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Newt Gingrich reassured Republican voters that his presidential campaign was still ticking despite the loss of nearly its entire senior staff in a coordinated mass resignation last week.

"I will carry the message of American renewal to every part of this great land," Gingrich said in a speech on Sunday to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Beverly Hills. "And with the help of every American who wants to change Washington, we will prevail."

Gingrich's speech was his first public appearance in weeks after taking off on a European cruise with wife Callista. His campaign, already in grave condition after Gingrich labeled Paul Ryan's Medicare plan "right wing social engineering" on Meet The Press, suffered another blow during his absence when 16 aides quit at once in protest over Newt's strategy.

Gingrich alluded to their departure in his speech, according to Politico. "I know full well the rigors of campaigning for public office," he said. "in fact, I've had some recent reminders."

Asked by reporters afterwards whether his campaign was still viable, he replied "Go ask the voters."

Former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), who was defeated for re-election in the 2010 Republican wave after three terms, has now begun to re-emerge into the public eye -- taking part in the protests against Republican Gov. Scott Walker that have been going on pretty much non-stop for the last few months at the state Capitol.

Earlier this month, the protests took their newest form with a tent city around the Capitol, dubbed "Walkerville" as a word-play on how shantytowns became known during the Great Depression as "Hoovervilles." As the Wisconsin State Journal reports, Feingold spoke on Sunday at a Walkerville event:

"Why are we in a place called Walkerville today?" he asked the energized crowd at the corner of State and West Mifflin streets, amid the tent village that sprang up earlier this month to protest the state budget bill and will remain through June 20 while lawmakers debate the bill.

"Because we will not stop until we win."

Feingold, who lost his seat in November to Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson, outlined necessary actions for the near future: taking back the majority in the state Senate and Assembly, and -- drawing big applause -- defeating Gov. Scott Walker, who he called a tool of the Republican party.

During the speech, chants of "run, Russ, run," could be heard, but Feingold didn't mention his own political future.

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One former White House press secretary versus seven Republican presidential candidates? Robert GIbbs will take those odds.

President Obama's ex-spokesman is expected to hit the local and national airwaves tonight in New Hampshire after the Republican debate, the first to feature frontrunner Mitt Romney, freefalling Newt Gingrich, and Tea Party rabble-rouser Michele Bachmann. According to the Associated Press, his mission will be to defend the President from the inevitable spate of high-profile attacks from the 2012 field, getting in the White House's point of view on issues like the economy, health care, and Libya.

The appearance fits a broader reported strategy of maintaining a high profile and strong grassroots operation in early primary and caucus states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, in order to prevent the GOP from scoring an organizational advantage over the course of the long nominating process and to make sure the GOP attacks on Obama are consistently rebutted.

Last week, Tim Pawlenty unveiled a plan to overhaul the tax code that would make Paul Ryan wince. But as radical as his proposal is, it could easily become the baseline for what it takes to pass muster in the GOP presidential primary. And that would carry enormous consequences for the general election and beyond.

We'll get a first glimpse of how Pawlenty's GOP rivals react to his proposal at tonight's debate. Do they embrace the underlying principles of the plan so that Pawlenty doesn't outflank them on the right? Or do they try to one up him with even more dramatic overhauls of the tax code?

Pawlenty proposes to reduce the top individual income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, cut the top corporate rate from 25 percent to 15 percent, and allow pass-through corporations to pay taxes at the corporate rate. He also wants to completely eliminate capital gains taxes, taxes on dividends and interest, and the estate tax.

Altogether, according to the Tax Policy Center, it would cost the Treasury over $11 trillion over the course of a decade -- most of which would benefit the wealthiest Americans. It's a recipe for either a catastrophic budget crisis, or a fundamental dismantling of the public sector's role in American life, or both.

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Not since the first head-to-CPU contest between Gary Kasparov and Deep Blue has the world waited so breathlessly for the kind of battle of the minds we're likely to witness Monday evening.

For the first time this primary season, seven of the top contenders for the GOP presidential nomination will field tough questions, pitch Republican voters, and take on each others' foibles and apostasies during an 8 pm ET, CNN/WMUR/New Hampshire Union Leader-sponsored debate in Manchester, New Hampshire.

On hand will be Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) -- all of whom participated in the first GOP debate last month. They'll be joined on stage by three big names in Republican politics: Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Like every primary debate since the advent of cable television, the forum will be marked by predictable talking points, unctuous spells of self-flattery, and reflexive attacks on the incumbent president.

But as the GOP field takes shape, it will also be one of the first opportunities for the contenders to stake out or clarify their positions on the issues defining this race. Here are the five key things to be on the look out for.

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The Republicans who gather on stage in New Hampshire Monday night for their first major presidential primary debate are all scrambling to position themselves on Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system.

And thanks to a blanket of advertising in New Hampshire by progressive groups, primary voters in the Granite State watching tonight's debate will be confronted with the Democratic view of Ryan's budget -- namely, that it forces seniors and the poor to bear the burden of the federal budget woes while making life easier on the rich.

Major progressive groups are flooding New Hampshire with Medicare messaging, previewing the fight for Medicare they hope to have with the GOP next year. Online or on the air, it will be hard for primary voters tuning in to the debate to avoid the progressive position on the Ryan budget, providing contrast for the Republicans on stage who are expected to heap praise on Ryan, even while the big names try to put at least some distance between them and Ryan's unpopular proposal.

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The Tea Party made its name rallying Republican voters in primaries and general elections around the country, but one influential leader is calling on the movement to turn its sights on the other side of the aisle in 2012.

Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, surprised attendees at this month's ultra-partisan Faith and Freedom Convention in Washington by insisting that there were Democrats deserving of the group's backing as well.

"There are Democrats out there who are our kind of Democrats," Meckler said. "There are Democrats out there who think what we think and it's our to job to find -- yes, sacrilege -- Democratic Tea Party candidates."

He went so far as to advise Republicans in Democratic districts to switch their affiliation and vote in the party primary in order to maximize their effect on the race. "It's your job to find the right kind of Democrat," he recalled telling one Tea Party voter frustrated with his Democratic-leaning district.

There's a certain pragmatic logic to Meckler's plan. With the GOP majority close to its high water mark following the 2010 wave, there may be few possibilities to expand the map any further into Democratic territory. And a more conservative Democrat in a safe seat is better than nothing.

"We've looked at the map, we know the numbers," he told TPM in an interview.

Meckler conceded that there are yet few examples of Tea Party activists influencing a Democratic primary. He said he was heartened, however, by the recent nonpartisan special election primary in CA-36, which unexpectedly saw a Republican advance to the general election in the heavily Democratic district. While the GOP candidate is unlikely to win, the results demonstrated that activists were willing to put in hard work even in a solid Democratic race.

For now, it's unclear the movement can ever be convinced to put the same effort into electing Democrats, let alone one who may hold individual positions anathema to conservative activists. To many observers, the movement is virtually indistinguishable from the Republican base. Nonetheless, there have been rare instances in which Tea Party groups crossed party lines. The Patriots' rival group, Tea Party Express, endorsed Democratic Rep. Walter Minnick in Idaho last year, for example, citing his votes against his party's leaders in Congress.

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