By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
In the battle for president in 2012, the calendar is king. And, as states jockey for earlier and earlier dates to hold their nominating contests, alliances are taking shape.
Republican Party officials in two key primary states — South Carolina and Florida — are hammering out a deal to try to neutralize the threat posed by Arizona, whose governor is weighing whether to leapfrog ahead on the presidential primary calendar.
South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad Connelly told ABC News that he is working on an agreement with party officials in Florida to move their primary dates up “in tandem” if Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer decides to schedule her state’s primary in January. http://bit.ly/n1TWXD
Connelly is pledging that no matter how early Gov. Brewer sets the primary — she is said to be strongly considering Jan. 31 — he will move South Carolina’s date ahead of Arizona’s and Florida will cut in front as well. Brewer has until Saturday to decide on the Jan. 31 date.
The point is to keep Arizona behind the two powerhouses. South Carolina remains fiercely protective of its “first in the South” status and Florida is a critical state where the candidates will be spending more and more time. It’s also the state that will play host to the 2012 Republican National Convention.
“I don’t care what date they pick, we’re going to jump ‘em,” Connelly told the Note. “We’re going to be the first in the South.”
The net result of South Carolina and Florida moving in lock-step, Connelly hopes, will be to diminish Arizona’s influence and relegate it to no better than a number six position on the primary calendar. Florida Republicans are angling for their state to go fifth.
The current calendar, which is still in a state of flux, has the Iowa Caucuses being held on Feb. 6, the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 14, the Nevada Caucuses on Feb. 18 and the South Carolina primary on Feb. 28.
Under current Republican National Committee rules only those four states can hold their primaries before March 6, so both Arizona and Florida could face penalties if they were to move up. The RNC has threatened to strip rogue states of half their delegates at the national convention next summer if they do so.
Connelly said that the calendar process has been a “free for all” and that the wrangling has become a distraction from the GOP’s ultimate goal — defeating President Obama. His other worry is that a compressed early primary schedule could make it easier for a candidate to essentially “buy the election” because only those with significant campaign war chests would be able to effectively compete on an abbreviated timeline.
Connelly does not need approval from the South Carolina legislature or the governor to change the date of his state’s primary. He has the authority to do so on his own.
It’s not surprising that the four early states would move in concert, but the potential alliance between South Carolina and Florida is notable given that just a few months ago South Carolina, under a previous state chair, joined with Iowa to pressure Florida to move back its proposed primary date. http://abcn.ws/nQ6KP7
Florida Republican Party Communications Director Brian Hughes would not confirm the South Carolina-Florida alliance, saying that the state party was bound by the legislature which has vested the power to set a primary date with a yet-to-be-formed committee.
“The Republican Party of Florida and other Republican leaders are interested in” setting a primary date that “reflects the importance that Florida plays in the nation,” Hughes said in an interview. “There’s no path to the White House that doesn’t include winning Florida.”
(Florida GOP Chairman Dave Bitner, who is suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, is stepping down at the end of the month.)
Now everyone is waiting on Gov. Brewer’s next move in Arizona. We’ll know more by this weekend.
U.S. JOBS PICTURE STAGNANT. “While the unemployment rate was unchanged in August as employers added no new jobs, according to the latest figures from the Department of Labor, a more accurate portrait of jobless America may be 16 percent to 20 percent, according to some experts,” ABC’s Lyneka Little reports. “Economists had been expecting 93,000 new jobs last month, down from 117,000 in July. The unemployment rate was expected to stay at 9.1 percent. The fact that no net new jobs were added in August was another in a string of disappointments for the economy.” http://abcn.ws/pQCsBm
PALIN PREVIEW: MAMA GRIZZLY GOES TO IOWA. ABC’s John Berman, Shushannah Walshe and Sheila Marikar have more details about Palin’s much-anticipated, on-again, off-again speech in Indianola, Iowa this weekend: “A source close to Palin told ABC News that she’ll offer a ‘full throated defense of the tea party.’ ‘Regardless of what she decides to do, this rally is for the tea party to kick off this campaign,’ the source said. ABC News has also learned that Palin’s speech will reference themes from an Aug. 8 Facebook post called ‘Conquering the Storm.’ It discusses the Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the nation’s credit rating and her solutions to the country’s financial woes. A source close to Palin told ABC News last week that her speech at Saturday’s “Restoring America” event will be a substantive, big-picture vision of America. Palin herself alluded to what she’ll discuss on Aug. 25, when she tweeted a link to a YouTube video entitled ‘Obama Lies 7 Times In Under 2 Minutes!’ and wrote, ‘I’ll be talking about this and more on September 3rd.’ … ABC News has also learned that ahead of her speech, Palin will attend a Conservatives4Palin meet-up in Urbandale, Iowa, on Friday evening. It will be the first time Palin has attended a meeting of the independent group of supporters, many of whom are traveling from across the country to hear her speak. Conservatives4Palin was started by Palin’s current aide and speechwriter, Rebecca Mansour. Many of the group’s members are also trying to build a grassroots base for Palin through the group Organize4Palin.” http://abcn.ws/ordp5y
Watch John Berman’s “Good Morning America” report on the Sarah Palin buzz: http://abcn.ws/oSqEE4
@GOP12: Only 28% of tea partiers want Sarah Palin to run bit.ly/qxmCOz
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl interview Princeton University Prof. Robert George, the founder of the American Principles Project who will question the presidential candidates at Monday’s Palmetto Freedom Forum in South Carolina. Also on the program, FamousDC’s Amos Snead, for a summer wrap-up dose of Beltway Gossip. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc
FRIDAY FACT: Sources say Rick Klein was unable to do better than an A- in Prof. George’s class at Princeton in 1995.
