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Two separate polls this morning confirm that Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) has a huge lead over his right-wing challenger in the 2010 primary for Senate, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.

From Quinnipiac: Crist 55%, Rubio 26%.

And Rasmussen: Crist 53%, Rubio 31%.

Rubio has hoped to capitalize on Crist's support for the stimulus, in order to mobilize conservatives against the moderate governor. So far, it doesn't seem to be working, with Crist backed by the full party establishment and remaining way ahead in surveys.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is one of the latest members of Congress to have a run in with anti-health care reform protesters.



The encounter in the video took place last week after Baucus spoke at a preventive care conference in Bozeman, Montana. According to the New York Times, Baucus described the protesters as "agitators, whose sole goal was to intimidate, disrupt and not let any meaningful conversation go on."

There were a couple of people in the crowd "with YouTubes," Mr. Baucus added (meaning cameras), and he posited that the agitators were paid and probably from out of state.


No confirmation on whether any of the protesters came from out of state--though other anti-health care reform protesters haven't been shy about the fact that they don't just target their own representatives. And sure enough, one of the people with Youtubes put his footage on the Internets, and it's now accessible to everyone via the Google.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) had an amazing moment at a town hall meeting, confronting a woman with an Obama-as-Hitler sign, and who asked Frank why he supported Obama's "Nazi policy" on health care:



Frank, who is a member of at least two groups that the Nazis sent to the death camps -- he is Jewish and gay -- fired back. "On what planet do you spent most of your time?" he asked.

"You stand there with a picture of the President, defaced to look like Hitler, and compare the effort to increase health care to the Nazis. My answer to you is, as I said before, it is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated."

At least one major insurer is urging its employees to participate in tea parties.

Last week, UnitedHealth Group--the second largest health insurance company in the country--sent out a letter to its employees urging them to call UHG's United for Health Reform Advocacy Hotline to speak with an advocacy specialist about health care reform. The advocacy specialist, according to the letter, is there to help UHG employees write personalized messages to elected officials, and to arm them with talking points to use at local events in order to better oppose the public health insurance option.

TPM has obtained the letter, which you can read here, but a UHG advocacy specialist was not willing to provide TPM with a copy.

However, a source who's insured by UHG--and who also obtained the letter--called the hotline on Tuesday and says the company directed him to an events list hosted by the right wing America's Independent Party, and suggested he attend an anti-health care reform tea party sponsored by religious fundamentalist Dave Daubenmire, scheduled for today outside the office of Blue Dog Rep. Zack Space (D-OH).

UHG was not immediately available for comment.

Some conservatives have used the fact that industry groups nominally support health care reform to attack liberals and Democrats for blaming town hall disruptions and other public displays of opposition to health care reform on those same groups. Well, as you can see, it's perfectly possible for industry to have it both ways.

In case progressives were beginning to feel as if the Obama administration doesn't really care what they think, they can rest assured: the White House hears them loud and clear. It just doesn't like the message.

"I don't understand why the left of the left has decided that this is their Waterloo," an anonymous senior White House adviser tells the Washington Post. "We've gotten to this point where health care on the left is determined by the breadth of the public option. I don't understand how that has become the measure of whether what we achieve is health-care reform."

That's probably not a characterization--"left of the left"--liberals would have chosen for more than five dozen members of the Democratic caucus. And it doesn't exactly inspire faith that the White House sees the public option as more than a sliver of reform. But it also doesn't suggest they're expecting House progressives to fold.

And, in a bit of good news for progressives, it comes just as White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel--who could even be the Post's anonymous official--tells the New York Times that the GOP "has made a strategic decision that defeating President Obama's health care proposal is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day."

If health care bipartisanship is dead or dying, then the public option suddenly loses much (though certainly not all) of its political volatility.

NYT: Dems Seem Set To Go It Alone On Health Bill The New York Times reports that Democrats are getting closer to working without Republicans on health care reform, in the wake of continued intransigence by the GOP. "Administration officials, who maintain that Republicans are badly mischaracterizing the legislation that has emerged from three House committees and the Senate health committee, said they had hoped to achieve some level of bipartisan support," the Times reports. "But they are becoming increasingly convinced that they will instead have to navigate the complicated politics among varying Democratic factions."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will deliver remarks at 4:30 p.m. ET from the South Portico, honoring 2008 Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. At 5:30 p.m. ET, he will hold a conference call with faith leaders to discuss health insurance reform.

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White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel tells the New York Times that the administration may be giving up on finding a bipartisan way to pass health care reform.

"The Republican leadership has made a strategic decision that defeating President Obama's health care proposal is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day," he said.

Some Republicans, such as Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ), have suggested their party won't support any bill.

"There is no way that Republicans are going to support a trillion-dollar-plus bill," Kyl said. "I have no doubt that they can make it revenue neutral to find enough ways to tax the American people, but that doesn't mean the Republicans will support it."

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the chief GOP negotiator on the Senate Finance Committee, has said he won't vote for a bill without wide Republican support.

And the Republican National Committee has attacked co-ops, a concession some Democrats are willing to make instead of pushing the public option.

Late update: Press Secretary Robert Gibbs denies that President Obama has given up on bipartisanship.

Ernest Hancock, the online radio host who staged an interview with an assault rifle-wielding associate at the Obama event in Arizona yesterday -- and was himself armed with a 9 millimeter pistol -- was a vocal supporter and friend of right-wing anti-government militia members who were convicted of conspiracy and weapons charges in the 90s.

And in an interview today with TPMmuckraker, Hancock said he still believes the Viper Militia case was "manufactured" by the same government that manufactured Waco and lied to its people about 9/11.

The federal government initially accused the Arizona Viper Militia of plotting to blow up federal buildings, which the twelve-member group cased on videotape.

In July 1996, after a grand jury indicted the suspects, federal agents "seized about 90 high-powered rifles and hundreds of pounds of a bomb-making compound from the shabby bungalow of a man whom officials identified as the ordnance specialist of a local paramilitary group," the New York Times reported at the time.

Hancock, who in recent years designed the famous "Ron Paul rEVOLution" graphic, was an oft-quoted defender of the militia members. The tapes of the government buildings, he said at the time, were purely "educational."

"They don't have criminal records," another press account quoted Hancock, who knew all twelve militia members, as saying. "They just like their guns. And in Arizona, gosh darn it, that's normal."

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The apparent death threat that was made against Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC), regarding his support for the health care bill, will not be prosecuted, Greg Sargent reports.

Miller's office said that the Capitol Police told them it will not be pursued, though no reason was given.

Miller himself had said last week that the phrasing of the phone call to his office -- that his support for the bill could cost him his life, and there are a lot of angry people out there -- was equivocal enough that it would avoid prosecution.

Here's a good question about the effects of any expansion of federal spending on health care, which is being opposed so strongly by conservatives: Could it actually result in more federal dollars headed to treat medical problems in the red states?

A newly-released Gallup survey measures healthy and unhealthy behavior by people in all the states.

The top 11 healthiest-behaving states are: Vermont, Hawaii, Montana, California, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Maine, Delaware, Idaho, Wyoming and Oregon. The bottom 11 least healthy states: Kentucky, Arkansas, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Illinois and Louisiana. (It apparently would have been top ten, but there are ties for the 10th position.)

So of the healthiest states, seven of them voted for Barack Obama. And of the least healthy states, seven voted for John McCain.

Keep in mind, this is even after you figure that the upper-Midwest, where Obama hails from and performed strongly, is a wasteland of deep-fried cheese curds and frozen custard.

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