In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) has officially announced his campaign for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring GOP Sen. Mel Martinez, giving the Republicans an immediate frontrunner in this perennial swing state.

Crist faces a primary against conservative challenger Marco Rubio, the former state House Speaker who will likely blast Crist's support for the stimulus bill. Rubio put out a statement declaring: "My campaign will offer GOP voters a clear alternative to the direction some want to take our party."

The GOP establishment has made its choice clear: NRSC chairman John Cornyn put out a statement endorsing Crist: "With his record of reform in Florida, I know that Governor Crist will bring a fresh perspective to Washington in our efforts to fight for lower taxes, less government, and new job creation for all Americans."

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I've now had the chance to read through the Franken campaign's rebuttal brief in Norm Coleman's appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and there are a few themes that run through it. (Check out Rick Hasen's take, as well.) Coleman's arguments are derided as internally sloppy, inconsistent between each other, and overall a cause of harm to the state for delaying the seating of the rightful winner of the election -- Al Franken -- a situation that should be remedied as soon as possible.

"Even if this Court were to take Appellants claims at face value, each fails as a matter of law. In most cases, Appellants' claims are also barred as a procedural matter, and, even more fundamentally, they fail for simple lack of proof," the brief argues. "On each of these grounds, Respondent respectfully requests that the Court affirm the trial court and make clear that Al Franken is entitled to receive the certificate of election."

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Harold Koh has been reported out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 12 to 5 vote, according to a committee spokesperson. Ranking member, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) voted with the committee's 11 Democrats to advance Koh's nomination to be the State Department's Legal Adviser to the Senate floor.

Koh's vote in committee had been scheduled for last week, but, without explanation, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) delayed that vote until today's hearing, and then opposed the former Yale Law School Dean. Republicans could potentially use similar tactics to delay a full vote, and a number of conservative activists are hoping to spike the nomination entirely.

Yesterday, The Washington Post's Dan Balz and Robert Barnes teamed up to pass on anonymous criticism of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who President Obama may nominate to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. In what has become something of a sport in political media these days, the two wrote that "Some say...she has not distinguished herself on the appeals court."

Today, Barnes collaborates with the Post's Robert Shear to report that Sotomayor has "already has felt the glare that comes with being identified as a front-runner, with several unflattering profiles about her temperament and judicial accomplishments."

As we noted in our anatomy of the whisper campaign, these doubts, such as they are, have their roots in a New Republic article by the magazine's legal correspondent Jeffrey Rosen. That piece contains no concrete examples of Sotomayor's supposedly unsuitable temperament, and, if anything, implies a high level of judicial accomplishment. But it does contain several anonymous quotes, and oblique references to other unquoted criticisms of the second-circuit jurist. And, as such, it has served as the fountainhead for a spate of articles implying that the objection to her potential candidacy is legitimate and well-sourced, when, in fact, it isn't.

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Boxer, Snowe Ask For Female SCOTUS Appointee Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) have sent a bipartisan letter to President Obama, asking him to appoint a woman to David Souter's seat on the Supreme Court. "Women make up more than half of our population, but right now hold only one seat out of nine on the United States Supreme Court," they wrote. "This is out of balance. In order for the court to be relevant, it needs to be diverse and better reflect America."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be hosting a roundtable with business leaders at 11:30 a.m. ET in the Roosevelt Room, to discuss cutting employer health care costs. At 2:25 p.m. ET, he and Vice President Biden will deliver remarks at a Rose Garden ceremony honoring Top Cops award winners. At 3:30 p.m. ET, Obama and Biden will meet with Gen. Ray Odierno and Christopher Hill, the new Ambassador to Iraq, in the Situation Room. At 4:30 p.m. ET, Obama and Biden will meet with Sec. of Defense Robert Gates. At 7:45 p.m. ET, Obama and the First Lady will attend an evening of poetry, music and spoken word in the East Room.

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The cause of Employee Free Choice been dealt a number of difficult blows in the last several weeks, but perhaps the hardest came from Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) in early April when she came out against EFCA. At the time she said, "[I] cannot support that bill in its current form. Cannot support and will not support moving it forward in its current form."

Deliberations are underway between labor groups and key legislators who seek a compromise bill with enough support to overcome a Republican filibuster. But Lincoln, whose constituents include Wal-Mart, is situated to drive a hard bargain.

That is, of course, unless she thinks her job might be at stake. And it could be--or, at least, some influential people want her to think it could be. One senior labor official close to the situation told TPMDC that a general election challenge could be in the works. "I think that's a line people are preparing to cross."

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I know what you're all thinking. You're thinking that if the Minnesota Supreme Court next month determines that Al Franken should be seated, the national Republican Party will graciously accept their decision, and Norm Colemen will offer up a kind and thoughtful concession speech.

"[N]o, hell no. Whatever the outcome, it's going to get bumped to the next level," said RNC chairman Michael Steele.

So you were all wrong. "This does not end until there's a final ruling that speaks to whether or not those votes that have not been counted should be counted, Steele added. "And Norm Coleman will not, will not jump out of this race before that."

Somewhat implicit in that last sentence is the assumption that Coleman will ultimately lose. And implicit in that implication is the idea that the Republicans are doing this to keep another Democrat out of the Senate for as long as possible, and depriving Minnesotans of dual representation in the process.

Assuming the Minnesota Supreme Court sides with Franken, the question of whether to seat him, even if provisionally, will fall to Gov. Tim Pawlenty--a presidential hopeful who, as we've noted before, will face tons of pressure from his party not to certify the victory at all. If this is any indication, the GOP is already turning up the heat.

Earlier today, Ben Smith reported that McCain research director-cum-press secretary Brian Rogers will begin working as the research director for Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection. On the campaign trail, Rogers worked alongside deputy communications director Michael Goldfarb, who responded to today's announcement with poise and professional courtesy. "Everybody knew Rogers was a tree-hugger," Goldfarb noted by email, "but I didn't think he'd take it this far. He's dead to me."

This has been today's edition of "fun quotes from people who wanted to run the country." But thinking critically for a moment it's not clear how accurate Goldfarb's charges are. Notwithstanding all the 'Drill Here, Drill Now' strangeness, McCain--though nowhere near Al Gore territory--has generally been more progressive on the climate change issue than has the rest of his party. So on the one hand it's not all that surprising that he'd have an environmentalist on his staff.

On the other hand, though, this is the same Brian Rogers who, in an earlier edition of "fun quotes from people who wanted to run the country" once said of Barack Obama, "In terms of who's an elitist, I think people have made a judgment that John McCain is not an arugula-eating, pointy headed professor-type based on his life story." Tree-huggers are traditionally believed to enjoy arugula as much as pointy-headed professors, and there is, of course, significant overlap between the two groups. Perhaps he's super green after all.

Earlier today, President Obama welcomed a motley crew of health reform stakeholders to the White House for a summit of sorts. On hand were representatives of a number of health care industry lobbies--including America's Health Insurance Plans, the American Medical Association, PhRMA, and the American Hospital Association--and, on the other side of things, representatives of the Service Employees International Union.

The groups are pledging to support cost-reducing measures that, at least in theory, dovetail with an Obama-backed health care plan and which would incur saving that could potentially be construed as part of the up-front investment comprehensive reform will require.

Paul Krugman is pleased by this development. So is health wonk Jonathan Cohn, and The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder. Ezra Klein is somewhat less enthused. For their part, the administration is playing portraying today's development as something just shy of a watershed moment. But is there reason to be skeptical of the Kumbaya chorus?

Richard Kirsch of the group Health Care for America Now cautions that "the groups did not agree to anything specific whatsoever."

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