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Inside Politics: Obama’s Virginia lead shrinks by 3 points

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President Obama leads presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in Virginia, 50 percent to 45 percent — down from an 8-point lead he held in early July, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.

While Republicans in the state are skeptical about the impact former Rep. Virgil Goode of Virginia, the Constitution Party candidate, would have on the race, the poll shows Mr. Goode would pull 4 percent of the vote if he ends up on the ballot, extending Mr. Obama's lead back to the 50 percent to 42 percent advantage he enjoyed last month.

The RealClearPolitics average of polls through Aug. 14 in the key battleground state is much closer, with Mr. Obama holding a 1-point lead.

Like other recent presidential polls, however, more Democrats were surveyed than Republicans. While voters do not register by party in Virginia, 37 percent of respondents identified themselves as Democrats, 30 percent Republicans, and 33 percent independent/other.

The survey of 855 likely Virginia voters was conducted from Aug. 16 to 19, and has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

CAMPAIGN

Fluke's convention speech viewed as appeal to women

A Democratic official says Sandra Fluke will try to solidify President Obama's support among women during a speech next month at the Democratic National Convention.

Ms. Fluke is the Georgetown University student who gained notoriety after conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh called her a slut for supporting Mr. Obama's health care law requiring contraception coverage.

Republicans deny the Democratic charge that the GOP is waging a "war on women." Ann Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee's wife, is expected to counter the accusation at the party's convention next week. The Democratic official demanded anonymity in order to speak candidly about plans that have not been released publicly. The news comes as Republicans urge Senate candidate W. Todd Akin to abandon his bid over comments he made about rape.

MINNESOTA

Lawmaker in rest-stop scandal still silent

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota state lawmaker involved in a sex scandal involving a 17-year-old boy at a rest stop maintained his public silence Tuesday as another Democratic candidate for his seat emerged.

Rep. Kerry Gauthier, a Democrat from Duluth, has yet to comment on the scandal or his political plans, though Democratic leaders are urging him to withdraw from the race and Republicans have pressed him to resign immediately. Meanwhile, Duluth firefighter Erik Simonson launched a bid as a write-in Democratic candidate for Mr. Gauthier's seat at the Duluth Zoo on Tuesday.

Mr. Gauthier didn't immediately return a voice mail message.

Authorities have said Mr. Gauthier, 56, acknowledged having a liaison with the boy. They say he won't be charged in the July incident because the boy was older than 16, the legal age of consent, and no money was exchanged.

The scandal has called a reliably Democratic seat into question as Democrats try to regain control of the House by winning at least six more seats in November. Democratic House Minority Leader Paul Thissen and Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chairman Ken Martin on Monday called on Mr. Gauthier to withdraw from the race.

The leader of the local Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party said party activists would like to hear from Mr. Gauthier. Senate District 7 DFL Chairman John Schwetman said the party is looking into its options but would prefer an announcement from the first-term incumbent, who received the party's endorsement in March.

"We're all waiting to hear what Rep. Gauthier chooses to do," Mr. Schwetman said.

CAMPAIGN

Biden will be in Tampa as GOP convention opens

Vice President Joseph R. Biden is planning to be in Tampa, Fla., next week as Republicans open their presidential nominating convention in the city.

An Obama campaign announcement says Mr. Biden will be attending events in Florida on Monday and Tuesday, including a stop in Tampa on the convention's opening day.

President Obama won Florida four years ago, but Republicans are hoping the weeklong convention will help them recapture the key battleground.

The campaign announcement didn't detail what other cities Mr. Biden will be appearing in.

CONVENTION

Tampa, GOP keep an eye on Tropical Storm Isaac

Forecasters cast a wary eye Tuesday on Tropical Storm Isaac, which was looming in the Atlantic Ocean and poses a potential threat to Florida during next week's Republican National Convention in Tampa.

It's much too early to say with any certainty whether it will gain hurricane strength or make a beeline for Tampa, on Florida's west coast. But it's the type of weather that convention organizers knew was a possibility during the peak of hurricane season — and they have backup plans in place.

GOP and state officials have contingency plans in place if the storm makes its way to Tampa, including a worst-case-scenario evacuation of the 70,000 delegates, party officials, journalists and protesters expected for the convention.

CAMPAIGN

Obama to target Ryan's House budget proposals

It's not just Medicare. President Obama plans to start picking apart other sections of Republican running mate Paul Ryan's budget proposals as he looks to paint the Republican ticket as too extreme for the nation.

Mr. Obama plans to tell voters in sharply contested Ohio on Tuesday that Mr. Ryan's budget proposal would cut $115 billion from the Education Department, remove 2 million children from Head Start programs and cost 1 million college students their Pell Grants.

Democratic officials involved in Mr. Obama's plan spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the strategy before the president began executing it. Mr. Obama was visiting Capital University in Columbus and a community college in Reno, Nev.

His opponent, Mitt Romney, is raising campaign cash ahead of next week's GOP convention.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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