In it, but not of it. TPM DC

A new Susquehanna poll suggests that Republicans could very well pick up Joe Biden's old Senate seat, if they're able to recruit Rep. Mike Castle as their candidate.

In a match-up against Democrat Beau Biden, the state attorney general and son of Joe Biden, Castle has an overwhelming lead of 55%-34%. In the internals, Castle is ahead 82%-12% among Republicans and 55%-28% with independents, and Biden the Younger only gets a 52%-36% among Democrats.

From the pollster's analysis: "The low number of undecided voters (at 8%), this far out from the 2010 elections shows that both Castle and Biden are well known to Delawareans and that even before this hypothetical matchup takes shape, Castle is standing on very solid ground should he chose to run for the Senate."

(Via Political Wire.)

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) isn't the only potential Pennsylvania Senate candidate meeting with senior labor officials. Sam Stein reports that earlier today Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA)--the former Republican who's been all-but promised an easy road to the nomination by establishment Democrats--met with SEIU Officials Anna Burger--Chair of Change to Win and Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU--and Eileen Connelly, the Executive Director of the SEIU Pennsylvania State Council.

These were Specter's natural allies when he was a pro-labor Republican, but between the threat of a primary challenge by conservative Pat Toomey, and his sudden defection into the Democratic party, Specter has doubled down on more conservative positions, saying that he no longer supports the Employee Free Choice Act and opposes a publicly funded insurance option as a component of comprehensive health reform.

Those statements and others have drawn the ire of Sestak and labor officials, who say Specter better get in line, or his road to the Democratic Senate nomination in 2010 won't be as smooth as he first expected. We'll get you more specifics about these talks as they come in.

The House plans to vote tomorrow on an anti-mortgage fraud bill, which now contains a provision that will create an independent outside commission to investigate the causes of the financial crisis.

"The American people need to understand how we got here - and lawmakers need to know how to prevent this type of economic crisis in the future," said Rep. John Larson (D-CT), who supports the move, "This commission can answer those questions."

Last week, the Senate passed their version of the same bill, which contained a similar provision, and in the coming days, the differences between the two will be resolved.

On the matter of the commission, the differences are fairly minor.

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Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), who has accused his party's leadership of sabotaging his fundraising in order to force him into retirement, has some further tough words for his co-Senator, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports.

"Good God, he wants to run everybody," Bunning told reporters on a conference call. Bunning confirmed that he encouraged Sec. of State Trey Grayson to set up an exploratory committee to run just in case Bunning himself retires. But he doesn't see a good picture for the GOP going forward. And he blames McConnell for a lot of that.

"Do you realize that under our dynamic leadership of our leader, we have gone from 55 and probably to 40 (Senate seats) in two election cycles," said Bunning, "and if the tea leaves that I read are correct, we will wind up with about 36 after this election cycle. So if leadership means anything, it means you don't lose ... approximately 19 seats in three election cycles with good leadership."

Terry McAuliffe, the former DNC chairman and colorful campaign chair for Hillary Clinton, is the frontrunner for now in the June 9 Democratic primary for governor of Virginia, a new survey from Public Policy Polling (D) indicates.

The numbers: Terry McAuliffe 30%, former state Del. Brian Moran 20%, and state Sen. Creigh Deeds at 14%, with a ±4.1% margin of error. McAuliffe is doing well among women voters, with 30% to Moran's 16% and Deeds at 13%, and among African-Americans it's McAuliffe 37%, Moran 15%, and Deeds 10%.

The pollster's analysis chalks up a big part of McAuliffe's success right now to his ability to out-raise and out-spend the competition: "This is the fourth time PPP has polled this contest and the first time one of the candidates has broken away from the pack," said PPP president Dean Debnam. "McAuliffe's resources advantage finally seems to be manifesting itself and by the time Deeds and Moran can start catching up it may be too late."

Former Florida state House Speaker Marco Rubio has now officially declared his candidacy for his state's open GOP-held Senate seat:

This sets up a likely primary pitting the conservative Rubio against the moderate Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who is expected to get in some time soon.

In his announcement YouTube, Rubio seems to allude to an imminent Crist entry -- and in the same breath includes a mention of President Obama: "I know that there are people more famous than I who may enter this race. And I know that the President of the United States himself will travel to Florida to campaign and raise money against me."

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It turns out that former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA), whose Republican primary challenge against Sen. Arlen Specter had built up such a lead in the polls that Specter switched to the Democrats, has had a pretty good time fundraising.

The Toomey camp has announced that it raised over $500,000 in the time since Toomey got into the race on April 15. Dave Weigel also reports that the campaign says donations surged on the day of Specter's switch a week ago.

The takeaway here is that Toomey has already gained significant support from grassroots conservative voters and activists in Pennsylvania. So if the national party wants to get another candidate who is viewed as more electable, such as former Gov. Tom Ridge or Rep. Jim Gerlach, that new player could face their own set of difficulties in the primary.

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) hasn't been shy about criticizing Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) for switching parties last week, but his harshest words came last night in an interview with TPMDC: "He left the fight," said the former admiral and highest ranking military man ever to serve in Congress. "In the military, we just don't leave fights."

Sestak's shot at Specter comes amid grassroots grumbling that the deal Democratic leaders struck to get Specter to defect from the GOP cost the party a shot at putting a real liberal in the seat in 2010.

"I can't figure out...why the deal was done," Sestak told me, saying he's concerned that the party was so quick to embrace Specter for reasons of "expediency," and without regard to the needs of Pennsylvania voters. "It isn't Washington's prerogative to tell us what to do," Sestak insisted.

I asked him whether he'd been on the receiving end of establishment pressure -- from people like Vice President Joe Biden and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell -- to stay out of the race, and he insisted, "I haven't heard from anyone."

While Democrats from the While House on down might be trying to keep the Democratic primary field clear for Specter, they might not necessarily mind the fact that, for the time being, Sestak is applying pressure on Specter to move left. By keeping the door open to challenging Specter in the Democratic primary, Sestak may serve to nudge Specter further than he might otherwise have gone. Yesterday, Sestak told Greg Sargent that if Specter "doesn't demonstrate that he has shifted his position on a number of issues, I would not hesitate at all to get in" to a primary fight against him.

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An interesting expert has emerged to speak out on behalf of Norm Coleman's fight in Minnesota, and the importance it has to our democratic system: Former FEC commissioner and voter-suppression guru Hans Von Spakovsky, an old TPMmuckraker favorite.

Here's what Von Spakovsky told Fox News in support of Coleman's litigation, including a potential U.S. Supreme Court appeal: "If you don't deal with all of the issues that have been raised in this case, then you know a lot of people are going to be questioning whether the real winner who actually ends up in the seat is actually the person who won the race, and that's not good for the kind of election process that we have."

As I've asked before, when Norm Coleman himself has offered the same point: Where were you in 2000, Hans, when we really needed you?

The Fox article also says that the GOP appears to be ready to keep the fight going, now that Al Franken would be the 60th Democrat. NRSC chairman John Cornyn gave Fox a statement that, not for the first time, invokes the count-every-vote spirit of Florida in 2000: "It's blatant hypocrisy that many of the same Democrats who so loudly complained about voter disenfranchisement during the 2000 Florida recount have been so willing to compromise their principles when it no longer fits their political agenda."