Santorum makes it official, President Obama hosts a state dinner for Germany, does Congress make any progress on debt limit? And Andy goes on his own bus tour.
Edited by Andrew Gross and Domenico Montanaro
Santorum makes it official, President Obama hosts a state dinner for Germany, does Congress make any progress on debt limit? And Andy goes on his own bus tour.
Edited by Andrew Gross and Domenico Montanaro
When Rick Santorum makes his formal announcement for president this coming Monday, he will do so from the steps of the courthouse in Somerset, PA. The location was picked for a reason -- it was where Santorum's grandfather immigrated to America, and it will allow him to tell the tale of how his grandfather fled fascist Italy in 1925 and worked in the coal mines of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
But the location also reopens old questions about Santorum's legal residence, which has been a source of controversy for the better part of a decade. The issue is significant because Santorum launched his career in politics by attacking his opponents' residency. Back in 1990, the Republican ousted a longtime Democratic incumbent, Rep. Doug Walgren, by waging an aggressive campaign questioning whether Walgren lived in the district. In winning election to the U.S. Senate in 1994, he did the same thing, by raising questions about whether incumbent Harris Wofford lived in Pennsylvania, according to reports.
So it is ironic that questions about Santorum's own residence has dogged him for years. He and his wife Karen have owned a house in the Penn Hills, PA, suburb of Pittsburgh since 1997. But while he was in office, Santorum and his family spent most of their time living in a much larger house the couple owned in Leesburg, VA. Santorum says he kept his legal residence in Pennsylvania and spent holidays and some weekends there. But he always voted absentee, and the local press found another couple listed as registered voters at the same address.
Santorum's five school-age children also lived in Virginia but attended a "cyber" charter school in Pennsylvania (where they could access their classes and schoolwork via computer and not have to physically attend the school). What's more - the Penn Hills, PA, public school district paid 80% of the tuition costs for the five Santorum children.
In 2004, the Penn Hills school district ruled that Santorum did not meet the qualifications of residency because he and his family spent most of the year in Virginia. The district demanded repayment of tuition costs totaling $72,000. Once the controversy surfaced, Santorum withdrew his children from the cyber school and they were home schooled in Virginia. After a protracted legal fight, the PA Dept of Education paid $55,000 to Penn Hills to settle the dispute over tuition costs.
Santorum lost a Senate re-election bid in 2006 to Bob Casey. He and his wife sold their home in Leesburg, VA, late the following year.
President Obama traveled to Toledo, Ohio, on Friday, amid a disappointing jobs report, to highlight what his administration sees as one area of success: the rescue of the American auto industry.
Obama's visit to a Chrysler factory in this important battleground state comes on a day the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the nation's unemployment rate ticked up to 9.1 percent in May, with the economy adding a lower-than-expected 54,000 jobs. The president made no mention of the job figures in his 20-minute speech, even as he acknowledged that despite having made great strides, the economy still faced "strong headwinds" from high gas prices to economic disruptions following tragedy in japan to instability in the Middle East that creates uncertainty.
"Even though the economy is growing, even though it's created more than two million jobs over the past 15 months, we still face some tough times; we still face some challenges," the president said. "There are always going to be bumps on the road to recovery."
The state of the economy, a topic at the top of voters' minds, is sure to play a key role in the next election and Obama has been eager to show Americans that growing jobs is at the top of his agenda.
The White House has hailed the unpopular government bailout of the auto industry as a resounding success and sough to shine a spotlight on news that Chrysler has repaid $10.6 billion in government loans six years ahead of schedule and that Italian carmaker Fiat has agreed the Treasury Department's stake in the company.
Noting the auto industry overall had added 113,000 jobs over the last two years -- after losing some 400,000 jobs in the year before he took office -- the president listed other signs of strength among American automakers.
"I placed my bet on you. I put my faith in the American worker," he said. "Today all three automakers are turning a profit -- that hasn't happened since 2004. Today all three American automakers are gaining market share - that hasn't happened since 1995."
Republicans wasted no time in blaming the president and his policies on the unemployment numbers, with Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) telling reporters this morning that "the overtaxing, overregulating and overspending that is going on in Washington is creating uncertainty" and keeping job creators on the sidelines.
The House just voted down a resolution offered by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) that would have required the U.S. to pull out of Libya within 15 days.
Voting for the non-binding resolution were 148 House members -- including 87 Republicans -- while 265 members voted against it. One Republican who voted for the measure: potential presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (R-MN).
Earlier, by a 268-145 vote, the House passed a non-binding resolution on Libya by House Speaker John Boehner, which asserted that the Obama administration must provide Congress information about the mission there.
After putting aside a potential bid to be the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is calling for unity in his party, warning that the search for a “pure” candidate could ultimately disappoint GOP voters and enable President Barack Obama’s re-election next year.
“We cannot expect our candidate to be pure,” Barbour told conservative activists Friday at the 2011 Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington D.C. “Winning is about unity.”
Whoever the nominee may be at the end of the contested presidential primary, Barbour said, “I am not going to agree with him or her on everything. … You’re not going to agree with them on every single thing, either.”
Barbour’s remarks came the day after party infighting garnered headlines in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire, where perceived frontrunner Mitt Romney received fresh criticism from Republican political superstars Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani on the same day he officially jumped into the 2012 contest.
Barbour issued a stern warning to conservative GOP voters Friday, reminding the attendees at the Ralph Reed-backed confab that, in politics, "purity is the enemy of victory."
“You gotta get [it] in your head right now," he instructed in his characteristic drawl, "'I’m going to fight for my person. When it’s over, I am going to support the person that’s going to beat Barack Obama.'”
