In it, but not of it. TPM DC

On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid laid the smackdown on progressive grassroots groups that are marshaling their efforts against a group of conservative Democrats. But did the grassroots get the message?

It's becoming difficult not to conclude just that. When reports of Reid's statements broke, I put out calls to some of the more high-profile groups--including Campaign for America's Future (CAF), MoveOn, and Americans United for Change (AUC)--and the response has been...telling.

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The Minnesota DFL Party just put out a scathing press release regarding NRSC chairman John Cornyn's statement that the legal processes surrounding the disputed Senate election could last "years." The release declares: "Minnesotans, not Washington (or Texas), will decide who will represent them in the U.S. Senate."

Key quote from party chairman Brian Melendez:

"Former Senator Coleman's own attorney acknowledges that he'll lose his lawsuit. And apparently, the national Republicans have even less faith in his appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court. But once Coleman's state appeals have run their course, the game is over. If he keeps filing more lawsuits, then he can do it after Senator Franken gets sworn in."

There's one thing that has be asked about NRSC chairman John Cornyn's bold statement that it could take "years" to resolve the Minnesota Senate situation: While it would obviously benefit D.C. Republicans to keep Al Franken out of the chamber, wouldn't this also trigger a huge backlash against the state GOP?

I asked Prof. Lawrence Jacobs of the University of Minnesota what sort of problems it could create for the state Republicans, if the national party were to keep the state without full representation for such a long time. And here's what he said:

Senator Cornyn's strategy may make political sense for Washington Republicans eager to maintain their leverage through the filibuster. But this national strategy could backfire in Minnesota against state Republicans coming into a big 2010 election year. Usually, the president's party loses seats in the Midterm election but a backlash against Minnesota Republicans could hurt them in the race for Governor and for the competitive congressional races for the seats currently held by Michele Bachmann and by first year Representative Erik Paulsen.


It should be noted that this isn't really Cornyn's problem -- there is no Senate election scheduled for 2010 in Minnesota. But could such an impasse really imperil Bachmann? Nooooooo!

It's an admittedly over-simplified question, but one that's lingered in the background today after the Obama administration insisted on the resignation of GM CEO Rick Wagoner: Is the government insisting on stronger concessions from Detroit than it is from Wall Street, despite the latter's receipt of a far bigger taxpayer bailout?

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) just told reporters that he believes there has been "a double standard for a long time in terms of the treatment of the financial industry, compared [with] the way the auto industry has been treated. It's something we've fought against ... but something we've got to live with and deal with."

Levin added that it would be a distraction to lament banking CEOs' ability to keep their jobs while boasting managerial records nearly as dismal as Wagoner's (Bank of America chief Ken Lewis and Citigroup chief Vikram Pandit are the names that often spring to mind).

When the senator was asked if he advised the president not to fire Wagoner, however, Levin offered a curious demurral:

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Al Franken addressed the Minnesota Young DFL convention in St. Paul on Saturday, thanking everyone, especially young voters and supporters, for all their help in bringing him to his super-narrow win:



"First of all, thank you. You know, when you win by 225 votes, it's fair to say that no effort really went to waste," said Franken, as the audience laughed. He then thanked everyone for all the great victories that Minnesota Democrats had in electing Barack Obama, increasing their majorities in the state legislature, and sending their five House members back. "And yes -- we took Paul Wellstone's seat back," he added, before being answered by applause.

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As he rolled out one last reprieve for the nation's troubled automakers, President Obama also restarted a legislative push that ran out of gas during last month's stimulus talks: a $10,000 rebate offer to car owners who traded in their old models for more fuel-efficient wheels.

The "cash for clunkers" plan was originally proposed by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), at a total cost of about $16 billion. It was dropped from the stimulus amid GOP opposition, but Obama said today that he would "work with Congress to identify parts of the recovery act that could be trimmed to fund such a program and make it retroactive starting today."

Could that strong presidential endorsement give the rebate plan the momentum it needs to win quick congressional approval? Stay tuned... Late Update: Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who sponsored a $4,500 version of the "cash for clunkers" rebate alongside Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), has just released a statement promising to work quickly on complying with the president's request:

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Check out the opening line of this new fundraising e-mail from the DSCC, officially authored by DSCC chairman Bob Menendez, seeking to bring in some last-minute cash for the end of the quarter:

Dear Friend,

The Republicans think that betting against America is the way to beat us on Election Day. I know that betting on you is a surefire way to prove them wrong.


(Emphasis in the original.)

The Democrats are now running on flag-waving and running down the other guy's patriotism. What an amazing time we live in.

The Obama administration's candid "viability assessments" of GM and Chrysler emphasize one unsurprising but unfortunate theme: Both auto companies have contributed to their own financial demise by relying on gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs instead of cultivating more fuel-efficient cars.

Here's the relevant excerpt from GM's White House status report:

GM earns a disproportionate share of its profits from high-margin trucks and SUVs and is thus vulnerable to energy cost-driven shifts in consumer demand. For example, of its top 20 profit contributors in 2008, only nine were cars.


And the administration's take on Chrysler was even more grim:

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Check out this obviously uncomfortable exchange between Jim Tedisco, the Republican candidate in tomorrow's special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's old House seat, and a reporter from this past Thursday night. Tedisco tried to deny that he'd referred to the stimulus bill as pork -- even though he and his campaign have done so on multiple occasions.

Tedisco was asked about two things, essentially -- characterizing the stimulus bill as containing $300 billion in pork or wasteful spending, and his attack that Dem candidate Scott Murphy should have read the whole bill due to the AIG bonus flap:



For the record, a Google search shows Tedisco or his campaign spokesman being directly quoted using the word "pork" here and here. Indeed, before he had officially announced his opposition to the bill, he had been referring to aspects of it as "Washington-style, Mickey-Mouse pork barrel politics at its worst," in this press release on his campaign's Web site.

Check out the relevant transcript, after the jump.

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The budget reconciliation flame wars continue today, with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad reiterating once again his aversion to using the process as a vehicle for health care reform legislation. In a conference call with reporters, Conrad, for the first time, moved beyond simply reiterating his aversion to the tactic and addressed the fact that reconciliation may be the only hope for reform. But he still hasn't addressed the merits of the plan proposed by reconciliation supporters.

Here's what he said:

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