In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Mitt Romney's political organization, the Free and Strong America PAC, is offering supporters a new chance to take an expenses-paid trip to Boston and join Mitt himself in his family's seats at Fenway Park for a Red Sox Game. But first there are two important questions: What does a free and strong America mean to you? And can you donate 50 bucks for the cause?

Here's Mitt's pitch of the contest:



Anyone can enter the contest by writing a 250-words or less essay giving their own personal answer to that question -- and by donating $50 to the Free and Strong America PAC. The author of the best essay will get to go to Boston with a guest, while the other top-five essays will be featured on the site, and the authors will receive baseballs personally autographed by Mitt himself.

The national Democratic and Republican Congressional campaign committees have done similar contests, offering trips to Washington to meet with top politicians. But they only required the purchase of a raffle ticket through a donation -- there were no merit-based essay portions.

A new Quinnipiac poll from New Jersey finds Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine trailing his Republican opponent, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, by a 50%-40% margin among likely voters.

This is the first Quinnipiac poll since Christie won the Republican primary last week. This poll indicates that Christie might not have actually gained much of a bounce: Among registered voters he leads Corzine by 46%-37%, compared to a nearly identical 45%-38% margin among registered voters in late May.

From the pollster's analysis: "Voters say 55 - 37 percent that Corzine does not deserve to be reelected. Democrats say four more years 66 - 25 percent, while he gets an 84 - 9 percent thumbs down from Republicans and a 64 - 28 percent boot from independent voters."

The big question for Corzine is whether he can successfully reassert a common pattern in deep-blue New Jersey, where disliked Dems can frequently come from behind in the home stretch by attacking the Republican rival's conservatism and ties to the national GOP. If he ends up being unable to do that, this could very well become a Republican pickup.

I noted last night that Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) are threatening to grind Senate business to a halt--and even filibuster the war spending bill--if the amendment they authored (which would allow the White House to suppress detainee abuse photos) doesn't become law post haste.

Whatever you think about the photos, or the wars, or the emergency supplemental bills, though, you've got to marvel at Joe Lieberman circa 2007:

We in this chamber have a responsibility to make certain that-no matter what our disagreements and differences here in Washington-our men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan are not caught in the political crossfire.

Mitchell: Obama Administration Committed To Palestinian State George Mitchell, the White House Special Envoy on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, said today after meeting with Palestinian officials that Washington is committed to the creation of a Palestinian state, saying that Obama considered it "the only viable resolution to this conflict...for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states." He also said the Administration will be seeking "prompt resumption and early conclusion" of peace talks.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will have lunch with Vice President Biden at 12 p.m. ET. At 4 p.m. ET, Obama will meet with Sec. of the Treasury Tim Geithner. At 4:45 p.m. ET, Obama and Biden will meet with with Sec. of State Hillary Clinton.

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Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds has won tonight's Democratic primary for governor, and in a landslide, too -- positively thrashing the competition of former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, a colorful character who was until recently the frontrunner, and former state Del. Brian Moran.

With 81% of precincts reporting, Deeds has 49%, McAuliffe 27%, and Moran 24%. Terry McAuliffe, the man who had the backing of the Clintons and had famously appeared on Morning Joe after the Puerto Rico primary, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and waving a bottle of rum to celebrate Hillary's win in that territory, has failed to break through in electoral politics.

As I pointed out this morning, McAuliffe occupied the frontrunner's position for quite a while, thanks to a sizable financial advantage over his two rivals. But Moran soon began attacking McAuliffe relentlessly on both his political and private-sector résumés, which had two effects. First, McAuliffe got dragged down -- and second Moran was dragged down for going negative. This allowed Deeds, who hails from the less Democratic Southwest region of the state and had been the third man for much of the race, to jump to the front of the pack as a positive choice for voters.

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I noted earlier that an amendment authored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC)--which would allow the White House to withhold all photographs of detainee abuse--will not appear in the supplemental war funding bill, currently stuck as it awaits a conference between House and Senate negotiators.

But the funding legislation still has a long way to go--or will have to be changed again--before it achieves final passage. That has nothing to do with the war spending itself, which has overwhelming support. The problem for the White House and Democratic leaders is that progressive Democrats, Blue Dogs, and the entire House GOP each oppose different aspects of the bill--enough that there may not be enough votes for the supplemental itself to pass.

To understand everything, you need to go back to May 14, when an earlier version of this same spending bill passed the House by an overwhelming margin of 368-60. It had the support of almost all Republicans and all-but 51 Democrats--progressives, by and large, opposed to the nature of the funding process and the wars that process lengthens.

Then that bill went over to the Senate, where two controversial amendments were added, and the game changed dramatically.

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The Senate Republican Communications Center has put out a new objection to the scheduled hearings for Sonia Sotomayor: That this schedule represents a double standard compared to the time it took for John Roberts' hearings to begin, because it means Republicans will have to review 76 of her cases per day, beginning from the day when the nomination was announced, to be ready on the day the hearings are supposed to begin.

The key here is that Sotomayor has spent a lot longer on the bench than Roberts did. Roberts had a total of 327 cases, to be reviewed in 55 days before his hearings -- about six per day. Sotomayor has 3,625 cases, to be reviewed in 48 days, working out to a ratio of about 76.

Now hold on a second, the math can get even trickier from here.

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The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee released an early version (PDF) of their health reform legislation today, which, as I noted before, is silent on the crucial questions of the employer mandate and a public health insurance option.

All that, though, will be settled in the coming days and, by the end of the week or early next week the finalized version of the proposal will be released, public option and all. The committee released today's language in order to meet a deadline: next Tuesday, the legislation will be marked up and today's announcement fulfills a commitment to release the language a week in advance.

Earlier today, the committee released a summary that was oddly mum about the public option.

An important foundation of The Affordable Health Choices Act is the following principle: If you like the coverage you have now, you keep it. But if you don't have health insurance or don't like the insurance you have, our bill will give you new, more affordable options.


But early reports and leaks indicate that it will include robust language, and all indications suggest that the HELP bill will propose broader reform than the Finance Committee's bill, expected to be unveiled in the next couple weeks. And it's worth pointing out that by releasing the most progressive language later rather than sooner, liberals and reformers won't have to spend the next week fending off attacks on the bill in advance of the mark-up.

Over the weekend, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) broke some news when, in response to the heckles of some frustrated union organizers, he suggested very strongly that he'd ultimately vote for a compromise version of the Employee Free Choice Act.

"I believe you'll be satisfied with my vote on this issue," Specter said.

Well, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) was also on hand that day. He's a cosponsor of EFCA in the House, and in a statement to TPMDC, he said that the welcome Specter received is telling. "The reaction by many people at the rally to Arlen's speech was simply one demonstration that Pennsylvanians want to be represented by someone they can trust to approach their work in a consistent and accountable way," Sestak said.

The leaders of the Democratic political establishment have not confirmed to this point that Arlen will not be a 'flight risk' after the election. This is a concern that many people attending last weekend's events in Pittsburgh expressed to me, including when I spoke at the rally.

I am a cosponsor of EFCA, and cosponsored and voted for it last year, because very unfair labor practices are being done in America. I would also be in agreement with a compromise that labor supports and that addresses their concerns.

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Clinton Postpones Trip To Charlotte

In a statement released Friday evening, Hillary Clinton's campaign announced that the Democratic nominee…