On the Radar

Check ON THE RADAR regularly each week to read the latest reporting by award-winning WASHINGTON WEEK panelists.

November 22, 2011

Iowa beckons, and Mitt Romney is responding

By Dan Balz, Washington Post

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will make one of his infrequent visits to Iowa on Wednesday amid growing signs that he could try to steal a victory in a state that toppled his hopes of winning the party’s nomination in 2008. The recent opening of a campaign office in downtown Des Moines has generated fresh speculation about whether Romney is ramping up operations. Advisers say their strategy hasn’t changed. But circumstances certainly have, and Romney’s campaign appears ready to try to take advantage.

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Opposites Attract

By John Dickerson, Slate

If Mitt Romney is weak broth, Newt Gingrich is a bouillon cube. Watching the two Republican presidential front-runners in New Hampshire over two days has been a study in contrasts. Romney is a known conservative ingredient suitable in a main dish. Gingrich is a powerful dose of partisan flavor to be used sparingly. Gingrich is having his moment now because he offers punchy answers and ready solutions to seemingly insoluble problems. If he endures an examination of his personal baggage, his record on the issues, and his private-sector career, it will be in part because he is the “Republican Ideas Man.” But when you listen to those ideas—the scope of the change he is proposing, and the punch with which he delivers his pitch—you get the sense that that voters may not be interested in the Gingrich past because they’re too scared of the Gingrich future.

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As Deficit Panel Fails, Obama Vows to Keep Mandatory Cuts

By Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics

President Obama said Monday he will veto any attempt by Congress to undo the across-the-board spending cuts mandated for 2013 that were triggered when lawmakers' failed to agree on a more surgical plan to trim deficits over the next decade. "My message to them is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get of rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off-ramps on this one," Obama said from the White House briefing room.
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Supercommittee announces failure in effort to tame debt

By Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane, Washington Post

A special congressional committee created to try to curb the national debt abandoned its work and conceded failure Monday, the latest setback in a long effort by Washington to overcome ideological differences and stem the rising tide of red ink. In a joint statement issued hours before a midnight deadline, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the panel said that they were “deeply disappointed” by their inability to reach an agreement and that they hope for progress in the months ahead.

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Analysis of President Obama's Remarks on Super Committee Failure

By John Harwood, CNBC

CNBC's John Harwood weighs in on President Obama's comments on the failed deal to cut U.S. spending.

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Panel Fails to Reach Deal on Plan for Deficit Reduction

By Helene Cooper, New York Times

Leaders of the Congressional committee charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions conceded on Monday that panel members had failed, setting up what is likely to be a yearlong political fight over the automatic cuts to a broad range of military and domestic programs that would go into effect starting in 2013 as a result of their inability to reach a deal. Speaking an hour after the committee’s failure was announced by its leaders in an e-mail statement, President Obama promised to veto any legislation that seeks to avoid the automatic cuts. The president also pledged that “one way or another” the deficit would be trimmed by at least $2.2 trillion, the only question being whether it was with a “scalpel, not a hatchet.”

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Obama Weighed Risks of Engagement, and Decided to Give Voters the Final Say

By Jackie Calmes, New York Times

In remaining aloof from the special deficit committee in Congress even as it collapsed on Monday, President Obama showed his calculation more clearly than ever before: Republicans will never agree to raise taxes on the wealthy to balance any spending cuts, so let the voters decide. Congress could still reach a bipartisan compromise in the next month, or next year, to avoid the threat of automatic spending cuts, especially in military programs, in 2013. But the president is figuring that Congress will not, and he will campaign by contrasting what he calls his “balanced” approach to putting the nation on a solid fiscal footing to Republicans’ antitax reliance on spending cuts, especially for Medicare and Social Security.

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Analysis: End to debt gridlock is not in sight

By Charles Babington, Associated Press

The supercommittee's failure reflects the nation's divide: Americans crave both the Republicans' demand for low taxes and the Democrats' insistence on protecting social programs. So far, no group or leader has persuaded them they can't have both and there's no quick solution in sight. It's possible the stalemate won't be broken by the time of the 2012 elections, nearly a year away. Some GOP strategists think Republicans can oust President Barack Obama and win control of both chambers of Congress. That would enable them to enact much of their agenda, and Americans could render a judgment on its results.

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Super Committee Failure Won’t Hurt the Economy for Another Year

By Jim Tankersley, National Journal

A compromise in the super committee was never going to boost the economy right away. Failure will not hurt it, for at least another year. The across-the-board budget cuts that will now be triggered by the Budget Control Act are scheduled to take effect in 2013, when the Federal Reserve projects the U.S. economy will be growing at a 3.0-to-3.5-percent clip, or about double the growth rate today. The Bush tax cuts—which the super committee failed to find agreement on, as well—are set to expire in 2013, too.

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Super-Committee Failure Forecasts Sequester Fight

By Susan Davis, National Journal

The super committee’s failure to come up with $1.2 trillion in deficit-reduction measures has paved the way for an election-year battle by Republicans to rewrite the sequester rules and protect defense spending in the face of a White House veto threat. House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., a vocal opponent to the sequester from the onset, said on Monday that he will introduce legislation in the coming days to prevent the cuts from taking effect in their current form.

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November 21, 2011

The week ahead in Election 2012

By Nia Malika Henderson, Washington Post

It’s a short week, but a big week. Here’s what to watch in the week ahead: New Hampshire: Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. who has bet his entire campaign on a win in the Granite State, said last week that he didn’t “care what the rest of the country thinks or feels. That’s not important . . . I do care about what the people of New Hampshire feel, because this is important.”

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Iowa activists reevaluating Newt Gingrich’s candidacy

By Dan Balz, Washington Post

DENISON, Iowa - Nine months ago, on a frigid winter night, a small group of local Republican leaders gathered at Cronk’s Cafe in this small Iowa town to talk about the presidential campaign. They had a dim view of Newt Gingrich that night. Arlan Ecklund was outspoken in his criticism of the former House speaker. “I think he’s polarizing,” he said then. “I don’t think he’s electable.” Today, he has changed his mind. “The problems that face our nation are greater than they’ve ever been,” he said. “I believe he’s the one candidate who doesn’t need on-the-job training. . . . I think he is electable, even though he has some baggage.”

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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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November 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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