Between the Lines By Mark Halperin

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Brian Snyder / Reuters

Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks at a primary night rally in Manchester, New Hampshire on April 24, 2012.

Since effectively wrapping up the GOP presidential nomination, Mitt Romney has come roaring back to within hailing distance of President Obama in national polls by playing (mostly) error-free ball for several weeks ... Romney is fortifying his winner's aura by focusing on the weakness of the economy ... The danger now for Romney: a series of pre-election party skirmishes on trade-offs between popular government spending (like low rates for college loans) and higher taxes ... The Democratic message machine will nudge the Republican standard bearer into the arms of his party and onto the wrong side of public opinion if he holds the GOP line--or call him out for flip-flopping if he tries to neutralize issues by echoing Obama's stance ... In the GOP Veepstakes, commentators are focusing for now on Florida Senate phenom Marco Rubio as a potential vice-presidential prospect ... Meanwhile, real pros are gaming out a more relevant question: How can Romney's team turn Ohio Senator Rob Portman into a "surprise" selection after months of insider consensus that he is the inevitable and smartest pick? ... Republicans who think they can use the Secret Service prostitution scandal against Obama are heading toward a mirage: barring new facts linking the White House to the controversy, conservatives dilute their effective critique of the economy by looking as if they carp about every little flap ... Even as the presidential contest appears more competitive than ever, Democrats seem a better bet now than just a few months ago to maintain control of the Senate and perhaps take back the majority in the House.

HUMAN CANVASES

Joggers in the Color Run in Irvine, Calif., resembled sweaty rainbows as they reached the finish line on April 22. The annual event, held across the U.S., is reminiscent of Holi, a Hindu spring festival during which the faithful cover one another with colored powders

WORD OF THE WEEK

robo-grader n. computer software that can score essays faster than humans, with similar accuracy, according to a recent study

NUMBER 15

Candidates vying for the Texas House seat Ron Paul will vacate next year after 12 terms

CITIES

Detroit Mulls Drastic Cuts

Amid a tepid economic recovery, the Motor City is still sputtering. Recently threatened with a state-imposed takeover, Mayor Dave Bing is proposing to cut $250 million from the budget, a figure that could require slashing almost 25% of the city's 10,800 public employees and handing the rest a 10% wage cut. Bing also proposed turning over Detroit's electricity grid to a third-party vendor and relying on grants to preserve some of its firefighting jobs. Still faced with the potential loss of employees, fire commissioner Donald Austin is weighing some severe measures of his own, including a policy that would let some unoccupied dwellings, which are frequent targets for arsonists, burn to the ground. The city has already razed more than 4,000 vacant homes in the past two years. "Name another city in the U.S. that lost 200,000 people in 10 years," Austin told a local paper. "One reason people are not coming back to the city is because it looks like hell." Detroit's population has dwindled to about 715,000 in 2010 from some 950,000 a decade earlier, and the loss of tax revenue has crippled efforts to fix its balance sheet.