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Until last year, the Idle Hour Country Club in Lexington, Kentucky, had no African American members. Now lifetime member and 6th Congressional District Republican nominee Andy Barr is finding himself in the awkward position of explaining his connection to what was until very recently an all-white club -- in the middle of a hotly contested election campaign against incumbent Rep. Ben Chandler (D).

Politico's Alex Isenstadt reports the Republican's campaign has confirmed that Barr -- a top-tier NRCC "Young Gun" -- and his family are "active in the club." As the Lexington Herald-Leader reported last year when former Kentucky college star and NBA player Sam Bowie was accepted as the club's first black member, Idle Hour has "remained a symbol of exclusivity and old divisions based on race and class in Lexington" even as the state has become more accepting of diversity in the workplace and private life.

Barr's campaign told Politico that news of his lifetime membership at Idle Hour was nothing but the Chandler camp "resorting to cheap, personal attacks," in the words of Barr's campaign manager.

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Minnesota state Rep. Tom Emmer, the presumptive Republican nominee for governor, has put forward a new policy for helping the state's businesses: Lowering the minimum wage for waiters and waitresses, and forcing them to rely more heavily on tips.

Minnesota is one of seven states that do not permit employers to pay less than the standard minimum wage to tipped workers. Federal law permits tipped workers' wages to be as low $2.13 per hour, with tips given to workers credited against the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour employers are required to pay. Emmer's proposal would get rid of Minnesota's law against using that credit, and thus bring the minimum wages for restaurant staff and other gratuity-based workers down to $2.13 per hour plus tips, a reduction of nearly two-thirds. Emmer said this proposal would result in a "level playing field so the employers can continue to exist, survive and thrive."

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Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic nominee in the state's hotly-contested Senate race, could have yet another political liability to deal with from the collapse of his family's bank: As a result of the financial loss, he has collected a tax refund of about $30,000, though he immediately indicated he would donate the money to charity.

Giannoulias lost $2.7 million as a result of the bank's failure, and was thus able to get a tax refund on the amount that had been withheld from his salary as state treasurer. His Republican opponent, Rep. Mark Kirk, quickly pounced on Friday: "Giannoulias wants to raise our taxes but doesn't pay any taxes himself."

When asked for comment by TPMDC, the Giannoulias camp turned the story right back to Kirk's own personal dirt, relating to his previous inaccurate statements about his military record. Giannoulias spokesman Matt McGrath told us: "It comes as no surprise given his record of mistruths, half-truths and untruths about his military record, but when he says Alexi wants to raise taxes, Congressman Kirk is lying. Again."

The TPM Poll Average gives Kirk a lead of 43.1%-38.4%.

Embattled former Florida Republican Party chair Jim Greer is ramping up his defense against fraud charges in the Sunshine State -- and he plans to enlist some of his old friends to help. At a press conference Monday, Greer's attorney, J. Cheney Mason, told reporters that he'll call past and current heavy-hitters in the Florida GOP to the stand as he defends Greer, including Gov. Charlie Crist, state Attorney General Bill McCollum and current state GOP chair John Thrasher.

According to the AP Mason told reporters that the multiple fraud charges Greer faces in state court are due to "right-wing conservatives who turned against Crist, the man who picked Greer to head the state party, and decided to punish the governor by ruining Greer".

Greer is the "victim" in the case, Mason said.

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Sharron Angle has resorted to an unusual maneuver to counter Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's attacks on her past quotes and positions, the Reid campaign has announced: A cease-and-desist letter, demanding that Reid no longer republish Angle's previous campaign website.

The short version of the story is as follows: After the former state Rep won Nevada's Republican Senate primary, Angle's campaign took down most of its website, and later replaced it with a relaunched version that in some ways toned down her right-wing rhetoric. But Internet pages are rarely ever forgotten -- the Reid campaign saved the old version, and put up a website called "The Real Sharron Angle," reproducing the old content.

Then, they say, the Angle campaign sent them a cease-and-desist letter, claiming misuse of copyrighted materials in the reposting of the old website -- which was, of course, being posted for the purposes of ridiculing Angle. The Reid campaign has in fact taken down the site, rerouting visitors to another website that goes after Angle's positions, "Sharron's Underground Bunker."

