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Shot: "We love watching the spats on their side," a Republican Senate aide told me. "Right now, believe it or not, we are much more unified than they are --even our moderates are on board." --Stephen Moore, Wall Street Journal

Chaser: This, this, this, this and this. And others

Much of what transpired this past week has been baked into a dynamic that's existed in the GOP for a very long time. It was always going to be impossible for House Republicans to get a budget through the Senate that the right flank of their party didn't reject. Democrats, in my view, made a huge error in not recognizing this -- that they still control about three-fourths of the decision making apparatus -- and adopting the GOP view that spending, for whatever reason, must be cut.

Republicans claimed a huge mandate, over-reached and will now have to scale back their ambitions. Viewed in isolation, it looks like a huge cave. But viewed over a span of months, they achieved much larger policy gains than a party in their position should, and Democrats have themselves to blame for that.

But, credit where due -- once that was set in stone, Schumer played the chess game pretty flawlessly.

The House and Senate Ethics Committees are supposed to be the two panels in Congress that operate, to the best of their ability, in a nonpartisan way. At least, that's what they say.

There are plenty of internal committee rules stating that all staff must be non-partisan and abide by rules barring them from engaging in political or partisan activity of any kind. But there is little proof, as TPM has discovered, that anyone is enforcing these rules.

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President Obama comfortably leads a slate of potential 2012 Republican challengers, not because he is particularly strong, but because his potential challengers are so weak, according to a new PPP poll of registered voters nationwide.

Obama posted a fairly middling approval rating in the poll, with both 47% of respondents approving of his job performance, and 47% disapproving. Yet each of the GOP candidates tested against him fared much worse, with none of them earning a net positive favorability rating.

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In the not-so-cleverly titled segment "Barack-etology 2011" President Obama appeared on ESPN today to show the nation how he's filled out his NCAA bracket, predicting which college basketball teams will do well in March Madness. Obama is an admittedly big sports fan, and many will this sort of light and fun activity as a chance for the President to connect with the hundreds of thousands of avid March Madness fans who are his constituents.

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer that she will not serve in a second term of the Obama administration -- and she also does not want to be president, the office for which she narrowly lost the Democratic nomination to Obama in 2008 after she had previously been the frontrunner.

Key quote:

Q- Would you like to be president of the United States


Q- Why not?

Because I have the best job I could ever have. This is a moment in history where it is almost hard to catch your breath. There are both the tragedies and disasters that we have seen from Haiti to Japan and there are the extraordinary opportunities and challenges that we see right here in Egypt and in the rest of the region. So I want to be part of helping to represent the United States at this critical moment in time, to do everything I can in support of the president and our government and the people of our country to stand for our values and our ideals, to stand up for our security, which has to remain first and foremost in my mind and to advance America's interests. And there isn't anything that I can imagine doing after this that would be as demanding, as challenging or rewarding.

Q- President of the United States?

You know, I had a wonderful experience running and I am very proud of the support I had and very grateful for the opportunity, but I'm going to be, you know, moving on.

A coalition of pro gun-control groups met with Obama administration officials at the Justice Department Tuesday to discuss ways to prevent gun violence.

The meeting at DOJ headquarters, the first in a series of meetings the administration is trying to schedule to address the issue, was led by Christopher H. Schroeder, Assistant Attorney General for DOJ's Office of Legal Policy. Representatives of the White House, the Vice President's office, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were also in attendance.

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Ahead of yesterday's House vote to fund the federal government, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) painted the Republicans rebelling against Speaker John Boehner from the right as Scott Walker Republicans -- uninterested in compromise, single-minded in pursuit of a right-wing policy agenda.

The statement quickly diffused through the Capitol, and Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) -- an influential conservative and former Republican leader, who voted against the spending measure -- took kindly to it. On Twitter, Pence joked, "Sen. Schumer called us 'Scott Walker Republicans?' That's the nicest thing anybody has said about me in a long time!"

Turns out this is a view shared by both the so-called "Scott Walker Republicans" themselves, and Republicans who voted to pass the compromise plan.

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Last year, a group of conservatives got together to beg Rep. Michele Bachmann to run for House Speaker after the Republicans won control of the House. They weren't very successful -- only 800 people signed up by the last time the group updated their website and, of course, Bachmann did not run for the job now held by John Boehner.

But now that same group is pushing Bachmann to run for the highest position in the country. And this time, if the tea leaves Bachmann's leaving all over the early presidential primary states are being read correctly, they may get their wish.

"We forced the establishment to respect the will of the Tea Party, and our petition drive made national news," the leaders of wrote of their November campaign to "nearly 1,000 supporters" in an email the group shared with reporters Wednesday. "Now, we have set our sights on a bigger goal: convincing Michele to run for president."

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