In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL), the big frontrunner for this perennial swing state's open Senate seat in 2010, has announced an astonishingly good fundraising quarter: $4.3 million raised in the time since he got into the race in early May.

Cash-on-hand figures won't be available until the campaign officially files its quarterly report, which is due July 15. It's also not known how much of that can be spent in the Republican primary, versus what must be reserved for the general election from maxed-out donors.

The initial reports had been that Crist would raise $3 million, about nine times more than his conservative primary challenger Marco Rubio's. As it turns out, the actual advantage is more like a 12.6-1 ratio, further solidifying Crist's momentum in this race.

The Senate Finance Committee's negotiations over the public option have been marked by predictable moments of egotism, chaos, and various other forms of legislative melodrama. But if at the end of the (much delayed) process, the panel chooses to include a public option of any kind in its bill, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will deserve most--if not all--of the thanks.

Back to Schumer in a moment, but it's worth considering just how important the difference between the two possible outcomes is. As it stands, the other two health care bills working their way through Congress both call for the creation of a public option, but neither is likely to win much, if any, Republican support. If the Finance Committee--more conservative, and more bipartisan--endorses a public option, then it will become a standard feature of the reform landscape, and will live or die with the final reform package. But if it eschews a public option, then the politics change dramatically. Suddenly the public option becomes the province of congressional liberals while the "sensible" centrist position is to delay a public option, or forego it altogether. That's a tough sell.

And that's at least part of the reason Schumer's been so insistent on including a public option--or something very close to it--in the bill the committee eventually unveils. Finance chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) tasked Schumer with being the point man on the public option from the outset of negotiations, but Schumer's gone above and beyond in that role, putting himself on the line very publicly at times when the momentum on the committee wasn't really on his side.

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A new national survey from Public Policy Polling (D) finds that the American public has a pretty solid verdict on Sarah Palin: A full majority, 55% of voters, say she is not fit to be president, compared to just 37% who say she is fit for it.

In addition, respondents were asked whether Palin's announcement that she will resign as Governor of Alaska makes them more or less likely to support her for president. Only 30% say more likely, with 57% saying less likely, and 14% not sure.

Oddly enough, though, her personal favorable ratings might have gone up slightly, to 46% favorable and 45% unfavorable, compared to a 43%-49% rating last month.

From the pollster's analysis: "It's not surprising Palin's overall favorability numbers haven't declined since most folks inclined to dislike her already did before she announced she was resigning as Governor," said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. "But even among people with a positive opinion of her this move seems to have raised some questions about her judgment such that a majority of Americans don't think she's fit to be President."

The headline sort of says it all. At her weekly press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said we'd soon know the names of the men and women appointed to serve on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. In fact, she said we'd know "imminently." Leaders of both parties have spent weeks evaluating a range of experts, seeking a delicate balance between expertise and purity--many of the people who truly understand financial markets are also simply too close to the players that caused the meltdown, and that inconvenient reality has caused the selection process to move more slowly than expected. Additionally, some on the left are concerned that none of the names under consideration reflect a sufficiently skeptical view of the financial industry.

So now that former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) finally conceded the much-litigated 2008 Senate race to Democrat Al Franken, and Franken was sworn into office six months into the term, does Coleman have a political future as he reportedly eyes a run for Governor in 2010? A new survey of Minnesota by Public Policy Polling (D) suggests that Coleman has still got a long way to go if he wants to come back.

The numbers: Coleman's favorable rating is only 38%, with 52% viewing him unfavorably. Coleman was also tested in potential general elections against former one-term U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, state House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. Dayton edges Coleman out 41%-39%, Rybak leads 43%-37%, and Coleman leads Kelliher 42%-34%, with a ±2.5% margin of error.

This question is also pretty rough: "Did the way Norm Coleman handled the recount in his Senate race make you more or less likely to support him in a future campaign for Governor or some other office?" The numbers: More likely 26%, less likely 54%, and no difference 20%.

From the pollster's analysis: "You have to wonder how much more goodwill he would have been able to earn with voters in the state if he had decided to take the high road and concede six months ago."

