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A new Rasmussen poll of the Kentucky Senate race shows Republican Rand Paul with an eight point lead over Democratic state Attorney General Jack Conway, a number consistent with Rasmussen's recent polling of the race.

The poll shows likely voters supporting Paul over Conway by a margin of 49%-41%. The past two Rasmussen polls -- from June 1 and June 28 -- also had Paul with 49%, while Conway was at 41% and 42%, respectively. These Rasmussen polls stand in sharp contrast to a PPP poll (PDF) from last month, which had the race tied at 43%. The TPM Poll Average gives Paul a lead of 48.9%-42.2%.

The margin of error of the latest Rasmussen poll was ±3.0 percentage points.

A rural newspaper in Louisiana has endorsed Chet Traylor -- rival to Sen. David Vitter in the Louisiana Republican primary -- to win the party's nomination. And in so doing they casually raise the possibility that there are more Vitter scandals yet to be exposed.

"It is not our intention to revisit Vitter's mistakes as a means to follow the lead of the out-of-touch media elite in condemning Vitter at every turn," write the editors of the Concordia Sentinel. "We will not engage in a rumor mongering campaign either by repeating allegations that another "scandal" involving Vitter's personal life will surface soon."

How's that for subtlety?

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Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) debuted her Tea Party Caucus this morning, a collection of 29 -- and counting -- conservative Republican House members who Bachmann says plan to be a direct line of communication between the tea party movement and floor of the House.

The goal of the debut press conference was clearly to show how tuned in with the tea party Bachmann and colleagues like Steve King (IA), Louie Gohmert (TX) and John Culberson (TX) are. The event was light on legislative substance and heavy on tea party praise, both from the representatives in attendance and the tea partiers who spoke from the podium. But after the tough week the tea party movement's been having, the event's emphasis seemed to shift to the most overt possible display of tea party diversity.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Meet The Tea Party Caucus]

Here's what that looks like: Of the several tea partiers who spoke from the podium today to praise the creation of the caucus, just one was a white man -- Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots. The others? Two African-Americans, a Coumbian, a Brazilian, and several women. Rep. Dan Burton (R-IA) made it clear what he thought the takeaway message should be.

"This should dispel any claims about the tea party," he said. "Because we have people of all backgrounds up here."

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The first real test of health care reform won't take place before the Supreme Court, as some Republicans have promised. Instead, it will happen in the heartland, when Missouri voters take a stand on their Republican-written ballot measure dubbed the "Health Care Freedom Act."

The actual question from the Aug. 3 Proposition C measure centers around the individual insurance mandate included in the sweeping overhaul of the nation's health care system. If it passes, it would amend state statutes to deny the federal government the authority to penalize people for not buying health insurance. Boosters are campaigning on the fact that it's the "first time" voters will get a chance to weigh in on health care reform passed this spring.

Repealing health care has become a central issue in the 2010 campaigns, and one we've followed closely at TPM. If this measure passes in the über-battleground state, critics with similar state ballot initiatives may feel emboldened this fall. Among those states with similar ballot initiatives are Arizona, Florida and Indiana -- all of which also have high-profile Senate races.

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Andrew Breitbart, who posted the clip of USDA official Shirley Sherrod that got her fired, said today that he feels sorry for Sherrod.

"I feel bad that they made this about her, and I feel sorry that they made this about her," he told MSNBC. "Watching how they've misconstrued, how the media has misconstrued the intention behind this, I do feel a sympathy for her plight."

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After several pen strokes, and plenty of pomp, the Wall Street reform bill became law this afternoon. At signing ceremony at DC's Ronald Reagan building, President Obama declared "These reforms represent the strongest consumer financial protections in history," adding that "unless your business relies on cutting corners or bilking customers, you have nothing to fear from reform."

Now the legislation must be implemented, which will be no small task. Some of the bills provisions are subject to years-long study by regulators before they become binding. Others are intentionally delayed for a variety of reasons. And still more simply take months to build up the capacity to enforce. At the White House yesterday, Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin told reporters he expects the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to be running autonomously within a year.

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So who's the real influencer-in-chief?

A Quinnipiac poll released today suggests that the endorsements of Sarah Palin have more clout with voters than those of President Obama -- although vulnerable politicians would do well to stay away from both of them. According to the poll, a slim 12% of voters say that Obama's endorsement of a candidate would make them more likely to vote for that candidate. A slightly more sizable 16% of voters say the same of Palin's endorsement.

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The conventional wisdom may well be that the Republicans are poised to make some big gains against the Democrats in the House and Senate this fall. But for now, the Dems' campaign arms remain way ahead in cash on hand that could potentially make a difference in tight races.

The National Republican Congressional Committee just narrowly out-raised the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in June, taking in $9.15 million against the DCCC's $9.02 million. However, the DCCC has a whopping $33.78 million cash on hand, almost double the $17.04 million for the NRCC.

On the Senate side, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee took in $7.1 million in June, more than the $4.03 million for the National Republican Senatorial Committee in June. The DSCC has $21 million on hand, slightly surpassing the $19.7 million on hand for the NRSC.