TPM News

Another poll from New Jersey has Democratic Jon Corzine trailing his Republican opponent, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie -- though it's not as bad as the Quinnipiac poll with Christie up by 10 points.

The new Fairleigh Dickinson University poll has Christie with 47% to Corzine's 42%, with a ±4% margin of error. This is not significantly changed from the previous FDU poll from two months ago, which had Christie up by 45%-39%.

The pollster's analysis finds that Christie has locked up 85% of Republicans, while Corzine only has 73% of Democrats in this reliably blue state: "The Republican appears to be in pretty good shape headed into Labor Day. The question is whether he has peaked while Corzine still has voters to win over."

Late Update: Corzine campaign spokesperson Lis Smith gives us this comment: "The FDU poll and a variety of other public polls show that the Governor's message is beginning to resonate. New Jersey residents will have a very clear choice in November between a candidate that is working to get the state back on the right financial track and a candidate that has never created a job and has no plans to do so now."

A large majority of Americans (of both political parties) say they find Democrats' health care reform plan confusing, and that President Obama has failed to clearly explain the proposal

About 67 percent of those questioned in a new CBS News poll said they don't understand the reforms. Sixty-nine percent of Republicans find the new reforms confusing as do 58 percent of Democrats.

The poll comes at the end of the month in which health care headlines were dominated by words like "death" and "panel." This weekend, Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexandr concluded that "of roughly 80 A-section stories on health-care reform since July 1, all but about a dozen focused on political maneuvering or protests."

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is backpedaling even faster on his own claims that the Bush administration politicized the terror alert system, saying today, "I don't think it was ever politics."

In a book out today, Ridge wrote that Attorney General John Ashcroft and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "strongly urged" him to raise the alert level in the days before the 2004 presidential election. The excerpts from the book, The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege, caused a stir when they were released two weeks ago.

A vigorous, some might say dramatic, discussion ensued. Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level and was supported by Rumsfeld. There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None. I wondered, "Is this about security or politics?"


Yesterday, Ridge said people were just "hyperventilating" over the comments and tried to walk them back.

"There was no pressure at all," he told the Erie Times-News. Ashcroft and Rumsfeld "expressed their opinions. ... The process worked ... It was designed so that nobody could pressure anybody to do anything," he told Good Morning America.

But today, he appeared on CNN's American Morning to backpedal ever faster on his own comments.

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New RNC Ad: Steele Pushes Deatherism Issues Michael Steele is starring in a new TV ad by the Republican National Committee, which will run on select national cable channels and in Florida. In the ad, Steele promotes the RNC's positive "Seniors' Bill of Rights" -- which is itself a warning against the Democrats wanting to cut Medicare and kill senior citizens, which are the underlying themes of the "death panel" meme:



"Make it illegal to ration health care based on age. Prevent any government role in end-of-life care," Steele says. "And stop bureaucrats from getting between seniors and their doctors. A few things we should all agree on. The Seniors' Bill of Rights."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will receive a briefing in the Oval Office today at 1:15 p.m. ET on preparedness and response efforts surrounding the H1N1 flu virus. At 2:45 p.m. ET, he will meet with Vice President Biden in the Oval Office. At 8 p.m. ET, Obama will host a dinner celebrating Ramadan.

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The new Quinnipiac poll of the New Jersey gubernatorial race finds that recent scandals haven't hurt Republican former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie against Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine -- indeed, Christie's lead has actually increased slightly over the unpopular incumbent.

The numbers: Christie 47%, Corzine 37%, and independent Chris Daggett at 9%. Three weeks ago, the figure for the three-way race was 46%-40%-7%.

The pollster's analysis finds that Corzine's ads about Christie having given contracts to people tied to the Bush administration are not getting through -- people view it as an unfair attack. The issue of Christie's undisclosed loan to Michele Brown, his former subordinate in the U.S. Attorney's office scores a little higher -- but even here, a 49%-43% plurality view it as not being a legitimate issue.


President Obama points out cake crumbs that Vice President Biden dropped on the floor in the Oval Office following a birthday celebration for the President on August 4.

White House/Pete Souza




Obama walks to present cupcakes to columnist Helen Thomas in honor of her birthday on August 4. Thomas, who turned 89, shares the same birthday as the President, who turned 48.

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Obama and Helen Thomas in the James Brady Briefing Room of the White House on their birthdays.

White House/Pete Souza




White House staffers who are also fishing enthusiasts gave the President a fly fishing rod for his birthday.

White House/Pete Souza




Belgrade, Montana local fishing guide Dan Vermillion celebrates after Obama almost hooks a trout on the East Gallatin River on August 14.

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Obama fishes in the East Gallatin River in Belgrade, Montana.

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Obama and Vermillion in the East Gallatin River.

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Obama at the Grand Canyon in Arizona on August 16.

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The First Family listens to a park ranger on a tour of the Grand Canyon.

White House/Pete Souza




Obama buys ice cream at a store while visiting Yellowstone National Park on August 15.

White House/Pete Souza




Obama talks health care with Senior Advisor David Axelrod and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL, far left) on Air Force One en route to a town hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

White House/Pete Souza




Obama at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, on a conference call with faith leaders to discuss health insurance reform.

Obama told radio host Michael Smerconish "I don't want you messing with my Resolute Desk" when the two were joking and discussing the movie National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets on August 20.

White House/Pete Souza




Obama and Axelrod on the Colonnade of the White House.

White House/Pete Souza




Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Joseph Medicine Crow (center, holding the drum) and the Obamas during a reception for recipients and their families in the Blue Room of the White House. See the TPM photo feature from that ceremony here.

