In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Terry McAuliffe, the former DNC chairman and colorful campaign chair for Hillary Clinton, is the frontrunner for now in the June 9 Democratic primary for governor of Virginia, a new survey from Public Policy Polling (D) indicates.

The numbers: Terry McAuliffe 30%, former state Del. Brian Moran 20%, and state Sen. Creigh Deeds at 14%, with a ±4.1% margin of error. McAuliffe is doing well among women voters, with 30% to Moran's 16% and Deeds at 13%, and among African-Americans it's McAuliffe 37%, Moran 15%, and Deeds 10%.

The pollster's analysis chalks up a big part of McAuliffe's success right now to his ability to out-raise and out-spend the competition: "This is the fourth time PPP has polled this contest and the first time one of the candidates has broken away from the pack," said PPP president Dean Debnam. "McAuliffe's resources advantage finally seems to be manifesting itself and by the time Deeds and Moran can start catching up it may be too late."

Former Florida state House Speaker Marco Rubio has now officially declared his candidacy for his state's open GOP-held Senate seat:



This sets up a likely primary pitting the conservative Rubio against the moderate Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who is expected to get in some time soon.

In his announcement YouTube, Rubio seems to allude to an imminent Crist entry -- and in the same breath includes a mention of President Obama: "I know that there are people more famous than I who may enter this race. And I know that the President of the United States himself will travel to Florida to campaign and raise money against me."

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It turns out that former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA), whose Republican primary challenge against Sen. Arlen Specter had built up such a lead in the polls that Specter switched to the Democrats, has had a pretty good time fundraising.

The Toomey camp has announced that it raised over $500,000 in the time since Toomey got into the race on April 15. Dave Weigel also reports that the campaign says donations surged on the day of Specter's switch a week ago.

The takeaway here is that Toomey has already gained significant support from grassroots conservative voters and activists in Pennsylvania. So if the national party wants to get another candidate who is viewed as more electable, such as former Gov. Tom Ridge or Rep. Jim Gerlach, that new player could face their own set of difficulties in the primary.

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) hasn't been shy about criticizing Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) for switching parties last week, but his harshest words came last night in an interview with TPMDC: "He left the fight," said the former admiral and highest ranking military man ever to serve in Congress. "In the military, we just don't leave fights."

Sestak's shot at Specter comes amid grassroots grumbling that the deal Democratic leaders struck to get Specter to defect from the GOP cost the party a shot at putting a real liberal in the seat in 2010.

"I can't figure out...why the deal was done," Sestak told me, saying he's concerned that the party was so quick to embrace Specter for reasons of "expediency," and without regard to the needs of Pennsylvania voters. "It isn't Washington's prerogative to tell us what to do," Sestak insisted.

I asked him whether he'd been on the receiving end of establishment pressure -- from people like Vice President Joe Biden and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell -- to stay out of the race, and he insisted, "I haven't heard from anyone."

While Democrats from the While House on down might be trying to keep the Democratic primary field clear for Specter, they might not necessarily mind the fact that, for the time being, Sestak is applying pressure on Specter to move left. By keeping the door open to challenging Specter in the Democratic primary, Sestak may serve to nudge Specter further than he might otherwise have gone. Yesterday, Sestak told Greg Sargent that if Specter "doesn't demonstrate that he has shifted his position on a number of issues, I would not hesitate at all to get in" to a primary fight against him.

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An interesting expert has emerged to speak out on behalf of Norm Coleman's fight in Minnesota, and the importance it has to our democratic system: Former FEC commissioner and voter-suppression guru Hans Von Spakovsky, an old TPMmuckraker favorite.

Here's what Von Spakovsky told Fox News in support of Coleman's litigation, including a potential U.S. Supreme Court appeal: "If you don't deal with all of the issues that have been raised in this case, then you know a lot of people are going to be questioning whether the real winner who actually ends up in the seat is actually the person who won the race, and that's not good for the kind of election process that we have."

As I've asked before, when Norm Coleman himself has offered the same point: Where were you in 2000, Hans, when we really needed you?

The Fox article also says that the GOP appears to be ready to keep the fight going, now that Al Franken would be the 60th Democrat. NRSC chairman John Cornyn gave Fox a statement that, not for the first time, invokes the count-every-vote spirit of Florida in 2000: "It's blatant hypocrisy that many of the same Democrats who so loudly complained about voter disenfranchisement during the 2000 Florida recount have been so willing to compromise their principles when it no longer fits their political agenda."

