Essential Reads

Essential Reads is your one-stop source for the top stories of the day as reported by your favorite Washington Week panelists. It's a simple way to save time and stay informed about the news you need to know. Check it out every day!

Feb 15, 2012

  • Can Rick Santorum become more than ‘not Romney’?

    By Dan Balz, The Washington Post

    This is Rick Santorum’s week — in the polls, that is. It was his week last week, too, at least on Tuesday night, when he won Republican presidential primary contests in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado. He got no guaranteed delegates, but those victories surely turned him into the latest matinee idol of conservatives and gave him a tremendous boost in the polls.

     

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  • Obama welcomes Chinese vice president at start of U.S. tour

    By Christi Parsons, Los Angeles Times

    President Obama greeted the Chinese heir apparent in the Oval Office on Tuesday morning, a venue where the U.S. president usually receives only the nation's closest friends. But even as the two countries eye one another warily, the Obama administration wants to keep its options open with Vice President Xi Jinping as he prepares to take his place as president next year.

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Feb 14, 2012

  • Obama Budget Optimistic on Economic Growth, Again

    By Jim Tankersley, National Journal

    President Obama’s economists are nothing if not optimistic. In the fiscal year 2013 presidential budget request, they’ve once again forecast higher future growth than their private-sector peers – about a half-point of gross domestic product growth more, per year, than the 45 economists included in the Philadelphia Fed’s Survey of Professional Forecasters.
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    President Obama's FY 2013 Budget (CNN)

  • Because I Said So

    By John Dickerson, Slate

    William Buckley famously said that a conservative was someone who stood athwart history yelling stop. Mitt Romney, who says he is "severely conservative," would presumably point at history with a shotgun. The ad-libbed phrase in Romney's speech to CPAC last Friday was new, but the style was familiar. Romney is an assertion candidate rather than a persuasion candidate. He declares something and voters are meant to believe that it is so.
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  • U.S. General Prepared for Iranian Aggression

    With Martha Raddatz, ABC News

    Iran accused of plotting car bomb attacks against diplomats in India, Georgia.
    Watch Video on ABC News

  • Polls Show Rick Santorum Virtually Tied with Mitt Romney Nationally

    By Karen Tumulty and Amy Gardner, Washington Post

    With two new polls showing underdog Rick Santorum gaining on front-runner Mitt Romney among Republicans nationally, the contenders for the GOP presidential nomination are taking advantage of a lull between primary contests to stockpile resources and rally supporters for the next phase of the race.
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  • Heaviest 2013 Defense Budget Cuts Would Fall on Troops

    By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers

    As the Pentagon sought to show Monday that it had made tough spending decisions in its fiscal 2013 budget proposal, the brunt of the reductions would fall on U.S. ground troops, which face job losses, modest pay raises and increased health care costs while serving in a smaller force.
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Feb 13, 2012

  • Obama Budget is Preview of Election Battle

    By Kathleen Hennessey and Christi Parsons, Los Angeles Times

    President Obama's 2013 budget, scheduled for release Monday, offers a preview of the November election as both parties angle to refine the vision they hope to sell to voters. Obama's plan and the House Republicans' answer, due in the spring, are aimed as much at offering voters a choice as at promoting policies destined for enactment.
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  • Election 2012: Republicans united on Goal — Beat Obama — Divided on How to Get There

    By Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

    What in the world is the matter with the Republican Party? This is an election year when pretty much everything should be going the GOP’s way. A Democratic president is facing the worst reelection environment in a generation. The conservative base is fired up to defeat him and should be riding high after securing the largest GOP House majority since the 1940s. Looser campaign finance restrictions have unleashed the ability of the party’s wealthiest donors to spend unlimited amounts.
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    Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney Campaigning (CNN)

  • Contraception Debate Drowns Out Budget Talk

    By Jackie Calmes, New York Times

    The new White House chief of staff, Jacob J. Lew, made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows to discuss the budget that President Obama is to release on Monday, but instead he was forced repeatedly to defend the administration’s effort to guarantee that insurers cover birth control for women in the face of criticism from religious groups.
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  • Rick Santorum's Popularity Rising

    With John Harwood, CNBC

    Rick Santorum is "clearly rising" in public opinion polls in his race against the other GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, reports CNBC's John Harwood: "It's a very, very unusual race," he adds.

