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Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) told ABC News that the Democratic Party cannot ignore the lessons of the Massachusetts special Senate election unless it wants to be lead to "even further catastrophe."

The race to fill the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat has become hotly contested in recent weeks, even though the Democratic candidate, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, enjoyed double digit polling leads up until the middle of December. Republican candidate Scott Brown has called the race a referendum on health care reform and has promised to be the 41st vote to block cloture on the landmark legislation if he's voted into office.

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A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that voters are ready to listen to either party's case when choosing who will run the Congress this year. That's bad news for Democrats, who have been favored by the electorate in national congressional polls since 2003.

The poll shows voters split 41-41 on which party should control Congress after the 2010 elections, with 18% "unsure." NBC/WSJ polling from as recently as July showed Democrats with a 7-point edge on the question. Since that time, support for Democratic control has steadily declined, though the poll released today was the first that showed voters tied on the question since Dec. 2003.

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Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) said today that negotiators attempting to merge the Senate and House health care bills have dropped a provision that guaranteed Nebraska full federal funding for a Medicaid expansion in perpetuity.

It may be a moot point if Democrats convince the House to pass the Senate bill word-for-word, a possibility that may happen if Republican Scott Brown wins a special election tonight.

But the deal, made to get Sen. Ben Nelson's (D-NE) vote on the health care bill, has been a source of contention, with health care opponents, state attorneys general and others criticizing it.

A race once considered a "shoe-in" for Democrats in true-blue Massachusetts for the late "Liberal Lion" Edward Kennedy's senate seat, has become incredibly tight and has attracted national attention. Many polls place Republican candidate, State Senator Scott Brown, in the lead over Democratic candidate, State Attorney General Martha Coakley. On Monday, January 11, Martha Coakley, Scott Brown and Tea Party candidate Joe Kennedy participated in the final U.S. Senate Candidates Debate at the UMass Boston Campus Center, sponsored by the Edward M. Kennedy Institute.

flickr: Martha Coakley for U.S. Senate

flickr:State Senator Scott Brown

The three candidates participate in an on-air radio debate.

flickr: State Senator Scott Brown

Although most of the country regards Massachusetts as a very liberal state, it has a large number of registered Independent voters.


Scott Brown celebrates winning the Republican primary.

Martha Coakley campaigns in Framingham with one of her biggest supporters, Vicky Kennedy, widow of the late senator Coakley is aiming to replace.

flickr: Martha Coakley for U.S. Senate

Scott Brown campaigns on the streets in Boston.

Martha Coakley meets with supporters in Somerville.

flickr: Martha Coakely for U.S. Senate

Scott Brown and his daughters, Ayla and Arianna, send voters a Happy New Year's greeting.

Supporters cheer for Coakley at a rally.

flickr: Martha Coakley for U.S. Senate

Brown supporters make calls to get out the vote.

flickr: State Senator Scott Brown

Coakley greets supporters in Newbury.

flickr: Martha Coakley for U.S. Senate

Scott Brown campaigns outside the Winter Classic hockey game in Boston.

Martha Coakley tours the Abboud Manufacturing Plant.

flickr: Martha Coakley for U.S. Senate

Scott Brown sits at the wheel of what he calls "his old truck" in ads and campaign speeches. Brown has cited the truck as proof he is a man of the people, a tactic that has been criticized by President Obama who noted that President Bush drove a truck too.

Coakley campaigns in Boston with former President Bill Clinton.

flickr: Martha Coakley for U.S. Senate

Scott Brown campaigns in the North End of Boston with former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Martha Coakley supporters show their enthusiasm in Melrose.

flickr: Martha Coakley for U.S. Senate

Brown speaks after accepting his endorsement from the Massachusetts Veterans Association.

Coakley meets with voters in Lowell.

flickr: Martha Coakley for U.S. Senate

Brown speaks to supporters at a Republican rally in November.

flickr: State Senator Scott Brown

President Barack Obama stumps for Coakley in Massachusetts. As the race became tighter, the Democrats pulled out all of the stops in a frenetic, last-ditch effort to push Coakley to victory.

flickr: Martha Coakley for U.S. Senate

In a preview of the GOP's talking points should Scott Brown win the Massachusetts special election tonight, the Republican National Committee released the results of a survey it took, asking voters if a winner should be seated "immediately."

The survey asked: "Should the winner of this special election be seated in the U.S. Senate immediately or should the Democrat leaders in Washington be allowed to delay seating the winner until after the health care reform bill has been voted on?"

Not surprisingly, 79% of respondents said the winner should be seated immediately. Only 10% said Democrats should be "allowed to delay seating."

It will likely be at least 15 days before a winner is seated, based on Massachusetts state law and the Senate leadership's announcement that they will wait for official certification before swearing anyone in.

Responding to the controversy over Biblical inscriptions on military rifle scopes in Iraq and Afghanistan, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command told the AP, "This situation is not unlike the situation with U.S. currency. Are we going to stop using money because the bills have 'In God We Trust' on them?"

In an interview with ABC, the spokesman, Air Force Maj. John Redfield, argued that the inscriptions on Trijicon rifle scopes do not violate the military's ban on proselytizing "because this equipment is not issued beyond the U.S. Defense Department personnel. It's not something we're giving away to the local folks."

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A memo leaked today to ABC News, which was circulated to the Martha Coakley campaign and national Democrats in December, outlines some of the problems that Coakley -- then with a 51%-32% lead over Scott Brown -- might face come Election Day. Namely, conservative independents who don't like President Obama.

The memo says Coakley has a "strength of support," but warns that independent voters "look pretty conservative, and the national political context is not helping us much."

It was written by Daniel R. Gotoff of Lake Research Partners after conducting an internal poll and reportedly circulated all the way to the White House.

"Obama, whose job performance is already just barely net positive, is rated solidly negatively by a majority of independents," Gotoff wrote.

"Over the next weeks, our task is to consolidate Democrats and break even among independents. We do pretty well at that right now, but there are about a quarter of Democrats who aren't yet voting for us. And while we have a marginal lead among independents, they will be a battleground throughout this race," the memo reads.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are meeting at the White House this evening with Vice President Joe Biden.

An administration official told TPM the meeting was about President Obama's 2010 fiscal responsibility push.

"As part of the fiscal year 2011 budget process, the administration has been discussing, with members of Congress and others, a range of ideas about how to put the nation back on a sustainableiscal path. That is the subject of the meeting the vice president is holding this afternoon with lawmakers and administration officials," the official said.

The Martha Coakley campaign just sent out a media advisory, announcing a press conference at 5:30 p.m. ET, alleging irregularities in the special Senate election.

The press conference will involve reports of voters who received ballots that were already marked for Republican candidate Scott Brown.

It should be noted that the Coakley campaign will have on hand as an attorney one Marc Elias, who was previously the head recount lawyer for Al Franken in Minnesota, a legal drama that lasted for eight months after election day 2008. Elias also worked on another high-profile recount before that, the Washington state gubernatorial race in 2004. So clearly, the Coakley campaign was fully prepared for a super-close election by having Elias already on hand in Boston.

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