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So how exactly is it that Jon Corzine has been catching up with Chris Christie in the New Jersey gubernatorial race? A lot of it has had to with women voters -- and mammograms.

Over the last several weeks, Corzine has been relentlessly hammering Christie over his advocacy of legalizing mandate-free insurance policies -- that is, not subject to state requirements that they cover certain procedures, which under New Jersey law include mammograms, autism screenings and other preventive care.

James Wolcott notes that this ad in particular has been given heavy rotation, warning women voters, "But if Chris Christie was governor insurance companies could drop mammogram coverage."

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The New York Conservative Party officially nominated Doug Hoffman as their candidate in the November 3 special election in NY-23 -- and made it very clear that they'll be attacking Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava.

In the press release, Conservative chairman Mike Long did not hold back.

"Doug Hoffman is the only conservative in this race. It's a fact; both of his opponents are died-in-the-wool liberals," said Long. "Dede Scozzafava is a career Albany politician who has voted for increased spending and higher taxes. She supports Gay Marriage and Abortion. Last November she ran as a candidate on the ACORN backed Working Families Party line and shared that line with Barak (sic) Obama and Joe Biden. She has been endorsed by the far-left DAILY KOS. Dede Scozzafava is a liberal."

The seat became open when President Obama appointed GOP Rep. John McHugh as Secretary of the Army, and is now a three-way race between the moderate Republican Scozzafava, Democratic businessman Bill Owens, and Hoffman as the third-party Conservative.

In a sign that the House Republicans have nowhere to go but up, Roll Call reports that the NRCC is limiting its next "Patriot Day" program -- a fundraising event to benefit selected incumbents -- to only five House GOPers, down from a previously-planned ten.

The five members are: Mary Bono Mack (CA), Charlie Dent (PA), Patrick Tiberi (OH), Lee Terry (NE) and Tom Rooney (FL). "The political environment has shifted, and there just aren't five more vulnerable Members who are really in need of assistance or facing a credible challenge," an NRCC aide told the paper. "That money would be better spent by directly transferring money to the committee and on assisting the large number of challenger candidates looking to oust a Democrat incumbent."

Late Update: An earlier version of this post incorrectly listed Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI). It has been corrected.

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Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) appeared on MSNBC today, and commented on the New Jersey gubernatorial race -- linking Republican nominee to what she called the "shocking sexism" of the GOP.

WassermanSchultz, a breast cancer survivor, blasted Christie's stance on insurance company mandates, which has been a big part of Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine's attacks against Christie.

"Well what I'd like to respond to is just to show that the shocking sexism and attitude towards women on the part of the Republican Party, that is wide and deep," said Wasserman-Schultz. "Chris Christie, their candidate for governor in New Jersey, opposes funding for pre-K and accused Gov. Corzine of supporting baby-sitting. He actually opposes mandates in insurance coverage."


Two-time Super Bowl Champion, ex-Denver Broncos quarterback, sometimes car dealer and Colorado icon John Elway seems to be trying to add another line to his Hall of Fame resume: anti-terrorism expert.

Elway, along with Denver TV anchor Kim Christiansen, is the narrator of a pretty great little video titled "Recognizing 8 Signs Of Terrorism." The video was introduced at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference this week, and was apparently produced by the FBI, state of Colorado and Denver's Center for Empowered Living and Learning ("The Cell"), which has a new exhibit called "Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere: Understanding The Threat Of Terrorism."

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In a DNC conference call this afternoon, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) and State Del. Margaret Vanderhye (D-VA) accused members of the Republican party of being "backward" and "out of touch" on women's issues.

The call targeted Republican gubernatorial candidates Chris Christie in New Jersey and Bob McDonnell in Viriginia, as well as Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Republicans in general.

"I think we have an outdated view, an extreme view, a lack of understanding of what women's lives are like today and the role of women in America," Stabenow said. She wouldn't, however, use the word "sexist."

The lawmakers cited Republicans' opposition to health care reform as evidence, since women are usually in charge of their families' health care, and are disproportionately hurt by current health insurance policy.