Asked by reporters after his remarks what prompted the homily on party accord, Barbour said he has consistently counseled against hard-and-fast criteria for “perfect” candidates.
“And I don’t care if you nominate the most conservative candidate. There are going to be some people who don’t agree with them on everything,” he said. “That’s just a fact.”
He did not directly criticize Palin for taking swipes at Romney on the day of his announcement, saying only that “the campaign will be about issues.”
Rep. Michele Bachman (R-MN), another likely presidential candidate who has recently delivered some intraparty jabs, also declined to comment on Palin’s hectic summer-vacation-turned-political-bonanza bus tour this week when she was hoarded by reporters after her address to the conference.
And Bachmann didn't take an opportunity to repeat her criticism of fellow Minnesota Republican Tim Pawlenty, whom she called out yesterday for his previous openness to government insurance mandates.
Asked if past support for the individual mandate is an automatic disqualifier for GOP candidates like Pawlenty and Romney, Bachmann said she rejects the mandate as unconstitutional, but that "the voters will make that decision."
As expected, Republicans are using this past week's symbolic vote to raise the debt ceiling -- without attached spending cuts -- against House Democrats who voted for the measure.
Here's a TV ad that the National Republican Congressional Committee is airing against Democratic Congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina, who won re-election last year with more than 55% of the vote. It is running for three weeks on cable in Miller's district.
"The American economy is still in trouble," the ad goes. "Drowning in government debt…owed to countries like China. The national debt is now 14 trillion dollars. And Congressman Brad Miller just voted for two trillion MORE debt….without any budget cuts."
The NRCC is also running targeted phone calls aimed at 10 other Democrats who voted for the measure.
*** UPDATE *** As it turns out, four of the targeted phone calls are aimed at Democrats who voted AGAINST the measure: Boswell (IA), Carnahan (MO), Cicilline (RI), and Critz (PA), so the NRCC is trying to have it both ways. The six targeted Democrats who voted FOR the measure: Garamendi (CA), Grijalva (AZ), Himes (CT), Holt (NJ), Lujan (NM), and Yarmuth (KY).
PORTSMOUTH, NH -- It isn't over, but it’s over for now.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made one last unconventional stop on her way to the airport this morning to fly home to Alaska. Her caravan of SUVs and reporters' cars stopped at the Golden Egg, a diner here that is used to candidates dropping by, but not completely unexpectedly. (One waitress said they would’ve had all their regulars waiting if they had known she was coming.)
But there was one person who knew Palin was showing up here: rookie New Hampshire GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte, whom Palin endorsed last year.
Ayotte, the senator's husband, and Palin chit-chatted about their children and Alaska travels over coffee as Palin’s parents sat at a table nearby and ate breakfast. Piper was also in tow, eating a sticky bun.
When their chat turned to politics, they lowered their voices, so the microphone only picked up snippets like “55," “the longer we put it off," "Paul Ryan," and "Medicare." The political tone of the stops in New Hampshire -- coupled with this morning’s breakfast and last night’s clambake of who’s who in conservative New Hampshire -- keeps everybody interested in speculating whether or not she will run for president.
That intrigue propelled her to the biggest headline on the front page of the New Hampshire Union Leader this morning, literally shoving Mitt Romney’s presidential announcement yesterday aside.
Palin dropped a few more hints about the next leg of the tour before she took off to the airport. “I don't know if in the next week or two, we have to get back and regroup and figure out schedules and who next can hop on the bus with us - we will figure all that out,” Palin said.
When pressed about which part of the country she may visit next she said, “Midwest and then eventually West... I'd love to do South, too. I just heard from [South Carolina Gov.] Nikki Haley the other day, and I'd love for us to hit her state, too. She is great.”
So it seems like Palin’s tour is not only about seeing historic sites and handing out pocket Constitutions, but also checking in on her team of Mama Grizzlies.
Perhaps another clue to where the Liberty Mystery tour may be headed next.
The rough economic news continues: Employers added just 54,000 jobs in May, the fewest in eight months, while the unemployment rate increased to 9.1%... Genuine economic concern at the White House… But it’s optimistic about the state of the auto industry, and Obama delivers remarks at the Chrysler Group’s Supplier Park in Toledo, OH at 1:25 pm ET… Congress turns its attention to Libya… Romney’s good and bad day yesterday… GOP presidential hopefuls address the Faith and Freedom confab in DC… Why Gingrich won’t be there: He’s on vacation… Huntsman spends his afternoon/evening in New Hampshire… John Edwards likely to be indicted… And farewell to NBC’s Savannah Guthrie!
*** The rough economic news continues: It was about a year ago when a combination of the Greek debt crisis and the BP spill sent the jobs market in a tailspin. In May 2010, fueled largely by U.S. Census hires, the economy gained more than 450,000 jobs. Then the next month, it lost nearly 200,000. Is something similar taking place this summer -- after high gas prices, the disaster in Japan, and more instability in Europe? The latest jobs report shows that the economy added just 54,000 jobs in May, the fewest in eight months, the AP says. (Private employers added 83,000 new workers, while local governments cut 28,000 jobs.) What’s more, the unemployment rate ticked up from 9.0% to 9.1%.
