Paul Ryan has vaulted Mitt Romney into the lead in Wisconsin, meaning it's time President Obama does the smart thing and drops Joe Biden for Herb Kohl. The GOP might want to choose another day to add a Todd Akin-sponsored bill to its party platform than the on the day its presidential candidate asked Todd Akin to go away. And if you're curious why "Nancy Pelosi" and "New York Super Fudge Chunk" would ever appear in the same sentence, read on. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, August 21st, 2012:

ROMNEY WON'T EXPLAIN ENERGY POLICY WITH REPORTERS PRESENT - Appearing at a Houston fundraiser today, the Republican presidential candidate refused to elaborate on his energy platform as long as reporters were in the room ("I'm sorry, your $500 donation only puts you in the 'Victory' Circle. A $1,000 contribution will grant you entry to the 'White House' Circle and for a $2,000-plus donation, we'll add your name to the 'I'll Tell You My Energy Policy' Circle"). "I know that we have members of the media here right now, so I'm not going to go through that in great detail," he said in response to a question about the matter. Romney plans to unveil his energy platform later this week, presumably when the word "rape" isn't on everybody's mind. [HuffPost's Jen Bendery]

Our Republican readers will greatly enjoy this photo of President Obama with a teleprompter face

PAUL RYAN LOBBIED FOR DONORS - Jason Cherkis: "Ryan has pushed for earmarks around the same time he started complaining about the practice. He also lobbied for stimulus money while objecting to President Obama's spending bill. And in at least two instances involving the Department of Transportation, Ryan has pushed the interests of companies whose members have given him campaign donations, according to records obtained by The Huffington Post." [HuffPost]

ROMNEY CALLS ON AKIN TO END CAMPAIGN - Romney statement: "As I said yesterday, Todd Akin's comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country. Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race."

Akin on Hannity this afternoon: "We are not getting out of this race."

WELFARE RACE WAR - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's TV ads claiming President Barack Obama "gutted" welfare reform resonate with people who have more conservative views on racial issues, according to a new study released Monday... Michael Tesler, an assistant professor of political science at Brown University, drew on YouGov data to study people's reactions to the welfare ad. Of the 1,000 people surveyed, half had seen the spot. Among the respondents randomly assigned to watch it, the ones shown by the YouGov data to be more inclined to believe that racial inequality results from individual shortcomings -- and not structural barriers facing African Americans -- were more likely to believe Romney would help the poor, the middle class and blacks. "The welfare ad did not appear to affect people's overall answers to those questions," Tesler wrote. "However, it did make attitudes toward blacks a stronger predictor of respondents' views about the consequences of Romney's policies for the poor, the middle class, and African-Americans." [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Falling out of the middle class and landing in the safety net is not as fun as some politicians say it is, according to Tanya Wells of Williamsburg, Va. She and her husband had good jobs until 2008, but not anymore. "I played all my cards right before the recession," Wells said during an unusual interview on MSNBC Sunday. "We had jobs. We were making good money. We were your average middle class family, living comfortably. All of a sudden the rug got pulled out from under us and we are -- along with the rest of the people from the middle class -- we are now poor." Wells, who is 32 and lives with her husband and two kids, relies on Medicaid, food stamps and student loans to help take care of her family. She said she and her husband are pursuing degrees in biology and neuroscience in order to boost their employability. She used to work as an oil company's logistics coordinator, her husband as a sheet metal mechanic, and together they earned $100,000. Now they're bringing in $18,000 -- below the federal poverty line of $23,050 for a family of four. [HuffPost]

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OBAMA SHIFTS FOCUS TO EDUCATION - Joy Resmovits: [The John and Abigail Adams Scholarship program is] a program [Mitt Romney] still promotes on the campaign trail, saying in May that he 'put in place a scholarship program, where if you graduate among the top 25 percent of those who take our graduation exam, you get a four-year, tuition-free ride at a Massachusetts public institution of higher learning.' There was only one problem: due to the structure of university costs in Massachusetts, free tuition meant little because non-tuition fees are egregiously high... President Barack Obama's reelection campaign is preparing two speeches for Tuesday and a media blitz this week intended to make the case that Romney's higher education credentials -- including the Adams scholarship -- did not help enough, a campaign official who requested anonymity so as not to preempt the campaign's rollout told HuffPost.. On Tuesday, Obama will speak in Reno, Nev., and Columbus, Ohio, addressing Romney's higher education record in the context of vice presidential pick Paul Ryan's budget plan, the official said." [HuffPost]