    Watch Video on CNBC

  • Obama Pitches Middle While GOP Eyes Base

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    The dustup over contraception underscored President Barack Obama's political edge in working to attract independent voters without alienating his Democratic base. His Republican rivals are forced to keep emphasizing their conservative credentials to attract the right-leaning activists who dominate the nominating contests.
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Feb 10, 2012

  • CPAC Buzz Reflects Disenchantment With GOP Field

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    At last year’s annual gathering of conservative activists, anticipation ran high about a bevy of bold, charismatic Republicans like Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, and Rep. Paul Ryan who seemed poised to make President Obama a short-timer in Washington. One year later, Daniels, Christie, and Ryan aren’t running for president, and many of the voters at the Conservative Political Action Conference are still looking for a standard-bearer. Nine months out from Election Day, a surprising number of people here are unsatisfied with the Republican field, weary of the increasingly bitter primary and desperate for positive inspiration.
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    CPAC 2012 in Washington, DC (CNN)

  • A Game of Two Halves

    By Greg Ip, The Economist

    Even people who don’t normally care much for football tune in to the Super Bowl to watch the best commercials Madison Avenue can dream up. The most talked about this year was Chrysler’s gritty tribute to the economic revival of America and Detroit. More short film than commercial, it ends with the actor Clint Eastwood huskily declaring that “Our second half is about to begin.”
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  • GOP Candidates to Woo Conservatives at Big Event

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    Three of the four GOP presidential candidates are addressing a major conservative gathering in Washington, giving them a high-profile stage to reshape their messages at a moment of uncertainty in the contest. Former Sen. Rick Santorum rocked the Republican world this week by winning caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota, plus a nonbinding primary in Missouri.
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  • Obama’s Approval Numbers Climb

    By Naftali Bendavid, Wall Street Journal

    The recent run of positive economic news, modest though it may be, appears to be sinking in with voters and giving President Barack Obama his best approval numbers in a while. The latest Gallup tracking poll shows more people approving of Mr. Obama’s job performance than disapproving, by a 49%-45%. Those numbers are not overwhelming, but the trend is unmistakably good for Mr. Obama; it’s the first time he’s been in positive territory since the start of this year.
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  • The Last, Best Hope for Conservatives

    By John Dickerson, Slate

    At CPAC in 2011, Newt Gingrich took the stage to the stirring sound of Survivor's 1980’s rock anthem "Eye of the Tiger." He walked deliberately through the crowd. Here was Caesar returning from the wars. Tomorrow Gingrich will speak again at the same gathering, but the conservative who most deserves the dramatic, fist-pumping greeting is his presidential rival Rick Santorum: the lonely warrior who has triumphed without playing a soundtrack of self-regard, without the ready millions of Gingrich's gambling-magnate patron, and despite more derision from the elite media than Gingrich has faced.
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Feb 09, 2012

  • Mitt Romney and the Enthusiasm Gap

    By Dan Balz, Washington Post

    In the aftermath of Rick Santorum’s clean sweep of Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, Mitt Romney is still, in fact, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. But the lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy among conservatives foreshadows a potentially ugly road ahead to the party’s convention in Tampa and general-election problems if he becomes the nominee.
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  • Republicans Measure Up GOP Candidates

    With John Harwood, CNBC

    Republican activists are not enthusiastic about Mitt Romney because they don't feel he shares the same things that they feel the most passionately about says CNBC's John Harwood.

    Watch Video on CNBC

  • Romney Faces Rebels on the Right and Softness in the Middle

    By Jeff Zeleny, New York Times

    The Republican Party may never have been destined to fall in love with Mitt Romney, but even persuading voters to fall in line behind his candidacy is proving far more taxing than he had once hoped. The rejection from Republican voters in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri on Tuesday is more likely to slow, rather than derail, his path to the party’s presidential nomination. Yet a new competition with Rick Santorum and a lingering feud with Newt Gingrich will consume the attention of Mr. Romney, forcing him to guard his right flank rather than turn his attention to President Obama.
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