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Thune, With No Major Challenge, Raises $1 Million In 1st Q

Sen. John Thune (R) reports raising more than $1 million in the first three months of 2010, boosting his warchest to over $6.5 million as he runs for a second term in South Dakota.

Thune's fundraising takes on an added significance given that Democrats failed to field a single candidate for the office. There is a June 8 deadline for other independent candidates to file, and his campaign talks of the potential for a liberal netroots-fueled challenger. But realistically, Thune boasts an impressive warchest with little reason to spend much of it on his own race, which can only further fuel talk of a 2012 run.

Thune steadfastly refuses to talk about 2012, saying he's focused only on 2010. To that point, he was notably absent from last weekend's Southern Republican Leadership Conference, choosing instead to stay home for party-building activities like county GOP dinners. As chair of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, he's also beefing up his issue portfolio, with a particular focus on fiscal issues.

But his warchest gives him some options in setting the stage for a national campaign. Thune, who first took his Senate seat by knocking out the sitting Senate Minority Leader, will now be active in Republican efforts to retake a Senate majority. Indeed, an adviser says he plans to be active in the coming year supporting other Republican candidates across the country, specifically mentioning the campaign of John Hoeven in North Dakota.

Continue reading "Thune, With No Major Challenge, Raises $1 Million In 1st Q" »

Palin Is Back -- On "SNL"

Tina Fey reprised her performance as the former Alaska governor on last night's "Saturday Night Live." In the sketch, she unveils the lineup of her new TV network.

Pawlenty To Announce PAC Endorsements

Here's another addition to what's turning out to be an active few weeks in the quiet GOP presidential primary campaign for 2012. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has announced plans for a "Facebook Town Hall" this Wednesday. His camp says it's the first such event for a major political leader.

"Governor Pawlenty will make a major announcement over Facebook and will seek input from Facebook uses on helping Republicans win the 2010 elections and stop runaway Washington spending," the page announces.

An aide says Pawlenty will appear via video on the social networking site and answer user-submitted questions in real time. He'll also make what the aide bills as "a major announcement about the PAC's political activities." Expect to hear an announcement about candidates Pawlenty's Freedom First PAC is backing.

Wednesday is the final day of the first quarter FEC filing period, so the event could also serve as a final public pitch for more donations for his committee. It's scheduled to begin at 7:15 pm Eastern.

Pawlenty: Bush Will Be Remembered 'Fondly'

Tim Pawlenty, unlike Mitt Romney, did not mention George W. Bush in his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference today. But in an interview after his remarks, the Minnesota governor said he "absolutely" agreed with Romney that the former president would, in his own words, be remembered "more fondly" over time.

"I think President Bush was a leader with strong convictions who proposed big changes in entitlement programs. Unfortunately the Congress, including for a period of time the Republican Congress, didn't adopt those approaches," Pawlenty told the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody shortly after his speech, which RCP sat in on.

Pawlenty also lauded his actions that ultimately led to a democratic Iraq, which he described as "relatively stable." And since 9/11, the nation did not see new attacks from international terrorists.

"For those reasons and others I think President Bush will remembered much more fondly," he said.

Pawlenty did not have the most favorable speaking slot among the presidential hopefuls here, and his speech was met politely but not overly enthusiastically by an early morning crowd here. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann drew a more spirited reaction in an afternoon speech.

Pawlenty's moment was noted primarily for his reference to the Tiger Woods press conference scheduled to take place after he spoke. He otherwise continued to introduce himself to these activists, and outlined some key principles that guided him, including the notion that "God is in charge," and that government can't spend more than it has.

"If government spending were an Olympic sport, he would be a repeat gold medalist," he quipped.

Acknowledging he likely won't perform well in the straw poll being conducted this weekend at CPAC, Pawlenty said Republicans ought to focus on 2010 first.

"For me personally, I haven't decided what I'm going to do for 2012, and what I do know is that most people around the country don't know who I am so I don't do well in straw polls," he said. "My focus is how can we help like-minded candidates [who share our values] in 2010."

Pawlenty has a busy weekend in the nation's capital, including a low-dollar fundraiser aimed at younger voters tonight that will feature Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. He's also attending events for both the Republican Governors Association and National Governors Association in town.

From Romney, Red Meat And A Defense Of Bush

Gov. Mitt Romney (R), the first of several potential presidential hopefuls to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, not surprisingly delivered a series of attacks on the Obama presidency just over one year in. What was something of a surprise -- even to the audience that eagerly listened to him -- was his defense of former President George W. Bush.

"I am convinced that history will judge President Bush far more kindly. He pulled us from a deepening recession following the attack of 9-11, he overcame teachers unions to test school children and evaluate schools, he took down the Taliban, waged a war against the jihadists and was not afraid to call it what it is--a war, and he kept us safe. I respect his silence even in the face of the assaults on his record that come from this administration. But at the same time, I also respect the loyalty and indefatigable defense of truth that comes from our "I don't give a damn" Vice President Dick Cheney!"

Romney's comment about Bush received just polite applause among a group that has some reservations about his record on a series of issues. The closing praise for Cheney, who had just made a surprise appearance, was met much more enthusiastically.

Continue reading "From Romney, Red Meat And A Defense Of Bush" »

Palin "Tempted To Bail" From The GOP

At the end of an hour-long interview with Fox News' newest contributor, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck asked her a simple question: Are you a Republican?

Palin replied yes, that she is still a registered Republicans. But she added that there "are times that I am tempted to bail from the party."

"But I recognize we are a two-party system. The Republican Party -- the planks in our platform are, are the best, strongest planks upon which to build a great state, in Alaska, a great country. I'm going to stay a Republican," Palin told Beck in an interview on his daily Fox show. "But there are those temptations."

