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Will S&P's controversial decision to downgrade the country's bond rating -- and its explicit citation of GOP intransigence on tax revenue -- be enough to break the Republicans' broad opposition to tax increases in future deficit reduction legislation? Not if House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) can help it.

In a Monday memo to the House GOP caucus, he candidly acknowledged that S&P faulted the party's unyielding stance on tax revenues for the downgrade. But he encourages members not to erase this bright line.

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In a line of attack usually reserved for scandalized politicians, Democratic officials are targeting Republican lawmakers for accepting donations from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).

The DCCC are sending out press releases highlighting donations from Ryan's Prosperity PAC to 17 incumbent Republicans who voted for the House Republican budget. The releases include statements going after members for taking a "thank you check."

Democrats have made Ryan's budget, which includes a plan to replace Medicare with a private voucher system, central to their national message in recent months. But the latest effort reflects a broader attempt to turn Ryan himself into a political villain -- the DCCC releases include a poll from June showing him among the least popular Republicans in the country, ahead of only Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich.

Michele Bachmann simultaneously chided the White House for paying too little and too much attention to Standard and Poor's downgrade of US debt on Monday.

"After a weekend of hiding out at Camp David, pretending that the Standard and Poor's ratings do not matter and hoping the markets wouldn't notice, the President discovered he was wrong on both counts," Bachmann said in a statement. "He came out just long enough today to again declare that raising taxes and cutting Medicare are his only solutions to our nation's economic crisis. He dismissed the downgrade of our country's credit rating, and argued that there's no more room for spending cuts in Washington."

Bachmann's criticisms are contradictory. While she clearly believes Obama is "wrong" to dismiss the downgrade, the ratings agency made it abundantly clear that the president's proposals to fix the problem -- entitlement reform and tax increases -- are exactly what is needed to strengthen America's credit rating.

According to S&P's own downgrade announcement,"We lowered our long-term rating on the U.S. because we believe that the prolonged controversy over raising the statutory debt ceiling and the related fiscal policy debate indicate that further near-term progress containing the growth in public spending, especially on entitlements, or on reaching an agreement on raising revenues is less likely than we previously assumed and will remain a contentious and fitful process."

Perhaps more than any other presidential candidate, Bachmann is on shaky ground tying herself to the S&P, since the agency also cited Republicans' threats not to raise the debt ceiling as a major cause for the downgrade. Bachmann took the position early in the debate that the debt ceiling should never be raised under any circumstances, meaning by S&P's account she contributed to the problem as much as any lawmaker in the country.

With 80% of the country's schools poised to be stripped of federal aid next year under the Bush-era law, the White House has announced it will bypass Congress and offer exemption waivers to states seeking relief from No Child Left Behind.

The override comes months after Obama called on Congress to replace the nine-year-old law by the start of the 2011 school year. Now a month away from that deadline, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he will take action to stop the "slow-motion train wreck" of unfulfillable and escalating requirements, which resulted in 38,000 of the country's 100,000 schools not meeting standards last year. Duncan said that number would rise to 80,000 this year if relief is not offered.

"This is not a pass on accountability," White House domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes told the NYT. "There will be a high bar for states seeking flexibility within the law."

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Last week, Congressional Democrats were blindsided by newly-confirmed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who basically nixed any further cuts to military spending, and demanded that lawmakers trim from programs like Medicare and raise taxes to reduce future deficits.

Soon a new deficit Super Committee will begin debating tax and entitlement reform, and the penalty if they gridlock includes steep defense cuts. Republicans are expected to seize on Panetta's remarks to push for another deficit deal that comes exclusively from entitlement cuts. So Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) called on President Obama to repudiate Panetta.

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The wait is almost over. After weeks of hints and rumors, Texas Governor Rick Perry will reportedly announce a presidential run in South Carolina on Saturday.

According to Politico, the speech at a RedState convention may not mark his formal entrance into the race but will make clear his intentions. He'll head to New Hampshire later the same day for a house party with State Rep. Pamela Tucker. Perry's backers are reportedly trying to secure an early wave of donations in anticipation of his announcement in order to quickly establish his credibility.

The timing of Perry's speech undercuts the Ames Straw Poll, a crucial event for many of the Republican candidates that will occur the same day. With Perry not participating, the results will likely hold less weight and may quickly be overshadowed by coverage of the Texas governor's debut.

President Obama in a somber address to the nation Monday sought to summon Americans' strength and perseverance as stocks continued in a 500-point free fall in the first trading day after Standard & Poor's rating service downgraded the nation's creditworthiness.

"Markets will always rise and fall," Obama told the nation. "No matter what some agency may say, we've always been and always will be a AAA country."

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Oh, Boy!

Rick Santorum is hoping to show Iowans a good time at the Ames Straw Poll: First with Santorum's homemade jelly -- and now, his campaign has announced, with musical entertainment from the late Buddy Holly's backup band the Crickets, plus the Big Bopper Jr.

Back in 1959, the 22-year old Buddy Holly and the 28-year old original Big Bopper, plus 17-year old Ritchie Valens, were killed in a plane crash -- in Iowa, during a Midwestern tour called the "Winter Dance Party."

As such, the name of the Santorum campaign event is the "Santorum Summer Dance Party."

"After three weeks of traveling across Iowa and meeting thousands of Iowans, we are excited to cap off our family trip with a day of fun in Ames," said Santorum in a press release. "We are all looking forward to eating, singing, and dancing along with the traditions that make summertime in Iowa the epitomizes the heart of the American experience."

Updated at 3 p.m. ET.

A new round of Daily Kos/Public Policy Polling (D) numbers for the Wisconsin recalls, conducted over the past weekend in four out of the six Republican-held seats on the ballot Tuesday, show these contests headed down to the wire. Democrats have a clear lead in one race, Republicans in another, and the other two in statistical dead heats.

However, there is a very important caveat to any polls of these races: There is simply no standard statistical model or frame of reference for these very unusual mass recalls. As such, no prediction is really safe, and election-watchers just have to wait until the votes are counted Tuesday night. Everything will ride on the parties' turnout operations.

In the 32nd district, Democratic challenger Jennifer Shilling leads GOP state Sen. Dan Kapanke by 54%-43%, beyond the ±3.4% margin of error. Meanwhile in the 10 district, GOP state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf leads Democrat Shelly Moore by 54%-42%, outside the 2.7% margin of error.

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