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Everything you need to know about the first debate

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Ocxt. 4, 2012

Welcome to Wonkbook, Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas’s morning policy news primer. Send comments, criticism, or ideas to Wonkbook at Gmail dot com. To read more by Ezra and his team, go to Wonkblog.

Wonkbook dashboard

RCP Obama vs. Romney: Obama +3.1%; 7-day change: Obama -0.6%.

RCP Obama approval: 49.2%; 7-day change: -0.8.

Intrade percent chance of Obama win: 66.8%; 7-day change: -5.3%.

Wonkbook’s number of the day: 67. That’s the percentage of 430 voters who said in a CNN snap poll that Mitt Romney won the first debate against President Obama. 25 percent of these voters said Obama won the debate.

In the same poll, 61 percent said Obama had a worse performance in the debate than they expected; 82 percent said Mitt Romney overperformed their expectations. 18 percent of voters said they were more likely to vote for Obama as a result of the debate, 35 percent said they were more likely to cast a ballot for Romney, and 47 percent said it would have no effect on their vote.

The numbers confirm an immediate consensus among the press that Romney was the clear victor. Voters who are just tuning in to the presidential contest received a very different (and significantly more favorable) impression of Romney than those who have been following the campaign over the last few weeks. Last night, Romney was a much better version of himself than he has been in a very long time — perhaps, even, it was his best single performance as a presidential candidate in 2012 and 2008.

This morning Wonkbook presents your rundown of everything you need to know about the first presidential debate: the basics of who-said-what, the political impact, the policy contexts of the issues discussed, and the first round of leading commentary on the debate.

Top story: Everything you need to know about the first presidential debate

In the first debate, Romney went on offense, forcing Obama to defend his record. “Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney took the offensive in the first presidential debate Wednesday night, forcing President Obama to defend his record in a series of sharp exchanges in which Romney charged that the President's economic policies have ‘crushed’ the middle class. Appearing more vigorous than he often is on the campaign trail, Romney painted Obama's first term as a time of rising poverty, slowing economic growth and struggle for millions of Americans. He pushed his own plans to lower taxes and bring down the federal deficit, saying his approach would revive the sputtering economy…The president appeared on the defensive at times over his record, but he emphasized the problems he inherited from the George W. Bush administration and tried to link himself to the more popular tenure of fellow Democrat Bill Clinton.” Jerry Markon in The Washington Post.

The press consensus was clear from almost the first minute: Romney won. “There was wide agreement among the press Wednesday night that Mitt Romney won the first presidential debate, and that President Barack Obama was ‘rusty’ and uncomfortable on the stage. Immediately after the debate wrapped, CNN's Wolf Blitzer said it was a ‘pretty good night’ for Romney. The Republican nominee ‘clearly held his own’ against Obama, Blitzer said. He pointed out that the president failed to bring up Romney's Bain Capital experience, tax returns or ’47 percent’ comments — key talking points of the Obama campaign in recent months.” Mackenzie Weinger in Politico.

@TPCarney: This was the most one-sided debate I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s like Romney’s from the SEC and Obama’s from the Big 10.

But will it be enough to turn around a lagging Romney campaign? “For the last six months, since the moment Mr. Romney emerged as the winner of the Republican nominating fight, the two candidates and their respective campaigns in Boston and Chicago have traded charges and countercharges. But a month after the political conventions ended, Mr. Obama appears to hold the upper hand in the race and Mr. Romney arrived at the debate with the goal of changing the dynamic of the campaign before views harden even further…Both campaigns acknowledged that the race is close enough that the first debate had the capacity to reorder a contest that has recently seemed to been tilting in Mr. Obama's favor.” Jeff Zeleny and Michael D. Shear in The New York Times.

@Goldfarb: Would have been quite interesting if Romney ran whole campaign like this.

Read: the full transcript of the first presidential debate.

@sahilkapur: So the initial polls look pretty bad for Obama. Romney comeback narrative is upon us, people.

Behind it all, a true debate about the role of government. “Somewhere in the wonky blizzard of facts, statistics and studies thrown out on stage here on Wednesday night was a fundamental philosophical choice about the future of America, quite possibly the starkest in nearly three decades. As President Obama and Mitt Romney faced off for the first time, their largely zinger-free styles may have disguised a fierce clash of views not only over taxes, spending and health care, but over the very role of government in American society in a time of wrenching problems. On one side was an incumbent who, while recognizing that government is not the solution to all problems, argued that it plays an essential part in promoting economic growth and ensuring fairness for various segments of the population. On the other was a challenger who, while recognizing the basic value of government, argued that its greatest goal was to get out of the way of a free people and unleash the American entrepreneurial spirit.” Peter Baker in The New York Times.

