TPM News

TPM has been reporting for weeks about the effect of the debt debate on individual political leaders and the subsequently low ratings of Congress. But new data from a CNN poll shows that there's been a difference in the minds of many Americans: the Democratic Party is getting a split on approval/disapproval at 47 - 47, but the Republican Party disapproval rating is all the way up to 59%, against a 33% approval.

The GOP approval rating has been going down in the CNN poll since their 2010 victories: in the October 27-30 version, the Republican Party had a small plurality in approval, at 44 - 43. But since last fall's election they've seen a steady downward trend in the survey, to the current low, which is the highest disapproval rating in the CNN poll in the last twenty years.

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Proponents of gay marriage scored a huge victory in June when the New York Legislature passed a law legalizing it, advocates celebrated when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it, and Mayor Bloomberg marked the occasion by officiating the wedding of two top staffers. In short, the political establishment embraced gay marriage in New York, and now it's a part of life in the state.

In Vermont, it's been part of life since April of 2009. A new survey from Public Policy Polling provides a look into how the law is viewed by Vermont residents, who have clearly accepted it as part of the state's social fabric: 58% say that same sex marriage should be legal.

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Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, a frontrunner to win the GOP nomination against Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), compared poor people to scavenging racoons in a speech this week.

In a video captured by the liberal group, American Bridge 21st Century, Bruning makes the comparison as part of an elaborate metaphor originally focused on environmental regulations. He describes a requirement that workers at a construction project gather up endangered beetles by luring them into a bucket with a dead rat in order to release them elsewhere. But the plan is thwarted when hungry raccoons then eat them straight out of the rat-infested bucket. Which, according to Bruning, is a perfect image to illustrate how welfare recipients receive their benefits.

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Last week the U.S. Commerce Department released a report that highlighted the ongoing lack of women in science, technology, engineering and math jobs. The study showed that the disparity began at university with only 27 percent of degrees in the field being awarded to women in 2009.

Now it turns out that many of those women who do go on to pursue an academic career in science say that their career prevents them from having as many children as they want. In addition, almost a third of young women scientists who took part in a newly-published study worry that their careers will prevent them from having a family.

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News Corp's Sunday broadsheet the Sunday Times has reportedly banned the use of subterfuge -- including the use of pseudonyms and alter egos -- in the wake of the News Of The World phone hacking scandal, according to The Guardian.

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Last week, the New York Times/CBS News poll put an emphatic point on the acrimonious debt debate by producing a new record: the highest disapproval rating that Congress had ever received in the survey since it began in 1977.

The reasons are pretty obvious: not only did Congress, and specifically the House GOP play chicken with the US credit rating (and actually succeed in drawing a downgrade from one rating agency, S&P), the legislative branch took that chance with an economy still struggling to emerge from a deep recession with the added strife of three current military entanglements abroad. In other words, it was actually hard to make the situation much worse, but Congress did.

The sad distinction now is between the usually low approval ratings of Congress, and historically high disapproval ratings. And behind that distinction is a simple question: does it even matter when it comes to elections?

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Mitt Romney is condemning Democratic strategists for planning an array of attacks on his character in order to bring him down in a general election.

The former Massachusetts governor took particular exception with a quote from an unnamed Democrat in a Politico story on the strategy, who said that "Unless things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill Romney." The person's connection to the White House was left vague, however -- the article merely described them as "aligned" with the re-election campaign.

"It is disgraceful that President Obama's campaign has launched his re-election with the stated goal to 'kill' his opponent with an onslaught of negative and personal attacks," Romney said in a statement. "President Obama will say and do desperate things to hold onto power because he knows he has failed. Neither despicable threats, nor President Obama's billion dollar negative campaign, will put Americans back to work, save their homes, or restore their hopes. On November 6, 2012, this will change."

The article in question listed a number of vulnerabilities Democrats hoped to exploit, most of which have already been raised in the press in recent weeks: Romney's awkwardness on the campaign trail, his reputation for changing positions, and his professional background as a high-powered executive at Bain Capital.

The polls are now open in Wisconsin for the big event: Six recall elections targeting incumbent Republican state senators, in a backlash against Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union law and other budget decisions, with the potential for control of the state Senate to be flipped to the Democrats after just seven months of one-party GOP government.

The polls opened at 7 a.m. CT, and will close at 8 p.m. CT. Under Wisconsin's recall laws, these elections are effectively special elections, with the incumbents each facing a Democratic challenger in a head-to-head race. And given the unusual nature of these races, it is nearly impossible to predict who will win, with everything riding on turnout.

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