TPM News

BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina is being investigated by the state's attorney general for a recent mailer and spate of robo-calls in opposition to the public option, according to a company spokesman.

In October, TPMmuckraker reported that the insurance company had sent a mailer to millions of its customers asking them to urge the state's Democratic senator, Kay Hagan, (D-NC) to oppose a public option. The insurance company also deployed a related robocall.

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Gov. Charlie Crist asked for a fight. And now he's getting one. Yesterday, Crist asked Marco Rubio's Republican supporters to explain why they're so "angry."

Today, came the predictable response:

"Charlie Crist is demonstrating an alarming contempt for the very Republican voters whose support he seeks," Rubio spokesperson Alex Burgos said. "Crist is clearly frustrated about his self-made credibility crisis and his endorsement of a stimulus policy that has failed to create the jobs he promised, but these are not acceptable excuses for him to lash out at Republicans."

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Producer Steven Spielberg, music mogul David Geffen and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman are among the guests at tonight's White House state dinner in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) will be attending, and he's not the only Republican.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is attending, as is Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN).

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent who has backed the White House on key matters, also is attending.

Ari Emanuel, brother to White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

Congressional leadership, Cabinet members and White House staffers are on the list, including incoming general counsel Bob Bauer.

Oprah Winfrey isn't on the list, but her best friend Gayle King, is.

Television personalities Katie Couric of CBS, Brian Williams of NBC and Sanjay Gupta and Fareed Zakaria of CNN are on the list.

Late Update: The Associated Press caught another journalist on the list - Washington Post national editor, Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

Full guest list after the jump.

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The health care debate in the Senate could take weeks, and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) is threatening to filibuster if the public option isn't stripped out of the bill. But, for the time being anyhow, Health Care for America Now isn't making an issue of that potential flashpoint, and is instead thanking her and her Arkansas colleague Mark Pryor for allowing debate in the first place.

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American Future Fund (AFF), the shadowy conservative advocacy group that's working to undermine state laws against robo-calling, has ties to DCI Group, a Republican lobbying firm with a reputation for dirty tricks and shady clients. And a closer look at AFF suggests the group has been designed to carry out political attacks while escaping scrutiny from the press and public.

AFF paid $249,000 last year to McKenna & Associates for fundraising work, according to a copy of AFF's 990 form for 2008 that was obtained by TPMmuckraker. The Arlington, Virginia-based firm is run by Andrew McKenna, a GOP operative and former senior vice-president of DCI Group. McKenna did not immediately respond to TPMmuckraker's request for comment.

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As part of the official state visit festivities today, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted a lunch for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur at the State Department this afternoon.

Biden told Singh he was so popular they couldn't find a large enough room to host everyone who wanted to be there.

"There's a phrase Mr. Prime Minister here in this country, you're the hottest ticket in town," Biden said.

Biden toasted Singh with a Gandhi quote.

"As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves," he said. "I would argue that as we adapt to this new century, as we enter this new era of growth and prosperity, as we remake ourselves India and America, and our partnership will help remake the world."

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), will be speaking at the upcoming National Tea Party Convention in February, the group announced.

Bachmann has been a big supporter of the Tea Party movement, and was recently a key organizer of the Capitol Tea Party. At this upcoming event, she will speak at a breakfast.

The keynote speaker at the event will be another female conservative icon: Sarah Palin. It should be interesting to see the two of them with prominent speaking roles at the same event.

A new Gallup poll finds that President Obama's approval rating has fallen precipitously among one group in particular: White Americans.

Back in February, during his honeymoon period, Gallup had Obama's approval among whites at 61%. Today, it is only 39%. By comparison, his approval among non-whites had a much smaller decrease, from 80% during the honeymoon to 73% now.

Interestingly, the decline in white approval extends to white Democrats, as well, though to a lesser extent than the white demographic overall. His approval among white Dems has fallen from 87% during the honeymoon, down to 76% now. By contrast, his approval among non-white Dems has actually gone up slightly, from 90% then to 92% now.

It shouldn't be surprising that whites are a weaker demographic for Obama, as they tend to be tough ground for national Democrats in general. Obama won only 43% of this group in 2008, even as he won 53% of the total popular vote. This was actually pretty good for a Democrat, and an improvement from John Kerry's 41% in 2004.

Rudy Giuliani hasn't made up his mind about running for Senate for a second time, but a new poll out today from Zogby suggests he's in a good position to take a shot at winning the seat he ran for in 2000.

The poll shows Giuliani in a statistical dead heat with incumbent Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D), who took over the seat earlier this year after Hillary Clinton left it to become Secretary of State. Giuliani leads a hypothetical matchup with Gillibrand 45-43, which is within the 3.2% margin of error. Former Gov. George Pataki (R), another potential candidate for the seat, trails Gillibrand 43-38.

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Toward the end of the summer, when it was unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would include a public option in his health care bill, progressives let it be known that he would not be forgiven if he allowed a handful of nameless Democrats silently filibuster the provision. In the end, this pressure, and various other factors, ultimately convinced Reid to include the opt out public option in the legislation, and the opponents have had to come forward. Their names won't surprise students of Democratic politics: Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

These conservative Democrats are known for taking stances at odds with the party on key issues, but in this health care debate they are ultimately driven by very different motives. They have suddenly become the targets of every major reform organization in the country, and understanding what makes them tick will be key to the advocates who are now trying to change their minds.

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