In it, but not of it. TPM DC

In the new Washington Post profile of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), this amusing nugget is given about how he's still getting used to his new partisan identity:

Specter himself occasionally struggles to stay in character as a Democrat, flubbing his lines. When he wants to say "my party," he catches himself to make sure he's referring to the correct party.

"I've been on a lot of issues which are right in line with the Democratic Party," he said to some reporters who cornered him in the union hall. "A woman's right to choose. Had a split with my own party -- with the Republican Party -- on embryonic stem cell research ... Had a split with my party, with the Republican Party -- on the nuclear test ban treaty."


A quick tip for Sen. Specter: Just remember that you're for Al Franken in the Minnesota Senate race. All else follows from there.

Obama Jokes About ASU Honorary Degree Flap When delivering the commencement address last night at Arizona State University, President Obama joked about the university's decision to not grant him an honorary degree. "I learned to never again pick another team over the Sun Devils in my NCAA bracket," said Obama. "And your university President and Board of Regents will soon learn all about being audited by the IRS."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will hold a town hall at 12 p.m. ET, at Rancho Rio High School in New Mexico, where he will discuss proposed credit card reforms and consumer protections. He will depart from Kirkland Air Force Base at 2:15 p.m. ET, and is scheduled to arrive back at the White House at 5:50 p.m. ET.

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A new Rasmussen poll in the New Jersey gubernatorial race finds that the establishment Republican choice, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, could be in a tough race for the GOP nomination against the conservative insurgent, former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan.

The numbers: Christie 39%, Lonegan 29%, with a ±5% margin of error. The winner of the Republican primary, on June 2, will face Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine, whose approval ratings have been in negative territory.

From the pollster's analysis: "In primary elections, turnout is often the key. Lonegan's supporters are somewhat more committed to participating in the primary suggesting that a low turnout could favor his prospects."

My own perspective as a New Jerseyan: This state has become heavily Democratic, with Barack Obama carrying it by a 57%-42% margin. The last time the Republicans won the governorship was with the narrow re-election of the moderate Christie Whitman in 1997. In 2001, the conservative insurgent Bret Schundler won the GOP nomination, and then lost the general election by more than ten points.

Greg Sargent gets the answers from Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) that I've been seeking for weeks. The two both say they remain undecided about the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday that he'd need "a couple" Republicans to cross the line before he could move Johnsen's confirmation to the floor, as Greg notes, this suggests her nomination's simply stalled--not dead in the water.

But here's the corollary to that.

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Former President Bill Clinton has a clever response to former Vice President Dick Cheney's public criticism of the Obama Administration, CNN reports.

"I wish him well," Bill said, adding that "it's over," presumably a reference to the Bush-Cheney years being done with.

Bill added: "But I do hope he gets some more target practice before he goes out again."

One Republican is willing to openly say that Norm Coleman has a tough time ahead of him in his legal fight for the Minnesota Senate seat: Ken Starr, who described Coleman's situation as an "uphill battle," but isn't ruling out the idea entirely.

The former independent counsel was asked in a radio interview with WCCO-AM in the Twin Cities whether the U.S. Supreme Court would grant certiorari to Coleman's case. "I would tend to doubt it," said Starr. "I can understand why given the stakes, that every avenue of appeal would be exhausted. But we select our Senators through state elections, and so it is ultimately for the state, subject to fundamental rights of equality and so forth. So I would say it would be an uphill battle."

Starr did go on to add, though: "So I would just say, good lawyers can do a great job in making a case that might seem at first blush -- especially in light of Bush vs. Gore -- the kind of case that the Supreme Court might not want to be involved in, but you would be surprised. Some cases get up there that the smart money was wrong."

Earlier today Republicans blocked the confirmation of David Hayes, President Obama's Deputy Interior Secretary-designate. Hayes isn't a controversial nominee. He's served in that very position once before and his credentials aren't really questioned by either party.

So why was he filibustered?

As explained in this post, Republicans decided to oppose the nomination (at least for now) out of solidarity with Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) who placed a hold on Hayes several weeks ago. Holds, though not binding, are generally respected in the Senate, but a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that Reid decided to try and move the nomination forward anyhow, having grown tired of Republicans' slow-walking the nomination.

So why did Bennett place the hold in the first place?

A number of reports today suggest that the controversy has to do with the Obama Interior Department's decision to cancel oil and gas leases in Utah, sold off during the last days of the Bush administration. Here's a bit more detail:

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The big question in the 2010 Florida Senate race, where moderate Republican Gov. Charlie Crist has just declared his candidacy for his open GOP-held seat, is just how much of a frontrunner he is -- and whether the GOP primary could get messy.

For example, the conservative blog RedState.com is already telling readers to not give any support to the NRSC because of their immediate endorsement of Crist: "We can disagree with the NRSC on many things, but this one is a bridge too far." And the Club For Growth is calling on Crist to reject a state budget plan that includes tax and fee increases.

A Florida Democratic source confidently predicted to me that Crist, who supported the stimulus bill and has taken other moderate positions, will face a divisive primary against former state House speaker Marco Rubio, running on the right. "It's already happening," the Dem source said. "Before he [Crist] was even in the race, his last campaign manager and former chief of staff was already taking shots at Rubio, and Rubio obviously took a lot of shots at him yesterday. So it's already ugly. They're not even waiting."

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Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (D) has just announced via press release that she is running for governor of this big swing state in 2010.

Sink had previously a top choice of national Democrats to run for the Senate seat now held by retiring GOPer Mel Martinez, but she passed up the race in January. Now with Gov. Charlie Crist (R) running for Senate, Sink has thrown her name into the governor's race.

There is going to be a whole lot of movement in Florida's statewide offices now, with a Senator retiring, a governor running for Senate, and the other statewide officers running for governor or other state positions.

Full press release after the jump.

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As I reported below, Senate Republicans have blocked, for now, the confirmation of David Hayes as Undersecretary for the Interior. The vote was 57-39, with Reid voting with the minority for procedural reasons. Here's the roll call. Sixty votes were required to move the nomination forward.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) voted for cloture. Presumably for procedural reasons, so did Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the Senate Minority Whip. But Sens. Kerry (D-MA), Kennedy (D-MA), and Mikulski (D-MD) didn't vote at all. If they'd been around this morning, the Democrats might have had the votes. Kennedy has missed a number of votes for health reasons, but where were Kerry and Mikulski?

Late update: Kerry is apparently in Massachusetts at the funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq.

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