@BrendanNyhan: At best, Romney may firm up some soft supporters or pick up wavering GOP leaners w/negative impression of him from Obama ads, 47% video, etc

Shorter debate: The best five lines for Obama and for Romney.

Policy context on the key issues of the debate

Wonkblog explains: The policy details, explained.

More, on Medicare: “Medicare has become another major flashpoint in the campaign, with swing-state seniors opposed to the quasi-voucher proposal put forward by Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan. That's why Romney is stressing the point that nothing will change under his plan if you're already retired. Retired people can settle down. And so can anyone over the age of 55. The problem is, the Ryan's Medicare plan doesn't save any money until 2022, which is why Ryan's budget includes the $716 billion in Medicare cost savings over the next decade that helped pay for Obamacare, savings that Romney is now bashing Obama for and promising to add back into the budget.” Lori Montgomery in The Washington Post.

More fact-checking: the deficit, taxes, and other issues.

And on the Independent Payment Advisory Board: “President Obama and Mitt Romney spent much of the debate's segment on health-care issues sparring over the ‘Independent Payment Advisory Board,’ or IPAB, a panel of 15 president-appointed experts that the 2010 Affordable Care Act will establish to help curb spending on Medicare…Just how will the IPAB work? Its powers kick in only if federal spending on Medicare exceeds yearly targets set by the law. At that point the board must propose spending cuts…[T]here are limits on the IPAB's maneuvering room. It cannot ration care, cut benefits, change eligibility rules or increase seniors' premiums or cost sharing. That leaves cuts to providers such as doctors, device makers, and — after 2020 — hospitals, as the board's main tool.” N.C. Aizenman in The Washington Post.

The best takes on the debate

TANKERSLEY: A moderate Romney in debates blurred the contrasts between himself and Obama. “Apparently Mitt Romney likes government regulation, loves Medicare the way it is, agrees fairly regularly with President Obama, and does not, in fact, want to cut taxes very much. Those are gross simplifications of Romney's economic platform, and ones very much at odds with the anti-tax, anti-regulation, pro-entitlement-reform campaign the former Massachusetts governor has waged for more than a year. But if you were tuning into the presidential race for the first time on Wednesday night, you'd be forgiven if you thought the simplifications were actually the crux of Romney's plan for the country…It’s possible that, by softening the edges of most of his platform, Romney reassured voters that he’s a safe bet for improvement over Obama. It’s possible that he just gave them an even hazier picture of what he stands for. And it’s possible that both those things are true.” Jim Tankersley in National Journal.

@ryanavent: Debate was mostly muddled and boring. Press might spin that into crushing Romney victory. We’ll see how that plays after Friday NFP.

PHILIP KLEIN: Romney won this debate with specifics. “The best part of his debate performance was how specific he got. For instance, when criticizing Obama's financial regulatory reform, he didn't merely give a generic Republican attack on’regulation’ — he explained the unintended consequences of creating too big to fail banks and how it hurts smaller community banks. When it came to tax policy, he described how Obama's plan to raise taxes on ‘the rich’ would actually hurt a typical small business and make them less likely to hire. We've heard Romney tell us again and again that his private sector experience means that he knows how the economy works, but tonight he showed us.” Philip Klein in The Washington Examiner.

@JimPethokoukis: Romney’s command of detail really showed on the small biz stuff. Knew both the sides of the argument cold

EZRA KLEIN: No, actually, he won precisely because he was inspecific. “[T]his debate was where Romney's strategy of being purposefully vague about the nature of his policies paid off. The first third of the debate was an argument over the missing numbers in Romney's tax plan. Romney fiercely objected to Obama's characterization of his tax plan as a $5 trillion tax cut. After all, he says he'll pay for all of it, somehow, later…Elsewhere, Romney insisted that he had a ‘lengthy description’ of his health-care plan on his web site, and seemed satisfied when Obama didn't challenge the comment. Romney's description of his health-care plan is less than 400 words, or about half the length of a typical op-ed column…The same was true on Wall Street reform, where Romney insisted he opposed Dodd-Frank and promised to replace it with ‘something’…In this debate, Romney's strategy of offering a little detail and leaving out a complicating facts served him well. It largely confused the differences between the candidates and it kept Obama off-balance. Romney matched that with crisp, clear answers and an easy demeanor. It was, as the snap polls seem to be showing, a win for him, even — and perhaps even because — it was a loss for those looking for more clarity on what he would actually do as president.” Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.

