Sarah Palin Documentary Debuts amidst Speculation-Fueled Frenzy

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(PELLA, Iowa) -- The new documentary about Sarah Palin has yet to debut, and already it's caused more of a stir than most Hollywood summer blockbusters.

Ahead of Tuesday's premiere of The Undefeated, reports swirled that the former Alaska governor and her aides were inviting prominent Republicans in the key Hawkeye State to meet with Palin after the screening at the Pella Opera House.  Those reports, originally circulated by the blog Politico, were shot down late Monday by Republican operatives and Palin's political action committee.

A top Republican operative in Iowa told ABC News that "not only have I not heard from Gov. Palin regarding meetings, I am unaware of anyone who has been contacted regarding private meetings."

In an interview, former Iowa GOP executive director and prominent conservative Chuck Laudner told Politico that a "Palin backer" contacted him about attending a mingling session after the film.  Palin is slated to attend a cookout near the Pella Opera House after Tuesday evening's screening.

Politico posted the story under the headline "Sarah Palin team reaching out to Iowa activists for meetings."

In an interview with ABC News on Monday afternoon, Laudner called the headline "a lie" adding, "I never indicated that."

"I was on a general list for the gathering in the park," he said.  "I'm not going now, after all this."

Several other prominent GOP activists also told Real Clear Politics that they had not been contacted regarding potential sit-downs with Palin while she is visiting the important early nominating state.

A statement released by SarahPAC late Monday dismissed the Republican rendezvous reports, saying Palin "looks forward to spending time tomorrow with the people of Pella, Iowa and enjoying the premiere of Stephen K. Bannon's new film, The Undefeated."

A cinematic love letter of sorts, The Undefeated chronicles Palin's life and rise through government, portraying her as a crusader against politics-as-usual, a true "maverick" as she and Sen. John McCain branded themselves in the 2008 election.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tim Pawlenty Tackling Foreign Policy in Speech Tuesday

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In the latest installment of his "hard truths" campaign that has lately fallen on hard times, Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday will warn about the pitfalls of President Obama's foreign policy, as well as what could happen to his fellow Republicans if they fail to take a tougher stance.

In a speech to be delivered at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York Tuesday morning, the former Minnesota governor is set to outline an aggressive approach to foreign engagement that is likely to resonate with some of the GOP's more hawkish members.

"What is wrong is for the Republican Party to shrink from the challenges of American leadership in the world.  History repeatedly warns us that in the long run, weakness in foreign policy costs us and our children much more than we’ll save in a budget line item.  America already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment, and withdrawal; it does not need a second one," Pawlenty is expected to say, according to excerpts of his prepared remarks.

In the speech, billed as a rebuttal to President Obama's address last month, Pawlenty will go after the president for America’s response to the Arab Spring and his approach to Israel.

"President Obama has failed to formulate and carry out an effective and coherent strategy in response to these events," Pawlenty will say.  "He has been timid, slow, and too often without a clear understanding of our interests or a clear commitment to our principles."

Pawlenth is expected to state that "Instead of promoting democracy -- whose fruit we see now ripening across the region -- [President Obama] adopted a murky policy he called 'engagement.'  'Engagement' meant that in 2009, when the Iranian ayatollahs stole an election, and the people of that country rose up in protest, President Obama held his tongue.  His silence validated the mullahs, despite the blood on their hands and the nuclear centrifuges in their tunnels."

On Israel, Pawlenty will argue, "Israeli-Palestinian peace is further away now than the day Barack Obama came to office.  But that does not have to be a permanent situation.  We must recognize that peace will only come if everyone in the region perceives clearly that America stands strongly with Israel."

Tuesday's speech comes as Pawlenty finds himself in the midst of a difficult few weeks, kicked off by a poor performance in the GOP debate in New Hampshire and punctuated by a dismal showing in the Des Moines Register poll last weekend, where he garnered only six percent support, far behind Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney, fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann, and others.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Two Herman Cain Staffers Resign from Campaign

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images(MANCHESTER, N.H.) -- Herman Cain’s New Hampshire campaign director -- and only staffer in the state -- Matt Murphy, has resigned, Cain’s Communications Director Ellen Carmichael has confirmed to ABC News.

According to the Union Leader, Jim Zeiler, a campaign regional director, has also resigned.

Murphy told the Union Leader he resigned last Friday due to strategic differences, noting there was no “ill will” toward the Republican presidential candidate.  

“There was a strategic difference and I left the campaign because of those differences.  The differences involved the New Hampshire strategy and how much investment the campaign should put into New Hampshire,” he told the Union Leader.

Carmichael gave this statement to ABC News regarding Murphy’s departure: “Matt's time at Friends of Herman Cain ended amicably and we are in touch still with him.  We are announcing a new hire in the coming days and we are excited about continuing to expand our operations in New Hampshire and across the U.S.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Arizona Law on Extra Public Election Funds Deemed Unconstitutional

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that an Arizona law providing additional funds to political candidates who receive public rather than private contributions is unconstitutional.

