Poll: Obama and Republican Challenger About Even in 2012

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A new survey shows that President Obama's chances of reelection against an unnamed Republican challenger were not affected by the military mission last week that killed Osama bin Laden, meaning he's no shoe-in to win in 2012.

The latest Gallup poll indicated that the president's job approval rating went up seven points to 54 percent, the highest it's been in months.

However, when respondents were asked who they would vote for next year, Obama only led the generic GOP opponent by 43 percent to 40 percent.

In the Gallup poll before the raid on bin Laden's compound, Obama and his future opponent were tied at 41 percent.

The administration is fully aware that nothing that happens today will really have an impact on an election 18 months from now.

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer tweeted as much Wednesday, saying, "Polls right now are barely worth the paper they are printed on.  Nice, but not determinative."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gingrich Takes to Airwaves First Time as Official Presidential Candidate

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Hours after announcing his candidacy via Twitter, Newt Gingrich took to the airwaves Wednesday night for the first time as an official presidential candidate, acknowledging the political landscape has changed since his last time in office 12 years ago when Seinfeld, the Spice Girls and pagers reigned. 

“A lot has changed, and I think for the country the fascinating thing is that there's a lot of principles that haven't changed,” Gingrich said on Fox News' Hannity show.  “I think if you apply the right principles to achieve the right results, that we can win the future together.  I don't think that having a president who applies the wrong principles and gets the wrong results is going to lead to winning the future.”

Gingrich credited his desire to be the next president to his family's commitment to “duty, honor, country,” the need to rid the country of liberal policies, and his dedication to citizenship.

He conceded President Obama will be tough to beat in 2012, saying the president will “say whatever he needs to win” and will be aided by the mainstream media, left-wing billionaires, unions and the Hollywood crowd working to pump money into the billion-dollar Obama campaign.

Gingrich has faced criticism of his own as media reports of his murky past have increased in the lead up to his announcement, but the former speaker declared he's learned from his past.

“If you're a conservative, you have to start with the assumption that you're not going to get an even break from the elite media,” Gingrich said. ”It's fair to say that I am more mature.  I've had time to reflect on what worked and didn't work.”

Gingrich touted initiatives from his time as speaker of the House, from welfare reform to balancing the budget, and argued leadership experience equips him with the ability to bring the country back to economic prosperity with conservative principles.

Gingrich said he hopes to establish another “Contract with America,” and thinks the Gingrich presidency could balance the budget in five years.

On the foreign policy front, Gingrich commended Obama for making the tough decisions on Osama bin Laden while criticizing him for not taking a more forceful approach with Iran and Gadhafi in Libya and Iran.

Gingrich did not poke at any other potential 2012 Republican candidates but said he is keeping a steady eye on Obama.

“The only competitor I think about is President Obama,” he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


In Effort to 'Validate the Death' of Bin Laden, Inhofe Is First Senator to See Photos

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, Tuesday became the first senator to view the bin Laden photos after he took up the CIA on its offer to see the graphic pictures in an effort to "validate the death" of the al Qaeda leader.

"It is an important responsibility as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee to view these photos and be able to validate the death to the people of the nation," Inhofe said in a statement released prior to viewing the pictures. "By viewing these photos, I can help dispel conspiracy theorists who doubt that bin Laden is in fact dead. That is why I recommended that they make them available to members of the committee, and I appreciate Director Panetta following up on my suggestion."

Inhofe made the request to Panetta at a classified briefing on May 4. Inhofe's office said the senator was the first member of Congress to view the bin Laden photos since the CIA on Tuesday offered lawmakers on the Armed Services and Intelligence panels the chance to make an appointment to see them. Last week Inhofe, a member of the Armed Services Committee, argued that the Obama administration should release the photos to the public.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Newt Gingrich Announces 2012 Presidential Campaign 

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Newt Gingrich, the architect behind the 1994 Republican revolution, officially announced he's running for president via Twitter. Gingrich, a former House speaker, is the first major candidate to announce a run for president with a tweet.

"Today I am announcing my candidacy for President of the United States. You can watch my announcement here.," he wrote to his 1.3 million followers on Twitter.

Since leaving Congress more than a decade ago, Gingrich, 67, has built something of an empire, a network of conservative advocacy groups that includes American Solutions, Center for Health Transformation, Gingrich Productions, and Americano. Together, the groups have raised more than $32 million in the past two years. In addition to his fundraising and coalition building, Gingrich has also taken a hard line against President Obama. While Obama's approval rating has jumped to 60 percent since Osama bin Laden's killing May 1 according to one poll, the president's re-election prospects could still be in jeopardy. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, taken before bin Laden's death, found 45 percent of Americans surveyed said they would "definitely" not support Obama's re-election, with 57 percent saying they disapproved of his handling of the economy.

