TPM News

Obama’s campaign mastermind, David Axelrod, is giving a briefing to reporters at the DNC HQ in Washington, DC. As per TPM’s Evan McMorris-Santoro, who is at the event, Axelrod said of Newt Gingrich:

"Remember the higher a monkey climbs up a pole, the more you can see his that Gingrich is climbing, we'll see how people like the view"

As we head into the start of 2012, most of the public attention is on the presidential campaign and the Republican primary race. But another major battle is brewing: That for control of the U.S. Senate.

Speaking to both Democratic and Republican sources, it is clear that nobody is taking majority or minority status for granted -- the chamber is up for grabs, and everyone is working hard for it.

A national Republican source told TPM: "While the map does favor Republicans, nobody on the Republican side is beating their chest or taking anything for granted."

A Democratic source also sounded a note of cautious optimism: "I think the cycle has changed dramatically. At the beginning of the cycle everything was 23 [Democratic] seats, vs. 10 seats that have to be defended for them. Now as you're seeing things develop, things are looking a lot better."

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On Monday, the Tax Policy Center published an analysis of Newt Gingrich's plan to overhaul the tax code -- the latest in a series of of analyses of GOP presidential candidate tax proposals. And like all the plans that came before it, Gingrich's constitutes a massive tax cut for the rich. Indeed, no matter how you stack the numbers, Gingrich wants a tax system that permanently holds tax rates on the highest earners lower than tax rates on the middle class.

There are a lot of ways to parse the data. Gingrich proposes creating an alternative tax system that would significantly flatten the code, while keeping the current one in place as an option. So you can run the numbers assuming everybody jumps into the new system, or you can run them assuming that the only people who hop into the new system are people who would benefit financially as a result. And you can compare Gingrich's plan to current tax policy -- including the Bush tax cuts and other temporary tax policy -- or you can compare it to current law, which assumes all of these policies will expire in the next year, and go up on just about everyone.

To be as fair as possible, let's take Gingrich at his word that he would extend the Bush tax cuts for those staying in the current system, and that the only people who would opt into the new system are those who would pay lower taxes as a result.

Here's what happens to people's average federal tax burden as a result.

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Ron Paul is not the same candidate he was in 2008. He's got more money, his ads are slicker, and his organization has people on the ground in caucus states leading all the way up to Super Tuesday on March 6. But reports that he may be in for the long haul or, as bolder predictions have suggested, could force a brokered convention by racking up a significant number of delegates, are greatly exaggerated.

What Ron Paul has going for him are his famous core of enthusiastic supporters and the steady stream of campaign funds that comes with that support. He has another advantage, however, that is probably being overstated: proportional allotment of delegates.

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The House on Tuesday is expected to vote on the GOP’s payroll tax cut extension plan, the Washington Post reports. The GOP bill includes a number of divisive provisions, including forcing an administration decision on whether to allow construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline within 60 days instead of after the 2012 election.

Iran on Tuesday rejected President Obama’s request to return a wayward U.S. drone that was captured in Iran, the New York Times reports. Obama, at a press conference Monday, said the U.S. had asked for the drone back. Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi told reporters Tuesday: “The U.S. spy drone is part of the Islamic Republic’s assets and the nation will decide about future measures on the issue."

New data from a USA Today/Gallup survey combining numbers from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin show President Barack Obama down five to former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney (48-43) and three to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (48-45). In both cases, USA Today’s analysis said that a growing enthusiasm gap was to blame for the President’s woes in the purple states.

From USA Today:

Sixty-one percent of Republicans say they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting for president next year, compared with 47% of Democrats. Among the most enthusiastic are some of the GOP's core voters: conservatives, middle-aged men and those 50 to 64 years old. Those who are least enthused include core Democratic groups that were critical to Obama's election in 2008, including minorities and younger voters.

Arab American Institute chairman George Salem is slamming Newt Gingrich for calling the Palestinians an "invented people" on Saturday, calling it "perhaps a new low in the campaign rhetoric of presidential hopefuls."

Gingrich stood by his remarks on Monday. But Salem said the comments from Gingrich (who considers himself a historian) were historically inaccurate.

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Pop quiz: you're a Republican presidential candidate who was doing pretty well in the polls but decided to "suspend" your campaign over accusations of sexual harassment and a 13-year affair with a woman you provided with financial assistance. What do you do?

Create a political action committee, of course! And that seems to be just what Herman Cain plans to do, announcing "The Cain Solutions" in an email to supporters on Monday.

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