Morning Examiner: A trifecta loss for T-Paw 

Debate Reax: Other than CNN, the biggest loser in last night’s New Hampshire GOP debate was former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. First, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., not only officially announced her candidacy, but she then turned in a strong performance solidifying herself as a true alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Second, Pawlenty did himself no favors by failing to stand behind his characterization of Romney’s health law as “Obamneycare” just a day after he made the charge on Fox News Sunday. Finally, Romney more than surpassed expectations releasing a well-received anti-Obama ad before the debate, ably defending his health law, admonishing the host John King for asking silly questions, and even sneaking in the score of the Boston Bruins game. It is hard to see how the night could have gone worse for T-Paw. (Possibly overshadowing the debate, check out The Huffington Post story on coordination between the White House and Obama campaign officials on donor maintenance below.)

The Examiner‘s Michael Barone: “I have disparaged the idea that Romney is the frontrunner; I continue to think that given the polls no one is the frontrunner. But Romney behaved like a frontrunner tonight, one with confidence and sense of command and with the adroitness to step aside from two major issue challenges (Romneycare, his various views on abortion) he faces. … I think Bachmann emerged from this debate a more serious competitor and Pawlenty not a stronger one than he was before.”

Politico‘s Jonathan Martin: “Tim Pawlenty’s puzzling decision at Monday’s debate to abandon a new line of attack on Mitt Romney’s healthcare record is prompting fresh doubts among members of his own party about his readiness to confront the GOP frontrunner. … ‘Debates are competitions – they are alpha dog battles,’ explained longtime GOP ad man Alex Castellanos. ‘To win one, you have to create what I call an MOS, a moment of strength. Tim Pawlenty had a chance to get in the ring tonight with the heavyweight champion and create such a moment. He refused to enter the ring. It was like LeBron refusing to take the big shot [Sunday] night.’”

The Examiner‘s Phil Klein: “In addition to letting Romney get away with his flawed explanations for his disastrous health care legislation in Massachusetts, Pawlenty came off looking weak – like the guy who criticizes you behind your back and cowers in front of your face. It was sort of like Ronald Reagan’s “I am paying for this microphone” moment in New Hampshire, only in reverse.”

The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin: “Pawlenty had a bad moment, a very bad one. When asked about his crack about ‘Obamneycare,’ he flinched, refusing to repeat his attack with Romney on the stage. In a nutshell, it defined the problem with his candidacy: Voters don’t think he is tough enough.”

RedState‘s Erick Erickson: “I think Mitt Romney did not just win the New Hampshire debate by holding his own, but legitimately won it with his answers and composure … The surprise last night was Michelle Bachmann. If there was a winner of the anti-Romney coalition, Michelle Bachmann not only one, but won by a wide margin. … This leaves a very real opening for Governor Rick Perry or Governor Sarah Palin to come in and begin making the case for an alternative. The odds are growing, I think, that Perry gets in.”

Human Events‘ Tony Lee: “In backing away from ‘ObamneyCare,’ Pawlenty seemed weak, feeble, and like a typical politician. … Again, Pawlenty brought this problem on himself by talking about ‘ObamneyCare.’ The message is simple: if you’re not going to walk the walk, just don’t talk the talk.”

National Review‘s Rich Lowry: “Romney was on his game – smooth, relaxed, and unflappable. … If Pawlenty wasn’t willing to back up that line in person, he shouldn’t have said it on TV Sunday. … He had to be chagrined watching how well Michelle Bachmann did — the average viewer just tuning in wouldn’t have any idea she’s not considered a “top tier” candidate. At this rate, Pawlenty’s going to have a big problem in Iowa, which is another reason why Team Romney had to be pleased with the night.”

The Weekly Standard‘s John McCormick: “Michele Bachmann had a great start to her presidential campaign Monday night. … Bachmann quoted Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to justify her opposition to the intervention in Libya. She talked about how she put “principle over party” when she cast her vote against TARP. And when CNN moderator John King asked her a silly hypothetical question, she gave him the silly answer he deserved.”

Around the Bigs:

The Hill, GOP freshmen: Stop recess appointments by stopping recess: “A group of 57 GOP freshmen have signed on to a letter asking Republicans leaders to prevent any Congressional recesses for the rest of the 112th Congress, which would block the president from skirting the Senate confirmation process. More signatures are still being gathered, but the letter is expected to be sent out later this week.”

The Los Angeles Times, Obama seeks ways around Congress to boost economy: “The traditional means by which a president might try to rev up the economy in the short run — new spending or tax cuts — have little chance of moving forward in a polarized Congress concerned with reducing the federal debt. In the meantime, he has been using two approaches, both on display in Monday’s North Carolina swing. One is to put forward smaller-scale ideas that may not generate huge numbers of jobs in the short term, but which at least show he is working on the issue. …. The other approach is to emphasize how much worse the recession could have been.”

Politico, President Obama pushes to extend payroll tax cut: “President Barack Obama signaled Monday that a deficit-cutting package should include an extension of the one-year payroll tax cut for workers, saying any effort to slash government spending must be coupled with targeted investments.”