OBAMA SPEECH SET FOR SEPT. 8. “The date is set. The scheduling SNAFU that beset Washington for the past two days is over. President Obama will address a joint session of Congress on Thursday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m., according to an official invitation sent ‘respectfully’ from House Speaker John Boehner,” ABC’s Mary Bruce reports. “That’s the night after Republican presidential candidates debate and in plenty of time for the president not to interfere with the first regular season kickoff of the NFL. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tried repeatedly Thursday to brush off questions about the partisan sparring between the White House and the House Speaker’s office Wednesday over when exactly the president should deliver his jobs plan to Congress. Carney said that he knows this kind of story is “catnip” for reporters but that it’s ‘small stuff’ and ‘just not very relevant.’” http://abcn.ws/rsX9x7
WHITE HOUSE FURIOUS? Politico’s Roger Simon quotes “a White House source with intimate knowledge of what took place between the House and the president”: “It is a big deal that the House said ‘no’ to the president from our end … This confirms what we all know: They will do anything in the House to muck us up.” http://politi.co/pxB56k
OBAMA PRE-BUTTAL. Announcement from House Speaker John Boehner’s office: “Congressman John Boehner (R-West Chester) will deliver brief remarks at the official grand opening of the new headquarters for the West Chester-based small business, Employers Choice Plus. Boehner intends to discuss House Republicans’ Plan for America’s Job Creators during the ribbon cutting ceremony beginning at 4:45 p.m.” on Friday.
DETAILS OF MITT ROMNEY’S JOBS PLAN LEAK. From ABC’s Emily Friedman: Excerpts released by Mitt Romney’s campaign last night hint at what the presidential candidate might say during his jobs plan unveiling next week, which is slated to be held Tuesday afternoon at a North Las Vegas trucking company. Romney is scheduled to speak today to the Republican National Hispanic Assembly in Tampa, Fla., in a speech that he will use to preview details from what he refers to as his “bold,” “sweeping,” and “detailed” jobs plan that will help turnaround the country’s struggling economy. “I will make business taxes competitive with other nations, eliminate burdensome regulations and bureaucracy, and support America’s workers instead of its union bosses,” Romney writes in Friday’s speech. “I will promote the exploration of our own natural resources, which will create countless jobs.” Romney will vow to make sure “America’s workforce is prepared for the modern economy,” and says he will “cut federal spending, cap it at 20% or less of the GDP and finally, finally balance our budget.” http://abcn.ws/q5uz8D
CHRIS CHRISTIE (8/26): “Get the hell off the beach…you’re done…you’ve maximized your tan. Get off the beach.”
CHRIS CHRISTIE (9/2): Gov. Chris Christie holds a “Get Back to the Jersey Shore” stop and media availability and a Point Pleasant Beach Boardwalk Visit in Point Pleasant, N.J.
NOTED: CHRISTIE, OBAMA TO MEET. From the Los Angeles Times: “Christie, a Republican who has repeatedly denied that he has any interest in running for president in 2012, will meet with President Obama, a Democrat who is running for reelection, on Sunday in Paterson, N.J. Normally, that type of meeting would be routine after a major storm like Irene. Handshakes, a bit of condolence and some help are de rigueur. But this meeting will be anything but routine, and not only because the two men could have been electoral opponents — and may still be if some Republicans get their way. In effect, Obama will be reaching across the aisle to get Christie’s help to break the political deadlock that has gripped Washington in a vise. And Christie will most likely help because he needs the money.” http://lat.ms/qZyiJ9
TRUMP SUPPORTERS FORM 527 GROUP. Donald Trump may have passed on a presidential bid for now, but his supporters intend to keep hope alive. Trump’s top political operative, Michael Cohen, who founded the website, ShouldTrumpRun.com has morphed it into a so-called 527 group, which is allowed to raise money for political activities and issue advocacy. Cohen says the purpose of the group is to continue to encourage Trump, who announced in May that he would not seek the Republican presidential nomination, to change his mind and run. Trump has been hinting he might jump into the race as an independent. “Americans are tired of listening to the same, old promises election year after election year,” Cohen told ABC News. “Mr. Trump’s positions resonate with the American people because they are no-nonsense, straightforward and practical.” Cohen, who is an executive vice president and special counsel at the Trump Organization, said the group will continue to promote the principles and issues that Trump espouses. And he predicted that it would “raise an enormous among of money right away.” The new group, Should Trump Run, Inc., was filed on Thursday as a California non-profit by attorney Paul Jensen of Jensen and Associates and is headquartered in Orange County. Cohen said the group would “fully comply with all IRS rules and regulations.” The plan is for the group to cultivate grassroots support among Trump’s supporters. The original ShouldTrumpRun site attracted over 1.5 million visitors. http://abcn.ws/pijDkQ
