THE MORNING LINE -- May 23, 2011 at 8:27 AM EDT
Pawlenty Officially Launches Campaign
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty plans to announce his bid for the White House in Iowa. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.
Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, gets his moment in the spotlight Monday when he officially declares his candidacy for the White House at a 12:30 p.m. EDT town hall in Des Moines, Iowa. (Though it looks like he'll be battling a devastating tornado in Missouri for media attention.)
Pawlenty could not have planned his rollout for a better moment. In the last week he saw his prospects for support from evangelical voters in Iowa significantly increase with Mike Huckabee's decision to stay out of the race, and when Mitch Daniels came to the same conclusion this weekend, Pawlenty's path to emerge as the establishment alternative to Mitt Romney got somewhat clearer
Instead of using his announcement tour to begin drawing sharp differences between himself, Romney and Jon Huntsman, his two main rivals for the GOP nomination, Pawlenty is portraying himself as the anti-Obama.
He's selling himself as the truth teller he says President Obama refuses to be.
Pawlenty released this video to supporters Sunday night:
"The truth is our country's in big trouble. We have far too much debt. Too much government spending. And too few jobs. We need a president who understands that our problems are deep and who has the courage to face them. President Obama doesn't. I do," Pawlenty says in the video.
He's expected to strike a similar note Monday in Des Moines when he says: "President Obama's policies have failed. But more than that, he won't even tell us the truth about what it's really going to take to get out of the mess we're in....I'm going to take a different approach. I am going to tell you the truth."
Following his announcement, Pawlenty is scheduled to hold a Facebook town hall Tuesday in Florida before heading to Washington, D.C., and New York City for some shaking of the money trees.
It's without question that Pawlenty benefits from those high-profile departures from the field. Donors and voters will be sure to give him a more serious look now than he might have gotten with Haley Barbour, Daniels and Huckabee on the stage.
Of course, with that more serious look comes a higher degree of scrutiny, and Pawlenty has yet to feel that full hot glare of the national spotlight.
THE BIG THREE
It's been more than six months since Republicans made huge gains in the 2010 elections. Since then, the question of who will run to be the party's standard-bearer in 2012 has consumed activists, donors and political journalists. When Gov. Daniels announced in the wee hours of Sunday morning that he would not make the race because of his family's wishes, the field of GOP contenders began to crystallize.
Welcome to the Romney vs. Pawlenty vs. Huntsman battle for the 2012 Republican nomination. Some other candidate may yet be drafted into the race, and there will certainly be a candidacy (Michele Bachmann? Sarah Palin?) that will soak up a ton of the Tea Party energy inside the base of the party. But this weekend's news about Gov. Daniels helped define the contest going forward.
Look at these two quotes from GOP heavy hitters in Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg's New York Times story.
"'Everybody is waiting for Superman, and soon they will learn that Superman is already in the race,' said Fred V. Malek, a longtime Republican fund-raiser and adviser. 'I believe the field is now complete and is now strong, with three former governors who have records of cutting costs and balancing budgets.'
"'The field is largely now settled, and Republican activists and donors will begin increasingly choosing between those who are declared,' said Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and an adviser to President George W. Bush. 'The process will accelerate now.'
We'll certainly see our fair share of Jeb Bush or Chris Christie stories in the days to come, but for those of you eager to start delving in and learning about the likely Republican opponent to President Obama, you won't be wasting any time by reading up on Romney, Pawlenty and Huntsman.
COMING FULL CIRCLE
For Newt Gingrich, his week ended Sunday right back where it started: on a morning talk show discussing a House Republican plan to reform Medicare.
It was eight days ago that the former House-speaker-turned-presidential-candidate set off a blaze of conservative criticism when he went on NBC's "Meet the Press" and described the GOP proposal to transform Medicare into a private voucher system as "right-wing social engineering."
Gingrich spent most of the week performing damage control, including apologizing to House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, Wis., the architect of the plan.
In his appearance Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation," Gingrich admitted he could have chosen his words better, but stuck by the broader point he said he was trying to make.
"I probably used unfortunate language about social engineering. My point was a larger one, that neither party should impose on the American people something that they are deeply opposed to," Gingrich said.
Asked Sunday about Gingrich's "social engineering" charge, Rep. Ryan, taking his turn in the "Meet the Press" chair, said the statement was "deeply inaccurate" and a "gross mischaracterization" of the Republican plan.
Democrats have called the GOP proposal extreme and are using Gingrich's comments to play up divisions within the Republican Party over the measure.
That effort will continue this week as Senate Democrats are expected to push for a vote on the House GOP budget, including the Medicare provision.
For his part, Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., praised Rep. Ryan for "getting the conversation started," but said he would be a "no" vote on the House GOP budget.
"Our country is on an unsustainable fiscal path," Sen. Brown wrote in a POLITICO op-ed Monday. "But I do not think it requires us to change Medicare as we know it. We can work inside of Medicare to make it more solvent."
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell conceded in a "Fox News Sunday" appearance over the weekend that there was little chance of getting his entire conference to support a single proposal.
"What I've said to my members are that we're not going to be able to coalesce behind just one," Sen. McConnell said. "None of these budgets are going to become law."
Sen. McConnell added that "real action" on deficit reduction would come from the ongoing negotiations between Vice President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers, which are scheduled to resume Tuesday.
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