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2012: Huntsman's rock-n-roll years

BACHMANN: One of the major pluses for Michele Bachmann among other putative presidential candidates? She can raise serious cash, the Christian Science Monitor writes. In the first three months of 2011, Michele Bachmann raked in $2.2 million for her congressional re-election campaign and her political action committee, while Mitt Romney raised $1.9 million for his own PAC, the Monitor points out.

“There is a pecking order in Congress, and Ms. Bachmann’s televised Tea Party response to the president’s State of the Union address irritated House Republican leaders, who had already rebuffed her when she sought a leadership position this year. But there are no rules of seniority in presidential politics, where exploring a candidacy takes little more than an airplane ticket to an early-voting state and a roster of curious party activists,” the New York Times writes of Bachmann’s ability to broadcast her potential presidential aspirations.

South Carolina State GOP chairwoman Karen Floyd predicted at least five participants in the May 5 Fox News Republican candidates’ debate in Greenville, South Carolina, Greenville Online reports. Two potential candidates, Rick Santorum and Buddy Roemer, have already RSVP’d, while Mike Huckabee will not attend.

BARBOUR: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour oversaw three tax hikes while governor, Politico reports: two cigarette tax hikes and a reinstated hospital-bed tax to help fund Medicaid. The Barbour camp said that “the cigarette tax hike wasn’t done to boost revenue, but was for ‘health reasons.’ History shows it was in fact part of a complicated budget agreement in a very tough fiscal year in Mississippi.”

Barbour’s wife told south Mississippi’s WLOX-TV on Thursday that the thought of her husband running for president “horrifies me,” the AP writes.

DANIELS: Mitch Daniels is well positioned to carve out a niche for himself in the GOP field, Salon writes: “the most prominent ‘candidate’ at the moment seems to be a reality show host who's become obsessed with birtherism -- and deathly stale, littered with dried-out pols. Daniels, by contrast, would be a genuinely fresh face on the national stage and would combine the appeal of an outsider -- he was overwhelmingly reelected in Indiana in 2008, even as President Obama carried the state -- with the savvy of a D.C. insider (which he was during the first part of George W. Bush's administration).”

GINGRICH: Newt Gingrich is making his third trip to New Hampshire in three weeks, stopping at a sugar shack (for maple syrup) in Temple, as well as meeting with students at Saint Anselm College and with the Cheshire County GOP in Keene, the AP writes.

Gingrich will speak during Georgia’s 9th District Republican Party’s convention in Forsyth County on April 16 – his first stop in Georgia since reports surfaced of his presidential aspirations, Forsyth News reports.

HUCKABEE: Mike Huckabee won a 2012 presidential straw poll in York County, South Carolina, CNN reports. “Huckabee, who has shown no signs of mounting a repeat presidential bid in the state, nevertheless won the vote with 23 percent of the 152 ballots cast, local GOP officials told CNN. He was followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who captured 11 percent of the vote.” Bachmann was third with 10%.

HUNTSMAN: Politico looks at his “Rock and Roll” years: Jonny Huntsman didn’t quite make it through his senior year of high school, and the cause was pretty plain to his classmates. One recalled the long-haired, diffident Salt Lake City high schooler sitting next to him in history class “hitting his desk as if it were a piano. By the time high school ended, he was joining his bandmates in a converted radio station on the edge of town for five hours a day, practicing original progressive rock numbers and REO Speedwagon covers as his non-Mormon bandmates ducked out occasionally to get stoned in their cars.”

PAWLENTY: A close look at former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s record shows that his fiscally conservative rhetoric doesn’t always match up with his state’s reality, the L.A. Times writes. “Pawlenty did veto almost all proposed tax increases, apart from one on cigarettes labeled a ‘health impact fee.’ He curbed the rate of growth in state spending - though not growth overall. But to do that, he relied on money from the federal stimulus - a program he has decried as wasteful - and other one-time fixes. He postponed school and other obligations, leading to hikes in local property taxes and strains on school districts as burdens shifted downward. Most strikingly, he left the state with a $5 billion projected deficit, one of the highest in the nation as a percentage of the state's general fund, only slightly trailing California's massive gap.”

ROMNEY: Romney was in Las Vegas criticizing President Obama on foreign policy, but he wound up defending his health-care plan, the Boston Globe reports. Romney said: “I would never do what President Obama did, which is usurp the power of states and replace it with an overreaching federal hand. That’s the wrong way… “If we get the chance to talk about health care, it will be fun. Because of course he does me the great favor of saying that I was the inspiration for his plan. I’ll say, if that’s the case, why didn’t you call me? Why didn’t you ask me what was wrong? Why didn’t you ask…what worked and what didn’t?’ … I can’t wait to have those conversations, and I’ll take it to him. On the other hand, I’m not going to go after people on innuendo and personal attacks. I’m going to go after people I disagree with on policy.”

Romney’s current strategy is to remain under the radar – with enough appearances to keep his name in the discussion – while other presidential candidates make their blunders in the limelight, the Boston Globe writes. “‘Every passing day that Donald Trump or Michele Bachmann or Newt Gingrich do and say things that are, to many, embarrassing, is a good day for Mitt Romney,’’ said Steve Lombardo, a Washington-based Republican consultant who advised Romney’s 2008 campaign but is not working for any candidate so far this year.”

Romney is also spreading out his strategy beyond the first two primary states this time, the AP writes. “This time his strategy is more of a multi-state marathon, with economically suffering Nevada an important round in what advisers predict could be a protracted fight to be the party's 2012 nominee.” Romney was in Nevada this weekend, touring a neighborhood hit by foreclosures on Friday, and speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition on Saturday. 

SANTORUM: Rick Santorum spoke to a crowd of about 300 at the Horry County, South Carolina GOP Convention on Saturday, Carolina Live reports.  

“Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania and potential Republican presidential candidate, said he thinks South Carolina's presidential primary should precede Florida's as determined by the Republican National Committee,” Greenville Online reports.