In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The Minnesota election court just announced their decision after last week's blow-up, which involved secret e-mails by Coleman lawyers showing that they intentionally delayed telling the Franken side about a key witness, precinct election judge Pamela Howell.

The bottom line: Howell is not being struck from the record, nor is the double-counting claim connected to her being tossed, as Team Franken wanted. Instead, the court is going to fine the Coleman campaign for the amount of time that this whole back and forth has cost.

"Clearly, we've spent a great deal of time thinking about this," said Judge Elizabeth Hayden, "weighing what would be the proper sanction."

The court is pretty much in a bind here -- if they strike the witness or the double-counting claim, they could leave too much room for an appeal by Coleman. They've clearly taken the most cautious road: To let this testimony play out.

Franken lawyer David Lillehaug, a former U.S. attorney, is now questioning Howell -- and it's pretty rough so far, as Lillehaug moves to discredit her as a partisan Coleman witness. More on that in a bit.

Former Congressman Pat Toomey (R-PA), who just barely lost a 51%-49% primary challenge from the right against GOP Senator Arlen Specter back in 2004, now says that a run against Specter is "back on the table" in the wake of Specter's support for the stimulus.

Toomey had been publicly mulling a run for governor in 2010, but he told talk-radio host Bobby Gunther Walsh just how much he objected to the stimulus bill: "Senator Specter cast the deciding vote on the very worrisome stimulus Bill, when he could have negotiated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama for more productive tax cuts and less wasteful spending."

If Specter wins the primary, he'll be the initial favorite against the Democratic candidate. But if Toomey or another right-wing challenger takes the nomination, the Dems' chances of gaining the seat would likely go up significantly.

(Via Taegan Goddard.)

As TPM reported the day Tom Daschle dropped out, Howard Dean was never in play to be the HHS Secretary and Kathleen Sebelius was a leading candidate. It looks like we'll get Sebelius named to the HHS slot later today. As Kansas's governor, she's got a mixed record on health care, as the New York Times notes today. Can she fare better with the much more difficult job ahead? Interestingly, Nancy Ann DeParle, a friend and spouse of New York Times reporter Jason DeParle, seems headed for the White House health care czar job. (Daschle was originally going to hold both positions.) As the Times notes:

From 1997 to 2000, Ms. DeParle was administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration, now known as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Ms. DeParle has extensive experience in the business world that has prompted questions from some liberals and from some of the people who vet appointments for Mr. Obama. Ms DeParle is now or has been a director of huge health care companies including Medco Health Solutions, a pharmacy benefit manager; Cerner, a supplier of health information technology; Boston Scientific, a medical device company; DaVita, which runs kidney dialysis centers; and Triad Hospitals.


A Rhodes Scholar and veteran of Tennessee policy and politics, she's as well versed as anyone to take on the challenge of getting health care passed. No word if Jeanne Lambrew will stay at the White House or move on to HHS. Lambrew is the University of Texas professor who was Tom Daschle's intellectual guru on health care issues. The two wrote a book together and she was to be his deput in the White House health care office. If she stays at the White House or goes to HHS, she'll have huge influence. She was one of the designers of the State Childrens Health Insurance Program, SCHIP, that President Obama recently expanded.

Interesting news out of Austin this morning where Tom Schieffer, the brother of CBS's Bob Schieffer, and a prominent figure in Texas politics will announce his candidacy to be Texas governor. Schieffer was George W. Bush's ambassador to Australia and he's sure to have to defend that from Democrats in the primary battle ahead. But his bipartisan credentials might give him some advantage should he get the nomination. Texas hasn't had a Democratic governor since George W. Bush defeated Ann Richards in 1994.

The DCCC has a new radio ad out in their effort to attack Jim Tedisco, the Republican candidate for Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat, over his refusal to take a definite position on how he would have voted on the stimulus bill -- and they throw in some other issues, too:



"But Jim Tedisco refuses to say whether he supports President Obama's economic policies," the announcer says. "Jim Tedisco even refuses to say whether he supports the stimulus." The ad later expands this theme into Dem candidate's support for executive pay caps: "Scott Murphy supports caps on executive compensation for companies receiving federal bailout money, too. Jim Tedisco? Again, he refuses to say."

