In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The latest official score in the NY-20 special election how has Democratic candidate Scott Murphy ahead of Republican Jim Tedisco by 25 votes, or 0.016%, as the absentees continue to be counted.

Murphy led by 35 on Friday, but the lead has now been cut slightly as the absentee votes were counted in the Tedisco stronghold of Greene County. However, it should be noted that while Tedisco won the absentee ballots here by 52.6%-47.4%, he won the Election Night vote here by 55.6%-44.4% -- so Murphy in fact performed above the baseline here, as he has in most of the other counties that have reported their absentees so far.

We're all still waiting for the Tedisco stronghold of Saratoga County and the Murphy bastion of Washington County to start reporting their absentees, as well as more votes from pro-Murphy Warren County, which just began counting some precincts on Friday, plus the military and overseas ballots that are due back in the mail today under an extended deadline. And as I've previously reported, the number is currently distorted by ballot challenges that appear to have kept a disproportionate number of Murphy votes out of the count. We'll see what happens.

Politicians in both parties might be reluctant to let Defense Secretary Robert Gates have his way with the Pentagon budget--and they, the rank and file, will ultimately have the final say when a real piece of legislation comes to a vote. But Gates and the administration do have some powerful allies on Capitol Hill, and their efforts will be crucial to the success or failure of the attempted overhaul.

We reported a week ago that one of the lone significant voices speaking out in support of the proposed reforms belongs to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. But while McCain wasted no time getting in front of the issue, the committee's chairman, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), remained silent all week.

He broke that silence on Saturday.

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The mini-drama surrounding Arizona State University's refusal to award President Barack Obama an honorary degree may have a second act.

Obama is scheduled to deliver a commencement address at ASU next month, and last week, the university touched off a bit of controversy by suggesting that he hadn't "been in [his] field" for enough time to deserve an honorary degree just yet.

There were, unfortunately, some problems with that rationale.

But over the weekend, the university announced the formation of the "President Barack Obama Scholars" program. And, though they haven't decided to give Obama a degree, Politico's Jonathan Martin reported on Saturday that ASU President Michael Crow sent an email to faculty and students re-justifying that decision.

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One of the major themes of last week was the degree to which Republicans in Congress were deceptively referring to Defense Secretary Robert Gates' budget proposal as a weak-on-defense spending cut. The corollary to that claim--articulated by many Republicans, but also some Democrats--is that defense spending "cuts" will cost jobs. The problem is, though, that most of the people making that argument voted against the stimulus bill this past winter.

Last week we caught Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) in just such a contradiction. During the debate over the stimulus, Chambliss lashed out at the specter of government recession spending, calling it a "bloated government giveaway." But then, he called into the NPR program Talk of the Nation and said none of that matters as long as the spending is defense spending.

"[W]hen it comes to stimulating the economy," Chambliss said, there's no better way to do it than to spend it in the defense community."

On Sunday, Paul Krugman appeared on ABC's This Week, and picked up on the same thing, and called out Congressional Republicans for what one might call the "Chambliss hypocrisy". Here's Krugman:

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AP: Pirate Crisis Could Help Obama's Image On National Security The Associated Press speculates that President Obama's behind-the-scenes handling of the Somali pirates hostage crisis could potentially pay off politically. "For Obama, the benefits were instantly clear: an American life saved and a major victory notched against an increasingly worrisome scourge of the seas off the Horn of Africa," the AP says.

Obama's Day Ahead: Easter Eggs, Stimulus, Defense President Obama and his family will attend the White House Easter Egg Roll at 10 a.m. ET. At 11:35 a.m. ET, Obama and Vice President Biden will speak at the Department of Transportation, discussing infrastructure jobs created by the stimulus bill. At 4 p.m. ET, Obama and Biden will have a closed-press meeting with Robert Gates.

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Odierno: "I Believe It's A Ten" That Troops Will Be Out Of Iraq In Late 2011 Appearing on CNN's State of the Union, Gen. Ray Odierno reaffirmed that U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by late 2011, in accordance with the current timeline. When asked by John King about the chance of this, on a scale of one to ten, Odierno said: "As you ask me today, I believe it's a ten - that we will be gone by 2011." On the other hand, he also said he would continue to reassess the schedule of reducing combat troops over the next 18 months, but the final decisions would be up to the Iraqis.

Obama Family Attends Easter Services President Obama and his family celebrated Easter this morning at St. John's Church, an Episcopal church located across from the White House, in his first public worship service since becoming president. Obama previously attended a service there on Inauguration Day, and church tradition states that every president since James Madison has visited.

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Obama Discusses International Cooperation In this weekend's YouTube address, President Obama discusses the importance of international cooperation for problems such as the economic crisis, nuclear proliferation, disease and other issues:



"These are challenges that no single nation, no matter how powerful, can confront alone. The United States must lead the way," said Obama. "But our best chance to solve these unprecedented problems comes from acting in concert with other nations."

Pawlenty Talks Taxes In RNC YouTube In this week's RNC YouTube address, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty uses the weekend before tax day as an occasion to discuss the tax burdens faced by families and businesses:



"I urge President Obama and the Democrat-led Congress to let hardworking American families keep more of what they earn by cutting taxes and reining in spending. It's just common sense," said Pawlenty. "I'm sure you will agree, especially on April 15th when your taxes are due."

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The latest official numbers from NY-20 now show that Democrat Scott Murphy is currently ahead by 35 votes, as he picks up votes in the absentees that have so far made up for his 68-vote deficit in the Election Day machine counts.

Here's where it gets fun: In Warren County, a Murphy stronghold that overall went 55.8%-44.2% for him on Election Night, Tedisco has technically picked up four votes, 34-30, with six out of 70 precincts' absentees counted. However, as county Democratic Party chairman Bill Montfort (who is also a county election official) told me, the Tedisco campaign has challenged about 20 ballots, out of around 25 total challenges, keeping those votes out of the count for now.

"I would just think that once it's decided that these should be counted," said Montfort, "then Murphy is gonna pick up 20."

In these individual precincts, Murphy won by 51.5%-48.5% on Election Night, compared to a Tedisco edge of 53.1%-46.9% in the ballots so far. But if we added 20 votes to Murphy and five to Tedisco, we get a Murphy edge of 50-39, or 56.2%-43.8%, ahead of the curve for these precincts.

As I reported today, the ballot challenges going on here -- and thus far, significantly more of them have come from the Republicans, trying to keep Dem votes out -- could be seriously distorting the final result, if most of the challenges are ultimately withdrawn or overruled.

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I just received an email from Christopher Ambler, the creator of this website, created in the wake of new efforts by a group called the National Organization for Marriage to stop the normalization of equal rights for gay people. With his permission, I'm publishing it below the fold

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