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August 21st, 2011
04:48 AM ET

State of the Union Early Bird for August 21, 2011

(CNN)-It's early, and State of the Union is bringing you the best of the morning headlines to go with your cup of coffee.

On our radar this morning: Vice President Biden making assurances in China, 2012 candidates making a splash, and rebels taking a stand in Libya.

Check out what we're reading, and make sure to watch our interview with Obama senior campaign strategist David Axelrod at 9am/12pm ET.

THE WHITE HOUSE

In the Pool: Updates from President Obama's Martha's Vineyard vacation

Biden tells China not to count out U.S. strength

"We are still the single best bet in the world, in terms of where to invest," Biden told a university audience in Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, the southwest province that is the second and last stop of his visit to China.

GOVERNORS

O'Malley puts tax increases on the table for 2012 legislature

"Any further help from Washington is doubtful, and more serious hurt to all state economics from the narrow-minded faction of jobs-obstructionists in Congress is very likely," O'Malley said. "We must be willing to adapt. … We will have to make more cuts, and at the same time — to protect our children's future — we must be open to new revenues."

State Budget: The surplusterisk

Gov. Bob McDonnell points proudly to the surplus the state has racked up in recent months. But while he deserves some credit for managing the books wisely, the claim of a half-billion-dollar surplus comes with a giant asterisk.

Last year state lawmakers withheld more than $600 million worth of deposits into the state retirement fund. This year they restored about $142 million. McDonnell now says he's willing to kick in another $18 million or so.

2012 AND OTHER POLITICAL NEWS

Rick Perry and Mitt Romney showcase a Republican divide

On one side are the hard-liners, many of them religious, who embrace the "tea party" movement's hostility to Washington and are more likely to lack college educations. On the other are the more secular and moderate, open to government action to protect the environment and regulate business and more likely to have attended college.

The eventual nominee will be the one best able to bridge that divide. But in a general election, the ability to speak to disparate audiences will be even more important.

Perry criticizes government while Texas job growth benefits from it

Between December 2007 and last June, private-sector employment in Texas declined by 0.6 percent while public-sector jobs increased by 6.4 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, government employees account for about one-sixth of the workforce in Texas.

Rep. Maxine Waters: 'The tea party can go straight to hell'

Waters vowed to push Congress to focus on creating more jobs. "I'm not afraid of anybody," said Waters. "This is a tough game. You can't be intimidated. You can't be frightened. And as far as I'm concerned, the 'tea party' can go straight to hell."

LIBYA/SYRIA

Gadhafi defiant as rebels claim to take 'revolution' inside Tripoli

Assad to Address Reforms in TV Interview

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will address recent events in the nation and the government’s reforms in an interview today with Syrian television as security forces extend a violent crackdown on protesters.

IN OTHER NEWS...

Dozens Arrested at Protest of Oil Pipeline

Dozens of people were arrested in front of the White House Saturday after staging a rally to protest a 1,700-mile oil pipeline that TransCanada Corp. wants to build from Canada to Texas.

Ten years after 9/11, report details gaps in intelligence networks

Panetta: Iraqis want some U.S. troops to stay

“My view is that they finally did say yes,” Panetta responded, summarizing recent internal Iraqi government decisions. “It was unanimous consent among the key leaders of the country to go ahead and request that we negotiate on some kind of training, what a training presence would look like.”

Thanks for reading!

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