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A new survey of this year's Virginia gubernatorial race by Public Policy Polling (D) has Republican former state Attorney General Bob McDonnell posting a lead over the Democratic candidate, state Sen. Creigh Deeds.

The numbers: McDonnell 49%, Deeds 43%, with a ±4% margin of error.

A round of polls from other firms, taken right after the June 2 primary, had Deeds ahead and apparently enjoying a post-primary bump. PPP did not release a poll at the time, but it would appear that Deeds' post-primary bounce may have gone away.

The pollster's analysis notes that the Republican nominee for Governor in 2005 also had a lead at this point in the race, but the Democrat ultimately won the race: "The question now is whether McDonnell can sustain it, unlike Jerry Kilgore, or whether Deeds will come from behind to win as Tim Kaine did."

When a leaked flier last week revealed the Washington Post's plan to organize a corporate-sponsored "salon" on health care, the paper portrayed the flier as the hastily-created product of an over-zealous business department which misrepresented the Post's genuine vision for the event.

But now Politico -- which broke the original story -- has obtained a copy of a word document, sent out over two weeks ago, for the planned July 21 event. The document's existence will intensify questions about how, as the Post has claimed, the business and news sides of the paper could have been on such different pages over the event.

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The new Quinnipiac poll of Ohio shows Democrats starting out with a slight edge for the 2010 Senate race in this perennial swing state, which will be an open race for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. George Voinovich.

Both Democrats lead both Republicans, albeit by narrow margins. Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher leads former Rep. Rob Portman by 37%-33%, and he leads auto dealer Tom Ganley by 36%-30%. Democratic Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner edges Portman 35%-34%, and she leads Ganley 35%-31%.

In the Democratic primary, Fisher has 24% to Brunner's 21%, with "Undecided" way ahead with 51%. Portman leads for the Republicans with 33%, followed by Ganley at 10%, and "Undecided" at 55%.

Obviously, the undecideds are very high for all of the primary and general match-ups here, Ohio is a perennial swing state, and we're still very early in the cycle. So we'll see what happens as the race goes on.

The Republicans now have a candidate in the 2010 New Hampshire Senate race, where three-term GOP incumbent Judd Gregg is retiring in a state that has swung significantly to the Democrats over the last few years.

State Attorney General Kelly Ayotte has announced her resignation, effective July 17, and that she will explore a Senate bid. The presumptive Democratic nominee is Rep. Paul Hodes.

The Dems have already moved to hamstring Ayotte on the issue of credibility, with Democratic Gov. John Lynch's office saying that he'd reappointed her, despite being a Republican who had first been appointed by his much more conservative predecessor, with her promising that she would serve her full-term through 2013. (New Hampshire cabinet officers are appointed to fixed-length terms by the Governor, with confirmation by a separately elected Executive Council.)

As we've seen over the last week, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) is now going to be a dead-serious public servant, leaving behind the image of the goofy comedian that he'd cultivated for decades before. With that in mind, it's time to remember and say goodbye to Funny Al -- at least for a while.

During the 2008 campaign, Republicans went out of their way to attack Franken for jokes that he'd told over the course of his comedy career, sometimes taking them out of context to make him seem like a real nut-job. Franken clearly adjusted his own demeanor over the course of that race, and he just barely won it in the end. So he'll probably have to be on his best behavior going forward.

As the first part of our trip down memory lane, here's Franken in the early 1980s, along with his writing partner Tom Davis, doing a bang-up impression of the Rolling Stones:

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In interviews released this morning, Sarah Palin repeated that the reason she is stepping down is to spare Alaska from spending more time and money investigating ethics claims against her.

She blamed the ethics complaints on the "opposition research" flooding into Alaska after John McCain named her his running mate to "dig up dirt."

Palin gave a slew of interviews last night at her husband's family's fishing spot in western Alaska. During the photo op, in which she wore overall waders and full makeup, she gave 10 minutes to each news outlet: CNN, NBC, ABC and Anchorage Daily News. (FOX was also there, but hasn't aired the interview yet.)

She noted that she now has $500,000 in legal bills and, although she tried to keep the focus on the state's expenditures, she let loose this key point:

The adversaries would love to see us put on a path of personal bankruptcy so we couldn't afford to run.