Specter: "Do I Want To Stay In The Senate, Of Course I Do" Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) held a town hall event last night in his home state, re-introducing himself to voters as their new Democratic Senator. Specter bluntly acknowledged that a desire to remain in office was a reason for his switch. "Do I want to stay in the Senate, of course I do," said Specter. "Do you like your jobs? Sure you do."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden will meet with Democrats from the Energy and Commerce Committees, at 10:30 a.m. ET in the State Dining Room. Obama and Biden will have lunch at 12:30 p.m. ET. Obama will meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres at 2 p.m. ET. At 3 p.m. ET, he will meet with senior advisers.

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Following up on the news that Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) met with SEIU President Andy Stern today, Greg Sargent gave the congressman a call. "I cannot see the unions across the board supporting Specter if he cannot support EFCA," Sestak told Sargent. "[Stern] let it be known that it's very much on the top of their agenda."

Sestak has become more and more forthright in recent days about his intent to challenge Specter for the 2010 Pennsylvania Senate nomination if Specter doesn't move left. Before Specter got in the race, Sestak said he had no intention of attempting a bid for the Senate. After Specter made his switch that all changed. First Sestak criticized Specter for lacking principles. Then said he'd wait to see what Specter stands for before making any decisions. Then Friday he said he was "thinking about getting in" to the race. Now he tells Greg "[i]f [Specter] doesn't demonstrate that he has shifted his position on a number of issues, I would not hesitate at all to get in."

I just got off the phone with Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, after he'd read the rebuttal given by GOP outfit Resurgent Republic to his criticism of their new poll. His bottom line: They're still acting in a way that is, to use his phrase, "self-deluding."

Whit Ayres of Resurgent Republic responded to Greenberg's criticism, that the firm's new poll and strategy memo was slanted to produce a favorable result for GOP positions. First of all, he said the poll did not have only a two-point gap in partisan identification, as Greenberg measured it, but was a 33%-29% gap in favor of the Democrats. And he defended his phrasing of the Democratic positions, saying the intent was to effectively paraphrase what a Democrat would say.

Greenberg isn't buying it.

"I meant my response to be a little pointed. I meant it to be a little on the bemused side, at the start of the discussion," said Greenberg. "I'm sure you and Pollster.com, other blogs will answer the partisan I.D. question. Nothing changes the fact that this is an outlier on Party ID, even looking at the way he calculated it."

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Back in the spring of 1986, after having successfully appointed scores and scores of conservative judges to serve on courts across the country, President Ronald Reagan went too far. He picked a federal prosecutor to a fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court in Alabama whose nomination was so controversial that it got quashed by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee.

That prosecutor was Jeff Sessions, the senator who, in all likelihood will serve as that committee's most powerful Republican for the next year and a half.

But back to 1986. During the debate over his nomination, committee Democrats questioned Sessions' prosecutorial discretion, focusing in particular on a case he pursued against three Marion, AL civil rights workers--Albert Turner, Turner's wife Evelyn, and Spencer Hogue, Jr.--whom he accused of voter fraud. Sessions was unconcerned with claims of fraud outside the so-called Black Belt, but he alleged that the trio had falsified absentee ballots in Perry County during the 1984 election. After conducting an exhaustive investigation, though, he was able to account for only a small handful of questionable examples, and even those he couldn't pin on his defendants, who were acquitted after only a few hours' deliberation.

Albert Turner--who was an adviser to Martin Luther King, Jr.--passed away in 2000, and his wife could not be immediately located, but Hogue still lives in Marion, and by phone today he expressed his displeasure with the news that Sessions is, in effect, getting a promotion.

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Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) has an interesting metaphor for how the House GOP needs to take control of its message. Rather than rely on outside initiatives like the GOP's National Council for a New America, the House GOP conference needs to take charge for itself.

Or, as he put it, House Republicans need to act as an "entrepreneurial insurgency."

It may be that McCotter was just speaking figuratively when he spoke of an insurgency -- in the sense that someone might speak of an insurgent politician going up against the establishment, for example. On the other hand, the revolutionary language really has been spreading through the GOP's ranks -- it's not just Michele Bachmann.

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