In it, but not of it. TPM DC

A new SurveyUSA poll in Virginia finds yet more evidence that former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe is leading the pack for the June 9 Democratic primary for Governor.

The numbers: McAuliffe 37%, state Sen. Creigh Deeds 26%, and former state Del. Brian Moran 22%, with a ±4.5% margin of error. Three weeks ago, it was McAuliffe 38%, and Deeds and Moran tied at 22% each.

The pollster's analysis finds that 57% of likely primary voters could change their minds, so the race is still very much in a fluid condition, though McAuliffe sure seems to be the man to beat.

However, all three Dems currently trail the Republican candidate, former state Atty. Bob McDonnell, who leads McAuliffe 46%-40%, is ahead of Deeds 46%-40%, and beats Moran 47%-37%. Still, this formerly Republican state has officially become a swing state in the wake of Barack Obama's win last year, so there's no telling what will happen when the general election campaign really gets going after the primary.

The RNC has officially scrapped the much-ridiculed proposal to call for the Democratic Party to change its name to the "Democrat Socialist Party," which was originally set for a vote today.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele had opposed this cartoonish proposal from the start -- and in a sign that he is now exercising genuine leadership at the GOP, he has negotiated a much tamer change in language that simply calls on Americans to reject the Democrats' "socialist" agenda.

This deal had first been announced last night, and was formally carried out today.

Late Update: The resolution's original sponsors are still claiming victory in that the proposal generated publicity and educated the public. RNC member David Norcross of New Jersey said the effort here was to raise the public's awareness of the Democratic agenda, so that the people can be "properly fearful."

As you've heard, the New Hampshire state House just narrowly rejected a compromise gay marriage bill that Gov. John Lynch (D) was prepared to sign -- only two weeks after they'd previously voted in favor of gay marriage. So what happened?

The answer comes down to a term often used in politics, just not all that much in this context: GOTV.

To start with, little old New Hampshire has absurdly large lower chamber -- with 400 members for a state that has just two Congressional districts. Two weeks ago, the House voted 178-167 for the bill -- meaning that 55 members didn't vote. Today, the vote was 186 yes to 188 no, with 26 people not voting -- 29 less abstainers than last time.

Looking at the two votes, there don't appear to have been people switching from being pro-gay marriage to anti-gay marriage. The difference came from the anti-marriage equality forces doing a better job getting their folks to show up. This is probably not the last we've heard of this issue.

Late Update: Interestingly, there was at least one legislator who switched from yes to no -- a gay Republican who opposed the new concessions to religious institutions not wanting to honor gay marriages.

TPMDC's daily update on the biggest legislative initiatives on the Hill:

  • Guantanamo: The Senate stripped Guantanamo detention center closing funds from a war funding bill by an overwhelming vote of 90-6.


  • Credit Card Reform: The House passed--and the President will soon sign--legislation cracking down on credit card companies. House leaders split the bill in two because of a measure sponsored by Tom Coburn (R-OK) allowing people to take guns into national parks. Both parts of the bill passed, but the move allowed liberal Democrats to go on record against the idea.


  • EFCA: Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) tells potential EFCA opponents to get serious about compromise, or they'll have to go on record, one way or another, on the question of the original bill.


  • Defense Spending: Defense Secretary Robert Gates isn't backtracking on his decision to cancel the (well over-budget) presidential helicopter program. But he does envision the possibility of a "escape helicopter," to make the President's job seem more awesome.

A new CNN poll has yet more bad news for the Republican Party, directly contradicting recent declarations that they represent the American people with their attacks on President Obama and the less popular Democratic leadership in Congress.

The poll asked this straightforward question: "Do you think the policies being proposed by Barack Obama will move the country in the right direction or the wrong direction?" The answer was right direction 63%, wrong direction 35%.

Then two similar questions were asked about Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress, one half of respondents being asked about the Dems and the other half asked about the GOP. "Do you think the policies being proposed by the Democratic leaders in the U.S. House and Senate would move the country in the right direction or the wrong direction?" The answer here was right direction 57%, wrong direction 40% -- lagging a bit behind Obama, but still more than solid.

As for this one: "Do you think the policies being proposed by the Republican leaders in the U.S. House and Senate would move the country in the right direction or the wrong direction?" The result here was right direction 39%, wrong direction 53%.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is solidifying her support throughout the Democratic Party -- especially after President Obama moved last week to clear the field for her and successfully urged a potential Democratic primary opponent not to get in the race.

Gillibrand's campaign announced today that she's received more endorsements from the New York House delegation, with Reps. John Hall and Michael Arcuri endorsing her, plus newly-elected Congressman Scott Murphy from Gillibrand's old House district. In addition, she's secured the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500, which has 23,000 members.

And yet another potential primary opponent, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, has pulled out of the race -- and cited Obama as the reason: "In light of President Obama's clear desire to avoid a Democratic primary in New York State, I have decided to focus on my re-election race for Manhattan Borough President and to suspend my exploratory committee and fund-raising efforts for the 2010 Senate race."

We reported earlier that the Senate voted overwhelmingly this afternoon to strip the funding for the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay from a supplemental war spending bill.

The move has angered many. It comes a day after Senate Democrats announced they would withhold the money until the White House settles on a comprehensive plan for dealing with detainees--and critics on the left are charging that Democratic leaders have caved to Republican scare tactics.

That's certainly part of the story--but a bigger problem, according to several sources, has been the White House's failure, for months, to co-ordinate strategy and messaging on the issue with Congress, where the bulk of opposition to the plan lies.

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Minnesotans expect Gov. Tim Pawlenty to run for the Republican nomination for president in 2012, a new Rasmussen poll finds, with 59% of the state's likely voters saying it's either somewhat or very likely that he'll go for it.

Only 29% think it's not very likely or not at all likely, and another 11% are not sure.

However, the state is closely divided on Pawlenty's performance as governor, with 53% approving and 46% disapproving. This shouldn't be too surprising, as Minnesota is very much a Democratic state overall, and Pawlenty and the Dem-dominated legislature have been fighting over the state budget.

Also, only 37% say he is somewhat or very likely to actually win the nomination, with 55% saying it is not very likely or not at all likely. Another 8% were not sure. (Note: At this point in the 2012 cycle, this question does have a correct answer -- and only 8% got it.)

The political watchdog group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington has sent a letter to the FEC opposing Norm Coleman's request to use campaign money to pay for his legal costs in connection with the Nasser Kazeminy case.

This involves a lawsuit in Texas where Coleman himself has not been directly accused of wrongdoing, but could be called as a witness, and contains an allegation that a Coleman donor conspired to funnel money to him when he was a Senator. CREW says that Coleman should not be able to use campaign money in this matter -- or at the very least, that he cannot use money from his special recount committee for anything other than the recount and related litigation.

The Minnesota Democrats filed a complaint against Coleman on this very subject a month ago. These sorts of things usually go nowhere quickly, but who knows -- over the long haul, this could perhaps turn into another headache for Coleman to worry about.

Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in this year's election for Governor of New Jersey, appeared on Sean Hannity's show Monday night and agreed with governors who reject stimulus money, saying governors should have the ability to decide how to spend it:



"I think it makes sense," said Christie. "If they're going to put strings on that money, that are gonna to tie your hands and make you expand programs, and not be able to have the freedom of choice that the people elected you for, then you shouldn't take the money."

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