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Sen. David Vitter appears to be sending out a new fundraising letter containing an all-too familiar claim -- that if the Democrats pass their health-care bill, the old and disabled will have their health care cut off by government bureaucrats deciding they're not worth the cost -- the main substance of the "death panel" scare.

Here's the key quote from the letter, which was given to us by the Louisiana Dems after a supporter handed it to them in the past week:

So what about the claims that this plan will reduce health care costs? Well, to do that will simply require a plan to ration existing resource sand restrict benefits for certain medicines, procedures and therapies.

The government will determine who is eligible for what and if you are older or have certain other afflictions, an economist will determine if you are worthy of the government's "investment" in your longevity. That's right, a bureaucrat will be making life or death decisions.

The Vitter campaign did not return our requests for comment.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) wants there to be no doubt: "[T]his member of congress, this United States senator is going to tell [President Obama] emphatically that we need the public option," Specter said.

As a Republican, and in his first days as a Democrat, Specter opposed the public option, but eventually came to the view that a public option should be included in health care reform, and now says the country 'needs' the public option.

His move to the left no doubt has something to do with the pressure he's facing from Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) who's challenging Specter in the Pennsylvania primary. Sestak has launched a petition calling on Congressional leaders to hold an up or down vote on the public option in both the House and the Senate.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs took a shot at the Fox network today while appearing on "Fox And Friends," saying "I know that the network, instead of dealing with the reality of millions of people on health insurance reform, have decided to show a reality show called something like So You Think You Can Dance." Watch the video below.

"I do hope that people will check into the reality of what's going on in America rather than the distraction of a reality TV show," said Gibbs. Steve Doocy noted that Fox News Channel will be broadcasting the speech.

NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC and CNN will all be airing Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress. Fox also aired So You Think You Can Dance instead of a primetime press conference by Obama back in July.

According to Politico's Mike Allen, in his speech tonight, President Obama will stick to his longstanding game plan of endorsing the public option, but not demanding it, and leaving himself enough wiggle room to get on board with some sort of compromise.

Allen says the public option language in the speech tonight will echo the language he used when he addressed the AFL-CIO on Monday. And that, as we noted at the time, was far from a ringing endorsement of the public option.

A new Rasmussen poll of the Massachusetts special election for Senate finds that state Attorney General Martha Coakley starts out with a big lead in the Democratic primary.

The numbers: Coakley 38%, Rep. Stephen Lynch 11%, Rep. Ed Markey 10%, Rep. Michael Capuano 7%, and Rep. John Tierney 3%. Coakley is the only one to have officially launched a candidacy, though Lynch and Capuano have also taken the preliminary step of obtaining nomination papers.

The primary will be held three months from now, on December 8.

The official response to President Obama's big health care speech tonight will come from Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA). That makes sense on some levels--Boustany is a fairly senior member on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over health care, and, in a previous life, he was a practicing cardiac surgeon. But on another level, it's a very questionable move. Several weeks ago, Boustany had a run-in with Mike Stark of Firedoglake. Fast forward about 27 seconds in.

Stark asks, "What do you personally believe though, I mean, do you think there's a question here [about Obama's birth certificate]?

Boustany's response? "I think there are questions. We'll have to see."

That's not the birtheriest statement we've seen out of an elected official, but it at least rises to the level of flirtation with birtherism. An interesting choice to be the new face of GOP opposition to health care reform. Boustany's making the rounds on cable this morning. Let's see if anybody asks him about this.

At a morning press gaggle on Air Force One, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that Obama "will speak tonight about the public option and about the necessity for choice and competition, but I don't want to make all his news now."

"What will we do later tonight?" Gibbs then said, prompting laughter from the reporters and a response from one that they'd "do it all over again."

The answer was prompted by a question about what Obama thinks of the "trigger" option and whether he thinks that's a good compromise.

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Michael Steele appeared this morning on CBS, and was asked by host Harry Smith whether he believes the public option is socialist. "Yes I do," he said. "And quite frankly I think a lot more people believing (sic) that there's more to this than meets the eye."

Steele explained: "And the reality of it is, you know, I just don't understand this idea that somehow people think that the federal government can enter into a marketplace and compete with private industry. That goes counter to everything that we know about how markets work and the role that the government plays in those markets."

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In an interview today on Good Morning America, President Obama previewed his speech to Congress tonight, promising to lay out a detailed plan for health care reform and admitting he has "probably left too much ambiguity out there."

"I, out of an effort to give Congress the ability to do their thing and not step on their toes, probably left too much ambiguity out there, which allowed, then, opponents of reform to come in and fill up the airwaves with a lot of nonsense," he said, naming "death panels" and government insurance for illegal immigrants as example of the nonsense.

He said he'd define which principles must be in the bill for him to sign it, but wouldn't answer whether that includes a public option.

"The intent of the speech," Obama said, "is to make sure the American people are clear on exactly what we're proposing ... and to dispel some of the myths and, frankly, silliness."

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As I noted last night, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) has given health care negotiators on his committee until 10 a.m. today to suggest any changes to a proposal he circulated over the weekend. Now, a Senate Democratic aide says Baucus will likely announce a date for mark-up hearing schedule this afternoon at the party's weekly caucus lunch.

Baucus has said he'll enforce a September 15 deadline to unveil a draft of his legislation, which means hearings on the bill could begin as early as next week.