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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blamed Republicans today for the continuing high unemployment rate, adding that by holding up the energy and education bills -- in addition to health care and Wall Street reform -- they had stopped the economy from creating more jobs.

That Republicans are the real culprits behind sluggish economic growth (despite Democratic control of both the legislative and executive branches) is apparently one of the key talking points that Democrats appear to be prepared to carry to their constituents during the August recess. But Pelosi added that the members of her caucus are "the best sales people" to tell their districts what benefits they've gotten out of the legislation that has passed.

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Alvin Greene, the surprise Democratic Senate nominee in South Carolina, thinks the country's economic woes can be solved with a line of Alvin Greene action figures.

The minor league baseball Charleston RiverDogs are one step ahead of him, with plans to hand out "Mr. Lady Liberty" Statue of Liberty figurines at Saturday's game -- with Greene's face on the front.

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The flap over NASA administrator Charles Bolden's call for the space agency to reach out to Muslim nations in a recent interview with Al Jazeera is alive and well in the conservative media, despite having faded from mainstream headlines following the White House press secretary's dismissal Monday of the comment as a misstatement. reports that Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) -- ranking member on the committee that oversees NASA's budgeting in the House -- says that Bolden told him personally in June that President Obama asked him to find ways to use NASA's international partnerships to reach out to the Muslim world, before the controversial Al Jazeera interview.

Fox reported that Olson had said that "Bolden described the outreach program as part of the administration's space plan during a conversation they had."

"He confirmed it to me," Olson told the site. NASA did not respond to a request for comment on Olson's statements.

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Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is strongly denying that he is a birther, after he was recorded on video approving of birther lawsuits at a Tea Party event this past weekend. And furthermore, he's denying that he ever praised the lawsuits, either -- and blasting the "liberal thought police" for opposing people's right to bring them.

"This attack is ridiculous," Vitter said in statement, Politico reports. "I'm not a birther, and I even said the issue is distracting. But I think people should have appropriate access to the courts. Is even that statement unacceptable now to the liberal thought police?"

Of course, that's not what Vitter said. What he actually said was that "I support conservative legal organizations and others who would bring that to court. I think that is the valid and most possibly effective grounds to do it." That is, he encouraged the lawsuits as the "most possibly effective" way to bust President Obama for his birth certificate.

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It's done. The Senate this afternoon, by a vote of 60-39 passed the final version of Wall Street reform legislation -- the exact same version the House passed two weeks ago, which will now go the White House for a signature. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that the President plans to sign the bill next week.

The development, though expected for days, represents a major achievement for President Obama and congressional Democrats -- their first landmark bill since health care. And this time it's actually popular.

But getting here wasn't easy for Democrats.

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The Cook Report has now changed its rating in the Louisiana Senate race, where Republican Sen. David Vitter is seeking a second term, from "Likely Republican" to the less safe "Lean Republican."

The Cook Report cites three factors that could drag Vitter down a bit: His tough job balancing the needs of Gulf Coast recovery with the needs of the oil and gas industry in the BP spill; his mishandling of a case involving a staffer who resigned in June after ABC News reported that he had assaulted an ex-girlfriend in 2008; and the fact that Vitter has now attracted a primary challenger, former state Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor. That primary is August 28.

In a less hospitable political climate for Republicans, these three events might combine to render Vitter extremely vulnerable, even in Louisiana. However, Vitter is not without his strengths and he does get to run on friendly terrain. We'll keep a close watch on this to see whether any or all of the recent events have an impact, but for now it seems this race no longer belongs in the Likely Republican column, so it is moving to Lean Republican.

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The new Rasmussen poll of the Wisconsin Senate race gives Republican businessman Ron Johnson a one-lead over Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, a major voice for progressives who is currently seeking a fourth term.

The numbers: Johnson 47%, Feingold 46%. Also, Feingold leads the other significant Republican candidate, businessman Dave Westlake, by 51%-37%. In the previous Rasmussen poll from three weeks ago, Feingold led Johnson by 46%-45%, and led Westlake by 47%-41%.

The TPM Poll Average gives Feingold a narrow edge of 45.8%-44.8%, and leading Westlake by 47.8%-38.9%.

Full TPMDC coverage of the race here.

TPM today asked Senate candidate Pat Toomey if he agrees with House Minority Leader John Boehner that the soon-to-be-law Wall Street overhaul should be repealed. Toomey (R-PA) wouldn't fully endorse Boehner's idea, but said he opposes the financial reform bill that is slated to pass the Senate this afternoon.

Toomey, a former member of Congress, told reporters on a conference call that he thinks the bill doesn't go far enough on reforming lending practices of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and is "very, very problematic." We asked if he supported Boehner, and he said he hadn't been paying much attention to what Republicans are saying since he's focused on his campaign against Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA). But then he went on to mimic some of the GOP talking points.

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The right-wing media has been going ape over a study from Minnesota Majority, a conservative group in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, claiming that hundreds of felons illegally voted in the disputed 2008 Senate race that ultimately saw comedian and Democratic activist Al Franken defeat incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman by a mere 312 votes out of 2.9 million. But is there any validity to it? Nope.

Fox News -- an outlet that has a long-running bad relationship with Franken -- claims: "The final recount vote in the race, determined six months after Election Day, showed Franken beat Coleman by 312 votes -- fewer votes than the number of felons whose illegal ballots were counted, according to Minnesota Majority's newly released study, which matched publicly available conviction lists with voting records."

But were there really so many illegal ballots? And did they all go for Al Franken? As TPM's in-house expert on that roller-coaster of an election, recount and litigation, allow me to walk you through all the problems with this new claim -- plus the small kernel of truth that lies within.

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