GOP presidential candidates cool to Boehner

at 06:30 AM ET, 07/27/2011

If House Speaker John Boehner was looking to the 2012 Republican presidential field for support for his debt-ceiling bill, he’s plum out of luck.

Boehner’s (R-Ohio) bill faces an uncertain fate, to say the least, and he’s not getting any cover from the Republicans running for president.

So far, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman is the only major GOP candidate to come out in favor of the package. And former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty late Tuesday joined Reps. Michele Bachmann and Rep. Ron Paul in announcing their opposition to it. Meanwhile, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and businessman Herman Cain are keeping their powder dry.

The vastly different reactions to the bill reflect the uncertain ground the Republican Party is currently on, with the establishment clashing with the tea party and nobody quite certain what an acceptable compromise is — or if compromise is even acceptable at all.

Bachmann and Paul, in particular, are coming down on the side of no compromise.

Bachmann, who has run ads outright opposing a debt-limit hike, reiterated Tuesday that any plan that does that will not have her support. She said the people just want her party to say a flat-out no and push for bigger cuts.

“I hear that at every stop I’m at,” she told reporters in Iowa.

Pawlenty’s opposition to a debt-ceiling increase isn’t as absolute, but he came out with a statement late Tuesday clarifying that he doesn’t think Boehner’s deal is the ticket.

“I am for the plan that will cut spending, cap it and pass a balanced budget amendment, but unfortunately this latest bill does not accomplish that,” Pawlenty said.

Boehner’s is a two-step process, in which the larger debt-reduction package would coincide with a second vote to raise the debt ceiling, likely in about six months’ time. But not all are willing to wait.

Romney, who has yet to be drawn out on a lot of the issues of the day, agreed with Pawlenty that Boehner is trying his best, but in a statement from spokeswoman Andrea Saul, Romney stopped short of embracing Boehner’s plan.

That leaves Huntsman, who was an early supporter of Boehner’s proposal, coming out for it Monday night and calling it a “good first step.”

“Once this responsible plan is passed, Congress must take meaningful steps toward addressing the long-term drivers of debt with entitlement reform and a revenue-neutral tax reform plan,” Huntsman said.

That fact that Huntsman, the consensus moderate in the field, is the only candidate that is comfortable enough to embrace Boehner’s plan speaks ill for it going forward.

For the rest of the field, there is currently little incentive to jump on board. Doing so allows other candidates to get to their right on the issue, and there’s really no harm in just saying no, given that there is little in the way of a conservative consensus forming.

At this point, the easy call is simply to hold out for all of your ideals, and that’s the plan most presidential candidates seem to be going with. It’s also the reason people are increasingly dubious about Congress’s ability to iron out a deal.

After all, if Republican presidential candidates don’t think they can sell the plan to GOP primary voters, then what will a freshman elected with tea party support think about it?

Final piece of Crossroads’ $20 million ad blitz: Crossroads GPS, an arm of the conservative American Crossroads group, is spending $3.5 million on ads in six swing states that blast President Obama for the nation’s growing debt, among other things.

“America’s economy is hanging by a thread,” says the ad’s narrator — condemning “reckless spending” and a “failed stimulus.” Giant shipping crates are shown weighing down a platform hovering over a group of people; as the camera focuses in on a young girl, the narrator says: “Maybe we won’t be crushed when our economy snaps ... but someone will.”

The ads, which are the final piece of a $20 million ad expenditure from Crossroads GPS over the past six weeks, will run on broadcast stations in Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia, as well as on national cable.

“The fact that Obama is willing to hold our country’s fiscal stability hostage over more taxes shows how ideologically committed he is to expanding government regardless of the economic cost,” said Crossroads president Steven Law.

Pawlenty backer defects to Romney: A member of Tim Pawlenty’s New Hampshire steering committee has switched teams.

State Rep. Shaun Doherty (R) says he’s still likes Pawlenty, but he’s frustrated by the lack of activity in the state. So he’s backing Mitt Romney instead.

“The campaign hasn’t really developed into what I thought it would develop into,” the 23-year-old state lawmaker told the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Pawlenty has not been to the state since the debate June 13; he’s focused most of his attention on Iowa.

South Carolina passes GOP-backed map: The South Carolina legislature has finally passed a new congressional map, going with a proposal that was backed by Republican leaders.

Those leaders had originally wanted a map on which the state’s new 7th district was based in the heavily Republican northeastern part of the state, but then rogue Republicans joined Democrats in the state Senate to pass a map with the district in the southern part of the state.

On Tuesday, both the state House and Senate approved a bill similar to the bill that the GOP originally proposed, creating a new district in Myrtle Beach-based Horry County.

The proposal will now go to Gov. Nikki Haley (R) for her signature.

Fixbits:

Cain is hosting a roundtable with American Muslim leaders sometime next week.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) was arrested Tuesday at an immigration protest outside the White House for the second time.

Ben Affleck’s bloody shoot-em-up movie “The Town” is used to rally support for Boehner’s plan.

Newt Gingrich praises Bill Clinton.

Bachmann has spent $4,700 on makeup and hair.

Liberal hero George Soros is ending his career as a hedge fund manager.

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission will release a new congressional map proposal this week.

Must-reads:

Perry’s Texas has jobs, but how much is luck?” - Paul J. Weber, Associated Press

Obama’s ‘70 million checks’ per month: Actually, it’s even more than that” — Alec MacGillis, Washington Post

Influential Iowa Rep. King assesses GOP field” — Shannon Travis, CNN

Boehner, Reid appears to have given ground in debt proposals” — Rosalind S. Helderman and David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post

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