Fox News, GOP Governors Ask Washington to Give States More Flexibility on Medicaid: “Frustrated with the rising costs of providing health care to their poorer constituents, Republican governors from 29 states sent a letter to lawmakers in Washington on Monday demanding greater flexibility in administering Medicaid dollars. … ‘About 20 years ago, it used to be about 5 percent of the budget and now it’s four times that amount, so it’s a huge concern,’ Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell said. ‘We’ve got to find ways to reduce Medicaid spending.’”

Politico, Some Senate Dems demur on Medicaid: “Multiple letters released June 9 — designed to show that Senate Democrats won’t support efforts to dismantle Medicaid — didn’t mention the Republican proposals to repeal the program’s maintenance of effort provisions. And they didn’t include 12 Democratic senators who some worry may be persuaded to join Republican efforts to chip away at the program. … They may have reason to worry. Some of the Democrats who didn’t sign a letter aren’t exactly voicing rock-solid opposition to Medicaid block grants, and at least one — Joe Manchin of West Virginia — is suggesting he could support them.”

Politico, Obama fundraiser underwhelms: “A low-dollar fundraiser here [Miami, FL] Monday felt like a throwback to the 2008 campaign. … The one missing element? Overflowing crowds.
Granted, it was a fundraiser, not a free rally. But the empty seats were hard to miss.”

The New York Times, E.P.A. Delays Rule on Power Plant Emissions: “The Environmental Protection Agency, facing intense opposition from Congressional Republicans and industry over a broad range of new air quality regulations, said Monday that it was delaying by two months the release of a proposed rule on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other major pollution sources.”

The New York Times, High-Speed Trains in China to Run Slower, Ministry Says: “China’s troubled Railway Ministry on Monday lowered the top operating speed for its flagship Beijing-to-Shanghai bullet train, which is set to open later this month, scaling down what was supposed to be a pinnacle of a transformed rail system that has become one of the country’s proudest and most ambitious domestic initiatives. … The reduced speeds stem from sweeping changes the ministry has made since the rails minister, Liu Zhijun, was fired on corruption and mismanagement charges in February. Some critics had charged that Mr. Liu built a high-speed-rail empire that was both too costly for average riders and marred by shoddy, quick construction that, at a minimum, might require lower speeds.”

The Wall Street Journal, Why ObamaCare Is Losing in the Courts: “Consistent with the fundamental principle that the federal government is one of limited, enumerated powers, more than 220 years of case law requires that exercises of the commerce power be grounded in a meaningful, judicially enforceable, limiting principle. ObamaCare’s defenders can’t articulate such a principle.” The op-eds authors, David Rivkin and Lee Casey, represent 26 states in one of the lawsuits challenging ObamaCare’s constitutionality.

Campaign 2012:

CNN, Romney at top of the GOP field: “According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, the former Massachusetts governor, who’s making his second bid for his party’s presidential nomination, grabbed the support of 24 percent of Republicans and independent voters who lean toward the GOP, with former Alaska governor Sarah Palin at 20 percent, ahead of the rest of the field.”

Gallup, Romney Support Up; Widens Advantage in 2012 Preferences: “Republicans’ support for Mitt Romney as their party’s 2012 presidential nominee has increased significantly to 24%, compared with 17% in late May. As a result, Romney has widened his advantage over Sarah Palin in the latest update on rank-and-file Republicans’ nomination preferences.”

Gallup, For Half of GOP, Nominee Pick Rests on Ability to Beat Obama: “Republicans nationwide are closely divided between those preferring that their party’s 2012 presidential nominee be the person with the best chance of beating President Barack Obama and those favoring someone who shares their views on the issues they most care about. Given this choice, slightly more prioritize electability over issue agreement, 50% vs. 44%.”

Righty playbook:

  • A Fox News video of Obama joking about the failure of his $814 billion stimulus has been posted on most conservative blogs. Hot Air‘s Allahpunidt flags this exchange: “At this point, Obama smiled and interjected, “Shovel-ready was not as … uh .. shovel-ready as we expected.” The Council, led by GE’s Jeffrey Immelt, erupted in laughter.” Expect to see this clip in both GOP primary and general election ads.
  • At RedState, Club for Growth President Chris Chocula announces that the Club has “key voted” Sen. Tom Coburn’s, R-Okla., anti-ethanol subsidies amendment. Chocula writes: “Bad economic policy should be eliminated. Period. Exclamation point. End of story.”

Lefty playbook:

  • Saporta Report, a local Atlanta blog, reports on U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue’s appearance at the Rotary Club of luncheon: “Donohue was asked if Congress was going to raise the debt ceiling. Yes, it will be raised, Donohue answered, mainly because the country can not afford to not pay its bills. To those newly-elected representatives who say they aren’t going to raise the debt ceiling and will shut down government, Donohue said the U.S. Chamber has its own message: ‘We’ll get rid of you.’” The left has been eagerly building the story line of business vs tea party on the debt ceiling. Donohue played into their hands here.
  • The Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein secured a Obama campaign memo to White House staff instructing them on how best to handle 2008 donor’s unhappy with specific Obama policies. Stein reports: “The memo also raises legal questions set forth by the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activities — though those boundaries are foggy.” Hard to see this story not resulting in at least a letter from House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

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