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2012: 98 days

“The next 98 days will be a time of testing for the men and women running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination,” the Washington Post’s Cillizza writes. “With the field largely settled, the three months between Memorial Day and Labor Day amount to the first extended period in which the candidates must learn how to interact with one another and, more important, with voters. This is when the race truly begins.”
“The Republican establishment probably will wait in vain for a white knight -- Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Paul Ryan are the most oft-cited -- to rescue the party’s presidential prospects,” Bloomberg’s Al Hunt writes, but, he adds, “The Republican field seems set, with the major contenders likely to be former Governors Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Jon Huntsman of Utah and possibly Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.”

BACHMANN: “On a Memorial Day sweep across New Hampshire, Bachmann, a potential presidential candidate, was greeted enthusiastically by Republicans and Tea Party activists, who have made Bachmann a conservative icon,” the Boston Globe writes, adding, “Bachmann did not say whether a run by 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin — another Tea Party hero — would affect her decision. ‘The person that I compare myself to is Barack Obama and I think that’s a very favorable comparison,’ Bachmann said, when asked about Palin.”

AP: “The Minnesota Republican says she considers Palin, the GOP's 2008 vice presidential candidate, a ‘friend,’ not a ‘competitor.’ But she told ABC's ‘Good Morning America’ on Tuesday that she has no problem running against a friend.”

Michele Bachmann gave her strongest indication yesterday that she is preparing for a presidential bid, the Washington Post writes, telling a Republican activist that she wanted to run for president rather than challenge Sen. Al Franken (D) in her home state of Minnesota because “we need a person who is going to stand up to Obamacare… You’ve got to be willing to take on our party, the other party and then explain it to the people. I know I can make the case to the American people and win them over to our side.” She made the remarks during a meet-and-greet in New Hampshire.

GOP 12’s Heinze writes, following all the questions Bachmann got about Palin on FOX and on the trail: “By the media's standards, Michele Bachmann is still very much Sarah Palin's little sister.”

CAIN: Herman Cain goes Rodney Dangerfield in a column in The Daily Caller: “Wow! I must be causing some people quite a concern as a candidate for the Republican nomination for president. The establishment skeptics are still stuck in the traditional campaign paradigm of immediate name ID, lots of money, and having held a worthy elective office before. The critics are pounding on what they perceive as my weaknesses. And the Democratic National Committee now has me on its radar and is sharpening its blades for a Cain attack.”

The Washington Post asks of Herman Cain’s success with many Republican: “Who’s calling the shots in the Republican Party — the elite establishment or the grass-roots activists? What does the popularity of a black tea party hero say about the movement’s relationship with race? Is the goal of the upstarts in the Republican field the presidency or a cushy Fox news gig? And in the tea party era, do quixotic candidates tilt at windmills or reap electoral windfalls?”

CHRISTIE: Seven Iowa Republican contributors will head to New Jersey today to court that state’s governor, Chris Christie. “The heavy hitters’ journey is being closely watched by political operatives across the nation who read it as evidence of Republican discontent in the lead-off voting state with the developing field of GOP hopefuls – and a sign that Christie’s resistance might crack,” the Des Moines Register writes. 

GIULIANI: “Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is set to headline a state GOP fundraiser this week, an early-primary state visit likely to fuel speculation that the 2008 presidential candidate may yet enter the 2012 race,” Roll Call writes.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is scheduled to appear in New Hampshire on Thursday, where he’ll headline a fundraiser for the state GOP and have lunch with several Republican activists, the AP writes, “stirring further speculation that he may jump into the 2012 Republican presidential field.”

HUNTSMAN: Deseret News writes that Huntsman gathered with his family in Salt Lake City over the weekend to talk about whether he should run for president. “We're moving inexorably in that direction and I think in the next few weeks, we'll arrive at a decision,” he said on Friday.

PALIN: “Sarah Palin rumbled through Washington on the back of a Harley as she and her family began an East Coast tour Sunday, renewing speculation that the former Alaska governor would join the still unsettled Republican presidential contest,” the Boston Globe writes of Palin’s appearance at the Rolling Thunder rally this weekend.

