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Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) has endorsed Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman in the NY-23 special election, in a statement provided to the Weekly Standard, and is blasting the GOP for picking moderate Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava:

Political parties must stand for something. When Republicans were in the wilderness in the late 1970s, Ronald Reagan knew that the doctrine of "blurring the lines" between parties was not an appropriate way to win elections. Unfortunately, the Republican Party today has decided to choose a candidate that more than blurs the lines, and there is no real difference between the Democrat and the Republican in this race. This is why Doug Hoffman is running on the Conservative Party's ticket.

Republicans and conservatives around the country are sending an important message to the Republican establishment in their outstanding grassroots support for Doug Hoffman: no more politics as usual.


Just think about the seriousness of the split in Republican ranks over this race -- the nominee for Vice President in last year's election is now rejecting the party's candidate in a Congressional race, where the divisions among the right are threatening to hand a GOP-held seat to the Democrats.

The three candidates in New Jersey met for their final debate, a radio debate as opposed to TV. The big focus of the night was the state's property taxes, along with discussion of another big issue in New Jersey, public corruption.

Hot-button issues like health care and gay marriage were not to be found. Property taxes are a major funding mechanism for government in New Jersey -- and represent a huge burden on residents, and are thus a major campaign issue. The candidates were all asked how much they personally pay in property taxes. Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine pays about $35,000 or $36,000, Republican nominee Chris Christie pays $38,000, and independent Chris Daggett pays $18,000.

They all went through their proposals about what to do to change this. Corzine discussed his administration's accomplishments in promoting local government consolidations. Christie talked about putting pressure on local government to reduce spending, and to force consolidations by giving grants to towns to explore it -- and if it's found that consolidation would save money, they must either consolidate or pay the state the money back from the study. Daggett called for a hard cap on municipal spending, with very few exceptions, combined with an expanded sales tax base.

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October 10: October has been a busy, busy, busy month: there's health care, Afghanistan, financial matters, speeches. Here, Obama speaks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Official White House photo by Pete Souza




October 10: Pictured here is the presidential limousine, ready to whisk Obama off to the Human Rights Campaign's dinner for his speech on gay rights. At the dinner, he promised to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy




October 11: The Obama family makes its way from the White House to St. John's Church to worship at its Sunday morning services.

Newscom/Kristoffer Tripplaar/UPI




October 13: The day the Senate Finance Committee passes its health care bill, the President walks to the Rose Garden podium to laud its work. He singles out Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) for her "political courage" and "seriousness of purpose."
He continues: "As a result of these efforts, we are now closer than ever before to passing health reform. But we're not there yet. Now is not the time to pat ourselves on the back. Now is not the time to offer ourselves congratulations. Now is the time to dig in and work even harder to get this done."

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy




October 13: A working lunch with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Their last meeting, at the G-20 Summit, engendered some controversy when Zapatero's never-before-photographed daughters appeared on the State Department's Flickr account.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




October 13: A quick team huddle with Rahm Emanuel, Robert Gibbs, Phil Schiliro and Ben Rhodes, before a press conference with Prime Minister Zapatero.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




The Obamas take in the performance at the White House's "Fiesta Latina."

Official White House photo by Pete Souza




Los Lobos from Chicago enlivens Fiesta Latina.

Official White House photo by Pete Souza




The Obamas cut a rug.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




Obama salsas with singer Thalia.

Official White House photo by Samanatha Appleton




October 14: James and Dolley Madison's portraits hover over Obama and adviser Chris Lu in the Blue Room.

Official White House photo by Pete Souza




October 14: Obama touts the stimulus at a large public works project in Fairfax, Va.

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson




October 14: As a climate change meeting concludes, the President still has some points for Axelrod and Emanuel.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




October 14: Obama talks with Vicki Kennedy, the widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy, and the senator's children, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Teddy Kennedy Jr. and Kara Kennedy, prior to an event celebrating the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




October 14: Sri Narayanachar Digalakote, a Hindu priest from the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Maryland, gives Obama a red shawl. Later, Obama signed the Asian American and Pacific Islander Initiative Executive Order and held a Diwali festival of lights ceremony.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




October 14: Obama walks on stage after being introduced by Rep. Patrick Kennedy at an event celebrating the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




October 15: Obama waits for his introduction during the Democratic National Committee dinner at the Westin St. Francis Hotel, in San Francisco, Calif.

