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The new Rasmussen poll of Pennsylvania finds Sen. Arlen Specter just barely ahead of his Democratic primary challenger, Rep. Joe Sestak.

The numbers: Specter 46%, Sestak 42%, with a ±3% margin of error. In early August, Specter had been ahead by 47%-34%. Sestak has been challenging Specter -- who switched form the Republicans to the Democrats in order to avoid certain defeat in the GOP primary -- on the grounds that he's not a real Democrat, and both of them have been moving noticeably to the left (though Specter has logically taken a greater journey, given his starting point as a moderate Republican).

In the general election match-ups, Republican former Rep. Pat Toomey leads Specter by 45%-40%, while Sestak edges out Toomey 38%-37%, with a ±3% margin of error.

Yesterday's hour-long health care meeting between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sens. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Max Baucus (D-MT), and a number of White House principles didn't yield too many noteworthy public developments. But what went on behind closed doors will be the focus of a Democratic caucus meeting today, where health care leaders will brief their colleagues on the early stages of negotiations as they merge two competing pieces of health care legislation.

At the meeting, Democrats will be given a chance to air their concerns, though none is expected to draw a line in the sand over any issue. One of the key questions the caucus faces is whether to heed the will of the party's majority and include a public option in the overall Senate bill, or to defer to the concerns of the party's conservatives, a few of whom join the Republican minority in opposing the idea of creating a government insurance plan.

On hand yesterday from the White House were Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Legislative Adviser Phil Schiliro, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and OMB Director Peter Orszag.

Here it is, the highlights of the press conference in which four House Republicans, relying on the work of a WND-published book based an intern spy's infiltration of the Council on American Islamic Relations, charging that CAIR itself is planting scary Muslim interns on national security committees.

The representatives in the video after the jump are: Sue Myrick (R-NC), John Shadegg (R-AZ), Paul Broun (R-GA) and Trent Franks (R-AZ).

J'accuse!

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The new Siena poll of the NY-23 special election, which is being held on November 3 to fill a GOP-held swing seat, shows Democrat Bill Owens taking a narrow lead in a three-way race.

The numbers: Owens 33%, moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava 29%, and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman with 23%. Two weeks ago, Scozzafava was ahead with 35%, Owens had 28%, and Hoffman at 16%.

The pollster's analysis finds that the positive nature of Owens' campaign has helped him, compared to negativity from the GOP campaign: "Among those who've seen Owens' commercials, a small plurality says the commercials make them more likely to support Owens. However, by a margin of 28-12 percent, those who've seen Scozzafava's commercials say those commercials make them less likely to support her."

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) appeared on MSNBC this morning and declared -- not for the first time -- that a public health insurance option tied to Medicare-levels of reimbursement would be bad for states like his. Not just bad -- but "a disaster," Conrad said.

That's because North Dakota has the country's second-lowest Medicare reimbursement level, Conrad said.

"My state would be very adversely affected by public option tied to Medicare-levels of reimbursement," he said. "That's great for New York, California, Flordia. It's very bad for low-reimbursement states like mine."

The answer, Conrad said, (again not for the first time), is "a cooperative plan" and not a "government-run plan."

Obama Making First Presidential Visit To New Orleans President Obama is making his first trip as President to New Orleans today, to review the continued reconstruction process from Hurricane Katrina. While this is the first trip by Obama himself, there have also been 17 other trips by administration officials to the city, and a total of 35 trips to the Gulf Coast region overall since March.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will depart from the White House at 9:25 a.m. ET, arriving in New Orleans, at 12:25 a.m. ET. He will visit with students at the Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School at 1 p.m. ET, and he will hold a 2:15 p.m. ET town hall at the University of New Orleans. He will depart from New Orleans at 4:10 p.m. ET, arriving in San Francisco at 8:20 p.m. ET, speaking at a 10:20 p.m. ET DNC fundraising dinner and a 10:35 p.m. ET reception.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) of the Senate HELP Committee released a statement today following their first day of discussions regarding the merger of two Senate health insurance reform proposals. Here's the full text:

Today's meeting was a great opportunity to begin our conversation about a number of key issues. We'll continue to discuss these issues in greater depth over the coming days as we press forward with this critical work with the White House. There was strong consensus that crafting a bill that can garner 60 votes is an attainable goal. We all share the belief that failure is not an option, and we are energized with how close we stand to bringing meaningful reform to our health insurance system. We look forward to meeting with our caucus tomorrow and continuing our discussions next week.

Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) told a group of national political reporters this morning he knows his bid for Florida's open U.S. seat wasn't the vision some Democrats had for the race.

"Look, I'm a walk on candidate," he said. "No one said 'let's go recruit Meek to run for the Senate.'" But the four-term Miami Rep. said he's proven he's the right man for Democrats in 2010.

To prove his point, Meek suggested he's got the support of the most powerful Democrat there is -- President Obama. "I'm pleased with what Obama has done with me early on," Meek said, claiming that he's been "in discussions" with the White House about a more formal role for the President down the road.

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