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2012: Get your gun

The New York Times on the Obama-Romney money race: “Aides and leading donors to Mitt Romney are preparing a major expansion of the campaign’s fund-raising efforts to prepare for a general election contest against President Obama, with the goal of raising up to $600 million, according to several people involved in the discussions...  And Mr. Obama, who raised $750 million in 2008, is likely to meet or exceed that this year, according to people involved in his fund-raising operation.”

ROMNEY: The Lukewarm Candidate: “In Iowa, Tea Party activist Ryan Rhodes said he has a ‘really good clothespin.’ That would be for his nose, he said, when he votes for Mitt Romney in November,” the Boston Globe writes. “Grass-roots conservatives said Wednesday they would reluctantly get behind the former Massachusetts governor now that he has all but sewn up the Republican nomination for president. But their enthusiasm level is low, if not flat-lined, as Romney begins the general election task of rallying the party and energizing a skeptical conservative base — even as he seeks to broaden his appeal to more moderate, independent voters.”

But Romney leads in a new FOX News poll.

Mitt Romney addresses the National Rifle Association convention today in St. Louis. The St. Louis Dispatch takes a long look at Romney’s challenges with gun advocates: Head of the group Wayne “LaPierre did not have overwhelming praise for Romney's tenure in Massachussetts — ‘he tried to help people up there, and he was supportive of the Second Amendment,’ he said — but suggested many NRA members already know how they will vote in November. ‘If you talk to most Second Amendment supporters in the country, they'll tell you, 'Anybody but President Obama,'’ LaPierre said. For Romney — who got a ‘B’ rating from the group while running for governor — the challenge Friday will be to energize NRA members enough that they share that enthusiasm when they go back to their home states.”

The AP: “Mitt Romney's speech to the National Rifle Association is a high-profile chance for the Republican presidential candidate to woo conservatives who have viewed him warily for years.” And it points out: “The address on Friday in St. Louis also comes at a moment of heightened national concern about gun use because of the explosive Florida case in which a neighborhood watch volunteer fatally shot an unarmed teenager. The NRA strongly backed Florida's ‘stand your ground’ law, which is at the heart of the unfolding legal matter.”

And: “When Romney ran successfully for Massachusetts governor in 2002, the NRA gave his Democratic opponent a higher rating on gun-rights issues but made no endorsement. Massachusetts quadrupled its gun-licensing fee while Romney was governor. He signed a law that made permanent a ban on assault-type weapons, although it was coupled with measures backed by gun-rights groups, such as the creation of an appeals board for people seeking to restore their gun licenses. … Romney drew snickers in 2008 by claiming he sometimes hunts ‘small varmints.’ He showed more humility and humor last month in Alabama, where he said he hoped to go hunting with a friend who ‘can actually show me which end of the rifle to point.’”

FLASHBACK: Mitt Romney’s claims on women’s jobs losses reminded us of this: “This is the president of the United States that has killed more jobs in America than I think any president in history, certainly in my lifetime. I think the only job he cares about is the one he’s got.” – Rick Perry Aug. 19, 2011

That won Perry two Pinocchios from the Washington Post’s fact checker.

Not everyone’s throwing their enthusiastic support behind Romney. At a county GOP dinner in Pennsylvania last night (attended by Veep possibility Rob Portman), Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, the evening’s keynote speaker, seemed to resist Portman's entreaty to unify the party – at least right away. “We’re going to have a presumptive nominee for 2012 really soon,” Blackburn said, tepidly, per NBC’s Jamie Novogrod. Blackburn -- who endorsed Romney in 2008 and withdrew her support and threw it to Fred Thompson -- though, did not mention Romney by name during her speech.

Later, during an on-camera interview with NBC, though she said: “I will support our nominee. We are moving to having that presumptive nominee, and it’s going to be Governor Romney from what it appears, and I look forward to supporting the nominee.” She added, “I’m an old county party chairman, and I appreciate letting the primaries play out, and I look forward to – very quickly.  I think we’re very quickly going to have our nominee named and have that presumptive nominee.” And when asked if Romney would be a strong nominee, she said, “Oh indeed he is. Very strong economic message.”

But the Duggars are on board.

The Boston Globe: “Quietly, ‘Swift Boat’ donor throws big money behind Romney.”