The Note: The Haves And The Have-Nots: Money Gap Emerging Among 2012 Candidates

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter)

With just days to go until the June 30 quarterly fundraising deadline, we’re about to get our first look at just how well many of the newly-minted presidential candidates are doing in the all-important money primary.

Even before the official numbers are out, it’s already becoming clear that there’s a widening “income” gap among several of the contenders vying for the Republican nomination. And while a less-than-stellar fundraising quarter is not likely to be a deal-breaker for any of them, it will be an important expectations setter.

It’s also clear that presidential candidate Mitt Romney will further solidify his “front-runner” status with a strong showing -- some sources are projecting he could post a $40 million haul.

Compare that to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s flailing campaign. At an auction in Iowa yesterday, Gingrich’s team declined to snap up a coveted spot at the August Ames Straw Poll. The price tag: between $15,000 and $30,000. (Presidential candidate Ron Paul paid $31,000).

Gingrich said that doesn’t mean he won’t be competing, just that “we're not going to spend [that] kind of money.”

Even so, before a speech in Baltimore last night, Gingrich told reporters he’s confident he’ll be in the presidential race through the Iowa Caucuses next year. “Sure, of course,” he said.

With the resignation of more than a dozen top staffers and key members of his finance team, speculation is increasing that Gingrich’s June 30 numbers will be dismal, and may show his campaign already in debt.

Then there’s Tim Pawlenty. His team was pushing back against a Washington Post story yesterday reporting that several of his top aides were working for little or no money -- raising questions, according to the Post, about “whether Pawlenty will have the resources to compete in a long, state-by-state campaign.”

While some Pawlenty aides are working for peanuts or volunteering their time, that was always the plan from the start and should not be seen as any sign that the campaign is not on sound financial footing, a source in the Pawlenty camp told ABC’s Matthew Jaffe.

“This may be hard for some in Washington to accept, but they're on Team Pawlenty for the right reasons, “a Pawlenty aide said, “they believe in the candidate and the cause.”

So, just how bright do things look from Romney territory?

According to Politico’s Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman, “The scale of his money advantage is finally coming into shape: the rest of the field is going to be eating his dust. Romney is so confident in his fundraising that he will not put any of his own money into the campaign this quarter.” BOTTOM LINE: Romney's biggest threat right now is the unknown, namely will Texas Gov. Rick Perry jump in the contest and shake things up? On paper at least, he can do what no other Republican can: put together the combination of money and message that gives him a real shot at the nomination

In addition, it wasn't all that long ago that the conventional wisdom was that Pawlenty was a top-tier contender and had a serious shot at knocking off Romney in the primary. "We'll have enough money to run a competitive, successful campaign. It may not be the BMW or Mercedes campaign, but it will be a good solid Buick -- or maybe trending toward a Cadillac -- and that will be enough for us to be competitive and to win," Pawlenty said in an interview in May. But will it be enough for Pawlenty to "be competitive and to win"? After this quarter that notion could take an even bigger hit.

DEMINT TO 2012 CANDIDATES: TAKE THE PLEDGE. Conservative firebrand Sen. Jim DeMint has a message to fellow Republicans in Congress: If you support increasing the debt ceiling without first passing a balanced budget amendment and massive across-the-board spending cuts, you're gone -- destined to be swept out of Congress by a wave of voter anger. “Based on what I can see around the country," DeMint, R-S.C., said in an interview for the ABC News Subway Series, "not only are those individuals gone, but I would suspect the Republican Party would be set back many years. "It would be the most toxic vote," DeMint said. "I can tell you if you look at the polls, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, they do not think we should increase the debt limit." ABC News’ Jonathan Karl and Sunlen Miller report that DeMint said he will not support any candidate for Congress -- incumbent or challenger -- who does not sign a pledge promising not to vote for a debt limit increase without first passing a balanced budget amendment, making deep spending cuts and putting strict limits on future government spending. The same rule applies to presidential candidates. "I don't have many litmus tests, but this is one: Any candidate who doesn't understand that we need to balance the budget should not be president of the United States," DeMint said. "So, I'm looking for candidates to sign the pledge."

ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Amy Walter and Jonathan Karl interview Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., a military veteran who criticized President Obama’s speech this week on Afghan troop withdrawals. Also on the program, footage from last night’s Congressional Women’s Softball Game (spoiler alert below). Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.

