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Hotline Sort: Mitch Me Yet?

5) After serving as President Obama's ambassador to China and taking moderate positions on immigration and environmental issues, Jon Huntsman may have a hard time building up the conservative cred he needs to win the nomination. But the former Utah governor, who cracked a birth certificate joke on his first quasi-campaign foray into New Hampshire over the weekend, is jumping with both feet aboard the Medicare privatization bandwagon, National Journal's Tim Fernholz points out. Visiting a gun shop over the weekend, Huntsman took a veiled shot at Mitt Romney -- when asked by Politico what he hunted, Huntsman, with a smile, replied, "oh... large varmints." In 2008, Romney had a difficult time explain his own relationship with hunting and guns -- eventually saying that his hunting was limited to "small" varmints. 4) In an op-ed out this morning, Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., says he cannot support the Ryan budget and will vote "no" on it. 3) Democrats have the late momentum in the special election Tuesday to replace former Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.). In a Siena poll released over the weekend, Democrat Kathy Hochul led Republican Jane Corwin 42 to 38 percent, with independent Jack Davis winning 12 percent of the vote. The poll showed Medicare as the top issue in the district, and the campaign's messages down the stretch illustrated the issue's potency in the race. This weekend, Hochul held a rally with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), where the senator criticized the Republican proposals to reform the entitlement system. Corwin, meanwhile, is making a big push down the stretch for the senior vote, holding a tele-town hall for seniors and campaigning at a senior center Monday. 2) Tim Pawlenty is kicking off his presidential campaign in Des Moines, Iowa this morning. "We've tried Barack Obama's way -- and his way has failed. Three years into his term, we're no longer just running out of money. We're running out of time. It's time for new leadership. It's time for a new approach. And, it's time for America's president - and anyone who wants to be president - to look you in the eye and tell you the truth," Pawlenty will say, according to excerpts of his announcement. He'll head to Florida on Tuesday and will appear in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Pawlenty announced his candidacy in a web video released Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee is hitting Pawlenty in a web video that asks why Pawlenty is running for president, and is critical of his record. 1) Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced early Sunday that he will not run for president, a move that will increase speculation that another candidate will enter the race. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who would have backed Daniels, said Sunday that Republicans should now consider pushing Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to run. Ryan, for how own part, said Sunday he isn't running for president. National Journal's Alex Roarty takes a look at who Daniels' absence will help the most. Romney is benefits by not having to compete with a challenger with establishment ties, but Pawlenty is now looking more clearly like the most logical Romney alternative - if the former Massachusetts governor's candidacy struggles to capture enthusiasm from the conservative base. -- Jessica Taylor contributed to this post

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