* Obama to make election about values, American character: In recent days, Obama and the DNC have been taking pains to draw attention to the conduct of audiences at GOP debates, particularly the “let him die” moment and the booing of a soldier. Dems are hoping to make the 2012 elections about the values, temperament, character, extremism, and (as Obama puts it) pessimism of the modern GOP, rather than just a referendum on the economy.

At a fundraiser last night, Obama amplified this line of attack, according to the pool report:

“The other side has a very different idea of where to take this country. I urge some of you to watch the Republican debates. There’s a different vision who we are, what we stand for. The American people want a bold, optimistic vision of America, not a cramped vision that says you’re on your own.”...

“But as hard as things have been …we’re going to have to fight for our vision. I’m going to need your help. Don’t get tired on me now. This is when we’re tested ... This country is being tested, but I have complete faith in its character. That’s what this election’s about. It’s about value, character, who we are.”

The claim that this election will be about “values” and “character” and “who we are” may prove to be wishful thinking, if unemployment remains where it is now. But this is where Obama’s team is hoping to take the storyline. Even Obama’s call for tax hikes on the rich — and his insistence that we’re all in this together — is being pressed into the service of this emerging values-based narrative of a fundamentally mean-spirited, exclusionary GOP.

Also: As Obama’s remarks indicate, Democrats are hoping the invocation of these unsightly moments at the debates — and what they say about the nature of today’s Republican Party — will energize rank-and-file Dems by reminding them of the potential consequences of remaining unenthusiastic and demoralized in 2012. But here again, the economy may trump all.

* Government shutdown fight averted ... for now: The deal reached last night to continue funding the government averts a showdown for the time being. But you should not rest easy. The resolution was only reached because the central battle — over whether disaster funding needs to be offset with spending cuts elsewhere — was temporarily deferred by the news that FEMA’s funding will last longer than previously thought. And that battle will only flare up again when the temporary funding runs out in mid November.

Which means the next round of the government shutdown fight will take place again just as the supercommittee talks on the deficit hit crunch time. Not only that, but as Suzy Khimm details, the stakes will be much higher in the next battle for a whole host of reasons.

* Lowering the bar for Congress: Relatedly, as Steve Benen keeps point out, the real story here is that relief over Congress’ ability to merely keep the lights on only goes to show how vastly diminished our expecations for it have become.

* Court battle over health law to be decided in 2012: The Justice Department’s decision not to appeal a recent court ruling against the health reform law means it could face the Supreme Court in the thick of the 2012 election.

As Steve Stromberg notes, this could be a big deal, because it could mean that a high-profile battle over the unpopular individual mandate could become a major campaign issue.

Also: Here’s why many Republicans fear Mitt Romney as the nominee — they worry that “Romneycare” will make it impossible for him to make a strong case against “Obamacare,” even though its constitutionality will likely be front and center during the height of the campaign.

* Matt Miller responds: He offers an extensive rebuttal to the charge that his call for a third party is a “dodge,” listing a number of policy items for his third way candidate that Dems have yet to embrace.

I never wrote that Miller’s fantasy third party candidate embraces “everything” that Dems already embrace. My point was that those calling for a third party are oddly reluctant to acknowledge that one party is far, far, far more in sync ideologically than the other with their imagined centrist approach, that this common ground is far more significant than the differences that supposedly necessitate a third way, and that papering over those realities obscures basic truths about our current political landscape. But Miller’s response is well-argued and thoughtful, and it’s definitely worth your time.

* No, the two parties aren’t equally compromising: Jonathan Cohn highlights a very simple contrast between the two parties:

The Republican leadership position is as simple as it is extreme: No new taxes. Period. Now contrast that with Obama’s position: No cuts to Medicare ... unless they affect something other than benefits ... and unless they come with tax increases on the wealthy.

One side is ruling something out entirely, and the other isn’t.

* Setting the record straight on Solyndra: Dana Milbank does the honors:

Solyndra was cleared to participate in this loan-guarantee program by President George W. Bush’s administration. He also did not mention that the legislation creating the loan-guarantee program, approved by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2005, received yes votes from — wait for it — DeMint, Hatch and McConnell.

This doesn’t mean that Bush is to blame for Solyndra or that the Obama administration should be absolved. Obama, whose administration gave the company the loan guarantee, deserves the black eye that Republicans have given him over the half a billion dollars squandered on the company. But the Republican paternity of the program that birthed Solyndra suggests some skepticism is in order when many of those same Republicans use Solyndra as an example of all that is wrong with Obama’s governance.

* Does the electoral map favor Obama for reelection? Gerald Seib on why the map is stacked in his favor:

Specifically, there are 18 states plus the District of Columbia that have voted Democratic in all five presidential elections since 1992. Combined, they carry 242 electoral votes — 90% of the votes needed for victory. Republicans have a much smaller bloc of highly reliable electoral college votes. There are just 13 states that have gone red in each of the last five elections, and they deliver 102 electoral votes, less than half of the number needed.”

* Good luck with Rick “Ponzi scheme” Perry at the top of the ticket: GOP Rep. Mike McCaul of Texas, a Rick Perry backer, is unrepentant: “To some extent, it is a Ponzi scheme. You can criticize him, but he will tell it like it is, from his perspective.”

But as Romney backers point out in the above link, having the fellow at the top of the ticket expressing nonstop hostility to Social Security could, you know, make things a bit complicated for downticket House GOPers with lots of seniors in their districts.

* Debunking the “independent voter” myth: I’m late to this, but don’t miss pollster Stan Greenberg’s puncturing of the myths surrounding independents, who in reality comprise a number of different voter groups, and his take on the mythical “center.”

Key nugget: “In 2006 and 2008, all these groups voted overwhelmingly for Democrats. In 2010, they voted overwhelmingly for Republicans. Right now, I don’t think we have a clue where they’re going.”

* And no, Elizabeth Warren is not the next Martha Coakley:Jim O’Sullivan on why Warren has little in common with Scott Brown’s last opponent, and why this fact could be central to Dem efforts to hold the Senate.

What else is happening?