By Chris Cillizza and Rachel Weiner
The last seven days have been the most eventful of the 2012 Republican presidential race to date.
* Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich officially got into the race earlier this week and Texas Rep. Ron Paul joined him today, saying on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “the time is right.”
* Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney tackled — or tried to tackle — his Achilles heel of health care.
* Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman huddled with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and sat for his first major interview — with Time magazine.
* Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels continued to drop hints — “I’m not saying I won’t do it,” he said Thursday night — about his 2012 plans even as his wife, Cheri, took a turn in the limelight as the keynote speaker at an Indiana Republican party dinner.
The increased level of activity seemed to signal that the long-dormant race — a debate earlier this month was largely populated by candidates with no chance of being the party’s nominee — had awoken as spring turns to summer.
Within the next month, things should move even quicker with two major events on the schedule: a June 13 debate at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire and the Republican Leadership Conference from June 16-18 in New Orleans.
Huntsman, Romney, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann will almost certainly be official candidates by that time and Daniels will have made a final go/no-go decision on his own future plans.
Even former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee may be off the fence as a week-long Christian cruise through Alaska which he is hosting returns to the lower 48 on June 12.
The quickening pace of the GOP race is largely born of a stark reality: it takes months and months to build the political and fundraising operations — both in individual states and nationally — necessary to make a serious run at the nomination.
For unknown candidates like Huntsman, Daniels and Pawlenty, every day they spend not working full-time on getting better known in places like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina is a day lost. (Better known candidates like Huckabee and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin have the luxury of waiting — but not much longer.)
On a more symbolic level, the increase in activity on the GOP side is born of a desire by the candidates to show donors, activists and operatives that they are, with apologies to Hillary Clinton, in it to win it.
Get ready. It’s hard to see any letup between now and when a GOP nominee emerges sometime early next year.
Akin to decide soon: Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) will announce his plans vis-a-vis the Senate within the next week, he told The Hill.
“I would think that there’s a good probability there’ll be something finalized by next week,” Akin said “We’ll make a public decision next week.”
Republicans are hoping Akin will clear the field to take on Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), seen as even more vulnerable after a private plane scandal earlier this year. Right now, the only other Republican in the primary is former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman.
Oregon maps out: Oregon redistricting maps are now online. The Democratic proposal would basically keep things how they are in terms of voter registration breakdown. The Republican plan would give Democratic Reps. Kurt Schrader and David Wu more competitive seats.
But Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D) is reportedly unhappy with the Democratic plan, which would stretch out his Portland-area district. Republicans would pack more Democrats into his district; Democrats would reshape it a bit to help out other lawmakers.
Republicans don’t have a lot of pull here — if state legislators can’t agree on a map, it goes to the Democratic secretary of state and possibly to court.
- According to CBS News, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have both pledged to back Daniels should he run.
- Jane Corwin, the Republican candidate in New York’s 26th district special election, has loaned her campaign an additional $960,000, meaning she’s put $1.96 million into the race.
- If he won in Washington state, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (R-Ohio) would make history.
- The White House will stop doing speech reenactments for still photographers.
- “The Ensign report: Vindication for Doug Hampton?” - Jon Ralston, Las Vegas Sun
- “I.R.S. moves to tax gifts to groups active in politics” - Stephanie Strom, New York Times