*** Genuine economic concern at the White House: There's genuine concern at the White House about the economy, and it's not just because of the round of bad data circulating this week. Rather, it's from the stagnant data over the past six weeks. The top-three areas of concern from their view: 1) gas prices and the effect its having on consumer spending; 2) the European debt crisis, and 3) the political stalemate here over the debt ceiling. However, there’s optimism about the rest of the year -- due to Japan’s recovery efforts, business investment is still on the rise, and exports have been improving. Even under the guise of "worst case scenario," the phrase "double dip" isn't being uttered around the West Wing. The real fear is something akin to Japan in the '90s -- flat or stagnant growth leading to few jobs created over a number of years, in other words, "a jobless recovery."
*** But optimism about the state of the U.S. auto industry: Some good economic news that the Obama administration wants to highlight is in the auto industry, and that’s why the president today delivers remarks at 1:25 pm ET at the Chrysler Group’s Supplier Park in Toledo, OH. Here’s the news Obama will discuss: “Italian automaker Fiat SpA agreed late Thursday to acquire the U.S. Treasury's stake in Chrysler Group LLC for $560 million, ending the Obama administration's involvement with the Auburn Hills automaker,” the Detroit News reports. “The U.S. exit ends a 30-month involvement of two administrations in saving the company from collapse, beginning with the Bush administration's decision to bail out Chrysler with $4 billion in December 2008.”
*** Congress turns its attention to Libya: The White House also has to worry about congressional attitudes about Libya. Per the New York Times, the House will vote on “two measures that are strongly critical of President Obama’s decision to maintain an American role in NATO operations in Libya.” One resolution, sponsored by Congressman Dennis Kucinich, would direct the president to end the United States’ limited involvement in Libya in the next two weeks. The other resolution -- introduced by GOP leaders fearful that Kucinich’s measure would pass and would send the wrong message -- states that the White House has not received congressional authorization for the use of force in Libya and it asserts that Obama must provide Congress information about the mission there within 14 days. A question to ponder: Is this real war fatigue that's been building over a decade, or is this a case -- among Republicans -- if Obama's for it, it's easier to be against it?
*** Romney’s good and bad day: If he’s going to be the eventual Republican nominee, then Mitt Romney had a good day yesterday. He was on message with the big story of the day: the U.S. economy. But it also was a bad day in his attempt to get the GOP nomination. Sarah Palin, in Massachusetts of all places, took a shot at Romney’s health-care law. "In my opinion, any mandate coming from government is not a good thing,” she said from famous Bunker Hill. Rudy Giuliani, who’s mulling a presidential bid, also piled on. “The reality is that Obamacare and Romneycare are almost exactly the same, it’s not very helpful trying to distinguish them,” Giuliani said while in New Hampshire. Since your authors have been covering presidential politics, we can’t remember a time when high-profile members of a political party took a shot at their own on his/her announcement day. In fact, the 2008 vice-presidential nominee (Palin) tried to kneecap the party’s 2012 front-runner. Truly stunning.
*** Gotta have faith (and freedom): Several GOP presidential candidates and other high-profile Republicans speak in DC at the Faith and Freedom Conference, organized by former Christian Coalition head (and Abramoff business associate) Ralph Reed. Slated to speak: Paul Ryan (9:37 am ET), Michele Bachmann (10:00 am), Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (10:15 am), John Boehner (11:27 am), Jon Huntsman (11:42 am), RNC Chair Reince Priebus (11:57 am), and then in the evening it’s Donald Trump (7:35 pm), Tim Pawlenty (8:48 pm), and Mitt Romney (9:13 pm). Notably, skipping the event: Newt Gingrich, who will send a video message instead.
*** Vacation … all I ever wanted: So where is Gingrich, who’s been especially quiet over the past several days? Well, he and his wife Callista are on vacation, per spokesman Rick Tyler. The couple always "planned to take this time" when they looked at the calendar, Tyler said. "This fits the schedule." Gingrich will be back on the trail June 8 in New Hampshire. He's doing a Republican Jewish Coalition event June 12 in Los Angeles, and then is doing the CNN debate June 13.
*** On the 2012 trail: In addition to his remarks at the Faith and Freedom Conference in DC, Huntsman heads to New Hampshire later today, where he delivers keynote speech at Belknap County GOP Committee's Annual "Lincoln Day" Dinner.
*** Edwards likely to be indicted today: Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is likely to be charged today over “the money used to keep his mistress in hiding during the 2008 campaign,” the AP reports. “A person with knowledge of the investigation said Edwards' attorney, Gregory Craig, planned to be in his client's home state Friday. Prosecutors are prepared to file charges, and the sides are still in discussions for a plea deal, so it's unclear whether Edwards will be indicted or agree to a negotiated charge.” NBC’s Lisa Myers reported on “TODAY” this morning that sources say he will reject the plea agreement and will be indicted.
*** Farewell to Savannah Guthrie: Finally, today is NBC’s Savannah’s Guthrie last day in the Washington bureau and as co-host on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown.” She is headed to work full time on the “TODAY” show in New York. Savannah is a great colleague, friend, and contributor to First Read, and we’ll miss her. We wish her the best of luck in New York! Be sure to tune into today's “Daily Rundown” for some farewells and even a few surprises.
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 71 days
Countdown to NV-2 special election: 102 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 158 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 248 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up
The Hill previews the Faith and Freedom Conference in DC: "A cadre of GOP presidential contenders will be in Washington on Friday and Saturday to attend one of the campaign’s first major cattle calls since the field has taken shape. The Faith and Freedom Conference, a conservative gathering hosted by Christian activist Ralph Reed, will host several of the candidates hoping to capture the GOP nomination."
BACHMANN: "Potential GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann took a jab at Tim Pawlenty Thursday for expressing openness to an individual health insurance mandate as Minnesota's governor," The Hill writes. "I think it will concern the voters," she told conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham.
