TPM News

A new survey by Public Policy Polling (D) finds that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) continues to have lackluster approval ratings -- but that his prospects for re-election are simultaneously pretty good, a sign that the political climate is not good for Democrats in this 2010 race.

Burr's approval rating is only 36%, with 35% disapproval and a whopping 29% undecided -- as we've noted before, it's not that Burr is unpopular, but that he hasn't actually made a real impression with the voters during his term. In a way, this makes him a good barometer of the overall political climate in his state.

At the same time, Burr leads a generic Democrat by 45%-34%, and holds double-digit leads over six different named Democrats.

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We're chasing the ball on a new idea (is it a trial balloon? is it the magic answer?) to pass a health care bill with a public option that states--likely small, and conservative states--could choose not to participate in.

As I reported last night, the idea comes from Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), and is being pushed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)--a man with no shortage of clout on the Hill. Appearing on MSNBC a few moments ago, Schumer said the idea's gaining traction.

"That's one of the things being very seriously considered," Schumer said. "I'm not going to -- we have a range of things we're considering. Senator Carper and I met for quite a while last night and made progress and talked to a large number of members last night, yesterday. And I am optimistic that there will be some kind of public option in the bill the president signs. I'm very optimistic."

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Just confirmed: the Senate Finance Committee will vote on its health care reform bill this Tuesday. The news comes after Democrats and chairman Max Baucus got a boost from the Congressional Budget Office, which found that the legislation would require relatively little new spending, while reducing the deficit and bending the health care spending curve downward.

A new Quinnipiac poll has some mixed news for Democrats and President Obama. Though the public supports elements of Obama's health care proposal, only 40 percent approve of his health care plan, while 47 percent disapprove.

This nugget was particularly interesting:

By a 57 - 37 percent margin, voters say Congress should not approve a health care overhaul with only Democratic votes. Democrats are OK with a one-party bill 63 - 29 percent, but opposition is 88 - 9 percent from Republicans and 62 - 32 percent from independent voters.

That's in almost direct contrast to the findings of a recent Research 2000 poll, commissioned by Daily Kos. It asked "Which of the following scenarios do you prefer/ do you prefer? (ROTATED): Getting a health care bill with the choice of a strong public health insurance option to compete with private insurance plans that's supported only by Democrats in Congress, OR Getting a health care bill with no public option that has the support of Democrats and a handful of Republicans?"

When put that way, it turns out the public is perfectly fine with partisanship: 52-39, with nine percent undecided.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on the Senate floor a few minutes ago that the CBO analysis showing that the Senate Finance Committee health reform bill would actually reduce the federal deficit by $81 billion over 10 years is "irrelevant."

"The bill it's referring to will never see the light of day and we all know that," McConnell said. "That's because the real bill will soon be cobbled together in a secret conference room somewhere here in the capitol by a handful of Democratic senators and White House officials."

Um, okay...

We'll have video for you shortly.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) appeared on the O'Reilly Factor last night, where she and O'Reilly discussed, among other things, how successful conservative women bother the left.

"See, I'm not getting -- to me, you're a conservative Republican from a Midwestern -- upper Midwestern state," said O'Reilly, "who speaks her mind articulately, does her job. Why are they coming after you? I don't get it."

"It may bother them that conservative women are happy and don't need government in order to be successful in life," Bachmann replied. "I have a great husband, great kids. I had a great career as a federal tax attorney. And I don't need government to be successful. And it seems like they have a stereotype for women and I don't fit in their stereotype."

It's interesting to see Republicans complaining that a strong and successful woman bothers the left -- considering that this is the same party that has called for Gen. McChrystal to put Speaker Nancy Pelosi "in her place."

Last night on the South Lawn of the White House, Nerd-In-Chief President Obama held an astronomy event for about 150 middle-schoolers from Washington, DC. Watch video of Obama's speech below.

He was joined by key science advisor and physicist John Holdren, as well as astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, "Hubble Repairman" John Grunsfeld and NASA administrators. Obama also introduced Caroline Moore, who discovered a new kind of supernova when she was 14 years old, and Lucas Bolyard, who discovered a pulsar (a rare star) as a high school sophomore.

"Now, if they can discover something great, so can any of you other students who are here tonight," Obama said. "All you need is a passion for science."

The students there had the opportunity to look through 21 telescopes, touch a moon rock, see a meteorite up close and take a 3D tour through the universe in the inflatable NASA Geodome. The President himself was the first to look through one of the telescopes, at "a double-double-star in the Constellation Lyra, 160 light years away," as explained by Holdren. "A hundred and sixty light years -- that's far away," Obama said.

The President emphasized how important science education is -- "This morning, I awarded the National Medals of Science and Technology to individuals who've made extraordinary contributions to the advancement of human knowledge," he said. He then asked the assembled middle-schoolers: "Which one of you are going to come back here to claim your prize?" to which many of the students responded, "Me!"

See video and read the full remarks of the President on astronomy after the jump.

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House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) said on The Early Show that he's meeting with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer later today to try and narrow Republican and Democratic differences on health care reform.

"Today I'm going to sit down with Majority Leader Hoyer and try to look at the things we can agree upon," Cantor said. He then proceeded to slam several parts of the Democratic health care reform plan.

On the CBO report that the $829 billion Senate Finance Committee health care bill would actually reduce the deficit by $81 billion over 10 years, Cantor said, "The claims that we're saving $81 billion by spending $829 billion, you can say that if you wanna go ahead to really rob Peter to pay Paul."

Cantor also said the committee's bill would hurt seniors. "Seniors will have less opportunity, less benefit, less ability to choose the kind of health care they want."

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CBO: Budget Deficit Reaches Record $1.4 Trillion The federal budget deficit for the just-completed fiscal year 2009 reached $1.4 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. This record number was due to multiple factors, including falling tax revenues due to the recession, corporate bailouts and stimulus spending. This was triple the previous record of $459 billion, which was reached last year.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will have lunch at 12 p.m. ET with business leaders. At 2:30 p.m. ET, he will visit the National Naval Medical Center Marine Wounded Warrior basketball game. At 3:15 p.m. ET, Obama and Vice President Biden will meet with Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, and they will meet at 3:30 p.m. ET with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. At 5 p.m. ET, Obama will play basketball with cabinet secretaries and members of Congress.

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