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Bob McDonnell, the Republican governor of Virginia, announced Friday morning that he will not declare next April "Confederate History Month."

McDonnell caused a stir this April when he proclaimed Confederate History Month, something that had been a tradition in the past but that his predecessors had skipped. Most critics made hay of the fact that he made no mention of slavery in the proclamation. He eventually apologized and added a clause about the "evil and inhumane practice."

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Another Democratic-held seat has emerged as a hotly-contested race this year: The West Virginia seat held by Dem Sen. Robert Byrd for over 50 years, until his death this past June created an opening in a state that has been trending to the GOP for the last decade.

Early on in this race, things looked especially good for Democrats. They'd recruited popular Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin to run for the seat, while the Republicans' strongest potential candidate, five-term Congresswoman Shelly Moore Capito, announced that she would not run. Instead, the Republicans ended up getting behind a long-time unsuccessful candidate, businessman John Raese. Manchin appointed a former aide, Carte Goodwin, to hold the seat but not run for a full term.

Raese previously ran for the Senate way back in 1984, losing by a narrow 52%-48% against Democrat Jay Rockefeller, in an open-seat race held in the middle of the Reagan landslide that year. He ran again in 2006 as Byrd's Republican challenger, spending $2.2 million of his own money on that race, and ultimately losing by a much heftier 64%-36% against a long-standing incumbent who was very much a state political institution.

But now things have started to get very close. The reason is simple: President Obama is highly unpopular in West Virginia.

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In many ways, 2010 will be the Year of the Tea Party. The angry conservative movement has bumped off a number of moderate and establishment Republicans in the primary season, packed huge rallies across the country and provided most of the best drama of the political year. But the success and prominence of the tea party movement has led to another trend: across the country, Democrats have been accused of helping get phony "Tea Party" candidates on the ballot in competitive races, in an attempt to split the vote between the Republican and fake "Tea Party" nominee so the Dem can cruise to victory.

It all made a lot of sense at the start. Back at the beginning of 2010, the tea party movement was showing real signs of splitting off into a separate political party. This was before the tea partiers set their sights on remaking the GOP with Senate nominees like Sharron Angle, Ken Buck and Christine O'Donnell, and, in turn, the GOP embraced the movement with both arms. A few clever Democratic activists, it appears, set about to take advantage of the schism between the GOP and tea party.

Evidence of the alleged plan has popped up in Florida, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania this year. Time will tell how successful it's been, but so far it's had very little effect.

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Ann Coulter doesn't mince words. And even when speaking to a gay conservative organization, GOProud, at their inaugural Homocon party on Saturday night, she apparently wasn't willing to start.

After a series of jokes about conservative that sounded -- and were received -- more like a stand-up act then a political speech, Coulter told the assembled (and predominantly wealthy) conservative gay crowd why they should oppose same sex marriage, adding, "I should warn you: I've never failed to talk gays out of gay marriage."

And then she did.

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Hoyer: Colbert's Testimony 'Was Not Appropriate' Appearing on Fox News Sunday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) criticized the appearance of Stephen Colbert before a House subcommittee hearing on immigration this past Friday. "I think his testimony was not appropriate. I think it was an embarrassment for Mr. Colbert more than the House," said Hoyer. His views are contrary to those of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who defended the Colbert appearance on Friday.

Boehner: Dems Have Time For Colbert, But Not For Bush Tax Cuts Appearing on Fox News Sunday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) criticized Congressional Democrats for wasting time by inviting Stephen Colbert to testify before a subcommittee on immigration, instead of debating the extension of the Bush tax cuts. "Washington is spending more time with comedians than debating (our) economic future," Boehner said. "They have time to bring a comedian to Washington, D.C., but they don't have time to end the uncertainty."

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Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) Sunday came closer than any member of Democratic leadership thus far to suggesting that Democrats may indeed hold a vote on middle-class tax cuts before the November elections.

"We are absolutely going to get this done before the end of the year," Van Hollen said on Meet the Press. "We may well take it up before the midterms."

Van Hollen, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, left his party plenty of wiggle room in the event that the House waits until after the election to hold the vote. But he walked further toward suggesting that the vote might come next week than did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who on Friday told reporters, "We will retain the right to proceed as we choose," Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference."