By a five-to-four vote, the high court said Arizona's attempt at leveling the playing field impinged free speech rights.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said, "The state grants funds to publicly financed candidates as a direct result of the speech of privately financed candidates and their" backers.

In essence, the decision of the five conservative judges does not end publicly funded campaigns but it does prevent states from trying to match contributions other candidates receive from wealthy private donors.

In the minority opinion of the court's liberal wing, Justice Elena Kagan said, "The majority's denigration of this interest...wrongly prevents Arizona from protecting the strength and integrity of its democracy."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rod Blagojevich Guilty of Trying to Sell Obama's Senate Seat

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- The jury in the retrial of Rod Blagojevich found the former Illinois governor guilty on 17 corruption charges, including fraud, attempted extortion, and soliciting bribes.

Those verdicts include the charges of conspiring to sell Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat.  The jury was deadlocked on two others.

U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel will set sentencing for a later date.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Blagojevich faces up to a decade in prison.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Romney Makes Campaign Stop at TARP-Funded Financial Group

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(CONCORD, N.H.) -- Mitt Romney stopped Monday morning in Concord, N.H., to speak with employees at the Lincoln Financial Group about jobs and the economy, a typical event for the campaign of a business-minded Republican as of late except for one catch: the financial group was bailed out by TARP -- the 2008 Wall Street bailout.

Lincoln Financial Group -- which is also known as Lincoln National Corporation -- received $950 million from TARP, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. Lincoln Financial has since paid the money back in full.

TARP, the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program signed in 2008 to prevent the economy from collapsing, is one of several issues Romney critics point to when trying to peg him as a flip-flopper.

Romney, who has been touting his business background on the trail, has a complicated record when it comes to TARP, made even more so by his adamant opposition to the bailout of the auto industry that used TARP funds. Romney has gone on the record several times in the past saying that he’d like to see TARP shut down and that he thinks bailouts like TARP should alarm Americans, but his campaign says it’s not that simple.

A source close to the Romney campaign told ABC News that the venue for Monday’s campaign stop was “not an issue” and added that Romney never opposed TARP to begin with.

The Romney campaign says that while Romney doesn’t oppose TARP itself -- he thinks it was right for the country at the time -- he does believe it was poorly executed.

But it is Romney's complicated -- and sometimes downright contradictory -- record on issues like TARP, abortion rights and health care that could cast a shadow on the presidential hopeful as he continues to shake off the perception that he's gone back and forth on the main issues a few too many times.

He has come under fire from fellow Republicans for his support of the Wall Street bailout. Romney’s record as a moderate has at least one conservative Republican, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, teasing his own presidential bid.

“I've taken issue with several of [Romney’s] positions, including his support for the Wall Street bailout, [his position on] climate change and obviously for Romneycare in Massachusetts,” McCotter said this month on the ABC program Top Line.

“I do not subscribe to the theory that somehow he has been vindicated. And I don't think anyone in my district thinks going bankrupt would have been better, and leaving that $700 billion on Wall Street, where they caused the problem, would have been better.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Report: Sarah Palin Setting Up Meetings with Key Iowa Activists

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sarah Palin’s camp is reportedly reaching out to activists and operatives in Iowa to meet with her while she’s in the state Tuesday. Among those on the list: Chuck Laudner, a former Iowa GOP executive director and prominent conservative.

Laudner told that Palin's team asked him to attend a mingling session after the Tuesday premiere of The Undefeated. The mingling session is presumably the cookout that Palin is slated to attend after the film screening. He added that Palin’s aides want to set up a group meet-and-greet, not one-on-one get-togethers.

Laudner wants to know if Palin is serious about a 2012 presidential run or if she’s just “dancing around.”

“I'd be interested to see if she's serious about a run,” he said. “That'd be [question] A, and B, would it be too late. That's what it feels like, anyway. It's not too late now, [but if you] dance around until fall” it will be.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Campaign: Bachmann Presidency Would Hurt Middle Class

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Signaling its messaging operation has kicked into attack mode, the Obama campaign Monday directly responded to Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann’s bid for the presidency, saying her economic policies would devastate the middle class. The salvo came shortly after Bachmann formally announced her candidacy.

“Congresswoman Bachmann talks about reclaiming the American Dream, but her policies would erode the path to prosperity for middle class families,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement.

“She voted for a budget plan that would extend tax cuts for the richest Americans on the backs of seniors and the middle class while ending Medicare as we know it,” he said. “Congresswoman Bachmann introduced legislation to repeal Wall Street oversight -- risking a repeat of the financial crisis -- and while she voted to preserve subsidies for oil and gas companies, she opposes making the investments necessary to enhance America’s competitiveness and create the jobs of the future.”

The criticism of Bachmann is the second time in as many weeks that the Obama campaign has directly addressed a member of the 2012 Republican field.  Last week, LaBolt responded to Jon Huntsman’s presidential announcement, saying the former Utah governor was “proposing a return to the failed economic policies that led us into the recession."

It also comes a day before Obama heads to battleground Iowa to visit a manufacturing plant and deliver a speech on job creation and the economy.

