In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Obama Visiting The Hill Today President Obama is headed to Capitol Hill today to work with lawmakers on crafting his economic stimulus plan. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that Obama wants to hear lawmakers' ideas, and will take good ones into consideration.

Minnesota Trial Continues Today The Minnesota election trial is continuing all day today, beginning at 10 a.m. ET in St. Paul. Yesterday was very interesting to say the least, with the Coleman campaign having been revealed to be using altered evidence -- they say the changes were accidental -- and we'll see how today turns out. The pooled video feed is easily available at The Uptake.

Coleman Going On Hannity Tonight Norm Coleman will be appearing on Fox News tonight, for an interview with Sean Hannity. This should be interesting.

Blago Impeachment Trial Keeps Moving To the southeast of Minnesota, the Illinois state Senate's impeachment trial of Gov. Rod Blagojevich is also going into its second day. The state Senate will be hearing from FBI Special Agent Daniel Cain, who will review wiretaps allegedly showing Blago shaking down horse-racing industry officials for campaign money, as Blagojevich himself continues to boycott the trial.

Mitchell In Egypt Today President Obama's new Middle East envoy George Mitchell has arrived in Cairo for his tour of the Middle East today, a mission to help solidify the Gaza ceasefire and to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Mitchell will be traveling through Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, France and Britain.

Gillibrand To Be Sworn In Today Senator-designate Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will be sworn in today as the newly-appointed occupant of Hillary Clinton's former Senate seat. Gillibrand will be sworn in by Vice President Biden in the afternoon.

NYT: Geography Divides Dems On Energy The New York Times reports that the energy debate is revealing divides among Democrats between those from the coasts, who are more favorable to environmentalists, and the industry-friendly Midwesterners. "It's up to those of us in the Midwest to show how important manufacturing is," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). "If we pass a climate bill the wrong way, it will hurt American jobs and the American economy, as more and more production jobs go to places like China, where it's cheaper."

Terry McAuliffe: Virginia Political Outsider Check out this new TV ad from Terry McAuliffe, in which the former Democratic National Committee chairman presents himself as a political outsider who hasn't been connected to the legislative fights in Virginia, but is instead a successful businessman:



"It goes to show, the best ideas don't always come out of Richmond," says McAuliffe.

President Obama has a new Treasury Secretary -- but only just barely.

Tim Geithner was just approved by the Senate, 60-34, with 30 members of the 41-strong Republican conference voting no. That margin suggests that a successful filibuster was within reach for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), although GOPers ultimately did not attempt to slow down the confirmation. Even more interestingly, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) opposed Geithner, joining three liberal Democrats: Tom Harkin (IA), Russ Feingold (WI), and Robert Byrd (WV).

The Treasury nomination ran into political trouble earlier this month after Geithner admitted an initial failure to pay $34,000 in self-employment taxes earlier this decade.

It remains to be seen whether the level of Republican resistance to Geithner will spark more hand-wringing over the Obama administration's level of bipartisanship, but one thing's for sure: Were it not for the recession presently plaguing the nation, Geithner would have had a much higher hill to climb.

The first day of the Minnesota election trial has come to a close, and it couldn't have been a fun day for Norm Coleman, who was present in the courtroom to watch everything that happened.

It's not a good day when the court throws out your evidence and tells your legal team to submit it all over again.

Earlier today, Franken attorney Marc Elias raised serious questions about the Coleman campaign erasing sections from photocopies of rejected absentee-ballot envelopes that they're attempting to get put into the count. Later questioning by Elias of Coleman legal staffer Gloria Sonnen revealed that the submitted copies also include written notes added on to the envelopes by the Coleman team, and it's impossible to tell what writing was there originally and what was added by the Coleman camp.

The judges have now ordered Coleman's legal team to subpoena and submit the original ballot envelopes themselves, if they want them to be reviewed and potentially counted.

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My colleague, Elana Shor, has an excellent item up on the lack of mass transit in the stimulus bill. In that same vein, Phillip Longman has a persuasive cover story in the new issue of The Washington Monthly, arguing that freight rail deserves big attention in the bill because it would be good for the economy, get trucks off the roads, and so on. I'm sure Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern will be sending the piece around but that doesn't make it wrong.

Last week, the folks at Politics magazine, also known as Campaigns & Elections, asked me to host their Reed Awards which are given out to political consultants in catagories ranging from Best Independent Expenditure Radio Ad in a Statewide Race to polybag inserts and yard signs. A few years ago I hosted the Pollies, which is a rival set of awards given out by the Association of Political Consultants. There were fewer awards at that one and I got to do more shtick, like how Frank Luntz would advise Saddam Hussein (it's been a few years as I said.) "People don't see Saddam, the family man....Try do more events with your wives." This time the buzz of awards meant less shtick and more handing them out.

One can have a laugh at the whole thing, but the fact is that in an era of McCain-Feingold, political consulting and messaging remains a part of life and it's not going to away. The bipartisan panel of judges doles out awards on the basis of effectiveness and not ideology or, dare we say, truth in advertising so the evening had a kind of moral neutrality about it that would probably infuriate TPM readers about all that's wrong with Washington. One of the awards went to an ad for Alaska Rep. Don Young. That said, what the judges came up with was the panoply of the American political adviertisement. My favorite was the Truthandhope.org's local voices spot which, I think, historians may look at to understand how Obama won. It also won the equivalent of Best Picture, i.e. Best TV Ad in the Presidential Race.

See it here:

The Minnesota election trial just had a truly brutal moment, one that could undermine the credibility of Norm Coleman's whole case.

The Coleman campaign summoned political director Kristen Fuzer up to the stand to testify to the provenance of the photocopies of rejected absentee ballots that they've submitted in their efforts to get those ballots counted. You may recall that the Franken campaign last week pointed to some apparent alterations in the photocopied envelopes.

Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg briefly interviewed Fuzer. Then it was Franken lawyer Marc Elias' turn.

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Al Franken's lawyer Kevin Hamilton just finished his opening arguments against Norm Coleman's lawsuit to contest the results of the Minnesota Senate race. His case boils down to this: Norm Coleman is suing because he lost, and is searching for things to complain about.

Hamilton said that Coleman has failed to meet the very burden that is necessary to win an election contest -- that is, to overturn the presumption of regularity on the part of the state and local officials -- and is instead set on finding little errors that may still exist out there. "It's better than most," Hamilton said of Minnesota's election system, "but it's not immune."

Hamilton also pointed to Coleman having reversed his position on the crucial issue of improperly-rejected absentee ballots, noting that his campaign litigated during the recount to keep ballots out -- but are now trying to get up to 5,000 ballots put in. "Against that history, against that backdrop, it's simply stunning to see the most recent position," said Hamilton.

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Norm Coleman's attorney Joe Friedberg just finished his opening statements in the election-contest trial, and he said his case hinges almost entirely on one issue: Another review of rejected absentee ballots that will get another 4,500-5,000 votes into the pool.

Friedberg said that some ballots were rejected in one area of the state, while ballots with similar minor perceived errors were accepted elsewhere -- a violation of equal protection. As such, he wants the judges to review these ballots again, after local officials have looked at them a few times before, and level the playing field by approving ballot envelopes if one like it was already accepted.

And again, Friedberg insisted that the campaign is not cherry-picking the ballots -- though he seemed to concede that the campaigns have had experts hard at work on that question.

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