In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), a champion of the Christian Right who had been the subject of some speculation that he might not run for a second term in 2010, has now announced that he is in fact running.

Coburn added that if re-elected, he will stick by the pledge from his 2004 campaign to not serve more than two terms. And for the record, he previously honored a term-limits pledge back in 2000, when he retired from his House seat after six years.

Coburn had been publicly undecided about whether to make the race, and wasn't actively raising money. But in all truth, he didn't need to raise money -- he's a popular conservative from a deep-Republican state, and insofar as he'll need some money he will be able to get it easily. This might have been a competitive race as an open seat, but as it is now Coburn is in all likelihood a safe bet for re-election.

One thing that struck us about The Karate Chop Heard 'Round The Blogosphere was the news that the chopper--Marcus Epstein--is saying goodbye to Tom Tancredo and Pat Buchanan this summer to go to law school at the University of Virginia. Dave Weigel reported this, and Bay Buchanan told me the same thing.

But Jason Wu Trujillo, UVA's Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, now says Epstein will not enroll this fall, or ever.

Trujillo couldn't discuss the specifics of that decision, but it raises a question: The incident itself occurred on July 7, 2007, before Epstein applied, but the school requires applicants to disclose all criminal convictions.



Have you ever been convicted of any offense, excluding minor traffic violations which did not involve injury to others?

Are there any charges pending or expected to be brought against you?

....If, after you submit this application, you are charged with a criminal offense or disciplinary charges are brought against you, notify the Office of Admissions in writing immediately.


Now, suddenly, Epstein isn't going to UVA anymore. Trujillo couldn't comment further on the situation, saying that his office can only comment on students who are enrolled or intending to enroll at the school, and that Epstein fits neither description. Notably, though, he didn't suggest that this was somehow the first he'd ever heard of Epstein. So, did Epstein omit the information from his application?

It's been a crazy last few days in the 2010 Florida Senate race, where both parties are jockeying to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Mel Martinez in this perennial swing state.

Over the weekend, Democratic state Sen. Dan Gelber announced that he is "stepping back" from the race -- that is, he's dropping out -- in order to avoid a nasty primary (current press speculation is he could end up running for a different state office). The frontrunner for the Dem nomination is Rep. Kendrick Meek, who has already raised $1.5 million.

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A new Gallup poll shows the Republican party going further down to its demographic base -- it is overwhelmingly a party of conservative whites, and is a conservative white religious party as well.

The survey finds that 89% of Republican self-identifiers are white, compared to 64% of Democrats being white. Only 5% of Republicans are Hispanic and 2% black, compared to 11% Hispanics and 19% blacks among the Democratic base. In addition, 63% of Republicans are white conservative, and an overlapping 49% are white and religious.

From the pollster's analysis:

Does the Republican Party in essence "stick to the knitting" and cling to its core conservative principles? Or should the Republicans make an effort to expand their base -- among whites who are moderate or less religious, and/or the various nonwhite groups who to this point are largely ignoring the Republican Party in favor of the Democrats? The decision the party makes in response to this question could be pivotal in helping determine its future.

Earlier this year, a New York Times editorial blasted Marcus Epstein for a report he authored as executive director of The American Cause, arguing that Republicans ought to embrace anti-immigration extremism if they still dream of an eventual renaissance.

In the course of their digging, the Times editors came across an online archive of Epstein's writings which contain gems like:

"Diversity can be good in moderation -- if what is being brought in is desirable. Most Americans don't mind a little ethnic food, some Asian math whizzes, or a few Mariachi dancers -- as long as these trends do not overwhelm the dominant culture."


There's much, much more, if you care to browse.

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Earlier this morning, right after the Minnesota Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Norm Coleman's appeal of his defeat in the Senate election trial, the attorneys for the two sides -- and Norm himself -- briefly took questions from reporters. The question on everybody's mind: Is this finished yet?

Norm Coleman "We've come to an obviously critical point in this process," said Coleman. "It's more than about process, it's been about the opportunity to ensure that over 4,000 Minnesotans whose votes have not been counted to have their votes counted. I don't know what it's in those ballots, but if those 4,000 voters had lived in a different area, their votes would have been counted."

Note Coleman's claim that he does not know what's in the 4,000 rejected ballots (out of about 11,000 total) that his campaign selected. No rational observer of this process would believe such a claim if it had come from either side -- both campaigns clearly engaged in a thorough process of cherry-picking, selecting ballots where they either knew for sure that it was a vote for themselves, or had a decent idea based on geography. Coleman's legal team even made a reference to geography in one of their filings.

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I just got off the phone with Bay Buchanan who confirms that Marcus Epstein is still executive director of The American Cause, and will be until June 20th. She says his departure has nothing to do with the karate chopping incident, but with his departure for law school.

"The whole incident was inexcusable," Buchanan said. "The language in particular was offensive to anyone by any standard." But, "Marcus Epstein has shown tremendous courage in addressing some serious personal problems and he has turned his life around."

She said she's known about this case for nearly two years, but agreed to let him stay on staff contingent upon full rehabilitation.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has released this statement on today's arguments at the Minnesota Supreme Court:

Today's hearing in the Minnesota Supreme Court was an important marker in Norm Coleman's protracted legal effort to overturn the results of last November's senate election. While Norm Coleman's desperate arguments still call for tossing-out legally-cast ballots, and counting illegally-cast ones, Al Franken was well-served by his legal team, headed by Marc Elias who impressively argued today's case.

But the bottom line is Al Franken got more votes and that is why Al Franken won the election, why Al Franken won the recount, why Al Franken won the election contest, and why he should soon prevail in the Minnesota Supreme Court. We have always said Norm Coleman deserves his day in court, but the Minnesota court system should be the end of the road for former Senator Coleman. This is a decision that should be made in Minnesota. It's been 209 days since the election, and with this Court's ruling we believe Al Franken will be entitled to an election certificate, so that he can get to work for the people of Minnesota.


The reference to the state court being the proper end of the road is meant to convey the Democratic position that once the state Supreme Court presumably rules for Franken, he should be seated immediately -- as opposed to a potential Republican effort to tie this up further in federal court.

In addition to crusading for Tom Tancredo and karate chopping innocent black women on summer evenings in Georgetown, it turns out that Marcus Epstein also works for everyone's favorite MSNBC talking head Pat Buchanan.

According to its website, Epstein is the executive director of The American Cause--Buchanan's anti-immigration organization. I've placed a call to The American Cause and to MSNBC for comment, and to verify that Epstein remains on staff, and will let you know what they tell me.

For part three of today's legal proceedings in Minnesota, where the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Norm Coleman's appeal of his defeat at the election trial, let's take a look at when lead Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg came back for a 10-minute response period after Franken's lead attorney Marc Elias had a turn at bat.

Friedberg again complained that the trial court did not allow him to put in evidence of unequal treatment of absentee ballots across the state. "I repeatedly tried to get that evidence in, and repeatedly could not," said Friedberg. He added in even stronger terms: "I couldn't get it in, and I tried to the point where I strained the court's patience. I didn't want to go any further than that. These judges were very well-tempered."

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