TPM News

The 2012 Republican Presidential primary race is officially underway. Sort of.

Herman Cain, a pizza chain CEO turned talk radio host who has never held elected office, announced today that he is forming a presidential exploratory committee, a crucial fundraising tool and typically the first step toward a full fledged candidacy. Cain has been hinting at a presidential bid for almost a year, and though this is his first formal move in that direction, he has not technically declared his candidacy yet.

For that matter, neither have any of the other potential GOP candidates. As Dave Weigel noted yesterday, 14 candidates had at least formed exploratory committees by this point in 2007, including six Republicans. This year, Cain is the first.

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Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) complained today that the FBI is not releasing details on suspected Tucson shooter Jared Loughner's politics, and suggested that it's because his politics may turn out to be liberal: "it may be embarrassing to some of the current administration's constituents, and, heaven help us, we wouldn't want to embarrass any of the president's constituents."

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Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) sees positive signs that the shooting spree in Arizona has eased tensions between the political parties. But she says it's mighty peculiar that some folks get so annoyed at the general suggestion that political rhetoric can beget violence.

"It's interesting to me how incredibly defensive that this discussion has become," she said outside of a caucus meeting Wednesday. "Does anybody really want to defend the use of a bullseye, or the image of a member of Congress, shooting at it?"

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Mike Huckabee leads the GOP field in Pennsylvania in hypothetical 2012 presidential primary matchups, while home state advantage only helps a former native Senator take fifth place, according to a new PPP poll.

In the poll, 21% supported Huckabee, versus 18% who backed Sarah Palin. Newt Gingrich trailed those two candidates at 16%, followed by Mitt Romney (14%) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (11%).

Huckabee's lead was even larger when PPP dropped Santorum from the slate. Sans Santorum, Huckabee led the pack with 26% to Palin's 21%, Romney's 16%, and Gingrich's 15%.

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The publisher of textbooks in which historians found major errors has said it will correct and replace the books at no cost to the Virginia schools they were used in, the Washington Post reports.

Five Ponds Press, a small publisher in Connecticut, is responsible for the books in question, which -- among other errors -- claimed that African Americans fought in large numbers for the south during the Civil War.

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TUCSON, AZ -- Trent Humphries, the leader of the largest tea party group in this mourning southern Arizona city, has nothing but praise for the way President Obama has led the nation through the aftermath of Saturday's mass shooting at a constituent event for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). But Humphries won't be there tonight when Obama speaks at a memorial rally intended to unify Tucson after six people were killed in the tragedy.

Humphries says he's been getting threats at his home from people who seem to hold him and his organization partially responsible for the shootings Saturday.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords: On The Job In Arizona]

Humphries told TPM he thinks Obama's visit will help put an an end to the political debates and let Tucson refocus on healing after the deaths of six of its citizens. Humphries told TPM he's called the Sheriff's department more than once in the past few days to make them aware of threatening phone calls.

"We got a not-so-veiled threat," Humprhies told me. "The Sheriff's deputies told me to stay away from public places."

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Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R), who is mulling a 2012 presidential bid, appeared on CNN's Parker-Spitzer last night and said he had the "fortitude" to get things done in Washington. Yet that purported fortitude was not on display when he was pressed to name how he'd address contentious spending issues.

"The country is going to have to look for a leader who's going to have an uncommon amount of fortitude," Pawlenty said. "Not just to flap their jaw out, not just to offer failed amendments, not just to give a speech, but to get it done."

However, when host Eliot Spitzer asked him repeatedly to show that fortitude by outlining how he'd deal with ballooning defense spending, Pawlenty offered few specifics good for only slim savings. Pawlenty embraced a proposal by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to peg DOD spending increases to inflation and to eliminate ineffective weapons programs for an estimated savings of $93 billion over five years, and suggested trimming the size underused military bases.

Spitzer then asked Pawlenty if he'd go further and support calls from several conservatives, including Obama's deficit panel co-chair Alan Simpson, who've said defense should shed $1 trillion over 10 years. Pawlenty said he would not.

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