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Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) has been sharply critical of a proposal, now part of a tentative deal between key Democratic health care negotiators, to allow people aged 55-64 to purchase insurance through Medicare. Now that the deal seems all but locked in, I asked Conrad whether the compromise is a deal breaker for him.

"No," Conrad said. "What I've told the leadership and what I've told your colleagues, other reporters, is, I have to see a CBO analysis, and I have to see what has been proposed in writing. All I've seen is, kind of, thumbnail descriptions, and I've not seen CBO analysis. And that's very important to knowing whether or not I can support it.

Conrad's resistance to growing Medicare rolls is based on his complaint that the program doesn't pay hospitals and doctors in North Dakota enough for their services. That critique has drawn sharp rebuke from his colleague, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who helped negotiate the buy-in proposal.

In a major sign of just how polarized American politics has again become, a new national survey from Public Policy Polling (D) asked Americans whether they would rather have President Obama in office, or former President George W. Bush -- and it's a close race.

The numbers: Obama 50%, Bush 44%, with a ±2.8% margin of error. Self-identified Democrats pick Obama by 83%-14%, Republicans pick Bush by 83%-10%, and independents go for Obama by 54%-39%. Obama's approval rating in this poll is 49%, in a statistical dead heat with 47% disapproval.

Respondents were also asked whether they would support impeaching Obama for his actions in office so far. The numbers was 20% yes, 67% no, and 13% not sure. Among Republicans, the breakdown was 35%-48%-17%. PPP communications director Tom Jensen writes: "I'm not clear exactly what 'high crimes and misdemeanors' they are using to justify that position but there may be a certain segment of voters on both the right and the left these days that simply think the President doing things they don't agree with is grounds for removal from office."

On the Obama/Bush match-up, Jensen writes: "The closeness in the Obama/Bush numbers also has implications for the 2010 elections. Using the Bush card may not be particularly effective for Democrats anymore, which is good news generally for Republicans and especially ones like Rob Portman who are running for office and have close ties to the former President."

The Hill is reporting that nearly $6 million in stimulus funds went to firms run by Mark Penn, a former pollster for Hillary Clinton. According to The Hill, the money went to Burson-Marsteller, the global public relations and communications firm headed by Penn, for work on a campaign to advertise the national switch from analog to digital television.

Read the full story here.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post today, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin called for President Obama to boycott climate change talks in Copenhagen, saying programs to limit emissions would "irreversibly" hurt the American economy.

She also railed against pending legislation in Congress, which she called "cap-and-tax" instead of the usual "cap-and-trade," saying it would cause energy costs to "skyrocket."

She cited the recent scandal over a collection of leaked e-mails between climate scientists, known by Copenhagen opponents as "climategate," as proof that the move to limit emissions is politically driven.

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Rod Jetton, the former Missouri House Speaker, fired a state lawmaker from his committee chairmanship in 2007 because the lawmaker had changed a bill in order to end a state ban on gay sex -- or what Jetton called "deviate sexual intercourse."

Jetton was charged with felony assault Monday after a girlfriend alleged that he had beaten and choked her during a recent sexual encounter, in which she failed to use a mutually agreed upon "safe word." The woman also suggested that Jetton may have slipped a date-rape drug into her glass of wine, causing her to lose consciousness. In the wake of the charges, Jetton announced that the political consulting firm he has run since leaving office last year would close its doors.

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Jon Stewart last night took down TPM favorite Fox & Friends for using poll numbers on global warming -- more specifically, "climate gate" -- that added up to 120 percent.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: A Catalog Of Fox's Mistakes]

Stewart then zeroed in on host Gretchen Carlson for playing dumb -- even though she was valedictorian of her high school class, graduated with honors from Stanford and studied at Oxford. And plays beautiful classical violin.


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Palin Blasts Climate Change Science, Copenhagen Conference Sarah Palin has a new op-ed piece in the Washington Post, attacking climate-change science as fraudulent and blasting President Obama for his plans to attend the Copenhagen conference: "In his inaugural address, President Obama declared his intention to 'restore science to its rightful place.' But instead of staying home from Copenhagen and sending a message that the United States will not be a party to fraudulent scientific practices, the president has upped the ante. He plans to fly in at the climax of the conference in hopes of sealing a 'deal.' Whatever deal he gets, it will be no deal for the American people."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:35 a.m. ET, and meet with a bipartisan group of members of Congress at 10:50 a.m. ET. Obama will make a statement to the press at 11:50 a.m. ET, and at 12:20 p.m. ET will make a Recovery Act announcement on community health centers. Obama will meet with business and environmental leaders at 2 p.m. ET. The President and First Lady will depart from the White House at 7:15 p.m. ET, en rote to Oslo, Norway.

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Alberto Gonzales has taken a break from his teaching load at Texas Tech to give a remarkably unselfconscious interview with Esquire, saying the Bush Administration should have dropped its plan to purge U.S. attorneys in 2006 because "at that point we could really not count on Republicans to cut off investigations or help us at all with investigations."

By Gonzo's reasoning, the problem was not the firings themselves, but rather the prospect that the Bush Administration would get caught:

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Before heading to Oslo to scoop up his Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama will talk to members of Congress about jobs, jobs, jobs.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will huddle in the Cabinet Room with key lawmakers to outline "next steps for growing the economy and creating jobs."

Yesterday Obama detailed ways to spend some of the leftover TARP funds to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

He said the money would go to small businesses, for infrastructure investment to improve highways, bridges and airports and a new rebate for homeowners dubbed "cash for caulkers" to reward people who retrofit their homes to be more energy efficient.

Obama's economic adviser Christina Romer told reporters yesterday that jobs is the constant refrain at the White House.

"The president asks us nearly every day are we doing enough on jobs," she said.

The White House's list of today's expected attendees after the jump.

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Last night, Rachel Maddow interviewed Richard Cohen, an author who claims he can cure homosexuality.

Maddow argued that such claims are being appropriated in the persecution of gays, particularly in Uganda where a bill to make homosexuality punishable by death is being considered.

According to Maddow, American groups -- including The Family, a Christian group made up of lawmakers that runs the C Street house -- are pushing the Ugandan law.


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