Monday, Bachmann, a three-term Minnesota congresswoman and Tea Party favorite, kicked off her campaign in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, telling supporters “we can’t afford four more years of Barack Obama.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Group Attacks Obama’s Economic Record with Massive Ad Campaign

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Crossroads GPS, the independent group founded in part by Karl Rove, launched a $20 million television ad campaign Monday assailing President Obama’s economic record. Dismal economic numbers -- and in the case of an ad called "Shovel Ready," Obama's own words -- will be used to sell the group's message.

The first phase of the campaign, the “Shovel Ready” ad, will air on national cable news and in 10 states including battleground states Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, and Virginia,

Crossroads GPS spokesman Jonathan Collegio said the initial ad buy will be for $5 million, running for two weeks. The other $15 million in ads will be spent over the next two months.

Crossroads GPS is not required by law to identify its donors. Officials from the group classify it under the tax code as a “social welfare” organization, spending a majority of its sources on its social welfare mission, and thus not obligated to provide its donor list.

In the 2010 elections, President Obama tried to rally opposition to such groups. Since then, two former White House staffers -- former deputy press secretary Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, chief of staff to the former chief of staff -- started their own independent group under the same provision in the tax code as Crossroads GPS.

This latest Crossroads GPS ad attempts to damn the president with his own statements about the economy, showing him saying in June 2010 that the economy “is now growing at a good clip,” after which the ad uses graphics attributed to NBC suggesting that since President Obama took office, unemployment has increased 25 percent, the national debt increased 35 percent, and the price of gas has increased by 104 percent.

“Obama’s $830 billion stimulus failed,” the ad says. The graphic for this claim cites the Congressional Budget Office.

Actually, the CBO reported in May that the stimulus bill in the first quarter of 2011 raised the real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product by between 1.1 percent and 3.1 percent; lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.6 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points; and increased the number of people employed by between 1.2 million and 3.3 million.

Collegio said the citation of CBO was intended for the total dollar figure of the stimulus bill, not that the stimulus bill “failed.”

The ad then features President Obama from earlier this month, joking with his Jobs and Competitiveness Council that “shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.” Members of the council on stage with him also shared the chuckle.

“Fourteen million out of work, American drowning in debt, it’s time to take away Obama’s blank check,” the narrator says, with a phone number for viewers to call to “tell Congress no more blank checks.”

Collegio told ABC News that the group’s research indicates “folks around the country wanted to give Obama the benefit of the doubt. They did that with the stimulus, and now it’s time to bring to light the facts of his economic record and use them as a way to frame the debate as Congress debates jobs policy and debt.”

Collegio said the message is not intended to suggest Congress should vote against raising the debt ceiling. The position of the group, he said, is to raise the debt limit only in tandem with “deep spending cuts and tough spending controls.”

“It's important to note as Democrats are talking about higher taxes and ‘Stimulus - part 3,’ that those policies don’t work,” he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Michele Bachmann Formally Kicks Off 2012 Campaign

ABC/Donna Svennevik(WATERLOO, Iowa) -- Michele Bachmann, a three-term congresswoman and favorite to social conservatives and the Tea Party,  formally kicked off her campaign in Waterloo, Iowa, the town of her birth telling the crowd a vote for her would be "a bold choice."

Outside a museum, and onetime women’s club, Rep. Bachman, R-Minn., said her run for the White House was “not for vanity” and that Americans must make a bold choice if we are to secure the promise of the future.”

“I am here in Waterloo, Iowa, to announce today: We can win in 2012 and we will,” she said.

“My voice is part of a movement to take back our country, and now I want to take that voice to the White House. It is the voice of constitutional conservatives who want our government to do its job and not ours and who want our government to live within its means and not our children's and grandchildren's,” she said.

Her announcement touted her heartland values and assailed President Obama for allowing outsized debt and spending.

“We cannot continue to rack up debt on the backs of future generation,” she said.” We can't afford an unconstitutional health plan that costs too much and is worth so little. And we can't afford four more years of failed leadership at home and abroad. We can't afford four more years of millions of Americans out of work or in jobs that pay too little to support their families,” she told the modest sized crowd.

Bachmann arrived in Iowa Sunday riding high on the results of the Des Moines Register poll, which put her just behind frontrunner Mitt Romney among Iowa voters likely to take part in the state’s Republican primary.

Romney remained at the front of the pack, receiving 23 percent of the votes. But Bachmann came in a close second with 22 percent.

After months of playing coy about whether she would run, Rep. Bachmann, R- Minn., announced early this month during a televised debate that she would seek the nomination.

Head of the House Tea Party Caucus, she has made a name for herself among the GOP’s activist grassroots wing. Those supporters have contributed millions of dollars to her Congressional campaign in small donations and she’s betting she can repeat that magic in her bid for the White House.

Bachmann in recent weeks has largely stayed on message, targeting President Obama on his healthcare and economic recovery policies and avoiding the gaffes that had previously made her the brunt of jokes on Saturday Night Live.

Just before departing for Iowa, Bachmann was put on the spot about those statements. In an interview on Fox News, Chris Wallace asked her: “Are you a flake?”

She called the question insulting and Wallace later apologized.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio