-- By MICHAEL FALCONE
--COULD MARTIN O'MALLEY BE THE CLINTON SLAYER? Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is expected to launch his 2016 White House bid tomorrow in Baltimore injecting another dose of competition into the Democratic nominating contest that heavily favors Hillary Clinton. No one denies the herculean effort -- and huge helping of luck -- it would take to stop, or even slow, the Clinton juggernaut, but O'Malley has a message that could resonate during a presidential cycle when so much talk is about dynasty. "I think that our country always benefits from new leadership and new perspectives," O'Malley told ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS on "This Week" in March. "Let's be honest here, the presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families -- it is an awesome and sacred trust to be earned and exercised on behalf of the American people." O'Malley will make his decision known to supporters at Federal Hill Park in Baltimore tomorrow morning.
--EXCLUSIVE -- O'MALLEY ON 'THIS WEEK': In an ABC News exclusive, following the expected launch of his presidential campaign this weekend, Martin O'Malley comes to "This Week" Sunday. And the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week's politics, with Republican strategist and pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson, and Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, managing editors of Bloomberg Politics and hosts of "With All Due Respect." Be sure to use #ThisWeek when you tweet about the program. TUNE IN SUNDAY: http://abcnews.go.com/thisweek
--BUT O'MALLEY WILL HAVE COMPANY: According to the Baltimore Sun, a group called Baltimore Bloc is planning to protest O'Malley's expected announcement "arguing that his policing strategy as mayor is partly responsible for the riots that occurred last month," the newspaper's John Fritze reports. A representative for the group, Duane Davis, told the Sun: "I'm doing it because O'Malley didn't do nothing for Baltimore. He created a prison system in Maryland. That's his legacy." No word on how many will show up. http://bsun.md/1JYGifJ
--IN THE NOTE'S INBOX: The guitar playing O'Malley released a "hint, hint" video ahead of his announcement tomorrow. In case you don't recognize his riff, it's "Hail to the Chief." WATCH: https://youtu.be/Se-H0tiKNf8
--ANALYSIS -- ABC's RICK KLEIN: "Scandal-plagued" is practically an automatic addendum to define the Hastert years, from Newt Gingrich to Bob Livingston to Tom DeLay to Bob Ney to Duke Cunningham to Mark Foley. But the speaker himself was never a direct part -- until now. The indictment of Dennis Hastert qualifies as a true bombshell, with far more questions than answers the day after the news broke. Among the biggest surprises is that Hastert appears to have had something worth millions to him to cover up from his distant past. How would have or could have a secret like that have survived FBI background checks and teams of opposition researchers for decades? And how could Hastert not have realized that the massive cash payouts wouldn't have drawn scrutiny? Unlike the so-called "culture of corruption" years, which contributed to the Democratic takeover of Hastert's House, this looks like a deeply personal -- and sad -- story that's playing out.
FIVETHIRTYEIGHT IN THE NOTE -- FLASHBACK: 'MARTIN O'MALLEY SHOULDN'T TRY TO OUT-LIBERAL HILLARY CLINTON.' Analysis from FiveThirtyEight's HARRY ENTEN: "Martin O'Malley is a star in Democratic primary polls. But that's not a good thing. Pollsters give candidates a "*" symbol when they get less than 1 percent support. So just how is O'Malley going to fight all the way back against Hillary Clinton? Reportedly by offering a more progressive vision and running to Clinton's left. There's one main problem with this strategy: It makes no sense." http://53eig.ht/1EYUizJ
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX
WHAT JEB BUSH SAID LAST NIGHT: 'THE MOST TEPID RECOVERY IN MODERN HISTORY'. At a speech in Michigan last night, Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush focused on the economy and job creation. A Bush aide passed along an excerpt to The Note: "In Washington, DC the last six years, we've had the most tepid recovery in modern history, growing at about a two percent rate. The kind of rate that creates more demands on government, that makes it harder and harder for us to imagine how we're going to get out from this hole. Forty percent -- forty percent -- of the eight and a half million people that are unemployed have given up looking for work all together. Workforce participation rates today are lower than they were thirty years ago. There are five million more people in poverty than the day that Barack Obama got elected as president." WATCH: https://youtu.be/KRaPDi8aYcU
TODAY ON THE TRAIL with ABC's CHRIS GOOD: Scott Walker will be in New Hampshire where he'll speak to the Belknap County GOP at its Sunset Dinner Cruise. Ted Cruz will be in New Hampshire for a reception with Manchester businesses and a meet and greet at Franklin Pierce University. Marco Rubio is in Nevada where he'll hold a tech-startup roundtable and visit with GOP activists in Reno. Hillary Clinton will be in Florida. Rand Paul is in South Carolina for a series of events today: A BBQ with the York County GOP in Rock Hill, a meet and greet at The Beacon Drive-In in Spartanburg, a pizza gathering with the Greenville County GOP and a "Pints for Liberty" event in Greenville. Rick Santorum will be in Iowa, where he'll hold a business-owner/employee breakfast at the HyVee in Council Bluffs. Newly-minted candidate George Pataki is in New Hampshire where he'll hold a town-hall with seniors in conjunction with the Merrimack County GOP in Concord. Chris Christie will visit two boardwalks today in his capacity as governor, not as a candidate: He'll hold a Summer Season Kick Off and Flood Mitigation Grant Announcement in Belmar, NJ; later, he'll walk the boardwalk at Point Pleasant Beach.
with ABC's VERONICA STRACQUALURSI
MARCO RUBIO WON'T BURN CAMPAIGN CASH ON IOWA STRAW POLL. Sen. Marco Rubio has decided not to spend money to compete in the Iowa Straw Poll -- delivering another blow to the Iowa tradition once considered a staple for presidential candidates. "We're running a lean operation, so we're only going to spend money in contests where delegates are at stake," Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio, confirmed to ABC. Asked if Rubio would actually attend the straw poll, Conant said the schedule for August is not yet determined. Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham and Mike Huckabee have also indicated they won't play in the straw poll in Boone, Iowa on August 8, according to ARLETTE SAENZ.
