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On a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Wisconsin Democrats claimed victory with the end of the Wisconsin recalls -- in which they gained two state Senate seats, just short of the three needed to take a majority, and where their own incumbents fended off Republican challenges.

"In the wake of this historic recall season, we really see Democrats with the most momentum and most success on the board. We won an obvious majority in these elections, five of nine contests," said Tate, referring to the two Democratic pickups, and three successful defenses by Dem incumbents.

"And this is an important point, all three recalls against Democrats failed - not a single Democrat was recalled for standing up to Scott Walker and the extreme Republican agenda. On the other hand, two Republicans from red districts were recalled for supporting Scott Walker and his agenda."

One reporter asked Tate if the recall election season could truly be called a success, after many millions of dollars were spent, to remain in the minority. "Well look, obviously we would have loved to swing 1,200 votes in Baraboo and Ripon and had an official Democratic majority," Tate said. "But if the goal was to change the face of the state Senate in Wisconsin, we've done that."

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Perhaps Rick Perry isn't the only late entrant into the Republican field. According to one report, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is considering a last-second bid as well.

According to reporter Jonathan Alter on Twitter, "sources say NJ Gov. Chris Christie is conducting focus groups in preparation for a possible run for president in 2012."

Christie has long denied any interest in a 2012 run. Of course, so did Perry, but the New Jersey governor's denials have been Shermanesque to the point of absurdity.

"Listen, I threatened to commit suicide. I did, I said, 'What can I do short of suicide to convince people I'm not running?'" Christie said in February. "Apparently, I actually have to commit suicide to convince people I'm not running."

But Christie has developed a strong following among grassroots and establishment Republicans alike with his combative style and many conservative commentators have openly pined for him to run. While it's late in the campaign, a lot of top Republican donors have yet to take sides, meaning there's still room to find donors. Or for donors to find Christie: a group of major GOP fundraisers led by Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone met with the governor last month to beg him to change his mind, according to Politico's Mike Allen, only to be rebuffed when the governor gave a firm "no" based on family and state commitments.

Update: CNN quoted an anonymous source close to Christie saying that the governor's thinking doesn't seem to have changed. Still no official denial. Update II: A spokeswoman for Christie, Maria Comella, denied the focus groups report to First Read. "It's absolutely not true," she said.

In a significant de-escalation of partisan brinksmanship on Capitol Hill, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is asking his members not to push for further cuts to discretionary spending in the wake of the debt limit agreement.

"While all of us would like to have seen a lower discretionary appropriations ceiling for the upcoming fiscal year, the debt limit agreement did set a level of spending that is a real cut from the current year level," Cantor wrote in a Wednesday memo to House Republicans. "I believe it is in our interest to enact into law full-year appropriations bills at this new lower level."

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Democrats have found a new way to harass Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the man behind the Medicare voucher plan. Ryan, who some conservatives still float as a presidential contender, is back home among his constituents these days -- the same place most Representatives are during this August recess.

And Ryan has decided that this time around, he'd prefer to spend time with constituents that pay for the privilege. That has Democrats rubbing their hands with glee.

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[Update: The Air Force says Moran isn't AWOL after all, but rather on approved leave status as he awaits discharge.]

An Air Force staff sergeant based in Germany says he's been AWOL since last week because he read on the Internet that President Barack Obama's long form birth certificate is a fraud.

Inspired by fellow birther, Army doctor Terrence Lakin, Staff Sgt. Daryn J. Moran has plastered the Internet with the news that he's deserting his post as an ophthalmology technician overseas.

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Tuesday afternoon, President Obama sardonically "cut" Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) "some slack" after Perry's incendiary remarks about Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke and the military's respect for its current commander-in-chief.

On Wednesday, Perry responded with the kind of Texas swagger his supporters love, his critics hate and everyone should get used to hearing a lot more of as Perry's presidential campaign unfolds.

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President Obama is "spinning his lies again," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday night.

"First it was whoppers like 'I love America' and 'I'm the president,''' Colbert said. "Now he's spinning giving Americans health care into something positive!"

Obama, appearing in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, on Monday, tried to reclaim the derogatory term "Obamacare"-- a term conservatives use to describe his health care reform law. "I have no problem with folks saying 'Obama cares,'" he said. "I do care."

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In the middle of his much-publicized bus tour into the nation's agricultural heartland on Tuesday, President Obama announced a new initiative to kickstart the U.S. biofuel industry, which among other things would create more jobs for rural communities in the biofuel production chain. The announcement is the latest in a closely timed-series of three, all related to federal biofuel policies that would benefit rural economies.

The stage was set on July 26 with the administration's expansion of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which reserves acreage for growing non-food crops that produce liquid biofuels. One example is the weedy plant camelina, which can produce a drop-in replacement for aviation fuel.

The expanded program is expected to create more than 3400 jobs in agriculture, biofuel refineries and related sectors such as transportation.

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