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Businessman Steve Welch reportedly announced this morning he is ending his bid to be the Republican nominee for the sixth district of Pennsylvania, sparing the party a potentially divisive primary with Rep. Jim Gerlach.

Welch was the favored candidate for what was the open seat when Gerlach said he would run for governor. But last month, Gerlach changed his mind and instead is seeking reelection.

The blog pa2010 captured the remarks this morning as Welch spoke to Chester County Republicans.

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President Obama used his weekly address to the nation to ask members of Congress to "move forward together" on health care reform after his White House summit next week.

"We know the American people want us to reform our health insurance system. We know where the broad areas of agreement are. And we know where the sources of disagreement lie," Obama said.

"After debating this issue exhaustively for a year, let's move forward together. Next week is our chance to finally reform our health insurance system so it works for families and small businesses. It's our chance to finally give Americans the peace of mind of knowing that they'll be able to have affordable coverage when they need it most," he said.

Citing the rate hikes proposed by Anthem Blue Cross and the new report showing more increases are expected across the country, Obama called on Democrats and Republicans to do something about it.

"That's what the future is on track to look like. But it's not what the future has to look like," he said.

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It's an easy observation to make at CPAC: there just aren't a lot of African American conservatives. Walking the halls of this massive event (organizers say up to 10,000 activists are in attendance) you barely see any color in the sea of white faces. The same goes for the candidates on the dais. Though conservatism has embraced a form gender equality when it comes to candidates -- some of the biggest names in conservative politics are women, after all -- there are very few conservative leaders that check a box other than "white" on their Census forms.

One big exception to that rule is Michael Williams, who took the stage this morning to share some of his considerable knowledge about climate change (or, as he would say, the lack thereof) and the intricacies of energy policy. After he gave his remarks, I caught up with him to talk about his race and, among other things, the state of black conservatism.

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Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) announced via Twitter today that he has signed onto Sen. Michael Bennet's (D-CO) letter urging leadership to use reconciliation to pass a public option.

Specter is the 19th senator to do so. The most prominent signatory is Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate.

"I'm proud to sign Sen. Bennet's letter. I support a public option to lower health costs and keep insurance co's hones," Specter tweeted.

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In a statement this afternoon, House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) says that the Justice Department torture memo report released today makes "plain that those memos were legally flawed and fundamentally unsound, and may have been improperly influenced by a desire to tell the Bush White House and the CIA what it wanted to hear."

Conyers, who posted the DOJ documents on his Web site, continued:

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The head of the union that represents IRS workers is slamming a tasteless joke about yesterday's Austin plane crash, made today by a conservative activist.

Refferring to the anti-tax activist Grover Norquist during a speech at CPAC, Jed Babbin, the editor of Human Events, said:

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Doug Hoffman is considering another bid for the 23rd Congressional district but this time will "absolutely" go the Republican establishment route, he told TPMDC.

Hoffman, who hinted he'd run a second time after losing to a Democrat last fall, said if he gets in the race it would be to "get the seat back into Republican hands."

I caught up with Hoffman for an interview at the Conservative Political Action Conference today, and he charged that Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY) violated his campaign pledges on his first week in office by voting for the health care bill.

"I'm the only candidate that can unite the Republican party, the conservative party, the tea party, the 9/12ers and the grassroots of the 23rd district," he said.

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During a CPAC segment to recognize student conservative activists from across the country, one particular conservative, Ryan Sorba of the California Young Americans for Freedom, denounced CPAC for allowing the gay conservative group GOProud to co-sponsor the event and host a booth. After finishing his short speech against homosexuality as being contrary to the concept of natural rights -- amidst booing from the crowd -- he walked off the stage.

"Just to change the subject for just a second, I'd like to condemn CPAC for bringing GOPride (sic) to this event," said Sorba. The young activist crowd erupted into booing, but Sorbs continued. "Bring it. Bring it. I love it. I love it. I love it.

"Guess what? Guess what? All right, guess what? Civil rights are grounded in natural rights," said Sorba. "Natural rights are grounded in human nature. Human nature is a rational substance in relationship. The intelligible end of the reproductive act is reproduction. Do you understand that? Civil rights, when they conflict with natural rights, are contrary -- hey, you sit down. The lesbians at Smith College protest better than you do. The lesbians at Smith College protest than you do. All right? Bring it."

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