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A new survey by Public Policy Polling (D) finds that Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) high profile as a conservative firebrand doesn't seem to be hurting her back home -- in fact, a majority of her constituents approve of her job performance, and they don't think she's an extremist.

Bachmann's approval rating is 53%, with 41% disapproval. She leads both of her Democratic opponents by substantial margins, ahead of state Sen. Tarryl Clark by 55%-37%, and leading former University of Minnesota regent Maureen Reed by 53%-37%. The pollster notes that the challengers have low name recognition, but the points stands that a well-known incumbent is over the 50-percent mark.

Respondents were also asked: "Do you consider Michele Bachmann's political views to be extremist?" Here the answer is 37% yes, 54% no. This might seem a bit odd; you'd think that usually people would consider it extreme to repeatedly call for revolution, express concerns about census data being used to create internment camps, and warn against "government re-education camps."

Bachmann's district is always tough ground for Democrats. George W. Bush carried it by double-digit margins twice, and John McCain held on to it by 53%-45%. President Obama's approval rating is only 39% in this district, with 55% disapproval. Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar is at 45%-43%, and Democratic Sen. Al Franken is at 37%-53%. If the horse-race numbers hold up in 2010, then it would be the first time that Bachmann herself would get over 51% support at the polls.

"Michele Bachmann's constituents don't seem to mind her penchant for controversial comments," said PPP president Dean Debnam, in the polling memo. "Given how poorly national Democrats rate in the district they probably agree with a lot of them."

If Rep. Parker Griffith (soon-to-be R-AL) thought the Republican base would welcome him with open arms, he may be getting a wake up call as news of his party switch spreads across the internet.

Two prominent names in the conservative movement -- Erick Erickson at RedState and The Club For Growth -- have promised Griffith will have a tough time convincing Republicans to vote for him, despite the fact that he's now one of their own. Griffith, a self-professed Blue Dog Democrat, has been far to the right of House Democrats this year, even promising to vote against another term as Speaker for Nancy Pelosi.

But those stances aren't enough for Erickson and the Club, both of which say the GOP primary will be a tough one for the Democrat-turned-Republican.

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Looks like Sen. Kit Bond isn't the only United States senator who likes to riff on "Twas the night before Christmas."

Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) had a bit of fun on the Senate floor today with his own version of the holiday rhyme, taking aim at Republicans and saying that a "good bill" would emerge from the health care debate.

We clipped the moment. Watch:

Asked today about Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-CT) claim that President Obama didn't pressure him on a public option, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama "absolutely" did everything he could for health care reform.

Gibbs said Obama has been clear on what he supported, and senators have been clear on what they didn't support. He added that the president is very pleased with the Senate bill, which has 95 percent of what he wanted.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) told TPMDC that he was surprised Obama didn't push for it. "I just assumed that" he did, Harkin said.

Reporting by Christina Bellantoni.

The transgender anarchist charged with smashing windows at the Colorado Democratic Party headquarters last summer has entered a guilty plea, the Denver Post reports today.

Maurice Joseph Schwenkler, who goes by Ariel Attack, will receive a year of probation and must pay $5,000 in restitution for the 11 windows Schwenkler and an unnamed accomplice smashed with hammers on August 25.

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First, a major DC snowstorm called into doubt whether health care reform legislation could pass the Senate by Christmas. Now, a major midwest ice storm is making it possible that the bill might pass earlier than expected.

In response to a question from TPMDC at a press conference this morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he remains hopeful that a final vote on health care might happen tomorrow

"We are focused on one thing, and one thing alone, and that is passing this bill," Reid said. "We hope to be able to debate tomorrow. Certainly with ice storms coming to the midwest, we hope that we can finish tomorrow and not have to be here [Christmas eve]."

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) confirmed to me after the event that there's an effort underway to speed the process along, so that members can get home before the midwest gets pummeled.

"I think there's some effort on that regard, but that's at a different pay grade than mine."

The House Republican caucus is getting a present in its Christmas stocking: A new member of the caucus, with freshman conservative Democratic Congressman Parker Griffith of Alabama switching parties.

Griffith's switch was first reported by Politico, and confirmed to TPM by a GOP source who requested anonymity so as not to pre-empt Griffith's official announcement later today. Griffith's change of party puts the current makeup of the House at 257 Democrats to 178 Republicans -- the GOP would need to pick up 40 seats, without any other party switches, to win control in 2010.

Griffith, a medical doctor and former Alabama state legislator, was first elected to Congress in 2008, to an open seat previously held by retiring Blue Dog Democratic Rep. Bud Cramer. John McCain carried his district by 61%-38%, while Griffith defeated Republican opponent Wayne Parker by the slender margin of 51%-48%. Over this past summer, he told a local newspaper that he wouldn't support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker again, saying she was too divisive.

Griffith's party switch will provide Republicans with some rhetorical muscle about people rushing to their banner against the Democratic agenda, but in practical terms in Congress it won't mean much for Democrats. Griffith was a consistent vote against the Democratic agenda this whole year -- as examples, he voted against the stimulus, against the cap-and-trade bill, and against the health care bill.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs took a shot at RNC Chair Michael Steele today, referencing a Washington Times story about Steele's speaking fees and calling him "delusional."

Gibbs was asked about Steele's comment yesterday that Congress is "flipping the bird" at the American people.

"How much did that interview cost him?" Gibbs asked, eliciting sitcom-style "ooo"s from the press corps.

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