In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The latest state score in NY-20 shows Democratic candidate Scott Murphy ahead of Republican Jim Tedisco by 167 votes, a margin of 50.05%-49.95%, up from an 86-vote lead at the close of business yesterday -- making it appear more likely than not that Murphy will be the winner when all is said and done.

The big question now is how the roughly 1,200 challenged absentee ballot envelopes will play out, as they are currently being kept out of the count -- including the vote of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. The ruling yesterday by Judge James V. Brands means that the vast majority of these challenges will be rejected out of hand, and the envelopes will be opened and the votes counted.

The numbers from Columbia County, for example, show that there have been 249 ballots challenged by the Tedisco campaign, compared to only 22 from Murphy. There are 740 challenges in the Tedisco stronghold of Saratoga County, but it's not been publicly disclosed what the breakdown is of who challenged how many ballots.

Overall, it seems like more ballots were challenged by the Tedisco camp across the district than were challenged by Murphy. And since a basic assumption is that a ballot that gets challenged is believed to be a vote for the other guy, this would mean that Murphy could gain a little bit when the votes are counted, assuming that more ballots were indeed challenged by Tedisco.

For the past couple weeks, events have drawn our attention to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), who's serving his second term in Pennsylvania's seventh congressional district. Specifically, he's been taking the lead in support of Defense Secretary Robert Gates' budget proposal, which I discussed with him at length earlier this week.

Neither he nor his staff are shy about the fact that he's trying to position himself out in front of this issue, and it's a big one--sure to result in a bruising political fight in the weeks ahead. In a way, he's the natural surrogate for it--a former Navy rear admiral, who's been arguing for similar reforms, both within and outside of the military for years.

But there's also the question of Pennsylvania politics. As my colleague Eric Kleefeld reported yesterday, former congressman and conservative's conservative Pat Toomey has announced that he'll be challenging Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) in the 2010 primary. Specter is very popular in Pennsylvania, but not particularly popular among its conservative residents. If he wins that primary challenge, he'll be a formidable challenger for any Pennsylvania Democrat. But if Toomey wins, it's a whole new ball game.

And that's where Sestak (may) come in.

Read More →

Obama: We Will Deal With Drugs Coming From Mexico -- And Guns From The U.S. President Obama is headed to Mexico today, where he will offer U.S. solidarity in the Drug War. Speaking to CNN en Espanol yesterday, Obama explained: "We are going to be dealing not only with drug interdiction coming north, but also working on helping to curb the flow of cash and guns going south."

Obama's Day Ahead: Discussing High-Speed Rail, Traveling To Mexico President Obama will be speaking at 9 a.m. ET this morning, discussing proposals to build a high-speed rail network. He will then leave for Mexico City, and is scheduled to arrive there at 2:10 p.m. ET. At 3:10 p.m. ET he will meet with President Felipe Calderón, and the two will hold a press conference at 4:45 p.m. ET. Obama will meet with U.S. Embassy employees at 5:40 p.m. ET, and will hold a working dinner at 9 p.m. ET.

Read More →

Here's a fun footnote to the Tedisco campaign's challenge of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's absentee ballot in the special election for her old House seat. It turns out that even if the GOP's reason for objecting to the ballot is true, the governing case law in New York says the ballot still should be counted.

The issue here is that New York requires absentee voters to have a good reason to vote this way rather than on Election Day -- in this case, Gillibrand planned to be outside of her home in Columbia County, voting at the Senate in Washington. But the GOP claims she was in the district anyway, seemingly rendering her excuse for a ballot null -- that she should have gone to the polls to cast her vote there, they say.

Gillibrand spokesman Matt Canter says she was not in the district at all on Election Day, but only arrived that night after the polls closed. This can get a bit confusing, so pay close attention: Gillibrand started the day in Albany (outside the district), went down to Washington to cast votes as she'd intended (and it turned out she missed the votes, arriving after they were held), then travelled to the district, arriving after the polls had closed to attend Murphy's Election Night party.