“TOPLINE” REPLAY: JIM JORDAN: The bipartisan budget talks may be unraveling at the seams but the deadline to lift the debt ceiling has not budged. If, that is, you believe in such a deadline,” ABC News’ Sherisse Pham writes. “‘Revenues are still coming in it’s not like the world ends on August 2,’ Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said on ABC’s ‘Top Line.’ House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., pulled out of the budget talks led by Vice President Joe Biden, yesterday. “I think this just shows that the Democrats are on the wrong page, and we're going to, we're going to stick to the idea that Americans understand … we've got a spending problem in this town not a revenue problem,’ Jordan told ABC.”

RICK PERRY WATCH: CHILLY IN SAN ANTONIO. Texas Governor Rick Perry received a chilly response at a conference for elected and appointed Latino officials in San Antonio Thursday while he promoted his job growth agenda and attempted to stress the importance of diversity,” ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports. “As Perry touted the diversity within the government of Texas, he joked it was perfect to appoint Jose Cuervas to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission because his name sounds like the tequila brand Jose Cuervo. The joke fell flat with the largely Hispanic crowd, but Perry continued to describe Texas as a land of opportunity. ‘You have a role model you can look up to, someone who proves that any obstacle can be overcome,’ Perry said at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference. ‘That is especially true for a Hispanic child in Texas.’ Texas is nearing the end of its special legislative session, and state officials are debating a bill which would ban ‘sanctuary cities’ in the state. Protestors gathered outside the hotel where the governor spoke and some linked Perry’s plan that would permit local law enforcement officials to inquire about a person’s immigration status to the controversial immigration law in Arizona.”


BUDGET TALKS FAILING. “Congressional Republicans on Thursday abandoned budget talks aimed at clearing the way for a federal debt limit increase, leaving the outcome in doubt as they vowed not to give in to a Democratic push for new tax revenues as part of any compromise,” The New York Times’ Carl Hulse reports. “The breakdown was set off by the surprise decision of Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader and one of two Republicans participating in sessions led by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., to quit the negotiations. This week’s talks were considered to be crucial as the Aug. 2 deadline for an increase in federal borrowing authority nears. Mr. Cantor had previously expressed optimism that the sessions could produce a deal. But he announced he would not be attending Thursday’s scheduled meeting because Democrats continued to press for part of the more than $2 trillion savings target to come from moves like phasing out tax breaks. ‘As it stands, the Democrats continue to insist that any deal must include tax increases,’ Mr. Cantor said in a statement. ‘There is not support in the House for a tax increase, and I don’t believe now is the time to raise taxes in light of our current economic situation. Regardless of the progress that has been made, the tax issue must be resolved before discussions can continue.’ Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the No. 2 Senate Republican and the party’s other representative in the talks, said later Thursday that he would also skip the next negotiating session as he and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, turned up the pressure on President Obama to play a larger role in the push for a debt limit deal.”

JON HUNTSMAN’S FLORIDA STRATEGY. Former Utah governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr. visited with Florida voters for the first time as a presidential candidate Thursday in his opening bid to become the crucial Sunshine State’s favorite son. It’s a high hurdle for the former China envoy who is relatively unknown here. As he stepped off of his campaign bus, one woman said in a Southern drawl, “These must be the boys from Utah.” But Huntsman is betting that with a wife from Orlando, and a campaign headquarters there, too, his focus on Florida will pay off in the GOP primary season. Yet Huntsman, who declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination Tuesday, pushed back against the idea that his Florida-centric strategy is akin to the one employed by unsuccessful 2008 presidential candidate and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani’s win-there-or-go-home approach in 2008. … ‘We have an early state strategy. I would liken it to running for governor in three states simultaneously,’ Huntsman said. ‘New Hampshire is going to be critical. South Carolina is going to be critical. And obviously Florida, I think it’s where the Republican nomination is going to be decided. This will be a key state for us. We are going to work it very, very aggressively.’ Huntsman has surrounded himself with a staff that knows the donor-rich state well, including Susan Wiles, a campaign aide to Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R).”

WHITE HOUSE WATCH: OBAMA HEADS TO PITTSBURGH. “Today the president will visit Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa. to announce a new $500 million manufacturing initiative to encourage investments in technology and boost job creation,” ABC’s Mary Bruce reports. In a speech this morning, Obama will announce the ‘Advanced Manufacturing Partnership,’ an effort to bring together industry, universities and the government to determine the best investments to boost America's competitiveness. ‘Today, I’m calling for all of us to come together… to spark a renaissance in American manufacturing and help our manufacturers develop the cutting-edge tools they need to compete with anyone in the world,’ Obama said in a written statement. ‘With these key investments, we can ensure that the United States remains a nation that ‘invents it here and manufactures it here’ and creates high-quality, good paying jobs for American workers.’ The president is expected to highlight several specific initiatives this morning, including a $70 million project to award grants to companies that are making major advances in robotics and a plan to invest $100 million in ‘material genomes.’”

