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Swapping the Rachel Maddow Show set for perhaps more accepting digs this morning, Rand Paul told listeners of the Laura Ingraham radio show that the controversy surrounding his criticism of parts of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is political theater dreamed up by the "loony left."

Ben Smith tuned in to Ingraham's right wing radio show and reports on the host's interview with Paul:

"I've never really favored any change in the Civil Rights Act," Paul said, according to Smth. "They seem to have unleashed some of the loony left on me."

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Rand Paul's interview with NPR's All Things Considered last night was the first sign the the freshly-minted Kentucky Republican Senate nominee might have some explaining to do today. The blogosphere is already alight with Paul's interview with Rachel Maddow, but his interview on NPR shows that his libertarian views go deeper than just his take on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Speaking with NPR's Robert Siegel, Paul made the case for less federal involvement in workplace and environmental regulation, including his opposition to some components of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Based on the NPR interview, Paul's views seem to break down like this: a libertarian take on private freedom mixed with the tea party conservative-style frustration with the federal government. Rather than call for an end to all regulation of things like mining and energy production -- a view that would likely jive with hardcore libertarians -- Paul takes a tea party tack and calls for those things currently regulated by the federal government to be regulated by individual states instead.

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It didn't take long for Kentucky Republican Rand Paul to stumble into trouble. Steeped in libertarianism and partly in the conservative anti-establishment tea party movement, his views -- particularly those on the Civil Rights Act -- have been the subject of much scrutiny and debate since he won the GOP Senate nomination Tuesday night. Last night, Paul's views burst into the national debate after an interview Paul gave to Rachel Maddow set the Internet alight.

In a nutshell, here's what he said:

"Well, there's 10 -- there's 10 different -- there's 10 different titles, you know, to the Civil Rights Act, and nine out of 10 deal with public institutions and I'm absolutely in favor of," he told Maddow deep in their 15-minute interview. "One deals with private institutions, and had I been around, I would have tried to modify that."

Got that? Rand Paul agrees with most of the Civil Rights Act, but not the part that deals with private businesses. And he won't say whether or not that one part of the bill would have been a deal-breaker if he had been in Congress when the bill was up for a vote.

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Apparently, everyone's favorite party-crashing DC couple couldn't let a state dinner go by without doing something...

Last night, while the Obama's were hosting Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his wife Margarita Zavala at the White House, Michaele and Tareq Salahi reportedly dressed up, got in a limo, and drove around near the White House. You know, just to cruise.

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The new Rasmussen poll of the Kentucky Senate race gives Republican nominee Rand Paul a post-primary bump, posting a big lead against Democratic state Attorney General Jack Conway.

The numbers: Paul 59%, Conway 34%. The survey of likely voters has a ±4.5% margin of error. The previous Rasmussen poll from late April, before the primaries, gave Paul a lead of 47%-38% in a matchup with Conway. The TPM Poll Average, entirely of pre-primary data except for this new survey, gives Paul a lead of 48.4%-37.3%.

Rasmussen cautions against declaring a Paul victory to be a foregone conclusion: "While Paul is capitalizing for now on Tea Party unhappiness in Kentucky over national policies, he's also a political newcomer who's running against a candidate who has previously run both for Congress and for statewide office. Rookie candidates often make unforced errors and it is difficult to project how well the GOP candidate will handle the campaign trail between now and November."

The New York Times says a longer video of the March 2008 speech in which Richard Blumenthal said he "served in Vietnam" -- and in which he also also correctly says he served "during Vietnam" -- doesn't change its story about Blumenthal lying about his record. A Times spokesman also urged Blumenthal to come clean to voters.

"The New York Times in its reporting uncovered Mr. Blumenthal's long and well established pattern of misleading his constituents about his Vietnam War service, which he acknowledged in an interview with The Times," said Diane McNulty, a spokesman for the Times. "The video doesn't change our story. Saying that he served 'during Vietnam' doesn't indicate one way or the other whether he went to Vietnam."

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In an apparent bid to stoke further controversy, the Tea Party leader who last week referred to Allah as a "Monkey God" has apologized -- but to Hindus, not Muslims. And in an earlier blog post, now removed, he refers to Islam as a "7th Century Death Cult coughed up by a psychotic pedophile."

Mark Williams, the conservative radio talker and chair of the Tea Party Express yesterday posted an "apology" for the "Monkey God" post he wrote last week:

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Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez told me in a brief interview that his takeaway from Tuesday's elections is that Democrats are the ones willing to shake things up in Washington, and that's a message you can expect to hear from candidates in the coming months. In the battle for control of Congress, Democrats see improved chances, in part by the choices voters made in Tuesday's primaries.

Menendez (D-NJ) boasted that in all three states which held elections Tuesday, Democrats outnumbered Republican voters, calling it "hooey" that GOPers think they have the intensity on their side this fall.

Menendez also said that Rep. Joe Sestak will be a great general election candidate against former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) in Pennsylvania. He said since Toomey is a former derivatives trader who voted for George W. Bush's agenda Sestak will have no trouble reminding voters he's the one who can shakeup Washington, especially after having challenged his own party establishment in a primary. "I'll take that contrast," Menendez told me.

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The new survey from the Public Policy Institute of California shows former eBay CEO Meg Whitman's lead in the Republican gubernatorial primary plummeting, though she retains an advantage over state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.

The numbers: Whitman 38%, Poizner 29%. The survey of likely GOP primary voters has a ±5% margin of error. Back in March, Whitman led by a whopping 61%-11%. The TPM Poll Average gives Whitman a lead over Poizner of 39.1%-29.2% in the GOP primary, down from a seemingly overwhelming Whitman lead as recently as March.

Whitman's support has fallen in large part due to Democratic attacks over her connections to Goldman Sachs -- the Dems would prefer to face Poizner in the fall. There may also have been a backlash against her big personal spending on the race, which has reached $68 million so far, and a tightly controlled media operation in which she has avoided directly answering questions from reporters about the issues -- a fact that is frequently noted in media reports.

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