TheDC Morning: The first person to blink in budget contest has to wax Joe Biden’s Trans-Am

Mike Riggs Contributor
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1.) Visine flying off D.C. shelves as budget staring contest drags on — “Will Republican House Speaker John Boehner leave the right wing flank of his caucus behind, securing a deal with Democratic votes? Or will President Obama, for instance, sell out environmentalists on strict EPA climate change regulations, or pressure Senate Democrats to back more significant cuts?” America needs to know, writes The Daily Caller’s Jonathan Strong. “The darkest hour is right before the dawn. Both sides now tell me they are more optimistic about avoiding a shutdown,” tweeted ABC’s Jon Karl. If true, it’s unlikely that Democrats stopped magically believing that the GOP will take the brunt of the blast if the budget stalemate leads to a shutdown, even though Republicans passed a budget in the middle of last month, and it’s more likely that House GOP leadership is preparing to piss off the Tea Party.

2.) Liberals who hated the ‘Roadmap’ feel begrudging affection for the ‘Path’ — Stop the presses: The New York Times’ David Leonhart and Slate’s Jacob Weisberg (a diehard neoliberal if ever there was one) have good things to say about Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity.” Leonhart writes that Ryan’s privatization plan, “[w]hether you like or loathe that idea, would undeniably reduce Medicare’s long-term funding gap — which is by far the biggest source of looming federal deficits.” Weisberg complisulted the plan as the modern GOP’s first “intellectually serious” policy proposal, and “a coherent vision to match [the GOP’s] rhetoric of limited government.” Weisberg added that it “will be hard to take [Democrats] seriously if they don’t respond with their own alternative path to debt reduction and long-term solvency.” The plan has its shortcomings, according to Leonhart. Namely, “it asks for a whole lot of sacrifice from everyone under the age of 55 and little from everyone 55 and over.” In a much more focused critique, NRO’s John Graham charges that “Ryan has surrendered critical ground on Medicare reform.”

3.) Are social cons ready to say Uncle? — “The culture wars of the 1990s have taken a back seat to the bread-and-butter economic concerns facing millions of Americans who are out of work or struggling to make ends meet,” writes National Journal. Mitt Romney, for instance, has spent more time trying to rationalize Romneycare than, say, touting his social con bona fides. And he’s not the only one: “Haley Barbour has focused more on his economic record, particularly working to rebuild the Mississippi coastline after Hurricane Katrina, than his conservative bona fides on abortion and gay marriage.” And Tim Pawlenty’s “two-minute kickoff video for his presidential exploratory committee focused entirely on jobs, spending and entitlements—with not a mention of values.” The ideological vanguards of the party aren’t exactly happy with the ever-diminishing focus on social issues. Which is why, says political consultant Rick Wilson, “[T]alking about a truce is politically not where you want to be. But having a de facto one instead of a de jure one is pretty smart.”

4.) Is George LeMieux pinned down by Charlie Crist’s shadow? — Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist “is reviled by much of the conservative base,” writes the St. Pete Times, “and there are few people more closely associated with him than LeMieux, his former chief of staff and so-called ‘maestro.'” Now, all the people who received a wedgie from Crist are going after his protege. “It’s like the Titanic as far as the albatross that will be hung around George LeMieux’s neck,” a Republican strategist in Tallahassee told the Times. “When it was cool to be a populist, George LeMieux had no problem supporting Charlie Crist and all that he did. As soon as the political winds changed, George became a conservative.” To paraphrase the sage Roger Simon: ZING POW OUCHIE BOO BOO!

5.) Here’s what happened in Wisconsin last night — “The Wisconsin supreme court race between conservative justice David Prosser and liberal assistant attorney general JoAnne Kloppenburg is coming down to the wire,” reports The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack. “With 99% of precincts reporting, Prosser has a 585-vote lead out of nearly 1.5 million ballots cast. The potentially bad news for Prosser is that of the 34 uncounted precincts, most of them are in counties that voted for Kloppenburg, including 12 in Milwaukee and 1 in Dane.” A victory by Kloppenburg would empower the Wisconsin Supreme Court to invalidate Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill. However, the “big fear that Walker’s budget-repair bill did serious political damage to Republicans has dissipated somewhat.” Most outlets are reporting that the race will be subjected to a recount.

6.) Despite help from feds, community colleges stuck in neutral
— The battle over gainful employment rules that would restrict indirect federal aid to for-profit colleges rages on. In the parallel universe of community colleges, which cull from the same pool of non-traditional and low-income students, a big piece of news has gone largely unnoticed by the mainstream press: The first 26 institutions to join the Achieving the Dream, a federal program intended to help poorly performing community colleges, “remained relatively unchanged after five years, despite the use of a variety of strategies to improve them.” According to Inside Higher Ed, “the average percentage of developmental students at these institutions who completed their remedial sequence within the first two years grew from 21 percent to 25.2 percent; the average number of completed credits by an individual student at these institutions within the first two years increased only from 22 to 24.5; and the overall average fall-to-fall persistence rate at these institutions rose from 46.2 percent to 49.5 percent.” In the month since the report was released, no congressman or federal bureaucrat has threatened to eliminate funding for community colleges or impose harsh rules. Instead, Achieving the Dream has released its own guidelines to help failing community colleges suck less.

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