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Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), has penned something a wee bit shy of a mea culpa, explaining away last week's much-derided industry study finding that health care reforms will cause people's premiums to skyrocket.

According to Ignagni, AHIP never meant to hide the ball from anybody:

The study clearly states that its analysis covers only these provisions and specifically notes that it did not factor in the impact of proposed premium subsidies. Nevertheless, critics have charged that the study nefariously hid the fact that it omitted provisions designed to enhance affordability, such as the subsidies and a grandfathering clause.

Elided here is the fact that AHIP asked PricewaterhouseCoopers specifically not to include the mitigating factors of subsidies and other affordability measures, in an attempt to make it seem as if Congress was on the verge of passing legislation that would cause everyone's insurance premiums to skyrocket.

Also elided is that, as has been widely reported, AHIP misled the White House about the existence of the study, despite being a nominal partner in the White House's reform efforts.

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The White House just issued the following statement from President Barack Obama on the Afghan election. Here's the full text:

I welcome President Karzai's statement today accepting the Independent Electoral Commission's certification of the August 20 election results, and agreeing to participate in a second round of the election. This is an important step forward in ensuring a credible process for the Afghan people which results in a government that reflects their will.

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The Republican National Committee released September fundraising figures this morning showing the GOP has a strong bank account heading into the election's next month and primed for 2010. Chairman Mike Steele said the money will help the party "ensure victory" next year.

The RNC raised $8.74 million last month and have $18.9 million in the bank. They also have no debt, according to the party.

And in a bit of homage to the way Barack Obama built his campaign machine on the small donor grassroots, the RNC release notes they averaged 2,400 new donors each day, with an average contribution of $36. The number of donors is an off-election year record, the RNC said.

"It goes without saying that we have been working hard to establish a new brand for the RNC," Steele said. "From giving a voice to the frustrations of many Americans over the president's health care experiment, to the launch of our new web platform, our efforts have resulted in record breaking fundraising numbers for September which continues an extremely strong trend for us since February."

Steele added: "It is clear that the Republican message of lower taxes, less spending and common sense health care reform resonates with working families and small businesses alarmed by the course the president and Congressional Democrats have taken. As we move closer to the elections this fall and in 2010, these funds will enable the RNC to provide Republican candidates throughout the country the financial resources needed to help ensure victory on election day."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has accepted the Afghan International Election Commission finding that he did not receive more than 50 percent of the vote in the August 20 presidential election. A runoff election between Karzai and his main rival Abdullah Abdullah will be held on November 7.

"We welcome the decision made by the Independent Election Commission, we believe the session is legitimate, legal and according to the constitution of Afghanistan," Karzai said, according to CNN.

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Gates: Don't Wait For Afghanistan Election To Be Resolved Speaking to reporters yesterday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the United States should not wait for the Afghanistan election to be resolved before deciding on a strategy for the country -- putting him at odds with top White House officials. "We're not just going to sit on our hands, waiting for the outcome of this election and for the emergence of a government in Kabul," said Gates, also adding: "The outcome of the elections and the problems with the elections have complicated the situation for us. But the reality is, it's not going to be complicated one day and simple the next."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will meet at 10:40 a.m. ET with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. At 11:50 a.m. ET, he will honor recipients of the Presidential Unit Citation, honoring the 11th Armored Combat Regiment of the U.S. Army for service in the Vietnam War. Obama will meet at 1:10 p.m. ET with senior advisers, and depart the White House at 2:20 p.m. ET, arriving in New York City at 3:30 p.m. ET. Obama will tour the Joint Terrorism Task Force Headquarters at 4:15 p.m. ET, and deliver remarks to staff members at 4:30 p.m. ET. He will attend a 7:10 p.m. ET fundraiser for Bill Owens, the Democratic candidate in the NY-23 special election, and deliver remarks at 8:10 p.m. ET at a DNC fundraiser. He will depart from New York at 9:50 p.m. ET, arriving back at the White House at 10:55 p.m. ET.

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A new poll out this morning shows Bob McDonnell extending his lead in the Virginia gubernatorial race two weeks before Election Day. McDonnell now leads his Democratic opponent, Creigh Deeds 49-41. Ten percent of voters remain undecided in the contest.

The poll of 605 registered voters was conducted by Clarus research over the weekend. In Clarus' last poll, taken in Sept., McDonnell led by 5 points with 20% undecided.

Internals from the poll show McDonnell gaining among women, independents and voters outside the populous D.C. suburbs. Despite weeks of Democratic attacks over his 1989 master's thesis -- attacks which focused on his negative views of women in the workplace at the time -- McDonnell now leads among women by one point.

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The new Monmouth poll shows the New Jersey gubernatorial race tied, with Republican Chris Christie having lost the lead he once held over Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine.

The numbers: Christie 39%, Corzine 39%, and independent Chris Daggett 14%, with a ±3.1% margin of error. Three weeks ago, Christie led by 43%-40%-8%, and he was up by 47%-39%-5% two and a half weeks before that.

The pollster's analysis finds Christie losing Democratic support back to Corzine and even some GOP voters to Daggett, while both candidates have lost independent voters to Daggett: "Democrats who flirted with Chris Christie earlier in the year have come back into the fold. It also looks like some GOP voters may have become disenchanted with their white knight. That's not a good sign for the Republican at this late stage of the game."

Senate health care leaders, and White House officials including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle and Sens. Chris Dodd (D-CT), Max Baucus (D-MT), Harry Reid (D-NV), met behind closed doors for over an hour in a leadership office Monday night to discuss and negotiate the merging of two different health care bills.

A spokesman for Reid was mum about the details, except to say that the group discussed the public option, affordability and other issues at the heart of the plan to reform the nation's health care system.

The same officials are expected to huddle again Tuesday to continue the talks.

Facing a primary challenge from the right, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is suddenly attacking President Obama for stimulus spending just six months after backing the stimulus package.

Crist defended his new radio ads slamming President Obama over his economic policy this afternoon, claiming that he joined the president at a pro-stimulus rally in February because, "I think it's the right thing to do to honor the office of President of the United States."

But video from the event tells a very different story.

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Top Senate Democrats are huddling behind closed doors this evening with key White House advisors in hopes of crafting a health care bill that hits one big magic number: 60.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is the referee between Sen. Max Baucus' more conservative bill and Sen. Chris Dodd's more liberal one, and the White House deployed chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and presidential health care adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle.

It's a merger meeting extraordinaire.

The group has been quiet on goals for the evening, and the White House has taken a step back from official comments to let the Senate do its business. Aides know it's now in Reid's court to come up with a bill that can keep his caucus in line, though Hill staffers want President Obama to lay out his dealbreakers.

The group is under pressure to get a deal done quickly, but they also are attempting to avoid the media spotlight as dozens of reporters camp outside Reid's senate office.

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