TPM News

The national Democratic Party is now going there in the fight against Sen. David Vitter (R-LA): Directly attacking the staunch conservative for having taken in the services of prostitutes. And not just that, but the Dems are raising money off of it.

The DSCC has sent out a new e-mail to its supporter list, going after Vitter and hailing his Democratic opponent, Blue Dog Rep. Charlie Melancon. The e-mail has a list, "FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SENATOR DAVID VITTER," and then goes through various follies of his.

Last on the list: "5. David Vitter Confessed to Using D.C. Escort Service. In a revelation embarrassing to the entire state of Louisiana, Vitter in 2007 admitted to being a client of the infamous "D.C. Madam" after his phone number showed up in her records. He later apologized for his "very serious sin."

Check out the full e-mail, after the jump.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) held a packed town hall meeting on health care in her district yesterday afternoon, with special guest Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), with hundreds of people turning out on a weekday afternoon from both sides -- with a lot of interesting stuff said by everyone

Bachmann and Burgess took questions from people both in favor and opposed to President Obama on health care. On multiple occasions, Bachmann thanked all the people who turned out, regardless of where they are on the issues, because they care about the direction of the country -- and it really sounded like she meant it with all sincerity.

And things sure were interesting, with talk about whether the Obama administration will ever leave office, whether Bachmann has given birth more times than a male questioner -- and whether Republicans could have supported a public options in exchange for a carrot to call their own.

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Last night, ABC News' George Stephanopoulos appeared on The O'Reilly factor and echoed a growing conventional wisdom.

"It's pretty clear right now that there aren't the votes in the senate to pass a public health insurance option as much as a majority of Democrats in the House would like it," he said. "It's not going to get through the Senate right now and I think that what Democrats may try to do is remind people of another side of the Kennedy legacy. That was Kennedy the compromiser. Kennedy the negotiator. The man who was willing to take a portion, incremental gain even if he couldn't get everything he was calling for."

Both of those ideas--that the Senate will not pass a public option, and that Ted Kennedy would support giving up on it--are pretty deeply seeded in the media at this point. But compare that to Lawrence O'Donnell--chief of staff of the Senate Finance Committee during the Clinton Care years--who says that's all wrong.

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The story of those forged letters to lawmakers sent by a Washington lobby firm has taken another interesting turn.

Bonner and Associates, the firm that sent the letters on behalf of a coal industry client, is now trying to imply that the employee responsible deliberately engineered the episode to discredit Bonner -- but is offering no evidence to support that notion.

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Rex Rammell, a long-shot in the 2010 Idaho governor's race, made a joke about hunting President Obama at an event Tuesday night.

Rammell was speaking to a local Republican group about the state's wolf hunt, for which hunters must pay for "wolf tags." An audience member shouted out a question about "Obama tags."

"Obama tags? We'd buy some of those," Rammell responded.

Rammell said he won't apologize for the comments, but insists he was just joking.

(Late update: Rammell tweeted today about the controversy. "Obama hunting tags was just a joke! Everyone knows Idaho has no jurisdiction to issue tags in Washington D.C.," he wrote.)

The Idaho Democratic Party, of course, is up in arms, and a spokesman for the Idaho Republican Party released a statement that the party "does not condone Rex Rammell's comments, whether in jest or not."

But at least one local Republican defended Rammell.

"It's kind of the bad joke that you laugh at and then move on from. Nobody was going to dwell on it, that's for damn sure," said Terry Kramer, a Republican Twin Falls county commissioner. "It's being blown out of proportion; it was just a one-liner out of the audience."

Rammell later used an interview about the joke to attack Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter for not buying the first wolf tag, as he had said he would earlier in the year. When the tags became available, on Monday, the governor was speaking at the funeral of Bruce Sweeney, a 10-term state legislator who served while Otter was lieutenant governor.

"That's a lame excuse," Rammell said.

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OK, just to put the nail in the coffin of any claims that the decision by the Justice Department to drop the pay-to-play investigation of New Mexico governor Bill Richardson was political:

The New York Times reports that the U.S. attorney's office sent an official letter to witnesses before the grand jury, informing them that charges would not be brought against Richardson or his aides. "Top Justice Department officials," added the Times, "concurred with Mr. Fouratt's decision to drop the inquiry."

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President Obama's approval rating has reached a new low in the Gallup daily tracking poll, with an even 50% approving of his performance as of yesterday, and 43% disapproving.

This actually brings Gallup into convergence with Rasmussen, which has tended to skew more negative, and has also put Obama at around 50% in recent weeks.

Gallup's Jeffrey M. Jones. pointed out two days ago that presidents inevitably fall to 50%, with the only real question being how long it takes to get there. However, Obama seems to have gotten there sooner than most, due to the controversial debates that have marked his term so far. "The recent further erosion in his public support -- perhaps a result of the push for healthcare reform and concern over the growth in government spending -- may result in one of the faster slides below majority approval for modern presidents."

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wants (you guessed it) yet more time to reach a health care compromise on the Senate Finance Committee.

Asked by reporters for Kaiser Health News if a mid-September deadline to unveil legislation was still in the works, Grassley said, "If you asked me that on Aug. 6, I would have said yes, I think so, September. But you're asking me on Aug. 27 and you've got the impact of democracy in America. Everybody's showing up at town meetings."

As ranking member on the committee, and chief Republican health care negotiator, Grassley has demanded a number of significant compromises, and set benchmarks--such as an 80 vote threshold for legislation--that most observers believe to be unreachable. Senate Minority Whip John Kyl (R-AZ) has said the GOP almost certainly won't support legislation out of that committee, triggering calls from a growing number of Democrats for Finance chairman Max Baucus to scrap the negotiations and proceed without (or with minimal) Republican support.

Democrats Scramble On Health Care Reforms, Post-Kennedy The Associated Press reports that Senate Democrats could end up being more forceful on the issue of health care reform, in the wake of Ted Kennedy's death -- but it's unclear whether they'll be more effective. "I think there is going to be a real rallying among Democrats 'to do this one for Teddy.' This was his life work," said Jim Kessler of the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way. "At the same time there is nobody in the caucus who would have been better at solving our internal disagreements."

Today: Private Funeral For Ted Kennedy The public viewing of Ted Kennedy's body will continue today until 3 p.m. ET. At 7 p.m. ET, a private memorial service will be held at the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

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As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) voted in favor of a health care reform bill with a public option. But she's also interested in a compromise that would scrap the public option in favor of system of private, state-based, non-profit health-care cooperatives. "Having been a state senator for 10 years," she said, "I think states can do a good job at that."

Kay Hagan's vote for the public option wasn't easily won, so it's little surprise that she's open to alternatives. But has her level of support dropped? I've placed a call to her office to check, but just last month, she defended her vote for the public option, describing it as "a back-stop option for those without access," that "competes with the private insurance companies."

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