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The new Fairleigh Dickinson poll of the New Jersey gubernatorial race gives Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine a slim edge over his Republican opponent Chris Christie.

The numbers: Corzine 43%, Christie 42%, and independent Chris Daggett 6%, with a ±4% margin of error. (Daggett was not listed as a choice, but was a voluntary answer.) This is basically unchanged from three and a half weeks ago, when Corzine was ahead 43%-42%-4% on this ballot test.

The pollster's analysis shows just how much an effect the presence of Daggett and other independents will have, and how the result can depend on how many voters he keeps or where others go: "When Daggett's name is read in an interview along with Jon Corzine's and Chris Christie's names, he gets 14% of the vote, drawing slightly more Democrats than Republicans, while Christie edges Corzine in a statistical tie, 41%-39%. But when the name of another independent candidate is read--the obscure Gary Steele--Steele gets 3% of the vote, draws off slightly more Republicans than Democrats, and Corzine beats Christie 46%- 41%."

The three candidates for this Tuesday's NY-23 special election -- Democrat Bill Owens, moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava, and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman -- debated today with the local ABC affiliate in Syracuse, the only meeting of all three candidates in a special election that has caught the eyes of the national media.

One very important element of this debate was that the issues where Scozzafava takes her more liberal positions -- she is pro-choice, supports gay marriage, and supports the Employee Free Choice Act -- simply didn't come up at all. As a result, the focus on prominent economic issues like taxes, health care and job creation really did turn this into a debate between one Democrat and two Republicans, and as a result this meant Scozzafava was effectively tacking to the right.

One running theme of the debate, though, was the sheer enmity between the two Republicans, the regular GOP nominee Scozzafava, and the insurgent Conservative Hoffman. Scozzafava clearly viewed Hoffman as an agent of outside interests, the national right-wing groups that have backed him as opposed to her local support and concern for local issues, while Hoffman presented himself as the only real Republican -- and as noted above, the issues on which he's really differentiated from her didn't even come up.

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On October 29, House Democrats introduce their health care bill. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said the bill would "deliver on a promise" of remaking American health care for the better. Naturally, tea partiers and other opponents of the bill gathered to make their voices heard.

Jeff Malet /

The protesters appeared to disrupt the Democrats' announcement slightly, causing Nancy Pelosi to shout: "Thank you, insurance companies of America!"

Jeff Malet /

The tea partiers tried to organize a "flash mob" on short notice, exhorting "Tea Party Patriots" within driving distance of Washington to drive to Congress and protest the decision. The e-mail plea said: "You are the heart and soul of the Tea Party Movement." TPMDC counted about 10 tea partiers protesting health care on the Capitol steps.

Jeff Malet /

Jeff Malet /

Jeff Malet /

Jeff Malet /

Jeff Malet /

Jeff Malet /

Jeff Malet /

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) let it be known in numerous ways that early versions of the House health care bill would not meet his budgetary muster. Now, with CBO saying the House bill is a long term deficit reducer, Conrad has some very kind words for it.

"Much improved," Conrad told me. "It's now paid for, has deficit reduction over the first 10, and savings over the second 10...that's a big improvement. I commend the House. They've made significant strides and they deserve credit for it."

"They did make this sound from a budgetary standpoint, far more sound, and in terms of the public option, they no longer have it tied to Medicare levels of reimbursement which is, as I see it, terribly unfair to the low reimbursement states," he added.

One consequence of not tying the public option to Medicare? The CBO predicts that average premiums will be higher in the public option than in private plans.

TPMDC has been tracking the progress of Sen. David Vitter's proposed amendment that would require Census workers to ask immigration status during the 2010 count.

The Obama administration helped dodge a first vote on this earlier this month, but a few centrists Democrats we've talked to this week say they may be interested in the amendment as well.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) sent a terse letter to Vitter (R-LA) outlining the problems she sees in his amendment, including its potential taxpayer cost of $1 billion to reprint Census forms already ready for use.

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In a conference call this afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will vote on health care reform before the Veterans' Day holiday.

Pelosi said next Thursday, Nov. 5, is the "theoretically earliest date" the vote could take place.

The new SurveyUSA poll of New Jersey has the race tied between Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine and Republican challenger Jon Corzine.

The numbers: Corzine 43%, Christie 43%, and independent Chris Daggett 11%, with a ±4% margin of error. Last week, Christie was ahead by 41%-39%-19%. It's interesting to see that Daggett has fallen in the run-up to election day, as often happens with third-party candidates, and that Corzine may have been the beneficiary.

Also, the pollster's analysis says that Corzine has already banked a lead in absentee voters: "Corzine leads among the 11% of voters who tell SurveyUSA they have already returned a ballot. The candidates are even among voters who have not yet voted but say they will on or before election day. At this hour, the contest is a coin-toss. The lower the turnout, the better for Corzine."

The House Ethics Committee announced today it is launching full investigations into the actions of two House members, and clearing a third of any wrongdoing.

One of those being investigated is Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA). Waters allegedly set up a meeting between the Treasury Department and a bank which her husband held stock in and whose board he had served on. The bank later received bailout funds.

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Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate in the NY-23 special election, has picked up another endorsement from a prominent Republican, Texas Gov. Rick Perry:

"There is a reason that our party lost power in Washington DC. A lot of folks went to Congress wearing the Republican jersey, but far too many played the game like Democrats. People around Texas -- and frankly, all around the country -- are fed up with the federal government."

Endorsing Hoffman, stead of the moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava, has now become something of a litmus test for true-believing conservatism. It should be noted, of course, that Perry is facing a challenge in the Republican primary in 2010, from U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. And Perry has also been endorsed by Sarah Palin -- who has also endorsed Hoffman.