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!

Nov 21, 2011

  • McManus: Another presidential gene pool

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    A few weeks ago I wrote about an effort to put a centrist "third party" candidate on the presidential ballot next year, launched by an organization called Americans Elect. The privately funded group plans to stage a wide-open primary on the Internet, to enable voters to choose a ticket drawn from the middle of the political spectrum. Voters can propose anyone they like, but the process is designed for potential centrist candidates such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

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  • Romney Shifts in Iowa, Playing to Win Quickly

    By Jeff Zeleny, New York Times

    DES MOINES — The answer to one of the great lingering questions about the Republican presidential race has suddenly turned up here along Ingersoll Avenue, where Mitt Romney’s Iowa campaign headquarters is opening for business.

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  • The President's Agenda

    By David Wessel, Wall Street Journal

    For Alan Krueger, recently confirmed by the Senate to be chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, this is a second tour in the Obama administration. In 2009-10, he served as the Treasury's top economist. Last year he returned to Princeton University, where he is a professor of economics. But President Obama called him back this fall to join his economic team, calling particularly on Mr. Krueger's expertise on labor-market issues at a time of persistently high unemployment.

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  • Do Endorsements Matter?

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    The debate arises in every election year: Do endorsements matter? The answer: Sometimes. They can create momentum, or they can land with a thud. An endorsement that comes with a fundraising and grassroots network is the most coveted of all. If the candidate is running an insurgent, anti-establishment campaign, endorsements can actually be used by a rival as weapons.

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  • Fantasies of a Debt Deal From a Convivial Congress

    By John Harwood, The New York Times

    Let’s play Congressional supercommittee! — the fantasy football version. Democratic members, whose forebears created the entitlement programs that senior citizens cherish, really don’t want to cut them. But they fear that fiscal sanity requires it.

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Nov 18, 2011

  • Debt, elections prod GOP to ease anti-tax stance

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    The GOP's image as a rigidly anti-tax party is softening. Spurred by federal debt worries in Congress, the shift conceivably could reshape the Republican Party's brand ahead of the 2012 elections, forcing tough decisions by its presidential candidates. Some of the party's staunchest fiscal conservatives have surprised colleagues by saying targeted tax hikes are acceptable if they lead Democrats to accept deep government spending cuts.

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  • Prime-Mortgage Standards Tighter Than Pre-Boom Levels.

    By David Wessel, Wall Street Journal

    Lending standards for prime mortgages are tighter now than they were even prior to the housing boom. A chart accompanying the Capital column on mortgages this week showed graphically how lenders raised the bar on making loans after the housing bust — and still haven’t returned it to anything resembling what once was normal.

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  • Double Speak: Mitt Romney knows how badly it hurts to be called a flip-flopper. So that’s how he will portray the president.

    By Beth Reinhard and Ron Fournier, National Journal

    Rick Perry’s “oops” was the big story of last week’s Republican primary debate in Michigan. The far more significant moment came when front-runner Mitt Romney pronounced himself “a man of steadiness and constancy.” Cue the snickering: After all, Romney is a legendary shape-shifter who has changed his position on abortion, gay rights, climate change, immigration, and gun control.

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  • Clinton to Visit Myanmar as Activist Enters Politics Again

    By Jackie Calmes and Thomas Fuller, New York Times

    Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s most prominent democracy campaigner, announced on Friday that she would rejoin the political system of the military-backed government that persecuted her for more than two decades.

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  • Super Committee Struggles With Deficit Endgame

    By Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics

    “It’s tougher than you think,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra, a Democrat from California, as he exited another super committee meeting Thursday afternoon. The good news was that lawmakers were still talking as a Nov. 23 deadline approached. The bad news was that Democrats were huddled with themselves in the Capitol and not with the opposing party, while Republicans were dug in elsewhere. Each side taunted the other across acres of cold marble, quarreling about the meaning of “balance” when it comes to $1.2 trillion in future deficit reduction. Would balance be defined as 50-50 between spending cuts and tax hikes? Sixty-forty? Some now and some later?