GIULIANI: "Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani said yesterday that he is pondering whether to run again for the presidency and will decide by the end of the summer. If he does run, he said, he would 'do it the right way’ this time and spend more time on person-to-person campaigning in New Hampshire," the Boston Globe says.
PALIN: Josh Green said this about Palin earlier this week: "[I]f Palin wants to win, there's a strong case to be made that she's going about it all wrong -- that she would be better off running a more traditional campaign."
"Trailed by a horde of media, an impersonator, and autograph seekers, Sarah Palin blitzed through Boston yesterday, touring several historic sites and cheerfully skewering Mitt Romney on his home turf on the day of his 2012 presidential campaign launch," the Boston Globe writes. "Then she drove to New Hampshire to court voters just miles from the farm in Stratham where Romney had made his big announcement hours earlier. All the while, the former Alaska governor turned reality television star insisted she was not running for president, at least not yet, and wished Romney well."
PAUL: Rep. Ron Paul took advantage of Mitt Romney’s announcement to release a fundraising solicitation to supporters, Politico’s Ben Smith reports. The email reads, in part, “I don't need 10 million dollars to match Mitt Romney. After all, I don't have to defend a liberal record as governor of Massachusetts. I don't have to defend passing a bill just as bad as ObamaCare or justify conflicting position statements. Mitt Romney does. So it's ok if he has a bit more money than we do. He's going to need it!”
ROMNEY: "Republican Mitt Romney launched his second bid for the presidency yesterday by focusing almost entirely on jobs and the deficit, saying the country needs someone with a business background to fix the ailing economy overseen by President Obama," the Boston Globe reports, adding, "But illustrating the hurdles for Romney — a presumptive but shaky front-runner in an unsettled GOP field — other potential candidates snatched much of the spotlight on a day that was supposed to be Romney’s alone."
“In his remarks to a crowd gathered at a chili cookout in Stratham, New Hampshire, Romney attacked Obama for failing to create jobs, a lagging housing market, and high federal spending,” Bloomberg writes. “‘Barack Obama has failed America,’ said Romney. ‘When he took office, the economy was in recession and he made it worse and he made it last longer.’”
The New York Times: “With 17 months to go, Mr. Romney has emerged as the front-runner for the nomination after reassembling a powerful fund-raising apparatus and an extensive campaign operation. But Mr. Romney’s potential Republican challengers have no intention of letting him anoint himself the party’s nominee. That fact that was made starkly clear on Thursday by sharp-edged comments from Sarah Palin and Rudolph W. Giuliani — both of whom are still mulling presidential runs — even as Mr. Romney was making his candidacy official.”
“In a Toledo Chrysler plant today, President Barack Obama will tout the comeback of Detroit's auto industry and the role his administration played,” the Detroit News writes. “Using that message for political advantage in the 2012 election may have seemed improbable in 2009 when Obama and Democrats faced criticism for their rescues of Chrysler and General Motors.”
What the president will announce: “The Treasury Department on Thursday said it reached a deal to sell its stake in Chrysler to Fiat for $500 million. The move would end the government’s involvement in Chrysler but still leave taxpayers about $1.3 billion short of recovering their full investment in the carmaker.”
"Having come to the rescue of the American auto industry, President Obama is looking to collect a political advantage from a big risk that paid off," the Boston Globe adds.
In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel writes about President Obama’s commitment to the Middle East.
"President Barack Obama will visit Puerto Rico this month, the first official visit by a president since John F. Kennedy went to the island almost a half-century ago. An administration official confirmed to Roll Call that Obama will visit on June 14 'to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s visit to the island.'"
Per the New York Times, “The House will vote Friday on two measures that are strongly critical of President Obama’s decision to maintain an American role in NATO operations in Libya, reflecting increasing disenchantment among elements of both parties about the United States’ involvement in the conflict. The decision to put the resolutions to a vote came after Republican leaders earlier this week postponed consideration of one of them, which would direct the president to end American’s military involvement in the operations. It was sponsored by Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, the Ohio Democrat who is one of the most liberal members of the House.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic Whip, says he's confident Republicans and Democrats will ultimately reach an agreement to raise the debt limit.
Speaking to reporters following the Democrats' meeting at the White House, Hoyer said, "The markets ought to know we're going to get it done. I've told Speaker Boehner and leader [Eric] Cantor that I will work with them the leader will work with them in making sure that we get this done."
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, another Maryland Democrat, acknowledged, however, that tough negotiations remain. "We have made progress on some important issues," Van Hollen told reporters. "Have we engaged on some huge, what I would refer to as politically nuclear issues? No. But the reality is you have to begin to walk with the first step."
According to Rep. Xavier Beccera (D-CA), the president told the Democrats that "failure is not an option," and he vowed that the middle class and seniors won't get "stiff-armed" in the budget negotiations.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said, "We cannot default. We all agree on that." But she added that Democrats believe it's important to continue investments to help the economy recover and create jobs.
The meeting today follows yesterday's session between the president and House Republicans. The next bipartisan negotiation session headed by Vice President Biden is scheduled for next Thursday
In light of House Republicans meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss a strategy to end U.S. involvement in Libya, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee said progress has been made, while also defending the United States' lack of action in response to the rise of violence in Syria.
"NATO is clearly in charge, as it should be, and the president adroitly allowed us to set the stage but then to give responsibility to NATO" Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) said.
He added, "It looks as if Khaddafy's hold is weakening,"citing the recent defection of Shokri Ghanem, Libya's top official in the oil and gas sector.
