Gingrich Prepares to Make His Move

BY David Chalian  March 2, 2011 at 8:40 AM EDT

Newt Gingrich; Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call

Newt Gingrich has indicated that he’ll soon clarify his intentions for a presidential run. Photo by Bill Clark/Roll Call.

The Morning Line

Not much is known about what Newt Gingrich plans to say after his meeting with Gov. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET at the state capitol in Atlanta.

The meeting is apparently going to cover “the 10th Amendment and overbearing federal regulations,” according to the press advisory sent from Gov. Deal’s office.

The former speaker of the House will take questions from the press following the meeting. It’s pretty clear that we’ll hear more from Gingrich about his 2012 intentions than we have to date. (And it would be a shock to most observers if he eventually ended up not becoming a candidate.)

Throughout the last several months, Gingrich had consistently pointed to the end of February and beginning of March as when he would clarify his plans, and he appears to be sticking to that calendar.

As for what remains unclear: the substance of what he plans to say. And there seems to be some confusion inside his cadre of advisers.

From Tuesday’s Des Moines Register:

“Gingrich is expected to report during a public appearance with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal at his home state’s Capitol in Atlanta that he is forming a federal exploratory committee, said Joe Gaylord, a Des Moines native who has been Gingrich’s top strategist for 20 years.

“‘It is exactly that, an exploratory committee,’ Gaylord said in an interview. Gingrich would be the first better-known Republican in the gathering field to take the step.

“‘But you can’t say that this is tantamount to an announcement of candidacy,’ Gaylord added. ‘It is the announcement of an exploratory committee that says, ‘is it really feasible for me to do this, and let me check this out in the next six or seven weeks, because I want to find out if it’s real before I do it.’”

That report prompted this statement from Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler: “Gingrich is not traveling to Georgia to announce that he will form ‘an exploratory committee’ as stated in the Des Moines Register. To be clear, while Speaker Gingrich is in Georgia on Thursday, he will NOT announce the formation of an exploratory committee.”

It seems there are some semantics at play here. Gingrich may not yet open an Federal Election Commission account and form a committee, but simply announce his intentions to do so.

As Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times writes, “Presidential announcements come in baby steps.”

It’s important to note that in the eyes of the FEC there’s no difference between an “exploratory committee” and a campaign committee. There are different fundraising and spending thresholds for the “exploratory phase” of a presidential campaign than exist for a full blown candidacy, but there’s no recognized “exploratory committee.” That’s how candidates often prefer to describe the early stages of a presidential campaign as they staff up and keep an eye on rhetorical emergency exits if they decide to reverse course and withdraw from the campaign.

THE SENATE’S TURN

By about 11:15 a.m. ET Wednesday, the Senate is expected to have cleared a two-week funding measure to keep the federal government running through March 18, simultaneously giving lawmakers a little breathing room to work out a long-term agreement and crushing the hopes of congressional reporters who had been salivating over the prospect of wall-to-wall “shutdown showdown” coverage.

By clearing the temporary stopgap, lawmakers have hit the reset button on negotiations, with Republicans renewing their calls to cut nearly $60 billion through the rest of the fiscal year, which ends in September, and Democrats touting their plan to freeze spending at current levels.

Those battle lines were on display Tuesday night when Judy Woodruff spoke separately with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Allen West, R-Fla.

Sen. Durbin indicated Democrats had already conceded some ground to Republicans with their freeze proposal: “I will tell you, we have already moved in that direction. What I’m saying is we need to draw the line. We can’t kill the things that are critical for this economy, like education and job training, research and innovation, and basic infrastructure that we can build the economy of the 21st century on.”

Rep. West, meanwhile, countered Democrats were being “disingenuous” and needed to meet Republican demands: “I think we have already given. I think the American people have given, and when you talk about the exorbitant spending and the debts and the deficit the American people have given, and they’re tired of it.”

If this is a sign of things to come, inhabitants of Capitol Hill could find themselves bracing for a shutdown in just a few weeks.

A WAY WITH WORDS

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is thought to have a way with words, but the potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate had trouble finding the right ones in an interview he gave Monday.

During an appearance on “The Steve Malzberg Show” Huckabee claimed twice that President Obama was raised in Kenya (scroll forward to the 13-minute mark).

The first instance came following a question from the host about the president’s birth certificate, which so-called “birthers” contend doesn’t exist or was forged. “I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, [is] very different than the average American,” Huckabee said.

Huckabee then added, “[I]f you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather…is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.”

The president’s father was born in Kenya and his mother was born in Kansas. The president himself was born in Hawaii in 1961 and has said he did not visit Kenya until he was an adult. He did, however, spend five years of his youth in Indonesia.

The executive director of Huckabee’s political action committee released a statement Tuesday saying the governor made a mistake. “Governor Huckabee simply misspoke when he alluded to President Obama growing up in ‘Kenya.’ The Governor meant to say the President grew up in Indonesia,” Hogan Gidley told POLITICO.

Huckabee has been quite critical of birther conspiracies in the past, referring to them as “nonsense” and suggesting bringing them up was “a waste of time and energy.”

ECONOMIC CONFIDENCE

President Obama’s political advisers will tell you that while it’s important to the president’s political health to continue to bring down unemployment, it’s even more important to increase the number of Americans who believe the country is headed in the right direction. The two are clearly interconnected, but not necessarily dependent upon each other.

One lens through which to view the mood of the country is how Americans rate the economy and whether or not they believe things are getting better or worse.

Gallup is out with new state-by-state economic confidence numbers, and we looked at the nine states President Obama flipped from red to blue between 2004 and 2008. Those states were key to his significant electoral college victory over Sen. John McCain.

In 2010, residents in five of those states had better confidence in the economy, compared to 2009 confidence, than the nation as a whole compared to those in the four states who were less confident than the national average.

The national average shows that confidence in the American economy ticked up seven points between 2009 and 2010.

The five Obama red-to-blue states besting or matching the national average: Iowa (+12), Indiana (+8), Florida (+8), Ohio (+8) and Virginia (+7).

The four Obama red-to-blue states under-performing the national average: North Carolina (+5), Colorado (+5), Nevada (+5) New Mexico (+2).

Only Louisiana, Kentucky and West Virginia had lower confidence about the economy in 2010 than they did in 2009.

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