What difference does it make how much the government spends? “There is, of course, debate over the optimal amount of government spending needed to create the highest level of growth. Although point estimates are difficult to calculate, a recent study cited by many economists (Chobanov and Mladenova, 2009) estimated that 25 percent of GDP is the upper bound of spending for state, local, and federal government combined in order to optimize growth. . . . If this theory holds, we may be in a tippingpoint scenario where the drag on growth at projected levels of spending will result in a “new normal” lower level of growth going forward.”

John McCain, Charles Schumer and Marco Rubio From right, Sens. Marco Rubio, Charles Schumer and John McCain (J.Scott Applewhite / AP)

What difference does it make which party is in the White House? Under a Republican president, this would be disqualifying for a nominee. “Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense Chuck Hagel sits on the board of Chevron Corporation, an organization that has received millions of dollars in Department of Defense contracts. Chevron has been criticized by environmental and human rights activists for a litany of practices, yet Hagel’s position on the board has garnered little attention.”

What difference does it make if the U.S. stands up for human rights? “A few weeks ago, on December 15th, a mild-mannered but well-known NGO worker in Laos, Sombath Somphone, was following his wife home after dinner in Vientiane. They drove in separate cars but the 60-year-old Somphone never arrived and has been missing ever since. . . .  The United States, European Union and United Nations human rights officials have expressed their concern that Somphone is being held by authorities, a position supported by foreign envoys in the capital who have suggested his disappearance might require more than just diplomatic posturing.”

What difference does it make if prominent GOP leaders support immigration reform? Karl Rove: “I applaud the efforts by Marco Rubio and others to bring the Republicans to a sensible position on immigration. . . . Hopefully, this bipartisan effort will generate good policy for the country.”

What difference does it make if Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) retires? “Now that she’s moved back to Wyoming, speculation is growing that Liz Cheney, the GOP activist and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney is interested in political office. . . . Much of the speculation focuses on a potential Senate run should GOP Sen. Mike Enzi, up for reelection in 2014, decide against a bid. GOP strategists say that Cheney’s roots in Wyoming, where the former vice president was a congressman, and her connections would be a powerful force that would easily propel her into office.”

What difference does it make to the GOP? Republicans can then get their feet in the door: “Yet if immigration reform is not sufficient, it certainly seems to be necessary. So too more hospitable rhetoric. But then what? Well, how about a pro-growth, pro-market, pro-family economic agenda that appeals to middle-class voters of whatever race or ethnicity: a) an expanded child tax credit to offset both income and payroll taxes for parents, b) financial reform to end crony capitalist bank subsidies, c) the elimination of investment taxes, d) education reform beyond private school vouchers, and d) a plan for transforming [Obamacare] into true consumer-driven health reform.”

What difference does it make if you get a particular interviewer? “The warmth Steve Kroft displayed toward Obama and Clinton was, to me, unmistakable; the three laughed together like old friends. Leslie Stahl, on the other hand, brought no such levity to her interview with [House Majority Leader Eric] Cantor, which aired on January 1, 2012. At times, Stahl seemed downright hostile, at one point narrowing her eyes and asking, ‘What?’ . . . Stahl did her job. Politicians should be subjected to tough questions and have their assertions challenged, not swallowed wholesale, as America watched Steve Kroft do [Sunday] night.” And good for Cantor to go on CBS. Too many Republicans hide out on Fox.