In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who's criticized Sonia Sotomayor for her temperament, thinks he may vote for her confirmation.

"I honestly think I could vote for her,'' he told McClatchy.

Graham said he is still undecided, but it's a stark turnaround from comments he made after meeting the Supreme Court nominee on June 3. In a press conference, he said, "There's a temperament problem there." At the same presser, he said there was also a "character problem," but later that day told Fox News that Sotomayor has a "sterling character."

He also said that he wouldn't vote for her if he applied the same standards Barack Obama used when voting on Supreme Court nominees. He argued that Obama voted against Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito because they had different ideologies.

Graham had also taken issue with her comments about "a wise Latina woman," calling them "inappropriate" and saying he hoped she'd apologize.

The Washington Post reports that Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) will be running for the Senate seat formerly held by President Obama, and now occupied by Democratic Sen. Roland Burris.

This follows today's news that state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who would have been a shoo-in for both the Democratic primary and the general election, will not be running. State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is currently in the race for the Dems, but could potentially face competition from Chris Kennedy, a businessman and son of the late Robert F. Kennedy. Burris has not announced his plans, but he has not raised much money, and polls show he would lose a primary by a landslide.

Kirk has been able to cultivate an image as a moderate, winning re-election in a suburban district that was carried by President Obama. But expect the Democrats to hammer him in this blue state over just how partisan he can really be: For example, he has said that he told Chinese leaders not to trust the American government's budget figures, and he also spoke at a Tea Party and made some rather hyperbolic comments.

One of the more surprising aspects yesterday's controversy over the White House's supposed openness to a so-called "triggered mechanism" is that Democrats have, essentially, a dedicated point man on the public option. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has taken on that roll in the Finance Committee and has come forward publicly a number of times--most recently this past Sunday--to resuscitate the public option when it seemed on the brink of death.

"I had never heard that they were for the trigger. That came as a surprise to me," he told Slate's John Dickerson. "Maybe in year three there might be a public plan? Not good enough."

It's hard not to sympathize with the guy. Schumer, perhaps more than any Democrat, has put himself on the line for the public option--and unless it's part of some grander, more opaque political scheme, it can't be helpful to his efforts to have a prominent White House official come forward to undercut him.

Forget one-person, one-vote for redistricting. You might not be aware of this, but our system goes so far as to employ one-prisoner, one-vote -- even though prisoners can't vote!

Wisconsin Public Radio reports that a Democratic state Assemblyman from Milwaukee, Fred Kessler, is complaining about the fact that Census data, which is the basis for redistricting, counts prisoners in the areas where they happen to be involuntarily living.

Kessler is now seeking to amend the state constitution so that prisoners wouldn't be counted for the purposes of redistricting, because the status quo gives a disproportionate level of representation to all the other people in prison districts who aren't incarcerated -- that is, the residents who can actually vote -- compared to the voting public in areas that don't have prisons.

From the report by Wisconsin Public Radio: "Oshkosh Republican Rep. Richard Spanbauer's Assembly district includes the Waupun Prison. That means he represents thousands of inmates. He says regardless of what you feel about prisoners, you have to count them."

Well, that's awfully progressive of him.

In the newest political development for the 2010 Illinois Senate race, state Attorney General Lisa Madigan will reportedly announce that she is not running for Senate -- nor is she running for Governor -- but will simply run for re-election.

The seat, of course, is currently held by the very controversial Democrat Roland Burris, who was appointed by the later-impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and was formerly held by Barack Obama. State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is currently running for the Democratic nomination, and has raised a decent amount of money, while Burris has not made his plans clear.

There had been much speculation about whether Madigan would run for Senate, or perhaps challenge the new Gov. Pat Quinn in the Democratic primary. Instead, she's sticking with her current job.

Polls had consistently shown that Madigan would have won Democratic primaries for either of those two offices. Now that she seems to be out, Giannoulias appears to be the frontrunner for Senate, and Quinn can probably breathe a sigh of relief.



Here's another clue that's come out of the now-infamous fundraising event from two Fridays ago for Democratic House candidate Francine Busby (CA-50), which ended in a raid by the San Diego Sheriff's Department when things got out of hand with a deputy who was responding to a noise complaint.

A preliminary police report that has been leaked to the media (the Sheriff's Department is not releasing documents, due to an ongoing internal probe) shows that the noise complaint originated from a house nearby, with the caller incensed over "a loud Democratic rally with loudspeakers."

