The Dual-Track Campaign (The Note)

Chris Kleponis/AFP/Getty Images; Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter )

For the foreseeable future, the presidential campaign will go something like this:

Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul will endure endless questions about when they're going to drop out of the race while Mitt Romney and President Obama begin locking horns in advance of the fall campaign.

The dynamic was on full display yesterday when Romney, fresh off primary wins in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia, came to Washington, DC and accused Obama of being a "hide-and-seek president."

"He does not want to share his real plans before the election, either with the public or with the press," Romney said, addressing gathering of newspaper editors and media executives. "He is intent on hiding. You and I will have to do the seeking."

From their campaign headquarters in Chicago, the Obama campaign was quick to respond. Spokeswoman Lis Smith fired off a statement, noting that "there was very little in Mitt Romney's speech today that bore any resemblance to reality."

And the campaign blasted out a web video challenging many of the assertions Romney made in his speech titled, "Mitt Romney Versus Reality." WATCH:

Meanwhile, in that parallel universe in which the Republican presidential primary is still taking place, Santorum's top strategist, John Brabender, had to fend off questions about whether Santorum's Easter weekend break was a sign his candidate was exiting the race.

"In honor of Holy Thursday, Friday, and Easter, the senator will be taking a four-day break," Brabender told the Washington Examiner's Byron York.  "I can assure you it doesn't mean anything more than that."

Late last night the Santorum campaign went so far as to issue a statement noting that the former Pennsylvania senator will resume his schedule next Monday and "will continue to campaign throughout Pennsylvania with a full-calendar of events beginning on April 9th in the lead up to the Pennsylvania Primary."

Campaigning in North Carolina, Newt Gingrich vowed to stay in the race until Romney "becomes the nominee" (in other words, until the former Massachusetts governor reaches the magic 1,144 delegate number.)

We're likely to see a similar pattern play out between now and the April 24 primaries - and perhaps even beyond. The Romney campaign, which announced this week that it is starting to raise money jointly with the Republican National Committee, knows it has no time to waste in taking on the Obama juggernaut.

And, according to Obama campaign officials, we have reached the point where they're not going to let any Romney attack go unanswered.

NOTED: The Romney campaign announced today that former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie was joining his campaign as a senior adviser."I am pleased that Ed is joining my team," said Mitt Romney. "He brings a wealth of experience that will prove invaluable in the political battle that lies ahead. Barack Obama is building a $1 billion campaign war machine, and Ed will play an important role in countering it." The campaign noted that Gillespie's position was voluntary.

NOTABLE: CONGRATULATIONS, JAKE TAPPER. The White House Correspondents' Association awarded ABC News' Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper the Merriman Smith Award for Broadcast Excellence in Presidential Coverage for a remarkable third year in a row.  Tapper was recognized for his breaking coverage of the Standard and Poor's decision to downgrade the U.S. credit rating, which he broke first on's "Political Punch" blog and shortly after on "World News with Diane Sawyer."  The ABC News audience was given first access to every development and the administration reaction as the decision unfolded.  "As a three-peat recipient of the White House Press Corps' most prestigious award, Jake Tapper sets the pace and standard for all journalists in Washington," said ABC News President Ben Sherwood.  "A modern news machine, Jake keeps newsmakers honest and his audience informed around-the-clock.  We are thrilled that Jake has been recognized again for his excellence and scoops." The White House Correspondents' Association will present Tapper with the award for broadcast coverage at their annual dinner in Washington, DC on Saturday, April 28, 2012.

