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Poll: Obama's Approval Rating Going Back Up The new AP/GfK poll finds that President Obama has a 56% approval rating, up from 50% in September -- and the first time that his approval rating has increased in the AP/GfK surveys. Disapproval is at 39%, down from 49% last month.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will meet at 10:45 a.m. ET with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. At 1:30 p.m. ET, he will deliver remarks and award the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. At 3:30 p.m. ET, he will meet with his national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan. At 8 p.m. ET, the President and First Lady will host an event for local middle students, to star gaze and conduct hands-on experiments with astronomers.

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Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) said on Morning Joe today that she doesn't think Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) should step down as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee because of an ongoing ethics committee investigation for alleged offenses including not reporting income on tax and financial disclosure forms and renting apartments at below-market value (Here's TPMmuckraker's most recent rundown of the allegations.) Waters also suggested that Rangel may not be alone in the House in failing to properly fill out disclosure forms.

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President Obama is hoping health care reform will get by with a little help from his friends. Later today, the DNC will announce a slate of celebrity judges tasked with selecting a new pro-health care reform TV ad from entries sent in by activists across the country.

The contest was first announced last week by Organizing For America and ends 10/18. The full list of celebrity judges will be announced today, but CNN already has a few:

Musician Will.I.Am, actor John Cho, actress Rosario Dawson, actor Dulé Hill, "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane, actor Brandon Routh, actress Kate Walsh and actress Olivia Wilde will join Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, DNC Executive Director Jen O'Malley Dillon, Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe and volunteers in helping to pick the 30-second commercial that will air nationally.

Details are still emerging about President Obama's 90-minute closed-door session with 31 members of Congress today about his plan for Afghanistan, but mentioned in some stories is that Sen. John McCain had a terse exchange with his onetime rival.

Both the New York Times and Politico are reporting tonight that McCain (R-AZ) suggested Obama was making the decision about whether to send a surge of troops at a "leisurely" pace and was rebuffed.

While disputing the suggestion of a tense moment, sources confirmed the general sense of the exchange -- and that Obama assured everyone that he was moving as quickly as he believes prudence allows.

TPMDC checked in with McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan, who said the senator was "astonished" by early reports characterizing the exchange as an argument because they aren't accurate. The White House also suggested there weren't any fireworks.

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During tonight's Politico/ABC candidate forum in Virginia, Leon Harris asked Republican nominee Bob McDonnell about an interesting angle surrounding his thesis -- a right-wing manifesto that denounced working women as being detrimental to the family.

Harris pointed out that McDonnell's own ads have boasted that he was raised by a working mother. So how could the same man, at age 34, write a thesis denouncing working women?

"The thesis was about a 20, 30 year look at government policies and its impact on the family," said McDonnell. "It started with the premise that's been true from Kennedy to Reagan, and from Obama to McDonnell -- that family is the bedrock of society, and government should not do things that are detrimental to the family."

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At the Politico/ABC candidate forum in Virginia, Creigh Deeds was asked a lot about the fact that he's trailing in the polls.

"Well, if this election is about who's the smoothest candidate, who can be the slickest communicator, I'm not gonna win," he said -- echoing some of the talk from his campaign in the wake of a Bob McDonnell supporter making fun of him for stuttering.

Deeds also added that a lot of people didn't expect him to win his Democratic primary, and when he did he's spent a lot of money and had to spend a lot of time replenishing his funds. During that time, McDonnell was able to spend a lot of money on TV advertising, getting an lead on him that Deeds has been working to overcome.

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The Tea Party group is planning another big push later this month, with a week-long bus tour leading up to Nov. 11 that's meant to mark the one-year point from the 2010 Congressional elections.

The "Tea Party Express: Countdown to Judgment Day" starts Oct. 25.

"If you liked what we did with the first Tea Party Express you're going to love what we have in store for our second effort. It's going to be even bigger and better yet!" they promise in an email to fans and distributed through conservative media outlets.

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The National Counterterrorism Center issued today the following transcript of remarks by President Obama and National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael E. Leiter at NCTC Headquarters in McLean, VA. Here's the full text:

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Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is on no one's list of vulnerable Senators in 2010. But an active duty Navy M.D. says he's ready to mount a serious challenge to the six term liberal. From the left. Daniel Freilich says he plans to formally announce his bid for Leahy's seat tomorrow in Wilmington, VT. We caught up with him this afternoon.

Freilich, 45, is an internist and infectious disease specialist for the Navy and has spent much of his military career in clinical medicine. Not surprisingly, much of his campaign message focuses on health care. Freilich is a single payer advocate and says that Leahy "bears some of the responsibility" for the idea's current DOA status in Washington as a "more than 30 year incumbent."

Overall though, Freilich praised the man he hopes -- however fleetingly -- to defeat for the Democratic nomination. "Traditionally, he's in the right direction" on most policy issues, Freilich said. "But not sufficiently so."

Freilich is currently on active duty but said his status should change to "reservist" in the next several days so he can actively campaign. Asked how serious a bid he intended to mount against the popular Leahy, Freilich said he plans to raise "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to mount his bid.

"How many I don't know," he said. "But that promise should give you an idea of how serious we are."

Remember the rash of right-wing protesters who showed up to Obama events in August and September armed -- sometimes to the teeth?

In the middle of September, the gun-toter du jour was Josh Hendrickson, who came to an Obama health care speech in Minneapolis with a Glock and a Kel Tec 380 in his back pocket. But Hendrickson was a little different from the other gun-toters: he showed up at the event just after getting out of jail for a pepper-spraying incident.

And based on court records we've obtained, that episode appears to have been an unfortunate flareup of Mall Cop Rage. It resulted in a fifth degree assault misdemeanor conviction.

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