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Eight years after the United States first sent troops to Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Obama is wrestling with the right strategy - pulled in one direction by military brass, wanting to win the war but cognizant of increasing casualties, and warned by antiwar liberals who fear a prolonged conflict like Vietnam to make sure he has an exit strategy.

There are 68,000 troops there already, thanks in part to the change in strategy Obama announced in March. He said then he wanted to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat" al Qaeda and nearly doubled the troops deployed to the region as he started to implement a drawdown in Iraq. That was following up on a campaign promise since the president has said Afghanistan is the "war we need to win."

Sources interviewed about the president's thinking and strategy said Obama wants to make sure it's a deliberative process since there is so much on the line. They said it hasn't been easy signing letters to families of troops killed abroad and he wants to avoid mistakes made by the Bush administration.

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A new poll in the top-tier 2010 Missouri Senate race, where four-term GOP Sen. Kit Bond is retiring, gives Democratic candidate Robin Carnahan a narrow lead over Republican candidate Roy Blunt.

The new numbers from Momentum Analysis (D): Carnahan 48%, Blunt 45%, with a ±3.5% margin of error.

The poll also gives Carnahan higher favorables and lower unfavorables than Blunt. She is at 51%-28%, while Blunt is at 44%-33%.

Six Democratic senators and one independent sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) today asking that the legislative text and complete budget scores from the Congressional Budget Office be posted on a public website for 72 hours before a first vote on a health reform bill -- and again for 72 hours before its final passage in the Senate.

If Reid agreed, that would add another week of delay to a bill that's already taken longer than expected to make its way through the Senate Finance Committee.

The letter was signed by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) -- whose office provided a copy of the letter -- and Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Mark Pryor (D-AR).

They wrote:

Whether or not our constituents agree with the direction of the debate, many are frustrated and lacking accurate information on the emerging proposals in Congress. Without a doubt, reforming health care in America is one of the most monumental and far-reaching undertakings considered by this body in decades. We believe the American public's participation in this process is critical to our overall success of creating a bill that lowers health care costs and offers access to quality and affordable health care for all Americans.


Full text of the letter after the jump.

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Last night, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay emotionally announced he would leave Dancing With The Stars because of stress fractures in both his feet.

"You can't practice, and if you can't practice you make a fool out of yourself out there and I don't want to do that to Cheryl," he said, referring to his partner, professional dancer Cheryl Burke. There were tears in his eyes.

Despite his injuries, DeLay danced the samba Monday night decked out in a shirt with a glittery GOP elephant on the back. (Watch all of DeLay's performances on TPMtv.) He got enough votes to stay in the competition, but decided to bow out.

"I'm really disappointed I can't go any further," he said today on Good Morning America.

"It is everything I thought it would be," he added.

DeLay and his wife and daughter had been fans of the show before he signed on this season.

But it's not the last from the Hammer: He agreed to come back and dance the Texas Two-Step on the show's finale.

Video of DeLay's emotional withdrawal after the jump.

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You know the recent spate of outside-the-Beltway GOPers saying positive things about health care reform? Bill Frist? Arnold Schwarzenegger? Tommy Thompson? Republican-turned-Independent Michael Bloomberg?

Well, it turns out the White House may have been nudging them a little.

That could resonate well with pockets of constituents around the country. But according to the Washington Post, the real target of the push was a single person from one of the smallest states in the country: "The White House lobbying campaign was aimed, in part, at the one Republican who has indicated she may vote for reform legislation, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), and she said Tuesday that she hopes the comments from her GOP colleagues will resonate," the Post reports.

So did it work? Snowe seemed pleased: "I think it is important to hear all voices in the party," Snowe said. "The more we hear, the more we learn, the better job we can do in the final analysis."

Poll: Obama's Approval Rating Going Back Up The new AP/GfK poll finds that President Obama has a 56% approval rating, up from 50% in September -- and the first time that his approval rating has increased in the AP/GfK surveys. Disapproval is at 39%, down from 49% last month.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will meet at 10:45 a.m. ET with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. At 1:30 p.m. ET, he will deliver remarks and award the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. At 3:30 p.m. ET, he will meet with his national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan. At 8 p.m. ET, the President and First Lady will host an event for local middle students, to star gaze and conduct hands-on experiments with astronomers.

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Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) said on Morning Joe today that she doesn't think Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) should step down as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee because of an ongoing ethics committee investigation for alleged offenses including not reporting income on tax and financial disclosure forms and renting apartments at below-market value (Here's TPMmuckraker's most recent rundown of the allegations.) Waters also suggested that Rangel may not be alone in the House in failing to properly fill out disclosure forms.

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President Obama is hoping health care reform will get by with a little help from his friends. Later today, the DNC will announce a slate of celebrity judges tasked with selecting a new pro-health care reform TV ad from entries sent in by activists across the country.

The contest was first announced last week by Organizing For America and ends 10/18. The full list of celebrity judges will be announced today, but CNN already has a few:

Musician Will.I.Am, actor John Cho, actress Rosario Dawson, actor Dulé Hill, "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane, actor Brandon Routh, actress Kate Walsh and actress Olivia Wilde will join Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, DNC Executive Director Jen O'Malley Dillon, Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe and volunteers in helping to pick the 30-second commercial that will air nationally.

Details are still emerging about President Obama's 90-minute closed-door session with 31 members of Congress today about his plan for Afghanistan, but mentioned in some stories is that Sen. John McCain had a terse exchange with his onetime rival.

Both the New York Times and Politico are reporting tonight that McCain (R-AZ) suggested Obama was making the decision about whether to send a surge of troops at a "leisurely" pace and was rebuffed.

While disputing the suggestion of a tense moment, sources confirmed the general sense of the exchange -- and that Obama assured everyone that he was moving as quickly as he believes prudence allows.

TPMDC checked in with McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan, who said the senator was "astonished" by early reports characterizing the exchange as an argument because they aren't accurate. The White House also suggested there weren't any fireworks.

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