In it, but not of it. TPM DC

A new Rasmussen poll tests the reactions of likely voters to former Vice President Dick Cheney's recent public activism against the Obama Administration -- with Obama currently the winner on the issues.

The poll asked: "Former Vice President Dick Cheney has been speaking out lately on a number of topics. Now that he has left office, how important are Dick Cheney's opinions?" Only 39% say his views are very or somewhat important, to 57% who say his views are not very or not at all important.

And finally: "Cheney says America is less safe because of changes President Obama has made in national security. Do you agree or disagree with Cheney's statement that America is now less safe?" Here's it's only 38% agreeing, to 51% disagreeing.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is bringing aboard an almost entirely new staff to back up the minority members on the Judiciary Committee. Among the senior aides is one Brian Benczkowski. Does that name ring a bell?

If it does, you're probably a long time reader of Talking Points Memo, and we salute you. Benczkowski was Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General under Michael Mukasey, and a key figure working behind the scenes to cover up corruption in the Bush Justice Department.

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Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is apparently not agreeing with Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, who said in the New York Times on Monday that the Obama Administration was deliberately increasing unemployment and lowering stock prices, "intended to inflict damage and hardship on the free enterprise system, if not to kill it."

The Dallas Morning News asked Cornyn whether he agreed that Obama wants higher unemployment and other economic problems. "Absolutely not," said Cornyn.

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Former Rep. Pat Toomey's (R-PA) campaign has just announced the endorsement of a prominent GOP Congressman from Pennsylvania, Rep. Charlie Dent, a sign that Toomey's effort might just be picking up more steam now that former Gov. Tom Ridge declared that he wouldn't be running for the GOP nod.

Dent represents Toomey's old House seat, but is generally viewed as a relatively more moderate, establishment personality. For example, he voted against federal intervention in the Schiavo case, and he endorsed the socially-liberal Rudy Giuliani for president in 2007.

The first big step for Toomey was declaring his candidacy at all, which then had the very-much unforeseen consequence of triggering Sen. Arlen Specter's party switch. The GOP establishment then began looking for another candidate, such as Ridge, but Toomey appears to be gaining momentum now.

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."

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