In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Updated: March 26, 2014, 10:46 AM

When House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-NC), the leading candidate in the GOP primary to face Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), released the names of the women serving as co-chairs of his Women for Tillis Coalition one name stuck out: Dr. Mary Susan Fulghum.

The Tillis campaign listed Fulghum as a "retired OB-GYN who is very active in the Raleigh community." The campaign noted that Fulghum serves on a number of boards and committees and graduated from the University of North Carolina.

There was, however, no mention of Fulghum's involvement in Planned Parenthood. Fulghum, in fact, happens to be one of the principle founders of the Planned Parenthood Health Systems headquarters in Raleigh, which was first started in 1980. She's listed as a principal founder on Planned Parenthood's website today.

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Obamacare's open enrollment ends next week. Soon after, the Obama administration will announce how many people -- with a few caveats -- signed up for private health coverage through the law for 2014.

At that point, the evaluation will truly begin. Some on the right will inevitably observe that the law fell well short of the original Congressional Budget Office projection of 7 million enrollees. Others on the left will likely counter that it still hit (or came close) to the revised 6 million projection that CBO made after the disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov. Charles Gaba, who has been tracking the enrollment process, anticipates 6.2 million enrollments.

None of that really matters. Health policy experts and insurance companies themselves agree that the raw number of enrollees isn't really significant when the difference is 6 million versus 7 million. If nobody had signed up, that would have been a problem. But that didn't happen.

The real data for measuring Obamacare's success aren't in yet, but they eventually will be. At the top of the list: What happens with premiums in 2015? Plus: Do insurance companies leave the market or enter it? And the ultimate barometer: Has the number of uninsured Americans dropped significantly?

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Updated: March 25, 2014, 8:22 PM

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) campaign on Tuesday pulled a web ad that featured college basketball players out of concerns that it may have violated National Collegiate Athletic Association rules.

"We figured we had shot ourselves in the foot enough for one day, so we took the the web video down as soon as a fair use questions popped up to avoid any misunderstandings," McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton told TPM in an email on Tuesday.

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The North Carolina Senate race -- a prime pickup opportunity for Republicans -- has shaped up to be a bit messier than it probably should be.

With a little more than a month before the Senate primary, the GOP still lacks a de facto nominee. There's a social conservative favorite, Rev. Mark Harris; a Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)-backed candidate, Dr. Greg Brannon; and a GOP-backed establishment candidate who's supposed to have locked up the whole thing by now, State House Speaker Thom Tillis, among others. Most observers say Tillis is the frontrunner, but he's far from a lock on the nomination and there's a chance he could be pushed to a runoff.

"I don't think there's any question that the person who is best positioned to defeat Kay Hagan is Thom Tillis," North Carolina-based Republican strategist Brian Nick told TPM. "And he's the best candidate in the Republican field and the Democrats are certainly cheering on someone else to possibly pull off an upset."

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In a sharply divided Supreme Court, women led the charge Tuesday in aggressively questioning the challengers of the rule under Obamacare that for-profit employers' health plans cover contraceptives for female employees at no extra cost, which the suing business owners say violates their religious liberty.

The first salvo came from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who swiftly jumped in to question the challengers' lawyer if any employer can get an exemption from a general law that they claim a religious objection to.

"There are many people who have religious objections to vaccinations," she told Paul Clement, who was representing Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, two businesses who sued for relief from the mandate on the basis of their owners' Christian beliefs.

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The Treasury Department has now weighed in amid conservative media titan Matt Drudge's claims that he recently paid the Obamacare penalty he dubbed a "liberty tax."

In summary, Drudge apparently volunteered to fork over money to the IRS far earlier than he needed to. And he did it before the rules for doing so were final. TPM reported on Friday that was one of the possibilities from the facts Drudge laid out last week.

The department confirmed to TPM on Monday that instructions to pay the individual mandate penalty are still forthcoming. The IRS is still working on proposed regulations. On top of that, Treasury said that Americans who file quarterly estimated taxes -- as Drudge said he did -- are not required to include payments for the penalty.

That means Drudge likely gave the IRS an amount of money, which he has described as his penalty, but which he lacked the full information to pay.

And in a twist on Monday night, the IRS released a new explainer with some examples for calculating the penalty -- three days after Drudge said he paid it.

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A couple weeks ago, a Republican triumphed over a Democrat in a special House election in Florida. Because much of the conversation about the race centered on Obamacare and its possible role in the outcome, the Democratic defeat was quickly extrapolated by some as a full damnation for the party's Obamacare message and its prospects for the midterm elections, where the Democrats are defending seats in deep-red states where the health care reform law is unpopular.

"Florida loss exposes Democrats' disarray on Obamacare" was among the headlines that followed. A somber examination of how Democrats approach Obamacare -- and whether they needed to separate themselves from it -- was supposed to be imminent. And, to be clear, there was undoubtedly some anxiety, especially within the Beltway.

But with a few weeks of distance, has anything really changed on the ground, particularly in the battleground states that will determine control of the Senate and where Obamacare is expected to be a critical issue? Any signs of panic from the Democratic candidates who should have been shaken by the vote in Florida?

Actually, both Democratic and Republican strategists in two of those key states told TPM the answer is no. In fact, polling suggests it is far from certain exactly how Obamacare will factor into the November elections.

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