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Democrats think they have David Vitter dead to rights. Travel records, they say, indicate that Vitter's one-time aide Brent Furer twice used taxpayer money to travel to Louisiana to defend himself in court on drunk driving charges. Those same records suggest that Furer seldom traveled to Louisiana on congressional business.

A TPM survey of records from Vitter's Senate office finds that Furer made just six official trips from DC to New Orleans while working for Vitter. Two of those trips coincide with court dates alone. Two others were to attend a Vittter staff retreat (one of which also overlapped with a court date). One, in August 2007, coincides with the emergence of Vitter's prostitution scandal, and the sixth took place from April 29 through May 3, 2005.

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Democrats Hope Money, Manpower Stem Losses The Associated Press reports: "Under no illusions about their challenges this fall, Democrats are expressing optimism that the party's financial might and voter turnout operations will help stem widespread losses. The GOP's governing track record may help, too, they say. 'There's a lot of doom and gloom about it, but I think we're going to do a lot better than people think,' Tim Kaine, the Democratic Party chairman, told Democratic National Committee members at a two-day meeting. 'We've got a long way to go, but I think a number of factors are moving in the right direction for us.'

Anthony Kennedy Favors Civilian Courts In Terrorism Cases The Associated Press reports: "Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said Thursday that most terrorism cases should be tried in civilian courts. Kennedy addressed participants in the 9th Circuit Judicial Conference on Maui, where a panel discussion earlier this week reached a consensus in favor of using civilian courts instead of military commissions in most terrorism cases. 'Article III courts are quite capable of trying these terrorist cases,' Kennedy said, agreeing with the conclusion."

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The race for Missouri's open Senate seat has to be one of the strangest out there this year. As Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) and Rep. Roy Blunt (R) slug it out, the backdrop of this battleground includes tea party spats, attacks over the bailout and Carnahan adopting the GOP positions on tax cuts for the rich.

Carnahan Thursday told voters at the Missouri State Fair she believes "now is not the time to raise taxes" for members of any income class, Huffington Post reported and confirmed with the campaign after catching the news on a St. Louis scribe's Twitter feed.

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It turns out that there is a state in the union that has enacted a broad standard of religious equality that would fully allow for the development of religious community structures such as the Cordoba House in downtown New York City, without regard to the religion of the organizers. This center of enlightenment and civil libertarianism is none other than...Arizona!

That's right. The same state that passed a tough new immigration law this year, and flirted with one requiring presidential candidates to provide their birth certificates, also passed a law this year that would expand religious freedom in the matter of building houses of worship. And its conservative proponents fully acknowledge that it applies equally to Muslims as it does to Christians.

As the Arizona Republic reported:

State lawmakers strengthened churches' rights this year, passing a law that prohibits cities and towns from using zoning codes or land-use rules to restrict where religious facilities such as churches, mosques or synagogues can locate.

Planned mosques in New York, California and Tennessee have spurred community opposition recently. But any mosque planned for Arizona could build where it pleased, as long as it complied with any local zoning and building requirements that would apply to other development.

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Perhaps it's no longer surprising in the current climate, but yet another mosque construction project is coming under increased attack from critics this month. It's time to add Florence, Kentucky to the list of controversial Islamic construction projects stretching from Temecula, California to Murfreesboro, Tennessee to, of course, lower Manhattan.

It may be that the Cordoba House project in New York has led to increased attention on -- and opposition to -- the Florence, Kentucky mosque project, which has been in the planning stages since at least 2002. At least one Republican politician has weighed in on both, and the answer is (or, really, is not) surprising: he says one shouldn't be built, while construction of the other is Constitutionally guaranteed.

Here's a description of the project in question from the Northern Kentucky Enquirer:

The site is identified as a 5.58-acre parcel at 900 Cayton Road in Florence. It is in the section that runs between Mall Road and Hopeful Church Road, behind Kroger and the former Hollywood Video site.


Sounds tame enough -- and picturesque to boot. Who wouldn't want to worship next to an old Hollywood Video? When the proposed site was announced July 26, the mosque seemed to be unimportant to the residents of Florence, according to the Enquirer.

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1||As TPM has documented, President Obama loves to play sports. But we noticed that when he's not actually participating in athletic contests, he sure spends a lot of time hanging around athletes...

