By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
Chris Christie’s heading to Iowa, Rick Perry’s coming East, Rudy Giuliani’s on his way to New Hampshire and Jim DeMint is starting to make presidential noises.
Just when it seemed like the only real 2012 wild card was Sarah Palin, whose bus tour along the Eastern seaboard took her to the doorstep of Donald Trump last night, could the growing unrest with the current Republican field push some holdouts off the sidelines?
“I don't feel ready in my heart to be president,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in early April, “and unless I do, I don't have any right offering myself to the people of this country.”
Yesterday, Christie met with a small group of donors from Iowa, and according to the Des Moines Register, he told them much the same thing. But he also said he has plans to come to the Hawkeye State this summer, at the invitation of Gov. Terry Branstad, to address an education summit. http://bit.ly/iz7JkI
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who recently said he was still contemplating throwing his hat into the presidential ring, is replacing Trump as the headliner at a Manhattan GOP dinner in mid-June raising speculation that he may be thinking more seriously about a 2012 campaign.
Conservative heavyweight Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who had previously said he would not be a candidate for president, recently told The Hill newspaper that he and his wife were praying on the question of a potential run.
“It’s humbling and out of respect, my wife and I have talked about it,” DeMint said in an interview with the Hill about possible White House bid. “Out of respect for the people who have asked us to think about this, that’s what we’re going to do. I don’t want to imply that I’m changing in mind, but I want to consider what all these folks are doing.” http://bit.ly/iytOd1
And Rudy Giuliani is making his second visit to New Hampshire in less than a month this week. Tomorrow he will headline a New Hampshire Republican Party fundraiser at Three Rivers Farm in Dover and make other stops in the Granite State. Politico reports today that Giuliani plans to meet with Joe McQuaid, the publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper during his visit.
BOTTOM LINE: For nominal GOP front-runner Mitt Romney all of this 2012 speculation may not be a bad thing. First, while we we’re talking about his New Hampshire trip this week to officially kick of his candidacy, at least we're not talking about his health care record. Staying under the radar isn't the worst outcome for him. It allows him to quietly build his campaign war chest and stay out of the Democrats line of fire — at least for a while.
CHRISTIE’S ‘COPTER. “Gov. Christie, who has made ethics and government reform a centerpiece of his Administration, raised some eyebrows with his decision to take a state helicopter to his son's baseball game yesterday afternoon,” ABC’s Amy Walter notes. “Moreover, he left the game in the fifth inning, presumably to make it back to Princeton for his meeting with a group of Iowa activists who had flown to New Jersey to try to convince the governor to run for president. According to the Newark Star Ledger the Governor landed in the $12.5 million helicopter right before the game began, and then ‘got into a black car with tinted windows that drove him about 100 yards to the baseball field’ His son Andrew is the starting catcher on his high school team. Christie and First Lady Mary Pat Christie took in a few innings of play but left during the 5th inning. ‘During a pitching change," reported the Star Ledger, ‘play was stopped for a couple of minutes while the helicopter took off.’ In an email to the Star Ledger, Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak defended the Governor's choice of transportation. ‘It is a means of transportation that is occasionally used as the schedule demands. This has historically been the case in prior administrations as well, and we continue to be judicious in limiting its use.’” http://abcn.ws/li9vrk
DINNER WITH THE DONALD, PIZZA WITH PALIN. As ABC News first reported yesterday, Sarah Palin met with Donald Trump at his 30,000-square foot Trump Tower home yesterday followed by a pizza dinner at a nearby restaurant in Times Square. Palin's office reached out to meet with Trump, not the other way around, Michael Cohen, special counsel at the Trump organization told ABC News. http://abcn.ws/kPsoul After dinner at Famous Famiglia Pizzeria, Trump said, "I’ll tell you she's a great woman, a terrific woman, and a great friend." Asked if he'd endorse her, Trump replied, "I'd love her to run." Palin said: "What do we have in common? A love for this country and a desire to see our economy put back on the right track." She also praised “his independence, his willingness to speak his mind.” http://abcn.ws/lQVGwR
Palin will continue her bus tour today and will reportedly take a private boat from to Ellis Island and the Statue of Libery at some point today. She’s expected to continue up the East Coast after that. Last night in an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, Palin defended her unpredictable trip. "It is about our charters of liberty and it’s reminding, especially the schoolchildren across America — that’s why I have my dad on the bus too, as a school teacher — I want the kids across America to realize what it is that built America, how important it is that we restore what is good and free and patriotic about America so we can prepare ourselves about the heady days ahead." http://abcn.ws/mRvHnq
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter talk to Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., a member of the House Budget Committee. Also on the program, Stuart Butler, a Distinguished Fellow and Director of the Center for Policy Innovation at The Heritage Foundation. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
RAHM ON HUNTSMAN AND OBAMA 2012. When Rahm Emanuel helped make Jon Huntsman the Ambassador to China part of the plan was to keep him out of the 2012 race. “Did you expect him to run for president?” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked him in an interview that aired on “Good Morning America” today. “No,” Emanuel said. But the former White House chief of staff and newly minted Chicago mayor wouldn’t bite when I asked if he agrees with what other Democrats have told me – that Obama’s former employee could become his strongest challenger. “There will be an assessment of the president versus whoever. And I think if they’ll look at the country he inherited, worst economic conditions since the Depression, an auto industry that was on its back, and actually, a lot of people– even some of the national leaders of the Republican Party were advocating of let it go,” Emanuel said. It was the president going against those “naysayers” that saved 1.2 million jobs, he said. If Obama wants to win in the Midwest the mayor’s advice is to keep his focus on the kitchen table. “People are economically distressed. They’re trying to make ends meet. They’re trying to get a paycheck from the beginning of the month to the end of the month and pay the bills and still have stuff left over,” he said. http://abcn.ws/iZM1EO
HOUSE GOP MEETS WITH OBAMA. “As House Republicans head to the White House to meet with President Obama one day after the House rejected a clean vote to raise the debt ceiling, House Speaker John Boehner is carrying a message from 150 economists supporting his call last month in New York for spending cuts that exceed any increase in the debt limit,” ABC’s John R. Parkinson reports. “In a statement signed by some of the country’s leading economists, Boehner reiterates the GOP’s position that an ‘increase in the national debt limit that is not accompanied by significant spending cuts and budget reforms to address our government’s spending addiction will harm private-sector job creation in America.’ … A senior aide to the Speaker confirms that the letter will be a leading topic of discussion that Boehner and House Republicans will bring up with President Obama. … House Democrats are set to have their own meeting with the president at the White House on Thursday.”