MATT DOWD'S ADVICE TO ROMNEY: "What advice would I give at least in the short term to Romney?" ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd writes. "To paraphrase a Jack Nicholson movie, here are five easy pieces." Here's a preview: "1. It is time to turn completely to the general election.  Let go of the bitter fight with Rick Santorum and understand the key strategic imperative is to unite the party.  Being bigger than Santorum will show how confident you are and how generous you can be. Don't run any more negative ads against Santorum, and let it be okay for him to win his home state and possibly save face.  Tell your staff to quit attacking him and his campaign.  Choose either to be all positive about yourself, or to only contrast yourself with Obama.  This will show how smart your campaign is and how able you are to adapt to a new moment.  It is Easter, by the way, and as many folks of faith celebrate a new beginning and the power of compassion, adopt this same sentiment." Read the rest:



GINGRICH: I'M IN IT 'TILL ROMNEY WINS IT. Spring allergies took their toll on Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. In a scratchy, barely recognizable voice, he told a crowd here he expected to do well in North Carolina and set a "new tone" for the Arkansas, Texas and California primaries, ABC's Elicia Dover reports. "Until [Romney] becomes the nominee, I'm staying in the race. And in order to be the nominee, he has to get 1,144 uncontested delegates. He has not done that yet," Gingrich said. In a news conference, a reporter said to Gingrich, "Clearly you have no intention of getting out of the race," to which Gingrich interrupted, "I want to commend you for being the first reporter to state the obvious." Gingrich said he, Romney and Santorum said they would support the eventual nominee. He didn't believe the words of their past would come back to haunt them in the general election. "It doesn't matter because they just make stuff up anyway," Gingrich said. Gingrich told ABC News he is still in the race to win the nomination, not just to take away delegates from Romney. "I'm trying to get to an open convention to see what would happen," he said. "I mean, I'm not going to beat Romney head to head, but it's conceivable that between Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and me, we'll have enough delegates to have an open convention, and if we have an open convention, the truth is, nobody knows what would happen."

SANTORUM TOUTS PENNSYLVANIA ROOTS. As he kicked off his three-week push into Pennsylvania before the late April primary, Rick Santorum touted his home state roots Wednesday afternoon, telling a crowd of Keystone State voters that he is a candidate who reflects the values of voters in Pennsylvania, ABC's Arlette Saenz reports. "I'm asking you to help out a person who has some roots in this neck of the woods, someone who's dad and grandparents were molded in … in the coal mines in the neighboring counties. Someone who lived and grew up in this area, someone who understands the values that makes it such a special place," Santorum told a crowd gathered outside the Blair County Courthouse. The primary cycle has so  far  taken the candidates through the home states of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, but the contest in Santorum's homeland carries a heavier price for the Pennsylvania senator who needs a win on April 24  to stay viable in the race. From speaking about the first time he shot a deer in Somerset to going to the soda fountain while growing up, Santorum tried to appeal to the crowd by reminding it of his service and record in the state.

ANN ROMNEY'S TRUMP-HOSTED BIRTHDAY BASH SELLS OUT. In two weeks, Mitt and Ann Romney will be the guests of honor at a huge birthday party and fundraiser thrown by Melania Trump at Trump Tower, ABC News' Jennifer Wlach reports. The campaign will bring the Romneys to New York City in time for Ann Romney's 63rd birthday. Rumor has it some surprises are in store for Ann Romney at the party (we're told the cake is pretty "Boss"), which has gotten incredible response from campaign supporters. The party will double as a fundraiser for the Romney campaign. "This birthday party and fundraiser will be the highest-grossing and fastest-selling event to date for the Romney campaign," said executive vice president and special counsel at the Trump Organization, Michael Cohen, predicting a successful event.  "Melania looks forward to spending more time with Ann and hosting this special occasion in two weeks." Donald Trump's support for Romney has been ever-present and hyper-local since his endorsement of the former governor in early February.  All told, "the Donald" has recorded more than 30 robocalls for the campaign and participated in more than 50 radio interviews in every state holding primaries over the past two months, according to Cohen. The campaign has been sure to pay its respects to Trump, giving him special mention at nearly every victory speech on election nights.

