The Note: What We Learned This Week: What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been

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

It was a strange, and at times, even wacky week in politics. There's the still-unresolved Weiner-gate saga, the Sarah Palin road show (with a brief Donald Trump interlude), and today, the expected indictment of former U.S. senator and presidential candidate John Edwards.

Here are a few things we learned:

Obama’s Path To 2012 Remains Steep. It’s clear that President Obama’s path to re-election will be paved by how good Americans feel about the economy, and today’s jobs numbers suggest some major potholes along the way. The unemployment rate jumped from 9 percent to 9.1 percent, and the nation’s employers only increased their payrolls by 54,000 in May -- falling short of economists’ expectations. As we noted yesterday, presidents have a hard time getting re-elected when the unemployment rate is above 8 percent. According to an analysis by the Washington, DC consulting firm, Hamilton Place Strategies, “For the unemployment rate to fall below 8 percent by Election Day, the economy needs to create 209,000 jobs per month going forward.”

Even so, a big question remains: Can Republicans find a message that works? Cutting the deficit means cutting popular programs. And we've already seen how attempts to restructure the Medicare have damaged Republicans politically.

Romney, Pawlenty Hew To Traditions. Mitt Romney announced for president yesterday in a state he needs to win if he hopes to capture the Republican presidential nomination. His decision to go to New Hampshire, serve up some chili and tell voters that “Barack Obama has failed America,” spoke volumes about Romney’s commitment to the first-in the-nation state, which he lost to the eventual nominee, Sen. John McCain in 2008. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is making much the same play for Iowa where he has been methodically meeting voters, scooping up party activists and tending to the care and feeding of the local press. We'll see if that strategy pays off for either of them a few months from now.

Palin Keeps It Unconventional. Contrast Romney and Pawlenty’s approach to that of Sarah Palin, who led national media on a wild goose chase up the Eastern seaboard this week on a bus trip that took her from Washington, DC to New Hampshire. Palin offered no substantive clues about whether she was leaning toward a presidential run, but many took the journey, itself, as the biggest hint. Her “unconventional” (a word Palin used quite a bit this week) strategy seemed to pay off yesterday in the Granite State. As the Washington Post’s Phil Rucker ( @PhilipRucker) pointed out in a tweet this morning, “The GOP frontrunner announces in NH. Palin visits a clambake. Look who makes front page splash.” (Hint: It’s Palin)

A Real Debate Coming Soon. We’ll soon have the opportunity to see many of the Republican candidates tangling with each other on the same debate stage. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Herman Cain have all confirmed their attendance at the June 13 debate in New Hampshire sponsored by CNN, WMUR and the New Hampshire Union Leader. Former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who's been a ubiquitous presence in New Hampshire, isn't participating. His campaign says he's still doing his “due diligence.” This may not be a bad idea. He gets a chance to talk to voters on his own terms, while the other candidates have to respond to each other.

Lessons In Crisis Management. We saw an striking contrast from Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-NY, who became embroiled in a Twitter controversy that became known in some circles as “Weinergate” and New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie, who landed in hot water for his questionable use of a state helicopter. Weiner dissembled all week, saying in interview after interview that it was not he who sent a lewd photograph to a woman over Twitter, but that he could not say with “certitude” whether the photo was of him. In an interview with The New York Times today, one of Weiner’s constituents pretty much summed up what we're all thinking: “I would think everybody knows their undergarments.”

Gov. Christie, on the other hand, moved quickly to dispense with his own flap, agreeing to reimburse New Jersey for using a state helicopter to attend his son’s baseball game. “The fact is, I’ve got a lot of important work to do,” Christie said in a press conference yesterday. “And if me writing a check for $2,100 bucks and a $1,200 check from the state committee to pay for these two helicopter rides will allow us to focus on the really important issues to the people of the state of New Jersey, then I’m willing to do it.”

JOHN EDWARDS TO BE INDICTED. “His life was an American dream that, today, seems be crashing down: ABC News has learned that John Edwards, the millworker's son who became a U.S. senator and a presidential candidate, will face indictment today on criminal charges following an investigation seeking to connect Edwards to an allegedly illegal scheme to cover up his extra-marital affair,” ABC’s Bob Woodruff reports. “Edwards admitted the affair, with film producer Rielle Hunter, in an exclusive interview with ABC News in August 2008. ‘I made a very serious mistake. A mistake that I am responsible for and no one else,’ he said. Still, Edwards at the time vigorously denied allegations of a cover-up. ‘I have never paid a dime of money to any of the people that are involved,’ he said. ‘Nothing has been done at my request. So if the allegation is that somehow I participated in the payment of money, that is a lie. An absolute lie.’ But former Edwards campaign aide Andrew Young says Edwards was involved in a very big way. Young told ‘20/20’ in an exclusive interview last year that he knew of at least $1 million that Edwards himself had devoted to the cover-up.”

TUNE IN: RICK SANTORUM 2012 ANNOUNCEMENT COMING MONDAY. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is set to formally kick off his presidential campaign in Pennsylvania on Monday. But before he does, he will talk to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos first and exclusively on “Good Morning America” that morning. George invites you to send your questions for Santorum:

ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: HERMAN CAIN. ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl interview Republican presidential candidate and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain. Cain is in Washington for the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference and he’s been rising in the national polls since his performance at the first GOP debate in South Carolina last month. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.