EVANGELICALS GRILL RICK PERRY. “On a remote ranch more than 70 miles west of Austin, Texas, top evangelical leaders from around the country assembled last weekend for a private two-day retreat. It wasn’t a religious revival that drew the group of 200, which included luminaries of the Christian right; it was the chance to hear the personal testimony of one man: Rick Perry,” writes the Los Angeles Times’ Tom Hamburger and Matea Gold. Inside an air-conditioned tent, the Texas governor and Republican presidential contender was grilled about his beliefs and his record in extraordinarily frank sessions. He responded by describing his relationship with Jesus and pledging to pursue the antiabortion and anti-gay-marriage agenda championed by the evangelical right, according to multiple participants. The well-secured retreat, hosted by a longtime Perry donor, was a pivotal opportunity for the governor and some of the country’s most influential evangelical pastors and organizers. The Christian leaders — who included Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson and Jim Garlow, a La Mesa, Calif., pastor — got an up-close look at a major presidential contender as they seek an electable candidate who represents their interests. And Perry had a chance to profess his Christian bona fides to this key constituency. By all accounts, he appeared to pass the test.” http://lat.ms/r8nid3
IS IMMIGRATION POLICY A 2012 LITMUS TEST? “Mitt Romney opened his town hall meeting here talking about the economy — his thoughts on growing business, getting government out of the way — just as he does nearly every other campaign event. But when he opened last week’s forum for questions, the first voter he called on didn’t seem concerned about any of that. He wanted to know the Republican presidential candidate’s stance on border security,” the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and and Amy Gardner report from Keene, N.H. “A similar scene played out in South Carolina a few days later, when Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) attended a town hall meeting she assumed would center on the economy, jobs and the federal deficit — only to see the assembled voters react most passionately to her comments on illegal immigration. Polls may not suggest it, and the candidates may not be catering to it, but immigration is an issue that voters won’t let the GOP White House hopefuls escape. Republican primary voters keep bringing immigration up as the candidates campaign in back yards, opera houses and recreation halls across Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. To a sizable chunk of those who will pick the GOP’s presidential nominee, immigration is an urgent issue, even a litmus test.” http://wapo.st/pLMHqz
NEW HAMPSHIRE GOP LEADER QUITS UNDER PRESSURE. “Jack Kimball resigned as chairman of the state Republican Party last night, minutes before he would have been voted out by the party’s executive committee,” reports the Concord Monitor’s Matthew Spolar. “‘I’m not sure that this is helping our party, but I am not going to become an obstacle in our party,’ Kimball said as he announced his resignation amid a plea for unity between Tea Party Republicans and the party’s old guard. After being elected in January as a Tea Party favorite, Kimball had been dogged by reports of poor fundraising and the disappointment of back-to-back losses in State House special elections. The top five elected officials in the state called for his resignation last week as he convened a press conference where he refused to leave and said the executive committee would have to ‘look me in the eye’ when voting him out.” http://bit.ly/qWINAU
RICK SANTORUM: MOVIN’ ON UP. “Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) announced today the opening of a new Santorum for President New Hampshire headquarters in Bedford, NH,” reads a statement from the Santorum campaign this morning. “As a result of growing interest and enthusiasm in the wake of Senator Santorum’s Ames Straw Poll performance, Senator Santorum has moved his New Hampshire campaign headquarters to a new, larger location. Senator Santorum said, ‘The outpouring of support we have received since the Ames Straw Poll has spilled over beyond Iowa’s borders and into many other states including New Hampshire. We’re excited that the enthusiasm and size of our campaign continues to grow every day.’”
@MittRomney: Great event! RT @EricFehrn Romney in Tampa drops into Florida AIPAC meeting unannounced tonite, gets a standing Oyfrog.com/mma48uj
@SPalermoNews: Paul preaches to the choir, and they love it, at his first town hall in Henniker | Concord Monitor: bit.ly/qNI5Ft
@ByronYork: Left paints the campaign as a religious war.http://ow.ly/6jEA1
@TonyFratto: Don’t know if it goes anywhere but Rep. Meeks’ idea of using overseas tax repatriation revenue for infrastructure is new & interesting.
@davidfrum: My reply to Jared Bernstein’s defense of the Obama stimulusbit.ly/nJOYst
(all times local)
* Mitt Romney speaks at The Republican National Hispanic Assembly at 8:15 a.m. and later attends the Romney for Florida Headquarters opening at 9:50 a.m.
* Herman Cain speaks at the Republican National Hispanic Assembly in Tampa Bay, Fla., at noon.
* Ron Paul tours businesses in Salem and Manchester, N.H.
* Jon Huntsman tours Granite State Manufacturing in Manchester, N.H., at 10:30 a.m.