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Vice President Joe Biden said today the Iraqi government has "stepped up" with the training of a police force and that those Iraqi forces are "absolutely" ready to take over to allow for the major drawdown of U.S. combat troops this summer.

"Nobody that I'm aware of is worried about, not withstanding how long it takes to form a government, the security apparatus breaking down," Biden told NBC's Andrea Mitchell in an interview from Iraq. She is traveling with him on a surprise trip to meet with generals on the ground, a short visit that included a major explosion near the base where the group is staying. "That's not a big deal, it happens," Biden told Mitchell.

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1||1975: President Gerald Ford celebrates the Fourth of July by swimming in front of the press.

Here's a look back at more politicians celebrating Independence Day, America style. ||Ford Library Museum&&

2||1996: President Bill Clinton talks with government biologist Craig Koppe about Freedom -- the aptly-named American bald eagle who'd just been treated for a shoulder injury at the Baltimore Zoo. Clinton helped Koppe release Freedom back into the wild. ||Newscom/UPI&&

3||2007: Former President George H. W. Bush and Tiger Woods drive up to the first tee at the inaugural AT&T National PGA event at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, MD. ||Newscom/UPI&&

4||2001: President George W. Bush passes out birthday cake at a block party in Philadelphia, as he stands arm in arm with Mayor John Street.||Whitehouse.gov&&

5||1986: President Ronald Reagan and the First Lady at the Statue of Liberty Centennial Celebration.||NYC.gov&&

6||1971: House Speaker Carl Albert, President Richard Nixon and Chief Justice Warren E. Burger before the delivery of speeches opening the Bicentennial commemorations in the National Archives.||CC: The U.S. National Archives&&

7||2009: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch the fireworks over the National Mall from the White House.||Official White House photo by Pete Souza&&

8||1998: Eunice Shriver and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) attend the annual Kennedy Clam Bake in Hyannisport, MA. ||Newscom/Sipa&&

9||2007: President George W. Bush arrives for a speech at an air national guard base in Martinsburg, West Virginia.||Newscom/UPI&&

10||2003: Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) greets parade attendees in Amherst, New Hampshire, during the presidential campaign.||Newscom/PDI&&

11||2010: The Obamas wave to military families from the South Lawn balcony of the White House, as the President's Marine Band stands below.||Newscom/Sipa&&

There's at least one thing that can be said about Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele: He is reliably entertaining.

Steele has had a history of gaffes during his time as RNC Chairman, often as a result of his attempts to make the GOP appealing to disaffected folks both to his right and his left. More than once, the gaffes have come from Steele's bad habit of listening to somebody criticize the GOP, then reaching out to them by agreeing with the initial criticism before trying to discuss how we can all come together to fix the problem. Other times, he just seems to speak without thinking about what his words actually mean -- and whether they match up with Republican principles.

So let's take a look at some of Steele's greatest hits.

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Despite a slew of negative press over the past two weeks, former Rep. John Kasich (R) is building a lead on incumbent Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D), according to a new poll from Rasmussen out today which shows Kasich leading Strickland 47-40.

Rasmussen surveyed 500 likely voters on June 29. The new poll has a margin of error of 4.5%. A similar poll taken by Rasmussen on June 3 showed Kasich ahead 47-42. But other recent polling of the race has shown the race to be closer than that, and some show Strickland in the lead.

The TPM Poll Average shows the race to be a dead heat (Strickland's ahead in the average by a margin of 43.3-42.9.)

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has a new TV ad against his challenger in the Republican primary, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, continuing to hammer away at Hayworth over his involvement in a 2007 infomercial promoting questionable seminars for "free money" in government grants.

The ad uses video of Hayworth's very unfortunate original reaction to the story: "One of the staples I learned growing up is caveat emptor -- buyer beware." Hayworth subsequently released a more detailed apology for the infomercial.

The announcer says: "J.D. Hayworth. Pork barrel spender. Lobbyist. Huckster. Voter beware."

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