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Saturday is easily the most important day of the Republican primaries so far as the candidates face a major test in Iowa -- and a new challenger enters the arena.

The bulk of the field has been gathered in Iowa all week mingling with locals and noshing on corn dogs as crowds of national reporters follow their every move. The big show is Saturday afternoon as candidates make their final appeal for votes in the Ames Straw Poll, with the ballots closing at 4 PM.

Candidates are already planning all sorts of stunts to attract supporters. Rick Santorum is handing out free jelly. Tim Pawlenty invited Christian rockers Sonicflood. Herman Cain will sing gospel. All three will receive a visit from 2008 Iowa caucus winner Mike Huckabee, who will play bass at their booths.

The poll is totally unscientific, but a strong showing can give candidates a nice shot of positive press. And every candidate besides the state-leading Michele Bachmann is in desperate need of some help in that category. The only other heavyweight in the national polls, Mitt Romney, is not participating (although he's spent the last few days in Iowa). Tim Pawlenty is staking big money on Ames to jolt his lackluster campaign back to life and said on Friday that a flop would require him to "reassess" his approach. For some of the less establishment candidates, like Ron Paul and Herman Cain, a straw poll win could vault them back into the national conversation, much like Huckabee's second place finish helped draw new attention to his campaign and built momentum for his eventual upset victory in the state.

For the middle of the pack candidates, that boost is especially important given who isn't at Ames. That would be Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is expected to announce his presidential campaign in Charleston, South Carolina at a convention organized by right-wing site Perry's perfectly timed entrance threatens to squash contenders' straw poll gains by dominating the news cycle. If they don't break out soon, they could become buried as the race turns into a top-heavy war between frontrunners Bachmann, Romney, and Perry.

As if Perry's announcement isn't enough of a news suck, candidates in Iowa will also have to share headlines with Sarah Palin, who's in Ames. Although there's little evidence Palin is still seriously preparing for a presidential bid at this late stage in the game, she's still doing her best to convince her supporters not to rule her out. "There is still plenty of room in that field for a common-sense conservative," Palin told state fair-goers on Friday. "Watching the debate, not just last night, but watching this whole process over the past year, it has certainly shown me there's plenty of room for more people."

Just after Republicans leave the critical presidential election state of Iowa over the weekend, President Barack Obama will make his own sweep through the state as part of a Midwest bus tour focused on creating jobs and boosting the economies of rural America.

The trip has attracted its fair share of criticism from the White House press corps who have questioned whether it's simply a taxpayer-funded campaign spring through the upper Midwest, a pivotal swing region that could play a crucial role in determining whether Obama wins a second term.

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In a split decision, a three-judge panel on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that the health care law's individual mandate exceeds Congress' Commerce Clause powers and is therefore unconstitutional. However, unlike the district court ruling preceding this case, the judges found the mandate to be "severable" and thus holds that the rest of the law can stand.

In a joint opinion, Judges Joel Dubina -- a Reagan appointee elevated to the circuit court by George H.W. Bush -- and Frank Hull -- a conservative Clinton appointee -- "concluded that the individual mandate exceeded congressional authority under Article I of the Constitution because it was not enacted pursuant to Congress's tax power and it exceeded Congress' power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause."

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FairSearch, the coalition of specialized search engines and Microsoft, has hired former Justice Department official and Karl Rove spokesman Mark Corallo.

The hire was first reported by POLITICO.

Corallo told POLITICO that he hopes to "bring more attention to the issue of competitiveness in the search marketplace so that the DOJ, state attorneys general and members of Congress will see the need to increase their scrutiny of Google."

On the other side of the political aisle, FairSearch has the Glover Park Group representing it.

Corallo is a consummate Washington, DC-insider who's also a former media handler for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee back when it was chaired by Indiana Republican Dan Burton.

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First, they brought you a tea party coloring book. Now the publisher is back with more fun for the whole family.

Just in time for the 10th anniversary of September 11, Really Big Coloring Books, Inc., has released "We Shall Never Forget 9/11" -- a "serious children's book," according to the release. In the book, kids will learn "what happens when a terrorist who orders others to bomb our peace loving wonderful nation" and that "terrorism is human made and is very old; it comes in people of all shapes, sizes, and colors."

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We touched on this in our highlight reel but it's worth considering in isolation since the implications for a coming fight over entitlement cuts and taxes are so enormous.

In last night's debate, each of the eight GOP presidential candidates on stage broke a land-speed record for rejecting a hypothetical, massive, multi-trillion dollar spending cut deal. Why? Because, in the hypothetical, the package would also include tax increases amounting 10 percent of the spending cuts.

None of them even had to stop and think about it. Watch in the clip below how quickly they raise their hands.

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The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on Wednesday convened a meeting with leaders of the science research and development community to reassure them that the Obama administration would fight to keep its research and education funding commitments to keep the U.S. competitive.

The White House made the disclosure about the meeting in a blog post late on Thursday.

Kei Koizumi, assistant director for federal R&D at the White House OSTP wrote:

Yesterday, OSTP Director John Holdren and Deputy Director for Policy Tom Kalil hosted a meeting with science and technology (S&T) community leaders. The gathering, held at the White House Conference Center, provided an opportunity to share perspectives on how the current fiscal and policy environment may affect the Nation's science and engineering enterprise.

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