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The new national survey from Public Policy Polling (D) finds President Obama with leads of various margins over potential Republican challengers -- with Mike Huckabee as the strongest one for now.

Obama is in a dead heat with Huckabee, with 46% to Huck's 45%. Obama leads Sarah Palin by 50%-44%, has a stronger lead of 48%-35% over Tim Pawlenty -- likely because of Pawlenty's lower name recognition -- and is ahead of Mitt Romney by 47%-42%. The margin of error is ±2.8%.

From the pollster's analysis: "There is no evidence that Huckabee's been hurt by the bad publicity stemming from the murders committed in Washington last month by an inmate whose sentence Huckabee had commuted. His favorability rating of 35/35 is basically unchanged from 36/37 a month ago."

That could very well be true for now, with only high-information voters knowing about the case. But give Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin some money for attack ads in Iowa and New Hampshire, and they might be able to change that.

RNC Chairman Mike Steele, who has been calling for a delay in the health care bill process, told members in a strategy memo today that he wants them to stall using every possible tactic.

Steele writes:

But people with a broad range of health reform ideas should be able to come together and realize we need to delay the trillion dollar Obama-Pelosi-Reid health care experiment until next year when we see what the shape of the economy will be.


He tells members to "spend every bit of capital and energy you have to stop this health care reform."

"The Democrats have accused us of trying to delay, stall, slow down, and stop this bill," Steele wrote. "They are right. We do want to delay, stall, slow down, and ultimately stop them from experimenting on our nation's health care. And guess what, so do a majority of Americans."

As we've been reporting on our health care wire, Republicans are trying to keep the Senate in session over the weekend.

Read the memo in full after the jump.

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Five young men from Northern Virginia have been arrested in Pakistan in a house with links to a militant group, but they have not been charged with a crime and details of what they were doing are still hard to come by. But the case is already being cited as the latest example in an emerging trend of radicalization of American Muslims who travel overseas and link up with foreign terrorist groups.

Here's the basic outlines of the story, as it has been reported so far: five American Muslim men, ranging in age from their late teens to mid-20s, flew to Pakistan earlier this month and, after bouncing around several cities, ended up in a house in Sargodha, in Punjab Province. The owner of the house where they were arrested reportedly has ties to the group Jaish-e-Muhammad, considered a terrorist organization by the United States.

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President Obama accepted his Nobel Peace Prize earlier today in Oslo, Norway, with a speech in which he addressed both the yearning for peace and the importance of pursuing it -- and the responsibility of fighting necessary wars.



Obama acknowledged the criticism that it is too early for him to receive this honor -- and said that the skeptics are right:

In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize - Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela - my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women - some known, some obscure to all but those they help - to be far more deserving of this honor than I.


One line in particular -- in which Obama recognized the implications of accepting a peace prize at the same time as he is escalating a war in Afghanistan -- should be regarded as especially important because of what he says about America's other war:

But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by forty three other countries - including Norway - in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.


By identifying Afghanistan as "a conflict that America did not seek," the obvious implication is that the Iraq War is a war that America did seek -- that America was the aggressor, violating the laws of war that have developed through the centuries.

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A Republican-tied robo-call firm, whose president once reportedly boasted of his company's ability to "deliver a voter suppression message" to unfriendly voters, is working to undermine state restrictions on robo-calls.

In comments filed Wednesday with the FEC, and examined by TPMmuckraker, ccAdvertizing argues that state laws restricting robocalls are pre-empted by a more lenient federal law. The comments were submitted in support of an earlier effort by another shady GOP-tied group, American Future Fund Political Action (AFFPA), to get the FEC to rule against the state laws. We reported on the AFFPA move here.

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Ben Smith points out some interesting numbers from a new poll (PDF) commissioned by the New America Foundation: 39 percent of Israelis think President Obama is a Muslim.

Respondents were asked how well different words describe Obama. Of the 39 percent who said "Muslim" describes him well, 15 percent said "very well" and 24 percent said "somewhat well." Forty-nine percent said "Muslim" does not describe Obama well.

In another question, 52 percent said they thought Obama's election is "good" "for addressing the problems facing the world."

For decades, the Republican party has been the scourge of Medicare, hostile to it as a wasteful government program, and happy to see it, in the words of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, "wither and die on the vine." Over the past several months, as Democrats propose paying for health care reform with savings wrung from waste in Medicare, Republicans have tried to position themselves as Medicare saviors. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) took to the Senate floor recently to warn that health care reform will make seniors "die sooner."

Now, though, Democrats are pondering a Medicare expansion of sorts. They want to let people between the ages of 55 and 64 buy insurance through Medicare. And suddenly, Republicans are stuck in a booby-trapped rhetorical space, defending Medicare from all attackers--real and perceived--and also lashing out at the idea of letting more people benefit from it.

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Last night, Stephen Colbert presented 'Grand Old Purity' for his 'The Word' segment. With predictions swirling (among Republicans) of a 2010 midterm takeover of both houses of congress by the GOP, Colbert remarked, "Folks, Republicans have not been this excited since Häagen-Dazs released vanilla vanilla swirl. But here's the problem: In order to win, the GOP may have to make a deal with the Devil -- moderates!"

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