In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The media has quickly coalesced around a consensus that this Tuesday's special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's old House seat is the first real electoral test for President Obama.

Indeed, there are many important issues here, like the stimulus bill and the Republican case that the AIG bonuses can be blamed on the Dems. But the White House's own clout is now in the mix, thanks to the recent endorsement by President Obama of Democratic candidate Scott Murphy, and the radio ad from a few days ago starring Vice President Biden.

So here are some recent updates:

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Obama: Afghanistan Is "America's War" In his interview on CBS' Face The Nation, President Obama was asked whether the Afghanistan War was now his war. "I think it's America's war," said Obama. "What we want to do is to refocus attention on al Qaeda. We are going to root out their networks, their bases. We are gonna make sure that they cannot attack U.S. citizens, U.S. soil, U.S. interests, and our allies' interests around the world."

Petraeus: "I Wouldn't Necessarily" Agree With Cheney That Obama Is Making Us Less Safe Appearing on CNN's State of the Union with John King, Gen. David Petraeus was asked his opinion of Dick Cheney's comments that President Obama's decisions were increasing the risk of a terrorist attack. "Well, I wouldn't necessarily agree with that, John. I think that, in fact, there is a good debate going on about the importance of values in all that we do," said Petraeus, outlining his own opposition to torture.

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Obama Reaches Out To Flood Victims In Video Address In this weekend's YouTube address, President Obama discussed the support the federal government is giving to people in flood-damaged areas of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota:



"For at moments like these, we are reminded of the power of nature to disrupt lives and endanger communities," said Obama. "But we are also reminded of the power of individuals to make a difference."

Gregg In RNC Address: Obama's Budget An Extraordinary Move To The Left In this weekend's Republican YouTube, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) -- who very nearly became President Obama's Secretary of Commerce -- lays out the Republican case against Obama's proposed budget:



"These are staggering numbers and represent an extraordinary move of our government to the left," said Gregg.

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Scott Murphy, the Democratic candidate for Kirsten Gillibrand's old House seat in this Tuesday's special election, is continuing to tie himself to President Obama in the home stretch. Murphy has this new mailer reminding voters of Obama's endorsement:



(Click images to enlarge.)

"On Tuesday, you can help President Obama bring change to Washington, while helping him create jobs, too," the lit says. "Vote Scott Murphy for Congress."

Running on the Obama brand is probably a good idea. The new Siena poll, which showed Murphy taking a four-point lead after having trailed in previous surveys, put Obama's favorables at 65%.

(Via the Albany Times Union.)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been pretty clear that he plans to handle the conservatives in his caucus very gently. He's gone out of his way to praise the creation of the so-called Moderate Dems Working Groups, even going so far as to place a quote in the press release announcing the group's formation.

Not all Democrats or liberals are that enthused, though, and as I've been documenting, several groups--including Campaign for America's Future (CAF), USAction, Americans United for Change, and MoveON--have set themselves at odds one way or another with the 15-member caucus. Some have even gone so far as to launch ad campaigns targeting senators before they have a chance to meddle.

Well, Reid's taken stock, and he's not happy...with the grassroots.

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Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) delivered a setback to the labor movement earlier this week when he vowed to support a GOP filibuster of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) -- but supporters of the union-organizing bill are proceeding undaunted with their grassroots lobbying efforts.

Meanwhile, back in the Senate, EFCA champion Tom Harkin (D-IA) has begun courting Republican supporters for a compromise deal, according to Roll Call. One suspects that a new organizing bill coming from Harkin, a stalwart progressive, would be more balanced between business and labor interests than the "compromise" being pushed by three corporate CEOs ... but that plan may be defining the right-ward end of what's doable.

Here's how Roll Call saw the lay of the land:

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A short while ago I asked Larry Sabato if Michele Bachmann's comments about an "orderly revolution" against Barack Obama's Marxist tyranny would qualify as sedition. Here's his response:

I suppose the moderating element "orderly" saves her from the charge of sedition! Concern about the national debt is perfectly legitimate, but her comments are fringe--and not for the first time. Her phrase, "reporting from enemy lines," is inflammatory. We're all Americans, not enemies simply because we disagree about a president's budget. Bachmann doesn't have a clue what "economic Marxism" is; the Obama administration is not seizing the means of production. The Founders rebelled against "no taxation without representation". That's very different than having an argument about the proper levels of taxation in a representative democracy. Congresswoman Bachmann needs to take a deep breath, and maybe a tranquilizer, too.


Meanwhile, Bachmann went on Glenn Beck's radio show, to continue talking about the imminent danger of a one-world currency, and had this to say: "Well, Glenn, I have experienced that throughout my political career, being labeled a kook."

Scott Murphy, the Democratic candidate in this Tuesday's special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's old House seat, has now picked up the endorsement of Eric Sundwall, the Libertarian nominee who got kicked off the ballot on Wednesday due to signature problems with his petitions -- and who is hopping mad with Republican candidate Jim Tedisco.

"Mr. Tedisco denies any involvement with the concerted effort by his supporters to knock me off the ballot," Sundwall wrote in a statement. "I don't believe him. The ruthless effort by his supporters to knock me off the ballot without a word of protest by him proves his unfitness for any office let alone Congress in these critical times."

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If you're a regular reader, you know that Eric Kleefeld's done a remarkable job tracking the ins and outs and absurdities and melodramatics of the court fight that may or may not settle the disputed election between Norm Coleman and Al Franken.

While that case is being decided, though, it's worth reflecting on the significance of Minnesota's junior senate seat--about how important that seat might have been if Franken had won a more decisive victory (or if the recount hadn't taken so long), and how things will change when that victory is finally affirmed. Indeed, Franken himself may prove more important to advancing President Obama's agenda than will just about any other single issue.

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Here are the line-ups for the Sunday talk shows this weekend:

• ABC, This Week: Sec. of the Treasury Tim Geithner.

• CBS, Face The Nation: President Obama.

• CNN, State Of The Union: Gen. Davis Petraeus; Richard Holbrooke, Special Representative to the Afghanistan/Pakistan region.

• Fox News Sunday: Sec. of Defense Robert Gates; Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

• NBC, Meet The Press: Sec. of the Treasury Tim Geithner; Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

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