Obama In Europe; GOP Presidential Ticket In Flux

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President Obama is in Europe this week, working on overseas alliances and the G-8 summit. Here at home, the race to replace him in 2012 is drawing more attention than his presidential trip. And the Republican field keeps shifting.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

And I'm Mary Louise Kelly.

President Obama is in Europe this week. He's working on overseas alliances and heading to the G-8 Summit. Here at home the race to replace him in 2012 is drawing more attention than his presidential trip. The Republican field keeps shifting. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels bowed out over the weekend, while others jumped in, like former Minnesota Governor, Tim Pawlenty.

For more on the political landscape this morning, we're joined by our own Cokie Roberts. Good morning, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS: Hi, Mary Louise. How are you doing?

LOUISE KELLY: Hi. Great, thank you.

So let me ask you about this. A lot of Republicans were very hopeful, keeping their fingers crossed, that Governor Daniels would run for president. Why isn't he going to?

ROBERTS: He says it's family reasons and everybody who knows him says that's exactly right. His wife had four daughters didn't want him to run. They understand, because he has been very involved in national politics for a long time - they know what a presidential race would be like and what the scrutiny would be.

There was a period in his marriage where his wife and he divorced. She married someone else, then she came back. He did issue a statement over the weekend, saying this notion that she abandoned her children was just wrong - that that was not true. But they know how tough a presidential campaign would be and they don't want to do it, particularly given the fact that President Obama is looking pretty strong. So going through all that and then losing, or possibly losing, is really something that, you know, doesn't interest them.

LOUISE KELLY: Okay, so that's the decision for Governor Daniels. The other development we mentioned, former Governor Tim Pawlenty says he's in. How, at this point, should we rate his chances?

ROBERTS: Well, he's certainly someone to be taken seriously. But first, he has to get through the Iowa Caucuses where he will formally announce his candidacy today, after doing a whole morning on network TV shows.

He scooped his own announcement with a slickly-produced a web video last night. Give it a listen here.

(SOUNDBITE OF A WEB VIDEO)

(SOUNDBITE OF CELESTIAL MUSIC)

TIM PAWLENTY: Together, we'll change our country. And this time it will be for the better.

ROBERTS: Change, you remember that word from President Obama's campaign? Pawlenty's biggest problem is Iowa. He has to win it for him to get the money and the credibility to move on. And his biggest problem there could be fellow Minnesotan, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, should she decide to get in the race, because she has a lot of appeal to those evangelical Christians who show up in huge numbers at the Iowa Caucuses.

LOUISE KELLY: Well, with this decision by Pawlenty - with Daniels out, as we mentioned - it does seem, Cokie, as though the field is maybe starting to gel a little. Is there a clearer frontrunner at this point?

ROBERTS: Well, Mitt Romney is not officially in the race, but he's the closest thing they have to a frontrunner. Newt Gingrich has had a terrible week, after he announced. Herman Cain is not a candidate that many people take seriously, same with Ron Paul. Maybe Sarah Palin would get in. Maybe Michele Bachmann will get in. And Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, had a week in New Hampshire last week and is clearly out seeing if he's going to run, and most think he will.

Look, there's talked again, post-Mitch Daniels, of drafting Governor Christie of New Jersey, or former Governor Bush of Florida - who said no.

I think we see this field now. I think one of these folks; Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty or Jon Huntsman, one of those guys will be the nominee.

LOUISE KELLY: Cokie, before we let you go, one other development to ask you about. That is this special election that is going to take place in New York tomorrow, to fill a House seat. I gather there's some thinking that this may provide a sneak preview for what Republican nominees on the national ticket may have to deal with, if they decide that they want to run for national office.

ROBERTS: Well, this is a seat that should be a solid Republican seat - Jack Kemp represented it. It's open because Chris Lee posted pictures of himself with no shirt on, on the Internet. So he had to resign. The Republican is having trouble because of that Medicare vote in the U.S. House, and it's given the Democrat an even shot of winning.

Now, if the Republican loses, she'll say it's because there was a third-party candidate in there. If the Democrat, though, will say it's because the Republicans did something very unpopular on Medicare. And that will put fear in their hearts.

LOUISE KELLY: Okay, Cokie Roberts, thanks very much.

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