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New polling released yesterday and today by Public Policy Polling (D) provides some solid, empirical evidence that a vote against the health care bill may be the better bet for swing-seat Democrats. Or at least, that seems to be the message for freshman Rep. Larry Kissell (D-NC), who voted against the bill.

The new polls show that Kissell easily leads several potential Republican opponents, by margins of 14-18 points. He also leads a potential Democratic primary challenger, 2002 nominee Chris Kouri, by 49%-15%. But a close look at the polls shows just how people think he voted on the bill -- and how this could be affecting their decisions about him.

It turns out that a 44% plurality of the likely general election electorate falsely believe that Kissell voted for the bill, with only 29% giving the correct answer that he voted against it, and 28% are unsure. (This might come as a huge shock, but voters can often make their decisions based on false beliefs and information.) I asked PPP for some customized cross-tabs -- which reveal that among people who think he voted for it the race is very close, with a landslide lead among the folks who think he voted against it.

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The politics of health care reform could get even more complicated for Democrats if a bill isn't passed by the end of January, when the Congressional Budget Office releases new long-term U.S. economic projections. If those new projections are more pessimistic than the current projections, which were used to help calculate the cost of health care reform, then the new numbers could increase the expected cost of the bill and wreak havoc on the carefully stitched together compromise that has Democratic budget hawks, especially in the Senate, reluctantly supporting reform.

The good news for Democrats is that the CBO's official cost estimate of the final health care bill will be based on the same assumptions CBO has used all along. The bad news? In the past, when CBO has predicted dramatic changes to the economic forecast, members of Congress have asked analysts to provide unofficial numbers based on the new numbers. And therein lies an opportunity for Republicans eager to drive a wedge between progressives and their more economically conservative brethren in the Democratic Party.

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Harold Ford Jr., a former Democratic Congressman from Tennessee, is considering challenging Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) for her seat. But the Manhattan newcomer may not be ready to face New York voters. In an interview with the New York Times, an edited transcript of which was published today, he gave some questionable answers.

Q. What are her [Gillibrand's] challenges?

A. There are some differences that I have with the senator on a few fronts -- as it relates to the city and as it relates to the state, and to national issues. One, I am a firm believer on the economy and national security.


He went on to say he would be more "aggressive" about job creation than Gillibrand and wants to pass "a huge tax cut bill for business people."

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January 12, 2010: A powerful 7.0 magnitude earthquake hits the Caribbean island nation of Haiti, devastating the capitol of Port-au-Prince. It was the strongest earthquake to hit the country in more than 200 years.

Be advised: Some of these images are graphic and disturbing.

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January 12, 2010: A fire task force in Los Angeles County prepares to deploy relief aid to Haiti.

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January 13, 2010: French aid workers prepare to leave for Haiti.

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January 13, 2010: A Japanese Red Cross official prepares to leave Narita, Japan for Haiti.

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January 13, 2010: Members of a Chinese rescue team prepare to board a plane for Port-au-Prince.

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January 13, 2010: Volunteers search for victims among the debris in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

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January 13, 2010: Survivors stay in a make-shift camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

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Hindsight's 20-20, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now thinks he and leading Democrats, at the behest of the White House, flushed months down the toilet courting Sen. Olympia Snowe's (R-ME) support for health care reform.

"As I look back it was a waste of time dealing with [Snowe]," Reid is quoted as saying about the White House in a forthcoming New York Times Magazine piece, "because she had no intention of ever working anything out."

That's a harsh but understandable assessment. The White House was banking on Snowe's support for months, both as a means of securing conservative Democrats' support for the bill, and as a failsafe, in case Reid came up short on votes in the Democratic caucus. But after supporting the Senate Finance Committee's reform proposal, Snowe was hesitant to support major changes to the legislation, which Reid needed to make to keep the progressive wing of his caucus from defecting.

Still, that's unusually blunt language. It could easily raise eyebrows.

Yesterday, Google announced that it would stop filtering search results in China, and that it was considering shutting down its China operations all together. In a post on the Official Google Blog, the company revealed that recently a sophisticated cyber attack on Google and other companies came from within China, and was targeted against human rights activists.

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With Scott Brown (R-MA) positioned to be the guy who can kill health care reform, it's worth taking a look at just what he's said about the issue. Because when it comes right down to it, his reasons for opposing the bill have been so varied and inconsistent that you start to wonder whether even he knows why he's against it. It must be a tricky dance, given that he's running to assume Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in the bluest of blue states. But with Kennedy's signature priority in the balance, you'd think he'd have a solid reason for wanting to bury it.

He doesn't.

Conservatives and Republicans are pouring millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours into a dark horse Senate election in bright-blue Massachusetts because they think that's their last, best hope to kill health care reform. They're not even shy about it. In a fundraising letter, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney told voters "If he is successful, Scott will be the crucial 41st vote against President Obama's healthcare bill when it comes back to the Senate for final passage." And he who plays the piper calls the tune. "I would be proud to be the 41st vote, and go back to the drawing board," Brown boasted in his final debate with Democrat Martha Coakley.

But for all his bluster, there remains no small amount of confusion about why Brown wants to kill the bill. Or at least this bill.

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A shadowy conservative group is backing off its effort to undermine state laws restricting robo-calls.

Lawyers for American Future Fund Political Action (AFFPA) informed the FEC yesterday afternoon that they were withdrawing their request for an advisory opinion on whether those state laws were pre-empted by a less restrictive federal law. AFFPA had argued in its request that the state laws were indeed pre-empted, and indicated that it planned a barrage of robo-calls for 2010.

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When Republicans gather for a key strategy meeting later this month in Hawaii, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele will be the great big elephant in the room.

But RNC members who have cringed as Steele has publicly admonished them for questioning his new book and paid speeches are still weighing if they are actually going to do anything about it.

TPMDC has spent the last several days speaking with Republican sources who mostly believe Steele's job is safe. They said the frustration over some of Steele's gaffes and what's widely viewed as camera-hogging is outweighed by the party's successes of late and the growing feeling that Republicans might actually bank solid wins in November's mid-term elections.

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