As TPM first reported, if the vote on middle-income cuts goes forward next week, it will likely be done under suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority for passage.

Obama: America Is 'Speaking Out' -- And GOP Isn't Listening In this weekend's YouTube address, President Obama took on the Republican leadership on economic issues.

"The Republicans in Washington claimed to draw their ideas from a website called 'America Speaking Out.' It turns out that one of the ideas that's drawn the most interest on their website is ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas," said Obama. "Funny thing is, when we recently closed one of the most egregious loopholes for companies creating jobs overseas, Republicans in Congress were almost unanimously opposed. The Republican leader John Boehner attacked us for it, and stood up for outsourcing, instead of American workers. So, America may be speaking out, but Republicans in Congress sure aren't listening. They want to put special interests back in the driver's seat in Washington."

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Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell challenged comedian Bill Maher on evolution more than a decade ago, wondering aloud about why monkeys haven't evolved into humans.

Maher showed the brief segment from his 1990s era show "Politically Incorrect" tonight on his HBO show "Real Time." In the Oct. 15, 1998 clip which you can watch below, O'Donnell argued with Maher and his guests.

"Evolution is a myth," O'Donnell said as the others piped up incredulously. She repeated herself, then added:

Well then why aren't monkeys still evolving into humans?

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1||September 24, 2010: Stephen Colbert testifies before a House Judiciary Subcommittee on behalf of the United Farm Workers Union, which is pushing an agriculture jobs bill to give illegal immigrant farm workers a path to citizenship. Colbert spent a day in August as a farm worker as a part of the UFW's "Take Our Jobs" program. Said Colbert, in character: "This is America. I don't want a tomato picked by a Mexican. I want it picked by an American. Then sliced by a Guatemalan, and served by a Venezuelan in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian." ||Newscom/Sipa&&

2||Colbert is greeted by Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). In his opening statement, Colbert said of the farm work: "I have to say, and I do mean this sincerely. Please don't make me do this again. It is really really hard." He continued: "You have to spend all day bending over. It turns out, and I did not know this, most soil is at ground level. If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we make the earth waist-high?"||Newscom/Sipa&&

3||"Why isn't the government doing anything?" Colbert asked. "Maybe this ag jobs bill will help. I don't know. Like most members of Congress, I haven't read it."||Newscom/Zuma&&

4||Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) at first asked Colbert to leave, but then withdrew his request. After Colbert delivered his opening statement, Conyers pointed out that it "was considerably different from the one that he presented." Colbert submitted a prepared statement that was played straight. He delivered one in character. ||Newscom/Zuma&&

5||Colbert concluded his statement: "I trust that following my testimony, both sides will work together on this issue in the best interest of the American people. As you always do."||Newscom/Zuma&&

6||Colbert speaks to Arturo Rodriguez, president of United Farm Workers. Colbert cited his "vast experience spending one day as a migrant farm worker" as his reason for testifying. ||Newscom/Zuma&&

7||Colbert was questioned by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) about why he picked this specific cause. In a rare moment of earnestness, Colbert replied: "I like talking about people who don't have any power. This seems like, one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work, but don't have any rights as a result. And yet we still invite them to come here, and at the same time we ask them to leave. That seems like an interesting contradiction to me."

Full coverage of the testimony here. ||Newscom/UPI&&

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Here's another fun data point in the Nevada Senate race. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is now being given a five-point lead over Sharron Angle -- by a Republican polling firm.

As Jon Ralston reports, a survey conducted for the Retail Association of Nevada by a well-known GOP polling firm, Public Opinion Strategies, showed the following numbers: Reid 45%, Angle 40%, plus 1% for Tea Party candidate Scott Ashjian. The survey of likely voters has a ±4.38% margin of error. The last publicly-released POS survey of this race was all the way back in February, and put Reid ahead of Angle and Ashjian by 37%-32%-16%.

According to this poll, Reid's favorable rating is only 44%, with 51% unfavorable -- a position that ought to spell political death for an incumbent. However, Angle is even lower at 38%-52%.

The TPM Poll Average currently gives Reid an edge of 47.2%-44.9%.

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