Beck then asked if that rules out a third party run for office.

"I don't think there is that need for a third party -- if Republicans get back to what the planks say," she said.

That's a big if, Beck quickly replied. To which Palin said that if an individual candidate campaigns, but then does not deliver on "what they promised to do, standing on those planks in the platform, you gotta fire them. You've got to get rid of them."

The two also made an offer to NBC to co-host "Saturday Night Live," a show that has parodied both. Stay tuned for more video soon from the interview at the RCP Video Page.

Pawlenty Slams Health Care, Won't Endorse In Primaries

I previewed Tim Pawlenty's visit to New Hampshire today, and noting that he's among the first 2012 candidates to visit the state. It appears that his trip included a stop at the conservative, flagship newspaper in the state, the Union Leader.

He offers some predictable red meat on health care, calling the Congressional legislation a "monstrosity." Of interest, given the many competitive GOP primaries for House and particularly Senate seats in 2010, is the Minnesota governor's statement that he won't endorse in any contests where there is an "open, transparent" contest. That in comparison to the flawed nominating contest he saw in the New York 23 special election, where he backed Conservative nominee Doug Hoffman.

Per the UL, Pawlenty also says the GOP "must return to its conservative base and then practice what it preaches if it hopes to regain the lost trust of Americans."

"We've got to explain using conservative principles, conservative ideas and values, why our approach, even if it may not be instant gratification, is better for families and individuals and regular working people all across this country on those kind of issues, those bread and butter, meat and potatoes issues," he told in a interview here this afternoon.

The stop at the Manchester paper came before his speech tonight in Concord for the Republican State Senate PAC. He'll have some private meetings tomorrow in the state, including one with Manchester's mayor-elect, Ted Gatsas.

Pawlenty Trip Puts New Hampshire Back In Spotlight

The 2012 Republican field is arguably as wide open as any in recent cycles. So it's curious that Tim Pawlenty's visit to New Hampshire tonight is among the first by any would-be candidate this year, even if it is more than two years until the first-in-the-nation primary.

"People have been making phone calls, reminding people to keep their dance cards open," says Tom Rath, a Concord attorney and one of the state's leading Republican activists. "But I think in terms of an official opener, I think this is the first significant potential Republican candidate to come in for an event here since the election."

It is still early even by modern standards for the overt water-testing events White House hopefuls are expected to make. Mitt Romney, among the first candidates to visit in the 2008 cycle, made his debut at roughly the same point four years ago. But Iowa, another early nominating state, has already seen a visit from Pawlenty, two from Mike Huckabee, and others even from dark horses like Rick Santorum, George Pataki and Mike Pence.

Continue reading "Pawlenty Trip Puts New Hampshire Back In Spotlight" »

Perry: Cross Me Off 2012 List

Rick Perry's national profile has been boosted this year, owing to his strong support of the Tea Party movement and vociferous criticism of the policies coming out of Washington. That's just one reason we put the Texas governor on our list of potential dark horses in the 2012 presidential election. But in an interview with RCP Tuesday afternoon, Perry said to cross his name off.

"No," he said bluntly when asked if he had any interest in a White House run in three years "My interest is in Texas."

Perry argued that "a successful, focused" governor in a major state like his can do just as much to put the nation on the right path.

"I hope that 2010 will not only see a substantial number of Republican governors who share those values elected across the country, but that in 2012 we put forward a candidate and elect that individual to be the president of the United States to be a partner with those states as we build this country back to the strong economic power that it needs to be," he said.

Perry had high praise for a former colleague, Sarah Palin, saying she would be a "very, very talented and incredibly focused candidate" should she decide to run. But, "I think it's a bit premature for us to be proclaiming her - I'll allow her the privilege of making that decision," he added.

In the interview, Perry also offered his thoughts on President Obama's planned announcement on Afghanistan, saying the commander in chief needed to heed the request of the commanders on the ground.

"We have the ability to continue to keep the fight against the Taliban and al Qaida in that part of the world," he said. "Those military leaders have spent a lifetime studying tactic and politics, and they are substantially better qualified, in my opinion, than the president [who's] trying to make a decision to placate those on the left who want him to unilaterally cut and run."

We'll have more of the interview with Perry later this week.

Palin Calls GOP Battles Healthy; Hits "Dithering" Obama

Former Gov. Sarah Palin said that Republicans should not hesitate "duking it out" with each other in primaries, and downplayed the need for a third party movement to espouse conservative principles.

Speaking on Rush Limbaugh's radio show today about the results of the New York 23 election, Palin called Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman's apparent defeat evidence that, "If you're not the anointed one within the machine, sometimes you have a much tougher road to hoe." Limbaugh then asked about whether the former GOP VP nominee thought a third party would be viable.

"Ideally, sure, a third party or an independent party would be able to soar and thrive and put candidates forth and have them elected. But I don't think America is ready for that," she said. Palin said she didn't consider herself an "obsessive partisan," and also referred to her husband as being someone who was a registered independent but has "got more common sense conservatism than a whole lot of Republicans that I know."

"But to answer your question, I don't think the third party movement will be what's necessary to usher in some common sense conservative ideals," she repeated.

Palin added that independents would continue to move toward the Republican Party, as they did this November in New Jersey and Virginia, if Republicans focus on "just implementing common-sense, conservative solutions." And she said that she appreciates that her party hasn't shied from having "contested, aggressive, competitive primaries."

