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The new AP/GfK poll today, coming out just as President Obama is about to address Congress on health care, finds that he's coming into the debate in a weak position.

Obama's approval on his handling of health care right now is only 42%, with 52% disapproval on health care.

This other question should concern Democrats: "If President Obama and the Democrats in Congress are unable to win support from Republicans to pass a health care plan this year, what should they do?" The numbers: Go ahead and pass a bill without Republican support, 28%; Keep trying until they are able to make a deal with the Republicans, 66%.

Looking at this number, it's clear that the burden on Obama and the Democrats at this point is to demonstrate clearly through tonight's speech and the following events that Republicans won't make a deal. If that case isn't made, there really might not be enough political capital to withstand the potential fallout from a Dems-only bill.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) plans to unveil a draft of his health care legislation next week, and begin hearings on September 21st. Baucus has reportedly told the panel's Democrats that he will move ahead whether or not Republicans plan to support the meeting.

The move keeps with Baucus' vow to release a completed draft by September 15. More details as they emerge.

Our friends at the Dump Bachmann blog have spotted a fun little quirk in Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) schedule for this Saturday.

In the early part of the morning, Bachmann will be hosting a town hall on health care. Then in the late morning, she will be proceeding directly to speaking at...a Tea Party.

So first it's a Bachmann town hall, and then a Tea Party. Really, how do you tell the difference?

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) today took a shot at the president for pushing a deadline for passing health care reform legislation, saying a deadline is "counterproductive."

"The president's job is to push ... if he doesn't push it tends to drift," Conrad told reporters this morning. "But this idea that there is a drop-dead day or hour is absolutely counterproductive to doing something that is critical."

Conrad, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, has expressed dismay with the idea of a deadline before.

But yesterday it was committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), not the president, who was pushing deadlines. Baucus said yesterday that bipartisan negotiators on the committee had better speak up by 10 a.m. today if they had changes to his proposal.

We've all seen those stories where a careless politician gets a little too candid when speaking into a hot mic. But this one's really in a whole different league.

[RELATED SLIDESHOW: TPM'S HISTORY OF THE SEX-SCANDALOUS FALL OF THE MODERN CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT]

Michael Duvall is a conservative Republican state representative from Orange County, California. While waiting for the start of a legislative hearing in July, the 54-year-old married father of two and family values champion began describing, for the benefit of a colleague seated next to him, his ongoing affairs with two different women. In very graphic detail.

Read More →

Sen. David Vitter appears to be sending out a new fundraising letter containing an all-too familiar claim -- that if the Democrats pass their health-care bill, the old and disabled will have their health care cut off by government bureaucrats deciding they're not worth the cost -- the main substance of the "death panel" scare.

Here's the key quote from the letter, which was given to us by the Louisiana Dems after a supporter handed it to them in the past week:

So what about the claims that this plan will reduce health care costs? Well, to do that will simply require a plan to ration existing resource sand restrict benefits for certain medicines, procedures and therapies.

The government will determine who is eligible for what and if you are older or have certain other afflictions, an economist will determine if you are worthy of the government's "investment" in your longevity. That's right, a bureaucrat will be making life or death decisions.


The Vitter campaign did not return our requests for comment.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) wants there to be no doubt: "[T]his member of congress, this United States senator is going to tell [President Obama] emphatically that we need the public option," Specter said.



As a Republican, and in his first days as a Democrat, Specter opposed the public option, but eventually came to the view that a public option should be included in health care reform, and now says the country 'needs' the public option.

His move to the left no doubt has something to do with the pressure he's facing from Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) who's challenging Specter in the Pennsylvania primary. Sestak has launched a petition calling on Congressional leaders to hold an up or down vote on the public option in both the House and the Senate.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs took a shot at the Fox network today while appearing on "Fox And Friends," saying "I know that the network, instead of dealing with the reality of millions of people on health insurance reform, have decided to show a reality show called something like So You Think You Can Dance." Watch the video below.



"I do hope that people will check into the reality of what's going on in America rather than the distraction of a reality TV show," said Gibbs. Steve Doocy noted that Fox News Channel will be broadcasting the speech.

NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC and CNN will all be airing Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress. Fox also aired So You Think You Can Dance instead of a primetime press conference by Obama back in July.

According to Politico's Mike Allen, in his speech tonight, President Obama will stick to his longstanding game plan of endorsing the public option, but not demanding it, and leaving himself enough wiggle room to get on board with some sort of compromise.

Allen says the public option language in the speech tonight will echo the language he used when he addressed the AFL-CIO on Monday. And that, as we noted at the time, was far from a ringing endorsement of the public option.

A new Rasmussen poll of the Massachusetts special election for Senate finds that state Attorney General Martha Coakley starts out with a big lead in the Democratic primary.

The numbers: Coakley 38%, Rep. Stephen Lynch 11%, Rep. Ed Markey 10%, Rep. Michael Capuano 7%, and Rep. John Tierney 3%. Coakley is the only one to have officially launched a candidacy, though Lynch and Capuano have also taken the preliminary step of obtaining nomination papers.

The primary will be held three months from now, on December 8.

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