* Can Senate Dems gain upper hand in gov’t shutdown battle?

One interesting thing to note about the government shutdown fight, which is set to intensify today: Democrats are trying to reverse a dynamic that Republicans exploited so effectively during the debt ceiling standoff. After voting down a House GOP bill containing spending cut offsets to disaster relief funding, Senate Dems are set to up the ante by holding their own vote late this afternoon on their own government funding bill that contains disaster relief without the offsets sought by Republicans.

During the debt ceiling battle, Republicans gained great traction by defeating the Senate Dem debt limit bill in the House and then arguing that Dems had to give ground and embrace the only proposal — their own — that had a chance of passing Congress. On Friday, Dems pulled the same move by defeating the House-passed bill, and today, if they pass their own version of the measure, they will challenge Republicans to join them in supporting the only bill — their own — that can pass Congress.

The idea is to up the pressure on House Republicans to move left and pass the Senate version of the bill with House Dem support. Of course, as Rosalind Helderman and Paul Kane note, Speaker John Boehner may have actually enhanced his bargaining position by successfully corralling House conservatives and getting them to pass the House GOP version of the funding bill last week, so it seems unlikely that he’d back off the position that got him to this point.

Will Dems hold the line? As I noted here last week, Dems think the debt ceiling battle established them as the more reasonable party seeking truly balanced solutions while establishing Republicans as hostage to a deeply unbalanced cut-at-all-costs ideological agenda. Ezra Klein adds: “There are a lot of Democrats out there who feel that Boehner’s bluff eventually needs to be called, and this is as good a time as any.” So while they could always buckle, this time, Dems seem more willing than usual to push the confrontation to the limit.

* Obama seizes on conduct of GOP debate audiences: As a number of us have noted, Dems are likely to make extensive use of the conduct of the audiences at GOP debates in the general election, and at a fundraiser last night, Obama pounced:

“I mean, has anybody been watching the debates lately? You’ve got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change,” Mr. Obama said in a reference to Mr. Perry that drew applause from the 350 donors at a fund-raiser in Woodside, Calif.

“You’ve got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don’t have health care and booing a service member in Iraq because they’re gay,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s not reflective of who we are.”

Key takeaway: This is a sign that Dems will be using these seminal moments in order to build a case about GOP values and extremism that they hope will trump the economy as a driving factor in the 2012 elections.

* GOP debate audience conduct becoming a national story: The Post on how the audiences are outpacing the candidates themselves when it comes to making news.

* Why Dems think they have “supercommittee” leverage right now: It all turns on the fact that Dems think they have far less reason to fear the supercommittee trigger, and its mandated defense cuts, than Republicans do, which means they may be emboldened to stick to their demand for tax hikes on the rich even if it means the supercommittee goes bust.

* Meet the new George Soros: As Josh Lederman notes, Warren Buffett’s heretical and highly inconvenient demand that Congress tax billionaires like him fairly has ensured that “Buffet has replaced Soros as Republicans’ billionaire bogeyman.”

* About that bridge Obama highlighted in his speech: Glenn Kessler has the most detailed look I’ve seen yet at the argument over the Brent Spence Bridge. He concludes that it’s a serious distortion to suggest Republicans are blocking repair, though the administration argues that passing the jobs bill would speed up environmental approvals and construction.

* When do we get to say Sarah Palin isn’t running for president? I get that Palin deeply believes that she’s capable of winning with a very unconventional approach to political campaigns, but really, is there any point at which news outlets will conclude that she’s officially not a candidate for president?

* When do we get to say Chris Christie isn’t running for president? I get that Republicans really want an alternative to Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, but really, is there any point at which news outlets will conclude that he’s officially not a candidate for president?

* Unions adapt to post-Citizens United landscape: Steven Greenhouse on a little-noted trend: The Citizens United decisions is allowing labor to do outreach to non-union households and develop its own super PACs, potentially increasing labor’s influence — and making it more costly if unions make good on their threat to scale back their efforts for national Dems in 2012.

* Fun fact of the day: Per the New York Times: “two-thirds of all those sentenced to death since 1976 have been in five Southern states where `vigilante values’ persist, according to the legal scholar Franklin Zimring.”

* And why won’t more principled conservatives take a stronger stand against the death penalty? In the wake of Troy Davis’s execution, E.J. Dionne makes an important point:

The good news is that many are open to persuasion. Gallup polling shows that support for capital punishment drops sharply when respondents are offered the alternative of “life imprisonment, with absolutely no possibility of parole.”...

If a majority is open to persuasion, the best persuaders will be conservatives, particularly religious conservatives and abortion opponents, who have moral objections to the state-sanctioned taking of life or see the grave moral hazard involved in the risk of executing an innocent person.

Yet such voices are the exception, rather than the rule.

What else is happening?