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  • The Latest Non-Romney

    by John Dickerson, Slate

    Being the non-Mitt Romney candidate in the Republican field is like being the No. 3 leader of al-Qaida: You don't keep the job for long. Newt Gingrich's rise starts a Doomsday clock, which counts down the minutes from the time a campaign begins to rise until it collapses. This unscientific number is based on the flameout rate of Romney’s opponents. According to the RealClearPolitics poll averages, it took two months from when Michele Bachmann started her rise to when she started to fall. That was about the same amount of time it took for Herman Cain (though his zoom back to earth is still ongoing and presumably could reverse). For Rick Perry, it took three months for the turnaround.

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Nov 17, 2011

  • Indulging Iowa

    By Todd Purdum, Vanity Fair

    This year the Iowa caucus will give an early boost to Republican presidential candidates on the extreme conservative end of the spectrum—contenders who otherwise would fizzle out quickly. Who do Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Michele Bachmann have to thank for this electoral-college quirk? Liberal Democrats, naturally. Vanity Fair national editor Todd Purdum, in the first of a new series of online columns, looks back at the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections, which gave birth to the Iowa caucus—and speaks to Gary Hart, who was then George McGovern’s campaign manager. “I’ve said two or three times to Governor Vilsack of Iowa that I ought to have a statue on the capitol grounds,” says Hart. “I’ve done more for economic development there than anyone.”

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  • When are GOP candidates going to take on Herman Cain?

    By Gloria Borger, CNN

    It's hard to remember a presidential candidate who seemed more, er, unacquainted with the national dialogue -- or presidential prerequisites -- than Herman Cain.

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  • Distrust, Anxiety Rise as Super Committee Clock Ticks Down

    by Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics

    The political clash on Capitol Hill about the role and scope of government will continue no matter what the deficit-cutting congressional super committee does or fails to do by next week. President Obama, now out of the country, will return to Washington next week before the committee’s Nov. 23 deadline and decide how he will proceed if an ideologically divided Congress remains at loggerheads, unwilling to trust him or one another.

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  • Newt Gingrich faces big questions

    By Jonathan Martin and John F. Harris, POLITICO

    Newt Gingrich surging to the top of the Republican field? It’s a turn of events so improbable that even a political analyst as sympathetic as Newt Gingrich acknowledges that the latest poll numbers may turn out to be a short-lived fluke.

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  • Romney's Tea Party Firewall in Iowa

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney remains at the top of the polls in Iowa and many of his more tea-party friendly rivals are struggling to overcome major campaign gaffes. Eventually, those tea party activists will come around to Romney in their zeal to defeat President Obama, right?

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  • In debt talks’ new phase, blame game overshadows fiscal blueprint

    By Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane, Washington Post

    Negotiations over the national debt entered a troubling new phase Wednesday on Capitol Hill as lawmakers appeared to spend more time trading blame for the impasse than in talks aimed at developing a blueprint to reduce borrowing.

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  • Deficit Stalemate Signs Rise

    By Naftali Bendavid and Janet Hook, Wall Street Journal

    One week before Congress's deficit-cutting supercommittee hits its deadline, and with signs of stalemate increasing, lawmakers Wednesday grappled with the consequences of possible failure.

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  • Gingrich on Defensive Over Freddie Mac Fees

    By Jeff Zeleny and Trip Gabriel, New York Times

    For roughly six years, Newt Gingrich worked closely with high-level officials at the government-sponsored mortgage company Freddie Mac. As a highly paid consultant, he coached them on how to win over the conservatives who consider their company an anathema, spoke to their political action committee and offered general advice as they worked to stave off various threats to Freddie Mac’s survival, several people familiar with his role there said Tuesday.

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  • Obama says U.S. to reassert role as Pacific power

    By Christi Parsons, Los Angeles Times

    Confronting anxiety about China's growing political and economic clout, President Obama announced a strategic shift by the United States to reassert its role as the dominant military power in the Pacific as it pulls back from post-Sept. 11 wars.

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