In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Whether they'll admit it or not, Democrats have put all their eggs in Greg Orman's basket. The Kansas independent was polling so well against incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts that the Democratic nominee, Chad Taylor, was pressured to drop out of the race, and the state Democratic party has expressed no interest in filling his slot unless forced to do so by a court.

Democrats are making a bet. Orman has been publicly insistent that he hasn't decided which party to caucus with yet, though Republicans have repeatedly pointed out that he toyed with a 2008 Senate run as a Democrat. "Both Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell have been too partisan for far too long to earn my vote for Majority Leader," he says on his website. If no party holds a clear majority and he and the other independents (currently Sens. Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont) dictate control of the Senate, Orman says that he will "caucus with the party that is most willing to face our country’s difficult problems head on and advance our problem-solving, non-partisan agenda."

And what exactly are Democrats getting in Orman? A review of his policy statements and known history reveals an interesting mix. His background -- an investor with up to $86 million in private wealth and links to a jailed Wall Street figure -- seems superficially at odds with the message Democrats have been delivering since the economic collapse. But on policy, while Orman is always careful to straddle partisan lines, he seems to come down closer to the Democratic side than the Republican on high-profile issues like health care, guns and immigration.

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Updated: Sept. 26, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

Conservative filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza's ex-wife alleged in a letter sent this week to the federal court that heard his criminal case that D'Souza was abusive, that he lied in his defense against the criminal charges, and implied D'Souza had manipulated the couple's daughter into making positive public statements about him.

D'Souza pleaded guilty in May to violating federal campaign finance law, admitting that he used straw donors to funnel money to New York Republican Senate candidate Wendy Long. He had also been accused of making campaign contributions in the name of other people -- namely, his ex-wife Dixie.

On Tuesday, he was sentenced to five years probation starting with eight months in a community confinement center. But he faced no prison time, despite prosecutors reportedly seeking at least a 10-month prison sentence.

On the day before D'Souza was sentenced, Dixie sent a letter to U.S. District Judge Richard Berman and, after outlining allegations of lies and abuse, urged him to "impose a just sentence." The letter was published by the Smoking Gun.

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Recent coverage of the North Carolina Senate race has said the trending topic is education. For Democrats, that means bashing North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R), the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, on his handling of the state's education budget. One conservative group, however, recently tried to counter those attacks by linking education policy to an all too familiar Republican target: Obamacare.

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Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) is taking great offense to a new ad from his GOP challenger, Rep. Cory Gardner. The ad leads off with Gardner calling Udall "a real nice guy" before, all smiles, pointing to the Udall family's history of political service as a reason to oust him.

While the spot sounds as superficially congenial as any political attack ad that you're ever likely to see, Democrats are lambasting it as "disgusting" and "just low."

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Could peer pressure from other Republicans be the secret ingredient in the Obama administration's push to get the 20-plus states that have not expanded Medicaid under Obamacare to change their minds?

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell suggested to TPM on Wednesday that it might be. Some staunch conservatives like Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (above right) have entered into negotiations with HHS to craft their own Medicaid expansion plan; but others like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (above left) have steadfastly refused to even consider it.

Perhaps more than any argument from the Obama White House, the former group could help convince the latter that Medicaid expansion makes sense, Burwell told reporters at a Wednesday briefing in response to a question from TPM.

"People are influenced by people who are like them," Burwell said. "I think the more that we are able to attract conservative Republican governors, the more that those who have very strong feelings will perhaps listen. They all talk to each other."

The Obama administration is also putting out new estimates to make the case for Medicaid expansion. HHS is projecting that in 2014, hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid will save up to $4.2 billion on uncompensated care as more people are covered through Obamacare. Hospitals in non-expanding states, by comparison, are saving $1.5 billion.

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John Boehner is "all in" to be Speaker of the House again next year. But as usual, he has his share of dissidents who want to oust him — disenchantment remains strong with some of the Republican conference.

But for all the grumbling, they have a tough battle on their hands if they want a new Speaker in January.

A new article in The Hill points to stirrings a coup attempt by some members against the Ohio Republican, who has served in the House's top job since 2011. The piece centers around a less-than-organized push by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), who told the paper he's meeting with members to chart out "a new direction" for the House.

According to numerous conservative House lawmakers, as well as aides who declined to be named, Boehner's gavel is safe. Here are four reasons why.

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