In it, but not of it. TPM DC

When Arlen Specter became a Democrat nearly three weeks ago, everyone in Washington was extremely "surprised," but nobody was really all that surprised. Specter had been taking a beating from the right for, among other things, supporting the stimulus bill. He had lost the confidence of many in his party and, to ward off attackers, he was tacking steadily to the right to protect himself from a primary challenge he nonetheless seemed poised to lose.

So he became a Democrat. The move made sense as a matter of both Senate and electoral politics. Specter fits in just as well among the significant ranks of conservative Senate Democrats as he does among the ever-shrinking ranks of moderate Republicans, and his move into the majority renews what had been his dwindling hopes of re-election.

But then, unthinkably, he doubled down on all of the positions he'd taken as a threatened Republican. He bucked his new party on health care, reiterated his freshly minted objection to the Employee Free Choice Act (a bill he once wholly endorsed), and he flatly opposed the nomination of Dawn Johnsen, who President Obama has nominated to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.

Now, though, he's showing some signs of easing up on the Republicanisms.

Read More →

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is now getting in on the same fundraising act as their Senate-side counterparts at the DSCC: Offering small donors a chance to win a paid trip to Washington and get their picture taken with President Obama.

The DCCC has sent out its own fundraising e-mail, much like the DSCC's e-mail from yesterday, telling donors of only $5 or more that they can be entered into a drawing to attend the Democratic Party's big fundraising dinner in Washington on June 18, and get their picture taken with Obama. The lucky winner will have his or her hotel and airfare paid for, including a guest.

Both committees are essentially making a wager: That this raffle will bring in enough money to generate a profit over the costs of the airfare and hotel. In the modern age of Internet fundraising, this doesn't seem like an unreasonable guess.

Full DCCC e-mail after the jump.

Read More →

In a blow to national Democrats in their effort to reach 60 seats in the U.S. Senate, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has announced that he will not challenge GOP Sen. Richard Burr in 2010.

"While I am honored by the encouragement I've received, I don't want to go to Washington and serve as a U.S. Senator at this time," Cooper said in a statement. "I am committed to public service and I want to serve here in North Carolina rather than in Washington."

Polls had shown that Cooper could beat Burr, who for his own part has very weak approval ratings. That said, Democrats could still potentially find a good candidate. The state is trending Democratic and voted for Barack Obama for president in 2008, and few people would have ever guessed at this point in the 2007/2008 campaign cycle that GOP Sen. Elizabeth Dole would have lost re-election by nine points against Democrat Kay Hagan.

A new Rasmussen poll finds that only 37% of Republican voters think the party has no clear leader, a definite improvement from a 68% figure two months ago. But there's a catch: There's no agreement on who the party's clear leader actually is.

John McCain comes in first place among possible leaders at 18%, followed by Michael Steele with 14%, Sarah Palin on 10%, Mitt Romney at 8%, Rush Limbaugh with 6%, and Dick Cheney at 4%.

The polling memo reiterates a recent point by Scott Rasmussen: "To be relevant in politics, you need either formal power or a lot of people willing to follow your lead. The governing Republicans in the nation's capital have lost both on their continuing path to irrelevance."

In the latest development in the 2010 Florida Senate race, where moderate Republican Gov. Charlie Crist is facing a more conservative opponent in the GOP primary, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, both candidates have signed the anti-tax pledge of Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform.

In a possible move by Crist to appeal to right-wing voters and activists -- a demographic that might oppose him because of his support for the stimulus bill -- his campaign announced yesterday that he was the first candidate to sign the pledge. Rubio then signed up hours later.

The pledge binds candidates to "oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses ... and oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar-for-dollar by further reducing taxes."

For several weeks--while torture revelations have dominated headlines and with the scandal still very much alive--Dawn Johnsen has been waiting. She's Obama's pick to head the Office of Legal Counsel--the same Justice Department shop that famously blessed Bush-era interrogation policies--and her strong stance on that issue has united Republicans against her. But that's not her biggest problem. Her biggest problem is that Harry Reid has not been able to muster enough Democrats to overcome a filibuster threat.