On January 25, 2010, Obama welcomes Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, and the rest of the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers to the White House. ||Newscom/UPI&&

2||April 5, 2010: Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman congratulates the President after he throws out the first pitch at a game. ||Newscom/UPI&&

3||May 21, 2009: President Obama talks with Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward at a community service event on the South Lawn of the White House.||Newscom/UPI&&

4||July 14, 2009: Obama talks with baseball great Willie Mays aboard Air Force One en route to the MLB All-Star Game in St. Louis, Missouri.||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza&&

5||April 26, 2010: New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera shakes hands with the President. The Yankees were welcomed at the White House after winning the 2009 World Series.||Newscom/IconPhotos&&

6||April 27, 2009: Obama watches as members of the NCAA champion University of Connecticut women's basketball team shoot hoops at the White House. President Obama earlier honored the team at a ceremony on the South Portico of the White House.||Newscom/White House via CNP&&

7||July 14, 2009: Obama talks with Seattle Mariners star Ichiro Suzuki in the locker room before the start of the MLB All-Star Game. ||Newscom/Rapport&&

8||September 10, 2009: The President holds the Stanley Cup while honoring the 2009 champion Pittsburgh Penguins.||Newscom/UPI&&

9||September 16, 2009: Obama fences with Tim Morehouse, who won a silver medal in Beijing in 2008, at a White House event to promote Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics.||Newscom/UPI&&

10||August 9, 2010: Obama greets quarterback Drew Brees and the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints at a White House celebration. ||Newscom/Sipa&&

11||August 1, 2010: The President slaps hands with Tulsa Shock player Jennifer Lacy during a WNBA game. ||Newscom/RCP&&

12||July 14, 2009: Obama talks with Milwaukee Brewer slugger Prince Fielder, left, and the Phillies' Ryan Howard while visiting the National League locker room before the start of the MLB All-Star Game.||Newscom/Sipa&&

13||August 8, 2010: Obama jokes with Chicago Bulls players Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose. The President played basketball with friends and college and professional basketball players before an audience that included wounded warriors at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza&&

14||May 27, 2010: Vice President Joe Biden, Obama, and former President Bill Clinton pose with the U.S. soccer team at the White House.||Newscom/Black Star&&

15||July 14, 2009: Obama embraces St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols.||Newscom/kyodo&&

16||August 19, 2009: The President poses with 2008 Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson at a ceremony for NASCAR drivers on the South Lawn of the White House. ||Newscom/CNP&&

17||May 11, 2009: Obama waves to coach Roy Williams and the 2009 NCAA men's basketball champion University of North Carolina Tar Heels at the conclusion of a ceremony honoring the team at the White House.||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza&&

18||October 2, 2009: President Obama greets former Olympic athletes, including Jackie Joyner-Kersee and David Robinson, at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark.||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza&&

Sarah Palin continues to defend Dr. Laura Schlessinger's use of the word "n****r" and blame liberals for forcing the controversial conservative radio show off the air. But just a few months ago Palin was adamant that using the "N-word," and other offensive terms, should be a firing offense...if you're a Democrat.

"I would ask the president to show decency in this process by eliminating one member of [his] inner circle, Mr. Rahm Emanuel," Palin wrote in February. "The Obama Administration's Chief of Staff scolded [liberal critics] calling them, 'F---ing retarded,' according to several participants, as reported in the Wall Street Journal. Just as we'd be appalled if any public figure of Rahm's stature ever used the "N-word" or other such inappropriate language, Rahm's slur on all God's children with cognitive and developmental disabilities - and the people who love them - is unacceptable, and it's heartbreaking."

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A new poll out of Kentucky shows Democratic Senate nominee Jack Conway closing the gap with his Republican counterpart, Rand Paul. The race stands as essentially a dead heat, according to the poll, with Conway just barely ahead 41.7-41.2.

The survey of 801 likely voters was conducted Aug. 16-18 by Braun Research on behalf of Kentucky cable news channel CN2. The margin of error is 3.46%.

The new poll shows a big swing toward Conway. The last Braun research poll, from August 4, showed Paul leading Conway 40.6-31.4.

Other recent polling has shown Paul with a lead in the contest. The TPM Poll Average shows the Republican ahead 45.4-41.0.

But the numbers also show that Conway could be making up ground against the Republican. Check out the polling trendline:

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A Republican nominee for a big House race in Ohio is now declining to say whether he thinks President Obama is a Muslim.

"I don't have a position on whether he's a Muslim," said Tom Ganley, an auto dealer and self-funding GOP nominee for Congress in Ohio's 13th District, in an interview with Roll Call. This interview came in the wake of a Pew national poll showing that 18% of Americans think that Obama is a Muslim -- nearly twice the number from last year.

Ganley is running against second-term Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton, in a district that voted 57%-42% for Obama in 2008. He had initially been running for Senate, challenging Rob Portman for the GOP nomination, but was recruited by the party back in February to switch races and go for the House. He has already put $6.5 million of his own money into the race.

Hot on the heels of the Prop 8 ruling in California that determined a ban on same sex marriage violates California's constitution, a federal judge officially entered his judgment in a case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, giving the federal government 60 days to decide whether to appeal.

Judge Joseph Tauro ruled in early July that DOMA, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, is unconstitutional. Yesterday, he officially entered the judgment, starting a 60-day clock for the Justice Department to decide whether to appeal his ruling.

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