This corroborates what Busby had previously told me, that the deputies who came to the event said they were responding to a complaint about a "Democratic demonstration." For her part, Busby has said that the event was not loud, but was a standard fundraising house party, at which she briefly spoke through a microphone and had finished up her remarks at some time around 8:30 p.m.

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Last week, we noted that conservatives were mining hundreds of pages of documents, released by LatinoJustice PRLDEF (formerly the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund), related to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's tenure on the organization's board of directors.

Sotomayor's opponents have sought to tie the group's legal defense of minorities to her decision as a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Ricci v. Destefano--a decision conservatives contend was unfair to white people. Of the many problems with that strategy, the biggest is probably that PRLDEF board members don't do litigation. Its leaders made that clear in a letter to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)--ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee--who's been the most prominent Republican to object to Sotomayor's affiliation with the organization.

"Neither the Board as a whole nor any individual member selects litigation to be undertaken or controls ongoing litigation," the letter reads.

In fact, ABA Model Code 6.03 provides that Board members have no attorney-client relationship with the clients of a legal services organization and therefore do not control the activities of staff lawyers in individual cases. The Board's role is thus limited to overall policy questions such as whether to emphasize employment, housing, or education. Operational decisions were and are appropriately delegated to the organization's President and General Counsel; the President reported generally on the organization's docket at Board meetings. Judge Sotomayor, and the full Board, understood their advisory role and did not step outside of that role. Understanding this factual context, we hope you will see that your description that "Judge Sotomayor served in senior leadership roles" at PRLDEF is a mischaracterization.


You can read the letter in full here. Democrats will cite it on the Senate floor today, in advance of Sotomayor's confirmation hearings, which begin next week.

The 2010 Republican primary for Senate in Florida has been emerging as a key contest between the Republican establishment, with its focus on rebuilding the party and trying to win the center, and the purist activist base -- and so far, the establishment is winning.

Gov. Charlie Crist, the moderate candidate backed by the establishment, has raised $3 million in the second quarter, an impressive sum. Insurgent candidate Marco Rubio, a former state House Speaker who is aiming to mobilize opposition to Crist's endorsement of the stimulus bill, took in only $340,000. Crist is running way ahead in the polls, thanks to superior name recognition, and a 9-1 fundraising advantage should go a long way in helping him maintain his position.

In addition, Crist is making a clear move to build up support in the Cuban-American community -- cutting in on Rubio's natural turf -- and has won the endorsements of Miami Congressmen Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart.

The right-wing Club For Growth has been publicly mulling whether to get in this race on Rubio's behalf. Rubio ought to be hoping the Club will ultimately offer him its help -- he'll need it.

As we've been reporting, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid is demanding an end to efforts to woo fence-sitting Republicans in to supporting a watered-down health care reform legislation. But that will likely alienate just about the entire GOP, and require Democrats to stand united against a filibuster if a bill is to pass through regular order.

So, I suppose it should come as no surprise that, Senate leaders are now asking members of the Democratic caucus to vote party-line on procedural issues, reversing the stance they took on caucus unity just last week.

Predictably, conservative Democrats are publicly balking at the suggestion. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) told Roll Call "I'm not a closed mind on cloture, but if it's an abuse of procedure, if it's somebody trying to put a poison pill into a bill, or if it's something that would be pre-emptive of Nebraska law, or something that rises to extraordinary circumstances, then I've always reserved the right to vote against cloture."

And Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)--a stickler when it comes to the public option and, an outright opponent of climate change legislation--said "I'm going to keep an open mind, but I am not committing to any procedural straitjackets one way or another," she said.

But for his part, Reid is actually putting himself on the line. "On procedural votes," he predicted, "we'll keep Democrats together." That's a fairly dramatic about face from the position he held just last week, after it became clear that Al Franken would be coming to Washington. "We have 60 votes on paper," Reid said. "But we cannot bulldoze anybody; it doesn't work that way. My caucus doesn't allow it. And we have a very diverse group of senators philosophically. I am not this morning suddenly flexing my muscles."

Here's a video from yesterday, courtesy of our friends at The Uptake, of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) speaking to a reception held in his honor at the Hart Senate Office Building after he'd been sworn in.

When speaking of his family, his friends, supporters, and the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, Franken was frequently choking back tears -- as he noted, he has a tendency to stop just short of actually crying. And he also got in some nice jokes:



"If I thanked everyone here individually, who helped in this campaign, I would be thanking virtually everybody in this room," Franken said. "There's a couple of you who are kind of -- just here for the ride. (The crowd laughs.) But, 95% of you in this room had a tremendous amount to do with this victory."

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