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 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.

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  • 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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  • White House Lays Low as Birth Control Dispute Heats Up

    By Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics

    If the White House had been searching for an issue that could draw sharper contrasts with Republicans over women's health, economic opportunities and freedom, a skirmish with Catholic bishops and others over a requirement that health insurance cover contraception costs might just do it. For yet another day, the White House hung back while the discussion in Washington took on distinctly partisan and gender-rich overtones.
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  • Rick Santorum’s Strategy of Focusing on Low-Key Races Paid Off

    By Rosalind S. Helderman and Nia-Malika Henderson, Washington Post

    Rick Santorum and his supporters moved quickly Wednesday to raise money and redirect their efforts after a surprising Tuesday sweep of three contests again put the former senator from Pennsylvania in position to contend for the Republican nomination. Santorum held a fundraiser in Texas on Wednesday and plans to do the same in Oklahoma on Thursday. His campaign reported raising a quarter of a million dollars after his victories in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado.
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Feb 08, 2012

  • The Vest Man Won

    By John Dickerson, Slate

    Mitt Romney sure hopes there's a safety net. His campaign needs it. His cautious and measured run for the presidency has been thrown off stride by Rick Santorum's victories Tuesday in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri. The GOP nominating race has become a clash of vampires and zombies. Candidates like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich appear to die only to rise again, while Mitt Romney walks around not quite alive.
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    Rick Santorum speaks in St. Charles, MO after his multiple wins (CNN)


  • Romney Hits Speed Bump Named Santorum

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Rick Santorum's unlikely sweep of three Republican contests on Tuesday punctured the aura of inevitability surrounding Mitt Romney's claim to the nomination and nursed the niggling perception that the front-runner can't close the deal with conservatives. Romney won Minnesota and Colorado in his 2008 presidential bid. On Tuesday, he came in third and second place, respectively. He also lost to Santorum in Missouri.
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  • Obama Campaign Fears Being Sharply Outspent by GOP Super PACs

    By Dan Eggen and Dan Balz, Washington Post

    The Obama campaign, which shattered all records for political fundraising in 2008, has concluded that it could be dramatically outspent this year by the GOP nominee and allied conservative groups, which are able to tap a deep well of money unavailable in previous contests, according to senior aides and advisers.
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  • Victory for Same-Sex Marriage Advocates

    With Pete Williams, NBC News

    Pete Williams reports on the Federal Appeals Court decision on California's same-sex marriage ban.

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  • Obama Tries to Ease Ire on Contraception Rule

    By Helene Cooper and Katharine Q. Seelye, New York Times

    Facing vocal opposition from religious leaders and an escalating political fight, the White House sought on Tuesday to ease mounting objections to a new administration rule that would require health insurance plans — including those offered by Catholic universities and charities — to offer birth control to women free of charge.
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  • Newt and Mitt: Two Guys with Issues

    By Gloria Borger, CNN

    So after all of this drama in the Republican race, we have two major candidates with some very basic questions left unanswered: For Mitt Romney, it's the most basic query of all -- "Who am I?" (Moderate or conservative? Warm or cold? Very rich or very, very rich?) As for Newt Gingrich, he's got to explain to voters that "I'm-not-who-you-think-I-am." (And then behaves as the angry, unpredictable man they think he is.)
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Feb 07, 2012

  • Appeals Court Strikes Down Calif.'s Gay Marriage Ban

    By Joan Biskupic, USA TODAY

    A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down California's ban on same-sex marriage, declaring that the 2008 prohibition served "no purpose … other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California." The 2-1 decision, a victory for challengers of Proposition 8 yet narrowly crafted, is the latest in a years-long saga playing out in California but reverberating nationwide.
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  • Syria Peace Prospects Look Grim as U.S. Closes Embassy

    By Hannah Allam and Jonathan S. Landay, with Nancy Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers

    The United States scrambled Monday to salvage an Arab peace initiative aimed at halting Syria's descent into all-out civil war, closing the U.S. Embassy in Damascus and deliberating with European and Arab allies on other measures aimed at forcing President Bashar Assad to surrender power.
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  • Clint Eastwood Gives America a Pep Talk

    By John Dickerson, Slate

    Did the first Obama re-election ad run during the Super Bowl? You might have missed it since the president wasn't even mentioned. It was a Chrysler ad, although even that wasn’t obvious. Instead, more than 111 million viewers were greeted by that tough-talking American icon Clint Eastwood as he delivered what amounted to a locker room speech to the country.
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  • Syria in Crisis as Government Attacks Continue

    With Martha Raddatz, ABC News

    Martha Raddatz discusses the deteriorating situation in the Middle East.

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  • Hoekstra Super Bowl Ad Draws Criticism

    By Naftali Bendavid, Wall Street Journal

    Former Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who’s hoping to unseat Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow in Michigan, is facing criticism for 30-second ad that aired in Michigan during the Super Bowl and features an Asian woman speaking broken English. In the ad, the woman rides a bike through rice paddies as Asian-sounding music plays in the background.
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  • Obama Yields in Marshaling of ‘Super PAC’

    By Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg, New York Times

    President Obama is signaling to wealthy Democratic donors that he wants them to start contributing to an outside group supporting his re-election, reversing a long-held position as he confronts a deep financial disadvantage on a vital front in the campaign.
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Feb 06, 2012

  • Obama Holds Edge Over Romney in General Election Matchup, Poll Finds

    By Dan Balz and Jon Cohen, Washington Post

    Boosted by improved public confidence in his economic stewardship, President Obama for the first time holds a clear edge over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in a hypothetical general-election matchup, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Romney, who notched his second consecutive victory Saturday by easily winning the Nevada caucuses, continues to solidify his position as the front-runner in the race for the GOP nomination. But as the contest has grown more negative, public impressions of the top Republican contenders have soured, as has the former Massachusetts governor’s standing as a general-election candidate.
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    Mitt Romney celebrates a decisive victory in the Nevada Caucuses (CNN)

  • Minnesota a 'Tossup' for GOP Candidates

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    When former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was campaigning for the Republican nomination, he frequently joked about hailing from the state that elected liberal icons such as Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey -- and here comes the punch line -- Al Franken, the comic-turned-senator. But running alongside the state’s progressive streak is a conservative insurgency that is personified by Pawlenty’s one-time rival for the White House, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and that helped the GOP in 2010 take over both chambers of the Minnesota legislature for the first time in nearly four decades.
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  • Birth-Control Fight Unlikely to Hurt Obama, his Strategists Say

    By Kathleen Hennessey and Christi Parsons, Los Angeles Times

    Even as angry Catholic leaders vow to fight a new federal requirement that most employers include contraceptives in their health insurance coverage, the Obama administration believes any political damage will be limited because it's on the side of women's rights.
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