TPM News

In a few weeks, the first major contest of the 2012 Iowa caucus kicks off in Ames. The famous Ames Straw Poll is a mixture of Republican politicking, theater and raw, unadulterated capitalism.

Herman Cain doesn't want the state GOP to ruin the fun. "By putting people on the ballot who didn't pay, [the state party] has the potential to weaken Iowa's status as the first in the nation caucus," Cain spokesperson Ellen Carmichael told TPM.

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A Congressional aide briefed on ongoing negotiations between House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama says the two principals may be nearing a "grand bargain" to raise the debt limit which would contain large, set-in-stone spending cuts but only the possibility of future revenue increases.

"All cuts," the aide said. "Maybe revenues some time in the future."

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Debt Ceiling Negotiations At The White House]

The status of negotiations has Democratic aides on both sides of the Capitol nervous and unhappy. And the notion that the impasse over the debt limit may be nearing an end is sparking denials from both the White House and Boehner's office -- in part, perhaps, because neither side has buy-in from their parties on a consensus plan.

A White House spokesman called the claims from aides "not credible" -- the result of having a "third-hand version of the facts."

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The latest signs of cracking at the well-coiffed Jon Huntsman presidential bid: The Washington Post reports campaign manager Susie Wiles is out, to be replaced by Matt David, the director of communications.

Wiles stepped into the lead role at the Huntsman campaign after working for Rick Scott, who self-funded his way into the Florida governor's mansion last year. David is a veteran of the John McCain and George W. Bush presidential campaigns, as well as a former staffer for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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It's official: As expected in the big swing state of Ohio, where Republicans gained control of state government in the 2010 wave and then enacted a new law to limit collective bargaining for public employee unions, voters will now head back to the polls in November 2011 -- to potentially repeal that same law before it could ever take effect.

If the bill is repealed by voters, it would be a significant defeat to Republican Gov. John Kasich, and a potential dry run for the 2012 campaigns in the state. A Quinnipiac poll released this week showed that repealing the bill had a lead of either slightly under or over 20 points, depending on the wording of the question.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) has certified that the petition process, which put the law completely on hold, has met the signature thresholds, and that the bill be put up to a referendum this November.

This move was widely expected, and was only a matter of working out the bureaucratic process, because it was already public knowledge that organizers had surpassed the minimum signatures by several times over.

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Without going into detail, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) says he's prepared his caucus -- including the most dug-in, conservative members who oppose raising the debt limit under almost all circumstances -- that they'll have to compromise. But he still can't say publicly, with certainty, that the votes will be there to raise the debt limit before August 2, and thus avoid a catastrophic default.

Asked by a reporter at his weekly Thursday Capitol press conference whether he's prepared his stubborn members for the fact that a deal to raise the debt limit will require compromise, Boehner said simply, "I have."

But he gave mixed signals about whether he'll be able to squeeze a debt limit bill through the Congress before August 2.

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Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC), with the help of Republicans leaders, is launching a sneak attack on the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), the only quasi-independent ethics watchdog policing the behavior of members of Congress.

Watt, a prominent member of the Congressional Black Caucus, may be looking for some retribution against the office for investigating him last year. Along with a bipartisan group of several other members, Watt was part of a wide-ranging OCE probe into the propriety of holding fundraising events with big players in the financial sector within days -- or even on the very day -- of a vote on the Wall Street reform bill. He and the other members were eventually cleared of any wrongdoing but not before the investigation leaked to the press and he and the other members made "under investigation" headlines.

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Stephen Colbert has only one explanation why politicians he doesn't vote for are elected: voter fraud!

Colbert on Wednesday addressed the rise of restrictive voter ID laws around the country, saying they ensure only the right people vote. Take New Hampshire Republican House Speaker Bill O'Brien. Back in March, TPM reported that he wanted to disenfranchise students who "just vote their feelings."

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Some "entrepreneurs" in Kunming, in the southwestern part of China, have taken the art of copying U.S. ideas and products to a whole new level -- they've created entire fake Apple stores.

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Well, so much for that.

Grover Norquist has walked back his claim to the Washington Post that allowing Bush-era tax cuts to expire would not count as a tax increase, and now the Speaker of the House suggests Grover's views are neither here nor there -- he opposes letting even some of the Bush tax cuts to expire.

"I believe that would be raising taxes," John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters at his weekly Capitol press briefing.

So that's not going to happen. "I've never voted to raise taxes, and I don't intend to," Boehner said.

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