Sahil Kapur

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.

Articles by Sahil

GOP stalwart Haley Barbour argued Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that Hurricane Sandy worked to President Obama's political benefit in the election.

"The hurricane is what broke Romney's momentum," he said. "I don't think there's any question about it."

"Any day that the news media is not talking about jobs and the economy, taxes and the economy, deficits and debt, Obamacare and energy, is a good day for Barack Obama. You had a blackout on all of those issues that started about last Saturday and lasted until about yesterday -- that is what really was good for Barack Obama. Now whether it was good enough remains to be seen."

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) responded Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" to Senate Majority Leader's Harry Reid's (R-NV) statement that it's a "fantasy" for Mitt Romney to expect Senate Democrats to help pass his conservative agenda.

"[Romney] said he's going to reach across the aisle and find common ground, and to have that kind of response from Democrats in Congress is -- it's discouraging," he said. "But look, I think at the end of the day, even Harry Reid and even the Democrats who might take that point of view at this point are going to say, we've got to solve these problems."

"And so I'm hopeful that those were just political comments made in the heat of a campaign."

Appearing Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) defended a recent Mitt Romney ad implying that Jeep is outsourcing its production to China is "accurate" -- something Jeep itself has denied.

Host Candy Crowley pressed him on the ad, noting that Chrysler itself called it false and asked him, "Why not take this one down?" She said the Romney campaign is alone in thinking it's accurate. 

"First of all, the ad is accurate," Portman said, defending the technical claim in the ad that Jeep is producing more in China "for the Chinese market, and that's all the ad says."

The Romney surrogate defended the Republican nominee's stance on the auto bailout, arguing that he had a plan to save the ato makers.

Chicago Mayor and former Obama White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel on Sunday defended the president against Rudy Giuliani's charge of inconpetence on Benghazi.

"On Benghazi also, the president's done exactly what a president should do. 'I want to report an investigation of what happened, I want to know who's responsible' -- just like he did with [Anwar] Awlaki and just like he did with Osama bin Laden," he said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"Let's not politicize this," he said, arguing that if the investigation founds that a mistake was made, "then you fix it."

The author of a Congressional Research Service study, who found no evidence that tax cuts for high income earners lead to economic growth, is standing by his work, after the legislative branch's nonpartisan research arm withdrew the report under pressure from Republican leaders. And Democratic principals are demanding to know why CRS caved to GOP pressure.

CRS quietly and quickly pulled the six-week old report, despite the wishes of the research arm's economic team, the New York Times reported Thursday.

"I wasn't involved in the decision, as a matter of fact I was on vacation when the decision was made, so I can't really add anything to what was reported in the NY Times," Thomas Hungerford, the author of the study, told TPM in an email Thursday afternoon. "However, I certainly stand behind my work."

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Florida remains a tossup, but a new survey points to one key reason Mitt Romney is polling well in a state where he was trailing not long ago: President Obama's advantage on Medicare is essentially gone.

The president holds a 46-41 percent lead over Romney on who Americans trust to handle Medicare, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Wednesday, barely outside the survey's 4 percent margin of error. That's an 11-point swing from last month, when Obama was leading by 52 to 36 percent.

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The outcome of the presidential election won't be known until late Tuesday night -- at the very earliest. But the results of House races will begin to trickle in early, and a few key bellwethers will signal which party's having a good night well before the next president accepts a concession call from his opponent.

Here are 10 swing races on the East Coast and in the Midwest to use as an election night barometer, selected by TPM based on input from Republican and Democratic aides who closely monitoring them.

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One week away from election day, Mitt Romney's campaign is assuring voters in the critical state of Ohio that Roe v. Wade, the legal underpinning of a woman's right to have an abortion, will remain in tact if the Republican nominee is elected president.

But judicial scholars, and conservative abortion foes couldn't disagree more. They note that a President Romney would very likely have an opportunity to replace one of the Supreme Court's five remaining pro-Roe justices, and would be betraying decades of conservative efforts if he nominated a justice who wasn't personally committed to overturning the precedent.

"[Norm] Coleman is out there as a Romney surrogate running up the white flag of surrender on the sanctity of human life -- 'it's not going to be reversed,'" said Bryan Fischer, a top official at the socially conservative American Family Association, in an email to TPM. "The next president will likely appoint two or three justices to the Supreme Court, and it's entirely possible, even likely, that the Court will take up a case before too long that could go right to the heart of Roe. Romney has pledged to appoint originalist judges who will overturn Roe should that day come, and this would be an excellent time for him to reiterate that promise."

