Olympia Snowe

WASHINGTON -- After a listless summer during which his opponents dominated the health care debate, President Obama used a dramatic appearance before Congress on Wednesday to seize control of the autumn, the season of decision for the initiative he has turned into the central test of his presidency. Having avoided specifics in order to give the House and Senate room to legislate, he piled on the details, openly battling the "blizzard of charges and countercharges," out of which, he said, "confusion has reigned." It was a speech designed to clear the air by sweeping aside misconceptions, reassu

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Jon Chait has written a devastating indictment of the emptiness of much of what passes for "centrism" these days, particularly in the U.S.

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It's Not 2003

WASHINGTON -- It was not the soaring rhetoric that is Barack Obama's signature, but he recently offered the sound bite that may define his presidency: "Don't bet against us." There are reasons to believe that his confident words--they were about health care reform, but have broader application--were not the bombast of a bluffer exaggerating the strength of his hand.

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As Jonathan reports, this is gut-check time for Democrats.

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Are Collins And Snowe Next?

Ben Smith notes that in 1994, seven Congressional Democrats went over to the GOP, suggesting that Specter's switch to the Dems "could be the beginning, not the end, of a party shuffle." The obvious candidates to follow Specter--since I don't think Richard Burr or John Cornyn is going to become a Dem any time soon--are his fellow Northeastern Republicans, Maine Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. But I doubt this is going to happen.

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Tracy Flicks

New York’s new senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, is a very ambitious politician. Just months after deposing a four-term GOP incumbent in 2006, she raised nearly $700,000--more than any other freshman legislator. As a sophomore in the House, she attempted to bypass more senior members for a seat on the coveted Ways and Means Committee. And she lobbied intently for the Senate appointment. “[H]er eye has been on that prize for a long, long time,” Jonathan Schiller, a founding partner of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, where Gillibrand worked as a partner, told the New York Observer.

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GOPtopia

Surry Hill. So reads a plaque at the end of the long, winding private road that leads to the crown jewel of McLean, Virginia: the 18,000-square-foot mansion that Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers and his wife Edwina call home. To get there from Washington, you drive across the Potomac River and along a parkway that, in the summer, is canopied by lush green trees. Shortly before the guarded entrance to the CIA, you turn off McLean's main road and then down a private lane, passing through brick gate posts adorned with black lanterns and into a grand cul-de-sac. A massive brick Colonial with majestic

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Norm!

  The emerging narrative on John Bolton's now-likely confirmation as U.N. ambassador has produced an unexpected good guy: Ohio Senator George Voinovich. According to the accepted story line, a host of Republican Senate moderates sat shifty-eyed while Bolton's nomination rolled through the Senate; Voinovich at least had the presence of mind to bloody Bolton's nose along the way. The editors of The New York Times wrote approvingly of Voinovich's now-famous anti-Bolton soliloquy last week.

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