Plenty of political activity on this side of the pond: Obama inspects tornado damage in Alabama at 11:10 am ET… He then watches the final launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor (and Gabby Giffords will be there, too)… And he delivers a commencement address at Miami-Dade College (to numerous potential voters in the swing state)… Pawlenty, Santorum, Romney, Cain, and Bachmann speak at NH cattle call… Filling the GOP establishment void… NH Dem Party files FEC complaint at Team Romney… Burton-Sweeney groups are unveiled… And League of Women Voters airs TV ads aimed at Scott Brown and Claire McCaskill.
From NBC’s Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** On this side of the pond: While most of today’s focus is on the Royal Wedding in London -- as well as the devastation in the South, especially Alabama -- the day is also full of events with political meaning. In New Hampshire, GOP presidential candidates are gathering at yet another cattle call. In Florida, President Obama is attending the final launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavor (Rep. Gabby Giffords will be there, too). And later in the Sunshine State, the president will deliver a commencement address at a school chock-full of potential young voters.
*** Hard Times: But before heading to Florida, Obama visits Tuscaloosa, AL to inspect the tornado damage there. At 11:10 am ET, he views the damage and meets with Gov. Robert Bentley (R). As of late last night, the death toll from the tornadoes stands at 298, including 210 in Alabama. The New York Times: “Thousands have been injured, and untold more have been left homeless, hauling their belongings in garbage bags or rooting through disgorged piles of wood and siding to find anything salvageable.” As we mentioned yesterday, these kinds of visits -- right after a disaster -- are tricky for presidents. On the one hand, there's the desire to visibly respond to tragedy and destruction. On the other hand, there's the desire of a president -- and his entourage -- not to get in the way of the clean-up. To put this disaster into a bit of perspective: More lives have been lost this week due to this tornado outbreak than any hurricanes that have hit the U.S. since Katrina.
*** Cape Canaveral Calling: Then, at 2:10 pm ET, the president and the first family arrive in Cape Canaveral, FL to watch the final launch of Endeavor. Per Politico, part of the reason for Obama’s appearance at the launch: “to ease the political damage of job losses in the space industry and reaffirm his commitment to space exploration, which looms large in a high-unemployment battleground state that looks to the skies for its future, self-image and economic well-being.” Do NOT underestimate the political impact of the perception of the loss of jobs in this crucial SWING portion of this crucial SWING state. Of course, the biggest short-term political story in Cape Canaveral will be getting a glimpse of Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (D), who also will be in attendance at the launch. How she looks will fairly or unfairly impact the chatter about the Arizona Senate race.
*** The President’s Speech: And finally for Obama, it’s on to Miami for a commencement address at 6:55 pm ET. After delivering past commencement addresses at the University of Michigan, Notre Dame, and the service academies, some may have raised their eyebrows at today’s venue: Miami-Dade College. Yet consider these numbers from the school: 174,000 students are enrolled in the school, making it the largest institution of higher education in the country; 14,000 will graduate there this spring (that's compared to the 7,500 that will graduate this semester at the gigantic University of Texas at Austin); and it graduates more Hispanics and African Americans than any other high-ed institution in the country. So if you’re trying to reach young voters in the Sunshine State, Miami-Dade College makes a lot of sense.
*** Manchester United: Beginning at 8:00 pm ET, the conservative Americans for Prosperity is hosting a presidential cattle call in Manchester, NH, which will be attended by five potential candidates. Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, and Michele Bachmann (in that order) will deliver eight-minute opening statements, and then will receive a handful of questions from the audience (which will be vetted by AFP President Tim Phillips). MOST significantly: This will be Romney’s first cattle call since CPAC with other presidentials.
*** Heir to the GOP establishment throne? We already know that there's a Tea Party void in the nascent GOP presidential field. The question is who fills it. (Bachmann? Palin? Trump? Someone else?) Similarly, there's an establishment void, at least for GOP donors. That's why Mitch Daniels' name has become very popular ever since Haley Barbour declined to get in the race -- he's a proxy for establishment types who aren't for Romney (and won't be until or unless he's the nominee), but who also aren't sold on Pawlenty. But if Daniels doesn't run, who can fill that void? Paul Ryan? Chris Christie? Pawlenty by default? By the way, Real Clear Politics writes about the campaign-in-waiting for Daniels if he does run.
*** Upstairs, Downstairs: The New Hampshire Democratic Party has filed a complaint with Federal Election Commission, raising the question that Romney’s state political action committees amount to “soft money” for a federal candidate running for office. As the Boston Globe reported earlier this month, "The former Massachusetts governor has become a master of a controversial but legal fund-raising technique that relies on a network of loosely regulated state political action committees to collect those funds. Consider the gifts to Romney from Donna G. Marriott — the wife of Marriott chairman J.W. Marriott Jr. — and J.W.’s brother, Richard E. They wrote checks totaling $215,000 to Romney’s state political committees, according to public records reviewed by the Globe." Romney spokesman Andrea Saul tells First Read, "This is totally political. For those wondering what the Obama jobs plan entails, it apparently involves hiring more lawyers at the FEC to handle frivolous complaints filed by his minions."
*** Minding the (Super PAC) gap: A few weeks ago, we wrote about the emergence of the Democratic Super PACs, in response to the GOP ones that popped up last cycle, like the Karl Rove-backed American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS. One of these Dem Super PACs is being led by former Obama White House aides Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney. And today, First Read can confirm that Burton and Sweeney have established two different groups: Priorities USA (which, like GPS, can accept unlimited donations but doesn’t have to disclose donors) and Priorities USA Action (which does have to disclose donors). Politico reports that two other well-known Democrats are involved with the groups: Paul Begala and Geoff Garin, who will be its lead pollster. Priorities USA Action also has this launch video. “It’s time to stand up and fight back,” the video says.
*** Bleak environment: The League of Women Voters is launching a seven-figure TV ad buy hitting GOP Sen. Scott Brown and Dem Sen. Claire McCaskill on the environment. The ad aimed at Brown will air in Boston, while the one aimed at McCaskill airs in St. Louis and Jefferson City.
Countdown to NY-26 special election: 25 days
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 105 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 193 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 283 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up