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During the Republican primary Mitt Romney pitched himself to a skeptical GOP base as a "severely conservative" candidate, a sale he tried to close by selecting Paul Ryan as his running mate. But in his closing pitch to the general electorate, he promises to be a starkly different president than the one he presented to Republican voters.

In reconfiguring his image to soften his hard-edged positions from the primary, Romney's shifts have mostly involved subtle tweaks to his policy platform that complement his vastly changed rhetoric, aimed at selling himself as a peace-loving moderate who will unite the country.

Here are five changed stances that reflect Romney's evolution.

1) I Won't Cut Taxes For The Rich

While battling conservatives for his party's nomination, Romney unveiled a tax reform proposal built around lowering individual rates across the board by 20 percent. It would mean a tax cut for every American, he declared.

"We're going to cut taxes on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent," Romney said during a GOP primary debate in February.

But in the general election, painted by President Obama as a candidate mainly interested in serving the wealthy, he introduced a new component: the rich won't actually get a tax cut because he'd close deductions and loopholes for high incomes.

"I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans," Romney said during the first debate with Obama, in Denver. In a subsequent debate, he said, "I'm not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people. I am looking to cut taxes for middle-income people."

2) 'Regulation Is Essential'

Central to Romney's pitch to Republican primary voters was that he would unshackle businesses from "crippling" over-regulation by the Obama administration.

The Dodd-Frank financial reform law, he said back in February, is "paralyzing lending to entrepreneurs, killing small banks, crippling small businesses, driving down the value of housing and creating corrupting Washington controls over the biggest banks."

This month, while debating Obama, he talked up the need for government regulations.

"Regulation is essential," he said. "You can't have a free market work if you don't have regulation. You couldn't have people opening up banks in their garage and giving loans. ... There's some parts of Dodd-Frank that make all the sense in the world."

3) Romneycare Shows My 'Empathy And Care'

Facing criticism from conservatives during primary season for enacting a law in Massachusetts that became the model for Obamacare, Romney worked to distance himself from Romneycare.

"It's not even perfect for Massachusetts," he told the Washington Examiner's Byron York last December. "At the time we created it, I vetoed several measures and said these, I think, are mistakes, and you in Massachusetts will find you have to correct them over time. ... But they have not made those changes, and in some cases they made things worse. So I wouldn't encourage any state to adopt it in total."

But last month, seeking to soften his image in the wake of his unearthed taped remarks deriding 47 percent of Americans, Romney spoke fondly of his signature legislative achievement during an interview with NBC News.

"Don't forget -- I got everybody in my state insured," he said. "One hundred percent of the kids in our state had health insurance. I don't think there's anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record."

4) I'll Uphold Obama's Relief For Illegal Immigrants

In January, Romney called for "self-deportation" for illegal immigrants, including those brought by their parents as children, which involves making life so difficult they choose to leave.

"The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can't find work here, because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here," he said.

Fast-forward to the general election. Facing a huge deficit among Hispanics, who support immigration relief, Romney no longer rails against "amnesty." And he promises not to rescind work permits that Obama plans to provide DREAM-eligible migrants via executive order.

"The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid," he told the Denver Post early this month. He also sought to put a lighter touch on his "self-deportation" remarks.

"Self-deportation says let people make their own choice. What I was saying is, we're not going to round up 12 million people, undocumented illegals, and take them out of the nation," Romney said while debating Obama. "Instead let people make their own choice. ... I'm not in favor of rounding up people and taking them out of this country."

5) Give Peace A Chance

Primary-era Romney fumed against Obama's "extraordinarily weak and timid" foreign policy.

"This is a president ... he says pretty please? A foreign policy based on pretty please? You've got to be kidding," he said during a GOP debate late last year, accusing Obama of trying to "appease or accommodate the tyrants of the world." He also promised to be more aggressive against Iran's nuclear ambitions: "If we reelect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon," he said. "If you elect me as president, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon."

But facing down the president in a debate about foreign policy last week, that tough-talking rhetoric dissipated entirely and Romney sounded more like a liberal peacenik.

"We want a peaceful planet," he said. "We want people to be able to enjoy their lives and know they're going to have a bright and prosperous future and not be at war. That's our purpose... We don't want another Iraq. We don't want another Afghanistan. That's not the right course for us."

Instead of promising to get tougher on Iran, he criticized Obama for not supporting the opposition protesters against the country's government more strongly.

The Republican nominee said America must stand up for "principles [that] include human rights, human dignity, free enterprise, freedom of expression, elections. Because when there are elections, people tend to vote for peace. They don't vote for war."