Here are the numbers as they stand right now:

Votes Against Johnsen: 37 Republicans

Votes for Johnsen: 57 Democrats plus Indiana Republican Richard Lugar

Undecideds: Republicans Olypmia Snowe and Susan Collins and Democrats Arlen Specter and Ben Nelson

Reid frames the issue by saying he needs a couple Republicans to cross the line before he has the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster. But as the numbers show, it's just as much an issue of Reid not being able to muster the entire Democratic caucus in support of Johnsen.

The nomination isn't dead yet, but with Reid trying to put the onus on the White House to shore up support for the beleaguered nominee and the White House staying mum about what it role in all this is, or should be, Johnsen's nomination isnt going anywhere fast.

Read More →

Report: Military Tribunals To Return, With More Detainee Rights The Obama Administration will reportedly announce a restart of some military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, under revamped conditions with new legal protections for terror suspects. Detainees will have greater leeway to choose their own attorneys, evidence obtained through torture will be banned, and hearsay evidence will be restricted.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will welcome the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team to the White House at 12:20 p.m. ET, at the South Portico. At 1:05 p.m. ET, he will meet with Sec. of State Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office.

Read More →

A new SurveyUSA poll, conducted for the ABC affiliate in the Twin Cities, finds that Minnesotans don't want Norm Coleman to take his case against the Senate election results to federal court in the event that he loses his appeal to the state Supreme Court.

The poll asks: "If the Minnesota Supreme Court upholds a lower court ruling that certified Al Franken as the winner of the U.S. Senate race, what should Norm Coleman do? Appeal the decision? Or concede the race?" The numbers are overwhelming, with only 27% for an appeal, to 70% who would want him to concede.

Democrats would quite understandably want a concession by a 94%-5% margin. Republicans are for an appeal, but by a weaker margin of 58%-37%, showing some fatigue with even the GOP base. Independents would favor a concession by 65%-29%.

The DSCC is offering a new incentive for small-money donors to contribute to the Dems' 2010 Senate efforts: A chance to attend a big fundraising dinner and have your picture taken with President Obama.

A new fundraising e-mail offers donors of only $5 or more to be entered into a drawing for a trip to Washington -- with airfare and hotel included -- to attend the June DSCC dinner and get the photo with Obama.

This is the sort of privilege usually reserved for big-money donors (and there can be no doubt it will continue in that department) but the Dems are offering even the small donor a chance at it. Obviously, the wager here is that the sweepstakes will bring in more money than the cost of the lucky winner's airfare and hotel.

Full letter after the jump.

Read More →

Over 3000 members of the nearly three million-member strong Chamber of Commerce have sent a letter (PDF) to Congress expressing "strong opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act."

EFCA has three provisions, each of which we oppose. The first provision would require union recognition based on authorization cards signed by a majority of employees. This provision would allow organizing to be conducted in secret, would effectively eliminate the secret ballot election, and would hinder or even eliminate an employer's ability to tell its side of the story and correct misleading union rhetoric. Card check recognition also would effectively disenfranchise employees who oppose unionization and, as courts have repeatedly recognized, is inherently less reliable than traditional election processes for determining whether employees wish to have union representation.

The second provision would enable a union seeking a first contract to require the employer to enter into binding interest arbitration if a collective bargaining agreement were not reached within as little as 130 days.... The third provision would significantly increase penalties on employers for certain violations of labor laws.
That's just about every provision of the bill.

On the one hand, 3100 signatories represents a very, very small percentage of the Chamber's members. On the other hand, there are a lot of big names on this list, including General Electric and, crucially, Wal-Mart. And there's little doubt that the business community is pulling out all the stops on EFCA.

On the third hand, the letter itself runs one page, and the list of signatories goes on for 30 more. And that strikes me as a huge waste of paper.

LiveWire