GOP Field Shapes Up: Paul Plays, Haley Quits

GOP Field Shapes Up: Paul Plays, Haley Quits; Dems Amass Cash For 2012 Attacks; NLRB Will Sue to Protect “Card Check”

Paul’s In, Barbour’s Out, Who Benefits?

“There was some foot dragging, but I think everybody sees now that 18 months goes by pretty fast.”

-- Adviser to a 2012 GOP candidate talking to Power Play about the Republican presidential field.

After moving at a glacial pace for the first four months of the year, the Republican presidential field is breaking loose.

The ultimate insider– Mississippi governor and former Republican National Committee chairman and mega-lobbyist Haley Barbour – announced he is out of the race.

On the same day, the ultimate outsider – Rep. Ron Paul, the Texas libertarian and granddaddy of the Tea Party movement – let it be known that he would reprise his 2008 presidential candidacy.

So, in the running now are former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, pizza mogul Herman Cain and Paul. On the fence about running, but soon to decide, are Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. Oh, and some guy named Trump.

Part of the reason that the ice is breaking up is that the first GOP debate will take place in just nine days – a May 5 face-off hosted by FOX News and the South Carolina Republican Party in Greenville, S.C.

Pawlenty, Gingrich, Paul, Santorum, Johnson, Roemer and Cain have all said they plan on being on stage for the debate, though invitees must meet the requirements for registering as a federal candidate, filing to get on the state primary ballot and a minimal showing in national polls of Republican voters.

Romney and Bachmann are wild cards for the debate.

Bachmann has a considerable Tea Party following in the Palmetto State and might like to make her debut as a candidate there, demonstrating that she could compete in the South despite her Minnesota roots.

Romney, meanwhile, doesn’t draw much water in South Carolina and isn’t expected to contest the primary there. But, his strategy is to win a long slog in a nationalized primary process. That means he needs maximal visibility and maximal fundraising in the early weeks. It might not benefit him to give Pawlenty an unobstructed view of the spotlight (and the chance to bash Romney unanswered).

With Barbour out, Pawlenty’s chances have seemingly improved. But that depends on what Daniels decides.

An adviser to Daniels told Power Play that the Indiana governor and favorite of fiscal conservatives is “genuinely undecided” about running but had been prepared to back his old friend Barbour if the Mississippi governor had run.

But just because Barbour is out doesn’t mean that Daniels is in. “His preference, I think, is to support someone who is serious about addressing the debt and spending problems facing the country.”

Could that be Pawlenty? “He did an impressive job under difficult circumstances in Minnesota. There’s a lot to like,” said the Daniels policy adviser.

Barbour’s departure also means that the establishment Republicans not already wedded to Romney have fewer options for their donations and talents. Pawlenty’s long-term strategy and effort to lock down top GOP operatives has left him well-positioned to take advantage of Barbour’s bowing out… unless Daniels runs.

Gingrich also stands to benefit from Barbour’s departure since he is the only Southern candidate in the field, a considerable advantage, especially in South Carolina. If former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee were to change course and jump in the race, Gingrich would be at a Dixie disadvantage, but for now, the former Georgia congressman can claim a geographical edge.

Paul’s bid most obviously means trouble for fellow libertarian Johnson, the former New Mexico governor. Paul’s base is pumped up after the successful 2010 cycle in which the congressman’s son was elected to the Senate by Kentucky and small-government mania overtook the GOP. Johnson will struggle to peel away Republicans from Paul’s loyal legions.

Paul’s entry will affect every candidate, though. In 2008, Rudy Guiliani, Romney and other Republicans scored points by beating up on Paul for his anti-entanglement foreign policy and other heterodox positions. But this time, libertarians are ascendant in the GOP and Paul’s blessing of a candidate could be a make-or-break moment late in the race. No one, not even Sarah Palin, may have more to say about whom the Republicans nominate than Paul.

Dems Teaming Up to Win Outside Cash Race

“There are some early signs that Democrats are going to be able to have the resources they need in order to be successful.”

-- J.B. Poersch, head of the new Democratic Senate campaign group Majority PAC, discussing with National Public Radio the four-pronged attack on the GOP by outside groups.

Democrats are looking to get the upper hand in the soft money fight for the 2012 elections. Democratic strategists have set up four independent expenditure groups – one for the Senate (Majority PAC), one for the House (House Majority PAC), one for the presidency (still unnamed but to be led by former White House spokesman Bill Burton) and one to dig up dirt on Republicans to provide to the other three (American Bridge 21st Century).

Democrats believe that part of the reason for their rout in 2010 is that Republicans more effectively exploited new campaign finance laws that lifted limits on what kinds of advertisements corporations, unions and individuals can run in the weeks before a federal election.

The end of the McCain-Feingold Act opened the way for groups like the Chamber of Commerce to get involved in new ways, but also spawned new groups, like American Crossroads, that pummeled Democratic incumbents last year.

Democrats have decided that in order to augment what President Obama’s advisers have boasted will be a nearly billion-dollar re-election war chest and prodigious fundraising by the Democratic National Committee, they will make better use of these outside expenditure groups.

While unions were major players in the independent expenditure game last time, now Team Obama wants to make sure that Republicans are outgunned at every level. And, according to an NPR report, the quartet plan to work closely with each other to maximize the firepower being trained on the GOP. Remember, it’s illegal for these groups to coordinate attacks with campaigns, but not with each other.

This all comes as the White House is working on a policy that may exclude companies that make such political donations to the Chamber or Crossroad, from holding government contracts or at least require extensive disclosure of political activities. Government employee unions that contribute to such efforts were not mentioned in a draft of the executive order circulated in Congress.

NLRB Will Sue to Preserve ‘Card Check’

“I find it shocking that they do not believe in the fundamental principle of democracy that people have a right to a secret ballot.”

-- Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne talking to the New York Times about a move by the National Labor Relations Board to preempt state laws preserving secret ballots for union elections.

Already under fire for an effort to block Boeing from building a new factory in South Carolina because the state allows workers to opt out of union membership, the National Labor Relations Board is inviting new controversy with a move to stop states from requiring secret ballots in union elections.

The agency has informed officials in Arizona and South Dakota that it will seek to preempt new laws that require all union elections be held with secret ballots, forbidding the practice sought by labor groups to organize an workforce by obtaining signatures from a majority of workers.

Companies complain that workers will feel pressure to vote for the union if standing face-to-face with an organizer holding a clipboard. Unions have been on a long losing streak in labor elections and hope to use the so-called “card check” to reverse the trend.

Leaders of the previous Democratic Congress and President Obama had promised to deliver a law allowing election by petition, but failed to muster enough support in their party to achieve the goal. Critics say that the Obama NLRB, including former AFL-CIO lawyer Craig Becker, added in a controversial recess appointment after facing bipartisan opposition in the Senate, has sought to establish “card check” through administrative means.

The move to block states from insisting on secret ballots will certainly do nothing to dampen those criticisms.

Unions, which are increasingly dependent on government workers for dues, are currently involved in a massive push to enhance their private sector membership. It’s a move that, if successful, Democrats will benefit from in 2012 since big labor donates to and volunteers for their party almost exclusively.

And Now, A Word From Charles

“[Syrian forces] are going door-to-door. They are grabbing people, kidnapping, stabbing and shooting indiscriminately. It is a massacre. It's what was threatened to happen in Libya and stirred Obama to do something.

So what is he stirred to do now? … We get a statement issued on Friday. Where is the president? He spoke out twice on Egypt on Libya and he is nowhere to be seen.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”