When asked about the United States' lack of response to Syrian violence, Reed said it is important to remember that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faces a much different situation when dealing with Syria because with Libya, the United States had the "political support of the United Nations and of the Arab League."
Since the U.N. Security Council and the Arab League have not provided their support for taking greater action in Syria, "it's a hard to pull the international forces together," said the senator.
Forcing out Syria's President Basher al-Assad is unlikely, according to Reed, because "we didn't force out the Tunisian leader. We didn't force out Mubarak." Rather, it was the conditions on the ground that forced Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down.
Though the United States may not play a role in the ouster of President Assad, Reed is hopeful the Syrian president will step down.
The series of uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt was "a truly popular and unpredictable sequence of events. And those events seem to be moving against Assad at this point," the senator stated.
At a time when the United States is involved militarily in Libya (in a limited way), and as Congress considers a resolution stipulating that the U.S. withdraw from the country, another Middle East/North African nation is drawing more attention.
Today, the London Guardian reported that the violence in Yemen has become, in the words of British diplomats, “worse than Libya.”
In Yemen, tribal warfare, al Qaeda forces, and pro and anti-government groups rage on – and there are indications that the strife will only escalate. Dozens of Yemini citizens were killed today as President Saleh’s troops clashed with the gunmen of a powerful tribal leader. While President Saleh has taken conciliatory measures (such as a promise to step down after his term ends in 2013), many are skeptical that he will not follow through on them and continue to protest.
As the BBC reports, Yemen suffers from 35% unemployment and 45% poverty. Meanwhile, as the New York Times says, "a remarkably high proportion of citizens are armed" in Yemen, and "the potential for strife is difficult to overstate."
Mitt Romney (R) officially announced his 2012 White House bid from Bittersweet Farm in Stratham, N.H.
The thrust of Mitt Romney's presidential announcement speech in New Hampshire today was jobs and the economy, as well as a full-throated denunciation of Obama's presidency.
"Barack Obama has failed America," the Republican former Massachusetts governor said.
But Romney also picked up Tea Party rhetoric. Examples:
"Instead of recognizing the states’ rightful authority to solve problems, [Obama] seizes power from them and rams through a disastrous national health care plan. This president's first answer to every problem is to take power from you."
"We are only inches away from ceasing to be a free-market economy."
"I will insist that Washington learns to respect the Constitution, including the 10th Amendment. We will return responsibility and authority to the states for dozens of government programs."
"We will return responsibility and authority to the states for dozens of government programs -- and that begins with a complete repeal of Obamacare."
Those comments are in stark contrast to when Romney announced another presidential bid – in Michigan in 2007 – when he emphasized his social-conservative credentials.
"I believe in God, and I believe that every person in this great country ... is a child of God."
"I believe the family is the foundation of America."
"I believe in the sanctity of human life."
"I believe that people and their elected representatives should make our laws, not unelected judges."
The shift is perhaps a recognition of what could be his biggest stumbling block in his race for the GOP presidential nomination: a lack of conservative support, especially with the Massachusetts health-care legislation he signed into law (that's very similar to President Obama's).
The language on abortion, family, and religion, of course, were designed to pick up conservative grassroots support, but from a different leg of the stool in a different state – social conservatives in Iowa.
While petitioners collected signatures to recall Wisconsin state senators at a furious pace in April and early May, two actions on opposite sides of the aisle are now threatening to bring the process to a grinding bureaucratic halt.
In a motion filed Wednesday, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board asked a Dane County Circuit Court judge to give them more time to evaluate the three recall petitions -- targeting Democratic state senators -- the board has yet to rule on. Separately, on Tuesday, lawyers representing Republican Sens. Randy Hopper (Fond du Lac), Dan Kapanke (La Crosse) and Luther Olsen (Ripon) filed suit in the same court to stop the recalls against them.
After approving six recall elections -- all against GOP state senators -- and tentatively scheduling them for July 12, the board has put the recall process on hold, pending a Friday court hearing where the non-partisan body will ask a Dane County judge for more time to consider the final three petitions.
The accountability board's motion asks Judge John Markson to push Friday's deadline back one week, so the board can "properly consider" the petitions filed against Democratic Sens. Dave Hansen (Green Bay), Jim Holperin (Conover) and Bob Wirch (Pleasant Prairie). The board has struggled to process the "unprecedented workload" in the initial time allotted, because Democratic representatives for Hansen, Holperin and Wirch have more frequently challenged the validity of signatures collected by petitioners.
Republicans responded with general disgust at the news, asserting that the board is doling out preferential treatment to Democrats.
"These criticisms are understandable, but unwarranted," the Government Accountability Board responded in a statement late Wednesday evening. "The board simply cannot dismiss the rebuttal evidence and numerous correcting affidavits, affecting hundreds of signatures, filed by the Republican petitioners seeking to recall the Democratic senators."
The board is referring to more than 200 signed affidavits presented by Democrats. The documents purportedly demonstrate systematic fraud within the Republican apparatus that gathered the signatures to recall the three Democratic state senators.
In a news release, the state Democratic Party accused the petition circulators of perpetrating fraud. More specifically, Wisconsin state Democratic officials have told NBC News that Republican petitioners falsely identified themselves as state officials and lied to residents on the Menominee Indian reservation, claiming the petition was to increase Indian voting rights.
Republicans have categorically denied the charges.
David Walker, the former U.S. comptroller general and head of the Government Accountability Office, said on MSNBC today that he's considering a bid for Joe Lieberman's (I-D) open Senate seat.
"People have been asking me to run for office for many years, and I'm thinking about it," Walker told Chuck Todd on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown."
