Steve Benen

Mitt Romney's $10,000 wager during Saturday night's debate has gotten all the post-debate attention. And that's a shame, because what Romney said after proposing the bet also deserves scrutiny. It was about health care reform and why he objects to the Affordable Care Act. Romney's answer was hypocritical -- and, more important, it was a flat-out lie.  Put aside, for the moment, the question of whether Romney was dissembling about his previous statements on the individual mandate.

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There's been an interesting debate burbling under the surface the past few weeks over whether the Obama reelection team faces a condundrum in deciding to frame Mitt Romney primarily as a flip-flopper or as the standard-bearer for an extremist Republican Party.

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Quickly today, because I'm still swamped with reporting. The Republican War on Voting. David Savage of the the Los Angeles Times reports. Steve Benen and Joan McCarter discuss.  Paul Ryan seems unhappy. E.J. Dionne does not. The secret of Elizabeth Warren. Dana Milbank explains. The cruelest cuts. Benjamin Dueholm in the Washington Monthly describes what austerity budgets mean for foster parents.  Photo of the day: From my kitchen, above. Yes, I live in a house full of math geeks. Video of the day: Below. Going with the theme.

A week after introducing his jobs proposal, President Obama has hit a few obstacles. Republican leaders are criticizing the proposal more loudly than before. A failed green energy investment has much of Washington thinking scandal. And the polls still look pretty grim.  So what’s Obama doing now? Exactly what he was doing before: Campaigning loudly, and insistently, for the jobs bill. That’s a really good thing – although he's going to need some help. And he's going to need it soon. The speech Obama gave last Thursday was everything it needed to be.

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Liberals hoping for a tougher, more passionate President Obama might want to check out what he said in Detroit on Monday. Speaking in front of a General Motors plant that might be shuttered if not for his administration's policies, Obama gave a feisty, pointed speech about jobs and the economy -- and, perhaps, a hint of what's to come on Thursday, when he addresses the same topics before a joint session of Congress. Obama told the crowd he didn't want to reveal too much of what he'll say in that speech and avoided getting overly specific on policy.

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Monthly job losses, graphic by Steve Benen The August jobs report is out from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And it is ugly. Via Neil Irwin of the Washington Post: Job creation came to a halt in August, according to new government data that show an economic recovery that appears to be puttering out. The Labor Department on Friday reported zero net job creation in August, far worse than the 68,000 net jobs analysts had expected to be added. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 9.1 percent.

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Steve Benen thinks Republicans want to extend the payroll tax cut, but plan to hold it hostage to tax cuts for the rich: If I had to guess, I’d say Republicans probably support an extension of the payroll tax cut, but just aren’t willing to say so. Why not? Because then they lose leverage — GOP officials know the White House wants this, and if they simply agree to pass the measure, they won’t get anything extra out of the deal. Hostage strategies have become an instinctual norm for Republicans. I really don't think that's right.

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President Obama on Tuesday reiterated his insistence that Republicans agree to a “balanced” deficit reduction package that includes both spending cuts and new taxes. It was good to hear Obama make that argument again and, better still, to hear him make it so emphatically. But what exactly does he mean? Recent reports suggest that the administration would agree to a deal including about $2 trillion in reduced spending and about $400 billion in increased revenue.

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor wants to make clear that the Republican Party leadership isn't preparing to give up on Paul Ryan's budget and its proposal to end Medicare as we know it. "Our position is the Ryan budget," a Cantor spokesperson told Politico last night.  But reading between the lines of various media accounts in the last 24 hours, it seems like the Republicans are ready to back off. And it's not really surprising. Senate Democrats have said they would not pass such a proposal. President Obama has said he would not sign one.

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A fair amount of momentum is building among liberals (see Senator Bernie Sanders, or bloggers Scott Lemieux and Steve Benen) for the idea that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should bring the House-passed budget resolution—more popularly known as the Ryan plan—to the floor for a vote. Reid is apparently ready to follow their lead. The theory is that it would be a tough vote for Senate Republicans, who will face pressure from movement conservatives to vote yes but don’t want to be on record endorsing, in the Democrats’ terms, slashing Medicare to pay for tax cuts for the rich.

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