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As we near the critical two-week benchmark before elections in New Jersey, Virginia and New York, the White House is going all-in to help Democratic candidates. President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are raising money and stumping for hopefuls across the country - in some cases looking beyond the narrow focus of next month's election to the 2010 midterms.

Last week Obama raised more than $3 million for the Democratic party in San Francisco, and Biden helped raise money for Missouri senate candidate Robin Carnahan (D) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

But in the race to the finish, and with Republicans eager to make a loss in Virginia or New Jersey seem like a major national trend for the president, it's a high-profile week for both Obama and Biden.

Obama has eight political events scheduled over the next week. Before he leaves for the Czech Republic tomorrow, Biden has a long day of double political duty.

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There was a time not so long ago when Gov. Charlie Crist (R) and President Obama saw eye-to-eye on economic policy. But that was before Crist announced his bid for Senate.

Crist's first radio ads slam Obama over his plan to, as Crist says in the script, "spend our way into prosperity." The popular Florida governor once (literally) embraced the stimulus package and the Obama plan to, well, spend America back into prosperity. But a summer of attacks from the right, led by former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, appear to have brought that bipartisan spirit to an end.

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The attacks keep on coming in the NY-23 special election, with Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava the target of more attacks from her right.

Scozzafava is in a three-way race with not only Democrat Bill Owens, but also Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, who has attacked Scozzafava as a liberal on issues like abortion, gay marriage and spending. The split in conservative ranks threatens to hand the seat to the Democrats. And now Hoffman's camp and the Conservative Party are calling her something else: "The Bernie Madoff of New York politics."

Hoffman spokesman Rob Ryan used the term in reference to Scozzafava's recent endorsement by Newt Gingrich, explaining it as follows: "She is pulling a scam on Republican voters, and it looks like she is pulling a scam on Newt Gingrich."

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Well, it looks like we were right.

The Chamber of Commerce hoax was perpetrated by the Yes Men, in tandem with a group of activists known as the Avaaz Action Factory.

Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum showed up at the 11am press conference that had earlier been announced by a "Chamber of Commerce" press release, and, impersonating a Chamber executive, declared:

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It was a deja vu weekend in the Virginia governor race. Newspaper endorsements, seen as a key factor in the Democratic primary in June, returned to the spotlight after the Washington Post doubled down on its strong endorsement of Creigh Deeds from the summer.

Deeds, down in the polls just like he was before the primary, is hoping that the Post endorsement will again lead to the late surge that his camp has said was key to its landslide primary victory. But his opponent, Bob McDonnell (R), has a string of endorsements of his own, including one from a major state paper that endorsed Gov. Tim Kaine (D) four years ago.

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The House health care bill is getting cheaper, but Democrats aren't boasting just yet. Because when they ultimately break silence the hope is to present conservative Democrats in both chambers with a bill that will walk the walk of fiscal responsibility--including a public option, which is projected to save the government billions.

As always, the legislative process is unpredictable, and the Senate is operating in isolation from the House. But with the public option potentially in the balance, Speaker Pelosi's goal is this: present conservative Democrats in both chambers with a Hobson's choice between a public option bill and a potentially more expensive Senate bill that may have no public option at all.

On Friday, the Washington Post ran with leaked CBO numbers, showing that House health care leaders have reduced the price tag of their bill by at least $100 billion. The numbers were preliminary--not reflective of the current state of the legislation, which is changing constantly--but they showed a definite downward trajectory in the overall cost of its reform plan.

Still, leadership was not pleased.

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President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today announced a new strategy for dealing with Sudan, promising incentives if the Sudanese government acts to improve the situation in Darfur, and tougher sanctions if it doesn't.

Later this week Obama will renew the National Emergency declaration for Sudan, which will extend current sanctions, Obama said in a statement released by the White house.

"We must seek a definitive end to conflict, gross human rights abuses and genocide in Darfur," he said. The UN estimates that 300,000 people have been killed in fighting between government-backed militias and rebels in the western region of Darfur, and 2.7 million have been displaced.

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Four Republican lawmakers have not submitted a request to the House sergeant at arms to investigate a threat that one of the four described as a terrorist-linked group possibly "running influence operations or planting spies in key national security-related offices."

A spokesperson for the sergeant at arms told TPMmuckraker this morning that the office was aware of the charge by GOP members at a press conference Wednesday that the Council on American-Islamic Relations planted Muslim intern spies on the Hill for purposes of subversion. But, says spokesperson Kerri Hanley, the office hasn't received a request for an investigation, and it wouldn't launch any probe until such a request is made.

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It's not yet clear who perpetrated the hoax announcing that the Chamber of Commerce had changed its position on climate change. (It hasn't, and remains opposed to serious efforts to deal with the problem.)

But some evidence points to the Yes Men, a group of activists known for similar stunts.

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Creigh Deeds has a new TV ad, a positive spot touting the Washington Post's endorsement of his candidacy.

Deeds is trailing Republican Bob McDonnell in the polls, but clearly hopes that the WaPo endorsement can do for him in the general election what it previously did for him in the Democratic primary -- help him to build momentum and win over voters in northern Virginia.

TPMLivewire