Vice President Biden will visit Tampa during the first day of the Republican convention. The Obama campaign press release didn't specify what Biden will be doing in Tampa... aside from slashing Kevin McCarthy's tires and ordering copious amounts of room service and charging it to Reince Priebus' room, of course. [AP]

POLL: ROMNEY UP IN WISCONSIN - A new survey from Public Policy Polling indicates that Paul Ryan -- with his veins of bratwurst and Miller -- has helped Mitt Romney tremendously in his home state. So unless Joe Biden suddenly discovers that his pancreas is bulging with Milwaukee's Best and fried walleye, the Democrats have a new swing state on their hands. PPP: "PPP's first Wisconsin poll since Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan as his running mate finds him taking a small lead over Barack Obama in the state, 48-47. That represents a 7 point shift from PPP's last look at the state in early July, which found Obama ahead 50-44...Ryan isn't exactly a universally popular figure in his home state. 49% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 45% with a negative one. But that does give him the best numbers of anybody on either ticket in the state. Obama has a 46% approval rating with 50% of voters disapproving of him, Romney has a 45/48 favorability rating, and Joe Biden stands at 41/48." [PPP]

RNSC FRUSTRATED BY TODD AKIN'S INABILITY TO TAKE A HINT - Not unlike that time you went down to the basement and left all those job posting printouts on your 24-year-old's Xbox, the National Republican Senatorial Committee's chief flack, Brian Walsh, sent out an email titled "fyi -- What leading conservatives are saying about the Missouri senate race..." Included in the blast are quotes from prominent conservative pundits calling on Akin to leave the race (" I wanted to point out for your background that [GOP lawmakers calling on Akin to withdraw] have been joined by leading conservatives across the country who have called on Congressman Akin to step aside for the good of the party and the pro-life movement he cares so deeply about."). HINT HINT. [Examiner]

Karl Rove on Fox this morning: "If he remains on the ballot, you're right, Crossroads GPS and Crossroads will not spend any money on the race... this is one of those unfortunate things that's so bad, so deplorable, so out-of-touch that there's no way to recover, in my opinion, from it." [The Hill]

@mattklewis: "I am hesitant to join the mob that says 'throw this guy out.'" - Rush

AKIN MAKES AD BUY THROUGH END OF AUGUST - The Missouri Republican Senate candidate, whose "I don't actually believe that rape is a form of contraception" strategy is sure to win him votes from Kansas City to St. Louis and all places between, has reserved commercial space through August 27th, suggesting that Aiken has no plans of dropping out. Sam Stein: "Putting money into an ad campaign suggests that he has decided to dismiss that deadline and plow ahead with this campaign. The democratic polling firm PPP found that Akin remains in a statistical dead heat with Sen. Claire McCaskill, even after making his rape comments. And while top Republican groups have said they are cutting off their financial support for his campaign, it's likely that social conservatives have helped fill the void." [HuffPost]

In a campaign ad released today, Akin apologizes to the viewer for his comments. The spot will air on Missouri television stations starting tonight. So imagine the surprise on the face of someone who doesn't keep up with political news when, during their weekly "CSI" session, Todd Akin's creased face appears and launches into this: "Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them. The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims." Yikes. [Politico]

ROMNEY/GOP OUTPACING OBAMA/DEMS IN FUNDRAISING - Paul Blumenthal: "According to reports filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission, Romney and the RNC combined to raise $78 million in July. That was well ahead of the $59 million raised by Obama and the DNC. At the same time, the Obama team combined to outspend Romney and the Republicans $90.6 million to $71 million in July. The majority of the money Obama and the Democrats spent, $52 million, went toward television and radio advertisements. The Romney campaign and the RNC spent only $35 million on television advertisements in July...The Republicans' newfound advantage is largely due to the huge checks that Romney is collecting for the RNC. Donors can give a maximum of $5,000 to the Romney campaign -- $2,500 each for a primary and a general election, which begins as soon as the conventions end -- and $30,800 to the RNC." [HuffPost]

RNC ADOPTS TODD AKIN-Y ABORTION PLATFORM - The Republican platform committee today approved a platform draft that calls for a constitutional amendment that bans abortions including in instances of rape and incest. Laura Bassett: "The platform also demands that the government 'not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage,' a policy that harkens back to the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act of 2011. The GOP sponsors of that bill, including Akin and current GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), tried to narrow the definition of rape as it relates to abortion; only 'forcible rape,' the bill originally stated, warrants insurance coverage for abortion. The language was removed before the bill passed." [HuffPost]

