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One of the most influential Democratic operatives in Washington says the GOP plan to extract enormous conservative concessions from President Obama in exchange for raising the debt ceiling will backfire. If Republicans push ahead with this tactic, they'll be forced to backpedal quickly.

"That that's like playing Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun. I think that gun's actually pointed at the Republican leadership's head, not so much at the White House," John Podesta told me after a presentation at his think tank, the Center for American Progress. "I think they will find soon enough that if they try the same tactics they used in the 2011 [spending] battle with respect to the debt limit, you're going to see markets react to that in a very, very negative way and there's going to be a lot of pressure on them to get realistic, and at least with respect to the debt limit, to move forward in a more cooperative way."

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Following President Obama's lead, Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told reporters on Tuesday that he blew it by voting against a debt limit increase under President Bush.

"Let me be the first to observe that I voted against the debt limit in the past," he said. "That was a mistake."

Nonetheless, Hoyer contrasted Democratic votes against past debt limit increases, which he said were symbolic protests against the Bush tax cuts, with current Republican demands for spending cuts and new budget rules in exchange for their vote, which he warned could lead to catastrophe.

"You try to make the point knowing full well that the debt limit had to pass," he said of Democrats' past opposition to raising the debt ceiling.

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Eccentric billionaire, real estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump is now tied for the lead in the Republican presidential primary race, according to a CNN poll released today.

That finding caps off a stunning two weeks that have seen Trump rising in the GOP field nationally and polling near the front of the pack in crucial early primary states. And while the primaries are still a long way off, and only a few candidates are officially in the field, it raises the question of just how viable a Trump candidacy would be.

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Only a few months removed from a landslide election that threw control of the House of Representatives back to Republicans, a plurality of registered voters now say the new GOP majority is doing a worse job than Democrats did when they controlled the lower chamber of Congress.

In a PPP poll released Tuesday, 43% of voters said Republicans are doing a worse job running the House than Democrats did before being ousted in last year's midterms. Meanwhile, 36% said Republicans were doing a better job than their counterparts, and an additional 19% said things are about the same.

The poll also found that a plurality of voters (48%) now say the Republican party is "extremist," while 40% say the party is mainstream. The numbers were almost flipped on the Democratic side, with 46% viewing the party as mainstream, and 39% viewing it as extremist.

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Efforts to ban high-capacity gun magazines, like the one allegedly used by accused Tuscon shooter Jared Loughner, are gaining some momentum. On Tuesday morning, Kelly O'Brien - the fiancée of congressional staffer Gabe Zimmerman, who was killed in the Tuscon rampage - joined legislators for a press conference to endorse House and Senate bills banning high-capacity magazines, or assault clips.

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The Republican opening bid in the fiscal war of 2011 is to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid, and to lower tax rates on the wealthiest Americans.

The Democrats, by contrast, will enter the sweepstakes with ... the Simpson-Bowles recommendations?

For the uninitiated, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles co-chaired the White House's fiscal commission, and personally recommended a series of conservative leaning policy proposals for reducing deficits and debt over the long-term. They floated their proposals after the commission itself was unable to reach a consensus. Among their proposals were reducing top tax rates and simplifying the system by eliminating loopholes and giveaways in the code.

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Over the last few years in the hotly contested debate over Congress' ability to direct money to pet projects in their district, advocates of the practice, known as earmarking, have repeatedly argued that eliminating earmarks would only amount to a drop in the deficit bucket and have no real impact on overall spending.

The details of the deal to avert a government shutdown go a long way in undermining that point as the government is saving $10 billion by eliminating money usually set aside for earmark spending, including $630 million for so-called earmarks to nowhere, money for earmarks that has never been spent.

The latest measure that funds the government through the end of September even slashes $4.2 billion in Department of Defense earmarks, once a sacred cow of senior lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

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Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) released a personal, videotaped apology to Talking Heads frontman David Byrne on Monday for using one of the band's songs without permission in a campaign video last year.

Byrne brought a $1 million lawsuit against Crist for using the song "Road to Nowhere" in a campaign video attacking his then opponent Marco Rubio, in last year's elections. Crist's videotaped apology is reportedly part of an undisclosed settlement reached between the two parties.

"The use of David Byrne's song and his voice in my campaign advertisement without his permission was wrong and should not have occurred," Crist says in the video.

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As Americans pore over the newly released details of the bipartisan $39.9 billion in cuts agreed to last week, Majority Leader Harry Reid is defending the deal as a success for Democrats.

"While both parties may agree, in principle, that a budget is more than simply a collection of numbers, our priorities couldn't be more different," Reid said in a statement. He went on to list a number of areas where the GOP failed to secure their demands, repeatedly declaring that Democrats "stayed true to our values," and used the agreement to highlight key differences between the parties.

"Throughout this debate, we stayed true to our values," he said. "The American people noticed, and they're glad we did. By clear majorities, our constituents are glad we stood up for health reform, for women's health, for cleaner air, and on and on."

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