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2012: Romney debates debating

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said yesterday that the party’s presidential field would solidify soon and that he was working to have a “limited number” of presidential forums and debates sanctioned by the party, the L.A. Times reports.

BACHMANN: Politico readers catch a misattributed quote from Michele Bachmann’s cameo in Newt Gingrich’s latest film about history. When she asks “Will this latest generation, as Abraham Lincoln so famously said, will this latest generation hand that torch of liberty to the next generation," she is combining statements from Abraham Lincoln (who coined the phrase “lamp of liberty”) and John F. Kennedy who said “that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”

BARBOUR: The Jackson Clarion Ledger writes that Haley Barbour quit the presidential race when things were going his way: “Even more a factor in 2012 is that fact that tea party voters and other non-establishment Republicans will give GOP contenders like U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann and others a look during the primaries. But at the end of the day, winning the Republican nomination is about winning the support of establishment Republicans who still control the delegates who will comprise the 2012 Republican National Convention. That arena is Haley Barbour's arena.”

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell predicts that Republican presidential hopefuls’ seeking of Haley Barbour’s endorsement will resemble “Chris Christie-like courting,” according to The Hill. “Noting the litany of likely presidential candidates who have gone out of their way to meet with the New Jersey governor in the hopes of winning his backing, O’Connell argued the Mississippi governor is now ‘the most important Republican not running for president.’”

DANIELS: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is passing four different education reform bills poised to bring sweeping changes to the state, which will fulfill “that last, pesky policy goal until now missing from his gubernatorial record that his loyalists hoped he'd take with him into a presidential campaign,” Real Clear Politics reports.

GINGRICH: Newt Gingrich wrote an op-ed for the National Catholic Register titled “Why I Became Catholic,” in which he writes, “Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States in April of 2008 was a turning point for me. The Holy Father presided over solemn vespers with the U.S. bishops in the Crypt Church at the basilica in Washington. Callista’s choir was asked to sing for Pope Benedict at vespers, and as a spouse, I had the unique opportunity to attend the papal visit and was deeply moved by the occasion.”

Gingrich spoke this morning at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell also spoke at the event. 

HUCKABEE: Mike Huckabee says that rumors Fox News is pushing him to make a decision on whether or not to run for president are “total nonsense,” according to The Daily Beast.

PALIN: The L.A. Times characterizes Sarah Palin as having a grassroots campaign presence in Iowa: “Palin's fate right now is in the hands of a California lawyer and ‘tea party’ supporter who has anointed himself her unofficial Iowa state director, and a retired potato chip salesman who is trying to coalesce support for her online. They know each other, but neither is officially connected to SarahPAC, her national political operation.” 

PAUL: He announced yesterday his formation of an exploratory committee for a bid for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, Radio Iowa reports. Paul also introduced his state leadership team, including Drew Ivers, the chairman of Paul’s 2008 Iowa caucus campaign.

ROMNEY: As of yesterday, Mitt Romney’s camp was staying coy on whether the former governor plans to participate in the Fox News debate on May 5, Politico notes. "I don’t have any announcements to make right now on debates," Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom emailed Politico’s Ben Smith yesterday.

Romney will raise money for his exploratory committee on May 18 in Austin, Texas, the Austin American Statesman reports. The event will be a luncheon during a two-day, four-city tour of the Lone Star State.

The Hill/GOP12’s Heinze writes that Romney has seen an uptick in some general-election polling against President Obama, but has seen a drop off some primary polling.

SANTORUM: While speaking in Dyersville, Iowa, Rick Santorum told his audience that one reason John McCain didn’t defeat Barack Obama in 2008 is because he didn’t stress Obama’s record of arguing in favor of infanticide, the Des Moines Register reports. “According to the Annenberg Political Fact Check, Obama opposed Illinois legislation in 2001 and 2002 that called for medical help for any aborted fetus that showed signs of life, even if doctors didn't think it could survive. Illinois already had a law requiring doctors to protect the life of a fetus if it was likely to survive outside the womb.”

Nick Pappas, who worked for Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential bid, joined the Santorum campaign as New Hampshire Field Director, according to a press release.

Gingrich and Bachmann will attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner as guests of FOX, The Hill writes.