In it, but not of it. TPM DC

A new CNN poll finds that Americans don't agree with former Vice President Dick Cheney when he says President Obama is making the country less safe:

Do you think the actions Barack Obama has taken as president have increased the chances of a terrorist attack against the U.S., or don't you think so?

Have increased 26%
Have not 72%


One thing worth noting is that the question didn't attribute this idea to Dick Cheney -- respondents were asked to judge it on its own merits. If they had included Cheney, pitting his reputation against Obama's, who knows whether agreement would have been higher or lower.

The NY-20 special election's litigation was put on hold today, when the scheduled court proceedings were delayed due to Judge James V. Brands being hospitalized and undergoing tests.

Senior court clerk Karen Bitonte told TPM that Judge Brands expects to be back in his chambers tomorrow, and court will resume on Wednesday. In Judge Brands' absence, the lawyers for both sides spoke to Brands' clerk. "The lawyers voiced their concerns to the judge's law clerk, and she was going to take them to the judge," Bitonte explained.

One outstanding issue here is whether the campaign of GOP candidate Jim Tedisco can successfully challenge certain absentee voters who maintain two addresses -- voting in the district, but having driver's licenses in New York City or elsewhere. If Tedisco were to be turned down in all or most examples, that would likely result in a pickup of as many as 100 votes for Democrat Scott Murphy.

The Club For Growth, the economic right-wing political group known for backing staunch anti-tax candidates in GOP primaries, has selected a new chairman, replacing Pat Toomey: Former Rep. Chris Chocola (R-IN).

Chocola was first elected to Congress in 2002, picking up an open seat for the Republicans, but later lost re-election in 2006 by a 54%-46% to Democrat Joe Donnelly. From his first unsuccessful campaign in 2000 and through his career in Congress, he at times strongly favored total privatization of Social Security, and at others didn't support privatization.

Another thing here is that the real news isn't so much Chocola signing on to the Club For Growth, as it is Toomey signing off. Toomey, a former Pennsylvania Congressman, is widely believed to be about to challenge Arlen Specter in the Republican primary for Senator from Pennsylvania, after he'd previously run in 2004 and lost in a 51%-49% squeaker. Toomey is officially leaving the Club to pursue "other opportunities."

The NRCC has announced a new wide-reaching ad campaign, composed of TV and radio spots plus robocalls, targeting key House Democrats over the federal budget. They aren't targeting President Obama -- he's too popular right now, obviously -- but are instead focusing their firepower on Nancy Pelosi.

Here's a TV ad against Rep. Zack Space (D-OH):



"Nancy Pelosi pushed a budget with a trillion-dollar deficit -- and Space voted to let Nancy Pelosi get her way," the announcer says. There's also a radio version of the ad, with this sample against freshman Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA).

Space's district voted for John McCain 53%-45%, and Dahlkemper's went for McCain by less than one point. The NRCC will also have other TV and radio ads and robocalls against a diverse line-up of House Dems, some from Obama districts and others from McCain districts, though all of them are swing seats to various degrees. The full listing is after the jump.

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Now here's something interesting in the Minnesota Senate trial, which is sure to be appealed to the state Supreme Court: As Senate Guru over at MyDD points out, one of the state Supreme Court justices has in the past donated to Norm Coleman.

In the years before he was appointed to the state bench, Christopher Dietzen was a private attorney and occasional Republican donor, including a check for $250 to Coleman in December 2001, and another $250 for the current cycle in January 2004. The Hill also points out Dietzen served as a campaign counsel for GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty, during the 2002 open-seat race.

A spokesman for the state Supreme Court told TPM that no information is available about any possible recusal. Since there hasn't been an actual ruling in the trial, much less the filing of an appeal, we don't know and cannot predict what would happen.

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The latest official score in the NY-20 special election how has Democratic candidate Scott Murphy ahead of Republican Jim Tedisco by 25 votes, or 0.016%, as the absentees continue to be counted.

Murphy led by 35 on Friday, but the lead has now been cut slightly as the absentee votes were counted in the Tedisco stronghold of Greene County. However, it should be noted that while Tedisco won the absentee ballots here by 52.6%-47.4%, he won the Election Night vote here by 55.6%-44.4% -- so Murphy in fact performed above the baseline here, as he has in most of the other counties that have reported their absentees so far.

We're all still waiting for the Tedisco stronghold of Saratoga County and the Murphy bastion of Washington County to start reporting their absentees, as well as more votes from pro-Murphy Warren County, which just began counting some precincts on Friday, plus the military and overseas ballots that are due back in the mail today under an extended deadline. And as I've previously reported, the number is currently distorted by ballot challenges that appear to have kept a disproportionate number of Murphy votes out of the count. We'll see what happens.

Politicians in both parties might be reluctant to let Defense Secretary Robert Gates have his way with the Pentagon budget--and they, the rank and file, will ultimately have the final say when a real piece of legislation comes to a vote. But Gates and the administration do have some powerful allies on Capitol Hill, and their efforts will be crucial to the success or failure of the attempted overhaul.

We reported a week ago that one of the lone significant voices speaking out in support of the proposed reforms belongs to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. But while McCain wasted no time getting in front of the issue, the committee's chairman, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), remained silent all week.

He broke that silence on Saturday.

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The mini-drama surrounding Arizona State University's refusal to award President Barack Obama an honorary degree may have a second act.

Obama is scheduled to deliver a commencement address at ASU next month, and last week, the university touched off a bit of controversy by suggesting that he hadn't "been in [his] field" for enough time to deserve an honorary degree just yet.

There were, unfortunately, some problems with that rationale.

But over the weekend, the university announced the formation of the "President Barack Obama Scholars" program. And, though they haven't decided to give Obama a degree, Politico's Jonathan Martin reported on Saturday that ASU President Michael Crow sent an email to faculty and students re-justifying that decision.

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One of the major themes of last week was the degree to which Republicans in Congress were deceptively referring to Defense Secretary Robert Gates' budget proposal as a weak-on-defense spending cut. The corollary to that claim--articulated by many Republicans, but also some Democrats--is that defense spending "cuts" will cost jobs. The problem is, though, that most of the people making that argument voted against the stimulus bill this past winter.

Last week we caught Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) in just such a contradiction. During the debate over the stimulus, Chambliss lashed out at the specter of government recession spending, calling it a "bloated government giveaway." But then, he called into the NPR program Talk of the Nation and said none of that matters as long as the spending is defense spending.

"[W]hen it comes to stimulating the economy," Chambliss said, there's no better way to do it than to spend it in the defense community."

On Sunday, Paul Krugman appeared on ABC's This Week, and picked up on the same thing, and called out Congressional Republicans for what one might call the "Chambliss hypocrisy". Here's Krugman:

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AP: Pirate Crisis Could Help Obama's Image On National Security The Associated Press speculates that President Obama's behind-the-scenes handling of the Somali pirates hostage crisis could potentially pay off politically. "For Obama, the benefits were instantly clear: an American life saved and a major victory notched against an increasingly worrisome scourge of the seas off the Horn of Africa," the AP says.

Obama's Day Ahead: Easter Eggs, Stimulus, Defense President Obama and his family will attend the White House Easter Egg Roll at 10 a.m. ET. At 11:35 a.m. ET, Obama and Vice President Biden will speak at the Department of Transportation, discussing infrastructure jobs created by the stimulus bill. At 4 p.m. ET, Obama and Biden will have a closed-press meeting with Robert Gates.

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