FORMER GOV. GEORGE PATAKI LAUNCHES PRESIDENTIAL BID WITH MINOR FLUB. Former New York Gov. George Pataki launched his 2016 presidential run yesterday by committing a minor flub while in New Hampshire. Delivering the final, emphatic lines of his announcement speech, the former Republican governor exhorted the crowd of supporters, saying: "Let us move forward, so just as the dreams of that young child growing up in Peekskill, N.Y. [referring to himself] came true, so too the dreams of a young child born today, whether in downtown Baltimore or here in Nashua, New Hampshire can come true." One problem: Pataki was speaking in Exeter, about an hour drive from Nashua, ABC's CHRIS GOOD notes. The former governor gave no pause after the slip before closing his speech. http://abcn.ws/1d1Q1F5
--NOTED: WHAT PATAKI'S ENTRY MEANS FOR 2016. Republicans have no shortage of presidential contenders, and the field is getting even more crowded. Pataki became the eighth Republican to officially launch a 2016 White House bid this week. Pataki isn't on the radar of national polls, but he differs from the other GOP contenders on some major policy issues, adding a new dimension to the 2016 primary. ABC's CHRIS GOOD has more. http://abcn.ws/1J5k3FN
RICK SANTORUM MAY DITCH SWEATER VESTS FOR 2016. Coming soon to a rally near you: a fashion-forward Rick Santorum. The newly-announced presidential candidate --- known for his signature sweater vests --- may be sporting an updated look in 2016, ABC's ERIN DOOLEY notes. "I have two daughters who are the fashion consultants -- they've appointed themselves the fashion consultants to the campaign and so you're going to be seeing attire that reflects their tastes, not mine," Santorum told ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS Wednesday. In 2012, sales of Santorum-branded sweater vests reportedly netted $300,000 for the campaign -- and spawned a number of parody accounts on Twitter. http://abcn.ws/1PQa8aS
FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER DENNIS HASTERT INDICTED BY FEDS. The Justice Department has charged former House Speaker Dennis Hastert with lying to FBI agents and trying to hide financial transactions intended to keep prior misconduct secret, prosecutors alleged Thursday. The 73-year-old Hastert, a top Republican on Capitol Hill before he left Congress in 2007, agreed five years ago to pay an unidentified person $3.5 million "to compensate for and conceal" prior "misconduct against" that person, according to prosecutors. Specifically, a grand jury indicted Hastert with one count of structuring currency transactions to evade currency transaction reports and one count of making a false statement to the FBI. Hastert, of Plano, Illinois, will be arraigned in the coming days. If convicted on both counts, he faces as many as 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. The Justice Department insisted that, like all defendants, Hastert is "presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial." ABC's MIKE LEVINE has more. http://abcn.ws/1J6fU4p
OBAMA MEETS WITH FAMILY OF JOURNALIST KILLED BY ISIS. President Obama met Thursday with the family of Steven Sotloff -- one of the American journalists brutally beheaded by ISIS last year. Art and Shirley Sotloff live in Florida, so the White House says it was "an appropriate occasion for the president to visit with them," during his trip to Miami, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON notes. "The President expressed his and the First Lady's condolences for Steven's death," Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council Spokesperson, wrote in a statement. "He appreciated the chance to hear from the Sotloffs more about Steven's work as a journalist, including his passion for bringing the stories of people who are suffering to the rest of the world in the hope of making a positive difference, including in Syria." http://abcn.ws/1Rrc2vW
LINDSEY GRAHAM TO RETIRE FROM AIR FORCE RESERVES. Sen. Lindsey Graham announced yesterday that he is retiring from the Air Force Reserves this summer. "I'll turn 60 this summer which is the mandatory retirement age for the Air Force Reserves," Graham said. "Although I would cherish the opportunity to continue to serve, I know that the time has come for me to end my service and transfer to the retired reserves." Graham served in the Air Force on active duty for six and a half years in the 1980's, including four years served in Europe. He has also served in the South Carolina Air National Guard and then joined the U.S. Air Force Reserves in 1995.
NOTED: If Graham officially enters the 2016 presidential race as he is expected to do next week, he will be one of the few running this cycle who served in the military. Others include Rick Perry, Jim Webb, and Jim Gilmore, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
@POTUS TWEETS CLIMATE CHANGE, BUT CAN'T RESIST NBA QUESTIONS. President Obama took to Twitter Thursday to answer questions on climate change, but it was his tweets about the NBA Finals and a presidential flub that stole the spotlight. Nearly 17,000 questions poured in from people using the #AskPOTUS hashtag, and the president strayed a little from climate change to twice answer questions about the NBA, including the firing of Tom Thibodeau, who was head coach of his hometown Chicago Bulls, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON writes. http://abcn.ws/1LNtGqf
@ZekeJMiller: WASHINGTON (AP) - US economy shrank at 0.7 percent rate in Q1, reflecting harsh winter and bigger trade gap.
@TCurry_Himself: Former Va. Gov. Jim Gilmore makes his 6th visit of the yr to NH this weekend Belknap GOP fundraising boat cruise on Lake Winnipesaukee