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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.

The official response to President Obama's big health care speech tonight will come from Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA). That makes sense on some levels--Boustany is a fairly senior member on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over health care, and, in a previous life, he was a practicing cardiac surgeon. But on another level, it's a very questionable move. Several weeks ago, Boustany had a run-in with Mike Stark of Firedoglake. Fast forward about 27 seconds in.

Stark asks, "What do you personally believe though, I mean, do you think there's a question here [about Obama's birth certificate]?

Boustany's response? "I think there are questions. We'll have to see."

That's not the birtheriest statement we've seen out of an elected official, but it at least rises to the level of flirtation with birtherism. An interesting choice to be the new face of GOP opposition to health care reform. Boustany's making the rounds on cable this morning. Let's see if anybody asks him about this.

At a morning press gaggle on Air Force One, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that Obama "will speak tonight about the public option and about the necessity for choice and competition, but I don't want to make all his news now."

"What will we do later tonight?" Gibbs then said, prompting laughter from the reporters and a response from one that they'd "do it all over again."

The answer was prompted by a question about what Obama thinks of the "trigger" option and whether he thinks that's a good compromise.

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Michael Steele appeared this morning on CBS, and was asked by host Harry Smith whether he believes the public option is socialist. "Yes I do," he said. "And quite frankly I think a lot more people believing (sic) that there's more to this than meets the eye."

Steele explained: "And the reality of it is, you know, I just don't understand this idea that somehow people think that the federal government can enter into a marketplace and compete with private industry. That goes counter to everything that we know about how markets work and the role that the government plays in those markets."

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In an interview today on Good Morning America, President Obama previewed his speech to Congress tonight, promising to lay out a detailed plan for health care reform and admitting he has "probably left too much ambiguity out there."

"I, out of an effort to give Congress the ability to do their thing and not step on their toes, probably left too much ambiguity out there, which allowed, then, opponents of reform to come in and fill up the airwaves with a lot of nonsense," he said, naming "death panels" and government insurance for illegal immigrants as example of the nonsense.

He said he'd define which principles must be in the bill for him to sign it, but wouldn't answer whether that includes a public option.

"The intent of the speech," Obama said, "is to make sure the American people are clear on exactly what we're proposing ... and to dispel some of the myths and, frankly, silliness."

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As I noted last night, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) has given health care negotiators on his committee until 10 a.m. today to suggest any changes to a proposal he circulated over the weekend. Now, a Senate Democratic aide says Baucus will likely announce a date for mark-up hearing schedule this afternoon at the party's weekly caucus lunch.

Baucus has said he'll enforce a September 15 deadline to unveil a draft of his legislation, which means hearings on the bill could begin as early as next week.

We told you yesterday about Allen Weh's hilarious claim that, in working to get David Iglesias fired as U.S. attorney because he wasn't prioritizing bogus voter fraud cases that would help Republicans, Weh, then the state GOP chair, was actually going against his party.

And now, Iglesias has responded. In a lengthy statement to TPMmuckraker, Iglesias calls Weh's claim "a world class display of chutzpah," and writes that Weh, who yesterday formally announced his campaign for New Mexico governor, "may not be in touch with reality or may not even be literate."

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In a move that comes as a fairly big surprise, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) will reportedly announce today that he is not taking over the chairmanship of the Help, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which became vacant upon the death of Ted Kennedy. Dodd had been expected to take up Kennedy's mantle, leaving a vacancy on the Banking Committee, which he currently chairs.

The HELP chairmanship will instead go to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who is next in line after Dodd. Dodd had been the focus of much attention, because if he had taken the HELP chairmanship then Banking would have gone to Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), whose home state is a major base for the credit-card industry.

To round out the game of musical chairs, Harkin will have to vacate the Agriculture Committee chairmanship, which will likely be filled by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)--the only senior member of that committee who doesn't already have a chairmanship.

Obama: Speech Tonight Will Make It Clear Exactly What is Being Proposed In an interview aired this morning on ABC's Good Morning America, President Obama said that his speech to Congress tonight will bring "clarity" to the health care debate: "So, the intent of the speech on is to, A, make sure that the American people are clear exactly what it is that we are proposing," said Obama. "B, to make sure that Democrats and Republicans understand that I'm open to new ideas, that we're not being rigid and ideological about this thing, but we do intend to get something done this year."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will address the Walter Cronkite Memorial Service at 10:30 a.m. ET, at Lincoln Center in New York City. He will depart from New York at 1:25 p.m. ET, arriving back at the White House at 2:35 p.m. ET. At 8 p.m. Et, he will address a joint session of Congress, delivering a speech on health care reform.

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