But what if she really was in the district? It turns out she's still covered, provided that she'd honestly expected to be out of her county, and things just worked out differently.

Read More →

The latest state numbers from the NY-20 special election show Democratic candidate Scott Murphy leading Republican Jim Tedisco by 86 votes, a margin of 0.054%, as the progression of the count and the legal developments are making a Murphy win seem more and more likely.

The big news here is that this is after the initial absentee numbers have come in from the Tedisco stronghold of Saratoga County, with Tedisco only picking up a net 163 votes, out of 1,181 -- seemingly bad news for him, considering he needed something more substantial here. On the other hand, it turns out there are 740 challenged ballots in this county, and it's not clear right now what the actual makeup of these are, in terms of how many were challenged by each campaign.

Combined with other county absentee results, Murphy is still ahead by 86 votes -- and that's with more ballots to come in the pro-Murphy Columbia and Warren counties, where his lead is likely to extend further.

Read More →

If an April 7 memo by the Department of Homeland Security is to be believed, the ranks of right wing radical and white supremacist groups--and the dangers they pose--may be growing.

And, after years of turning a blind eye to (or outright supporting) Bush-era curtailments of civil liberties, conservatives have predictably ignored reacted with great hostility to the news...before stopping to take stock of the situation. The report on right wing groups, it turns out, was prepared by the Extremism and Radicalization Branch of DHS' Homeland Environment and Threat Analysis Division. That Division falls under the purview (PDF) of the Under Secretary For Intelligence & Analysis--or, in this case, the Acting Under Secretary For Intelligence & Analysis Roger Mackin, who was appointed on September 10, 2008 by noted left wing partisan George W. Bush.

Read More →

Another local paper in Minnesota that had endorsed Norm Coleman last year is now calling for him to concede: The Worthington Daily Globe, which ran their editorial yesterday, following in the footsteps of last week's editorial from the Albert Lea Tribune.

The Daily Globe quite openly accuses the Republicans of keeping up this fight just to delay the Democrats from getting the seat, to Minnesota's detriment:

It's becoming increasingly clearer that Coleman and fellow Republicans -- desperate to keep the Democrats from strengthening their power -- are pressing onward primarily for political reasons. Meanwhile, Minnesota continues to only have one U.S. senator, despite a prolonged process that has shown Franken to be the winner on two occasions.

We, like the Albert Lea Tribune, endorsed Norm Coleman over Franken. We also share the same opinion that Coleman, for the benefit of the state and its citizens, should concede. Norm Coleman and his attorneys claim they want to ensure no Minnesota voter gets left behind. Instead, they're trying their best to leave Minnesota behind.

She probably won't wake conservatives up to the men behind the curtain, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi understands a thing or two about the Tea Party Protests.

An interviewer at Fox TV in San Francisco said "thousands of Americans...are having a tax and tea party today saying that we're taxing and spending our way into oblivion."

Pelosi responded:

Read More →

As Norm Coleman goes through with appealing the decision of the election contest court, which declared that Al Franken won the election and Coleman failed to prove otherwise, he can now count on the help of a group of D.C. lobbyists to fund the costs, Greg Sargent reports.

"We will raise as much as is necessary," said Dirk Van Dongen, who is president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, and a leading member of the "Team Coleman" group. "We'll keep raising money as Norm needs it. We continue to be active in raising resources for Norm to carry out this fight to the end."

Van Dongen said that to date, this group of lobbyists already raised "well over a million dollars" for the Senate campaign and the post-election events, and will keep on going.

Van Dongen rejected the accusation that this whole fight is only being done to bottle up a 59th Senate seat for the Democrats -- sort of. "That's a side benefit," said Van Dongen. "But this is all about us doing everything we can to be sure that Norm has had a fair election and to get him back in his Senate seat. We'd be doing exactly the same thing if the Republicans were in the majority."

TPMLivewire