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Enter our Congressional Election Contest

If you missed any of this year's primaries -- or just forgot -- here are the names and faces you need to know in November.

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By Al Kamen
Tuesday, September 7, 2010; 8:46 PM

President Obama's Labor Day speech was touted as the opening salvo by a newly awakened White House in trying to thwart a GOP takeover of the Senate and maybe even the House. It appeared as if Obama had finally abandoned that charming, if odd, bipartisanship stuff.

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Even so, Republicans are rightly hopeful as Nov. 2 approaches - though they're too smart to count the Dems out yet. And there could be the dreaded October surprise, like the capture of Osama bin Laden - oh, wait! We don't care about him any more. All right, well, something else that might boost the Dems. So the GOP remains antsy.

Divided, depressed and desperate Democrats worry it may already be over. Casting about for a united message less than two months out is probably not where you want to be. They can't even unite on letting the Bush tax cuts for the hideously wealthy expire.

So the question remains: Who'll be in charge of Congress next year? Loop Fans know what that means! Yes, it's time once more for the quadrennial In the Loop Congressional Election Contest! The Republicans need to pick up 39 House seats to get a bare 218-vote majority there. They need to pick up 10 Senate seats to control that body.

To win, simply guess what the new lineup will be in the Senate and the House after the elections. (Assume that independent Sens. Bernard Sanders (Vt.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) will continue to caucus with the Dems.) You'll have to choose whether Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), running as an independent and not definitively committed to caucus with either party, will end up - if he wins - as an R or a D.

Send your predictions to loopcontest@washpost.com. You must include your home, work or cellphone number to be eligible. Administration officials and Hill folks may enter "on background." Entries must be submitted by midnight, Sept. 27, five weeks before the election. The 20 winners (10 for the House and 10 for the Senate) will receive, in addition to bragging rights and mention in the column, one of those coveted, official In the Loop T-shirts.

Don't delay. Close enough might be good enough!

Pro forma, anti-Obama

The media have been yammering about the various dire consequences for the White House if the GOP manages to take either the House or the Senate - a blocked administration agenda, endless subpoenas and so on. Add one more headache: Losing the Senate could spell the end of Obama's ability to use the presidential recess-appointments power to circumvent Senate Republicans when they block his nominees.

For those who don't remember how this works, in the last part of the last administration, the majority Senate Democrats deprived President George W. Bush of his constitutional power to fill vacancies when the Senate's not in session. They dusted off an old weapon - the pro forma session - which meant theoretically that the Senate was never in recess.

Under this ploy, one member of the Senate - generally one of the four Democrats from Maryland and Virginia - would wander in a couple times a week, hop into the chair and declare the Senate open for business. Then, after a few minutes, sometimes less, the Senate would be declared adjourned for the day.

The Republicans would have a tougher time pulling this off, since the closest GOP members would be Sen. Richard Burr in North Carolina or, if he wins, Rep. Mike Castle in Delaware.

Tea party cocktails

Speaking of bipartisanship, we recall the famous line by former GOP House majority leader Dick Armey, who said that "bipartisanship is another name for date rape." Armey, who was a lobbyist after leaving the House, was a co-founder of Citizens for a Sound Economy, which was chaired by major D.C lawyer C. Boyden Gray and which morphed into FreedomWorks, where Armey is chairman.

The FreedomWorks anti-tax, anti-big-government agenda has become "tea party" ideology, so it's only to be expected that we would get an invitation from Gray, a former Bush I White House counsel and Bush II ambassador to the European Union, to a "cocktail reception" Sept. 14 in honor of a new book by Armey and FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe titled "Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto."

Might be worth the price of admission just to see Gray's magnificent Georgetown manse - even though he doesn't have liberty. Ceilings should be tall enough to accommodate even Armey's 10-gallon hat.

She was a bad seed

Noted without comment.

A former Eastern Virginia Medical School employee was convicted of sperm donation fraud, Norfolk television station WAVY reported last week. The employee, Adrienne Boothe, stole more than $150,000 over the course of seven years.

"Boothe conducted contraceptive research at EVMS," the station said. "As part of the research, which received annual grant money from USAID, the program collected sperm donations for analysis. Donors received $30 per donation." But, starting in January 2003, "Boothe falsified weekly donor reimbursement claims and kept the cash for herself." Sentencing is set for Dec. 13.

A book cover under wraps

There's been much secrecy - and anticipation in Washington - surrounding our colleague Bob Woodward's latest, and fifth, book on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, due out shortly. He's written four on Bush's wars there and now an insider account on Obama's efforts. The latest is "heavy on documents and verbatim meeting notes," a reader told us.

Even the title has been kept secret. As of Tuesday afternoon, publisher Simon & Schuster listed the book as "Untitled on Obama Administration." But the Kindle version on Amazon also listed the book for most of the day as "Untitled" - while displaying a photo of the book jacket showing the title to be: "Obama's Wars."

Sorry. Again.

The New York Times reported last month that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner cannot, no matter how often he tries, shake the notion that he once worked for the mega-Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs, even though he never did.

Worse, the Times reported that "Treasury advisers" say the mislabeling began during the presidential transition, when this column most wrongly called Geithner "a Goldman Sachs alum."

We corrected it the next day, writing: "The folks at Goldman Sachs called to note an error in yesterday's column. Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner has not worked at the investment bank. Our apologies to Goldman Sachs - and to Geithner."

And we remain very sorry. Even sorrier than we were then.


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