In it, but not of it. TPM DC

I just got off the phone with Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, after he'd read the rebuttal given by GOP outfit Resurgent Republic to his criticism of their new poll. His bottom line: They're still acting in a way that is, to use his phrase, "self-deluding."

Whit Ayres of Resurgent Republic responded to Greenberg's criticism, that the firm's new poll and strategy memo was slanted to produce a favorable result for GOP positions. First of all, he said the poll did not have only a two-point gap in partisan identification, as Greenberg measured it, but was a 33%-29% gap in favor of the Democrats. And he defended his phrasing of the Democratic positions, saying the intent was to effectively paraphrase what a Democrat would say.

Greenberg isn't buying it.

"I meant my response to be a little pointed. I meant it to be a little on the bemused side, at the start of the discussion," said Greenberg. "I'm sure you and, other blogs will answer the partisan I.D. question. Nothing changes the fact that this is an outlier on Party ID, even looking at the way he calculated it."

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Back in the spring of 1986, after having successfully appointed scores and scores of conservative judges to serve on courts across the country, President Ronald Reagan went too far. He picked a federal prosecutor to a fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court in Alabama whose nomination was so controversial that it got quashed by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee.

That prosecutor was Jeff Sessions, the senator who, in all likelihood will serve as that committee's most powerful Republican for the next year and a half.

But back to 1986. During the debate over his nomination, committee Democrats questioned Sessions' prosecutorial discretion, focusing in particular on a case he pursued against three Marion, AL civil rights workers--Albert Turner, Turner's wife Evelyn, and Spencer Hogue, Jr.--whom he accused of voter fraud. Sessions was unconcerned with claims of fraud outside the so-called Black Belt, but he alleged that the trio had falsified absentee ballots in Perry County during the 1984 election. After conducting an exhaustive investigation, though, he was able to account for only a small handful of questionable examples, and even those he couldn't pin on his defendants, who were acquitted after only a few hours' deliberation.

Albert Turner--who was an adviser to Martin Luther King, Jr.--passed away in 2000, and his wife could not be immediately located, but Hogue still lives in Marion, and by phone today he expressed his displeasure with the news that Sessions is, in effect, getting a promotion.

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Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) has an interesting metaphor for how the House GOP needs to take control of its message. Rather than rely on outside initiatives like the GOP's National Council for a New America, the House GOP conference needs to take charge for itself.

Or, as he put it, House Republicans need to act as an "entrepreneurial insurgency."

It may be that McCotter was just speaking figuratively when he spoke of an insurgency -- in the sense that someone might speak of an insurgent politician going up against the establishment, for example. On the other hand, the revolutionary language really has been spreading through the GOP's ranks -- it's not just Michele Bachmann.

Resurgent Republic, the Republican polling/analysis firm that aims to be a GOP counterpart to Democracy Corps, is firing back at the accusations leveled against them by the Dem firm's Stan Greenberg, who has essentially accused them of running a stacked survey.

Greenberg said that Resurgent Republic's first poll defeated its own mission, borrowed from Democracy Corps, of being a partisan pollster that at the same time is explicitly not geared to favor its own side, but to critically examine public opinion and give the party constructive advice:

Nothing is more self-defeating than attributing to the Democratic argument the language and themes Republicans use to attack Democrats rather than the language Democrats use themselves. In effect, your survey has you winning an argument with yourself. Indeed, that is where you start your analysis of the first poll - telling readers in bold and underlined type that you are winning the big ideological debate by two-to-one, which "verifies America remains a center-right country."

In an interview with TPM, Resurgent Republic co-founder Whit Ayres sought to debunk the accusations.

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Michael Steele has an interesting message for moderates, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports. During a news conference at the Wisconsin GOP convention on Friday, Steele said moderates are welcome to join the Republican Party -- but not to change it.

"All you moderates out there, y'all come. I mean, that's the message," Steele said. "The message of this party is this is a big table for everyone to have a seat. I have a place setting with your name on the front."

But, he added: "Understand that when you come into someone's house, you're not looking to change it. You come in because that's the place you want to be."

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You have to hand it to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) -- he sure knows how to make people welcome in the GOP's big tent.

CQ reports that DeMint says he approached then-GOP Sen. Arlen Specter on April 23, and said something to him: "Arlen, it pains me to tell you this. I'm going to be supporting Pat Toomey in the primary."

DeMint recalled Specter's response: "I've heard enough." Specter did not comment much to CQ about it: "It happened in the cloakroom and not on the floor."

Five days after this conversation, with poll data showing that he would lose his Republican primary against Toomey, Arlen Specter switched to the Democratic Party.

A source close to Specter told us they were not aware of any other GOP Senators who said what DeMint did, and Specter hasn't mentioned any.

As I noted below, it looks like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) will be, at least for a time, the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee. That's an interesting role for a man with Sessions'...history. In a 2002 New Republic article, Sarah Wildman detailed the Alabama senator's rise through the ranks of politics in Alabama and in Republican Washington.

Sessions first appeared on the scene in 1986 D.C. when President Ronald Reagan nominated him to serve on the U.S. District Court in Alabama. At the time, the Judiciary Committee was controlled by Republicans, but his appointment nonetheless went absolutely nowhere--a fact that may have had a thing or two to do with stories like this:

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Al Franken did an interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, where he discussed the very unconventional transition process that he's gone through without being an official Senator-elect.

His recently-hired staffers, a state director and a chief of staff, are actually working for free, because Franken has no office budget. When Franken has travelled to Washington, he's either paid out of his own pocket or from the campaign's legal fund -- which itself has been the focus of a lot of fundraising activity. And he really does wish he could be involved in the important decisions being made in Washington.

Franken had a funny take on it, saying it was odd but not the worst personal crisis that can happen. "And every once in a while I'll find myself, I'll get grumpy," he said. "And I'll go, why am I grumpy? Oh, I know why -- waiting for five and a half months to see what happens! (laughing) That's why."

In a grand bargain of sorts for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) will take over as ranking member on the Judiciary Committee for the remainder of this Congress, and give way in 2011 to the Iowa Republican. According to The Hill, Sessions "will take over the ranking member position on the Senate Judiciary Committee after striking a deal with his more senior colleagues over the weekend."

Under terms of the deal, Sessions will serve as ranking member until the 112th Congress, when he will take over the ranking member post on the Senate Budget Committee. Current Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) is retiring at the end of the 111th Congress.

Grassley--who's senior to Sessions--will be forced to abdicate his seat as ranking member of the Finance Committee when he comes up against term limits in the 111th Congress. He's stated in the past that he'd prefer to become the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee than on the Budget Committee, but before today's deal, it looked like he'd have to choose between taking over for Specter on Judiciary Committee now, or taking over for Gregg on the Budget Committee next Congress.

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The new Marist Poll in New York suggests that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand could be in a rough patch, going into her 2010 election after she was appointed by Gov. David Paterson earlier this year.

Former Republican Gov. George Pataki now has a lead of 46%-38% over Gillibrand, while Gillibrand leads GOP Rep. Peter King by 42%-31%. Back in March, Gillibrand led Pataki 45%-41%, and led King 49%-23%. Only 19% of registered voters say Gillibrand is doing an excellent or good job, compared to 38% who give her a fair or poor rating.

In a hypothetical Democratic primary with Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Gillibrand has 36% to Maloney's 31%, with very a high undecided number. On the GOP side, Pataki has a 48%-36% lead over King. Pataki and Maloney are not in the race right now, while King is publicly exploring it.