In it, but not of it. TPM DC

A new Rasmussen poll of Pennsylvania finds Sen. Arlen Specter with a lead over Rep. Joe Sestak in the 2010 Democratic primary -- but it does seem a bit surprising that Specter's lead isn't even bigger, given his built-in advantages of incumbency and high name recognition.

The numbers: Specter 51%, Sestak 32%.

Both candidates have solid favorable ratings. Specter is at 72% favorable, including 35% very favorable, to 26% total unfavorable. Sestak is at 57% total favorable, with 18% very favorable, to 21% total unfavorable.

Specter has been in the Senate for almost 30 years, and has the full support of the Democratic establishment from President Obama on down, in the wake of his recent party switch (which, as we all know, was triggered by a Republican primary challenger). But there clearly is a genuine base of anti-Specter Democrats willing to support Sestak, so this could be an interesting primary.

In an interview with the Washington Times, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) vowed that in the upcoming census, she and her family will refuse to answer personal questions on the forms beyond the number of people in her household -- which is, in fact, against the law:

"I know for my family the only question we will be answering is how many people are in our home," said Bachmann, who warned of corrupt ACORN involvement in the census. "We won't be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn't require any information beyond that."

In fact, as a Census Bureau spokeswoman told the Washington Times, what Bachmann just announced she would do is a crime punishable by a fine of up to $5,000. But hey, there's something to be said for civil disobedience.

(Via Think Progress)

As a fun follow-up to the potential link between the housing crisis and the John Ensign scandal, it turns out that the giant house bought by former Ensign Senate staffer Douglas Hampton and his wife (and former Ensign campaign staffer and reported former mistress) Cynthia Hampton is on the market.

The asking price is $1,660,000 -- though for what it's worth, the folks at think it might only really be worth $861,500. Real estate values have been all over the place lately, and Nevada itself has had the sharpest percentage declines in the nation.

Check out the photos and video. This place is really luxurious.

Late Update: Here's our TPM slideshow.

Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) is posting on Twitter to praise the use of social networking media to organize against the tyrants in Iran -- and the tyrannical Democrats running the House of Representatives.

"Good to see Iranian people move mountains w social media, shining sunlight on their repressive govt - Texans support their bid for freedom," Culberson posted earlier today. He then followed it up with this: "Oppressed minorities includeHouseRepubs: We are using social media to expose repression such as last night's D clampdown shutting off amends"

Over the next few hours -- and following some ridicule in the blogosphere -- Culberson has dug in further. "Pelosi etal shut down House amendments & debate on Approps Bill to prevent conservatives from slowing down their uncontrolled spending spree," he just posted.

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Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) has resigned his leadership position as chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, the fourth-highest position in the Senate GOP conference, in the wake of yesterday's admission that he had an extramarital affair in 2007 and 2008.

Ensign had also previously served in another leadership post, as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2008 elections -- a cycle in which the GOP lost eight seats (counting Minnesota).

The folks at Gawker have raised an interesting idea in the John Ensign scandal: Did the housing crisis indirectly trigger Ensign's eventual admission of his affair with a former campaign staffer?

The key facts here are that Ensign's reported former mistress was Cynthia Hampton, whose husband Douglas Hampton is a former top Ensign staffer. The Hamptons in turn had taken out a $1.2 million mortgage in 2006, on what is clearly a very swank house in Las Vegas: Five bedrooms, five full bathrooms and one half-bathroom, three fireplaces, a pool and a spa. The net taxes on the House last year were $8,466.41.

But financial disclosures also show that the Hamptons are not wealthy people. And Douglas Hampton had reportedly been asking Ensign for money, which led to Ensign's public admission.

Another key piece of info: Nevada has had the single-worst percentage drop in home prices in the midst of the housing crisis. It's a rough market out there.

We were unable to contact the Hamptons for comment.

Sen. John Ensign's (R-NV) Washington office appears to be in lockdown mode, following his admission yesterday of an extra-marital affair.

A phone call to his Washington office will get the caller forwarded straight to a voicemail box -- which is in fact full, thus disconnecting the caller.

This only goes for his Washington office, though, not the state offices. A call placed to his Las Vegas office was in fact answered by a human being.

A new survey of North Carolina from Public Policy Polling (D) is a further indication that Republican Sen. Richard Burr is vulnerable going into his 2010 re-election battle, trailing a generic Democrat.

The numbers: Generic Dem 41%, Burr 38%, with a ±3.5% margin of error. As for an actual Democrat, the Dems recently struck out on recruitment when popular state Attorney General Roy Cooper announced he wasn't running, and no big names have yet popped up to make the race.

"With Burr's numbers much more dire than Elizabeth Dole's at this point two years ago it's a wonder prominent Democrats aren't fighting for the opportunity to run for this seat," PPP president Dean Debnam says in the analysis. "The current crop of Democratic leaders in the state just isn't as ambitious as in most places."

Interestingly, a PPP survey from a few weeks ago showed Burr ahead of several potential Dem candidates who were given as genuine names. So it's quite intriguing that the generic Democrat has a narrow lead.

The Las Vegas Sun points out that Sen. John Ensign's (R-NV) sex scandal could be yet another problem for the state GOP in Nevada -- who currently lack any real leaders due to other scandals and lousy recent elections.

For example, Gov. Jim Gibbons is currently going through a messy divorce, and is one of the most unpopular governors in the country according to polls.

In addition, Ensign's record as a strong social conservative could damage him. "The problem is, he's another one of these Bible-thumping Republicans," said an anonymous Republican operative, who added: "When you take the social conservative banner, there's a higher level of scrutiny on these kinds of things."

House Passes War Funding Bill Over GOP And Left-Wing Dem Opposition The House of Representatives passed the $106 billion funding bill for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, by a 226-202 margin. The roll call vote shows that only five Republicans voted in favor -- due to a GOP effort to derail the bill over the inclusion of money for the International Monetary Fund -- along with 32 Democrats voting No, on the grounds that the bill did not do enough to end the wars.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will meet with financial regulators at 11:40 a.m. ET. At 12:50 p.m. ET, he will deliver remarks laying out a comprehensive regulatory reform plan. At 2 p.m. ET, he will meet with Sec. of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan. At 5:45 p.m. ET, he will deliver remarks and sign a Presidential Memorandum to grant benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

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