STEVE KING HEARS PEOPLE ARE MAKING OFFENSIVE COMMENTS ABOUT WOMEN, TOTALLY HAS TO GET IN ON IT - Just days after Todd Akin ignited a firestorm with his comments about rape, perpetual controversy Steve King suggested that the rape/pregnancy link is open to debate. "Well I just haven't heard of that being a circumstance that's been brought to me in any personal way," he told KMEG-TV yesterday when asked about pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, "and I'd be open to discussion about that subject matter." Is Steve King subject to some kind of reactionary Beetlejuice reflex where he suddenly appears when an insanely offensive and/or illogical sentence is uttered ( "It's not rape if you're married." ::POOF:: King. "There's an obvious causality between homosexualty and economic recessions" ::POOF:: King. "The Bureau of Land Management is overrun with Al Qaeda sleeper cells!" ::POOF:: King.)? [TPM]

The Hill released its annual list of the richest members of Congress. Christina Wilkie: "With a net worth of at least $290 million, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) is the wealthiest member of Congress, followed by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), with $199 million, in second place and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), with $141 million, in third." [HuffPost]

NANCY PELOSI HAS A PROBLEM - Jen Bendery goes deep on this bit of Pulitzer bait, discovering along the way that Nancy Pelosi's favorite ice cream flavor is New York Super Fudge Chunk, which we are pretty sure is also the name of the Parliament cover band she and George Miller play for (Steny Hoyer is a natural Bootsy Collins). "Pelosi is completely addicted to chocolate. Dark chocolate, to be specific. Even if she exercised, which she doesn't, she'd eat it during her workout. Her husband got her a stationary bike once, and during the brief period that she actually used it, she ate pints of Ben & Jerry's chocolate ice cream the entire time... She scoffed when asked if she eats chocolate every day; she'd already had truffles, chocolate candy and a dark chocolate bar that day, and it wasn't even 4 p.m." [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Baby donkey tries not to feel self-conscious about pink casts on its forelegs.

THANK GOD - HuffPost DC:"The Corcoran Gallery of Art might be considering options to sell its landmark museum building near the White House and move elsewhere, but don't expect the Trump family to be interested in buying the structure to expand on its real estate holdings in the nation's capital." [HuffPost]

COMFORT FOOD

- DIRECTIONS FOR KITTEN IN A CUP. Step 1: Take cup. Step 2: Take kitten. Step 3: Place kitten in cup. Step 4: Continue your fruitless search for meaning in the universe. [http://bit.ly/RzoDlA]

- A chart detailing cigarette use by country. Russia is obviously lacking in Nicorette.[http://bit.ly/Ne5KmK]

- Lion pushes its cub into water because life is filled with challenges and the cub is going to have to realize that sooner or later. [http://bit.ly/RdjMUM]

- Electric Method cut a track dedicated to Bill Murray. Bill Murray is the coolest. [http://bit.ly/O1GkqQ]

- What does one do with all those old floppy drives lying around the place? Recycle them? Program them to perform the Ghostbusters theme song? Decisions. Decisions. [http://bit.ly/QlZLXx]

- What would happen if a man got pregnant? Take it away, infographic... [http://bit.ly/Sj83FS]

- Cat singing the "Game of Thrones" theme is tremendously grating. Here it is. [http://bit.ly/QUObTO]

TWITTERAMA

@nycsouthpaw: NYPost headline time.... AKIN NOT STIRRED

@pourmecoffee: If Akin stays in, Missouri GOP is going to arrange a little Clydesdales "accident."

@brianbeutler: Where are all the OFA emails from obscure mayors urging Akin to stay in?

ON TAP

Tonight: Paul Ryan shows off his shiny new self to Philadelphia-area donors at a dinner fundraiser. For an extra $500 you can pat his hair. [Philadelphia, PA]

Tomorrow evening: Michael Jordan and other NBA stars attend a campaign dinner for President Obama. Unclear how much Jordan will make the event about himself. [NYC]

Tomorrow, 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm: Catch 'em before they bail to K Street! The NRSC hosts a summer cookout for Republican Senate chiefs of staff. [NRSC, 425, 2nd Street NE]

Tomorrow: You could use that $2,500 to attend a Detroit fundraiser with Joe Biden, or you could use it to buy a 50-storey office building in Detroit. [Detroit, MI]

Tomorrow: See what the PX90 can do...and also meet the man who might soon be a heartbeat away from the presidency. Paul Ryan heads to North Carolina for a campaign reception/possible PX90 demonstration.

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