That almost seems like an acknowledgment that she had to leave office in order to be able, financially, to run for higher office.

More highlights, and video, after the jump.

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Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has now been sworn into office as the junior Senator from Minnesota, six months and one day after his term would have otherwise begun if not for the super-close election and resulting litigation that kept his victory bottled up.

The former Saturday Night Live performer, author, radio host and Democratic activist, was administered the oath of office by Vice President Joe Biden, and was accompanied by his senior Senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, and former Vice President Walter Mondale.

After Biden said, "Congratulations, Senator," a raucous round of applause broke out in the chamber -- even from the folks on the Republican side of the aisle who showed up. Sen. Franken then hugged many of his new colleagues.

Franken will have a busy time ahead of him -- with seats on the Health and Judiciary committees, he'll be working on both health care reform and the Supreme Court confirmation process for Sonia Sotomayor.

In the wake of this morning's flap over the public option, President Obama has released a statement reaffirming his support for the policy. "I am pleased by the progress we're making on health care reform and still believe, as I've said before, that one of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices, and assure quality is a public option that will force the insurance companies to compete and keep them honest," Obama said. "I look forward to a final product that achieves these very important goals. "

An earlier Wall Street Journal reported that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had suggested that the administration might be willing to accept a number of alternatives. Between the two, the campaign Health Care for American Now is lining up behind Obama.

"Today, President Obama unequivocally reaffirmed his commitment to a public health insurance option as part of comprehensive health care reform this year," noted HCAN's National Campaign Manager Richard Kirsch.

We believe too that a national robust public health insurance plan that is ready on day one is central to lowering costs, injecting competition into the health insurance market, ensuring access to care in every corner of the country, and keeping the insurance companies honest. We look forward to working with the President and Congressional leadership to accomplish these goals.

Reformers acknowledge that Obama's statement doesn't necessarily contradict Emanuel's, but they note that, whatever the explanation for Emanuel's statement, the President has taken the same position on the public option all along.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel suggested Monday that President Obama wants competition injected into the private insurance market--even if that's accomplished without a public option.

Republicans and conservative Democrats have proposed a small handful of alternatives to the public option--all of which have been rejected by reformers. But according to the Wall Street Journal, Obama isn't standing so firm. "Mr. Emanuel said one of several ways to meet President Barack Obama's goals is a mechanism under which a public plan is introduced only if the marketplace fails to provide sufficient competition on its own." Emphasis mine.

This is the so-called trigger mechanism, and it's been roundly rejected by reformers who view it as an escape hatch for insurers who seek to at least delay the creation of a public option. Obama's openness to this idea puts him at odds with key Democrats in both the House and Senate. On Sunday, in words reminiscent of a pledge put forth by the campaign Health Care for America Now, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)--a key point man on the public option--said that a public "has to be available, on the first day, to there shouldn`t be a trigger."

Oh, boy, here we go again.

David Weigel has spotted the National Republican Senatorial Committee posting a new Web video to scare viewers about Al Franken -- using video of Franken paying tribute to his late friend, Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN), and taking it out of context:

During the 2008 campaign, the NRSC ran an ad that featured a seemingly angry Franken yelling out, "You can take this guy!" The Franken campaign responded by running a minute-long TV ad showing what was really happening: He was reminiscing about Paul Wellstone, by doing a funny impression of how Wellstone would act at his son's track meets -- as an overly eager parent cheering on his son, and running alongside him on the whole cross-country run.

Doing a bit of lip-reading of this new video, you can tell that Franken is saying, "You can take this guy!" or, "You can take him!" in all these video segments. Thus, this is all footage of Franken firing up his supporters by doing a goofy impression of his departed friend and political role model.

Late Update: In a comment to Greg Sargent, NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh offered to use a different image of Franken, instead -- which, as we know, is the infamous doctored photo of Franken wearing a diaper, which was first distributed by the Ohio Republican Party in 2006.

I asked Walsh why he was "offering" to use a doctored photo -- and he appeared to defend its authenticity, or at least shift the question over to someone else. "Eric -you'll note the link is to the Los Angeles Times, one of the largest newspapers in the country - if there's a question about the authenticity of the photo, you should direct your question to the LA Times," said Walsh. "That being said, we continue to be both amused and grateful that the Democrats are devoting so much time to ensuring widespread publicity of our web video today."