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Please begin with an informative title:

Today was the second day of the House Republicans' three day retreat, a.k.a. Atlas Chugged, a.k.a. The Thickening. It's a time for strategery, and attending panel discussions on how best to keep your mouth shut, and whatever else they do there. Very little news has been forthcoming (reporters have been sequestered in a nearby clubhouse, lest they report), but we still have some highlights:
  • Paul Ryan gives advice on battling Obama, because the guy the GOP looks to for advice on beating Obama is, of course, one of the two guys who just had their clocks cleaned by him. But neither House leadership nor Ryan himself are sounding very combative:
    “We have to also recognize the realities of divided government that we have,” Ryan told reporters gathered here in a golf course clubhouse. “And so while we aspire to give the country a very specific and clear vision about what we think is the right way to go on the major big issues of the time, we have to at the same time recognize the divided government moment that we have and the fiscal deadlines that are approaching, what those involve and then how we’re going to proceed forward.”

    Ryan’s comments reflect the quiet chatter in leadership that Republicans need to better instill in their members the idea that besting Obama is a tall task.

  • And because of that, Republicans at the retreat have also been contemplating a partial surrender on the debt ceiling, or at least putting off the fight once again. They're in a tight spot and they know it:
    “We’re discussing the possible virtue of a short-term debt limit extension so that we have a better chance of getting the Senate and the White House involved in discussions in March,” Ryan told reporters gathered at the pricey Kingsmill resort in Williamsburg, where the House GOP is holding its annual retreat.
    The problem is that all indications suggest leading the nation into an actual default, or even partial government shutdown, would be politically devastating to Republicans. But it's not clear the leadership can convince the more tea-inclined members of their caucus of that.
  • For unintended hilarity, you can't beat the planned panel discussion on how to talk to women and minorities without pissing them off. The panel, entitled Discussion on Successful Communication with Minorities and Women, suffered an image problem from the get-go:
    Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who heads Republicans' campaign efforts, deflected a question regarding the irony of a panel trying to help the GOP woo minorities happening in a room named after a slave-owning family’s plantation.

    "I don't pick the rooms we meet in," Walden said. "I know the Democrats have held their retreats here too and I assume you'll go and figure out if they ever held meetings in that same room."

    Fair enough, but having a panel on minorities and women that seemed to be well-stocked with white guys proved perhaps even more awkward:
    But then why, a final reporter prodded, did this panel on communicating with women and minorities include three white men: Representatives Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Scott Rigell and Frank R. Wolf, both of Virginia?

    Mr. Walden, who was not responsible for putting together the event, pointed out that the panel also included several women: “a woman from CNN” (Ana Navarro) and “Sean Duffy’s wife” (Rachel Campos-Duffy). Mr. Duffy is a congressman from Wisconsin; his wife is a television personality.

    Also on the list was Ms. Herrera Beutler. But, unfortunately, her name was misspelled.

  • Republicans heard from a variety of inspirational figures, such as the CEO of Domino's Pizza. (Hey, it's inspirational to Republicans.) He told them that he turned around Domino's by changing the recipes of what they sold; no word on how that applies to the Republican Party, which steadfastly insists that they don't need to change a darn thing.
  • The one thing they did hear they had to change? They had a pollster there to tell them to please, please stop even mentioning the word "rape," you dopes:
    “Rape is a four letter word — don’t say it,” the group was advised by a Republican pollster in one session, said a person familiar with the discussion. That was a reference to controversies about rape and abortion that helped lose the party two Senate seats in November.
    The pollsters also broke a bit of not entirely unrelated news:
    David Winston, a top GOP pollster and close adviser to Boehner, unveiled the House Republicans’ most recent favorable rating based on his own analysis: It came in at a barrel-scraping 27 percent.
    Ouch. Forget not talking about rape, the better approach would be to just stop talking entirely.
  • One thing they're not talking about at the retreat:
    Rep. John Fleming at House GOP retreat: "There's been zero discussion" of guns legislation
    @mikememoli via Twitter for iPad
    Yes, go figure.


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