"We're not like this herd mentality, like a bunch of sheep, with the fighting instincts of sheep ... like some of the Democrat Party, where heaven forbid you take a stand and you oppose somebody within your own party because it's the right thing to do," she said. "Some in the other side, they're observing what goes on in the GOP and say, 'That's infighting and they can't get along and there's no consensus there.' No! This is healthy debate. Good competition that makes candidates work harder. It makes for a better product, if you will, at the end of the day. I appreciate that about our party."

Anyone who watched the 2008 presidential primaries might disagree that Democrats have a "herd mentality." But her comments nonetheless represent her first extended views on domestic and international politics beyond occasional Facebook notes, and come as she gets ready to kick off a multi-state book tour.

Palin was particularly eager to weigh in on national security, criticizing President Obama, though not by name, for "dithering and hesitation" on Afghanistan.

"We're gonna claim what Ronald Reagan claimed. Our motto's gonna be, we win, you lose," she siad. "The way that we do that is allow McChrystal to have the reinforcements that he's asking for in Afghanistan that sends the message to the terrorists over there that, now we're going to end this thing with our victory."

After the jump, Palin's views on health care, Iran and other issues.

Continue reading "Palin Calls GOP Battles Healthy; Hits "Dithering" Obama" »

Another Stop For Pawlenty: Alabama

Continuing what has been a very active schedule on the rubber chicken circuit, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will headline the Alabama Republican Party's winter dinner next February, a state party spokesman told RCP this morning.

This year Pawlenty has also headlined local or state party events in Arkansas, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and South Dakota. He also addressed at the RNC convention in San Diego, and the Values Voters summit in Washington. Yesterday, the Union Leader reported that Pawlenty will make his first trip to New Hampshire as a potential 2012 primary candidate, speaking at an event for the state Republican Senate Majority Committee PAC on December 16.

Pawlenty has a particularly active political schedule just this month. Last weekend, he made his first visit to Iowa for that state party's fall dinner. He'll be in Florida again tomorrow, speak at an NRSC conference in Washington early next week, then join other Republican Governors for an RGA event in Austin, Texas. As the RGA vice chair, he also campaigned with candidates in this month's elections in New Jersey and Virginia.

The Alabama GOP dinner is scheduled for February 5.

Pawlenty Headlining Iowa GOP Dinner

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has landed a significant speaking slot in the state of Iowa next month as he makes his first trip to the early caucus state as a presidential hopeful.

The Iowa Republican Party announced today that Pawlenty will be the "featured guest" at the organization's "signature fall event," called "Leadership For Iowa," to be held November 7 at the Iowa State Fair Grounds.

From the Iowa GOP release:

Governor Pawlenty, who also serves as vice-chairman of the Republican Governors Association, will be joined by Iowa Republican candidates for governor as the Party starts a 12-month countdown to new leadership that will culminate in the election of a Republican governor and legislative majority in November 2010.

Strawn said, "During his two terms as Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty effectively worked to balance the state's budget, reduce spending, and enact important health care and education reform initiatives.

"Governor Pawlenty is an innovative, conservative leader and, as Iowa Republicans prepare for a robust gubernatorial primary election and nationally-watched general election for governor, his message of balanced budgets, lower taxes, and market-based reforms for health care and education will resonate with all Iowans," said Strawn.

Pawlenty has had an active travel schedule since announcing he wouldn't seek a third term in 2010, but this is his first trip to Iowa -- a state, it should be noted, that has some familiarity with him as Minnesota borders the Hawkeye State to the the north.

New PAC To Boost Pawlenty's Growing Profile

A familiar name in his home state and to many inside the Beltway, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has worked deliberately this year to boost his profile further, especially among conservative activists in key states. The announcement today that he's formed a new political action committee, called "Freedom First PAC," is the latest step in that effort, and will help the potential presidential hopeful continue what has been a busy political travel schedule.

"When the Governor said he wouldn't seek re-election, he said in addition to finishing his term strong, he would help other Republicans candidates, and obviously a PAC is one key way to do that," said Alex Conant, who is advising Pawlenty on a volunteer basis.

Just this past week, Pawlenty spoke at the Value Voters Summit in Washington and at an Ohio Republican Party dinner. He's also headlined dinners for state Republican organizations in Arkansas and Florida, with another in South Dakota coming in two weeks. As vice chair of the Republican Governors Association, he's also campaigned for candidates in New Jersey and Virginia. These trips to date have been paid for by the sponsoring organizations; his PAC will allow him to accept more invitations as time goes on, in addition to supporting local candidates in states like New Hampshire and Iowa.

Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin already have formed PACs. Pawlenty's entry to that club drew more attention from the DNC, which called the PAC "more evidence that Pawlenty is, at best, a part-time Governor who cares more about his national political ambitions than the people of Minnesota."

ACORN Conduct 'Indefensible,' White House Says

Asked for the first time today about the infamous ACORN footage, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called the conduct of some of the organization's employees "indefensible."

"The administration takes accountability extremely seriously," he said. The U.S. Census Bureau's decision to sever ties to the group reflects that, he added, with their view that the group "could not meet the bureau's goal of achieving a fair and accurate count in 2010."

Gibbs would not say, however, whether President Obama would, as the leader of the Democratic Party, urge the DNC and other campaign committees to sever ties to the group.

The issue, after heavy coverage on Fox News and widespread conversation online, has only now broadened to other media outlets to the point that it was addressed at the daily White House briefing today.

And it's not just the White House reacting to the criticism of the group. Today, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), a potential 2012 aspirant, issued this letter urging state officials to stop any payments to ACORN.

"The recent reports of questionable behavior and potential illegal activity by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now are of great concern," he writes to the state commissioner of Management and Budget. "I am directing you to stop all state funding to ACORN unless the state is legally obligated to provide such funding."