@ezraklein: Romney won this debate by seeming specific. Obama got some good ads out of what he got Romney to be specific about.

GALUPO: And Obama lost it by being sluggish. “President Obama was listless, exhausted, halting. When he should have been vigorously twisting the knife, he would pause, search for words, and take 15 seconds to make a point that should have taken five seconds. Romney, by contrast, was gamely and ultraprepared; he never once seemed caught off guard…Critically, in the first third of the debate, Romney seemed to waltz through the bog of statistics in which Obama aimlessly waded, and pounded his message of jobs, jobs, jobs.” Scott Galupo in The American Conservative.

@BobCusack: Dems stress policy, ripping Romney alleged contradictions. They say Romney won on style, not substance. But debates are theater.

CILLIZZA: Obama also failed to invoke some of his campaign’s key attacks. “Inarguably, Obama came into tonight's debate with more obvious set-piece attacks on Romney. But, he seemed to be disinterested in using them. He made no mention of either Romney's "47 percent" comment or Romney's work with Bain Capital — two demonstrably difficult topics for the former Massachusetts governor. Our guess is that Obama and his team made the calculated decision not to hit Romney on either matter because a) it wouldn't look presidential and b) it's already penetrated deep into the political consciousness of the electorate. Maybe so. But does it ever hurt to repeat the attacks that have been proven to work against your opponent? ” Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post.

@chrislhayes: President made an interesting (to my mind weird) choice to accentuate areas of agreement w/ Mitt Romney as much as disagreement.

DOUTHAT: The gap between Obama and Romney in terms of delivery was staggering. “[Romney's] overall fluency in policy was still striking: It made a remarkable contrast with basically every Republican nominee in my lifetime…Now fluency is not the same as perfect honesty: Romney had his share of bogus lines…and dubious arguments…But Romney profited immensely from the contrast with his opponent. Obama's problem, simply put, is that he's facing a continuing unemployment crisis and a looming deficit crisis and offering little except a stay-the-course message on both fronts. This debate threw that problem into relief. If Romney was sometimes slippery, the president was simply empty: He seemed exhausted, tetchy, and out of sorts, with no positive case for why his second-term agenda (whatever that is) would solve the country's problems. Nor, to my shock, did he even have much a negative case either, against a Republican his campaign has been successfully caricaturing for months. Time and again, he failed to make obvious comebacks and exploit gaping openings, wasting time on throat-clearing and losing himself in a wilderness of ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ instead.” Ross Douthat in The New York Times.

@RichLowry: romney wins, confident, presidential, very well informed

BARRO: But does a Romney win in the debate count for anything? “The most surprising fact about tonight's debate is that President Obama spoke for four minutes longer than Mitt Romney did. It certainly didn't feel like that watching the debate, in which Romney seemed to have far more to say than Obama…[O]n the opening question, about how to create jobs, Romney offered an answer that was both more heartfelt and more specific than the president's…Obama seemed tired and out of ideas, unwilling to mount a vigorous defense of his record or to go after Romney. The president had only one really good moment, when he called out Romney for keeping his proposals on health care, taxes and banking regulation secret. Obama, jokingly, asked if the plans were secret because they were too good, or too favorable to the middle class, to describe publicly…There is one big silver lining for Obama: The debates usually don't do a lot to change how people vote. When they do matter, as with Gerald Ford in 1976, it's usually because of a major blunder, not a broadly weak performance.” Josh Barro in Bloomberg.

@DouthatNYT: Sweet spot for GOP politicians: Center-right not hard right on substance, but w/strong attack lines against liberalism. Romney hit it.

YGLESIAS: Romney shook the Etch-A-Sketch tonight. “Barack Obama’s timid approach to debating--I saw a lot of analogies to a prevent defense in football, but I think it was more like the four corners basketball offense that’s so deadly boring it’s now against the rules — was the most striking element of tonight’s debate, but the most important one is probably that Mitt Romney finally shook the etch-a-sketch tonight and moved to the center…Obama wasn’t very good at pointing this out tonight. And Romney is nothing if not good at remaking his persona. To be ideologically plastic enough to win a general election in Massachusetts in 2002 and a GOP presidential primary in 2012 is tough…[O]n the issues they did talk about, Romney succeeded in portraying himself as someone who’s considerably less conservative than John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, or the Mitt Romney who we’ve seen a lot of over the past 18 months. Whether you believe that’s the Mitt Romney who’d show up in the White House in 2013 if he wins in January is a separate question, but the guy we saw tonight is a much more appealing figure than the guy who was on the trail all summer.” Matt Yglesias in Slate.