Gingrich is working to capitalize on that discontent, ripping the president in recent months for his handling of the BP oil spill, the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" and Obama's recent military actions in Libya, although a May 4 Quinnipiac poll suggests Gingrich might have a steep climb too: 42 percent of poll participants said they would "never" vote for him. Only Donald Trump and Sarah Palin scored higher -- both at 58 percent -- in the "never" vote for category among potential Republican presidential candidates.

Gingrich's campaign will launch with a sprint: He's already set up a campaign headquarters in Atlanta, hired a campaign manager, and in the next week plans to deliver speeches in Washington and Atlanta, followed by a commencement address at Eureka College, Ronald Reagan's alma mater. Then the former Speaker of the House is off to Iowa, where he'll hold a dozen campaign events over four days.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mitt Romney Previews Health Care Plan Ahead Of Speech

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Likely presidential candidate Mitt Romney has posted USA Today op-ed laying out the broad outlines of his health care plan and previewing themes he will address in his speech Thursday at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.

As he has said before, Romney writes, “If I am elected president, I will issue on my first day in office an executive order paving the way for waivers from ObamaCare for all 50 states. Subsequently, I will call on Congress to fully repeal ObamaCare.”

He proposes five steps to reform the current system: (1) Give states the responsibility, flexibility and resources to care for citizens who are poor, uninsured or chronically ill; (2) Reform the tax code to promote the individual ownership of health insurance; (3) Focus federal regulation of health care on making markets work; (4) Reform medical liability; (5) Make health care more like a consumer market and less like a government program.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Senate Dems Deplore Gas Companies Receiving Taxpayer Subsidies

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Standing before a gas station sign bearing a price tag of $4.29 per gallon on Capitol Hill, five Senate Democrats echoed the chorus calling on the five most profitable oil companies to forego the corporate subsidies designated to their companies.

“The sign behind us symbolizes two things.  It symbolizes how much the average American driver is paying,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “But it also symbolizes the record profits that the oil companies are making.  Plain and simple.  We all know that we have a huge deficit problem in America and to start off the first place most Americans would start is with the record profits the oil companies are making and saying to them, knowing that that they should not get a taxpayer subsidy to boot.

“I think the American people understand as they pay more at the pump, big oil makes more money,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., one of the sponsors of the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, said. “The American driver’s pain is big oil’s profit, but what really drives Americans crazy is that their own government is helping to subsidize what are very largely profitable companies.”

“Enough is enough,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, said. “Right now, people are paying as much for gas as they’re paying for their healthcare and almost as much as they’re paying to feed their families and put groceries in their home. Now’s the time to take away subsidies that aren’t needed that just add insult to injury because of what taxpayers are having to pay.”

Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, Ben Cardin, D-MD, Menendez, Schumer and Stabenow sent a letter to the five largest oil companies -- BP America, ConocoPhillips, Chevron Corporation, Exxon Mobil, and Shell -- before their testimony on Capitol Hill Thursday, asking them to give up the subsidies and “pay a fair share toward reducing the deficit.”

“Tell the truth.  You don’t need this subsidy, and it ought to go to reducing the deficit,” Schumer said. 

The Democrats also urged Boehner to include the subsidies cut in the deficit reduction plan. Schumer told reporters after the press conference that there is “widespread support” in the Democratic caucus for the bill and a vote on the legislation is scheduled on the Senate floor for next Wednesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Common Controversy Comes to White House Poetry Night

Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House on Wednesday condemned some of the lyrics and prose of hip hop star Common, whose invitation to a White House poetry event Wednesday has brought criticism from some conservatives and police officers.

“The president does not support and opposes the kind of lyrics that has been written about,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said when asked about the controversy.

Carney said the president has “in the past spoken very forcefully out against violent and misogynistic lyrics.”

Referring to “concerns by some law enforcement,” Carney said that “the president’s record of support for law enforcement is extremely strong.”

David Jones, the president of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association, voiced concern to the White House and to ABC News about Common’s invitation given Common’s song extolling Joanne Chesmard, a member of the Black Liberation Army, convicted in 1977 of the first degree murder of a state trooper and sentenced to life in prison. In November 1979, Chesmard escaped from prison.

“While the president doesn’t support the kind of lyrics that have been raised here,” Carney said, “some of these reports distort what Mr. Lynn stands for more broadly,” referring to Common by his given name, Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. “Within that genre of hip hop and rap he is known as…a conscious rapper.”