But they also called out the NRCC's statement yesterday about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, specifically that Gen. Stanley McChrystal "should put her in her place." That, said Wasserman-Schultz, is evidence of "a total lack of respect for women."

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Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus is unsurprisingly cheered by the news out of the Congressional Budget Office. "Our balanced approach to health reform has paid off yet again with the news today that the America's Healthy Future Act remains fully paid for, begins to reduce the federal deficit within ten years and makes significant reductions in federal debt over the next several decades," he says.

Most importantly, it improves and expands health care coverage for tens of millions of American families. This legislation is a smart investment on the federal balance sheet, and it's an even smarter investment for American families, businesses and our economy. Health reform will modernize the health care system for the 21st century by reducing inefficiencies, focusing on quality and ensuring we are getting the best bang for our health care buck. Health reform should be fiscally responsible as it expands and improves coverage and these numbers reiterate that real reform can be just that.

It wasn't exactly potato/potahto, but before reporters this afternoon the two senators most prominently on opposite sides of the debate over what to do next in Afghanistan each said the recent report by Gen. Stanley McChrystal supported their view of the conflict.

At a Capitol Hill press conference announcing the final version of this year's defense appropriations bill, Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) took questions about their differing views on the future of the Afghanistan conflict a day after both men joined President Obama in a White House meeting on the subject. As has been the case all week, the focus turned to McChrystal's recent report calling for more troops and new attention on winning Afghan hearts and minds.

Levin, who has been vocal with his skepticism toward the idea of more troops in Afghanistan, said McChrystal's report vindicated his view of the conflict. Levin is supportive of Obama's push for a new strategy in the conflict and said McChrystal's report and recent London speech showed he and the general agree.

"He said we need a change in strategy," Levin said. "Those are his exact words."

McCain, who has supported a so-called "surge" strategy in Afghanistan, said it was clear it was he and McChrystal who shared the same view on the war. "I didn't say it has to be the exact number of troops General McChrystal has requested," he said. "But I've been to Afghanistan many times -- I understand it. And I support a surge-style strategy."

There was one thing both men agreed on at the press conference. Levin and McCain refused to say Obama is "dragging his feet" on making a decision about the future of the conflict. Levin said McChrystal's report showed support for what Levin called "the usefulness of a deliberative process" over what to do next.

McCain said he supported the idea of a review but cautioned that "delays" in announcing and implementing a new strategy "are being interpreted as vacillations on the part of the Americans" in Pakistan and regions of Afghanistan.

"There is a true sense of urgency," McCain said, pointing to rising American casualties in recent weeks as evidence that Taliban forces feel the deliberations in Washington are an advantage.

"There are lives at stake on the time and right strategy side of things," Levin responded. "We have to ensure that our troops are doing the right thing."

The Congressional Budget Office delivers good, but unsurprising news to the Senate Finance Committee. They say the panel's health care reform legislation will require $829 billion in new spending--but that every penny will be covered, and, moreover, that it will reduce the deficit by $81 billion over 10 years, and then continue to reap even greater savings.

Director Doug Elmendorf writes, "According to CBO and JCT's assessment, enacting the Chairman's mark, as amended, would result in a net reduction in federal budget deficits of $81 billion over the 2010-2019 period.

All told, the proposal would reduce the federal deficit by $12 billion in 2019, CBO and JCT estimate. After that, the added revenues and cost savings are projected to grow more rapidly than the cost of the coverage expansion.

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White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters today that President Obama is getting closer to a decision on troop levels in Afghanistan.

"We're getting there," Gibbs said.

As I laid out earlier, Obama is in the Situation Room this afternoon talking Pakistan, and has another meeting Friday.

Gibbs wouldn't give a timeline, saying only that Obama has six hours of meetings scheduled over the next few days.

"It's not just a military question. It has to be looked at and focused on a number of different areas at a number of different levels. And that's what the president's intent on doing," Gibbs said. "We're still in the process of -- of working through this. I don't -- if the president's come to a decision, he hasn't told me."