Mitt Romney’s culture: After stepping on his toes in Israel this week by apparently blaming Palestinian economic woes on their inferior "culture," Mitt Romney denied yesterday that he was talking about Palestinian culture, even though he’s made that exact same argument many times before, including in his own book. But his denial only stoked the controversy, so Romney seems to have flipped back to his original position, or at least closer to it, writing an Op-Ed in the National Review late last night about how culture determines economic success. While he doesn’t mention the Palestinians specifically in the Op-Ed, it’s clearly the same argument. The quick placement in a conservative magazine suggests the Romney campaign is nervous about the controversy and is trying to put an end to it as soon as possible. But the Op-Ed may only prolong the maelstrom, as he can't seem to make up his mind which side of this argument he's on and appears weaselly in trying to have it both ways.
GOP mutiny on abortion votes: Some Republican lawmakers are growing increasingly frustrated with the House GOP’s rightward drift on social issues. Yesterday, Roll Call reports that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was confronted on the House floor by Republican Reps. Mary Bono Mac and Robert Dold “who were livid” that he had scheduled another tough abortion vote. “Are you kidding me? How many times are we going to vote on this?” Bono Mack reportedly told Cantor in the heated exchange. The vote was on the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have criminalized abortions in the nation's capital past 20 weeks of pregnancy. The House Republican majority came into power promising to focus on job creation, but the first vote they took was on abortion and there have been numerous other abortion votes since.
The House rejected the measure in a vote last night, but only because Republicans brought it to the floor under “suspension” rules, which require a two-thirds vote to pass.
Obama up in swing states thanks to women: A new Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll finds that President Obama leads Mitt Romney among likely voters in Ohio and Florida, and has a double-digit lead in Pennsylvania. The 11-point lead in the Keystone State is thanks to big margins among independents, who favor the president by 22 points, and women, who favor the president by 24 points. His 6-point lead in Ohio is also a product of women, who favor him by 21 points. he has a smaller margin among women in Florida.
Government shutdown averted: Congressional leaders agreed to a government funding deal yesterday that will avert a government shutdown when the fiscal year ends at the end of September. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid agreed to fund the government for six months at levels just slightly above current spending, the levels agreed to in last summer’s hard-fought debt deal. The quick resolution, in contrast with the bitter brinksmanship of 2011, when the government also shut down and the U.S. almost defaulted on its debt, demonstrates that neither party wants a major budget showdown just weeks before the November election.
Al-Qaida in decline? A new U.S. government report released yesterday claims that “Osama bin Laden's death sent al-Qaida into a decline that will be hard to reverse.” Describing 2011 as a "landmark year" in which the U.S. killed bin Laden and other top al-Qaida affiliates like Atiyah Abd al-Rahman and Anwar al-Awlaki, the State Department report said the terrorist organization is now lacking key leaders and organization that will make it difficult to regain strength in the future.