America these days is reminding Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) of Nazi Germany.

Last night, at a National Press Club event where he was plugging his book Saving Freedom, he implied that America's elections are "just power grabs."

Part of what we're trying to do in Saving Freedom is just show that where we are, we're about where Germany was before World War II where they became a social democracy. You still had votes but the votes were just power grabs like you see in Iran, and other places in South America, like Chavez is running down in Venezuela. People become more dependent on the government so that they're easy to manipulate. And they keep voting for more government because that's where their security is. When our immigrants get here, they're worried, because they see it happening here.

He said he doesn't, however, think America is ready for a revolution, and said he believed the government could change "in a civilized way."

The messages coming out of the Obama White House may be mixed, but Obama's political machine is keeping on point. Organizing for America is calling on supporters to phone their elected representatives on the Hill and urge them to support Obama's health care principles, which, they say, include:

  • Reduce costs

  • Guarantee a choice of plans and doctors -- including the choice of a robust public insurance option

  • Ensure quality, affordable care for every American

You can read the entire letter here. Obama himself has been a supporter of a public plan all along, but has been unwilling to demand that Congress include one in its final reform package. But he'll be more likely to get what he wants--and find it easier to sway luke-warm members--if his supporters are engaged on the issue.

After telling Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) to put a public option in his health care bill, and strip it of a financing provision that would tax employer-provided health care benefits, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to assure Republicans that he wasn't abandoning bipartisanship. Now, Baucus is saying much the same.

"Everything's on the table," was Baucus' mantra yesterday. "By far the better approach is a bipartisan approach to get this moving."

These are palliative words, but they don't seem to have changed momentum on the Hill. Most indications suggest two key provisions that were recently expected to be included in the Senate Finance Committee's health care bill--health care co-operatives and the benefits tax--are on life support. That pleases reformers, but also makes them nervous. They abhor the co-op model--preferring a public insurance plan instead--and though their feelings about taxing benefits are mixed, they see no reason to ignite controversy when there are plenty of other, more-popular ways to finance reform. But at the same time, Finance is now way, way behind schedule, and there are precious few days left for them to complete work on a bill, merge it with the HELP Committee's bill, debate the final product on the floor, and bring it to a vote.

Obama Calls For Climate Deal This Year At the G8 Summit, President Obama called for the member countries to make continued progress on climate change, before a new round of U.N. treaty talks this December. Press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that Obama said "there was still time in which they could close the gap on that disagreement in time for that important (meeting)."

Obama's Day In Italy President Obama is in Rome today. At 3:30 a.m. ET (9:30 a.m. local time), he met with Brazilian President Lula da Silva. At 4 a.m. ET, he attended a meeting of leaders of the G-8, plus China, India, Mexico, South Africa and Egypt, with a working lunch at 6:30 a.m. ET. At 8:30 a.m. ET, he attended a meeting with representatives of the Junior 8, and he attended a world trade discussion at 9 a.m. ET. At 10:15 a.m. ET, he will attend a Major Economies Forum discussion on the environment, and will make a statement to the press at 12:30 p.m. ET. AT 2:30 p.m. ET, he will attend a G-8 working dinner, hosted by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

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TPMDC's update on the biggest legislative initiatives on the Hill:

  • Health Care: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid met with Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee today to reassure them that they wouldn't be closed out of the health care reform debate--after reportedly telling committee chairman Max Baucus to stop chasing Republican votes. The upshot? The Finance Committee's still not ready to set a mark-up date for it's yet to be unveiled bill. And the early, aspirational, August deadline for completing legislation in the Senate is fast approaching...

  • Appropriations: The White House is threatening to veto the Intelligence appropriations bill, working its way through the House, if it contains a provision that would strip the President of the power to determined who in Congress could be briefed on classified information, and give it to the congressional intelligence chairs. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supports the provision.

  • Climate Change: A few weeks ago, Rep. Colin Peterson (D-MN) extracted concessions from climate change leaders in the House and made the Waxman-Markey bill friendlier to agricultural interests. Now, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) wants to see much the same thing happen when the Senate takes up the issue in the coming weeks.