Pete Souza/White House




October 15: Obama speaks students during a visit to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School in New Orleans, La.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




October 15: Students meet Obama during his visit to New Orleans.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




October 16: Obama says goodbye to former President George H. W. Bush and former Secretary of State James A. Baker, before leaving College Station, Texas. Obama and Bush spoke to Texas A&M University students about the important of community service.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




October 16: President Obama meets with Bush, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, before the Points of Light forum at Texas A&M University.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




October 16: Obama, Bush and Gates greet Marine Corps cadets in the Marine Corps Mess Hall at Texas A&M University.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




October 21: Obama meets with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in the Oval Office upon his return from Afghanistan. Kerry helped persuade Afghan President Hamid Karzai to accept a runoff election.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

For days there was silence. And then this morning and afternoon, the floodgates opened. Senators began saying, on the record, that Democratic leadership was leaning toward putting a public option--with an opt out clause--in the base Senate health care bill.

But, as a source close to the negotiations told me, there's more to leadership's inclination than meets the eye. Part of the play here is to see whether this news causes Senate centrists to flip out. A classic trial balloon. So far, only Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) has said it will likely cost Harry Reid her cloture vote. Conservative Democrats might not be pleased, but so far they're keeping it fairly bottled up. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) voiced some displeasure, but nobody's gone into revolt.

Assuming the calm endures, chances seem pretty good that this is the direction Reid will take. But it won't be set in stone...until it's set in stone. As Greg Sargent has noted, the votes aren't there yet for a straightforward public option like the level-playing-field plan in the Senate HELP Committee's bill. In other words, negotiations will continue.

Former Florida state House Speaker Marco Rubio, the conservative insurgent candidate in the Republican primary for Senate, appeared on the Fox Business Channel to draw contrast between himself and the moderate Gov. Charlie Crist -- and gave a very broad, telling statement about the direction of the Republican Party.

Rubio attacked Crist for supporting President Obama's stimulus bill, supporting cap-and-trade, and for raising taxes and fees in Florida. "I don't believe that's the direction our party should head, and more importantly, I think now more than ever we need to send people to Washington, D.C., that will stand up to the agenda of Barack Obama and of the leaders of the Congress, not cooperate with them on these things -- and more importantly, that will offer a clear alternative."

In the current battles between the party establishment and the grassroots right -- such as Rubio vs. Crist in Florida, and Scozzafava vs. Hoffman in NY-23 -- this has become the big issue, of the GOP base wanting to see Republicans who will fight Obama at all fronts, and not cooperate.

Appearing on MSNBC tonight, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) asserted that the Democrats have the votes to break an expected Republican filibuster on health care -- with or without Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

"We have 60 votes without Sen. Snowe, so we can still invoke cloture and move to a vote on the public option," he said. Some moderate Democrats, he added, might oppose the public option, but they'd still vote for cloture.

On Snowe, he said, "I hope we have her, but we may be able to do it without her."

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Bob McDonnell weighed in on a health care public option in an interview on Fox this afternoon. The issue, front and center in the national debate, made its way into the Virginia gubernatorial contest this week after Democratic nominee Creigh Deeds said he'd consider opting Virginia out of a public plan if a federal health care bill allows it.

In an appearance on Fox News this afternoon, McDonnell suggested he'd do the same thing. "Turning over the best doctors, the best hospitals, the best pharmaceutical research and development system to the federal government for a co-op or a public option is [an idea] I don't hear Virginians very excited about," he said.

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Right-wing pundit and neo-conservative think tank head Frank Gaffney had some very strong words against the more dovish Ron Reagan, the liberal son of the late President Ronald Reagan, during a heated argument over Afghanistan on Hardball.

"Your father would be ashamed of you," Gaffney said.

"Oh Frank," Reagan replied, "you better watch your mouth about that, Frank."

When Chris Matthews cut to the commercial break, Reagan said: "I'll see ya later, Frank."

Moments ago, I spoke with Richard Kirsch, campaign director for Health Care for America Now. I described the public option proposal that's being considered in the Senate (outlined by Sen. Tom Carper here) and asked whether it would meet HCAN's muster.

Kirsch said it's too early to tell. "There are a lot of rumors right now," Kirsch cautioned.

He said HCAN will wait until there is a finalized bill on the table before weighing in on whether the public option meets HCAN's principles, which, he reminded me "are that it's national, that it's run by the government or an agency accountable to the government, that it's available on day one," and that it provides competition necessary to drive down premium prices.

In the meantime, he notes, HCAN will be pushing for the most robust public option possible, praising the ideas on offer in the House of Representatives.

Gov. Charlie Crist's senate campaign alerted reporters this afternoon to the results of a new private poll fielded by Crist supporters early last week. The poll, fielded by the Florida police union that endorsed Crist in the GOP primary on Monday, shows Crist with more than 20 point lead over former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.

The poll, first reported by the St. Petersburg Times, shows Crist leading the race 53-29. That flies in the face of recent public polling showing Rubio gaining on Crist.

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