NOTABLE: A WHITE HOUSE FAREWELL. Friends, family and colleagues of Eric Lesser, director of strategic planning in the president’s Council of Economic Advisers and the former right-hand-man to David Axelrod, gathered at Tammy Haddad’s Palisades home to toast him last night. Axelrod flew in from Chicago for the gathering. After serving as both the “ground logistics coordinator” (a.k.a. “bag boy”) on Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and in various roles at the White House, Lesser is heading to Harvard Law School in the fall. Along with his fiancee, Alison Silber, Lesser enjoyed some roasting (and toasting) from friends Herbie Ziskend, Josh Lipsky and Jake Levine (all either current or former White House staffers). The New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny offered a few words on behalf of the traveling Obama press corps, whose bags were handled by Lesser in 2008. As Zeleny put it, “We knew he was destined for greatness when he always delegated the bag handling.” Current boss Austan Goolsbee said Lesser handled all of his jobs with “aplomb” but joked that he always had an eye toward the future. “We need to start a hedge fund -- no I'm serious!” Goolsbee said, quoting Lesser. And Axelrod, who began his toast with, “the two years that I worked FOR Eric," presented his former assistant with a framed copy of Jon Bon Jovi’s hand-written lyrics to “Work for the Working Man.” “It’s not the easiest job in the world being my assistant. He wasn't always nice to me...he was to the outside world,” Axelrod said. “But Eric Lesser is a great guy.” And Lesser’s take-away from his years on the trail and the White House: “I've become less cynical after working in Washington and I've become more idealistic.” Among those bidding Lesser farewell last night were Dan Pfeiffer, Jen Pskai, Sam Tubman, Ali Campoverdi, Maureen Dowd, Mark Leibovich, Peter Baker, Jim Courtovich, Hillary Rosen, Ed Henry, Mike Dorning, Christi Parsons, John McCormick, Julianna Goldman, and Kate Balcerzak.

POST-GAME REPORT: CONGRESSIONAL WOMEN’S SOFTBALL GAME. ABC’s Amy (“rocket arm”) Walter reports: In a hard fought, nail bitter of a game the women members of Congress squeaked out a 5 to 4 win over the women's press corps. With two outs the bottom of the seventh inning, co-captain and MVP Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz cracked a line drive to center field that drove in the winning run. Standouts last night, included CNN’s Abby Livingston who owned the “hot corner,” fellow CNNer, Erika Dimmler, who made an amazing catch in center, denying Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand what looked like a certain double and ABC’s Gregory Simmons who had great backhanded grab at second base. ABC’s Walter hit some well-placed base hits and made some great plays at short. “She's like a vacuum cleaner,” teammate Gregory Simmons noted. Rep. Linda Sanchez made Derek Jeter look lazy and slow at short and had a mean bat to boot. Rep Laura Richardson belted in a home run. But, of course the biggest winner was the Young Women's Survival Coalition. As of last night, over $70,000 had been raised for the group dedicated to fighting breast cancer in young women.

NOTED: The new Sarah Palin film, "The Undefeated," is scheduled to premiere in Iowa next week. Palin has been invited, but is not confirmed to attend the Iowa screening.

SPOTTED: Conservative activist James O'Keefe having breakfast at The Mayflower hotel this morning.


@ jpaceDC : Forgot to note yesterday: We had 7 women in the White House press pool yesterday! That's almost unheard of female representation.

@ bethreinhard : Huntsman always planned to cut short China stint. But not to run for pres. That was a "last-minute decision."

@ MattMackowiak : Fantastic @Fahrenthold WaPo piece that answers the one question every Capitol Hill staffer has always wondered about --

@ USATOnPolitics: N.J. Gov. Chris Christie says President Obama has to 'show up' if he wants deficit deal with GOP.

@ katephillips : The flip side of a bad economy? Used, fuel-efficient cars increase A LOT in value. NYT's Bunkley --


* Herman Cain, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum speak at the National Right to Life Convention in Jacksonville, Fl. from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

* Jon Huntsman visits Reno Rodeo in Nevada at 4:55 p.m.

* Gary Johnson visits the Porcupine Freedom Festival in Lancaster, N.H. from 6-9 p.m.

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