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As further proof that becoming a GOP lightening rod all but guarantees consideration in the Republican presidential primary, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) threw his support behind a presidential bid from his friend and fellow political ally, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Cantor didn't hesitate when asked whether Ryan, the author of the House GOP's budget and controversial plan to privatize parts of Medicare, should run for the White House in 2012 during a Monday briefing with reporters.

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Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty made a potentially risky move during his campaign launch speech in Iowa: he called for a phaseout of ethanol subsidies.

"The hard truth is that there are no longer any sacred programs," said Pawlenty. "The truth about federal energy subsidies, including federal subsidies for ethanol, is that they have to be phased out. We need to do it gradually. We need to do it fairly. But we need to do it."

Many political observers have long said that Iowa's place at the kickoff for presidential nomination contests has ensured continuous support for ethanol by national politicians. As a counter-example, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has long opposed ethanol subsidies, and as a result he largely skipped the 2008 caucuses. McCain placed fourth in the caucuses, and in the 2008 general election he lost Iowa by just under ten points.

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On May 16, Donald Trump said he wouldn't run for president. One week later -- and after several days when his name wasn't in the headlines -- Trump says he's having second thoughts.

"I'm not going to rule anything out, that I can tell you," Trump said when asked Monday morning on Fox and Friends if he might be late entrant to the presidential race after all.

He took some potshots at the current crop of Republicans who are running for president, saying, "at this point in time, they're not going to be beating Obama."

Polls showed Trump was in free fall by the time he finally decided to put an end to his conspiracy-fueled romp through Republican politics.

Trump declined to confirm a Newsmax report (based on a New York Post story) that he was offered $60 million by NBC to continue as host of The Apprentice, though he said network management personally appealed to him to stay out of the presidential race so his show could continue.

Trump was asked if he would walk away from the money if the GOP field didn't become more competitive.

"Who knows," Trump said, "stranger things have happened."

Watch:

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House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) offered an unusually blunt assessment of the sources of U.S. debt in a Monday speech before an audience of Republican and Democratic elder-statesmen -- calling Republicans on the carpet for creating systemic deficits, then holding U.S. creditworthiness as hostage to a highly contentious right-wing ideological agenda.

In a Monday speech at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Hoyer said both parties are responsible for addressing the country's unsustainable fiscal trajectory. But he insisted on reminding Republicans that they did far more than Democrats to create the debt, and in so doing, he prompted one famous audience member to attempt to rebut the claims extemporaneously.

"It is not tenable for us to hold ransom the creditworthiness of the United States," Hoyer said, adding that the GOP's negotiating posture "ignores that some of their own policies helped get us where we are today."

From there he recited the three decade history of the current debt most of which is the result of GOP policies.

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Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty officially announced his campaign for president on Monday in Iowa, after a two-month exploratory phase. He still remains something of an unknown quantity nationwide -- but with a deep history all his own, as a former two-term Republican governor of a Democratic-leaning state.

As the TPM Poll Average shows, Pawlenty's national favorability is just 21.9%, with an unfavorability of 21.7% -- meaning that a strong majority of American voters don't even know enough about him to have an opinion. As is natural for an unknown candidate, he trails President Obama by a very significant margin in the Poll Average, with Obama at 50.3% to Pawlenty's 35.0%.

As such, he has been introducing himself to voters in the key early primary and caucus states, with frequent visits -- and also to voters nationwide, with frequent TV show appearances, and most notably with campaign YouTube videos that strongly resemble action-movie trailers.

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Newt Gingrich may be bruised after a week of attacks from the right over his views on the GOP Medicare plan, but he assured reporters that he has no intention of backing down from his presidential campaign any time soon.

"I wanted to reassure you in Mark Twain's tradition that the reports of my campaign's death are highly exaggerated," he said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Monday with Washington reporters. Gingrich said that he was highly encouraged by a jaunt in Iowa last week in which he met with locals and drew significant crowds at his rallies.

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The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections in the state, has now certified the results of the recount in the state Supreme Court election, with incumbent conservative Justice David Prosser narrowly winning re-election over his liberal-supported challenger, Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, in a race that late in the game became something of a proxy battle over Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union legislation, and has seen its fair share of vote-counting controversies.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports:

The board said Prosser won by 7,004 votes after Kloppenburg picked up 312 in the monthlong recount she requested.

...

Kloppenburg has until May 31 to challenge the results in court. Her campaign has said they are reviewing the results and determining what to do next. Prosser's campaign has said there is no basis for a challenge and it's time to move on.

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Republican and conservative groups have poured in hundreds of thousands of dollars to save what should be a reliably GOP seat in New York's 26th district, fighting off a spirited Democratic challenger and a vote-splitting Tea Party independent. But whether Republican Jane Corwin ekes out a win on Tuesday or not, the election is already a tough blow to the party's flagging proposal to turn Medicare into a privatized voucher system.

In the first federal election since House Republicans introduced their ambitious budget that ends Medicare as we know it, Democrat Kathy Hochul sought from the start to turn the race into a one-issue referendum on House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's Medicare proposal. While Corwin defended the party line at first, she's spent the final weeks fleeing the plan, first by falsely attributing its entitlement cuts to her opponent's platform and later by dumping her support for the Ryan plan entirely. Her actions leave little room for doubt that the GOP budget's is politically toxic in the area.

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