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Week In News: Money And The GOP Presidential Race


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Rebecca Roberts.

HERMAN CAIN: We must grow this economy with a bold solution, which is why I have proposed 999.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: I think Americans are so untrustworthy of what's going on in Washington is because they never see a cut in spending.

MITT ROMNEY: You want to have someone who's smart, who has experience, who knows how the financial services sector works, who knows how to protect American jobs, and I do. I've done it.

ROBERTS: Three voices from the Bloomberg Television-Washington Post Republican debate this past week: candidates Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. James Fallows of The Atlantic joins us as he does most Saturdays for a look behind the headlines. Hello, Jim.

JAMES FALLOWS: Hello, Rebecca.

ROBERTS: So the candidates had to submit their third quarter fundraising reports to the Federal Election Commission today. Not all the reports are in, but there were some telling details, weren't there?

FALLOWS: There were. And I think we're beginning to see the winnowing process. The biggest fundraiser was, of course, Governor Perry, who brought in about $17 million, followed by Governor Romney - former Governor Romney - with about 14 million. The two things that struck me are first, we're seeing the way in which the field finally does narrow itself out. For example, former Governor Jon Huntsman is...


FALLOWS: ...reporting that he's already - yes.


FALLOWS: Right. He's just - so he'll see how he can keep going on. The other is the difference in where the money comes from. That both Ron Paul and Mr. Cain have about half their money from very small donors, individuals in sort of the $200 range, whereas for Rick Perry, that was only about 4 percent of his total, and for Governor Romney, about 10 percent.

So in a way, it makes it easier for Rick Perry to stay in, despite his difficulties in the debate so far if he has mainly larger interests behind him who are less subject to the ups and down of poll popularity.

ROBERTS: And meanwhile, those candidates are gearing up for yet another debate, Tuesday in Las Vegas. I think there were about 20 on the schedule last time I checked. Those debates just keep on coming. Are they changing any minds?

FALLOWS: They seem to. I think they've had an effect on the candidates who sequentially have been the favorites of the conservatives. We had Michele Bachmann for a while, and then Herman Cain. Interestingly, they've been the main problem for Governor Perry. I can't really think of a candidate who has been hurt as badly by debate performance as Governor Perry has been in this last handful of debates. But because, again, so much of his money comes from large donors rather than individual ones, that may give him some staying power to try to recover.

ROBERTS: The White House announced yesterday that it was scrapping part of its healthcare law, the long-term care insurance program, and that was because the premiums would be too high to entice enough healthy people to sign up, making it too expensive for the people who did want it. And this comes just after the Senate Republicans stopped the president's jobs bill with the threat of a filibuster.

FALLOWS: Yes. And I think there are important conceptual and political issues that we see in the conjunction of these two items of news. The conceptual problems of healthcare reform are so complex we could spend the next six hours talking about them. But in a way, this long-term care provision shows why it's been so hard.

The process of passing it required, number one, that it meet its own costs, and number two, that it be voluntary. That is, healthy people cannot be forced to pay in, as they would be with the individual mandate for the rest of the program. And finally the actuaries decided they could not make that equation work. That if you couldn't require healthy people to pay in when they still were not drawing from the program, then you could not set the premiums at any kind of sustainable level.

The political problem is the one you also mentioned, which is the Republicans have, through the entirety of the Obama administration, very effectively used the threat of bringing almost anything to a filibuster as they've done most recently with this jobs bill. And since the administration and the Democrats don't have 60 votes in the Senate, they can't break this ongoing threat, and so you do have the kind of log jam that we've seen in the Senate.

ROBERTS: James Fallows is national correspondent with The Atlantic. You can read his blog at jamesfallows.theatlantic.com. Thanks so much, Jim.

FALLOWS: Thank you, Rebecca. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.