In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Looking at the immediate fallout of Sarah Palin's announced resignation as Governor of Alaska, a big question is whether she has a future in the Republican Party. It's also worth asking whether she has a present in the Republican Party -- that is, do Republican politicians want her around to campaign for them?

Taking a look at the headlines, it's starting to look like there's significant variation on this question. Some don't want her around, some are hedging, and some are still quite eager to see her.

For starters, Palin is apparently not wanted by Republicans in New Jersey, which has a hot gubernatorial race this year. "We don't have any plans on having her in," said New Jersey GOP chairman Jay Webber. Then again, New Jersey is a blue state that went 57%-42% for Obama last year, and where Christian Right candidates can't get elected dogcatcher -- so this was probably the situation even before her resignation, too.

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This afternoon, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid met with Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee--not to apprise them that they've run out of time. But to reassure them that efforts to achieve bipartisan consensus on health care reform would continue.

Two possible explanations come to mind. First, that Reid approached Republicans gently today, but with the same resolve not to compromise reform efforts. And second, that earlier reports of Reid's sudden hard line overstated things a bit. I've placed a call to Reid's office for some clarification.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has released a statement explaining why he opposed a House measure to erect a plaque in the Capitol Visitors Center, recognizing the history of slave labor in the construction of the Capitol. King was the only one to vote "No," and it passed by a 399-1 margin.

King says that he "opposed yet another bill to erect another monument to slavery," because Democrats had used it as a bargaining chip with Republicans who wanted to secure the depiction of the words "In God We Trust" in the Visitors Center -- that America's Judeo-Christian heritage was being held hostage:

"In the Capitol Visitor's Center, we agreed to change the name of the Great Hall - which honored the immigrants that came legally to America - to Emancipation Hall to honor the 645,000 slaves and their descendants who were brought to the United States more than two centuries ago.

"Last night I opposed yet another bill to erect another monument to slavery because it was used as a bargaining chip to allow for the actual depiction of 'In God We Trust' in the CVC. The Architect of the Capitol and liberal activists opposed every reference to America's Christian heritage, even to the extent of scrubbing 'In God We Trust' from the depiction of the actual Speaker's chair in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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Richard Kirsch, the national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now, offers a bit of praise to Senate Finance Committee member Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) who for the first time today articulated support--however tepid--for including a public health insurance plan in reform legislation.

"We are glad to see her express interest in a public option," Kirsch says in a statement to TPMDC, "and we look forward to her further support of giving everyone the choice of a robust public health insurance plan that will meet the President's goals of lowering costs and keeping the health insurance companies honest."

Compare that, though, to the fulsome praise MoveOn offered Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) when she came around more completely on the same issue. "MoveOn commends Senator Hagan for deciding to support the health care reform bill that the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee...which includes a national public health insurance option.... With the support of legislators like Senator Hagan, we can come closer to our goal of making quality health insurance accessible and affordable for everyone."

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)--a key Democratic hold out on the question of a public option--is starting to cave. In an op-ed in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Lincoln echoes the party line--"Health care reform must build upon what works and improve inefficiencies"--then breaks with her old position:

Individuals should be able to choose from a range of quality health insurance plans. Options should include private plans as well as a quality, affordable public plan or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals as those of a public plan.

As Greg Sargent notes, that's not a full-throated endorsement. But it's certainly a step in that direction. Until today, Lincoln was only willing to say she was 'evaluating' the merits of the public option.

A couple things to keep in mind. First, Lincoln has been under fire from reformers for being unwilling to unequivocally endorse the public option--and since she still hasn't done that, it's hard to imagine they'll be fully satisfied.

Second, this comes as Democratic leaders are making their strongest push yet to unite caucus members ahead of a tough fight over health care reform. Majority Leader Harry Reid is pushing the Senate Finance Committee to move ahead with a comprehensive and satisfactory health care reform bill with or without Republican support, and, relatedly, Majority Whip Dick Durbin is urging party members to oppose Republican filibusters on Democratic agenda items, even if they don't support the underlying legislation.