@mattyglesias: It took Romney a long time, but he shook the etch-a-sketch tonight and it’s a big improvement over the RNC’s paint-by-numbers Republicanism.

GOLDBERG: Romney’s performance may undermine Obama’s narrative about him. “I've been getting more and more cautiously optimistic about Romney in the last few days and, going in, I had a pretty good feeling about tonight's debate. But I had no expectation that Romney would simply control the night the way he did…[T]onight Romney brilliantly dismantled the strawman Obama has been running against for months…And yet, we should keep in mind that most of his effective moments came when he distanced himself from the base of his party and struck a decidedly moderate, centrist, position.” Jonah Goldberg in National Review Online.

@Neil_Irwin: The big question: Will Romney’s tack to center on health care, regulation, education be his approach from here on out?

DIONNE: The debate will certainly change the direction of the campaign. “Romney entered the debate facing a skeptical pundit class and a party faithful that perceived his campaign as floundering. This, at least, he reversed on Wednesday. By going on the attack, Romney won himself strong press notices and shouts of joyous relief from his own camp. Obama, by contrast, surprised many of his supporters by not even repeating criticisms of Romney he has made in his own stump speeches. But Romney's relentlessness may not play as well with swing voters. His decision to change his tax plan on the fly rather than defend it will provide fodder for further Obama attack lines on how it would affect middle-income voters. And his obvious pivot to a new political persona — or, perhaps more precisely, his reversion to his older, more moderate self — will lead to more questions about who the real Mitt Romney is.” E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post.

@jpodhoretz: Paradox: Romney moved way to the center tonight–and conservatives will love him for this performance as they never have before.

Top op-eds

SUNSTEIN: The birth for regulatory due process. “In light of the defining importance of the due process clause, many people are stunned to learn a remarkable fact: When the government issues regulations, the Constitution doesn't require officials to listen to you, even if your liberty and your property are at stake…’Regulatory due process’ has been like a unicorn or a time-travel machine or a bipartisan Congress. It doesn't exist…[I]n the past two decades, Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have quietly given birth to regulatory due process…A well-functioning regulatory system creates a right to appeal, making structures available to fix such problems. Though it isn't yet widely known, Obama has put those structures in place.” Cass R. Sunstein in Bloomberg.

KLEIN: The policy distinctions between Obama and Romney are overplayed. “In heated elections like this one, there is a tendency in the U.S. to characterize the arguments between the two candidates as much more momentous — world- historical, even — than they actually are…Conversely, it's kind of boring to think of yourself as having a set of technocratic disagreements with the opposition. Yet, for the most part, that's what this U.S. presidential election is about…A similar dynamic is evident on taxes. Obama's budget proposes raising taxes to equal 19.8 percent of gross domestic product by 2022…Romney, by contrast, says he wants taxes at 18.75 percent of GDP by 2022…I don't mean to play down the very real differences between the two campaigns. How much we spend, what we spend it on and who pays for it are all very consequential. But American politics operate atop a fairly firm and broad understanding about the proper scope of the state. Partisanship often obscures that fact, in part because the party out of power has reason to exaggerate disagreements with the governing party. Yet behind the boisterous partisan stage is a quieter arena where broad consensus reigns.” Ezra Klein in Bloomberg.

SMITH: Why the U.S. needs more Asian immigration. “For most of its history, America was the ‘Alternative Europe.’ Political and religious dissidents who were dissatisfied with the ruling regimes in their homelands, oppressed ethnic minorities, and poor people who couldn’t get a good job — all made their way to the United States. Here they found a place where their beliefs, their ethnicity, and their parents’ socioeconomic status mattered far less than in the Old Country. America itself benefited greatly from the inflow, gaining a huge labor force, a constant supply of entrepreneurs and creative free thinkers, and a diverse ethnic makeup that helped us avoid the kind of brutal ethnic violence and fragmentation that plagued the European subcontinent…The United States’ geopolitical strategy for the emerging Asian Century must be to position ourselves as the Alternative Asia, the way we were once the Alternative Europe.” Noah Smith in The Atlantic.

