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New data from the latest national CNN poll out on Thursday shows that the distance between President Obama and his possible GOP opponents is tightening among the declared (Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney) and nearly declared (Tex. Gov. Rick Perry) GOP frontrunners. But it also showed that there was one Republican candidate in the poll who outpaced Obama in a matchup, 51 - 45. That candidate was former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Just one problem...he's probably not running.

Other candidates did have a decent showing against Obama: the President was ahead of Romney only by a point, 48 - 47, and Perry was able to pull within five points, at 51 - 46, despite not even announcing or having a formal campaign yet. Even Bachmann, beginning to sag in the polls due to the entrance of Perry, was able to get close to the President at 51 - 45.

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Fake Apple stores have been sprouting up like mushrooms in China. Chinese authorities have set up a complaint hotline and are stepping up enforcement efforts against the phenomenon after Apple complains.

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Conservative power-broker Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) ran through his litany of complaints about President Obama on Janet Meffered's Christian conservative radio show Wednesday, and concluded that of all the anti-American administrations in his lifetime, Obama's is the most anti-American.

"We saw within a few days that this President was going to be heavy-handed, he was going to implement his agenda and pay back his political allies, and it just went on from there to ObamaCare and then to Dodd-Frank," DeMint said.

It has been the most anti-business and I consider anti-American administration in my lifetime. Things that are just so anathema to the principles of freedom, and everything he has come up with centralizes more power in Washington, creates more socialist-style, collectivist policies. This president is doing something that's so far out of the realm of anything Republicans ever did wrong, it's hard to even imagine.

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The second highest ranking Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin (D-IL) told a local TV station on Wednesday that the economy is "strong" despite the S&P downgrade. While largely in line with the White House's views on the downgrade, his comments came the same day that Democrats attacked Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) over a near identical quote.

"I still think the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are sound," Durbin told FOX Chicago News. "I don't care what S&P says."

In a press release yesterday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee condemned Lugar as "out of touch" for telling a local TV station: "The American economy is still strong, that we're making progress although it's very slow in terms of job creation, and that we still have a dollar that is the world currency and we are still selling bonds to everybody all over the world despite the S&P downgrade."

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Mitt Romney insisted that Republicans rule out any tax increases in negotiations to avoid a debt ceiling default, but as governor of Massachusetts they were a key selling point in his efforts to raise the state's S&P rating.

In a presentation from 2004 obtained by Politico's Ben Smith, the Romney administration touted a 2002 tax increase of over $1 billion approved by his predecessor as evidence the state was in good fiscal health. According to the 50-page presentation, Massachusetts "successfully managed revenue and expense positions" in 2002 and 2003 and "acted decisively to address the fiscal crisis."

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Clean energy is now creating more jobs for the energy produced than coal or natural gas, and solar energy is the fastest growing industry in the United States, according to industry and academic sources.

Solar energy alone employed 93,502 American jobs in 2010 and could grow from 25,000-50,000 this year, economy willing.

Solar also is producing more jobs than any other energy source, and could generate four million jobs by 2030.

Fifty percent of solar firms expect to be adding jobs this year in the teeth of the recession.

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The prelude to the 2008 election included months of speculation about how then candidate Obama might redraw the political map--and whether that rehash of the political fault lines would be permanent or temporary. Colorado was very much part of that discussion: a state with changing demographics that has elected both Democrats and Republicans to statewide positions in the past decade.

A new poll from Public Policy Polling (D) shows President Obama hasn't exactly endeared himself to the voters in Colorado, as his approval rating is at 46% against 50% disapproval. But the new survey really exposes a major indicator in the 2012 process: despite being at a low point in the current national polls, the GOP field is so weak that no Republican candidate even gets within the margin of error against the President in the Rocky Mountain state.

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You might say that 2012 really starts tonight. At 9pm Eastern time, the declared Republican presidential candidates take the stage at Iowa -- barely two days ahead of the Ames Straw Poll, which many consider the unofficial first round of the primary season.

Of course, this debate will also be interesting for who it doesn't have: Texas Governor Rick Perry. Today he made it official that he'll be declaring his candidacy on Saturday. His shadow is sure to loom large over tonight's proceedings.

TPM's livewire will keep you updated of the night's events as they happen. We'll also be posting blog posts, fuller articles, and video throughout the evening.

Meanwhile, in preparation for the debate itelf, here's TPM's advice on what to look for:

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