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!

Jan 03, 2012

  • GOP Race has Yet to Fully Test Romney

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    Mitt Romney's surprisingly easy rise to the top of Iowa presidential polls, aided by his GOP rivals' in-fighting, masks vulnerabilities he will have to confront eventually. Even if he wins Tuesday's caucus, Romney has yet to excite his party's restless conservative base. Mitt Romney's surprisingly easy rise to the top of Iowa presidential polls, aided by his GOP rivals' in-fighting, masks vulnerabilities he will have to confront eventually. Even if he wins Tuesday's caucus, Romney has yet to excite his party's restless conservative base.
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    GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney (CNN)

  • Iowa's Field of Mediocrities

    By John F. Harris and Alexander Burns, Politico

    The candidates say it on debate stages. Voters say it at campaign rallies. It is a staple of Republican rhetoric that 2012 is the most fateful election in decades — a big and perilous moment around which national destiny will hinge. Here’s what does not get said as often: This big moment on history’s stage is being filled by politicians who so far have looked way too small for the occasion.
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  • Twisting Race Hits First Turn as Iowa Votes

    By Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny, New York Times

    Mitt Romney has grown so confident of his Iowa prospects that on Monday night he dropped all humble pretense and proclaimed, “We’re going to win this thing.” At the same time, Rick Santorum insisted that his momentum carried its own whiff of victory. Both might be right.
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  • Iowa Caucuses: One Day Out

    By Karen Tumulty and David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post

    One candidate made an appearance with the world’s largest tractor. Another showed up with the Duggars, the nation’s most famous large family. There were two Pauls in Des Moines and six Romneys in Davenport. This is Iowa, the day before the circus leaves town.
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  • Even Despots Don't Live Forever

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    It was a bad year for the villains of the world. Three of the biggest bad guys met their ends: Osama bin Laden, killed by U.S. commandos who stormed his villa in Pakistan in May; Moammar Kadafi, killed by Libyan insurgents who captured him (with the help of a NATO airstrike) in October; and Kim Jong Il, the ruler of North Korea, who died Dec. 17, reportedly of a heart attack.
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  • GOP Race for Iowa & 2012 Election

    With John Harwood, CNBC

    CNBC's John Harwood has the GOP candidate standings in Iowa.

    Watch video on CNBC

  • Obama's 2011: Defiance Sets Tone for '12

    By Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics

    What did President Obama learn about governance in 2011? His detractors say "not enough." But his Democratic base thinks he's finally listening to them, and looking tougher as a result. It was a year in which the economy and Congress were both stalled, and Americans were roughly divided about the job the president was doing. Obama began the year by talking up spending freezes, smaller deficits and "winning the future" for the American economy.
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  • Santorum's Last Stand in State of Fence-Sitters

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Bullhorn in hand, Rick Santorum made his final pitch. It was his 380th or so event in the state that will launch the Republican nominating process. "Lead and be bold,'' he urged his audience, his words echoing back at him from the televisions in the Pizza Ranch restaurant tuned to C-SPAN. "If you do those two things, you will have done your jobs as Iowans.''
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  • Ron and Rand Paul, a Double Dose of Liberty

    By Nia-Malika Henderson, Washington Post

    It’s never too early to start thinking about 2016. As Rep. Ron Paul, the oldest candidate in the Republican field, heads into what could be his final Iowa caucuses, his motley band of supporters is buzzing about a second coming — Sen. Rand Paul.
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  • Will the Nominee Shape the GOP, or Will the GOP Shape the Nominee?

    By Dan Balz, Washington Post

    As Republicans begin choosing a general-election candidate here Tuesday night, one question could shape the destiny of the eventual winner: Will the nominee define the party, or will the party define the nominee? Successful presidential nominees often have helped redefine their parties. Ronald Reagan’s conservatism changed the Republican Party when he became its nominee in 1980.
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  • Why Santorum's Uncompromising Style is Pushing Him to the Top in Iowa.