HUNTSMAN’S BIG MONEY PLAY. “As he mulls jumping into the presidential race, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. is corralling some big GOP fund-raisers—and even a few who helped Hillary Clinton in 2008,” the Wall Street Journal’s Neil King reports. “A list of prominent Huntsman bundlers obtained by Washington Wire includes Georgette Mosbacher, a former Republican National Committee finance co-chairman, and John Mack, the Morgan Stanley chairman who was a big backer of President George W. Bush in 2004 but then switched parties to support Ms. Clinton in 2008. Also on the list are Peter Malone, a Massachusetts-based corporate adviser who raised more than $250,000 for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, and Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a former Democratic operative and Clinton bundler who accused then-Sen. Barack Obama of being “an elitist” after he beat Ms. Clinton in the primaries. Ms. de Rothschild then switched to support Mr. McCain. … Rounding up an array of bundlers is key to any early presidential campaign, but all the more so for a candidate like Mr. Huntsman, who has never run for office outside of Utah and isn’t well known nationwide.”

WAITING FOR GIULIANI. “After spending the day in New Hampshire, Rudy Giuliani says he has settled on a timeframe for making up his mind about entering the 2012 race,” Politico’s Maggie Haberman notes. “Late summer ‘seems like a natural period of time,’ the former New York City mayor said in an interview with POLITICO from New Hampshire. ‘I think during the summer people don’t pay as much attention.’ ‘I have the advantage of very high name-recognition,’ he added, explaining his decision to wait. Waiting until Labor Day would also Giuliani time to see how the field shakes out, including the effect from the heavily-watched Ames Straw Poll in Iowa, generally seen as the first major test of organizational strength. Despite being the national frontrunner and leading fundraiser of 2008, Giuliani placed fourth in the 2008 New Hampshire primary. Looking back, he said he regretted not doing the right type of retail politicking the last time around, but argued that the ‘Live Free or Die’ state -- where independents are the largest group of voters and can cast ballots in party primaries -- is a natural fit for him.”

BEING JOHN BOEHNER. “Forget the clichés about tightrope walking: [House Speaker John] Boehner doesn’t so much balance as barter—he trades at the highest levels on the biggest deals from a position of legislative strength as the leader of the House. But he must continuously earn and re-earn that position and the leverage that comes with it from his charges, especially the freshmen and those closest to Boehner who purport to speak and lobby on their behalf—Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California,” the National Journal’s Major Garrett writes. “His approach is not without risks. If, for instance, Boehner’s willingness to allow House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to craft a controversial 2012 budget resolution that would transform Medicare proves a political liability for Republicans -- as now seems to be the case -- Boehner (or his successor) could well conclude that more-centralized power is necessary. For now, though, the speaker seems intent on fulfilling his pledge to change the way the House operates. Three experiences from his short tenure provide a glimpse into Boehner’s bartering-for-power ways. … By all accounts, Boehner’s handling of Ryan’s budget, the CR, the F-35 second engine, and the PATRIOT Act has strengthened his speakership. But the debt-ceiling negotiations bring big challenges. Ironically, it was a legislative loss that has Boehner well situated to deal with the tests ahead. Every House Republican knows that Boehner could have played the prerogatives game and forced the second F-35 engine into law. That he didn’t, Republicans say, has given the speaker more flexibility and latitude. He will need all of both that he can get, because the issues and the negotiations will only get tougher.”

WHITE HOUSE WATCH. President Obama travels to Toledo, Ohio. There the President will tour Chrysler Group’s Toledo Supplier Park and will deliver remarks to plant workers.

NOTED: HERE COMES THE SUNLEN. Congratulations to ABC’s Sunlen Miller (@Sunlen Miller), whose last day on the ABC News White House team is today! Sunlen’s not going far -- just across town to Capitol Hill where she will join Jonathan Karl to cover Congress. Sunlen’s ABC colleagues , Jake Tapper, Stephanie Smith, Ann Compton, Jon Garcia, her successor, Mary Bruce, and several dozen friends will celebrate Sunlen’s years on the White House beat at a gathering in Washington tonight.


@ HotlineJosh : RT @carlquintanilla: Unclear how Obama is going to spin these #jobs numbers in Toledo. (Woulda been worse w/o stimulus" ringing hollow.)

@ DLeonhardt : Rarely smart to put too much weight on 1 jobs report. Problem is, this one is consistent with 5 prev months of bad GDP data.

@ jpaceDC : Will be interviewing White House economist Austan Goolsbee at 10am about the latest job numbers. What would you ask him?

@ newtgingrich : When I was Speaker we controlled spending, cut taxes and reformed govt. Created 8 mil+ jobs. With your help we can do it again.

@ NHPrimary2012 : Sarah Palin: I understand fish politics.


June 3-4: The Faith and Freedom Coalition holds a conference in Washington, DC. Confirmed speakers include Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Donald Trump.

June 3-5: Jon Huntsman holds events in New Hampshire. His trip will trip will focus on the Lakes Region and the North Country

June 5-12: Mike Huckabee will host the Alaska Freedom Cruise, a Christian-based cruise through Alaska.

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