"The fact of the matter is that decisions are made or failed to be made by our elected officials in the next five years are largely going to determine if our future is better than our past."
"I don't feel compelled to run but I'm considering it," added Walker, who also previously served as president and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
When Todd followed up if it's the Senate seat in Connecticut he's considering, Walker replied, "I wouldn't be interested in anything other than the senate, and I live in Connecticut."
In remarks made at Bunker Hill in Massachusetts -- of all places -- Sarah Palin fired a shot at Mitt Romney over the health-care mandate that Romney signed into law in the state in 2006.
The remarks came just before Romney formally announces his presidential bid in nearby New Hampshire, which Palin also plans to visit later today.
"In my opinion, any mandate coming from government is not a good thing, so obviously ... there will be more the explanation coming from former governor, Romney, on his support for government mandates," Palin told reporters today.
When a reporter followed up that Romney has distinguished his state mandate from the federal one President Obama signed into law in 2010, Palin responded that even state mandates are problematic.
"He makes a good argument there that it does. States rights and authority and responsibility allowed in our states makes more sense than a big centralized government telling us what to do," she said.
"However, even on a state level and even a local level, mandates coming from a governing body, it's tough for a lot of us independent Americans to accept, because we have great faith in the private sectors and our own families ... and our own businessmen and women making decisions for ourselves. Not any level of government telling us what to do."
To paraphrase Yogi Berra, the 2012 presidential race is staying early awfully late. Mark and Domenico discuss whether other candidates might still jump in. Also, how critical is Iowa to Tim Pawlenty's campaign?
Thanks to Bob-1887910 and Groucho Marx for the questions!
Romney TRIES to take center stage with presidential announcement from Stratham, NH at noon ET, but the small state is a bit crowded today… Per excerpts, Romney will focus on jobs and the economy and declare that “Barack Obama has failed America”… Contrasting Romney’s 2007 announcement from Michigan with today’s announcement from New Hampshire… The biggest question he faces (bigger than the one over health care): Who, exactly, is Mitt Romney?... He did pick a good week to talk about jobs and the economy… Is Palin stepping on Romney’s big day in New Hampshire?... Rudy Giuliani’s also in the Granite State… And the latest in the budget battle: Obama meets with House Democrats at 2:30 pm ET.
Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts Republican governor, is set to officially announce his run for president today from New Hampshire, a state he likely must win to get the nomination.
*** Romney takes center stage: For someone who's essentially been running for president for nearly six years, it isn't easy to escape the political limelight. But that is what Mitt Romney has largely done in the past few months, part by design and part by Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. But today, Romney attempts to take center stage in New Hampshire -- well, at least until Palin also shows up in the state (more on that below). At noon ET, the apparent front-runner for the Republican nomination formally announces his presidential bid at a farm in Stratham, NH. His message will be the same one he’s discussed over the past year: jobs and the economy. Per a Romney aide, he’ll also talk about the importance of limited government, cutting the debt, and leadership in the world. Team Romney promises it will be a serious speech and will have an optimistic vision and tone.
*** “Obama has failed America”: But the thrust of Romney’s announcement today, at least according to advanced excerpts of his speech, will be a full-throated denunciation of Barack Obama’s presidency. “A few years ago, Americans did something that was, actually, very much the sort of thing Americans like to do: We gave someone new a chance to lead; someone we hadn't known for very long, who didn't have much of a record but promised to lead us to a better place,” Romney is expected to say. “Now, in the third year of his four-year term, we have more than promises and slogans to go by. Barack Obama has failed America.” More Romney: “Government under President Obama has grown to consume almost 40% of our economy. We are only inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy. I will cap federal spending at 20% or less of the GDP and finally, finally balance the budget. My generation will pass the torch to the next generation, not a bill.”
*** Dearborn 2007 vs. Stratham 2011: Of course, this isn't the first time Romney has formally announced a presidential bid. Four years ago, it was in Michigan (his original home state), where the backdrop consisted of automotive innovations (and where he walked out to Billy Ocean's "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car"). This time, it's at a picnic/barbeque in New Hampshire (what's become an adopted home state). Four years ago, Romney was wearing a suit and a tie. This time, he'll likely keep his more casual look. And four years ago, the message was heavy on social conservatism (stressing the importance of family, the sanctity of human life, and securing the borders). This time, it will be about his background and Barack Obama. Here's Romney's biggest question, and it's bigger than the individual mandate: Who, exactly, is Romney? Is he the liberal Republican who supported abortion rights in 1994? Is he the pragmatist who got elected governor of Massachusetts and signed one of the most famous health-care laws in the land? Is he the social conservative who went all-in in Iowa but failed to win? Or is he business executive with unrelenting criticism at the Obama administration?
*** Who is Mitt Romney? The Democratic National Committee seizes on this question in a Web video, which concludes: “Same candidate. Different positions -- again.” (An irony to consider: If Obama were to give a speech announcing his re-election campaign, he’d probably do it from an automotive museum in Michigan…about the only thing right now the administration feels comfortable touting in this fragile economic environment.)
*** Romney picked a good week to talk about the economy: What if Romney had delivered today’s speech -- focused on the economy and his business background -- four years ago? We don’t know the answer to that question. But we do know that of any week to base a presidential candidacy on the economy, this is a good one. Just take a look at some of today’s headlines. The Washington Post: “Manufacturing slowdown the latest sign the recovery is faltering.” The New York Times: “Employment Data May Be the Key to the President’s Job.” The Chicago Tribune: For many families across Chicago, recession’s grip hasn’t eased.” The recent spate of economic numbers (tepid 1st quarter growth, falling home prices, lower manufacturing) is either a macroeconomic bump in the road -- due to the high gas prices and the troubles in Japan. Or it’s the first sign of serious economic worries. Remember, it was just a year ago when the BP spill and the Greek debt crisis sent the U.S. economy back into a tailspin for much of the rest of 2010.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) tours the Statue of Liberty in New York yesterday on another leg of her bus tour.
