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The Morning Line: Perry Weighs White House Run

BY David Chalian and Terence Burlij  June 20, 2011 at 10:28 AM EDT

Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

In anticipation of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s formal entrance into the presidential sweepstakes Tuesday and after Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s rousing appearance in New Orleans over the weekend, coverage of the 2012 election on the front pages have nothing to do with the candidates who have been plotting a path to the GOP nomination ever since Sen. John McCain delivered his concession speech in November 2008.

POLITICO’s Jonathan Martin writes up the comments from Perry’s political adviser, who said there’s a “50-50″ chance that Perry jumps into the race:

“On the [Republican Leadership Conference's] final day, the governor got a rapturous response from over a thousand GOP activists, demonstrating why both donors and the party’s grassroots want to coax him into the still-unsettled primary.

“Perry has for years denied any interest in the presidency, but his speech suggested otherwise–and served as a reminder that he’d be an instant contender if he did decide to run.”

The Wall Street Journal fronts the Perry buzz with this dispatch from Neil King and Patrick O’Connor:

“Aides to Texas Gov. Rick Perry said they are scrambling to determine the logistical challenges he would face in making a late entry to the fight for the Republican presidential nomination, the latest sign he is serious about joining the contest.

“Among their considerations is whether Mr. Perry has enough time to raise sufficient cash, which generally requires personal contact with donors and fund-raisers. Aides also have made inquiries in Iowa to assess his chances there in the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

“The actions show that Mr. Perry has moved beyond thinking about joining the contest to determining whether he can build a winning campaign.”

And/but:

“[P]olls show his popularity in Texas has flagged since he won a third term as governor last fall. The state lags in many key areas, ranking near the bottom, for instance, in the rate of high-school graduation.”

There’s clearly political space inside the GOP for a Gov. Perry candidacy, and the overall late start to the contest allows for a late entrance, but he doesn’t have much time to hem and haw.

Perry’s advisers indicate that he’s still weeks away from making a final decision, which means he’ll have the luxury of seeing what all of his potential contenders have raised in the second quarter after the FEC reports are made public on July 15.

MCCAIN JOINS THE FIGHT, NOT THE RACE

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., may not be running for president in 2012, but the 2008 GOP nominee still intends to debate his party’s contenders when it comes to foreign policy matters such as Afghanistan and Libya.

The veteran lawmaker told ABC News over the weekend that he had concerns about the message sent by his fellow Republicans at last week’s GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire.

“This is isolationism,” Sen. McCain said. “There’s always been an…isolation strain in the Republican Party, the Pat Buchanan wing of our party. But now it seems to have moved more center stage, so to speak.”

Sen. McCain was asked in particular about Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s statement that the United States has “no vital national interest” in the Libya conflict.

“I strongly disagree with her and others,” Sen. McCain said. “The fact is, our interests are our values. And our values are that we don’t want people needlessly slaughtered by the thousands if we can prevent such activity.”

“This Week” moderator Christiane Amanpour also pressed Sen. McCain on Mitt Romney’s contention that the United States was fighting a war of independence in Afghanistan.

“I had never heard it described that way. He talked about the lessons of history. We abandoned Afghanistan once, and we paid a very heavy price for it in the attacks of 9/11. So that is an important lesson that we must learn,” he said.

Sen. McCain likened the debate about Afghanistan to one that garnered plenty of attention during the 2008 GOP primary battle: Iraq. It was Sen. McCain’s support for the surge — and criticism then-rival Mitt Romney for backing a timetable for withdrawal — that provided one of 2008′s sharpest debate exchanges.

While no longer Romney’s competitor, Sen. McCain said his argument still holds. “By the way, it reminds me of the summer of 2007, when we were all ready to pull out of Iraq, and we had to stay the course, and we were able to — the surge was able to succeed. That surge is succeeding again under the same general,” Sen. McCain said.

When it comes to making an endorsement in 2012, McCain said he thought it would be “inappropriate” for him to do so, but he did indicate a desire to shape the debate moving forward.

“I do want to send a message, and that is that we cannot move into an isolationist party. We cannot repeat the lessons of the 1930s, when the United States of America stood by while bad things happened in the world. We are the lead nation in the world, and America matters, and we must lead.  But sometimes that leadership entails sacrifice, sadly,” Sen. McCain said.

MCCONNELL FLOATS SHORT-TERM DEBT PROPOSAL

Despite all the talk from both sides of the aisle of progress in the ongoing deficit reduction negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., doesn’t sound all that hopeful that a significant long-term deal is achievable.

“Now if we can’t do something really significant about the debt ceiling, that is a really large comprehensive plan that includes entitlement reform…if we can’t do that, then we’ll probably end up with a very short-term proposal over, you know, a few months. And we’ll be back having the same discussion again in the fall,” Sen. McConnell said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Sen. McConnell is the first legislative leader to float seriously the notion of a short-term deal that will allow for raising the debt limit by enough so that the United States can continue to pay its bills for a few months. That amount would be far less than the more than $2 trillion in additional borrowing ability that the Obama administration is seeking so as to avoid another debt limit vote before the 2012 presidential election.

Vice President Biden, the bipartisan congressional members at the table and their staffs plan to step up the intensity of their negotiations this week by meeting for more than three hours a day over the course of the next four days.

On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, R-Nev., told Jim Lehrer on the PBS NewsHour that the negotiations should continue through the upcoming congressional recesses in order to strike a deal.

ROMNEY OBJECTS TO ANTI-ABORTION PLEDGE

So much for Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ suggestion for a “truce” on social issues.

Romney and abortion rights opponents engaged in a war of words over the weekend after the former Massachusetts governor refused sign a pledge being pushed by the Susan B. Anthony List.

The group has put forward a pledge that asks candidates to agree to nominate anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court and federal bench, appoint anti-abortion individuals to executive branch positions and “advance pro-life legislation to permanently end all taxpayer funding of abortion in all domestic and international spending programs, and defund Planned Parenthood and all other contractors and recipients of federal funds with affiliates that perform or fund abortions.”

Romney outlined his objections Saturday in a National Review op-ed:

“As much as I share the goals of the Susan B. Anthony List, its well-meaning pledge is overly broad and would have unintended consequences. That is why I could not sign it. It is one thing to end federal funding for an organization like Planned Parenthood; it is entirely another to end all federal funding for thousands of hospitals across America. That is precisely what the pledge would demand and require of a president who signed it.”

In turn, SBA released a statement questioning Romney’s explanation for not signing the pledge:

“Our next president must recognize the urgency of addressing over a million abortions per year. That’s why our pledge calls for active leadership, not just checking the box. Five candidates took the pledge, and the pro-life grass roots know where they stand. Governor Romney refused to take the pledge, and his explanation raises more questions than answers. In good conscience, we cannot let this rest.”

The five GOP candidates who have signed the pledge are Rep. Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Rep. Bachmann issued a statement blasting Romney’s decision: “It is distressing that Governor Romney refuses to sign the SBA Pledge, even while claiming to be pro-life. The excuses for not signing clearly continue the doubts about his leadership and commitment to ending the practice of abortion — particularly for a candidate who ran as pro-choice for the Senate and Governorship of Massachusetts.”

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