TPM News

The only Republican presidential contender consistently leading President Obama in 2012 polling is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

The failed 2008 presidential candidate is showing some early signs of Mitt-Mentum, currently leading President Obama 45.6% to 44.3% in the TPM Poll Average of national polls. The latest boost to Romney's numbers came over the weekend in a McClathcy-Marist poll that gave Romney a 46%-44% edge over President Obama in a head-to-head matchup.

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The Virginia federal district court judge who ruled yesterday that the individual mandate in the health care bill is unconstitutional is catching a lot of flack -- and not just for having a financial interest in an anti-health care reform consulting firm.

Legal experts are attacking Judge Henry Hudson's decision on the merits, citing an elementary logical flaw at the heart of his opinion. And that has conservative scholars -- even ones sympathetic to the idea that the mandate is unconstitutional -- prepared to see Hudson's decision thrown out.

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Jon Stewart last night took on Republicans' blocking of all legislation until the Bush-era tax cuts compromise is passed, focusing on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell debate, the DREAM act and the 9/11 responders bill.

"I get the other two, but since when does the Republican party make 9/11 first responders stand over in the corner with the gays and Mexicans?" Stewart said.

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The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch has filed a petition with the New York State Supreme Court demanding that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg release all records of communication with the leader of the future Islamic community center in downtown Manhattan as well as a slew of other Muslim groups.

"Mayor Bloomberg's support for the Ground Zero mosque needs to be fully explored. New Yorkers are going to want to know how closely he's working with the radicals supporting the Ground Zero mosque," the president of Judicial Watch, Tom Fitton, said in a press release. "It is troubling that the Mayor's office cannot be bothered to comply with the open records law. What is the Mayor's office hiding?"

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by Sharona Coutts, ProPublica

For-profit universities collected about $640 million from the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill in its first year, according to a new U.S. Senate committee report. The boost to for-profits came at a time when the sector was subject to criticism for poor results and for leaving many students with unmanageable debts.

By aggressively recruiting members of the military, the schools have tapped a rich new source of government cash, in addition to the billions they've already absorbed from the federal Pell Grant program, according to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, whose committee has been investigating alleged abuses at for-profit colleges.

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When we last checked in with the legislative effort to repeal the military's ban on openly gay servicemembers, Senate supporters of repeal had been stymied by a failed cloture vote on the defense spending bill that included repeal language. A last-ditch effort to save repeal emerged in the form of a standalone repeal bill separate from the defense bill, which proponents say has attracted 40 sponsors so far.

There are three obstacles facing that bill: first, it has to attract enough supporters to move on the Senate floor (that magic 60 votes); second, room has to be found for the bill the crowded lame duck calendar; and third, the House must be able to pass it's own version of the repeal, and do it quickly.

Reports Monday and sources on the Hill report that the standalone bill is making progress on all fronts.

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For all the champagne spilled at the Heritage Foundation yesterday, the Virginia health care ruling is a fairly small setback for the Obama administration on its winding path to the Supreme Court, which will make the final call on the constitutionality of the individual mandate.

With this in mind, I think it's important for everybody who feels strongly about the health care reform law -- from Jim DeMint to President Obama -- to think through what happens if SCOTUS sides with reform opponents. If it happens -- a big if -- then, in all likelihood, the mandate's out the window along with popular provisions banning discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, and underwriting insurance based on medical history.

It would be really, really boneheaded for the White House to react by leading the charge for restoring the mandate on constitutionally firmer grounds (though there are ways to do that).

Instead, the White House would be smart to have a piece of legislation written and ready to send to Congress, which would simply restore the discrimination bans. Decry the Court's decision, and then demand that Congress act quickly to make sure these important patient rights aren't dragged down by activist judges. Something like that.

Then sit back and let Congress sort out how to forbid discrimination against people with pre-existing discriminations in a viable way. Let the insurance industry come begging for a new mandate, and, if it's so important, let them scare up Republican votes to get it passed. If they can't, then it's up or down on the very most popular piece of health care reform, and Republicans will have to decide how much they really want to repeal "Obamacare."

The White House seems fond of falling on its face by taking ownership of things they should let their nemeses demand -- the tax cuts in the stimulus bill, the individual mandate, offshore drilling, the federal pay freeze, etc. But if SCOTUS strikes the mandate, they'll have another chance to get it right.