TPM News

Love is in the air today... Unless you happen to be a Republican reacting to President Obama's budget. Or a Republican grilling Tim Geithner about why he can't "broaden the base" of people paying a proposed "Buffett Tax." Or a Republican trying to get out of the bind the Dems have put you in over the payroll tax.

So, actually it seems there's no love lost there, but luckily there was plenty of love across the cable nets to keep everyone feeling warm and fuzzy.

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You'd think the GOP's ongoing, dogged push to allow any employer to deny female employees contraceptive coverage is an indication that Republicans take a strong stance on the issue.

But it's not. On Tuesday afternoon, I asked Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) whether he could support a Republican presidential candidate who had required religious institutions to provide female employees with contraceptive coverage.

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From Political Surrogate Usage 101: Don't send your surrogate out to attack someone for exactly the same thing he once did.

The Romney campaign did just that when they dispatched former Sen. JIm Talent (R-MO) to attack Rick Santorum's budget-busting vote to add a Medicare prescription drug program in the Senate. The problem they quickly ran into was that Talent voted the same way.

In a call with reporters, Talent slammed Santorum for his Medicare Part D vote, calling it a "big expansion of a federal entitlement." Asked by a reporter how he could criticize Santorum for taking the same position, Talent offered up only a general defense of his tenure in the Senate.

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House Democrats will support a GOP bill to extend the expiring payroll tax cut through the end of the year, when Republicans bring it to a vote later this week. That basically puts to rest any remaining doubts that the provision will expire at the end of the month.

Now the fight is on between the parties over whether and how to renew two other expiring provisions -- extended unemployment benefits, and Medicare physician reimbursement rates (the "doc fix") -- before March. And the balance of power in this battle is much less clear.

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Virginia state Del. Bob Marshall, who is running in the Republican senate primary against establishment favorite former Sen. George Allen, is really going the extra mile in his opposition to federal health care reform law, saying the individual mandate to buy health insurance is "akin to forcible economic rape."

As the Washington Examiner reports, Marshall has signed onto an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the litigation surrounding the law.

And Marshall et al choose to make some remarkable rhetorical arguments, in their declaration that the law is unconstitutional:

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Mitt Romney is playing up his roots in Michigan ahead of the Feb. 28 primary, but top Democrats are doing their best to tear down the "hometown hero" image.

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), the state's senior Congressman, said in a conference call that Romney "left for good in 1965."

"He's domiciled in New Hampshire and has himself a fine oceanfront mansion in California and he served for four years as a governor in another state," he said.

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The wait is over: Mitt Romney's super PAC, Restore Our Future, is going on air with its first negative attack ad aimed at Rick Santorum. The ad, entitled "Votes", attacks Santorum for his record in the Senate. The spot will run in Arizona, Ohio and Romney's home state of Michigan, where polls show Santorum ahead.

Here's the spot:

Mitt Romney's new TV ad for Michigan features him driving around Detroit, talking about growing up in the state while expressing concern for how hard things have gotten there. It's uncannily similar to a video he made for voters in New Hampshire last summer where he drove around the state, talked about all the time his family had spent there, and expressed concern for how hard things have gotten there.

Yes, it seems the Romney team have a formula for selling their candidate's close and personal relationship to a state. Take a look below:

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Sensing a political upper-hand in the brewing culture war, Senate Democrats had their guns blazing against the GOP's birth control amendment Tuesday, vowing to fight Republicans' best efforts to tack it on to the bipartisan highway bill and warning that the measure would take women's health in America back to the "dark ages."

"In 2012, I stand here in complete amazement," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), "that in a country known for its medical breakthroughs and advancements, Republicans would have us go back to the medical dark ages." She said the energy and transportation bill otherwise has strong bipartisan support, and deemed the contraception amendment both a poison pill and irrelevant.

The amendment by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) purports to focus on contraception, but it goes well beyond that. As written, it would permit all employers to deny any health services in their insurance plans that aren't in accordance with their "religious beliefs and moral convictions." The measure states no limitations or criteria, which means employers have free rein to decide what medical care their employees may or may not receive.

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