*** Is Palin stepping on Romney’s big day? Intentionally or not, the fact that Palin also is expected to make her way to New Hampshire today is a slap at the apparent GOP front-runner. Of all days to come to the Granite State, why did she pick today’s Romney announcement, the news of which was released a week ago? That she’s not even giving him a 24-hour news cycle to make his case is a subtle sign that Romney has yet to unite the party, as well as a reminder that she could be a thorn in the GOP establishment’s side. That said, Team Romney is welcoming Palin’s New Hampshire stop with open arms. “Anything that gets folks pumped up and reminds them of what the country is all about is great by us,” a Romney aide tells First Read. “Gov. Romney is running as an alternative to President Obama and the way he's poorly handled the economy and unemployment, and Palin brings energy and passion and reminds folks it doesn't have to be this way.”
*** The fragile front-runner: Still, Palin is the actual physical evidence that Romney, while the front-runner, is fragile. But history suggests Romney will be the nominee -- not since Goldwater in '64 has the party nominated someone who had never RUN for president before or wasn't the incumbent (Ford) or wasn't the son of a former president (Dubya). And that's why what Palin is doing to Romney today is potentially so damaging. It doesn't give him even a day to have a clean shot on the most important day of any presidential campaign: announcement day.
*** Rudy, Rudy, Rudy: Palin isn’t the only other Republican who will be in New Hampshire today. At 6:00 pm ET, Rudy Giuliani headlines a state GOP dinner in Dover.
*** The budget battle: The day after meeting with House Republicans, President Obama today sits down with the House Democratic caucus at 2:30 pm ET to discuss the debt ceiling and other issues. Per the New York Times, House Speaker John Boehner said he’d like to reach a deal on raising the debt ceiling in the next month, and wants the president to play a bigger role in the negotiations. One possible compromise we’ve heard: The White House and Republicans would agree to a one-year deal raising the ceiling and cutting spending, and let the 2012 election decide the larger debate about long-term spending cuts and long-term tax increases as a result of some sort of "trigger." This could be an attempt to de-link the Biden talks from the debt ceiling.
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 72 days
Countdown to NV-2 special election: 103 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 159 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 249 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up
BACHMANN: Politico writes of the rivalry between fellow Minnesotans Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty: “While both are card-carrying Republicans, they are members of different GOP tribes, never at war but not exactly at peace either. Now the congresswoman and the former governor are on a crash course that could shed revealing light on an already distant and awkward relationship—testing the Minnesota Nice ethos.”
CHRISTIE: “It’s too early to say the Iowa GOP mission to draft in-your-face New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to run for president was unsuccessful, two team members said Wednesday,” the Des Moines Register says. “The Iowa businessmen said Christie is savvy enough to understand the implications of scheduling a visit to Iowa in July, just three weeks before the crucial straw poll here.”
Christie “is catching grief for taking a state helicopter to his son's high school baseball game,” the AP writes. “While state police helicopters cost $2,500 an hour to operate, State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes said that giving Christie a lift did not cost taxpayers anything extra because the pilots need to put in flying time anyway to keep their skills sharp.”
The New York Times: “Woe to the politician who claims to be fiscally responsible, in touch with regular folk, and turns out to have some pricey habits. Think Newt Gingrich and Tiffany, John Edwards and haircuts, Sarah Palin and clothes — and now, Chris Christie and helicopters.”
DEMINT: A spokesman for Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) walked back the senator’s comments, earlier yesterday that he was considering a presidential bid. According to CBS, the spokesman Wesley Denton said, “Sen. DeMint is focused on his job to stop the reckless spending in Washington and helping to elect more principled conservatives to join the fight in the Senate.”
The Daily Caller reports that a source close to the senator said DeMint “would pray about it because it will literally take an act of God to get him into the race.”
HUCKABEE: At a lecture at the University of Arkansas’ Clinton School of Public Service, Mike Huckabee said he wouldn’t rule out accepting a spot as a vice presidential nominee, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports. “I haven't closed doors because I found out long ago that that's not a smart thing to do. Then you try to figure out how to open them when they come knocking. I'm not looking for anything, I'm content with what I'm doing. That's what I plan to do,” he said.
HUNTSMAN: National Review Online outlines Jon Huntsman’s critiques of President Obama’s stimulus plan – not that he didn’t support it, but that he thought it should have been bigger, targeted differently, and included tax cuts. And as governor of Utah, he said that the GOP was wrong in its opposition to the program: “I don’t even know the congressional leadership. I’ve not met them. I don’t listen to or read whatever it is they say because it’s inconsequential — completely,” he told the Washington Times in 2009.
PALIN: Sarah Palin’s bus tour will take her to New Hampshire’s Seacoast tonight, where she will participate in a clambake with a number of New Hampshire Republicans, the New Hampshire Union-Leader’s DiStaso reports.
PAWLENTY: Tim Pawlenty is trying to win Iowa the traditional way: one voter at a time, the New York Times notes. “It may not be known for months whether Mr. Pawlenty and other candidates taking a traditional route in the party’s nominating contest — a word-of-mouth campaign that spreads through organization — will ultimately be rewarded or left behind. But there was a growing sense among party activists interviewed here over two days that the presidential campaign needed to be treated with a greater seriousness and urgency.”
