TPM News

Mitt Romney walked back his oft-repeated claim that President Obama made the recession worse, telling reporters in Pennsylvania on Thursday that he never meant to suggest any such thing.

Asked by NBC how he squared his claim that Obama worsened the lousy economy he inherited given that the stock market has surged, unemployment is down from its peak, and the economy is no longer shrinking, Romney demurred.

"I didn't say that things are worse," he said. He went on to make the case that Obama had failed to do enough on jobs, a much less inflammatory claim.

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After he stole a Ford Excursion and drove it with a .15 blood alcohol content -- almost twice the legal limit -- John McGee was charged with felony grand theft and faced the prospect of a hefty jail sentence. The Republican state senator from Idaho, who had been mentioned as a possible congressional or gubernatorial candidate, seemed to have reached the end of his political career.

Or maybe not. On Friday morning, McGee reached a plea agreement that saw the felony charged dropped, leaving him with just a misdemeanor DUI.

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Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman promised not to use his considerable wealth to fund his presidential campaign. Shortly thereafter he told the Salt Lake Tribune he donated some cash to his campaign after all -- but only to "prime the pump."

Now his campaign is reporting he raised $4.1 million in the last fundraising quarter, including the unspecified sum Huntsman put in himself. Huntsman won't be making a formal FEC filing like the rest of the 2012 contenders will, because he entered the campaign so late.

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For all the talk about August 2 being the hard-and-fast deadline for Congress to raise the debt limit, that's never really been the case. The Treasury department considers August 2 the day they're likely to run out of headroom and either take drastic action to avoid a credit default, or begin missing interest payments and unleashing hell. It's like the outer bound. But practically, White House officials now say, that means Congress needs to have a debt limit deal in hand about two weeks before then -- a legislative lifetime -- if they're going to have enough time to crank out a bill and raise the debt limit in time to prevent calamity.

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Minnesota's government is shutting down amid a fight over -- what else -- raising taxes, but former governor Tim Pawlenty couldn't be happier. In fact, he wishes his own shutdown standoff in 2005 had lasted even longer.

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The political news from the gathering of global warming skeptics at the Heartland Institute in DC this week is, for the most part, the same news you'll find at any predominantly conservative gathering these days. Attendees here want Texas Gov. Rick Perry to run for the Republican presidential nomination. Oh, and they're not thrilled with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

But there was one surprise -- climate skeptics are not as high on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as nearly every other Republican on the planet is.

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Several weeks after Republicans and Democrats began high-level negotiations to slash federal spending by trillions of dollars -- the GOP's price for raising the national borrowing limit, and avoiding a catastrophic debt default -- Democrats finally peeped up. New tax revenues, of some kind, of some amount, would have to be part of the deal.

The group, led by Vice President Joe Biden, had already identified nearly $2 trillion in cuts to discretionary and mandatory spending programs -- nearly enough to raise the debt limit through the end of 2012 and take a contentious issue off the table this election season.

That's when Democrats said, "your turn to give!" and put $400 billion in tax cuts on the table. Republicans balked. No tax hikes at all. Some Republicans have left the door open to closing certain indefensible loopholes. But party leaders have tried, for all intents and purposes, to take the tax code off the table. Cuts only.

The Democrats' response, from the rank and file up to President Obama, has been a political twofer. If Republicans are taking all taxes off the table, then they're playing reverse Robin Hood -- demanding trillions in cuts to social programs while refusing to budge on preferences to unfathomably wealthy special interests. It's class war, but in tactical sense. If they can make the GOP feel so uncomfortable that they agree to end special tax favors for the ultra-wealthy -- even if those favors don't ultimately cost that much money -- then maybe they can break the anti-tax firewall and encroach on $400 billion.

Here's what they're focusing on.

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Though a federal judge temporarily blocked parts of Georgia's strict new immigration law this week, the rest of the law will go into effect Friday, including one provision that would penalize people who use a fake ID to get a job with up to 15 years in jail and up to $250,000 in fines.

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Minnesota lawmakers just couldn't get it done.

After many consecutive days of intense budget negotiations, the state's government has begun shutting down ahead of the Fourth of July weekend. That means state parks and rest stops are closed -- as well as other government services the court doesn't deem "core" functions of government. More than 22,000 state employees will be forced out of work.

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Wisconsin state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, who has been publicly accused of putting Justice Ann Walsh Bradley in a chokehold, had another flare-up on Thursday -- this time with a reporter.

The local Fox affiliate in Milwaukee sent reporter Mike Lowe to the state Capitol in Madison, seeking to track down the members of the Supreme Court, including Prosser, and repeatedly ask them for comment.

In all, Lowe caught up with four out of the seven Justices. Of course, the Justices predictably declined to comment on a matter that is under a pending investigation -- especially a story that is embarrassing the court.

But when Prosser met up with Lowe, he quickly grabbed the microphone out of Lowe's hand, before just as quickly handing it right back to the surprised reporter -- apparently realizing that was a really bad idea in front of a video camera

Watch the video ...

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