Here's an interesting example of those famous lone "No" votes in Congress -- the contrarian who is willing to stand up alone against the overwhelming majority of his or her colleagues, and vote against something that was passing easily.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted 399-1 for the Capitol Visitors Center to have a plaque acknowledging the role of slave labor in the construction of the Capitol. The resolution has information in it that even this history fanatic didn't know about -- for example, slave labor was involved in constructing the "Statue of Freedom" atop the Capitol Dome.

The "Yes" votes spanned the ideological spectrum, from Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann on the right to Maxine Waters and Dennis Kucinich on the left. The one vote against: Rep. Steve King (R-IA).

King's office has not yet commented on his reason for the vote.

Late Update: King has now released a statement, explaining that the vote was about protecting America's Judeo-Christian heritage.

With the news that Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) will reportedly run for Senate in 2010, let's take a quick look at the open House seat -- which on paper, looks like a plausible opportunity for the Democrats to pick up a seat.

Kirk won re-election 53%-47% last year, at the same time as President Obama carried his suburban Chicago district by a whopping 61%-38%. In addition, John Kerry won the seat by 52%-47% in 2004, making this a Dem-leaning seat under any normal circumstances.

Potential Democratic nominees include: State Sen. Michael Bond, who was already in the race; Dan Seals, who was Kirk's opponent in 2006 and 2008; and state Sen. Susan Garrett. Possible Republican candidates include state Rep. Elizabeth Coulson, state Rep. JoAnn Osmond, and businessman Dick Green.

Democrats think they'll have a pretty good shot at this seat, as it is one of only six districts that were won by both Obama in 2008 and Kerry in 2004, but are represented by Republicans. On the Republican side, a source told me: "This won't be an easy seat to hold, but with the right candidate and Kirk on the ticket, it is possible."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who's criticized Sonia Sotomayor for her temperament, thinks he may vote for her confirmation.

"I honestly think I could vote for her,'' he told McClatchy.

Graham said he is still undecided, but it's a stark turnaround from comments he made after meeting the Supreme Court nominee on June 3. In a press conference, he said, "There's a temperament problem there." At the same presser, he said there was also a "character problem," but later that day told Fox News that Sotomayor has a "sterling character."

He also said that he wouldn't vote for her if he applied the same standards Barack Obama used when voting on Supreme Court nominees. He argued that Obama voted against Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito because they had different ideologies.

Graham had also taken issue with her comments about "a wise Latina woman," calling them "inappropriate" and saying he hoped she'd apologize.

The Washington Post reports that Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) will be running for the Senate seat formerly held by President Obama, and now occupied by Democratic Sen. Roland Burris.

This follows today's news that state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who would have been a shoo-in for both the Democratic primary and the general election, will not be running. State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is currently in the race for the Dems, but could potentially face competition from Chris Kennedy, a businessman and son of the late Robert F. Kennedy. Burris has not announced his plans, but he has not raised much money, and polls show he would lose a primary by a landslide.

Kirk has been able to cultivate an image as a moderate, winning re-election in a suburban district that was carried by President Obama. But expect the Democrats to hammer him in this blue state over just how partisan he can really be: For example, he has said that he told Chinese leaders not to trust the American government's budget figures, and he also spoke at a Tea Party and made some rather hyperbolic comments.

One of the more surprising aspects yesterday's controversy over the White House's supposed openness to a so-called "triggered mechanism" is that Democrats have, essentially, a dedicated point man on the public option. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has taken on that roll in the Finance Committee and has come forward publicly a number of times--most recently this past Sunday--to resuscitate the public option when it seemed on the brink of death.

"I had never heard that they were for the trigger. That came as a surprise to me," he told Slate's John Dickerson. "Maybe in year three there might be a public plan? Not good enough."

It's hard not to sympathize with the guy. Schumer, perhaps more than any Democrat, has put himself on the line for the public option--and unless it's part of some grander, more opaque political scheme, it can't be helpful to his efforts to have a prominent White House official come forward to undercut him.