    By John Dickerson, Slate

    You know you've arrived as a candidate in this state when you can't talk to actual voters. At the Reising Sun Cafe in Polk City, Iowa, on Monday, it was all madness and jostle as the press from all over the world swarmed to cover the latest hot candidate, Rick Santorum. Fussy foreign journalists whistled in winter jackets, tripods poked unmentionable places, and heavy cameras swung with a threat of contusion
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Dec 30, 2011

  • GOP Candidates on a Mad Dash in Iowa

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    Iowa's GOP presidential contest remains deeply unsettled, if not downright strange, just days before the Tuesday caucus. Rep. Ron Paul, drawing big crowds, got a surprise endorsement Wednesday night from Rep. Michele Bachmann's now-former state chairman. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, who has languished for months, suddenly seems to have momentum, just as ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich may be losing his. And Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who began the campaign by de-emphasizing Iowa, might be poised to finish on top.
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  • Romney Looks More Confident in Iowa Vote Run-Up

    By Sam Youngman, Reuters

    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign has a hint of a swagger about it as a good showing looks more likely next week in the Iowa caucuses, where his 2008 campaign crashed badly. While his staff dampened expectations of winning the caucuses vote this time, large crowds gathered at Romney events in the state and his Iowa poll numbers increased again.
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    GOP Candidate Mitt Romney at a recent campaign stop in Iowa (CNN)

  • Oops! That Was the Year that Wasn't

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    A year ago, soon after the Tunisian uprising, I demonstrated my powers of prediction in a column about the democracy movement in the Arab world. The revolution in Tunisia, I wrote, "arose from local circumstances that don't foretell what will happen anywhere else." Three weeks later, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak fell, and the Arab Spring was in full bloom. This brings me to the subject of today's column: A confession of my year's errors and omissions (along with a mention of one or two things I got right).
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  • Take That!

    By Todd S. Purdum, Vanity Fair

    There is no more perennial, or potentially perilous, reality of the modern presidential campaign than the planned, canned, not-always-grand one-liner—as this year’s Republican primary has reminded the world. Herman Cain’s whole campaign, to be honest, was a string of one-liners, until the punchlines ultimately knocked him out. Michele Bachmann has gotten off more than her share, including her description of her interchangeable, ersatz-conservative rivals as “Newt Romney,” and her one-word-association for Romney, when asked: “Hair.”
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  • Let the Election Games Begin

    With John Harwood, CNBC

    CNBC's John Harwood previews the Iowa Caucuses

    Watch Video on CNBC

  • Ron Paul's Fans: Will They Vote GOP in 2012?

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Allen Huffman wouldn’t even be a Republican if not for Ron Paul. The Texas congressman’s promise to get rid of the income tax prompted the 42-year-old to register with the GOP and to caucus for Paul in 2008. Huffman has participated in phone banks at Paul’s campaign office about a dozen times in recent weeks, but don’t expect him to volunteer if Paul is not the GOP nominee.
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  • Romney Prepares Aggressive Iowa Finish

    By Philip Rucker and Dan Balz, Washington Post

    Mitt Romney unveiled plans Thursday for an aggressive finishing sprint in Iowa designed to lock down a victory in Tuesday’s caucuses that would leave his rivals scrambling to catch up. Romney is far from a clear favorite in Iowa: Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) continues to show strength in the polls and is banking on a well-regarded organization, and former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) is on the rise. But no campaign can match Romney’s for the breadth and depth of its infrastructure, and for the first time the weapons he can deploy are all on display.
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Dec 29, 2011

  • Could Romney Score an Early Knockout?

    By Sam Youngman and Jeff Mason, Reuters

    Mitt Romney's campaign did its best on Wednesday to lower expectations, but no one was really buying it. As six of the contenders for the Republican nomination for president barnstormed across Iowa, there was a clear sense that Romney could be in position to lock down the nomination far sooner than could have been expected just a few days ago.
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  • Odd Notes, Mad-Dash Trips Mark Iowa Closing Sprint

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    Iowa's GOP presidential contest remains deeply unsettled, if not downright strange, five days before the Jan. 3 caucus. Rep. Ron Paul, drawing big crowds, got a surprise endorsement Wednesday night from Rep. Michele Bachmann's now-former state chairman. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, who has languished for months, suddenly seems to have momentum, just as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich may be losing his.
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