Republicans have a serious chance of winning this seat, thanks to its historic Republican lean (though Barack Obama narrowly carried it in 2008) and the fact that Tedisco comes into the race with much higher name recognition as a state legislator than the Democrat does as a first-time candidate. But the Democrats obviously think that economic populism could be a real winner here, and are building their campaign around President Obama's popularity and the stimulus bill.

Roland Burris hasn't given a definite answer as to whether he'll be running for a full term in 2010, but he's clearly taking the steps to run just in case the answer is yes. Burris now has a new campaign Web site, complete with a "Contribute" button:



Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that a whole bunch of potential candidates are lining up on both sides to run for the seat. One possibility would even involve the state passing legislation to hold a special election in the middle of Burris' term, which he might challenge in court.

But if that Web site above means anything, it's that any new candidates should assume, until contrary evidence pops up, that they'll have one particular person as an opponent: Roland Burris.

(Via Politics1.)

Late Update: The Hotline reports that the site is a placeholder, set up by a Burris associate, and has been up since he was first seated, though it only just attracted notice. A Burris spokesperson says the Junior Senator from Illinois still hasn't made a decision about 2010.

The Federal Election Commission has now ruled in favor of John McCain, finding that he did not violate the law when he opted out of the public-finance system during the primaries.

At issue is the fact that McCain obtained a $3 million bank loan in 2007, when his campaign was in serious trouble, which would have potentially been paid back using federal funds had he failed to win the primaries. He instead went on to win the Republican nomination, raised money the old-fashioned way, and never actually collected federal cash until the general election.

The Democratic National Committee filed a complaint over the deal. But the FEC decided that McCain "permissibly withdrew from the matching payment program and thus was released from his obligations," and that there was no reason to believe a violation occurred.

Obama's Day Ahead: Announcing Sebelius For HHS President Obama will announce at 1 p.m. the nomination of Kathleen Sebelius for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Then at 2 p.m. ET, he will meet with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

NYT: Washington Offers Sebelius Big Chance On Health Care The New York Times examines Kathleen Sebelius' record on health care, finding a Democrat whose efforts to expand health coverage have faltered against a heavily-Republican state legislature. "Now, with the backing of a Democratic Congress," the Times says, "Ms. Sebelius will have a chance to achieve in Washington what she failed to accomplish in Topeka, and then some."

Dean: I Would Have Liked Health And Human Services Post In an interview with the Huffington Post, Howard Dean discussed his previous desire for the HHS post. "I was pretty clear that I would have liked to have been Secretary of HHS but it is the president's choice and he decided to go in a different direction," Dean told Sam Stein. But he made sure to compliment Kathleen Sebelius: "I think she will be very good. She is a very nice person and I think she will be fine."

WaPo: Geithner And Summers Steer Obama's Economic Policy The Washington Post profiles the partnership that has developed between Tim Geithner and Larry Summers. "I'm struck in meetings by the fact that when Tim says something, it was exactly what I thought needed to be said," said Summers, also adding that the two of them will often finish each other's sentences, and can communicate through a single glance.

Reid Reopens Senate Debate, Allowing More GOP Amendments Roll Call reports that Harry Reid has made a decision to open up Senate debate in a much less controlled manner than he did during 2007 and 2008, in the hopes that such an environment can make it easier to adopt amendments and attract the necessary Republican support to pass bills. Thus far, the paper notes, the decision has attracted praise from Republicans and some consternation from Dems.

Durbin: Race Factored Into Burris Controversies Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has acknowledged that race became a factor in the discussions surround Roland Burris' appointment to the Senate. "My colleague from Illinois, Congressman Bobby Rush, made strong statements along those (racial) lines," said Durbin. "They were painful and hurtful, and it became part of this calculation."

Hillary Promises Aid For Palestinians, Says No Funds For Hamas Hillary Clinton is pledging $900 million in U.S. aid for humanitarian help for the Palestinians, including $300 million for Gaza. Hillary has also promised that the money will not go to Hamas: "We have worked with the Palestinian Authority to install safeguards that will ensure our funding is only used where and for whom it is intended and does not end up in the wrong hands."