White House/Pete Souza




Obama hugs actor Sidney Poitier, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, at the ceremony.

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Obama in the Blue Room of the White House before the start of the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony. Recipients such as former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wait in the background.

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Obama and world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, also a Medal of Freedom recipient.

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Obama and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

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Obama and Sonia Sotomayor in the Oval Office on August 12, just before a reception for the new Supreme Court Justice.

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Sotomayor and fellow Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the reception for Sotomayor.

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Sotomayor and her mother, Celina, at the August 12 reception in the East Room of the White House.

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Obama with Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait, outside the Oval Office.

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Obama and members of the delegation traveling with Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House.

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Obama at an August 6 rally for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds, with current Virginia Governor Tim Kaine in the background at the right.

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Obama and the crowd of supporters at the August 6 campaign rally for Creigh Deeds in Tyson's Corner, Virginia.

White House/Pete Souza




Obama carries birthday cake for Phil Schiliro, assistant to the president for legislative affairs.

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Obama attends a health care reform meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Clockwise from left: Director of the Office of Management and Budget Peter Orszag, Counsel of Economic Advisors Chair Christy Romer, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs Phil Schiliro, Director of the Office of Health Reform Nancy-Ann Deparle, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Senior Advisor David Axelrod, President Obama, and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

White House/Pete Souza




Obama looks up at the ceiling of the Cabanas Cultural Center before a trilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon at the North American Leaders' Summit in Guadalajara, Mexico, on August 10.

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Obama and Mexican President Calderon (right) and a display on the making of tequila at the Cabanas Cultural Center in Guadalajara.

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Obama, Harper (left), and Calderon (right) are shown a display on the making of tequila at the Cabanas Cultural Center in Guadalajara.

White House/Pete Souza




Obama prepares to autographs books and photographs in a backstage holding room following a town hall meeting on health care reform at Central High School in Grand Junction, Colorado.

White House/Pete Souza




The Obama family disembarks from Air Force One at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona.

White House/Pete Souza




Obama meets with Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer following a town hall meeting on health care reform in Belgrade, Montana.

White House/Pete Souza




The Obamas and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

White House/Pete Souza




Obama and daughters Sasha (left) and Malia (right) at Yellowstone National Park.

White House/Pete Souza




The President and the First Lady in the Blue Room of the White House prior to the Medal of Freedom ceremony.

White House/Pete Souza




The President and the First Lady in the Blue Room of the White House prior to the Medal of Freedom ceremony.

White House/Pete Souza




Obama and daughter Sasha with the card given to him during a birthday party with his staff in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Malia and Michelle Obama, Valerie Jarrett, and Timothy Geithner are all in the background.

White House/Pete Souza




The Obama family waits for Old Faithful to erupt during their visit to Yellowstone National Park.

White House/Pete Souza

On CNBC earlier today, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) gave Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) a lesson in the health care policy.



Republicans are fond of the line of critique which holds that employers will take advantage of the creation of a public option to drop their insurance coverage and pay the penalty, "forcing" their employees into the public option. To do this, they often cite a flawed study by the Lewin Group--a research center owned by the giant insurer Wellpoint.

But as Wasserman-Schultz articulates, that's not how the policy is set up. If employers drop their coverage, they'll have to pay into insurance exchanges, where their employees will be able to shop around for insurance plans, including, perhaps, but certainly not limited to, a public option.

Somehow, though, I doubt Pence will take this simple policy lesson to heart.

Retired Army Gen. Russel Honoré, who has been on a daylong media tour trying to knock down rumors that he was looking at a possible run for Senate in a Republican primary challenge against Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), has given his most specific denial to date, the Louisiana Weekly reports.

Honoré said he did not even know Joe Berry, the Republican consultant who claimed to have met with him to discuss a bid. "I am not running for office," said Honoré. "I don't know who this is. I was not at my home two weeks ago. I have no idea who this gentleman could be."

He also strongly disavowed that he was even a registered Republican, and that an official spokesman named Charles Lamley had said he was not ruling out a run: "I never declared myself as a Republican during the Reagan Administration. I have never lived in Zachary as he claimed. I have never heard of Charles Lamley."

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Bob McDonnell, the Republican nominee for Governor of Virginia, just had an unusually long conference call with reporters -- about 80 minutes -- in which he sought to walk back and minimize any political damage that might occur from his recently-revealed 1989 master's thesis at Regent University, in which the then-34-year-old McDonnell laid out a comprehensive religious right political program.

(For more goodies from the thesis, check out our write-up at TPMmuckraker.)

Said McDonnell: "A contention by my opponent [state Sen. Creigh Deeds] that a 20-year-old academic exercise somehow represents my 18-year career in public service is just a flat misrepresentation, and the Senator well knows that.'

McDonnell, point by point, disowned the positions he took in the thesis -- even at one point minimizing it as a "term paper." He said that he respects women in the workplace; that he would not try to re-restrict divorce; that he does not advocate discrimination against gays; and that he does not regard civil law is subject to Biblical law.

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Earlier today, Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU went on MSNBC, and made a crucial point about the decision to probe torture.

The problem, argued Jaffer, is not that we're investigating clear evidence of law-breaking -- as Dick Cheney and countless conservatives would have it. Rather, it's that the scope of the investigation, as we've noted, appears to be unduly narrow. As things stand, it focuses on CIA personnel, but ignores the Bush administration officials -- both Justice Department lawyers like John Yoo, and high-ranking policy-makers like Cheney himself -- who authorized and approved torture in the first place.

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