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President Obama used the power of his bully pulpit to try force House Republicans to forge a deficit-reduction deal with Democrats that would raise the debt ceiling but would not force massive cuts to entitlement programs while sparing the wealthiest Americans from higher taxes and "shared sacrifice."

Obama delivered a televised address to the nation Monday night, followed by an equally adamant response by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). After a frustrating week of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats full of fits and starts and ever-evolving proposals, Obama turned to the only weapon left in his arsenal: the power of the presidency to try to leverage public opinion to his side and wrangle a last-minute change of heart from Republicans.

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One of the key figures in the debt ceiling fight, anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, lent his seal of approval to Speaker Boehner's proposal to increase the debt ceiling with two separate spending cuts.

The key for Norquist and his group American For Tax Reform is the plan's lack of tax increases. The organization's no-tax pledge, signed by virtually every Republican lawmaker, is their primary means of influence and Norquist has stated that any deal that includes increased tax revenue -- even with much larger cuts -- would fail the test.

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Last week, Herman Cain's campaign was upset about the way the Ames Straw Poll ballot was coming together in Iowa. Now that the ballot's been set -- partially against Team Cain's recommendations -- the campaign says it "respects the decision" of event organizers.

The Republican ritual is seen as a test of a presidential candidate's strength -- as well as a candidate's campaign coffers. Team Cain was concerned that candidates who didn't pay the thousands of dollars required to get a space at the Ames straw poll would get on the ballot anyway. In the end, all the declared candidates in the race were put on the ballot (even the ones who didn't pay to play at Ames) and two of the biggest undeclared names, Rick Perry and Sarah Palin, were left off.

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Tim Pawlenty threw another punch in the escalating Minnesota Melee between the ex-governor and Michele Bachmann, telling a crowd on Monday that his rival often makes "inaccurate" statements and has failed to win her policy fights with Democrats.

Pawlenty has gone after Bachmann's record and, at one point, health for weeks, but today was the first time Bachmann actually returned the favor with a lengthy attack on Pawlenty's tenure as governor in which she compared him to President Obama. Given that Bachmann is leading multiple polls of Iowa while Pawlenty is struggling to gain traction, Pawlenty has little to lose from baiting the Congresswoman into a high-profile duel.

Per Politico, Pawlenty contrasted his responsibilities as governor with Bachmann's reputation as a tough-talking, little-action legislator on issues ranging from health care to abortion. He also brought up Bachmann's oft-noted habit of fumbling facts, from historical events to dubious rumors.

Pawlenty's comments, in full, below the fold:

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Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) hasn't officially started a campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, but he's already making an impact in national polls of primary voters. Now he's leading in the latest survey of likely Republican primary voters in the critical swing state of Florida.

Perry took the pole position in Florida with 16% of the vote in the latest American Research Group (ARG) poll, followed closely by the candidate who held the lead the last time ARG polled the state: former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney. Romney held a commanding lead in the same poll in May, garnering 26% of the vote, almost twice as much as the second place finisher, former Ark. Gov. Mike Huckabee. Now with the infusion of Perry in the field, only 15% of voters stuck with Romney. Also registering 15% is Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), after getting only 5% back in May.

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Herman Cain has canceled his scheduled appearance on the Colbert Report Wednesday, citing "a last minute scheduling conflict."

Show host Stephen Colbert had been hyping the appearance, which would have come after Cain challenged Colbert colleague Jon Stewart and amped up his rhetoric that critics have called anti-Muslim.

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