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Health care reformers have a number of arguments for the public option, but the main one is this: that by injecting fairness and competition into the market the public option will lower premiums for everybody, including those paying for private plans. Unfortunately, a new CBO study finds that it may not have that effect at all.

The theory behind the public option is that, by injecting a major non-profit insurer into the marketplace, it will force private competitors to cut down on administrative waste and other excesses, and, therefore, drive premiums down for everybody. Last week, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was on the verge of losing the fight for a muscular public option, she said "There's no philosophical difference between a robust public option and negotiated rates. It's just a difference in money."

But is that true? Yesterday, in an analysis of House health care legislation, the CBO concluded that the six million people expected to enroll in the public option by 2019 will be paying, on average, higher premiums than will people buying private plans.

"[A] plan paying negotiated rates would attract a broad network of providers but would typically have premiums that are somewhat higher than the average premiums for the private plans in the exchanges," wrote CBO chief Doug Elmendorf.

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Whatever happens Tuesday in New Jersey and Virginia, that doesn't necessarily reflect on President Obama, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today.

Gibbs reminded reporters that Democrats won in both states in 2001 when Republican President George W. Bush had just taken office. At that time, Bush was at the height of popularity following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But on Nov. 6, 2001 Democrat Mark Warner (now a U.S. senator) was elected in Virginia and Democrat Jim McGreevey won in New Jersey.

"I don't think anybody thought President Bush was significantly hampered by that ... Whatever the results are I don't think they portend a lot in dealing with the future," Gibbs said during the briefing.

"We continue to take the long view on what's going on in Washington and in the country," Gibbs said.

"We'll have time to dissect" the results after Tuesday, he said.

TPMDC hears that Obama is planning to be out of town on Wednesday at an event in the middle of the country.

The cable news networks have jumped all over the ethics document leaked to the Washington Post showing that over 30 members of Congress have been subjects of "inquiries" by the House ethics committee.

And the Post is having fun dissecting the weekly ethics summary report from July, publishing a new round of stories this morning looking at specific cases highlighted in the document.

But nearly all of the new stories show that the members in question were cleared of wrongdoing, and it's worth asking how much new information has really come to light.

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Here are the line-ups for the Sunday talk shows this weekend:

• ABC, This Week: Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett.

• CBS, Face The Nation: Senior White House Adviser David Axelrod, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT).

• CNN, State Of The Union: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), Gov Haley Barbour (R-MS).

• Fox News Sunday: Rush Limbaugh.

• NBC, Meet The Press: Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, Obama 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe.

In a Fox and Friends segment this morning, a Fox News legal analyst asked Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) whether the House health care bill has any changes "with regard to the death panel."

Cornyn responded that it's "certainly something we'll be focusing on."

The analyst, Peter Johnson Jr., began the interview by saying the House bill includes the end-of-life provisions that inspired Sarah Palin and others to predict bureaucratic "death panels."

Video after the jump.

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The DCCC has a new TV ad in the NY-23 special election, attacking Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman for supporting trade policies that the ad says would ship jobs to India and China.

"Hoffman wants to keep tax breaks for companies who ship our jobs overseas," the announcer says. "New York has lost 50,000 jobs due to bad trade deals, yet Hoffman's biggest backers want more unfair trade deals. Millionaire Doug Hoffman -- looking out for himself, not us."

Yesterday, Hoffman launched an attack ad against Democratic candidate Bill Owens, completely ignoring moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava, who has slipped down to third place in recent polls. So now the Dems are responding to Hoffman in kind.

Earlier this week, we reported that Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina had recently sent out mailers that urged recipients to lobby Sen. Kay Hagan to oppose a public option, which it called "a slippery slope to single payer." (You can see the mailer here.)

The story was picked up by the Raleigh News & Observer, which added an additional key fact: Just before sending out the mailer, BCBS of North Carolina had informed its customers that their rates would rise by an average of 11 percent next year.

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A new Frank Luntz strategy memo may provide some insight into the Republican's playbook as the fight over reform enters its final stages.

The memo, which you can read here, is one of many similar memos that have been circulated to politicians and activists over the last several months, including by Luntz himself.

In his previous memo, Luntz warned conservatives not to tie health care reform efforts to President Obama--the President's name, he warned, helped buoy the overall level of support for reform. Luntz now says that's not true--but he nonetheless counsels reform opponents not to use the term 'Obamacare.'

"[y]ou can talk about opposing "President Obama's Plan," Luntz writes. "But don't. While you no-longer [sic] shoot yourself in the foot by criticizing the President, you would do much better to criticize Congress."

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We asked Jim Manley, the spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whether Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-CT) position in the Democratic caucus was still secure, in light of his declaration that he will probably campaign for some Republican candidates in the 2010 election -- or as Lieberman said, "I'm going to call them as I see them."

Manley told us: "Senator Lieberman may call them as he see's them, but for Senator Reid, the only thing that he is focused on right now is delivering on the president's promise of comprehensive health care reform."