BAUM: Why Bernanke owes Milton Friedman another apology. “Bernanke may have inadvertently repeated some of the same mistakes of the 1930s, in the view of some monetarists…It's time for the Fed to put the ‘money’ back in monetary policy. Maybe a re-reading of Friedman and Schwartz is in order.” Caroline Baum in Bloomberg.

KRISTOF: Why inequality is morally abhorrent. “Imagine a kindergarten with 100 students, lavishly supplied with books, crayons and toys. Yet you gasp: one avaricious little boy is jealously guarding a mountain of toys for himself. A handful of other children are quietly playing with a few toys each, while 90 of the children are looking on forlornly -- empty-handed. The one greedy boy has hoarded more toys than all those 90 children put together!…That kindergarten distribution is precisely what America looks like. Our wealth has become so skewed that the top 1 percent possesses a greater collective worth than the entire bottom 90 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.” Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times.

Top long reads

Robert Draper examines the secret history of the debates:“Hundreds of millions of dollars, countless hours on the trail — it all comes down to this. For three debates, 270 combined minutes, the candidates will actually talk to each other. One botched response, a roll of the eyes, or — heaven forbid — a truly revealing moment will mean the difference between winning and, well, being John McCain.”

Tim Murphy takes a look inside the ‘hardware’ behind the Obama’s campaign operation:“Obama’s first presidential campaign ushered in a new era of data collection and targeting. The operation’s new-media team, which included Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes, utilized social-media platforms to raise record sums from small donors and organize supporters. If an Iowa college student joined the Students for Barack Obama Facebook group, the campaign could follow up to ask him to knock on doors too. It also began to look for efficiencies in-house…A/B testing boosted OFA’s fundraising by $100 million, 20 percent of its online haul…In the past, this information has been compartmentalized within various segments of the campaign. It existed in separate databases, powered by different kinds of software that could not communicate with each other. The goal of Project Narwhal was to link all of this data together. Once Reed and his team had integrated the databases, analysts could identify trends and craft sharper messages calibrated to appeal to individual voters.”

Alien interlude: The strange stuff happening on the surface of Mars.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Still to come:the missing middle-skill job; who Obamacare extends health insurance coverage to; the 1.4 million jobs the sequester will erase; why the high-tech battery industry, boosted by the stimulus package, is now struggling; and adorable pictures of kittens.


Unemployment is soaring across the Northeast. “Unemployment is surging across the Northeast. In two states — New York and New Jersey — the statewide rates of unemployment are higher than they were at any point during the recession. In Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, years’ worth of progress against unemployment has been reversed in a matter of months…If the Northeastern recovery had remained on track — that is, if one assumed its net contribution remained constant since late 2010 — the national unemployment rate would have been 7.8 percent in August…It’s not exactly clear what is holding the Northeastern job market back, though. The slow growth in employment is broad: The region lags behind the nation in job creation in seven out of 10 industry categories.” Evan Soltas in Bloomberg.

Nationally, indicators suggest modest employment growth. “Companies in the United States added more jobs than expected last month while activity in the vast services sector picked up, suggesting the economy remained on track for modest growth. The ADP National Employment Report showed private employers added 162,000 jobs in September. While the gain topped economists' expectations, it was still fewer than the 189,000 new hires seen in August. Separate data showed the Institute for Supply Management's purchasing managers index for the service sector rose to its highest level since March at 55.1 from 53.7 as new orders accelerated.” Reuters.

Eurozone plunging into recession, new data suggest. “The euro zone was most likely in recession in the third quarter, a private sector survey showed Wednesday…Business activity and new orders in the 17-nation currency bloc declined in the three months through the end of September, according to a survey of purchasing managers by Markit Economics, a financial data provider. Markit said its composite index came in at 46.1 in September, down from 46.3 in August but an increase from its initial estimate of 45.9. A reading below 50 suggests the economy is contracting; the index has been below that level for eight consecutive months.” Jack Ewing in The New York Times.

The missing middle-skill jobs, and why they matter. “A report released Monday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York puts some numbers behind the evolution of the work force. The report found that from 1980 until 2010, job growth happened "disproportionately" at the high and low ends of skill levels. The middle-skilled jobs lost in recessions haven't been recovered in rebounds. Meanwhile, low- and high-skill jobs don't lose any notable ground during downturns and grow in better times. That means the pain of recessions is felt almost exclusively in the middle of the skills curve, the report noted.” Michael S. Derby in The Wall Street Journal.

