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Ron Paul is currently ranking second in Iowa, and has a shot at winning the state if he can beat back current frontrunner Newt Gingrich. To try to knock Gingrich out of the way, he's going negative.

Paul has been going after Gingrich in TV ads up in the state which paint him as an insider who profited off years in Washington. But Thursday, ahead of the last debate before the caucuses, Paul cranked out an attack that hadn't yet been used in this cycle. On Fox News, Paul bashed his opponent's his military record:

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Sen. Ron Wyden wants to assure his colleagues he hasn't undermined them politically. In a head-turning move, Wyden announced Wednesday that he's teamed up with House GOP budget chair Paul Ryan on a policy framework to partially privatize Medicare -- a move that stunned his fellow Democrats.

Setting aside the policy -- which would in essence turn Medicare into ObamaCare with a robust public option -- the very existence of the plan has deep implications for the 2012 elections, most of them bad for his own party.

Speaking to reporters Thursday after an event with Ryan, Wyden said the political ramifications are overblown.

"Nobody ducks their past votes and their previous statements," Wyden said. "That's just a given."

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At this rate, the "Stop Online Piracy Act" isn't going to be passed any time soon.

Four hours into the second hearing on the controversial anti-piracy bill, the bill's primary architect and the hearing's leader, House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) admitted temporary defeat, calling a recess at just before 2 pm ET.

At that point, only the first four of about 60 amendments to SOPA had been debated, and only two accepted by lawmakers, including the one Smith himself introduced that would narrow the definitions of websites that could be blocked under the bill. If this pace continues, the markup hearing will last several days.

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Brian Stapleton, the attorney for Tea Party Patriots official Mark Meckler, sent out the following statement:

"Mark Meckler, an attorney and National Coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, who holds a concealed-carry permit from the state of California, today was charged with a firearms violation at LaGuardia Airport in New York City. While in temporary transit through the state of New York in possession of an unloaded, lawful firearm that was locked in a TSA-approved safe, he legally declared his possession of the firearm in his checked baggage at the ticket counter as required by law and in a manner approved by TSA and the airline, yet was arrested by port authority for said possession."

See TPM’s full report here.

Newt Gingrich has been taking a strong stand on an issue that could be a tough one for him -- opposing the legalization of gay marriage, in the name of defending the institution of marriage itself -- and has just signed a pledge from the anti-gay marriage group the National Organization for Marriage.

"We commend Newt Gingrich for signing NOM's presidential marriage pledge, committing himself to play a leadership role as president to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman," said a press release from NOM president Brian Brown. "Mr. Gingrich joins all the other major candidates who have made a similar commitment, save for one--Ron Paul. Now we will embark on an intensive communications program to inform Iowa voters who will stand with them to preserve marriage, and who has abandoned them on marriage."

The institution of marriage could be a third rail as a campaign issue for Gingrich. He is on his third marriage, and he originally began secretly seeing his current wife Callista for several years during his second marriage -- at the same time as he was pursuing the impeachment of President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal. (And over a decade before that affair, Gingrich was still married to his first wife when he began a relationship with the woman who became his second wife.)

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The world watched, transfixed, as Georgia man Troy Davis headed for execution by lethal injection in September, with many calling the execution unjust. A Republican debate audience that same month cheered loudly as Texas Gov. Rick Perry defended his state's record of executing more death row inmates than any other governor in modern times. But death penalty opponents might breathe a sigh of relief today.

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The new survey of the Virginia Senate race from Public Policy Polling (D), a race that is practically already in general election mode, gives Democrat Tim Kaine a five-point lead.

The numbers: Former Gov. and ex-DNC chair Tim Kaine, 47%, and Republican former Senator (and also ex-Gov.) George Allen 42%. The survey of registered voters has a ±4% margin of error.

In the previous poll from late July, Kaine had a narrow lead of 46%-43%.

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Updated: 2:55PM

The Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement just cut off the Maricopa County's Sheriff's Office's access to the Secure Communities program and terminated an agreement which lets them detain individuals in the country illegally after their initial arrest.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement that the decision was based on the Justice Department's findings of discriminatory policing practices by MCSO and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

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