In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Check out this new poll from CNN:

Do you favor or oppose re-establishing U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba?

Favor 71%
Oppose 27%


If you think this is a drastic turnaround from prior opinion against relations with Cuba...you're wrong. It's only a moderate change from when this question was asked three years ago, and it came out at the time as 62% favor, 29% oppose.

After digging in deeper on the numbers for the NY-20 absentee ballots, it really looks like Democratic candidate Scott Murphy could have a whole batch of votes for himself that are being kept out of the count -- but for which at least some of them could very well get back in -- due to ballot challenges from the Tedisco campaign and the GOP.

The issue here is that the campaigns have the ability to challenge the unopened ballot envelopes, claiming a problem in how they were filled out, the eligibility of the voter, etc. These envelopes are then set aside until they can be resolved later by the judge presiding over this election (Judge James V. Brands of Dutchess County).

An attorney volunteering on the Tedisco campaign told the Hudson Register-Star that the campaign is getting the most mileage out of challenging voters with multiples residencies -- specifically, folks who were registered in the 20th District, but whose driver's licenses have New York City addresses.

And as Dutchess County deputy Democratic election commissioner Dan French bluntly told us: "A lot of the campaigns have actually called these people, and sometimes they know if it's a Democratic or Republican ballot -- or they think they know."

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As you may have heard by now, Barack Obama will deliver a commencement address to the graduates of Arizona State University on May 13, but ASU won't return the favor by granting him an honorary degree.

Sharon Keeler, a spokeswoman for the university told Politico, "It's normally awarded to someone who has been in their field for some time."

"Considering that the president is at the beginning of his presidency, his body of work is just beginning," she said.

Just for fun, we pulled up ASU's list of honorary degree recipients and did some Google-ing and discovered a couple interesting things:

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My colleague Zack Roth reported yesterday that Eugene Robinson joined the growing ranks of Washington Post employees who've spoken out against George Will.

In that same appearance, though, Robinson attacked a couple different bits of fiction that we've been tracking here on the TPMDC site--the Republican claims that cap and trade legislation will cost American households over $3,000 a piece, and the other Republican claim that the administration's defense budget proposal amounts to a spending cut. Watch:

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The latest score in NY-20 shows that Democrat Scott Murphy is currently ahead in this nail-biter of a result -- but if GOPer Jim Tedisco doesn't like it, he could just wait 15 minutes.

The official state results show that Murphy has taken an eight-vote lead as of 4:30 p.m. ET yesterday, as absentee ballots begin to be counted. However, there is some more recent data that shows Murphy's lead is actually somewhat larger at the moment.

Columbia County has provided their latest numbers to TPM, showing Murphy picking up another 15 net votes, on a 99-42 margin, compared to the 55-13 in the state's current tally of absentees from here. In addition, the Albany Times Union reports that Murphy has picked up 26 votes, an 88-62 margin, in Essex County.

So as of right now, Scott Murphy leads by 49 votes -- though there are still plenty of ballots left to count. (Late Update: Murphy's newest lead is 46 votes.)

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Obama Requests $83.4 Billion For Iraq And Afghanistan President Obama has requested $83.4 billion from Congress, for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which would raise the total costs of the two wars to almost $1 trillion. The Associated Press notes that the request will disappoint the more anti-war Democrats, but at the same time the continued commitment to the withdrawal of combat troops means it is sure to pass without the legislative battles that occurred during the Bush Administration in 2007.

Obama Meeting With Top Economic Officials President Obama will be meeting at 11 a.m. ET with Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, FDIC Chair Sheila Bair, SEC Chair Mary Shapiro and Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan. The group will update Obama on the current efforts to stabilize and repair the financial system, and afterwards Obama will deliver brief remarks to reporters after the meeting.

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In 2007 and 2008, when George Bush was still President, Democrats took a lot of heat from their supporters for their inability or unwillingness to end the war in Iraq. To the extent that they tried, though, the challenge within the party fell to leaders to convince their right flank to sign on to the efforts.

Now that a Democrat is president and the war in Iraq is (or at least seems to be) coming to an end, the situation's somewhat flipped. Obama wants to ramp up U.S. efforts in a different war and--with most Democrats in support, but without an exit strategy--the new challenge may lie in convincing their left flank to play along.

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They just can't help themselves! In a live Q&A session today, a reader asked Washington Post Congressional reporter Paul Kane a question that's been on our minds for days now. "I keep hearing the term 'budget cuts,' but the defense budget isn't being cut at all," the reader writes. "Money is being redirected to other defense priorities, but the overall budget is increasing by 4%.... So why is it that certain pols are allowed to spout this inane lie with impunity."

Kane didn't respond to that question, but he did explain that Gates is trying to spend money more wisely...albeit amid a four percent budget cut that's not actually happening.

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