In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The latest official numbers from NY-20 now show that Democrat Scott Murphy is currently ahead by 35 votes, as he picks up votes in the absentees that have so far made up for his 68-vote deficit in the Election Day machine counts.

Here's where it gets fun: In Warren County, a Murphy stronghold that overall went 55.8%-44.2% for him on Election Night, Tedisco has technically picked up four votes, 34-30, with six out of 70 precincts' absentees counted. However, as county Democratic Party chairman Bill Montfort (who is also a county election official) told me, the Tedisco campaign has challenged about 20 ballots, out of around 25 total challenges, keeping those votes out of the count for now.

"I would just think that once it's decided that these should be counted," said Montfort, "then Murphy is gonna pick up 20."

In these individual precincts, Murphy won by 51.5%-48.5% on Election Night, compared to a Tedisco edge of 53.1%-46.9% in the ballots so far. But if we added 20 votes to Murphy and five to Tedisco, we get a Murphy edge of 50-39, or 56.2%-43.8%, ahead of the curve for these precincts.

As I reported today, the ballot challenges going on here -- and thus far, significantly more of them have come from the Republicans, trying to keep Dem votes out -- could be seriously distorting the final result, if most of the challenges are ultimately withdrawn or overruled.

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I just received an email from Christopher Ambler, the creator of this website, created in the wake of new efforts by a group called the National Organization for Marriage to stop the normalization of equal rights for gay people. With his permission, I'm publishing it below the fold

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

• ABC, This Week: Pastor Rick Warren.

• CBS, Face The Nation: Arturo Sarukhan, Mexican Ambassador to the United States.

• CNN, State Of The Union: Gen. Ray Odierno, and Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie.

• Fox News Sunday: Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).

• NBC, Meet The Press: Special holiday weekend roundtable: Jeffrey Goldberg, from The Atlantic; Michele Norris, from NPR; Robin Wright, author of Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East"; and Byron York, of the Washington Examiner.

One of the strangest aspects of the misreported defense budget story is that one network seemed to us to be doing better than the rest. That network? Fox News!

Alas, earlier today we had to downgrade them. Because of this:



I'd like to take the opportunity to direct the anchor to this post.

Michael Steele is at it again -- this time denying that there's a severe economic crisis going on, while guest-hosting Bill Bennett's radio show, and laughing about it:



After a caller said he didn't see anybody spending less money than usual, Steele replied: "I've heard a number of people say that across the country. [LAUGHTER] The malls are just as packed on Saturday. [LAUGHTER]"

In fact, according to market research, malls have been losing stores at an increased rate, as the consumer base has gone down.

You may have noticed some variations on a theme here this week, and we hope you liked it, because we'll surely have more for you next week and the week after and so on all the way until the fight over defense budget has finally ended.

Along the way, we'd like to think that we're having something of an impact. Or, less self-congratulatorily, that not everyone in the media is misportraying the story or letting the misportrayers get a pass.

So, herewith, a montage of the reporters and anchors who got it right:

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Check out this new poll from CNN:

Do you favor or oppose re-establishing U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba?

Favor 71%
Oppose 27%


If you think this is a drastic turnaround from prior opinion against relations with Cuba...you're wrong. It's only a moderate change from when this question was asked three years ago, and it came out at the time as 62% favor, 29% oppose.

After digging in deeper on the numbers for the NY-20 absentee ballots, it really looks like Democratic candidate Scott Murphy could have a whole batch of votes for himself that are being kept out of the count -- but for which at least some of them could very well get back in -- due to ballot challenges from the Tedisco campaign and the GOP.

The issue here is that the campaigns have the ability to challenge the unopened ballot envelopes, claiming a problem in how they were filled out, the eligibility of the voter, etc. These envelopes are then set aside until they can be resolved later by the judge presiding over this election (Judge James V. Brands of Dutchess County).

An attorney volunteering on the Tedisco campaign told the Hudson Register-Star that the campaign is getting the most mileage out of challenging voters with multiples residencies -- specifically, folks who were registered in the 20th District, but whose driver's licenses have New York City addresses.

And as Dutchess County deputy Democratic election commissioner Dan French bluntly told us: "A lot of the campaigns have actually called these people, and sometimes they know if it's a Democratic or Republican ballot -- or they think they know."

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As you may have heard by now, Barack Obama will deliver a commencement address to the graduates of Arizona State University on May 13, but ASU won't return the favor by granting him an honorary degree.

Sharon Keeler, a spokeswoman for the university told Politico, "It's normally awarded to someone who has been in their field for some time."

"Considering that the president is at the beginning of his presidency, his body of work is just beginning," she said.

Just for fun, we pulled up ASU's list of honorary degree recipients and did some Google-ing and discovered a couple interesting things:

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