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The Arkansas News is reporting that Sen. Blanche Lincoln will not support health reform that demands a public option because it would be "too expensive."

In a speech at the University of Arkansas, Lincoln, in what may be something of a hedge, reportedly said that, "I would not support a solely government-funded public option. We can't afford that."

Lincoln's press office was not immediately available for comment. We'll keep trying.

A new Rasmussen poll of the Virginia gubernatorial race finds that Republican candidate Bob McDonnell -- who was recently revealed to have written a thesis when he was 34, laying out a hard-right political program -- still leads Democrat Creigh Deeds.

The numbers: McDonnell 51%, Deeds 42%. This is essentially unchanged from the 49%-41% McDonnell lead from a month ago.

The pollster's analysis points out that that the thesis story may not have fully sink in yet to its fullest potential extent: "To this point, just 49% of Likely Voters say they've followed news stories on this topic even somewhat closely ... It is possible that the thesis itself or the views expressed in the document could become a bigger factor in the campaign this fall."

Former Ohio Rep. James Traficant -- a Democrat perhaps best known for his wild hair and overuse of the Star Trek phrase "Beam me up" -- was released from prison this morning after serving a seven-year sentence on corruption charges.

The AP reported that, upon his release, Traficant "had his famously wild hair pulled back."

Traficant was sent to prison in 2002 after being convicted of federal racketeering, bribery and fraud charges. Traficant took bribes and kickbacks from businessmen and members of his own staff. He was only the second congressman expelled from the U.S. House since the Civil War.

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Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), a leading public spokesman for House conservatives, appeared on MSNBC today and made a striking recommendation: That not only should President Obama admit defeat and no longer back a public option or even a co-op -- but he should personally kill it by promising a veto if Congress were to pass it.

"I think what the President ought to do is say, look, you know, I understand, we've heard the people," said Gingrey. "We let the Congress draft a bill, both in the House and the Senate, at least through committee, and present it to the American public. They are rejecting the public option. Let's don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Let's remove the public option, and also anything that smacks of a public option, like a co-op. And indeed, I will veto that if it comes to my desk with that in there. And let's go ahead and try to pass a good bill that we can all agree on."

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White House adviser David Axelrod says Sen. Chuck Grassley's attempt to raise funds by attacking "Obama-care" was a bridge too far.

"If you're sitting at a table negotiating in good faith, then you probably don't send out mailers saying, 'Help me stop Obama-care.' That's just common sense," Axelrod told the Wall Street Journal, adding that Grassley's actions, along with those of Sen. Mike Enzi, suggest "they don't want to participate" in constructive health care negotiations.

"They're satisfied with the status quo. We are not," Axelrod said.

Earlier this week, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that, by lending credence to the "death panel" attack, Enzi had turned over his cards and walked away from the table.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee will likely have the ultimate say in who's allowed to negotiate for health care reform, and who won't. But as far as the White House is concerned, the gang of six is down to four, and they're now looking to more moderate Republicans like Olympia Snowe for support.

After months of trying to compromise with Republicans on health care, Democratic leaders are preparing to move forward with a Democrat-only health care bill after. The GOP is predictably pulling out all the stops--warning Dems that going it alone will cost them dearly, and drafting as many procedural hurdles as possible to stymie those efforts. But how are the conservative Democrats reacting? They're calling for bipartisanship, too.

"In my view, bipartisan legislation translates to better legislation and incorporates broader policy solutions to today's health care problems. Many people are rightfully leery of government. It will be difficult to achieve a bipartisan bill. But it will be even harder to push through a purely partisan bill," wrote Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) in an opinion piece for the Lincoln Journal Star. "When Congress reconvenes next week, I hope colleagues return from home with a greater sense that this target is within reach. By shedding disagreements and focusing on practical health care reforms we also can cast aside lingering fears of a government takeover, runaway deficit spending, tax increases, or coverage for abortions or illegal immigrants."

Democrats have addressed most of those fears already--though the House has called for a small surtax on wealth Americans so that health care reform doesn't entail "runaway deficit spending."

ABC World News anchor Charlie Gibson announced to his colleagues today that he'll step down at the end of the year. ABC has announced that Diane Sawyer will replace him.

In Gibson's letter to World News staff, he said he's retiring from full time employment at ABC News -- his professional home for nearly 35 years -- but may still contribute occasionally. "I love this news department, and all who work in it, to the depths of my soul," Gibson wrote.

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As part of a fresh round of interviews designed to help save his job, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford suggested a higher power wants him to remain in office, and called his now legendary Appalachian Trail deception "a little white lie". And the embattled Palmetto State Romeo reiterated that he planned to complete his term, which runs through 2010, in order to advance conservative principles -- despite a meeting of GOP lawmakers over the weekend, at which not a single person expressed support for him.

"I feel absolutely committed to the cause, to what God wanted me to do with my life," Sanford told the Washington Times. "I have got this blessing of being engaged in a fight for liberty, which is constantly being threatened."

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In the upcoming (and much-awaited) article in Vanity Fair, Levi Johnston dishes some serious dirt on Sarah Palin. In the excerpts that have been teased out this morning, Johnston, says that Palin didn't like being governor, thinking that it was too hard, and immediately after the 2008 election she began to think about resigning in order to pursue something more lucrative:

Sarah was sad for a while. She walked around the house pouting. I had assumed she was going to go back to her job as governor, but a week or two after she got back she started talking about how nice it would be to quit and write a book or do a show and make "triple the money." It was, to her, "not as hard." She would blatantly say, "I want to just take this money and quit being governor." She started to say it frequently, but she didn't know how to do it. When she came home from work, it seemed like she was more and more stressed out.

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President Barack Obama plans to tell the country, in more precise terms, what it is he wants to see in a health care reform bill. According to White House adviser David Axelrod, Obama will not put anything new on the table, but will be more specific about his key goals.

That means that Obama will, again, not be insisting on a public option--a development (or a non-development) that's sure to give his progressive base some heartburn.

According to the Associated Press, Obama may give a speech in the next week or two as part of an effort to regain control of the health care reform debate, after losing it during a month of grueling politics.

The development comes as Obama is faced with falling poll numbers and news reports indicating that, after a month of town halls and "death panel" misinformation, a great majority of Americans are confused about what his reform plan would actually do.

TPMLivewire