ROMNEY: Per the AP, “Mitt Romney is opening his first formal day as a 2012 Republican presidential contender with a direct challenge to the man he wants to replace and is pitching himself as ready to repair the nation's struggling economy. ‘Barack Obama has failed America,’ he says.
The Boston Globe: “Mitt Romney will begin to engage voters more directly and offer more specifics on policy after his formal entry in the race for the GOP presidential nomination today, his advisers say… After a lengthy precampaign buildup that has been light on public events — and even lighter on policy proposals — Romney’s strategists are promising specific plans to curb spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Those plans, they say, will be rolled out in the coming weeks or months.”
The Wall Street Journal writes that Mitt Romney’s formal entrance into the presidential race in New Hampshire today may be overshadowed by near-simultaneous appearances by Sarah Palin, who appears in Boston around the same time Romney will take to the stage in New Hampshire, and then later visits the state herself, and Rudy Giuliani, who will headline a GOP fundraiser in Concord, NH.
Is Romney the 2012 version of McCain? Politico: "Mitt Romney couldn’t be more different than John McCain. But as he begins his long-anticipated presidential campaign in New Hampshire Thursday, the similarities there are hard to miss. Like McCain, who defeated him there four years ago, the former Massachusetts governor has a gold-plated organization stocked with New Hampshire primary veterans, enjoys universal name identification and owns a bank full of political goodwill stored up through repeated visits and TLC lavished on all manner of state representatives, county commissioners and sheriffs."
"There’s one big difference, however. Unlike the Arizona senator, Romney isn’t suffering through a summer spiral downward. Just the opposite: he’s on a torrid fund-raising pace, is driving a consistent economic message and, perhaps most important, he’s hitting all his marks as some of his most formidable challengers struggle to penetrate a news cycle focused on potential candidates as much as those who are actually running."
“No American president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has won a second term in office when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 percent,” the New York Times writes. “Seventeen months before the next election, it is increasingly clear that President Obama must defy that trend to keep his job.”
“President Obama is pushing aggressively to claim credit for the auto industry’s recovery ahead of his visit to the industrial Midwest — an area essential to his reelection efforts,” The Hill reports. “His auto czar joined the White House press briefing Wednesday to praise the president for having the ‘political courage’ to rescue two of Detroit’s ‘Big Three’ automakers, a message the president will take on the road Friday with a trip to northwest Ohio, a key battleground state in the presidential election.”
“House Democrats head to the White House Thursday afternoon as Washington's high-wire talks on raising the nation's debt ceiling moves into its second day,” The Hill adds. “President Obama's meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the rest of her caucus comes a day after Republicans at a similar meeting confronted the president and accused him of a lack of leadership on fiscal issues.”
The Washington Post: "A Wednesday meeting between President Obama and House Republicans about the nation’s debt ended with neither side showing a willingness to give ground on any substantive points or rhetorical differences."
“Republicans attending a White House meeting on Wednesday didn’t take kindly to President Obama telling them tax rates were higher during the Reagan administration,” The Hill says. “GOP members engaged in a lot of ‘eye-rolling,’ according to a member who was on hand to hear Obama, who invited House Republicans to the White House for discussions on the debt ceiling.”
Eye rolling aside, taxes are at their lowest point since 1950. “Amid complaints about high taxes and calls for a smaller government, Americans paid their lowest level of taxes last year since Harry Truman's presidency, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data found,” the paper wrote in May 2010… Federal, state and local income taxes consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8.% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.”
The New York tabloids have a field day with the Brooklyn-Queens Democrat. The New York Daily News’ cover: “Weiner’s pickle.”
And the paper goes there… “Rep. Anthony Weiner’s stunning wife had a front-row seat to the mother of all sex scandals — she served in the Clinton White House during Monicagate. And now, 34-year-old Huma Abedin has to deal with her hubby’s own public shame, as he tries to explain away his connection to a lewd Twitter picture. Weiner said yesterday his beautiful spouse — a longtime aide to now-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. ‘She’s seen an awful lot,’ Weiner told MSNBC. ‘But I won’t mind telling you that even for someone that went through the Clinton years, this has been a befuddling experience.’”
The Daily News’ Daly makes this point: “Of course, if Weiner did go to the FBI or the Capitol Police, he would be taking a chance if he told anything but the full truth. Lying to the feds is a crime, as Martha Stewart could attest.”
“Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is moving to insulate Republicans on the politically thorny Medicare reform issue by insisting that it be included in any bipartisan agreement to raise the debt ceiling,” Roll Call reports.
“House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday that he wants to strike a deal on the nation’s debt limit over the next month,” The Hill reports. But another Hill story adds, “Some GOP no’s on ‘pledge’ could complicate debt talks.”
FLORIDA: “If Floridians want welfare, they better make sure they are drug-free,” the New York Daily News reports. “Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill on Tuesday that requires benefit recipients to undergo drug testing.”
“Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos was in full damage control mode Wednesday, the day after a St. Augustine radio host hung up on the U.S. Senate hopeful for refusing to answer whether he would support Rep. Paul Ryan’s controversial budget,” Roll Call reports.
VIRGINIA: “As a Senator, George Allen (R) co-sponsored a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and worked a pledge to keep marriage "traditional" into just about every re-election stump speech,” Roll Call reports. “But these days, as Allen tries to get his job back, he doesn't talk about gay marriage. A top campaign aide said the Senator keeps social issues on the back burner and instead talks with Virginians about the issues they raise: gas prices, jobs and the economy, and the need to rein in federal government spending.”