In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The Democratic National Committee has this new TV ad in Kentucky, set to run on cable in the Lexington and Louisville media markets, attacking Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell for having supported the Bush agenda, and now obstructing the Obama agenda:

"But this year -- when it came to supporting legislation to create and protect Kentucky jobs -- he said," the announcer says, followed by audio of McConnell's voice: "No."

To be perfectly blunt, this seems like an odd choice of how to spend party resources. McConnell was just re-elected in 2008, and his home state of Kentucky voted for John McCain in a 58%-41% landslide.

"He should still care about what his constituents think - and hopefully it'll send a message to others," said DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse in an e-mail to TPM, when asked why the DNC was doing this.

The Family Research Council has embarked on a new public relations effort against a particular Obama Administration appointee, Kevin Jennings, saying he should not be in his new position at the Department of Education because of his previous position in private activism -- as executive director of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

Jennings is set to begin his new job on Monday, as Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education for the Department's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, after his appointment was announced about a month ago. And this week, FRC launched a last-minute Web petition to oppose him. It asks a pointed question: Would you choose this teacher to guide your children?

(Click image to enlarge.)

Many of the quotes here, regarding youthful drug use and other misadventures, are from Jennings' autobiography, Mama's Boy, Preacher's Son, about his coming of age in the South.

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In recent weeks, the Obama administration has struck a number of deals with several health care industry stake holders, and they may be on the brink of another breakthrough.

The hospital industry is close to a deal with the White House and congressional Democrats in which the industry would agree to federal funding cuts of $150 billion to $170 billion over the next decade to help pay for a health system overhaul, according to people familiar with the talks.

The deal, which isn't final, could be announced within days. A critical feature is an agreement on phasing in the Medicare and Medicaid cuts.

That's inside scuttlebutt from Kaiser Health News. The details--where the cuts will come from, and what concessions they've been promised--still seem murky, and will be crucial. Hospitals are a powerful interest group, and haven't always been friendly negotiators. Earlier this year, the American Hospital Association distanced itself from a pledged it had signed on to with several other stakeholders to reduce health care costs by $2 trillion over 10 years.

Earlier this week, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) came under fire from liberal health reform advocates for restating her opposition to offering a national public insurance option as an immediate feature of comprehensive health care reform. In an interview with the Associated Press she explained her reasoning.

"If you establish a public option at the forefront that goes head-to-head and competes with the private health insurance market ... the public option will have significant price advantages."

As I noted previously, this is a sort of strange critique of the public option--what's so bad about an insurance program that's more affordable to consumers than most private plans?

To clear up the confusion, I asked a Snowe aide to further explain the senator's reasoning. He said that the two sections of the AP quote were meant to address separate aspects of Snowe's opposition to the plan.

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Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-MN) will be sworn into his new position on Tuesday, July 7, CNN reports.

Fun fact: This means Franken will be sworn in exactly six months plus one day after when he would have been sworn in along with all the other folks elected to the Senate in 2008, if not for the legal battle that kept his super-narrow election victory in limbo.

In an interesting development in the 2010 New York special Senate race, where appointed Democratic Sen. Kristen Gillibrand is facing a primary challenge from Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Bill Clinton will now headline a fundraiser for Maloney, despite the extensive efforts by the Obama White House to clear the field for Gillibrand.

Interestingly, Bill previously did a fundraiser for Gillibrand herself, as he has done for many politicians who supported Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Both Gillibrand and Maloney supported Hillary during the 2008 primaries.

When asked for comment, Gillibrand spokesman Matt Canter instead pointed us over to a statement by an unnamed aide to Bill, who told PolitickerNY that this was not a shot against the incumbent: "The former president believes that Senator Gillibrand is doing a good job as senator and this type of thank-you event, and any other he may do, should not be read as an endorsement or un-endorsement."

The extensive press coverage, both local and national, that has surrounded this past Friday night's sheriff's raid on a fundraiser for Democratic House candidate Francine Busby (CA-50) seems to have had a real effect on the officials overseeing the case itself.

I just spoke with Christine Carlino, the long-time personal attorney for homeowner Shari Barman, who was arrested at the event, and she told me there could be some significance to the fact that the San Diego District Attorney's office is now personally involved in looking at the charges against Barman and a guest who was also arrested. (Note that Carlino is a civil attorney, not criminal, but she does still bring some local expertise.)

The key thing to understand here is that San Diego County is divided into several jurisdictional regions -- for example, Barman's home is in the North County region, as opposed to the city of San Diego itself, where the county's District Attorney is based.

Under routine circumstances, an arrest made in North County would stay with the North County prosecutor. But the county's D.A. in San Diego has taken over the case, which is out of the ordinary.

This doesn't really speak either way to whether charges will be dropped or dismissed. But what it could mean is that the D.A. might be aware of just how controversial this has become, and how important it is going forward to get this right.

Pressure from outside interest groups isn't just a liberal phenomenon, of course. The conservative group Americans for Prosperity has begun running ads targeting both conservative and vulnerable Democrats, warning of a government take over of the health care sector. Here's the version running in Montana, aimed at Sen. Max Baucus.

The ad is also running in 11 other states, bringing pressure to bear on Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Harry Reid (D-NV), Mark Begich (D-AK), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), It will air on both network and cable channels.

President Obama will be headed to New Jersey later this month, in order to campaign for Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in his tough re-election fight this year.

The event will be held at the main campus of Rutgers University, on July 16.

Polls have consistently shown that Obama is very popular in this blue state -- but Corzine is not, with low approval numbers and higher disapproval ratings. Corzine is currently trailing his Republican opponent, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, and an appearance alongside the popular Obama could help boost his numbers and remind voters of the importance of voting for the Democratic brand.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) drew the ire of liberals and health care reform advocates this week by airing his objections to a public option. In an interview with the New Haven Independent, Lieberman said he's working with an informal group of Senate centrists he meets with regularly to move health care reform efforts without a public option.

As frustrating as that is for reform advocates, though, they're generally more concerned with public option foes and skeptics who serve on the committees with jurisdiction over health care legislation. On that score, progressive groups have launched ads against players such as Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)--who sits on the Senate Finance Committee--and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC)--who sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Committee--for trying to block the provision (Hagan seems to have dropped much of her opposition). Lieberman isn't as poised as they are to weaken or kill the public option. At least for now.

As such, for the time being, reform advocates seem to be holding their fire. But that doesn't mean Lieberman won't ultimately become one of their targets.