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The Virginia gubernatorial debate is going on (a live stream is available here) and moderator David Gregory kicked off the questions by asking Republican nominee Bob McDonnell about his single worst Achilles' heel: The thesis he wrote in grad school, in which the 34-year old McDonnell denounced working women.

McDonnell responded by citing his own personal family life: His wife has been a working woman and mother for his whole political career, and he encouraged all three of his daughters to pursue master's degrees. He especially cited his oldest daughter, Jeanine, who has served in the Army in Iraq.

"I would say that's the ultimate working woman," said McDonnell. "I supported her going into the military and being able to defend this nation, and I'm proud of her."

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Greg Sargent reports that PhRMA "has unleashed a massive wave of mailers in four dozen House districts that warns seniors that their Medicare costs will soar if the House doesn't back the controversial health care deal that the lobby reportedly cut with the White House and Senate negotiators."

That deal reportedly puts an $80 billion ceiling on the industry profits that Congress can target -- and it seems the drug lobby is starting to push it, hard.

Can't imagine advocates of health care reform in the House will be too happy about this one -- especially the ones whose districts are targeted, like Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI). Check out the mailer targeting her here.

President Obama spoke this morning on the administration's change to a planned European missile defense system, saying the new strategy "will provide stronger, smarter and swifter defenses of American's forces and American allies."

Obama said he made the change after an assessment of the missile defense strategy and unanimous recommendations from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said the new plan is based around changing intelligence about the threat from Iran's ballistic missile program and developing defense technology.

The new architecture "best responds to the threats we face and utilizes technology that is both proven and cost-effective," Obama said in brief remarks in the White House.

Gates also spoke from the Pentagon, along with Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

The system will "enhance our ability to respond to the most immediate threats to the Continent as well as future threats," Gates said. He said the plan would be implemented in phases. The first will involve missile defense systems placed on ships; the second, starting around 2015, will move to land-based versions in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) released a statement today on the administration's decision to change plans for a missile defense shield in Europe. Here's the full text:

"I am disappointed with the Administration's decision to cancel plans to develop missile defenses in Eastern Europe. This decision calls into question the security and diplomatic commitments the United States has made to Poland and the Czech Republic, and has the potential to undermine perceived American leadership in Eastern Europe. Given the strong and enduring relationships we have forged with the region's nations since the end of the Cold War, we should not, I believe, take steps backward in strengthening these ties. Yet I fear the Administration's decision will do just that, and at a time when Eastern European nations are increasingly wary of renewed Russian adventurism.

"Given the serious and growing threats posed by Iran's missile and nuclear programs, now is the time when we should look to strengthen our defenses, and those of our allies. Missile defense in Europe has been a key component of this approach. I believe the decision to abandon it unilaterally is seriously misguided."

The new Quinnipiac poll in Connecticut suggests that Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd could be beginning to climb out of the hole he's been in -- but he's still most definitely in it.

Former Rep. Rob Simmons, the GOP establishment favorite, leads Dodd by 44%-39%, down from a 48%-39% lead in July. The margin of error is ±3.2%

Dodd's approval rating is at 43%, with a disapproval of 49%, but this too is an improvement over his 42%-52% rating in July. In addition, 40% of registered voters say he is honest and trustworthy, compared to 51% who say he is not, up from a 35%-55% deficit in July.

From the pollster's analysis: "Sen. Christopher Dodd's approval keeps edging up, and he is bringing down his high negatives. For the first time in six months, his disapproval is under 50 percent, just barely."

This piece from Politico offers some useful insight into the extent to which Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is under just as much political pressure to oppose health care reform as she is to support it.

Conservative members of her caucus aren't being particularly shy about where they stand. "It would be terrible if one Republican chose to basically sell out the whole Conference," said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), "particularly in return for some naive idea that we can get some compromise here and that it's going to hold up in [a House-Senate] conference."

"If Republicans are unanimous or maybe unanimous but one -- that puts a real spotlight on anybody who does differ from all of their colleagues," said Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ)

And that's just what they're saying publicly.

Economist Peter Schiff will run for Chris Dodd's Senate seat, he announced today on MSNBC.

Schiff, an economist who runs a brokerage firm, has earned fame over the past year for his book, called Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse, and his predictions that the economy would collapse. He's running as a Republican and already faces four challengers in the primary: former WWE CEO Linda McMahon, State Sen. Sam Caligiuri, Former Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley and former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, who's seen as the front-runner.

"I can't sit idly by and watch a train wreck in slow motion," Schiff said this morning.

"The main reason I think we should get rid of Chris Dodd is, he represents everything that is wrong with Congress. He is potentially the poster boy for the economic crisis, [and for] the much bigger crisis we're gonna go through over the next few years if someone doesn't go to Washington and put a stop to these destructive policies," he said.

The state Democratic party has already released a statement attacking Schiff for his lack of experience.

"The fact that I haven't had experience ruining the country, that I haven't brought the banking system to its knees," he said, "that's my greatest attribute."

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AP: BaucusCare Is Industry's Favorite So Far The Associated Press reports that the Baucus health care plan appears to be the health insurance industry's favorite proposal so far, with mandates for people to purchase coverage, and no significant competition from the government -- and stocks have gone up since it was announced. However, a spokesman Americans Health Insurance Plans said they still have concerns: "We have some significant concerns, particularly the new taxes that are going to make health insurance less affordable."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will hold a rally on health insurance reform at 11:40 a.m. ET in College Park, Maryland. At 2:05 p.m. ET, he will posthumously award the Medal of Honor to Sgt. First Class Jared C. Monti, whose parents will accept the medal. At 5:15 p.m. ET, Obama will host a viewing of portions of a documentary, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea."

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host an event promoting Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics on the South Lawn of the White House, Sept. 16, 2009. Here, Obama fences playfully with Tim Morehouse, who won a silver medal in 2008 in Beijing.

Newscom/UPI/Aude Guerrucci




Obama plays with a toy light saber, going right for the gut.

Newscom/UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg




Then, Obama turns his formidable foam fencing skills on his wife.

Newscom/UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg




Obama en garde with a toy light saber.

Newscom/Chicago Tribune/Michael Tercha




The Obamas admire Morehouse's silver medal.

Newscom/UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg




Obama with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Newscom/Chicago Tribune/Michael Tercha




The First Lady will travel to Copenhagen next month to make a final pitch for Chicago's bid at hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Newscom/UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg






Newscom/UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg




Olympian Ryan Reser gets thrown by a young girl in a judo exhibition.

Newscom/UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg




Reser and Paralympian Myles Porter give a judo demonstration. Before the White House event, the athletes visited D.C. schools to talk about sports, exercise and health.

Newscom/UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg






Newscom/UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg






Olympic medalist Dominique Dawes hugs Michelle Obama. Other athletes who attended: Jackie Joyner Kersee, Arlene Limas, Henry Cejudo, Ryan Reiser, Michael Conley, Bob Pickens, Bob Ctvrtlik, Anita Defranz, Jair Lynch, Linda Mastendrea, Hope Lewellen, April Holmes and Jerrod Fields.

Newscom/UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg

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