Sarah Palin’s announcement of a cross-country bus trip this weekend had immediate reverberations through the rest of the republican field, The Hill writes. Shortly after the announcement, “Mitt Romney, arguably the Republican front-runner, said he would formally enter the race next week in New Hampshire… Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.), a Tea Party favorite sometimes compared to Palin, likewise said she would visit Iowa in June to announce whether she will run.”

“This past week, it was Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann who took their campaigns to Iowa, but it was the news of Palin's bus tour that really had people talking. A simple announcement on her website, and she got all the attention, all the interest,” Politico writes.

So what did Palin have to say at Rolling Thunder. Among other things: “I love that smell of emissions.”

This says it all: Palin on Greta Van Sustern last night, per GOP 12: "[The media wants] kind of the conventional idea of a schedule, we want to follow you, we want you to bring us along with you. I'm like a) I don't think I owe anything to the mainstream media. I think that it would be a mistake for me to become some kind of conventional politician and doing things the way that it's always be done with the media, in terms of relationships with them. .... I want them to have to do a little bit of work on a tour like this, and that would include not necessarily telling them beforehand where every stop's going to be."

PAWLENTY: “Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said the key difference between his Medicare proposal and that of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., is that his plan will change the way providers are paid,” the Des Moines Register writes.

Pawlenty would be the candidate most affected by a Bachmann bid, the St. Cloud Times writes: “Already struggling to make his name known, Pawlenty would have a difficult time overcoming Bachmann’s appeal to the party’s conservative base, which is the most active during the nominating season.”

By the way, there’s a new Pawlenty video.

PERRY: The New York Times writes of Rick Perry’s indication on Friday that he was “going to think about” running for president: “The ritual of reporters asking Gov. Rick Perry if he is running for president and getting a firm no has become so entrenched in Texas that jaws dropped Friday afternoon when Mr. Perry abruptly changed his tune -- slightly -- and hinted that he might run after all.”

ROMNEY: On NBC’s TODAY, Mitt Romney again defended his health-care overhaul in Massachusetts, repeating that it “wouldn’t be honest” to say it was a mistake. But he drew a distinction between his plan and Obama’s, saying that his plan was 70 pages, Obama’s was 2,700. He said much of what’s in it is “devastating to the health-care system,” and he pledged to repeal it. On his Mormon religion, he said, “We’re not electing a pastor-in-chief, we’re electing a commander-in-chief.” He said his chances of winning were “very good actually,” and better than 50-50. On some softer items, Romney said he has mostly 60s and 70s music on his iPad, including a lot of country and the Beatles. He said he watches American Idol, just finished reading “The Rule of Nine” and former President George W. Bush’s “Decision Points,” which he called “Decisions.” He said he also read a book from the vampire series, Twilight, which he called “fun.” His wife described him as a “casual guy,” and that he said he swears on occasion. There’s “been a damn or a hell from time to time,” Romney said.

AP: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is calling Barack Obama ‘one of the most ineffective presidents’ he's ever seen, and says he can beat him next year. Romney tells NBC in an interview that while Obama wasn't responsible for the recession he inherited, ‘he made things worse. He's failed.’”

“Mitt Romney returned [Friday] to the state that delivered to him a disappointing defeat in 2008, and once again began trying to woo Iowa caucus-goers for his nascent presidential campaign,” the Boston Globe writes. “ ‘It’s good to be home,’ he said to an audience of about 200 here. ‘Ah, this isn’t exactly home, but it felt like it last time I was around.’ But his first high-profile event in the state – held at the State Historical Building, with about 200 people sitting on fold-out chairs eager to hear from the former Massachusetts governor -- was cut short by burning popcorn that triggered a fire alarm and an evacuation.”

“Romney traced familiar highways as he traveled to Ankeny, where he sat at a desk and wielded an ear of corn while talking to the owners of a software company. Late in the afternoon he headed for Cedar Rapids, in eastern Iowa, the region of the state where he fared best in 2008, for a friendly GOP picnic,” the Boston Globe writes. “Romney focused his remarks on economic themes, avoiding the hot-button social concerns that dominate the agenda for many of Iowa’s voters.”

“Making a decidedly low-key maiden trip to Iowa on Friday, Mitt Romney delivered a sharp critique of President Obama, saying his presidency was ‘an experiment’ that had ‘failed because he doesn’t understand how the economy works,’” the Washington Post writes.