Santorum's Iowa Trip

We noted former Sen. Rick Santorum's (R) comments yesterday about a potential 2012 presidential bid. Today, a sure-fire sign he's testing the waters. The American Future Fund announced that the former Pennsylvania senator will deliver a keynote address at the organization's lecture series on October 1. The location: Dubuque, Iowa.

The speech is titled, "Jumpstarting America's Economy by Putting People First."

Santorum: More Open To Challenging Obama In 2012

Former Sen. Rick Santorum said that because President Obama has failed to deliver on his campaign promises, Republicans, including him, have more reason to consider a presidential run in 2012.

"The dynamic has changed," Santorum said on an RNC conference call today (listen here) intended to rebut Obama's visit to the Keystone State. "I think a lot of folks who may not have thought about running against an incumbent president -- who certainly came in with very very high ratings and had the potential ... to be a very successful president -- [have] seen his ratings fall because of his inability to deliver."

There's a "different atmosphere" now, he argued, which has more people eager to "confront this presidency," which is "injurious to America." He pointed to the tea party demonstrations as evidence of this growing movement.

Still, he put his presidential flirtation into perspective.

"It's something that I think I would consider," said Santorum, who lost his re-election bid in 2006. "I went from not considering at all to saying I would at least consider it. That's as far as I'm willing to go three and a half years out."

Continue reading "Santorum: More Open To Challenging Obama In 2012" »

Palin Heading To Hong Kong

One year after joining the Republican presidential ticket, Sarah Palin is looking to beef up her foreign policy credentials with a trip to Asia. The AP reports:

The former Alaska governor will visit Hong Kong to address the CLSA Investors Forum, a well-known annual conference of global investment managers, the host announced Monday.

Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Alan Greenspan have spoken at the event, hosted by brokerage and investment group CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets.

"Our keynote speakers are notable luminaries who often address topics that go beyond traditional finance such as geopolitics," company spokeswoman Simone Wheeler said in a statement.


The Sept. 23 address will mark Palin's first commercial speaking engagement, according to CLSA. Her speaking fees were not disclosed.

It will be closed to the media, and the topic has not yet been confirmed.

Palin was criticized during last year's presidential election for her lack of experience in international affairs. She received her first passport in 2007 to visit Alaska National Guard members serving in Kuwait and Germany.

Pawlenty Keeps Focus On Health Care

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) is maintaining a high profile on health care issues, announcing today a new Web site that would allow Minnesotans to be the first in the nation to be able to do comparison shopping for health care plans.

"This reform is part of our larger effort to make Minnesota's health care system even more market-driven, patient-centered and quality-focused," he says in a statement. "This is not government intervention and no legislation was needed. This is simply the buyer, through the Smart Buy Alliance, working with health plans and providers to meet the community's needs."

Pawlenty, retiring as governor in 2010 with an eye on 2012, has been speaking up on health care issues quite a bit, even taking swipes at the plan enacted in Massachusetts by potential rival Mitt Romney. Pawlenty's statement today also notes his other achievements on health care during his nearly two terms in office.

Palin: Kennedy "Fought Passionately For His Conviction"

Former Gov. Sarah Palin issued this brief statement on Facebook:

I would like to extend our sympathies to the Kennedy family as we hear word about the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. He believed in our country and fought passionately for his convictions.

-Sarah Palin and family

Some of her supporters, meanwhile, are posting some not-so-nice comments in response.

Romney, Who Faced Kennedy In '94, Mourns "Big-Hearted" Senator

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney put out this statement on Ted Kennedy, his foe in the 1994 Senate race. That was the last time he scored last than 60 percent for a re-election.

"The loss of Senator Ted Kennedy is a sad event for America, and especially for Massachusetts.  The last son of Rose Fitzgerald and Joseph Kennedy was granted a much longer life than his brothers, and he filled those years with endeavor and achievement that would have made them proud.

In 1994, I joined the long list of those who ran against Ted and came up short.  But he was the kind of man you could like even if he was your adversary.  I came to admire Ted enormously for his charm and sense of humor - qualities all the more impressive in a man who had known so much loss and sorrow.  I will always remember his great personal kindness, and the fighting spirit he brought to every cause he served and every challenge he faced.   I was proud to know Ted Kennedy as a friend, and today my family and I mourn the passing of this big-hearted, unforgettable man.

Romney Leads Early Granite State Primary Poll

According to New Hampshire law, the first-in-the-nation presidential primary is slated for March 13, 2012. Of course, it'll likely be much sooner than that; seven days before any other primary is scheduled. In 2008, it was held January 8.

All this is to point out how early it is to be polling the state. But has released what may be the first state-specific public survey of the Granite State. Not surprisingly, former Gov. Mitt Romney has a solid lead.

Primary Election Matchup
Romney 50
Palin 17
Huckabee 17
Gingrich 13
Pawlenty 3

The poll was conducted electronically by Populus Research on August 10 and 11, among 403 likely Republican primary voters and with a margin of error of +/- 5 percent. It should be noted that without a Democratic primary in 2012, the GOP race will include many undeclared and even some Democratic voters, too.

NowHampshire gets some perspective from former McCain campaign chief Mike Dennehy.

"Gov. Romney worked very hard here in 2008. He maintains a lot of support. It's interesting to see the way Palin and Huckabee compete for almost the same voters and end up splitting their support," Dennehy said.

Dennehy also noted that New Hampshire is an environment that might ultimately embrace someone like Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota or some other candidate who has not yet indicated interest in the Republican nomination.

"New Hampshire loves underdogs," he said.

