Pawlenty up, Rubio down, but not out

Veep-stakes update; Romney skips Bain towns; GOP tax plan helps wealthy most; and other top Tuesday stories.

Published June 20, 2012 12:12PM (EDT)

Buy Pawlenty: Politico reports that “Tim Pawlenty has jumped to the top of the vice presidential shortlist of several Mitt Romney advisers after emerging as the most effective -- and well-liked -- surrogate for the GOP nominee-to-be, according to several Republicans familiar with campaign deliberations. The former Minnesota governor has impressed top Romney officials with his winning onstage presence at a grueling roster of Republican events throughout the country and with his low-maintenance personal style that has made him a favorite with the campaign’s tight-knit inner circle at the Boston headquarters. Pawlenty is strong where Romney is weak — with the regular-guy, working-man connection with voters in casual settings.”

The Wall Street Journal reads its own tea leaves here: "As is pro forma among potential picks, Mr. Pawlenty has shrugged off questions about the No. 2 slot. But over time, his denials have shifted from suggesting that Mr. Romney take his name off the list to noting that anybody would be honored to serve, if asked."

Hold Rubio: Last night, Romney denied earlier reports, saying his campaign is indeed  "thoroughly vetting" Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for the vice presidential slot. In a much-linked story, ABC News reported that Rubio was not being vetted, and thus likely out of the running for the No. 2 slot. Regardless of the truth, the kerfuffle may have wounded Rubio at a critical time -- the day his book was released and as he was making media rounds to promote it. He also canceled two interviews last night, citing Senate business.

Romney bus tour skips town hit by Bain: Romney wrapped his bus voyage yesterday, which was called the “Every Town Counts” tour. “But the towns didn’t count enough for him to learn their real histories and their real needs. And the tour scrupulously avoided towns where Romney’s Bain Capital continues to put the hurt on American worker,” the Nation’s John Nichols notes, explaining that he skipped places impacted by layoffs at companies owned by Bain. “Sensata is moving forward with the process of relocating jobs from their operations in Freeport to China,” said John Blum, the chairman of the Stephenson County, Ill., board of a technology company owned by Bain.

Don’t act surprised: “The tax reform plan that House Republicans have advanced would sharply cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and could leave middle-class households facing much larger tax bills, according to a new analysis set to be released Wednesday,” the Washington Post reports. “The report, prepared by Senate Democrats and reviewed by nonpartisan tax experts, marks the first attempt to quantify the trade-offs inherent in the GOP tax package, which would replace the current tax structure with two brackets -- 25 percent and 10 percent -- and cut the top rate from 35 percent.”

Public sector free fall: Spending by state and local governments has reached its lowest point since since the early 1980s, even though revenues are up, as conservative austerity prescriptions continue to reign unchecked. “State and local spending is down 0.8% this year -- a 2.7% drop when adjusted for inflation -- to an annual rate of $2.4 trillion, a USA TODAY analysis of Bureau of Economic Analysis data found. New budgets, which take effect July 1 most places, show elected officials continuing to restrict both spending and tax hikes.” State and local governments have seen large and sustained job losses for the past few years, even as the private sector has recovered somewhat.

Light punishment for troops involved in Quran burning: "A military investigation into Quran-burning at a U.S. base in Afghanistan in February is recommending low-level disciplinary action against as many as seven U.S. troops involved in mishandling the books, two Pentagon officials said. One Navy sailor and up to six Army soldiers are facing administrative punishment -- the lowest possible reprimand -- for their role in the incident, but none is facing court-martial, the officials said," McClatchy reports.

By Alex Seitz-Wald

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