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A new poll, commissioned by The Iowa Republican, shows Michele Bachmann leading among Republicans in the key first caucus state, with the insurgent Tea Partier edging out national frontrunner Mitt Romney.

The numbers: Bachmann 25%, Romney 21%, Pawlenty 9%, Cain 9%, Paul 6%, Gingrich 4%, Santorum 2%, and Huntsman 1%.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: The Year Of Michele Bachmann]

The poll was conducted by Voter/Consumer Research, a Republican firm headed up by Jan van Lohuizen, who was previously President George W. Bush's pollster for primaries. The survey of 500 likely caucus-goers was conducted from June 26-30, and has a ±4.4% margin of error.



A Scientology-backed Republican pharmacist from Temecula, California is upset that he lives in the liberal welfare state of California, so he's doing what any rational right winger would do: He's proposing a 51st state, "South California." It would include the counties of "Fresno, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego and Tulare" -- all of which have high concentrations of white pick-up trucks and meth heads.

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By Emily Gertz

That chicken breast or pork loin sitting on your plate may look innocent enough -- yet meat production is among humanity's most environmentally destructive activities.

It is estimated that livestock raised for meat drink up eight percent of the fresh water supply, create 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and use about 30 percent of the world's non-ice-covered land. Clearing land for livestock is also a major driver of the destruction of forests and other wildlife habitat.

Enter "cultured meat," or meat grown "in vitro:" beef, sheep, and other animal muscle cells grown in laboratories, using the well-established tissue cultivation method of immersing a few cells in a nutrient-dense glop, and then leaving them alone to divide and increase.

Proponents say that cultured meat could feed billions cheaply. It could be grown in any shape, and even texturized to improve palatability: Sheets of meat cells could be stretched mechanically, imitating how an animal uses its muscles.

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Wisconsin Democrats face the latest step this week in their efforts to win control of the state Senate in recall elections, triggered by opposition to Republican Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union legislation. On Tuesday, six Democratic challengers are running in primaries against some rather unusual opponents, before they can move on to the general elections -- and even then, the battle is likely to go on even after the elections.

They key thing to remember is that if there were no primaries -- that is, if only one Democrat had filed in each race, with no other Republicans than the incumbents -- then the six GOP incumbents would be on the ballot Tuesday, with the potential to change control of a chamber where Republicans currently have a 19-14 majority.

Soon after the recall elections were triggered, Republicans declared a strategy to plant fake candidates in the Democratic primaries -- which they have called "protest candidates" -- in order to delay the general elections from July to August, while the GOP incumbents run unopposed.

The candidates range from a GOP activist in his 20s, to a former Republican state representative who is in his 80s. Also, it turns out the whole scheme will cost local governments throughout the state over $400,000.

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It doesn't have a name, but it probably should: the axiom that when budgets and taxes and debt increasingly dominate politics in Washington, utterances of the words "Reagan" and "Thatcher" climb exponentially.

As detailed at length here, high-profile GOP presidential hopefuls constantly extol the former British Prime Minister. That's true whether it's to bash President Obama, or burnish their own conservative bona fides, or both.

And, of course, Ronald Reagan's decades-long reign as the Patron Saint of conservatism never really lets up, no matter what the issue du jour in DC.

But two days after Congressional Republicans took a pass on a $4 trillion fiscal reform grand bargain because Democrats insisted that a minority of the deficit reduction come from new tax revenue, it's worth reviewing the Thatcher and Reagan records on spending, taxes, and debt -- and recalling that the transatlantic Tory twins didn't mind spending money, and weren't nearly as averse to tax increases as are their idolators in the U.S. Congress today.

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President Obama said both sides have to be willing to sustain some political pain in order to reach a deal on cutting the nation's long-term debt, and he urged his own party to accept changes to entitlement programs in order to wrangle some targeted tax increases out of Republicans.

Recognizing that he has a lot of work still ahead of him to convince Democrats to agree to altering Medicare or Social Security, Obama tried to lay some ground work Monday at a press briefing.

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Updated at 8:16 p.m.

A Sunday evening White House summit on debt negotiations has concluded with no signs of progress after a weekend full of fits and starts in the talks between President Obama, Congressional Democrats and Republicans.

Throughout the past few days, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has sent mixed signals that the debt-ceiling needs to be raised while backtracking from attempts to reach a grand bargain to reduce the nation's long-term debt.

After the Sunday evening meeting, Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer announced via Twitter that talks would continue Monday and Obama would hold a press conference at 11 a.m. but did not immediately characterize the state of play. Statements from Congressional leaders indicated that Democrats and Republicans were still locking horns on the key issues of tax increases and changes to entitlement programs.

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blamed Congressional Democrats' refusal to greenlight any changes to Medicare and Social Security for the ongoing stalemate.

"The members will meet again tomorrow, though it's disappointing that the President is unable to bring his own party around to the entitlement reform that he put on the table," McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said in an e-mailed statement. "And it's baffling that the President and his party continue to insist on massive tax hikes in the middle of a jobs crisis while refusing to take significant action on spending reductions at a time of record deficits."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a statement after the talks, saying Demorats are still squarely opposed to Medicare block grants to the states.

She said she came into the weekend hoping to achieve a grand bargain and "is still hopeful for a large bipartisan agreement, which means more stability for our economy, more growth and jobs, and more deficit reduction over a longer period of time."

"This package must do no harm to the middle class or to economic growth," Pelosi stressed. "It must also protect Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries, and we continue to have serious concerns about shifting billions in Medicaid costs to the states."

While a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said his boss remains "firmly committed to getting the most robust deal possible," and during the meeting, stressed the need for an approach that is "balanced between spending and revenues, in terms of timing, specificity and dollars."

"Senator Reid believes the stakes are too high for Republicans to keep taking the easy way out, and he is committed to meeting every day until we forge a deal, however long that takes," said the spokesman.

The meeting began at 6:10 in the White House Cabinet Room with President Obama seated at the center of the table, flanked by Reid and Boehner. The dress code was appropriately casual for a sultry Sunday evening in July. No one wore ties, opting for open-collar shirts and blazers instead.

A White House pool reporter shouted, "Mr. President, can you get a deal done in 10 days?"

Obama responded: "We need to."

Follow this reporter on Twitter: @susancrabtree

Jumping off Tim Pawlenty's professed admiration for Lady Gaga's gay anthem "Born This Way," NBC's David Gregory asked the presidential candidate if he thought gays were, in fact, born into their orientation. According to Pawlenty, the answer is above his pay grade.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Meet the 2012 GOPers: Tim Pawlenty]

Pawlenty told Gregory on Meet The Press that when it came to whether homosexuality was a choice or an innate part of a person's character, "the science in that regard is in dispute" and that it was unclear whether it was "behavioral or partly genetic."

"There's no scientific conclusion that it's genetic," he said. "We don't know that. So we don't know to what extent, you know, it's behavioral and-- that's something that's been debated by scientists for a long time. But as I understand the science, there's no current conclusion that it's genetic."

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