TPM News

A new survey by Public Policy Polling (D) shows Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) continuing to lead his unknown Democratic rivals -- but at the same time, he continues to be a vulnerable incumbent.

Burr's approval rating among registered voters is only 35%, with a disapproval rating of 37%, and a whole 28% undecided -- he is neither popular nor unpopular, and instead has not really made any impression with the voters. Against a generic Democrat, Burr has 41% to the generic Dem's 39%.

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The youngest generation of America's warriors leaving the fields of battle in Iraq and Afghanistan say it's time to repeal the military's ban on homosexuals serving openly, according to a new poll conducted for a veterans group out this week.

The Vet Voice Foundation commissioned the poll of 510 veterans of America's most recent wars, and found that while the vets were divided on repealing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, vast majorities said that they would accept serving along side gay and lesbian soldiers, sailors and Marines.

As for the policy itself, the veterans seemed to reflect the conventional wisdom about Americans as a whole -- the younger generation is ready to extend rights to homosexuals while older people are resistant.

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Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) is an adamantly pro-life Democrat, who says the Senate health care bill's abortion language is unacceptable to her. Though she voted "yes" on the House package in November, she's now suggesting she might vote "no" on the final legislation.

That position puts her on the side of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, who oppose the Senate bill on the grounds that they believe it would expand federal funding of abortions. But earlier this week, another influential Catholic institution--the Catholic Hospital Association--came out in support of the Senate language. Yesterday evening, speaking to several reporters in the halls of the Capitol, Kaptur explained why she leans toward the Bishops' position--and in doing so took a veiled swipe at the Hospitals.

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A California-based PAC called the Republican Majority Campaign spent nearly all of the $1.7 million it raked in from conservative donors last year, but less than 2% of the money went to supporting candidates or independent political spending.

The rest of the money raised by the group went to operating expenses, salaries for the PAC's top officers, and back into fundraising appeals -- which often ask supporters for as much as $144 in exchange for sending faxes opposing health care reform to members of Congress.

The lion's share -- roughly $1.3 million -- of the group's 2009 fundraising haul went to a murky Arizona telemarketing firm that goes under the name Political Advertising, which has been linked to questionable PAC activities in the past. Its business type in the state's registry is given as "telephone fundraising."

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The weakening of the Senate proposal on financial reform unveiled this week, after lobbying from the pay-day lending industry, should come as little surprise. In recent years, the industry has built a sophisticated Washington lobbying and public relations operation, which it has used to promote its interests, savage its critics, and shape the public debate.

The $42-billion-a-year pay-day lending industry offers short-term loans often designed to tide customers over until their next pay-check. But the loans, which can carry interest rates of as much as 400 percent on an annualized basis, lead many working-class borrowers to end up digging themselves deeper into debt. As a result, the pay-day lenders have become a prime target of consumer advocates and their allies on Congress, who accuse the industry of preying on struggling Americans, and have in recent years sought ways to rein it in.

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The attorney general of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, will file a lawsuit against the federal government should health care reform legislation be signed into law, his spokesman confirms to TPMDC.

The spokesman did not give details on what grounds Cuccinelli plans to challenge the law.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) will be making yet another out-of-state political trip -- this time to Iowa, the key first caucus state.

Bachmann has been invited Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a close ally, to be the keynote speaker at his annual Defenders of Freedom event on April 10, 2010.

"I am honored to have Michele come to western Iowa to share her brand of conservative leadership with us," King said in his press release. "Together Michele and I have led the charge in the U.S. House to fight the Obama/Pelosi/Reid health care nightmare. It was her idea that sparked our 'Declaration of Health Care Independence' and am proud to call her a friend, ally in the conservative cause, and fellow warrior in the culture war."

Pete Domenici, Jr., a son of former Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and currently a candidate for governor of New Mexico, made a very amusing gaffe -- with his campaign seemingly bragging in advance about his great performance at the state Republican convention, only to crash and burn at the event itself.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Domenici's campaign mailed out a flier that arrived at some homes on Saturday, the same day the convention was taking place: "The 2010 Convention Was A Great Success! Thousands of Signatures Put Pete On The Ballot!" However, the convention turned out to not be quite a success -- Domenici scored less than five percent of the delegate vote, far short of the 20 percent needed to gain an automatic place on the primary ballot, and thus requiring him to gain ballot access through a petition drive.

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Republicans seem to think that stopping health care reform will improve their chances in the 2010 elections. At the same time, Democrats say that finally passing comprehensive reform will show the voters that they're the change party they promised they would be, boosting their chances at holding on to their majorities in the House and Senate.

But a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that both sides are wrong...and right. There doesn't seem to be clear a political win -- or loss -- for either side yet, though arguably opinion appears to be tilting slightly in favor of the Democrats.

Oh, and there's more: even after a year of slogging through the health care fight, most Americans still want reform -- and soon.

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