UPDATED: Pawlenty Headlining Florida, Ohio GOP Dinners

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) is keeping up an active political schedule. He was the only potential 2012 candidate to appear at the recent RNC meeting in San Diego last week. Later this month, he'll headline the Republican Party of Florida's Statesman's Dinner. From the RPOF:

"I am honored to announce that Governor Pawlenty will join Florida Republicans for our Statesman's Dinner," said RPOF Chairman Jim Greer. "Given the number of critical races facing our state in the 2010 election, and the significant issues facing Republican values on the national level, I cannot think of a Republican Statesmen more appropriate to join Florida Republicans for this exciting celebration of our great Party."

The dinner is August 22. One question for Pawlenty: does he weigh in on the Senate primary between fellow Gov. Charlie Crist (R) and former House Speaker Marco Rubio (R)?

UPDATED: The Ohio GOP has now announced that Pawlenty will keynote their "2009 Leading Ohio Dinner" in September. From Ohio Republican chair Kevin DeWine:

"This is an important opportunity to kick off our 2010 campaign by uniting around one of the strongest statewide tickets we've seen in a generation. Republicans are ready for a comeback, and I can't think of a better spokesman for that resurgence than Tim Pawlenty. He's one of the smartest, most pragmatic conservative leaders in our party today, and he believes as I do that our party needs to modernize its message without moderating its principles."

Fox Poll: Palin's Place Is In The Home

Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have swapped spots on top of Fox News' latest test of the 2012 Republican presidential field.

2012 Primary Election Matchup
Romney 22 (+4 from May)
Huckabee 21 (+1)
Palin 17 (+4)
Giuliani 13 (+1)
Gingrich 9 (-5)
Jindal 3 (unch)
J. Bush 1 (-2)
Pawlenty 1
Sanford -- (-4)

Ten percent said it was too soon to decide, while 2 percent were undecided.

The poll asked voters what would be the best job for Sarah Palin now that she's resigned. Among all voters, the top choice (32 percent) was homemaker; 17 percent said she should be a talk show host, 14 percent said vice president, while just 6 percent said president. Among Republican voters VP was the top choice at 27 percent, followed by homemaker (18 percent), talk show host (14 percent) and then president (12 percent).

The generic 2010 ballot test shows Democrats still ahead, though their numbers have slipped. If the election were held today, 43 percent would vote for a Democratic candidate, while 38 percent would pick the Republican -- a 5 point gap, down from a 12 point advantage in May. Congress' job approval rating has dropped 11 points to 30 percent, while 60 percent disapprove. The split was 41/49 in May.

The telephone survey was conducted July 21-22, with an overall sample of 900 registered voters and a +/- 3 percent margin of error. The Republican primary sample of 303 voters had a margin of error of +/- 6 percent.

After the jump, see some Fav/Unfav ratings for government figures.

Continue reading "Fox Poll: Palin's Place Is In The Home" »

Pawlenty, Gingrich To Talk Health Care

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich pays a courtesy call to Minneapolis tomorrow, joining Gov. Tim Pawlenty for a discussion on the hot topic in Washington: health care. From Pawlenty's office:

Governor Pawlenty and Speaker Gingrich, founder of the Center for Health Transformation, will present "The Future of Health and Healthcare in Minnesota," a conversation focusing on current opportunities and strategies within the state of Minnesota.

Gingrich has been active on the health care front, even teaming up with Hillary Clinton during her time as senator on common ground: modernizing medical records. Now he shares the spotlight with another potential 2012 rival on an issue where the governor has less of a profile

Palin Skipping NGA Meeting

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), with just two full weeks left in office before her resignation takes effect, will skip the National Governors Association's summer conference, her office confirms.

This year's event is focused on the theme of "Strengthening Our Infrastructure for a Sustainable Future." Governors will also hold sessions on workforce training, economic recovery and energy security and independence, the latter being a subject Gov. Palin has claimed as a particular area of expertise. Palin chairs the NGA's Natural Resources Committee.

Palin also skipped the NGA's winter conference in Washington, DC, this February, which included a meeting with President Obama at the White House. She did attend a session with Obama last December shortly after the election, however.

The NGA's 101st Annual Conference is scheduled for July 17-20. It's being hosted this year in Biloxi by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), who now chairs the RGA. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) is the outgoing NGA chair, and will hand the reigns off to Vermont's Jim Douglas (R) at the end of the session.

Palin: Not Retreating, Advancing

Speaking from her home in Wasilla, Sarah Palin quoted Douglas MacArthur as she explained why would resign as Alaska governor: "We're not retreating, we are advancing in another direction."

Palin said that as she considered this move, she polled her family and put the choice to them this way: "Do you want me to make a positive difference and fight for all our children's future from outside the governor's office?"

For everyone trying to read 2012 tea leaves from today's stunning announcement, those are just some of the clues. As for the decision to resign, she said that came about once she decided to not run for re-election in 2010. That would make her a lame duck, she said, something she's not "wired" to be.

"Many just accept that lame duck status, and they hit the road, they draw a paycheck - they kind of milk it. And I'm not going to put Alaskans through that," she said. "I'm determined to take the right path for Alaska, even though it is unconventional, and it's not so comfortable."

(Corrected) She addressed a list of accomplishments from her tenure -- especially a framework for constructing a natural gas pipeline. But she focused just as much on her general political style, of shaking up "politics as usual."

And she used a sports analogy, using the current president's favorite sport, as she spoke of the unrelenting criticism she's faced since being catapulted onto the national stage.

"You are naïve if you do not see a full-court press from the national press picking away right now a good point guard," she said. Talking of herself in the third person, she continued: "She drives through a full-court press, protecting the ball, keeping her head up because she needs to keep her eye on the basket. And she knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the team can win. And that is what I'm doing, keeping our eye on the ball."

