Newt Gingrich has a campaign manager, NY-26 looks even closer in a Democratic poll, Mike Huckabee still isn’t sure and Mitch Daniels is explaning his foreign policy study plans.

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* Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has hired Rob Johnson to manage his presidential campaign., which is now very close to up-and-running A well-known Texas strategist, Johnson ran Gov. Rick Perry’s 2010 reelection campaign. He was serving as Perry’s chief of staff until March, when he went to work for Gingrich.

* Jon Huntsman spoke to reporters today for the first time since he got back from Beijing. The former Utah governor and ambassador to China said that “things are moving pretty quickly" and "there is always room for a new voice.” Also, governor or ambassador? "Since I'm called everything at home, you can call me anything," he said. "But probably Jon is best." Jon is in South Carolina to speak at the University of South Carolina commencement.

* An internal poll from Democrat Katchy Hochul’s campaign shows her in a virtual tie with Republican Jane Corwin in the NY-26 special election. Meanwhile, tea party candidate Jack Davis is out with an ad that combines attacks against both parties: “Republican Jane Corwin wants to replace Medicare with vouchers and Democrat Kathy Hochul wants to raise taxes again."

* Former Rhode Island State Police superintendent Brendan Doherty has started a security firm, raising questions about ongoing talk that he will run for office in 2012. Doherty said his new company and partnership with an existing firm “do not preclude me from pursuing other interests." Doherty has been named as a potential Republican Senate or House candidate in the state.

* In an interview on Fox News today, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said he’s still not sure if he wants to run in 2012. "First of all, I've got to come to a place where I believe I should run, and I'm not there yet," he said. "My feeling is I'll be there by the summer one way or the other. And I may not. That's just the reality." He expressed fear that Republicans will "Balkanize themselves.” Ronald Reagan, he argued, wouldn’t get elected today, because he raised taxes as governor and made deals with Democrats. (Huckabee was criticized in 2008 for that reason.)

* Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) did not meet with President Obama today — saying he was too busy to adjust his schedule (it is Derby weekend). Obama made his first visit to Kentucky since becoming president. He is not very popular in the state, and Republicans are sure to do their best to tie Beshear to Obama in this fall’s gubernatorial race. (The GOP ticket is having some problems of its own right now).


* Dick Harpootlian, running for his old job as chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, says he expects a lawsuit against Republican-drawn redistricting. He hopes to take it to the Supreme Court and get Voting Rights Act restrictions on race-based mapmaking overturned. "Hopefully the Obama Justice Department will wake up and smell the coffee," Harpootlian told Politico. "The rationale for creating these huge majority-minority districts is just gone." He would like to see black voters spread out to make more districts competitive, instead of concentrated in overwhelmingly Democratic seats.

* Dennis Kucinich has confirmed to a local news station that he’s looking outside his state for a place to run in 2012. Ohio is losing two districts due to the 2010 census, and Kucinich’s could be one. "If I don't have anywhere I can run in Ohio, I have to start thinking about what my options are," he said. "I prefer to continue serving the district I've served for as long as I have. But that's not my choice to make in terms of the map." Earlier this week it was reported that Kucinich was thinking about running in Washington state.

* West Virginia gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney (R) frequently gave money to Democrats, information that GOP opponents will likely use against him. The primary for the special election to find a permanent replacement for now-Sen. Joe Manchin (D) is only a week away, on May 14. Maloney, a businessman and political newcomer, has been running to the right of former secretary of state Betty Ireland.

* Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) is still “weeks away” from declaring his 2012 intentions, he told Bloomberg TV in an interview airing tonight. He also elaborated on his recent statement that he was “probably not” ready to debate President Obama on foreign policy. His answer likely won’t satisfy critics: “If I became a candidate, I would spend a lot of time very promptly and be ready in plenty of time. But I think there's no need for me to shoot my mouth off until I'm pretty confident I know what I think.”


Inevitable and unfortunate. Still, it’s Friday!

With Rachel Weiner