Mitt Romney is ahead of the pack, David VandeerLeest does not smoke crack, Terry Branstad thinks the marriage pledge went too far and Tim Pawlenty seems to be betting it all on Ames.

Make sure to sign up to get “Afternoon Fix” in your e-mail inbox every day by 5 (ish) p.m.!


Bachmann raised $4.2 million in second quarter

Dale Kildee retiring from the House

The GOP’s path to a Senate majority

Obama’s toughest sales job: tax increases to GOP

Fix live blog of Obama press conference

The big questions on FEC day


* Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney holds a big lead in cash on hand in the Republican presidential primary, according to figures released Friday by most presidential campaigns. Romney’s $12.7 million in cash reserves tops Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann ($3.6 million), former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty ($2 million), and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who had $322,000 on hand and more than $1 million in debt. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who both raised more than $4 million in the second quarter, has yet to announce cash-on-hand totals. Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman does not have to file, because he announced his campaign so late in the quarter. President Obama's campaign had more than $37 million cash on hand.

* Bachmann has quit the church she attended for over ten years. The presidential candidate and her husband left Salem Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota about a month ago, just before Bachmann announced her 2012 bid. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod to which the church belongs has come under scrutiny for describing the Catholic Pope as the Antichrist.

* Wisconsin recall candidate David VandeerLeest (R) just wants everyone to know that he does not smoke crack. “I read a social services report yesterday that says I smoke crack,” he said in a radio interview today. “None of it's true. I don't smoke rocks, and that's the truth.” VandeerLeest likely would have lost the GOP primary had his opponent not been disqualified; he’ll face state Sen. Dave Hansen (D) next Tuesday.

* Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is the latest Republican to criticize a marriage pledge from the Family Leader, a conservative group run by his former primary rival Bob Vander Plaats. “It’s over the top. Over the top,” Branstad told a reporter at a National Governors Association meeting in Salt Lake City. “Just too much and too detailed and inappropriate language.” Bachmann and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum have signed the pledge; all other presidential candidates have declined.


* In a Bloomberg TV interview airing this weekend, Pawlenty reiterated his opposition to raising the debt ceiling and attacked the plan floated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) as a “Band-Aid on a broken bone.” At a lunch with reporters, he also argued that default might not be a terrible thing, saying that the shutdown in Minnesota showed that a crisis can be good.

* Nearly half of Gingrich’s debt, which is a little bit over one million dollars, comes from chartering private airplanes. The campaign owes 451,946 to Moby Dick Airways LTD. Since his campaign hit bad times, Gingrich has being flying commercial and spending less on staff.

* Is Pawlenty betting everything on the Ames straw poll? He just placed a $200,000 TV and radio buy in the Des Moines-Ames market, bringing his total Iowa ad spending up to $400,000. The ads will run right up until August 12, the day before the big poll. If he doesn’t do well there, it will be an expensive failure a possibly deadly blow to Pawlenty’s campaign.

* The Progressive Change Campaign Committee delivered to Obama’s 2012 headquarters what the liberal group said was 200,000 pledges from people who will refuse to donate to or volunteer for President Obama’s reelection campaign should he cut entitlement programs. “It’s not a question of who they're going to support for president, they’re going to vote for Barack Obama. It’s a question of where their time and money is going to go,” spokesman T. Neil Sroka said.


RIP, Friday Night Lights.

With Aaron Blake.