The politics of unpredictability

at 06:22 AM ET, 05/02/2011

The death of Osama bin Laden proves, yet again, that politics is the most unpredictable of businesses.

President Obama’s announcement late Sunday night that bin Laden had been killed in a firefight in Pakistan came as a shock to a political world in which the war on terrorism had receded as a defining issue in recent years.

While it’s too soon to draw broad conclusions about what the death of bin Laden will mean in raw political terms, it’s not too soon to conclude that his demise will re-adjust the political world — at least in the short term — in a meaningful way.

How Obama and the Republican men and women who want to replace him next November act in the aftermath of this news could set the tone — and the issue agenda — for the next months of the 2012 campaign.

Remember that moments matter in campaigns, particularly when they are as unpredictable and unexpected as this one. The vote for president is ultimately a vote for the person best equipped to represent and lead the country.

And it’s in times like this one, when the average person is paying attention, that minds tend to get made up about who is up to task — and who isn’t.

(Think back: Is there anyone who doubts that then-Sen. Barack Obama’s steady and sober approach to the financial crisis in the fall of 2008 sealed the election for him?)

That’s why this moment matters — big time.

Gingrich reportedly set to launch by next week: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) reportedly said Saturday that he will enter the presidential race by next week.

Gingrich told Hotline On-Call’s Tim Alberta at this weekend’s White House Correspondents Association Dinner that he will “be in by the 10th or 11th” of May.

So the odd Gingrich rollout continues...

Crunch time for Pence: We’re still waiting on the big news from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) regarding his presidential intentions, but we could know as soon as today whether Rep. Mike Pence (R) will run for Daniels’s job in 2012.

According to sources, Pence was set to hold a conference call with supporters at 10 a.m. today — no word on how the bin Laden news may change that timeline — and the buzz is that he may announce whether he will run for governor.

Pence has been widely expected to run ever since he decided not to run for president. In the governor’s race, he would be a heavy favorite.

Meanwhile, Obama is headed to Indianapolis this week.

Bachmann backs off Ryan plan: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has distanced herself a bit from the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis), saying Sunday that she is concerned about the cost to seniors.

“One position that I’m concerned about is shifting the cost burden to senior citizens,” Bachmann said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Seniors are saying, ‘Look, I’m not in a position to be able to handle that.’ I also share that real fear. That’s why I put the asterisk out there.”

Some Republicans have been hesitant to embrace the Ryan plan, but that resistance has generally come more from the establishment wing of the party than from tea party favorites like Bachmann.

Ryan himself said Sunday that he was open to changes, but also that he wasn’t concerned with political popularity.

“I hear this all the time from the political people, from the pundits and the pollsters that this could hurt us politically,” he said on ABC News’ “This Week.” “I don’t care about that. What I care about is fixing this country and getting this debt situation under control.”

Meanwhile, on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) announced his support for Ryan’s plan, which will soon be voted on in the Senate.

Fixbits:

New Jersey is moving its presidential primary from February to June to comply with party rules and save money by holding it the same day as the regular primary.

Rubio says he will be a candidate for vice president “under no circumstances” in 2012.

Senate candidate Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), one of the wealthiest people in Congress, may have gone a little too far when trying to relate to the common man. Rehberg said he and his wife are “struggling like everyone else.”

Must-reads:

Bachmann excels at attracting controversy but wields little influence on Hill” — Philip Rucker and Paul Kane, Washington Post

Obama tries to rebuild Hispanic ties” — Melanie Trottman, Wall Street Journal

GOP prospects don’t light much fire in New Hampshire” — McClatchy

The Democrats’ last, best hope?” — Andrew Romano, Newsweek

Huntsman and Romney on a collision course” — Matea Gold, Los Angeles Times

Alleged Navy vets fraudster gave to top GOP candidates” — Joanne Viviano, AP

Rachel Weiner contributed to this report.

 
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