ‘it’s time’ he and President Barack Obama get personally involved in talks on a broad debt- reduction package,” Bloomberg’s Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Catherine Dodge report. “Boehner, voicing concerns that bipartisan negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden are proceeding too slowly, said the White House and Congress should strike a deal within a month to avoid a continuing impasse over raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling that could spook investors and lead to an unprecedented government default. The Biden-led talks ‘are making some marginal progress, but at the rate that that’s gone, we’ll be right up against the wall,’ Boehner told reporters at the Capitol yesterday. ‘This really needs to be done over the next month if we’re serious about no brinksmanship and no rattling investors.’” http://bloom.bg/lwRe1b
WHITE HOUSE WATCH. President Obama will meet with the House Democratic Caucus, a meeting that comes just one day after his meeting with the House Republican Caucus which some Republicans described as "frosty" and "frank." More on yesterday’s gathering and the prospects for a budget deal from ABC’s Jake Tapper: http://abcn.ws/jhIfVh
* Mitt Romney will officially kick-off his presidential campaign at a BBQ at the Bittersweet Farm in Stratham, NH at noon.
* Rudy Giuliani will attend a luncheon at Bellini's Ristorante Italiano in North Conway, NH. In the evening, he will headline a New Hampshire Republican Party's speaker series fundraiser at Three Rivers Farm in Dover.
The Note Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV
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