She did take one swipe at the Obama administration, as she encouraged others not to be dissuaded from entering politics by her experience today. "We need hardworking, average Americans fighting for what's right, and I will support you because we need you," she siad. "We need those who will respect our Constitution, where government's supposed to serve from the bottom up and not move toward this top-down big government takeover. But rather, will be protectors of individual rights, who also have enough common sense to acknowledge when conditions have drastically changed, and they're willing to call an audible and pass the ball when it's time so the team can win."

In the end, this was a telling line from her remarks today: "Don't explain. Your friends don't need it and your enemies won't believe you anyway."

UPDATE: Palin To Resign As Alaska Governor

UPDATE: KTUU-TV in Anchorage reports that Palin not only won't seek re-election, but will resign later this month.

ORIGINAL POST: Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has announced she will not run for re-election in 2010, CNN reports. She's scheduled to make an announcement shortly.

The decision frees Palin to travel in the Lower 48 as she considers a potential run for president in 2012. A re-election campaign could also have been tough on the former vice presidential nominee; her approval rating has dropped from stratospheric highs, and a number of candidates in both parties are said to be considering runs. Even if she won, the race would have been dominated by the specter of a presidential bid, giving her adversaries an opportunity to wound her politically. She's still fending off ethics complaints, many spurred by the "Troopergate" scandal.

Iowa Alert: Pence To Cedar Rapids Next Month

It's often said, but worth repeating: no politician heads to Iowa or New Hampshire by accident. The Des Moines Register reports that Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) will be heading to the Hawkeye State in late July, to the Cedar Rapids Area.

Pence, a recognizable face on cable news programs, recently has been a leading proponent of Iranian demonstrators and opponent of the climate-change bill passed in the House on Friday.

"Throughout his career in public service, Congressman Pence has been a forceful advocate for our party's principles of limited government, personal responsibility, and political, economic and religious freedom," Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn said about the news.

Pence was occasionally mentioned in VP speculation in 2008. He ran unsuccessfully for minority leader in 2006 but is now House GOP Conference chairman.

In The Heat Of The Veepstakes ...

An interesting juxtaposition in e-mails between Gov. Mark Sanford and his apparent mistress from Argentina, published online by The State.

In an e-mail dated July 10, 2008, Sanford is rattling off details of his upcoming travels, including this:

The following weekend have been asked to spend it out in Aspen, Colorado with McCain - which has kicked up the whole VP talk all over again in the press back home ...

In the very next paragraph (kids -- earmuffs):

Two, mutual feelings .... You have a particular grace and calm that I adore. You have a level of sophistication that so fitting with your beauty. I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificent gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curve of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of the night's light - but hey, that would be going into sexual details ...

Sanford: "I Have Been Unfaithful"

After a meandering opening statement, an emotional Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) just announced to reporters: "I've been unfaithful to my wife." He said in recent years, he developed a relationship with "dear, dear friend" from Argentina.

He will step down as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

You can watch the press conference live here.

UPDATE: DGA executive director Nathan Daschle released this statement:

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Governor Sanford and his family, and I wish them the best as they try to heal this wound."

South Carolina TV Station Questions Sanford's Story

A new wrinkle in the Mark Sanford disappearance? Greenville's WYFF-TV cites sources who say the South Carolina governor may not have been hiking the Appalachian Trail. Reportedly, "a state vehicle is missing and was tracked down, not to the Appalachian Trail, but to the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta."

[Sanford Communications Director Joel] Sawyer has emphasized that the governor was hiking on the Appalachian Trail and that it wasn't something the staff or Jenny Sanford were concerned about.

But sources told WYFF News 4 that the federal agent who spotted Sanford saw him at the Atlanta airport, which is about 80 miles from the start of the trail.

WYFF News 4 has not yet confirmed where the plane was going or how the governor got to the airport, but it is clear there are two very different stories.

News 4 called the governor's office, and was told again by staffers that they stand by their original statement that the governor is hiking the Appalachian Trail. They did not want to comment on this story.

One could argue that Sanford was flying to another spot along the trail route. Rest assured, this story won't die anytime soon.

Barbour Deflects 2012 Talk

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, in the middle of a three-state political tour, told reporters at the Capitol today that his trip had nothing to do with a potential 2012 presidential campaign.

"Probably never," Barbour said, when asked when he might make a decision on running for president. "But, you know, Governor Sununu called me and said he'd like to have somebody come up to New Hampshire who wasn't running for president to talk about party building, and I told him I'm your man."

Barbour was referring to John H. Sununu, the former governor who took the reins of the New Hampshire Republican Party just months after his son, John E. Sununu, was defeated for re-election to the Senate in the same state.

However, New Hampshire is not the only state he's visiting that holds a high profile in presidential politics. Barbour will attend a state party fundraiser in Iowa on Thursday, though he made no mention of that appearance.

Barbour also made a number of stops yesterday with Virginia gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, and he helped the GOP nominee raise $250,000.

Sanford, "Taken Aback" By Media Storm, Plans To Return

A spokesperson for Gov. Mark Sanford (R-MIA) has just sent an update on the whereabouts of the potential 2012 contender, saying he'll return to his office tomorrow.

"Governor Sanford called to check in with his Chief of Staff this morning. It would be fair to say the governor was somewhat taken aback by all of the interest this trip has gotten," spokesperson Joel Sawyer said in an e-mail to reporters. "Given the circumstances and the attention this has garnered, the governor communicated to us that he plans on returning to the office tomorrow."

Barbour Hits the Road

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) is making a swing of appearances outside his state this week, raising money and talking issues, with speculation that he's ramping up for a 2012 run for president.

