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A new Mason-Dixon poll finds that Sen. John Engisn's (R-NV) favorable ratings have fallen sharply back home in Nevada, in the wake of his admission of an extramarital affair in 2007 and 2008 -- but there is hope for him.

Ensign's favorable rating has fallen to 39%, with 37% unfavorable. A month ago, before he'd admitted to the affair, his favorable rating had been a much heftier 53%-18%.

However, pollster Brad Coker told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that while Ensign's numbers have certainly fallen, it could be a lot worse: "The really significant question is that only 29 percent think he should resign right away. He does have the ability to stay on and turn this around."

Ensign is also fortunate to not be up for re-election until 2012, giving him plenty of time to turn this around, provided that no other shoes drop in this story.

Obama: U.S. Shouldn't Be Distraction For Iran In an interview with CBS, President Obama explained his cautious approach to the situation in Iran. "The last thing that I want to do," said Obama, "is to have the United States be a foil for -- those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States. That's what they do. That's what we've already seen. We shouldn't be playing into that. There should be no distractions from the fact that the -- Iranian people are seeking to -- let their voices be heard."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will sign the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act today, at 2 p.m. ET in the Rose Garden. In the morning, he will have his routine daily briefings.

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That's what members of the Facebook group "We Support Harold Hongju Koh" believe.

Last night, after yesterday's phone bank, we got word from inside sources that Senator Reid believes Harold has enough votes, and has decided to file for cloture on the nomination sometime in the next two weeks. While we do not have an exact date yet, it's an indication that all of your calling is working!

A Think Progress source confirms this time line. Keep in mind, though, that as of two weeks ago, at least one anonymous senator had placed a hold on Koh's nomination, and holds are usually honored as a matter of courtesy in the Senate.

Ted Kennedy Records TV Ad For Dodd Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) has recorded this TV ad for Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), a friend and ally on health-care issues, whose popularity has fallen sharply back in his home state going into the 2010 election:

"Quality health care as a fundamental right for all Americans has been the cause of my life," says Kennedy, "and Chris Dodd has been my closest ally in this fight."

Poll: Overwhelming Support For Public Option A new CBS/New York Times poll finds overwhelming support for a government-run health plan that would compete with the private sector -- also known as the public option -- at 72% in favor to only 20% against. Also, 57% are willing to pay higher taxes in exchange for health insurance for all, to 37% against, with support falling to 43%-49% when a specific price tag of $500 is attached.

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Obama Calls For Consumer Financial Protection In this weekend's Presidential YouTube Address, President Obama advocated for a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, to crack down on complicated and deceptive lending practices:

"This new agency will have the responsibility to change that," said Obama. "It will have the power to set tough new rules so that companies compete by offering innovative products that consumers actually want - and actually understand. Those ridiculous contracts - pages of fine print that no one can figure out - will be a thing of the past. You'll be able to compare products - with descriptions in plain language - to see what is best for you. The most unfair practices will be banned. The rules will be enforced."

McConnell: Democrats Are "Rush And Spend" On Health Care -- Like With Stimulus In this weekend's Republican YouTube, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warned that Democratic proposals on health care will spend too much money -- and compared it unfavorably with the stimulus:

"If the stimulus bill taught us anything, it's that we should be wary anytime someone in Washington says the sky's going to fall unless Congress approves trillions of dollars immediately," said McConnell. "Yet once again in the health care debate, it's rush and spend, rush and spend. Americans want health care reform, but they want the right health care reform. And that means taking the time and the care necessary to get it right."

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Team Ensign is continuing to walk back its original claim that Doug Hampton, the husband of the senator's girlfriend, tried to extort Ensign.

As we've already noted, that was the line the Ensign camp put out in the early days of the scandal. For instance, reported:

Two Senate Republican sources close to Sen. John Ensign of Nevada told FOX News that a former employee had asked Ensign for money in what both sources described as a case of "extortion."

But now, an Ensign spokesman tells the AP that within the last month Hampton made "exorbitant demands for cash and other financial benefits" through an attorney, and that the matter was referred to Ensign's lawyer.

In other words, Hampton threatened a lawsuit. Unless you've got an amazingly ham-handed lawyer, that's a far cry from extortion, which can be a felony. Had extortion occurred, Ensign's lawyer would presumably have had to contact law enforcement, and there's no evidence that happened.

The new lawsuit claim is consistent with the letter sent by Hampton to Fox News, in which Hampton wrote:
I have sought a number of lawyers who are having difficulty finding charges that may hold up in court. There are either technicalities that exist due to the time period in which I have sought help, or other nuances that quite frankly make no sense to me given the egregious acts and blatant abuse of power by Senator Ensign.

So it appears that when the lawsuit angle didn't work out, Hampton went to the media.

As for that whole extortion accusation, it looks like the Ensign camp is hoping everyone will just forget about it.

A new group is set to launch in the House of Representatives, made up of conservatives set on defending American power and interests against encroachment from international institutions: The Congressional Sovereignty Caucus.

Their kickoff meeting will be this coming Wednesday, featuring co-founders Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), plus Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) -- and special guests Oliver North, Frank Gaffney and Doug Feith.

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Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has now signed up with the Birther cause -- the people who think Barack Obama isn't a natural-born citizen and should be required to produce a birth certificate (which he already did, anyway) -- World Net Daily reports.

Coburn has now voiced his support for a bill offered by Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) and five House co-sponsors so far. "The bill requires any federal candidates' campaign committee filing with the Federal Election Commission to produce a copy of the candidate's birth certificate," wrote Coburn. "If the bill makes it to the Senate, I will likely support it."

Coburn also endorsed a similar bill in the Oklahoma legislature: "I hope the Oklahoma State Legislature will give serious consideration to this bill and I hope more states will reform their ballot access laws to ensure federal candidates must affirmatively prove their eligibility."

(Via Ben Smith.)

The White House's decision to fire the AmeriCorps inspector general was set in motion by a unanimous request it received from the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which asked the White House to review the IG's performance, according to a board member.

The firing "would not have played itself out" were it not for the fact that the board raised concerns about the IG, Gerald Walpin, after the May 20 board meeting, a board member told TPMmuckraker. The board member added that the White House had no role in encouraging the board to make the review request, calling it "completely board-initiated." The White House had cited the request from the board in its letter to Congress explaining the reason for Walpin's firing.

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