Adorable interlude: Two kittens falling asleep in workboots.

Health Care

Obamacare will extend health insurance to 32 million Americans. Here's who they are. “resident Obama's signature health-care law is expected to extend health insurance to 32 million Americans over the next decade. PriceWaterhouse Cooper is out with a new report that looks at who, exactly, those Americans are - and how they compare to the millions of American who already have coverage…In general: The newly-insured will be a more diverse, lower-income group group than those who currently have coverage. They are less likely to be white or to speak English. They are more likely to be single and not rate themselves in great health. The median income of the newly-insured is 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Line ($14,893 for an individual).” Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

In 2011, U.S. births declined for the fourth straight year. “The 2011 preliminary number of US births was 3,953,593, 1 percent less (or 45,793 fewer) births than in 2010; the general fertility rate (63.2 per 1,000 women age 15-44 years) declined to the lowest rate ever reported for the United States…Births have declined for four consecutive years, and are now 8.4% below the peak in 2007.” Bill McBride in Calculated Risk.

Do health insurers even want to sell across state lines? “Allowing insurance sales across state lines comes up perennially as a way to drive down the cost of health care. Conservatives argue that allowing a plan from a state with relatively few benefit mandates — say, Wyoming — to sell its package in a mandate-heavy state (like New York) would give consumers access to options that are more affordable than what they get now. Liberals tend to argue this is a bad idea, contending that it would create a "race to the bottom," where insurers compete to offer the skimpiest benefit packages. A new paper from Georgetown University researchers suggests a third possible outcome: Absolutely nothing at all will happen. They looked at the three states - Maine, Georgia and Wyoming - that have passed laws allowing insurers from other states to participate in their markets. All have done so within the past two years. So far, none of the three have seen out-of-state carriers come into their market or express interest in doing so.” Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.

Domestic Policy

Sequester to cost 1.4 million jobs, Congressional Research Service study says. “The automatic federal spending cuts scheduled to take effect early next year could result in the loss of over 1.4 million jobs in 2013, according to a new study by Congress' nonpartisan policy analyst. The $48 billion in defense spending cuts are projected to result in 907,000 fewer direct, indirect and induced jobs in government and the private sector next year, the Congressional Research Service report said. The $10.7 billion in Medicare reimbursement cuts to providers are projected to cost 500,000 jobs, less than half of which are direct losses, in 2013.” Sahil Kapur in TPM.

More aliens interlude: What the International Space Station sees at night.


High-tech battery production for electric cars has outstripped demand. “One of the more intriguing — and controversial — parts of the 2009 stimulus bill was a $2.4 billion provision to kick-start a domestic battery industry in the United States…Fast forward three years. Those battery factories do exist. But many of them are now running idle. The problem? Electric cars have been much slower to take off in the United States than anticipated, which means that the supply of batteries in the United States has vastly outstripped demand…What's striking is that the consulting firm actually expects U.S. plug-in vehicle sales to increase more than seven-fold next year. And even then, there are expected to be too many U.S. battery factories and not enough electric cars to supply.” Brad Plumer in The Washington Post.

A tug of war erupts over solar tariffs. “The United States trade case against Chinese manufacturers of solar panels took a step toward completion Wednesday with a final hearing before the International Trade Commission on whether cheap Chinese imports have injured or threatened to injure the domestic solar industry. The Commerce Department found earlier this year that Chinese companies, which dominate the global panel business, were benefiting from unfair government subsidies and were selling their products below the cost of production on the American market. In March, the department imposed anti-subsidy tariffs of 2.9 percent to 4.73 percent, and in May, it added anti-dumping duties of at least 31 percent. Those rulings were preliminary, and the department is due to announce its final decision on both on Oct. 10. But for any tariffs to go into effect, the trade commission must find that the Chinese pricing practices have actually harmed or threatened to harm the American industry, a determination that is not expected until November.” Diane Cardwell in The New York Times.

Natural gas industry to face worker shortage, Dept. of Labor says. “The Labor Department hopes to prevent the booming natural gas industry from facing a skills gap in coming years, a top official said Wednesday. Though Jane Oates, the department’s assistant secretary for employment and training administration, praised efforts to improve educational standards in coveted science, technology, engineering and math disciplines, she noted the energy and utility industries are in immediate need of skilled workers.” Zack Colman in The Hill.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.