Carney cited a 2010 interview with Common in which the reporter told the hip hop performer, “your music is very positive and you are known as the conscious rapper – how important is that to you and how important do you think that is to our kids?”

But while the president opposes those lyrics, Carney said, “he does not think that that is the sum total of this particular artist’s work which has been recognized by a lot of mainstream organizations and ‘fair and balanced’ organizations like Fox News, which described his music as positive.”

“One of the things the president appreciates is the work Mr. Lynn has done with children, especially trying to get them to focus on poetry as opposed to some of the negative influences of life on the streets,” Carney said.

Common, he said, is a “multi-Grammy award winning artist…invited to this event about poetry, partly because of his efforts to bring poetry to audiences that don’t get to experience it.  And we think that’s a positive thing.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama to Make Mideast Speech, Likely Next Week

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will deliver a speech on the political changes sweeping throughout the Middle East and North Africa "in the relatively near future," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday.

Such a speech has been in the works for weeks. A senior administration official tells ABC News that the president will likely deliver the speech next week.

The president will next week meet at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordanian King Abdullah. On Sunday, May 22, he is scheduled to leave for Europe.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


House Intel Chairman: 'Step on the Gas,' 'Break Back' of Al Qaeda

United States House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) -- The chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Mike Rogers, says that with al Qaeda confused and on the run now that its leader Osama bin Laden is dead, now is not the time scale back the intelligence communities presence in the Middle East, but rather the time to “step on the gas” and “break the back” of the terrorist organization.

Rogers, R-Michigan, appeared at the Council on Foreign Relations Wednesday to warn policy makers against scaling back policies that contributed to the successful elite Special Forces operation that killed Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan May 2.

“Al Qaeda is alive and well. They are hurt, they’re damaged, their inspirational and operational leader has been taken off of the battlefield, which is a huge opportunity for us. The confusion with them is opportunity for us and this is the time to step on the gas and break their back,” Rogers said. “We need to make sure all the policy makers from the executive branch to Congress understand that all of the things that led up to Osama bin Laden have to be a) improved on and b) they need to have the leadership behind them so they can continue to produce the kind of information that will get us [al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman] al-Zawahiri.”

“This is our chance to break the back of al Qaeda,” he added. “It’s no opportunity for us to retreat.”

Rogers said “9/11 was result of what didn’t happen” and pointed to cuts to intelligence services in the 1990s as a critical error in enabling al Qaeda to get stronger and most sophisticated  – two elements that eventually proved to exceed intelligence estimates in the years leading up to the September 11, 2001.

Rogers insisted that now is the “wrong time to back off funding” the intelligence community and said calls from some Members of Congress to cut the nation’s intelligence posture in the wake of Bin Laden’s killing “couldn’t be further from the truth.”

The chairman also revealed that CIA Director Leon Panetta told him that if Bin Laden were to be captured alive, the only facility deemed secure enough to cage Public Enemy No. 1 was the Guantanamo Bay U.S. military prison that President Obama had campaigned to close down.

“The director of the CIA said if we got Bin Laden, he would have to go to Guantanamo Bay because that’s the one facility that not only is protected from  people inside from getting out, but also from outside people getting in,” Rogers said. “We do need to have a place to put [captured high value targets]. If we get Zawahiri off the battlefield, where do you put him?”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Top Democrats: Jon Huntsman Would Be Toughest to Beat in 2012

LIU JIN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Top Democrats in and outside the White House, speaking on background so they could be more candid, suggest that former U.S. Ambassador to China and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman would be the GOP candidate President Obama would least like to face in 2012 -- but they think he can't win the nomination.

The very qualities that make Huntsman formidable in November 2012 -- his centrism and bipartisanship -- will work against him in Iowa and South Carolina, Democrats say.

White House senior adviser David Plouffe was years ago quoted saying the notion of a Huntsman candidacy made him "queasy."

Another possible tough contender would be Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, they say, while also envisioning ways that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty would mount tough campaigns.  Many top Democrats say they anticipate Romney will be the nominee since the Republican party has a history of giving the nomination to the next guy in line.

Even though the president is enjoying a bounce in his job approval ratings after the successful mission against Osama bin Laden, White House officials say this will be a tough re-election.

The president has told friends he "caught lightning in a bottle" in 2008, and even catching every break, Obama only won with 53 percent of the vote, while 47 percent of the country voted against him -- a number Democrats say isn't going to go down in 2012, with an economy still on the mend, high unemployment and skyrocketing gas prices.

With all that said, top Democrats say they have very few metrics with which to measure the GOP field.  At this point in the 2008 campaign there had been fundraising competitions and debates involving the major candidates; that is not the case with the Republicans this year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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