Canada's Harper: Afghan War Can Never Be Won Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is making it clearer that his county will not be providing more troops for Afghanistan, a war that President Obama is trying to beef up, without a clear exit strategy. "My own judgment is, quite frankly, that we are not going to ever defeat the insurgency," the Conservative prime minister said, adding: "We have to have an Afghan government that is capable of managing that insurgency and improving its own governance."

Obama Picks Sebelius For Health And Human Services President Obama has reportedly selected Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services, and will officially announce the pick on Monday. Sebelius' move to the cabinet would seem to take her out of the running for the 2010 Senate race, for which some had hoped she could be first Democrat to win a Senate seat from Kansas since 1932.

Limbaugh Reaffirms It -- He Wants Obama To Fail, And America To Succeed Rush Limbaugh accepted his "Defender of the Constitution Award" at CPAC last night, reaffirming that he wants President Obama's policies to fail. "You can't say, Mr. Limbaugh, that you want the President to fail because that's like saying you want the country to fail," Limbaugh said rhetorically. "It's the opposite. I want the country to survive. I want the country to succeed," he added, as the crowd cheered.

Cantor Distances Himself From Limbaugh, Says GOP Doesn't Want Obama To Fail Appearing on This Week, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) rejected the rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh, that Republicans want Obama to fail:

STEPHANOPOULOS: So the Rush Limbaugh approach of hoping the president fails is not the Eric Cantor , House Republican approach?

CANTOR: George, absolutely not. And I don't -- I don't think anyone wants anything to fail right now. We have such challenges.

What we need to do is we need to put forth solutions to the problems that real families are facing today. And our common-sense, conservative principles of limited government, and the belief in free markets, and the belief that really opportunity can only be created by the private sector are going to undergird our proposals going forward.


Rahm: Limbaugh "The Intellectual Force And Energy" Of GOP Appearing on Face The Nation, Rahm Emanuel moved to further tie the Republican Party to Rush Limbaugh, declaring him to be "the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party." Of Limbaugh's rhetoric about failure, Rahm said: "He said it, and I compliment him on his honesty. But that's their philosophy that's enunciated by Rush Limbaugh and I think that's the wrong philosophy for America."

Orszag: Deficit Will Go Down In Near Future Appearing on This Week, White House Budget Director Peter Orszag reaffirmed the White House's projections that they can cut the deficit in half in the next few years, as the economy recovers and the Bush tax cuts expire. "We've got both spending constraints and additional revenue, as the economy recovers," Orszag explained. "That's where a lot of the deficit reduction comes from."

Gates: Obama 'More Analytical' Than Bush Appearing on Meet The Press, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates compared President Obama to his previous boss, George W. Bush: "I think that probably President Obama is somewhat more analytical. And he makes sure he hears from everybody in the room on an issue. And if they don't speak up, he calls on them." He also said it is "fairly remote" that the current plan for withdrawal from Iraq would change.

Mullen Expresses Confidence In Obama, Withdrawal Plan Appearing today on Fox News Sunday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said that the current timeline to withdraw from Iraq is acceptable, and expressed his confidence in President Obama: "He clearly has sought my advice. I feel very comfortable that as a senior military officer and adviser to the president that he is giving me the time and the opportunity to advise him accordingly."

Pawlenty: Coleman Has 'Plausible' Chance In an interview with The Hill, Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) said of the disputed Senate race in his home state: "Norm has a plausible chance, a decent chance of winning this thing. He has raised irregularities that rise to the level of legal issues, legitimate legal issues, that could change the result."

The CPAC straw poll results are in showing that there is no clear favorite among the assembled conservative activists for the 2012 Republican nomination:

Mitt Romney 20%
Bobby Jindal 14%
Ron Paul 13%
Sarah Palin 13%
Newt Gingrich 10%
Mike Huckabee 7%
Mark Sanford 4%
Rudy Giuliani 3%
Tim Pawlenty 2%
Charlie Crist 1%
Undecided 9%


A lot of news outlets are reporting this as a Romney win, but that doesn't seem all that accurate for a 20% plurality in a field this large. The bottom line is that there are a whole bunch of possible candidates who could pick up support, and the field still has a lot of time to really form.

It's a wide-open field with no clear favorite -- and it doesn't really have to be anything other than that, at this very early point in the game.

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