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2012: Treading gingerly on Ryan's plan

“Mindful of the political risks, Republican presidential hopefuls treaded gingerly — or ducked — as House Republicans unveiled a budget plan that would slash federal spending by about $5 trillion over 10 years while revamping health programs for the elderly and poor,” the Los Angeles Times writes. “Several, including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, praised the budget's sponsor, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, but stopped short of fully endorsing the blueprint and didn't indicate whether they backed the massive changes in Medicare and Medicaid. Others were silent on the plan, including two Republicans who rarely pass up opportunities to inject themselves into the latest national debate: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.”

“A mating dance is underway between the tea party and the likely 2012 Republican presidential candidates, with tea party organizers pushing the candidates and their aides to take hard-line positions on cutting the government and reducing taxes in return for possible support,” Politico writes.

BACHMANN: Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad compared Michele Bachmann’s star power to that of Sarah Palin’s: “If Congresswoman Bachmann gets in, she has the potential to appeal to a lot of people who might have gone for Governor Palin,” Branstad said Monday, according to The State Column. “Imagine if they both got in. That could make it really interesting.”

DANIELS: We know state leaders are urging everyone to ‘take a haircut,’ but not like this: On Monday, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels shaved the beard of Republican state Rep. Milo Smith, who grew it out during the five weeks that Democrats boycotted the House and went to Illinois to protest Republican measures. Smith was asked to hold off shaving so that legislators could auction off the rights to save his beard for charity. Two constituents offered $1,000 if Daniels did the honors, the Chicago Tribune reports.

GINGRICH: Newt Gingrich will speak at the 9th District Republican Party of Georgia Convention in Cumming, Georgia on April 16, the Dalton Daily Citizen writes.

HUCKABEE: Mike Huckabee criticized news outlets for linking to a Mother Jones Magazine story that said Huckabee’s administration destroyed all of his records when the former Arkansas governor launched his 2008 presidential bid. “’What I don't understand is how the supposed 'legitimate' press is used for pawns by Mother Jones, Media Matters, and other partisan organizations and how they could use material from sources like that without doing their own fact checking,’” Huckabee said according to US News.

HUNTSMAN: Politico’s Ben Smith recalls an interview with Jani Iwamoto, a Democratic member of the Salt Lake County Council who went to high school with Jon Huntsman, whose thoughts toward him reflect the bipartisan appeal he still has in his home state – as compared to former governors like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty who have largely renounced positions that home-state Democrats gravitated towards. “Iwamoto's 11-year old daughter recently asked her whose sign they would put up in their yard if Obama faces off against Huntsman in 2012. ‘I think we'd have to put up both,’ she said.”

Jon Huntsman will make his first appearance in New Hampshire on May 21, the New Hampshire Union-Leader writes, when he is the graduation speaker at Southern New Hampshire University. “‘We are very excited about it,’ said university spokesman Gregg Mazzola, who noted than then-Sen. Barack Obama was the SNHU commencement speaker in 2007.”

PAUL: Ron Paul will decide on his bid for president in a month.

PAWLENTY: Tim Pawlenty praised Rep. Paul Ryan for releasing his budget proposal yesterday, The Hill writes. He did not touch on the merits of the budget itself, but rather said the issue was “going to be debated for several months to come” and that the more immediate concern is the vote to raise the debt ceiling.

Pawlenty became the third presidential hopeful to dine at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s mansion last Thursday, the AP writes.

ROMNEY: “Mitt Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC has donated $45,000 to the Republican Party and the party’s House and Senate campaign committees,” the Washington Post’s Cillizza notes. “I believe that by electing Republicans, we will make America strong and prosperous again,” Romney said in a statement.

SANTORUM: Santorum sat down for an NBC’s Meet the Press “Press Pass” Web segment and said the slow start to the 2012 campaign has been a "blessing" to him because it's given him time to consult with his family (he has seven children, ages 2-19) and make his decision about whether or not to enter the race. "When the favorite is, sort of, not doing anything," he said, "it creates a vacuum and most everybody else in the race is pretty far down and so any one person entering the race doesn't make the race go. The race goes when the bigger players decide to get in. And since they haven't it's created a vacuum that so far, collectively, no one's been able to fill." Watch the full interview here. Santorum also talks about the budget, how best for Republicans to beat Obama in 2012, and the 2011 NHL playoffs (hint: he likes the Penguins).

Former Sen. Rick Santorum will make his first visit of the cycle to Nevada on April 7th, where he’ll headline a fundraiser for the Washoe County Republican Party, CNN reports.

Santorum will speak in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on April 26th, the second participant in “the chairman’s series” of discussions hosted by state Republican chairman Matt Strawn, the Des Moines Register reports.

He’ll also appear at the Family Institute of Connecticut’s September banquet, the Hartford Courant reports. 

TRUMP: An adviser of Donald Trump’s says the real-estate mogul’s scheduled appearance at an April 15 Tea Party rally in Florida is “a recognition” of the fact that Florida may move its primary date earlier in the cycle, Politico writes.