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SOLO PERFORMANCE: The Storm Formerly Known as Hurricane Isaac continued its gradual descent to tropical storm and toward tropical depression today, clearing the way for Mitt Romney to take the stage at the RNC tonight with relatively little fear of split screens or cutaways to a storm-ravaged Gulf Coast.
SURPRISE!: But while the now-official GOP nominee will command the attention of much of the nation when he speaks from Tampa, he can thank his convention planners for ensuring that a surprise-hungry press corps spent much of the day wondering aloud about a speaker with a given name of "Mystery," not Mitt.
WAIT, WHAT?: The whole thing started earlier this week when reporters noticed that the official convention agenda included a TBA speaker slot right before Marco Rubio was scheduled to introduce Romney. That prompted some early speculation as to the identity of the unannounced guest, but the rumor mill kicked into high gear today as reporters apparently grew tired of fact-checking Paul Ryan's speech from last night.
FANNING THE FLAMES: "If there was a mystery speaker, then it wouldn't be a mystery speaker anymore," a Romney adviser told reporters this morning, pretty much ensuring that the story would live on into the afternoon news cycle.
SPOILER ALERT: But Team GOP apparently thought better of letting the suspense go on too long—perhaps in part because at least two people we know began to wonder aloud if the TBA slot was going to be the twofer of Hologram Reagan and Romney re-enacting the pottery scene from Ghost. Those In The Know ended the suspense shortly before 4 p.m. by confirming speculation that the surprise guest will be Clint Eastwood.
SEE, WE TOLD YOU: You just forgot about the real man of the moment for a second there, didn't you? Well, let's pivot back to the current face of the GOP, and what's at stake tonight.
Politico's Maggie Haberman with the analysis: "In a precious hour before a national television audience, Romney has the opportunity to connect with voters in the convention hall but also well beyond. There is a deeper, softer, and much kinder side to Romney, those who know him insist, but he provides only those closest to him with a view of it. He has run the least biographically anchored campaign of any presidential nominee in recent history, declining to present his own fleshed-out accounts of his time at Bain Capital, his time as a bishop in the Mormon church, or his term as Massachusetts governor."
MORMON MENTION?: The AP's Rachel Zoll: "After years of avoiding direct mention of his religion, Mitt Romney will open up about his Mormon faith as he accepts the Republican nomination for president. It's unclear just how much detail he will provide ... [but] the roster of speakers promises at least a glimpse into his nearly 14 years of service as a lay Mormon pastor around Boston. The invocation will be given by Ken Hutchins, a retired Northborough, Mass., police chief, who was also a Mormon leader in the state, and Grant Bennett, who served as a church counselor to Romney, is scheduled to offer remarks."
Happy Thursday, and welcome to the Slatest PM. You can follow the whole team at @slatest and your host at @JoshVoorhees. Or fill his inbox with links, mini-explainer requests and anything else that's on your mind at email@example.com.
CAN ANDERSON COOPER COME HOME YET?: Probably not. CNN: "Isaac slashed its way further inland Thursday, claiming its first fatality and stranding residents in flood-prone areas even as it threatened to wreak more havoc in the days to come. Although the tropical storm weakened and is forecast to become a tropical depression by Thursday evening, the pounding rains are still drenching a large swath of the Gulf Coast. Mississippi and Louisiana announced mandatory evacuations for all low-lying areas along the Tangipahoa River."
RNC REWIND: Paul Ryan took center stage last night. Let's see what Slate's Breakfast Table thought of his primetime speech.
David Weigel: "I was in the cheap seats, not on carpet, when Ryan plowed through one of the more impressive strings of whoppers we've seen at this level. Ryan's been doling out chunks of this speech for weeks, which made the fibs sound even stranger. In the spirit of the Internet, I will package them in listicle form."
John Dickerson: "Paul Ryan is supposed to be a wonk, but we've never really seen this side of him since he's become a vice presidential candidate. So far he has been an articulate Republican Party spokesperson for all of Barack Obama's failings. He hit his rhetorical height Wednesday night at the Republican convention when he unbuckled a long and stinging critique of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party."
Emily Bazelon: "In the light of morning, my glow of warmth for Ryan’s love for his mother has cooled to bafflement over how he can possibly say that his budget will help other people in their time of need. Fully 62 percent of the cuts he proposes come out of programs for the poor, as Jonathan Cohn points out an analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows. This is where supply-side conservatives lose me. They just don't have evidence their tax cuts will produce gains up and down the income ladder. All the other Betty Douglases out there will be better off if her son is never (vice) president."
TX VOTER ID LAW STRUCK DOWN: The Washington Post: "A federal court on Thursday blocked a controversial new voter ID law in Texas, ruling that the state failed to show that the law would not harm the voting rights of minorities. The three-judge panel in the historic case said that evidence also showed that costs of obtaining a voter ID would fall most heavily on poor African Americans and Hispanics in Texas."
HOW DO YOU SAY 'MURDER' IN RUSSIAN?: The Guardian: "The bodies of two women have been found beneath a message calling for the release of jailed members of the punk band Pussy Riot, Russian investigators have said. The deaths have prompted anger among Kremlin supporters, who have warned that the musicians were encouraging dangerous radicalism. But supporters of the band, three of whose members were given prison sentences earlier this month, immediately cast doubt on claims that the murders were the work of a Pussy Riot fan."
A WIN FOR ZIMMERMAN: The Miami Herald: "George Zimmerman’s attorneys got a second judge kicked off his murder trial Wednesday, when the Fifth District Court of Appeal ordered the sitting jurist to step down from the controversial case. In a 2-1 ruling ... the appellate court acknowledged was a 'close call'.... The decision came after Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, accused [Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth] Lester of being so biased against his client that the former neighborhood watch volunteer had lost faith in the court."
RUNNING THE TRAPS—
NYT: "Iran has installed most of the centrifuges it needs to complete an underground site for the production of nuclear fuel, a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said."
WaPo: "Rebel forces said Thursday that they had shot down a Syrian fighter jet in the northwest of the country, only three days after rebels appeared to have shot down a helicopter over Damascus."
WSJ: "The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled after remarks by European leaders raised fears about the euro zone and a measure of economic sentiment in the region fell to a more than two-year low."
WHAT YOUR HOST IS GOING TO READ AS SOON AS HE HITS SEND: This lengthy BloombergBusinessweek feature on ESPN.
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