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Turnout in today's Democratic primary for the Massachusetts special election for Senate -- tantamount to election for Ted Kennedy's seat, in this deep-blue state -- is turning out to be astonishingly low.

The Boston Globe reports that as of 3 p.m. ET, only 35,000 people had voted in Boston, less than 10% of the city's registered voters.

The Boston Herald speculates that the lower turnout could possibly benefit Rep. Mike Capuano, who is widely seen as the underdog against state Attorney General Martha Coakley. For what it's worth, Capuano's home town of Somerville, where he served as mayor before his election to Congress in 1988, is having a relatively higher turnout -- at 1 p.m., it was a whopping 12.5 percent.

December 7, 2009: This summer's controversial elections and mass protests in Iran gave this year's Student Day a charged energy. Pro-government supporters, like those above at Tehran University, participated in the demonstrations. They were joined by hundreds of students who used the event to demonstrate against current President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in the largest rallies in months. Over 200 student protesters were arrested in a sign that the Iranian government has taken a stronger stance in response to the opposition.


At Tehran University, protesters burn photos. The one on the left is of Maryam Rajavi, a key player in Iran's resistance movement.


Pro-government demonstrators wave flags and hold photos of Iran's clerical leaders.


A pro-reform protester demonstrates, wearing the opposition's adopted green. The Associated Press reported that the demonstrations "saw an increased fervor and boldness among demonstrators, who more openly broke the biggest taboo in Iran -- burning pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and chanting slogans against him."


At the Tehran University campus, pro-reformers march in the demonstration. According to Reuters, witnesses at the event said some protesters chanted "death to the dictator."


Iranian students and supporters of the opposition march with arms linked. One protester explained: "I take to streets to protest because I want change now, not tomorrow. I am fed up with the current situation."


Supporters of the government clash with opposition demonstrators.


A woman treats the wounds of an injured student after the Iranian police fired tear gas to break up the demonstration. One protester summed up his injury: "This is the price for freedom."



After his abortion amendment did not win the day on the Senate floor, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) did not come out swinging. Though he insisted that the failure of his abortion amendment "makes it harder to be supportive" of Senate health care bill, he did not reiterate his pledge to filibuster the bill.

"We'll just have to see what develops," Nelson told reporters. "I have no plan B."

That allows him substantial wiggle room, if he ultimately decides not to defect from the health care bill, and indeed, after the vote Nelson returned to private negotiations with liberals and other conservative Democrats over the public option.

He's not a firm no vote just yet.

"Not at this point in time. I want to continue to work on the [public option compromise] to see if that can improve the bill from my perspective."

The Senate voted 54 to 45 this afternoon to table Sen. Ben Nelson's (D-NE) abortion amendment, effectively killing the measure.

The amendment would have prevented a public option from providing abortion coverage. It also would have prevented private plans from offering abortion coverage to women using government assistance to purchase a plan.

Nelson's amendment was extremely similar to Rep. Bart Stupak's (D-MI) measure in the House bill. Stupak's amendment passed.

Nelson has threatened to filibuster the health care reform bill if strong anti-abortion language, like Stupak's, isn't included. If he does, Democrats will need both Sens. Joe Lieberman and Olympia Snowe to break a filibuster. Neither Snowe nor Lieberman want a public option, and both are iffy on some of the compromises being floated in meetings this week.

In a blog titled "The Value of Daily Tracking," Gallup is hitting back at White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs suggesting today their presidential approval daily tracking poll could be drawn in crayon by a 6-year-old.

"I'm certain Gibbs didn't intend to impugn the value of presidential job approval polls in general. It appears he was reacting more to the fact that the president's approval numbers are not stable, but, in fact, in a period of some change," Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport wrote on the blog. "But this type of movement is the nature of the beast."

As we reported, Gibbs said: "If I was a heart patient and Gallup was my EKG, I'd visit my doctor."

Newport responded: "I think the doctor might ask him what's going on in his life that would cause his EKG to be fluctuating so much. There is, in fact, a lot going on at the moment -- the healthcare bill, the jobs summit, the Copenhagen Climate Conference, and Afghanistan."

He also suggests Obama's presidential campaign "paid a great deal of attention to their own tracking polls measuring how his candidacy was doing as the events of the campaign rocketed across the news each day."

Read Newport's post in full here.

The former speaker of the Missouri House has been charged with a felony after what looks like a bout of sado-masochistic sex that went way too far.

Details are still unconfirmed, we should note. But a woman appears to have suggested to police that Rod Jetton, a Republican who now works as a political consultant, may have slipped something into her drink, then beat her up during sex, after she failed to use the safe word they had agreed upon as a signal to calm things down.

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Half a day later, we know a lot more about where the key players who will determine the fate of health care reform stand on a burgeoning public option compromise. Unfortunately, there's still a substantial lack of clarity about where we go from here.

The long and short of it is this: It is possible that Democrats will reach a consensus on a plan to trade the public option for several concessions, including a plan, supported by progressives, to allow people age 55-64 to buy into Medicare. That could be the grand bargain that allows health care to pass the Senate. But not a single Republican--including Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)--seems to support the ideas on offer. And with Democrats unable to lose a single vote, one of them--Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)--could defect over the issue of abortion.

As I reported this afternoon, Snowe (R-ME) says she's not a fan of the ideas coming out of series of meetings between Democrats seeking accord on the public option. Snowe didn't explicitly say she'd filibuster the health care bill if that compromise emerges, but she has told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid she doesn't support the idea.

That makes it seem quite likely that Reid needs all 60 of his members to support whatever compromise comes out of the negotiations. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) made no promises, but seemed open to the trade-off on the table. Optimistically, that makes 59.

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