Romney: Ready to Launch

BY David Chalian  May 27, 2011 at 8:48 AM EST

Mitt Romney; J.D. Pooley/Getty Images

An announcement from Mitt Romney about his candidacy is expected next week. Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

On the eve of Mitt Romney’s first trip to Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation caucuses, the Union Leader reports that he plans to formally declare his candidacy next week in New Hampshire, home of the first-in-the-nation primary.

That tells you a great deal about the different strategic approach Team Romney is applying to the current battle for the Republican presidential nomination as compared to four years ago.

Iowa became paramount for Romney in 2008, and he was never able to recover from his loss to Mike Huckabee there.

Romney now needs to calibrate just how much time and money to invest in Iowa while keeping the spotlight on New Hampshire, where he holds a significant lead in the polls, owns a home and is well-known from his years governing next door in Massachusetts.

His formal announcement next week will be his second New Hampshire rollout. Last month, Romney recorded a video at the University of New Hampshire in which he announced the formation of his exploratory committee.

Tom Beaumont of the Associated Press has a preview of Romney’s Hawkeye State visit, which will include a visit to a technology firm and an address to a local business group.

Be sure to note this key detail from Beaumont:

“[A]ides would not say whether Romney planned to compete in the Iowa Republican Party’s presidential straw poll, a traditionally big pre-caucus event planned for mid-August. Romney spent heavily to organize en route to winning the straw poll in August 2007.”

The New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny wisely reminds readers that at this point four years ago, Romney had been on the air with TV ads for more than three months.

“This year, there are no commercials, no bulging payroll and no headquarters at all. And he has yet to signal whether he will treat Iowa with deference (as he did in 2008) or indifference (as some advisers have urged him to do),” writes Zeleny.

In addition to Romney, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is planning to formally announce his candidacy on June 6, and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., told reporters Thursday that a June announcement about her potential candidacy is also still in the works.

T-PAW GETS TO YES WITH RYAN PLAN

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty doubled-down Friday on his cautious embrace of a highly contentious GOP plan to revamp Medicare by giving beneficiaries subsidies to purchase private health plans.

“If it’s between doing nothing and Congressman Ryan’s plan, we’ve got to fix the problem,” Pawlenty said in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

On Thursday, Pawlenty was equally careful with his words when speaking to reporters during a visit to New Hampshire. “If that was the only bill that came to my desk, and I wasn’t able to pass my own plan, I would sign it,” Pawlenty said.

The former two-term governor told the MSNBC crew that he planned to unveil his own plan in the near future.

“It’s going to have some differences from the Ryan plan. That’s the one I’ll propose. That’s the one I’ll work towards and that’s the one I’d like to sign as president,” Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty said his proposal would include “a performance pay system” based on results instead of volume of procedures. He also suggested people would be allowed to “stay in the current system if they want,” but that a variety of choices will be made available to them at different price points.

The candidate said he wanted to lead on the issue and accused President Obama of failing to do so. “Where is he? We got a country that is sinking in debt and deficit and we got the leader of our nation basically absent from the debate,” Pawlenty argued, adding, “President Obama is ducking the issue.”

The fine line Pawlenty has taken between his qualified support for the plan by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and striking his own course is yet another sign that the Medicare issue will likely be an area of focus for Republican presidential candidates.

With 235 Republicans in the House and another 40 in the Senate on record in support of the Republican proposal, the remaining GOP contenders will need to be equally deliberate when addressing the issue, so as not to provoke a conservative backlash like the one that flustered former House speaker Newt Gingrich last week after he dismissed the plan as “right-wing social engineering.”

In addition to Medicare, Pawlenty was also asked Friday about former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s bus tour, which is set to kick off this weekend in Washington.

“I don’t know if she’s running or not. I don’t know what the bus tour means or not,” Pawlenty said.

“Whoever is going to get in I hope they get in soon because I want the field to be set so we can have the real debate. The country is facing huge issues and we need to stop worrying about polls and bus tours and get on to the issue of how we’re going to fix the country and get the country back on track,” Pawlenty added.

He was also questioned about his 6 percent showing in a recent Gallup poll, a figure Pawlenty attributed to his lack of name recognition nationally.

“As I’m getting better known we’re getting more support,” Pawlenty contended. “These early polls are just a measure of familiarity or name ID and if they were good predictors of how it was going to turn out we’d have President Giuliani or President Howard Dean.”

“So these early polls mean not much other than do you recognized somebody’s name and I’m the new face on the scene,” Pawlenty said.

NO RECESS FOR YOU

The Senate may be out next week for Memorial Day recess, but a real recess it will not be.

Republicans concerned that President Obama might make a recess appointment of Elizabeth Warren to head up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, refused to agree to a full recess.

Per the Wall Street Journal:

“‘Given President Obama’s indifference to the Senate’s constitutional authority, and the American people’s right to scrutinize his appointees through regular order of advise and consent, we urge you to refuse to pass any resolution to allow the Senate to recess or adjourn for more than three days for the remainder of the president’s term,’ said Sens. David Vitter (R., La.), Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) and other conservative Republicans in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio).”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has instead arranged for pro-forma sessions to take place in the Senate, which will require a senator to be present to gavel into session and then immediately gavel out.

The president can only use his power to make recess appointments if the Senate is in recess for more than three consecutive days.

There was no indication from the White House that a recess appointment for Warren was imminent. However, Warren’s potential appointment to head up the bureau she designed and created in last year’s financial reform bill has become a cause celebre for many liberals in President Obama’s party.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal political group, had collected more than 100,000 signatures from supporters pressing President Obama to appoint Warren during the recess.

Although the Republican senators accomplished their immediate goal of ensuring a Warren appointment did not come to fruition next week, they also provided the president some political cover just as some in his base were gearing up to take him on over appointing Warren during the recess.

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