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The new CBS/New York Times poll paints a nearly-identical picture as the Pew poll: Democrats overwhelmingly approve of President Obama while Republicans overwhelmingly dislike him -- and there aren't a lot of Republicans left.

Obama's top-line approval number is 66% to 24%, with 89% of Democrats approving and only 7% disapproving. Among Republicans it's 31% approval to 54% disapproval, for a 55-point gap between Democrats and Republicans on approving of Obama's performance. Meanwhile, independents approve by 63%-24%, nearly identical to the top-line.

But in a way, this really feeds into a narrative I've been noting for a while: That as the Republican base has shrunk, the ones who have peeled away were relative moderates while the people who remain are much more conservative and partisan. And those people would be much less likely to give Obama the benefit of the doubt.

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The big news from yesterday (still settling in across Washington) is that President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates teamed up to propose a sweeping overhaul of the defense budget--calling for the elimination of unnecessary systems and spending the savings on special forces, intelligence equipment, and other tools of counterinsurgent warfare.

In other words, by retooling the Pentagon, Obama and Gates plan to move a lot of money around, but they also plan to increase the overall defense budget. In the final year of the Bush administration (and excluding the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) the defense budget was $513 billion. In FY 2010, if Gates and Obama get their way, it will be $534 billion--$534 billion that will be spent much differently than last year's outlays were.

But you'd never know that from the news coverage.

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The Minnesota election contest is headed into one of its final steps this morning, with officials from the Secretary of State's office preparing to count previously-rejected ballots, after the judges reviewed 387 envelopes yesterday and approved counting an as yet undisclosed number of them. Judge Elizabeth Hayden has just handed down the list of ballots, but the number is not known at this moment.

Video is being carried by our good friends at The Uptake, and the counting itself could happen any minute now, after the envelopes are organized and the ballots separated from them.

Just now, Coleman attorney Tony Trimble just requested a 15-minute recess to review the list, and Hayden refused to grant it, saying the court was ready to proceed.

Meanwhile, the Franken camp sent an e-mail last night to their supporter list, from campaign manager Stephanie Schriock and lead attorney Marc Elias, with Elias explaining that things looked good for them:

Essentially, the Court agreed that the law should be followed as written. That's exactly what our argument has been all along. And although Coleman is likely to appeal in the hopes of finding a venue less picky about the rule of law, our analysis shows that the meticulousness of the Court's procedure and ruling would make such an appeal a difficult proposition.

Full Franken camp e-mail after the jump.

Late Update: Judge Hayden just let everybody know that even if an observer for a candidate were to leave the table, the process would still continue.

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Dawn Gibbons, the first lady of Nevada, has accused Republican Governor Jim Gibbons of infidelity with two women, including a former Playboy model, in divorce papers filed recently. Mrs. Gibbons also claims that the Governor sent 860 improper text messages to an aide, Kathy Karrasch, from a state cell phone. Gibbons repaid the state $130 for the text messages but says that they were not "love notes" and that he was consulting with Karrasch on state business. In court documents, Mrs. Gibbons said that this claim "is false, and is laughable." Gibbons has been accused of improper relations with women in the past, including Chrissy Mazzeo, a former cocktail waitress who is suing Gibbons for allegedly assaulting her in a Las Vegas parking lot. (LA Times)

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The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias has raised $1.1 million for his Senate campaign exploratory committee, in his potential bid in the Democratic primary against Roland Burris -- an extraordinary amount, considering the tough economic environment, and the fact that Giannoulias only got in with 28 days left in the quarter.

The Giannoulias committee also says that this does not include any of his own personal or family wealth, or contributions from PACs.

Said Giannoulias: "We were thrilled and flattered by the outpouring of support that we've received over the last 3 1/2 weeks, and I think it's evidence that people are hungry for fresh leadership and new ideas in Washington, D.C."

Maybe people are just hungry for a candidate who isn't Roland Burris.

The journalist Mark Danner has obtained the entire report on torture by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which he published excerpts from last month. The report has been posted on the website of the New York Review of Books. Danner's new writeup of it is here.

The major new revelation concerns the active participation of medical officers in the interrogation of terrorism suspects in CIA secret prisons. The report, written in 2007, concludes that these officers committed gross violations of medical ethics, and in some cases participated in torture. The report called the CIA program "inhuman."

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Obama: "I'm Not Naïve." Speaking to a student town hall in Istanbul, Turkey, President Obama emphasized both his ambitions and his realism about his hopes for international cooperation. "My attitude is, is that all these things are hard," he said. "I mean, I'm not naïve. If it was easy, it would have already been done. Somebody else would have done it. But if we don't try, if we don't reach high, then we won't make any progress. And I think that there's a lot of progress that can be made."

Obama Tours Turkey, Is Coming Back To Washington President Obama met with religious leaders at 3:50 a.m. ET in Istanbul, Turkey. At 5:10 a.m. ET he toured the Hagia Sophia with Prime Minister Erdogan, and they toured the Blue Mosque at 5:40 a.m. ET. At 6:20 a.m. ET he held a student town hall, and Obama left Turkey at 8:30 a.m. ET. He is scheduled to arrive back in Washington at 5:30 p.m. ET.

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U.S. Air Force personnel transfer the remains of Air Force Staff Sgt. Phillip A. Myers on Dover Air Force Base, Del., Sunday April 5. In addition to allowing media coverage of returning war dead (with families' consent) under its new policy, the Pentagon also released its own photographs of the ceremonies.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

President George H. W. Bush banned the media from photographing the caskets of U.S. soldiers killed in the first Gulf War in 1991. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates lifted the ban in February.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

Myers, of Hopewell, Va., died April 4, 2009, from wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device near Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 48th Civil Engineer Squadron, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

Myers was the first of nearly 5,000 soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan to be photographed by the media while being transferred home in a flag-covered casket.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

Though neither President Clinton nor President Bush challenged the ban, Clinton made an exception following a 2000 terrorist attack on the USS Cole which killed 17 U.S. sailors.


Under the new policy, the soldier's family can decide whether to admit the media to photograph the fallen soldier. During the transfer, photographers refrained from using flash photography.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

Myers served in Operation Enduring Freedom, the official name used by the U.S. government to refer to the War in Afghanistan.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

Much has been made of the new Pew Poll that seems to find President Obama as polarizing figure, with a 61-point differential between the 88% approval among Democrats and the 27% approval from Republicans.

Pew associate director Michael Dimock told Greg Sargent that the amazing part here is the 88% approval among Democrats, which would seem to guarantee a differential high enough to be termed "polarizing."

But here's another theory I have, that I called Dimock up to ask about: That Republican approval of Obama is so low because the number of Republicans is so low -- only 24% self-identification in this survey, in fact, compared to 33% in 2004. Here's how it would work: If the number of Republicans has shrunk, then the people who peeled away would have been the more moderate GOP respondents, the type of people willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt in the form of an approval answer.

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