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A new Rasmussen poll of the New York Democratic primary gives appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a big lead against her apparent likely challenger, former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford.

The numbers: Gillibrand 48%, Ford 23%.

Nevertheless, the pollster's analysis points that out that the electorate's opinion is not fixed. Gillibrand has a 59% favorable rating, with 27% unfavorable, but with only 8% very favorable and 13% very unfavorable. Ford's numbers show even less of a solid opinion than there is for Gillibrand, with only 36% favorable and 30% unfavorable, including 11% very favorable and 9% very unfavorable.

The most influential labor organizations in the country have arrived at a common solution to the Democrats' health care conundrum: Move forward, pass the Senate bill through the House, but only if a separate, filibuster proof bill codifying a crucial changes is passed post haste.

"Step one: The House should pass the Senate's health insurance reform bill - with an agreement that it will be fixed, fixed right, and fixed right away through a parallel process," writes SEIU President Andy Stern at the Huffington Post.

Reform can work -- the Senate bill can serve as the foundation for reform and include at minimum the improvements the Administration, House, and Senate have negotiated. We cannot squander the opportunity to make real progress. The House and Senate must move forward together. And, there is no reason they cannot move forward together to make those changes through any means possible -- whether through reconciliation or other pieces of moving legislation.... There is no turning back. There is no running away. There is no reset button.

The AFL-CIO has a functionally similar, but tonally tougher take. "We don't want the House to pass the Senate bill as is," AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale tells me. "It needs to be paired with a Senate [bill]--through reconciliation--that makes fixes."

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The new Rasmussen poll of the Pennsylvania Democratic primary gives incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter a big lead over his primary challenger, Rep. Joe Sestak.

The numbers: Specter 53%, Sestak 32%, compared to a 48%-35% Specter lead last month. Specter, who switched from the Republican Party to the Democrats in 2009 after nearly 30 years in the Senate, appears to be in a solid position against skepticism from his state's Dem voters. One possible cause could be that Specter has been traveling throughout the state with local Democrats ever since he switched, and he held firm with the Dems during the last few months of the health-care debate.

From the pollster's analysis: "Specter's support has fallen between 46% and 51% in the earlier polls. So the new finding is his best showing yet, and gives the longtime incumbent senator, who switched parties last year because of a Republican Primary challenge, some breathing room. Incumbents who fall below 50% on a consistent basis are viewed as vulnerable."

President Obama told ABC News today that the Senate will not attempt to pass health care reform before Sen.-elect Scott Brown (R-MA) is sworn in.

"Here's one thing I know and I just want to make sure that this is off the table. The Senate certainly shouldn't try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated," Obama said. "People in Massachusetts spoke. He's got to be part of that process."

He also urged people to look at the "substance" of the health care bill.

"It is very important to look at the substance of this package and for the American people to understand that a lot of the fear mongering around this bill isn't true," he said.

"I would advise that we try to move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on. We know that we need insurance reform, that the health insurance companies are taking advantage of people. We know that we have to have some form of cost containment ... Those are the core, some of the core elements of, to this bill," Obama said.

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As an addendum to this post, which noted that House leadership would hold a caucus meeting this afternoon to regain control over their caucus and put together a new coalition to pass health care: that meeting has been canceled, and rescheduled for 9 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Leadership will instead hold individual meetings with key members--including progressives, and blue dogs--to achieve the same ends.

We'll bring you more information about who's involved and what the message is when we get it.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) told The Weekly Standard that House Democrats have rejected the possibility of passing the Senate's health care bill without making any changes -- which looks to be just about the only way the bill can pass now that the Senate Democratic caucus has just 59 votes.

People are disappointed, disillusioned with the way the bill came out. There are major differences like how we pay for it -- the quality provisions are not in there, [the Senate bill] takes away the anti-trust exemptions. Insurance reform is not in there. You still have probably, about number four on the list, is the abortion issue. The one that has members most upset is the sweetheart deals that states received. I don't care if you're the most liberal Democratic member or the most conservative member. That is a non-starter. Leadership has sort of floated that balloon [of passing the Senate bill] and everyone said, 'No way.' So, the only thing I think they can do now is to try to come up with a less aggressive bill and try to do something like that.

Paul Thurmond, a county councilman in Charleston, South Carolina, and a son of the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC), officially announced today that he is running for Congress. Thurmond is seeking to represent the open seat of GOP Rep. Henry Brown, who is retiring.

"We've reached a point where Congress is simply ignoring the will of the people, and that's not acceptable. It's time to return power to the people, and the states -- where it Constitutionally belongs," Thurmond said in his announcement.

Thurmond is 33 years old, and a son of a legend in South Carolina politics. His father served as both governor and senator, and ran for president in 1948 and carried four Southern states on a segregationist platform. In 2002, Strom Thurmond became the first and so far the only 100-year old senator. Paul Thurmond faces a crowded field in the Republican primary, including Carroll Campbell III, who is also the son of a popular late governor.

Using slightly stronger language than he did in earlier interviews (like this one and this one), White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod told CNN today that President Obama's not giving up on health care after last night's Democratic loss in the Massachusetts special election.

He's not gonna walk away from that fight for the American people. But there are also, obviously, people are speaking on this issue. There's frustration with the pace of this. And congressional debate always distorts the substance of what's in these bills and that hurts this enterprise.

"While this wasn't, I think, the referendum on health care that some have portrayed it to be, that's obviously an element of people's frustration."

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