Welcome back to Hotline Sort. Obama trails Mitt Romney by seven points in a new New Hampshire poll, another presidential contender drops out of the debate in South Carolina while another says he's going, and one Democratic Senate candidate makes some makes some serious staffing moves in the Silver State (and it's probably not who you think). Here's today's rundown:
9) Former White House staffers Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney announced the formation of Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, outside groups that plan to raise and spend millions to assist President Obama and Democratic candidates in the 2012 election.
Like its conservative equivalent, American Crossroads, the group will be able to raise unlimited money from outside donors and won't be required to disclose where the money is coming from - even though Obama publicly criticized such groups during the 2010 midterms. Democratic strategist Paul Begala will be advising the group.
"While we agree that fundamental campaign finance reforms are needed, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers cannot live by one set of rules as our values and our candidates are overrun with their hundreds of millions of dollars. We will follow the rules as the Supreme Court has laid them out, but the days of the double standard are over," said Burton.
8) 2010 Senate candidate Ovide Lamontagne will be toasted as "Conservative of the Year" by Americans for Prosperity in New Hampshire today, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Herman Cain (R) are slated to attend a dinner in his honor and a forum on spending and job creation.
7) Meanwhile, AP reports
: the New Hampshire Democratic Party is filing a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission questioning whether Romney illegally used money from his state political action committees to fund his presidential campaign. Democrats are seeking an investigation into whether Romney was in violation of the law by using committees in five states to raise money in excess of federal limits and by spending it on building his campaign.
6) We reported
Thursday that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
's spokesperson said that he is not likely to qualify for the first presidential debate, which is slated to take place in South Carolina on May 5. Pawlenty said Friday morning he is planning on attending. "I appreciate the hard work by the South Carolina GOP and FOX News to organize this debate," Pawlenty said in a statement. "My Presidential exploratory committee will file the necessary papers and fees with the South Carolina Secretary of State next Tuesday because it's important that Republicans show up now, talk about their records, and begin the debate on how best we can defeat this President."
5) Who's ready for seconds? A day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
said the Senate will vote on the Ryan budget plan, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday
the Senate will vote on President Obama
's budget alongside a vote on the Ryan plan.
4) The space shuttle Endeavour is set to lift off
in Florida at 3:47 p.m. on its final voyage today. Rep Gabrielle Giffords
(D-Ariz.) and Obama will be there.
3) This should be a fun primary to watch in Arizona, a state where internal GOP battles have been fierce in recent years. Former Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams
(R) entered the race
to replace Rep. Jeff Flake
(R-Ariz.) Thursday and Sen. Jon Kyl
(R) is already backing him, announcing he will serve as honorary campaign chair. Meanwhile, Rep. Trent Franks
(R) is backing former Rep. Matt Salmon
(R), who is also running.
2) The focus in the Nevada Senate race is squarely on Rep. Shelley Berkley
(D) and Rep. Dean Heller
(R), who will soon be filling the vacancy that Sen. John Ensign
But another Democrat, Byron Georgiou
, is staffing up in the Silver State, bringing high-profile operatives including Joe Trippi
, pollster Paul Maslin
and longtime Nevada political adviser Dan Hart
onto his team. Josh Morrow
, Sterling Clifford
and Tom RossMeissl
are also joining the team. Georgiou has already demonstrated
an ability to self-fund, putting in $500,000 of his own money into the race during the first quarter of 2011. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has already endorsed Berkley in the race.
's approval rating in New Hampshire is at its lowest point in his presidency, and now trails Republican Mitt Romney by seven points (50 to 43 percent) in a new WMUR-TV Granite State Poll
released late Thursday. Just 44 percent of adults in the state approve of Obama, while a majority -- 52 percent -- disapproves, according to the poll, conducted this month by the University of New Hampshire.
It's a striking figure, given that Obama carried New Hampshire in 2008 by nine points over Sen. John McCain
, (R-Ariz.). Obama has slight leads against former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee
and Pawlenty, but in both cases, Obama is held in the mid-40s in a New England state that has been trending Democratic but retains a fiscally conservative streak.
--Steven Shepard contributed to this post