In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Last week, in the halcyon days before my recent haircut, I recorded an episode of bloggingheads with Matt Lewis of Politics Daily. As the title of this post suggests, he and I discussed a lot of the same issues we've been covering here at TPMDC, and, if you're interested you can see the full episode at this link. Below is a clip of our musings on a Sestak, Specter primary match up.

Again, this was filmed Wednesday, before Tom Ridge announced he will not run for Senate in Pennsylvania next year. But aside from that--and the...unusual 'do--the discussion's still pretty germane. Hope you enjoy.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) visited his newfound party last night, speaking at a Philadelphia Democratic Committee fundraiser -- and commenting on the big change he's made in recent weeks.

A reporter asked Specter how Democratic gatherings differ from Republican ones. His answer: "There are a lot more people here than when Republicans get together."

That fact alone seems to be a self-perpetuating cycle -- after all, it was the decrease in moderate registered Republican voters in Pennsylvania that helped spur Arlen Specter to switch parties in the first place.

Specter also remarked of his transition: "There are a few bumps in the road. But I've got good shock absorption."

A Congressional Quarterly article about GOP efforts to get conservative Democrats to oppose major legislation contains an interesting admission from Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH).

Acording to the piece, Republicans "have vowed to block, reshape or defeat a number of Democratic initiatives in coming months, even though Specter's defection has left the Senate Republican caucus with just 40 members."

But in a 99-member Senate, 40 votes are enough to keep Democrats from cutting off debate on major legislation. "Usually you need 41 votes to get anything done around here. But right now, you can do a lot with 40 votes,'' said Judd Gregg

In a 99-seat Senate, 40 votes isn't nearly enough to "get anything done." Not at all. It is rather the bare minimum necessary to make sure nothing gets done. And it explains why so many Republican senators will routinely vote against cloture on major Democratic agenda items. It's called a filibuster--and it isn't typically thought of as way to "get stuff done."

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Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) has officially announced his campaign for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring GOP Sen. Mel Martinez, giving the Republicans an immediate frontrunner in this perennial swing state.

Crist faces a primary against conservative challenger Marco Rubio, the former state House Speaker who will likely blast Crist's support for the stimulus bill. Rubio put out a statement declaring: "My campaign will offer GOP voters a clear alternative to the direction some want to take our party."

The GOP establishment has made its choice clear: NRSC chairman John Cornyn put out a statement endorsing Crist: "With his record of reform in Florida, I know that Governor Crist will bring a fresh perspective to Washington in our efforts to fight for lower taxes, less government, and new job creation for all Americans."

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I've now had the chance to read through the Franken campaign's rebuttal brief in Norm Coleman's appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and there are a few themes that run through it. (Check out Rick Hasen's take, as well.) Coleman's arguments are derided as internally sloppy, inconsistent between each other, and overall a cause of harm to the state for delaying the seating of the rightful winner of the election -- Al Franken -- a situation that should be remedied as soon as possible.

"Even if this Court were to take Appellants claims at face value, each fails as a matter of law. In most cases, Appellants' claims are also barred as a procedural matter, and, even more fundamentally, they fail for simple lack of proof," the brief argues. "On each of these grounds, Respondent respectfully requests that the Court affirm the trial court and make clear that Al Franken is entitled to receive the certificate of election."

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Harold Koh has been reported out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 12 to 5 vote, according to a committee spokesperson. Ranking member, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) voted with the committee's 11 Democrats to advance Koh's nomination to be the State Department's Legal Adviser to the Senate floor.

Koh's vote in committee had been scheduled for last week, but, without explanation, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) delayed that vote until today's hearing, and then opposed the former Yale Law School Dean. Republicans could potentially use similar tactics to delay a full vote, and a number of conservative activists are hoping to spike the nomination entirely.

Yesterday, The Washington Post's Dan Balz and Robert Barnes teamed up to pass on anonymous criticism of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who President Obama may nominate to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. In what has become something of a sport in political media these days, the two wrote that "Some say...she has not distinguished herself on the appeals court."

Today, Barnes collaborates with the Post's Robert Shear to report that Sotomayor has "already has felt the glare that comes with being identified as a front-runner, with several unflattering profiles about her temperament and judicial accomplishments."

As we noted in our anatomy of the whisper campaign, these doubts, such as they are, have their roots in a New Republic article by the magazine's legal correspondent Jeffrey Rosen. That piece contains no concrete examples of Sotomayor's supposedly unsuitable temperament, and, if anything, implies a high level of judicial accomplishment. But it does contain several anonymous quotes, and oblique references to other unquoted criticisms of the second-circuit jurist. And, as such, it has served as the fountainhead for a spate of articles implying that the objection to her potential candidacy is legitimate and well-sourced, when, in fact, it isn't.

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Boxer, Snowe Ask For Female SCOTUS Appointee Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) have sent a bipartisan letter to President Obama, asking him to appoint a woman to David Souter's seat on the Supreme Court. "Women make up more than half of our population, but right now hold only one seat out of nine on the United States Supreme Court," they wrote. "This is out of balance. In order for the court to be relevant, it needs to be diverse and better reflect America."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be hosting a roundtable with business leaders at 11:30 a.m. ET in the Roosevelt Room, to discuss cutting employer health care costs. At 2:25 p.m. ET, he and Vice President Biden will deliver remarks at a Rose Garden ceremony honoring Top Cops award winners. At 3:30 p.m. ET, Obama and Biden will meet with Gen. Ray Odierno and Christopher Hill, the new Ambassador to Iraq, in the Situation Room. At 4:30 p.m. ET, Obama and Biden will meet with Sec. of Defense Robert Gates. At 7:45 p.m. ET, Obama and the First Lady will attend an evening of poetry, music and spoken word in the East Room.

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The cause of Employee Free Choice been dealt a number of difficult blows in the last several weeks, but perhaps the hardest came from Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) in early April when she came out against EFCA. At the time she said, "[I] cannot support that bill in its current form. Cannot support and will not support moving it forward in its current form."

Deliberations are underway between labor groups and key legislators who seek a compromise bill with enough support to overcome a Republican filibuster. But Lincoln, whose constituents include Wal-Mart, is situated to drive a hard bargain.

That is, of course, unless she thinks her job might be at stake. And it could be--or, at least, some influential people want her to think it could be. One senior labor official close to the situation told TPMDC that a general election challenge could be in the works. "I think that's a line people are preparing to cross."

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