RALPH REED’S REVIVAL. “Ralph Reed turns 50 this month, but as he roused a crowd of retirees here with talk of restoring Christian values and bringing down President Obama, he still looked like the boy wonder who appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1995, named ‘The Right Hand of God’ for building the Christian Coalition into an electoral juggernaut,” The New York Times’ Erik Eckholm writes. “The standing ovation the other day at a meeting of the Tri-County Tea Party in central Florida was just one sign that Mr. Reed, who has formed a new group with national aspirations called the Faith and Freedom Coalition, is escaping the political purgatory that even many Republicans had predicted and may be gaining some traction as he seeks to emerge as a player in the 2012 campaign. In 2006, in his first bid for elective office, Mr. Reed suffered a humiliating loss in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor of Georgia, dogged by embarrassing revelations about his close business ties to Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist who went to prison for influence peddling and defrauding Indian tribes. … Mr. Reed is pursuing these grand, some say grandiose, plans with a nonprofit group that he has described as ‘a 21st-century version of the Christian Coalition on steroids.’ As the name implies, the Faith and Freedom Coalition hopes to rope in a broader constituency. His ‘sweet spot,’ he says, is the millions of people who were fired up by the fiscal concerns of the Tea Party and share the cultural values of evangelicals.” http://nyti.ms/kFRGDH
THE RACE FOR BIG MONEY. “The rapidly shifting landscape in the GOP presidential race has set off a scramble for big donors among Mitt Romney and other established candidates, each of them rushing to secure high-dollar commitments in an attempt to fend off emerging rivals, according to senior campaign officials and fundraisers,” the Washington Post’s Dan Eggen and T.W. Farnam report. “The moves follow the departure of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and other potential contenders with strong ties to GOP powerbrokers, who are now casting about for new candidates to support. Operatives for Romney, the presumptive front-runner, and declared candidate Tim Pawlenty have been busy contacting major Daniels supporters and other uncommitted donors in recent days in hopes of securing crucial financial commitments for the months ahead, according to sources close to the talks. A third possible candidate with strong establishment credentials, former Utah governor and China ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr., kicked off a fundraising trip through California last week in hopes of drumming up support for his own presidential bid. Huntsman also met in Maine with former president George H.W. Bush, who has granted audiences with several top candidates seeking help from the Bush family and its far-flung network of supporters. … The push for donors by Romney and Pawlenty is aimed in part at discouraging these emerging hopefuls, who have shown the ability to raise money in the past but whose financial prospects in the 2012 race are less clear. The candidates also are seeking to demonstrate their ability to take on President Obama, whose campaign is poised to meet or exceed the $750 million he raised in 2008.” http://wapo.st/k7IZ3y
WEINER GETS GRILLED. “Rep. Anthony Weiner’s response to the flap around a lewd photo posted from his Twitter account went from dismissive and joking over the weekend to frustrated and combative Tuesday in Washington, when the Congressman became agitated with reporters and called a TV producer a ‘jackass,’ ABC’s John R. Parkinson reports. “Weiner, D-N.Y., repeatedly refused to answer questions from reporters on Capitol Hill, calling focus on the photo, which was sent from his Twitter account to a 21-year-old college student who followed him on the social networking site, a distraction. Weiner tweeted over the weekend that his account had been ‘hacked’ and that led to the photo of a man’s lower half in boxer briefs being transmitted to the student. But today the Congressman and his staff would not say any more or deny that the man shown in the photo was Weiner or explain why he was following a 21-year-old college student from Washington state on the site.” http://abcn.ws/maQIZB
@markknoller: "We agree with Ronald Reagan and many others that we cannot default on the full faith and credit of the US," said Jay Carney yesterday.
@AriFleischer: Something tells me Pawlenty gains w all the hype & drama around Palin & Trump. Sometimes slow & steady does win the race
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