Barbour currently serves as vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and says his duties as such is the reason for his trip. His schedule this week takes him from Virginia, where a pivotal gubernatorial race takes place this year, to Washington D.C., New Hampshire and Iowa.

Barbour made two public appearances with Virginia gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell (R) this morning in Virginia Beach and Richmond. At three events today, Barbour helped McDonnell raise $250,000, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Tomorrow, Barbour will speak at a House Republican leadership news conference at the Capitol. A press release from Minority Leader John Boehner's office says the event will focus on health care.

From Washington, Barbour will head up to New Hampshire for a state GOP fundraiser, and will follow that up with a state party fundraiser in Iowa on Thursday.

Gov. Mark Sanford "Apparently Missing"

Here's something you don't read every day: the governor of South Carolina is apparently missing. The State reports:

The whereabouts of Gov. Mark Sanford have been unknown to state officials since Thursday, and some state leaders are questioning who is in charge of the executive office.

Neither the governor's office nor the State Law Enforcement Division, which provides security for governors, has been able to reach Sanford after he left the mansion in a black SLED Suburban SUV, said Sen. Jake Knotts and three others familiar with the situation but who declined to be identified.

Sanford's last known whereabouts were near Atlanta, where a mobile telephone tower picked up a signal from his phone, authorities said.

First lady Jenny Sanford told The Associated Press today her husband has been gone for several days and she doesn't know where he is.

The report continues here.

UPDATE: Here's the statement from Sanford communications director Joel Sawyer:

The governor put in a lot of time during this last legislative session, and after the session winds down it's not uncommon for him to go out of pocket for a few days at a time to clear his head. Obviously, that's going to be somewhat out of the question this time given the attention this particular absence has gotten. Before leaving last week, he let staff know his whereabouts and that he'd be difficult to reach. Should any emergencies arise between the times in which he checks in, our staff would obviously be in contact with other state officials as the situation warrants before making any decisions.

Palin On "Today"

Here's the full interview with Gov. Sarah Palin on this morning's "Today" show. A must watch:

Huckabee Back To Iowa

Mike Huckabee is heading to Iowa next week, his third trip since winning the state's caucuses last January.

Next Wednesday, the former Arkansas governor will speak at the Iowa Association of Business and Industry's annual convention in Okoboji. The subject: climate change. Later, he keynotes to the "Leadership at the Lakes" event in Arnold's Park, organized by Bob Vander Plaats, a potential candidate for governor next year.

Yes, it's already that time. Sen. John Ensign was there last week.

Dole Returns To North Carolina ... With Huckabee

Elizabeth Dole lost her re-election bid in North Carolina last year in part because of the view that she didn't spend enough time in the Tarheel State. Well, the News & Observer reports this morning that the former senator is coming back to the state for what is believed to be the first time since her defeat, and she's bringing a guest.

She'll be introducing former Arkansas governor and once (and future?) presidential candidate Mike Huckabee at an event in Charlotte next Thursday.

Huckabee will hold two events at the Charlotte City Club to benefit a conservative advocacy group he runs, the Vertical Politics Institute, and his political action committee, Huck PAC.

The North Carolina primary came well after Huckabee dropped out in 2008. The other Carolina, however, will likely preserve its early primary status.

Daniels Ends 2012 Speculation

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels indicated today that his current job would be his last, a statement likely to deflate the hopes of many conservatives around the country that he'd run for president in 2012.

"I've only ever run for or held one office," Daniels said. "It's the last one I'm going to hold."

Daniels was speaking on the current state of conservatism during a panel discussion hosted by the Hudson Institute at the St. Regis Hotel in downtown Washington -- just two blocks from the White House. The second-term governor had been mentioned by the likes of Bill Kristol and Michael Barone as a potential challenger to President Obama in 2012, especially after his commanding performance in the 2008 election.

The Republican governor left his post as director of the Office of Management and Budget under George W. Bush to run in 2004. He defeated acting Gov. Joe Kernan (D) by 8 points that year, and four years later he won re-election by tallying more votes than any candidate in state history -- and almost 200,000 more than Obama, the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state in 44 years.

Pawlenty Mum On '12, Says He'll Follow Court Decision On Senate Race

After announcing he won't seek re-election, Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) dodged questions about a potential presidential bid in 2012. But he certainly made a subtle case for such a run, arguing that the Republican Party needs "new ideas and new faces."

Pawlenty said his immediate focus would be finishing his term and helping elect a Republican to succeed him in 2010. "As time and circumstances allow, I'm going to try to lend voice to the need to raise issues and ideas for my party here and elsewhere if I'm asked," he added.

The 48-year-old governor said he wants to play a role in helping the GOP determine its future course, saying he'll work to "develop new ideas" and "new energy in the party."

"It's gotta be a party that can accommodate both Colin Powell and Rush Limbaugh if we're going to be successful," he said. "It's not either or, it's both. We need to be a party of addition and not subtraction. I think I can help with that effort."

Pawlenty said he "absolutely" thinks he would have won a third term if he chose to run, citing a Rasmussen poll that showed his approval rating is relatively high, especially for a governor who represents a state "that's opposite of their party." He also referred to a SurveyUSA poll that showed him leading all potential Democratic opponents.

Continue reading "Pawlenty Mum On '12, Says He'll Follow Court Decision On Senate Race" »

Report: Pawlenty Won't Seek Third Term

Last week we noted that Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) planned to announce his future political plans "this summer." His timeframe appears to have sped up, with his office planning a press conference at 2 pm local time.

WCCO-TV reports that Pawlenty will not seek a third term. The decision is sure to trigger speculation that the "hockey dad" will focus his energies on a 2012 presidential bid. It may also ratchet up pressure on Pawlenty, who will eventually have to sign a certification of election in the contested Minnesota Senate race.