OBAMA CAMPAIGN HITS ONE-YEAR MARK. President Obama's re-election campaign reached its one-year anniversary yesterday, and marked the milestone by underscoring the high points in what has become a far-reaching grassroots organizing operation, ABC's Devin Dwyer notes. On April 4, 2011, Obama emailed supporters to say that he had officially filed papers to run for a second term. One year later, the organization is firmly established and growing, as documented in a new Obama campaign web feature and email from campaign manager Jim Messina.

Some data points highlighted by Team Obama:

-Offices in all 50 states  (a progression map shows where they have popped up over the past year; note the concentrations in key battlegrounds)

-28,571 organizing events held since last April

-1.8 million total donors

-More donors in the first quarter of 2012 than in any single quarter previously

-118,000 donations on March 31, just before the Federal Election Commission monthly deadline, was the most donors ever in a single day

NOTED: OBAMA COURTS THE TREKKIE VOTE. President Obama met with Nichelle Nichols - that's Lt. Uhura from "Star Trek" - back in February, but Nichols didn't tweet a photo of her and the president giving the Vulcan salute until yesterday, ABC's Z. Byron Wolf notes. "A photo came to me in the mail that I've kept for myself for over a week, but now it's time to share it with Trekkers everywhere -," she tweeted. "Taken 2/29/12 in the Oval Office - Live Long & Prosper!"" she tweeted, linking to the photo. The photo is now Nichols' Twitter profile photo and, according to her tweets after meeting the president, proudly displayed on her wall as well. But it seems the Star Trek star was not the only one stoked about her White House visit. Nichols tweeted that the president said he was a "trekker" and had a crush on her Star Trek character as a child. "Months ago Pres Obama was quoted as saying that he'd had a crush on me when he was younger. I asked about that & he proudly confirmed it!" Nichols tweeted the day of her White House meeting.



@DavidMDrucker : April's first week: Opening Day, The Masters, Easter, Passover…And the presidential election begins.

@stephenfhayes : Interesting development RT  @MarcACaputo: DREAM Act-er lauds Rubio's DREAM Act, raps Democrats for playing politics

@shiratoeplitz : Great  @nytimes memo from  @johnjharwood that touches on how polls drove topsy-turvy #2012 primary - not the other way

@SalenaZitoTrib : Santorum won't give up on himself - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

@billburton716 : Stunning Bloomberg piece on what the gop's biggest donor wants for the return on his investment

@AriFleischer : Congratulations to Ed Gillespie for being named senior adviser to Romney. Romn couldn't have chosen a better or wiser man.



by ABC's Chris Good

-Romney Campaigns in Pennsylvania, Keeps Eye on General. Mitt Romney took his campaign to Pennsylvania on Wednesday, and even in his chief rival's home state the GOP front-runner held to his strategy of focusing on the general election. Staying on the topic of President Obama during a stop in Delaware County, Romney "hardly acknowledged Republican rival Rick Santorum," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

-Santorum Reminds Pennsylvania Voters What they Cling To. Resurrecting what may have been President Obama's biggest misstep of the 2008 campaign, Rick Santorum reminded Pennsylvania voters of the president's clinging-to-guns-and-religion comment on Wednesday. "You're damn right we do," Santorum said, applauded loudly by a crowd of 150 outside a courthouse in Hollidaysburg, the Morning Call reports. "You're right we cling to our faith, we cling to the rights that are God given, that are guaranteed under our Constitution, including the right to protect ourselves and those we love with the Second Amendment-an individual right to bear arms." Obama's original comment, made at a private fundraiser in San Francisco, referenced small-town Pennsylvanians.



-Mitt Romney is in Pennsylvania where he will hold an event in Harrisburg  at his Campaign Headquarters and address an energy event in Tunkhannock.

-Newt Gingrich campaigns in Delaware speaking to voters in Greenwood, Magnolia, and Millsboro. Callista Gingrich is also on the trail in Delaware visiting Calvary Christian Academy in Dover.

-Ron Paul is in California speaking at a town hall at the University of California, Berkeley.

-ABC's Josh Haskell (@HaskellBuzz)


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