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As a veteran of the abortion wars, it's no big surprise that Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is making reproductive rights the centerpiece of his (likely) 2012 presidential campaign.

"For me this is an issue that - as I've said before - it transcends all of the political issues," Huckabee told an anti-abortion crowd at a fundraiser the Center for Bioethical Reform. "I've often said I would gladly lose an election before I would ever yield on the issue of the sanctity of human life."

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A group of potential Republican presidential contenders will be headed to Iowa to hold court with a very notable political strategist of the Christian right: Ralph Reed, onetime executive director of the Christian Coalition, and prominent figure in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

The Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, a division of Reed's national Faith & Freedom Coalition, will be holding an event in Waukee on March 7. Reed himself plans to attend, according to the group's press release.

Confirmed to attend are Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and Herman Cain, plus former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer. Also, state-level Republicans such as Gov. Terry Branstad and Congressman Steve King.

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Despite a middling approval rating, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) could easily win reelection in 2012 against a slate of Democratic challengers -- that is, unless popular former governor Phil Bredesen (D) runs against him.

In a new PPP poll, Corker fends off several Democratic candidates, but trails Bredesen by five points, 46% to 41%. None of the other Democratic challengers even came close in the poll.

Corker led Rep. Jim Cooper 50% to 32%; topped former Rep. Bart Gordon 52% to 29%; and bested former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. 55% to 32%. And in two bonus fantasy match-ups, Corker led former Tennessee Senator and Vice President Al Gore 53% to 38%, and beat country singer Tim McGraw 50% to 28%.

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The American Conservative Union banned Frank Gaffney from speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference over the past two years because members of the board who looked into the charges he made against other board members found them to be baseless, a source close to the board tells TPM.

As first reported by Alex Seitz-Wald of Think Progress, the board decided not to invite Gaffney to speak, CPAC Chairman David Keene said.

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Add prominent House Democrats to the list of critics of President Obama's budget. At a press conference Tuesday morning to attack the GOP's budget proposals, it didn't take much to get two longtime members of the House Democratic team to vow that the president's cuts to progressive-friendly programs won't go through without a fight in his own party.

TPM asked several Democrats gathered at Tuesday's presser to comment on progressive attacks on the president's budget, outlined nicely here by Mother Jones' Suzy Khimm. The left has knocked Obama for offering up a budget plan that makes cuts to programs like energy assistance payments for the indigent and Pell grant funding, which helps the poor attend college. Others on the left like Paul Krugman have said the budget cedes the notion that government spending can create jobs to the GOP, which has generally said the best way to make jobs happen is to cut taxes on the wealthy and businesses.

The answer from Democrats to those attacks? The Republican budget is so bad that Obama's budget looks good. Also, they're not going to let that Obama budget go through without a fight, either.

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Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) is no David Vitter (R-LA), the Senator who won reelection last year despite having cheated on his wife with prostitutes. But that doesn't mean he's sitting pretty in the Silver State.

Bogged down by a sex scandal and ethics investigations, a new poll conducted by the Tarrance Group shows that Ensign (R-NV) could get knocked off in a primary challenge next year if he decides to seek reelection.

In the poll, Rep. Dean Heller (R) led Ensign in a head to head primary matchup, 53% to 38%. And while the poll was commissioned by the Heller camp -- usually a sign that it should be taken with a grain of salt -- the results still paint a bleak picture of Ensign's reelection prospects, with Heller coming out on top with several crucial GOP demographics.

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President Barack Obama is trying to tamp down all talk of a government shutdown, predicting that Democrats and Republicans will be able to reach agreement after what is expected to be a pitched, protracted battle over spending.

Obama also said he was encouraged by Republican critics who have accused him of failing to demonstrate strong leadership because his budget, released Monday, did not include cuts to entitlement spending.

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What message should we take away from the Fort Hood massacre, where 13 people were allegedly murdered by radicalized Muslim army psychiatrist Nadal Hasan? According to Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), the takeaway is that the U.S. should to stop beating around the bush and call America's enemies what they supposedly are: "Islamic extremists."

Lieberman convened the hearing ostensibly to discuss the recently-released report that criticized the federal government for failing to prevent the massacre by not taking appropriate action to remove Hasan from the military. But it quickly turned into a denunciation of the language the Administration supposedly uses to discuss violent acts.

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Killing a doctor who performs abortions in South Dakota may soon be, in some circumstances, legally justifiable -- that is, if a bill passed out of committee in the state House of Representatives on Monday, which makes it a "justifiable homicide" for someone to kill someone attempting to harm an unborn child, becomes law.

State Rep. Phil Jensen (R), who introduced the bill, denied that the it would open the door to killing abortion doctors, since abortion is legal. "This code only deals with illegal acts, which doesn't include abortion," he told TPM.

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Here's how the federal spending fight is shaping up -- just barely over two weeks from March 4, when the government officially runs out of money.

Democrats are warning House Republicans not to force a government shutdown while Republicans are adding more and more cuts to spending legislation -- which is being debated on the floor this week. If the March 4 deadline passes before Congress reaches an agreement, House Republicans say they'll agree to a stop-gap measure (perhaps at reduced spending levels) to allow more time to negotiate six-month spending plan.

But whether Democrats and Republicans can reach a global spending agreement, and whether that agreement will be forged on Democratic or Republican terms, depend to a great extent on negotiating tactics. Will Republicans be willing to budge from their spending levels, and particular allocations? Will Barack Obama threaten a veto?

At a roundtable with reporters Tuesday morning, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) explained the stakes.

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