Contenders had also been already lining up to seek the governorship. An open seat contest would give Democrats a strong chance of reclaiming the governorship in the blue North Star State for the first time in 20 years.

UPDATE: Here's an interview I conducted with Gov. Pawlenty last summer, when he was believed to be high on John McCain's short list for the VP nomination.

NJ Gov: Lonegan Hits Romney For Christie Endorsement

Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, who is counting on strong conservative support in his effort to win the GOP nomination for governor, took a swipe at former and potentially future presidential candidate Mitt Romney for endorsing his opponent, Chris Christie.

"Mitt Romney was rejected by Republican Primary voters because he was a moderate trying to pass himself off as a conservative just in time to win an election. Chris Christie has done the exact same thing in this race, so it follows that Romney would back him," he says in a statement.

"This is a case of one fraudulent moderate trying to help another one. Republican voters will see through Chris Christie the same way they did Mitt Romney last February."

Polls have consistently shown Christie ahead in the primary, but that Lonegan has a stronger base of support among more conservative voters. These voters, the campaign argues, are more likely to show up at the polls next Tuesday, and overcome Christie's support among the party establishment.

Dueling National Endorsements In N.J. Primary

Mitt Romney, who has done some campaigning in Virginia this week, head to New Jersey tomorrow where he will endorse Chris Christie in the Republican primary for governor. Christie is considered the more moderate candidate in what is basically a two-candidate race.

Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, meanwhile, today touts the support of Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, as his campaign attacks Christie on illegal immigrants. "As Governor, Steve Lonegan will stop the coddling of illegal aliens under Corzine and Christie that has made New Jersey an illegal alien sanctuary," Gilchrist says in a statement.

Gilchrist also notes that Christie has been supported by another former presidential candidate, Rudy Giuliani, "who made New York City one of the first places in the country to grant illegal aliens 'sanctuary' status," he adds.

The primary is next Tuesday, June 2.

Who's The Most Popular Alaska Republican?

It's not Sarah Palin, according to a new survey from Hays Research. Sen. Lisa Murkowski's favorability rating continues to climb as Alaskans have taken a more unfavorable view of their governor, the 2008 Republican nominee for vice president.

Favorability Rating
Palin 54/42 (compared with 60/35 in March)
Murkowski 76/18 (compared with 72/20 in March)

The survey found that 30.5% of respondents had a "very positive" view of Palin, down from 34.9% in March, while 24.8% now have a "very negative" view, up from 21.2% in March. A survey conducted in May of 2008 pegged Palin's favorability rating at 86% -- a 32-point drop in just one year. Then, only 3% had a "very negative" view of their governor.

The new survey of 400 voters was conducted May 4 and 5, and had a margin of error of +/- 4.9 %

Baseball Mitt On Opening Day

Mitt Romney has just sent a baseball-themed pitch to his supporters on this Opening Day in Major League Baseball. The former Massachusetts governor says he still has Red Sox season tickets and "I'll be rooting for the Red Sox all season long. But whether you're rooting for the BoSox or for your own favorite team, there's one thing on which we can all agree -- the need to keep promoting our conservative agenda and take back Congress in 2010."

He asks for contributions for his Free and Strong America PAC, and offers up some perks. For $25, you get the "official PAC baseball card"(!) For $75, you get a red baseball cap. But hold the phone -- for $250 you get your own Romney-autographed baseball.

The full e-mail script is after the jump.

Continue reading "Baseball Mitt On Opening Day" »

Three Years Is a Lifetime

A survey released Wednesday by Public Policy Polling found President Obama leading Sarah Palin by 20 points in a hypothetical 2012 presidential race. Three and a half years before the actual election will take place, the poll served as a reminder of exactly how much things can change in a relatively short amount of time.

It's sometimes hard to remember what conventional wisdom was four years ago, shortly after George W. Bush began his second term in office. Most might remember that, as evidenced by an August 2005 Gallup survey, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination. This was just a year after anyone outside of his Illinois State Senate district had ever heard of Barack Obama, whom Gallup didn't even include in the poll.

At that time, however, most Washington insiders felt Clinton had little chance of winning the general election -- as this July 2005 Washington Monthly piece illustrates. She was seen as too liberal, unable to win swing voters and vulnerable to inevitable Republican attack ads. Less than three years later, many saw Clinton as just the opposite, and her supporters were using those same arguments during the Democratic primaries for why Obama could not win.

Democratic insiders today may not fear a potential challenge from Palin, who -- like Clinton four years ago -- could be seen as too polarizing to pick up enough independent voters. While Palin certainly didn't appear ready for a presidential bid last year, who's to say she won't be three years from now? Palin was mayor of a town with less than 10,000 people just three years ago. Now she's being polled against the President of the United States.

In politics, three years is a lifetime.

Huckabee Bashes Stimulus, Hopes To Stimulate PAC

Gov. Sarah Palin came to DC last week ostensibly to lobby for some stimulus funds (and also to attend the Alfalfa Club Dinner). Mitt Romney last week agreed in principle with the need for stimulus, but criticized the Democratic proposal on the table. Now Mike Huckabee is telling his supporters that the recovery plan is "garbage."

From a HuckPAC e-mail:

"This stimulus bill is full of pork and does little to add real jobs and spend real money on infrastructure projects that would create jobs.

In other words, a real stink bomb."

Notably, Huckabee asks for donations to help fight the plan. He says it'll help elect "some strong conservatives" to bring some "common sense back into the room."

The full e-mail is after the jump.

Continue reading "Huckabee Bashes Stimulus, Hopes To Stimulate PAC" »