In it, but not of it. TPM DC

In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio on Friday, Norm Coleman was asked what his next step would be if the election trial ends with him still behind. And he didn't rule out an appeals process, which could hold up the certification of a Franken victory even longer.

"I don't know if there is a next step," Coleman said, explaining that it's a question of whether there would still be outstanding issues such as improperly-rejected absentee ballots, double-counted absentees, and other questions.

When pressed further on whether he would appeal, Coleman responded: "If those issues are resolved, there's not much to appeal."

In plain English: Get ready for some appeals.

Meanwhile, Al Franken gave his own interview to MPR. Among other things, he commented on Coleman's decision to take a temporary consulting job with the Republican Jewish Coalition: "I think it may be a more permanent job."

A new Gallup poll shows that President Obama is continuing to enjoy high approval in handling the economic stimulus debate -- and his brand is solidly beating the Congressional Republicans, too.

The numbers: Obama has a 67% approval and only 25% disapproval on how he's handled the stimulus bill, compared to Congressional Republicans' 31% approval and very high 58% disapproval. Congressional Democrats aren't as popular as Obama himself -- explaining the GOP's efforts to tie the bill to Nancy Pelosi, instead of Obama -- but they're still in the black at 48%-42%.

In addition, a 51% majority of independents say it is critically important to pass a stimulus bill, 27% say it is moderately important, and only 17% say it's not important. The numbers among the Republican base, as we might expect, are wildly different: Only 29% say it is critically important, 37% say it's important but not critically so, and 31% say it's not important.

Obama Promoting Stimulus In Indiana, Holding Press Conference In Washington President Obama is holding a town hall event at 12:05 p.m. ET in Elkhart, Indiana, promoting the compromise stimulus plan in a county suffering from 15.3% unemployment. Then at 8 p.m. ET he will hold a news conference at the White House -- his first presser since being sworn in as president.

Biden Meeting With AFL-CIO Head Sweeney Joe Biden is meeting in Washington today with AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, and is holding other private meetings.

GOP Finding New Life In Opposition The Washington Post reports that Republican leaders are seeking a new energy in their minority status, as the party mobilizes to oppose President Obama's economic agenda. "It's not a sign that we're back to where we need to be, but it's a sign that we're beginning to find our voice," said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). "We're standing on our core principles, and the core principle that suffered the most in recent years was fiscal conservatism and economic liberty."

CQ: Moderate Republicans See No Benefit In Helping Obama CQ reports that moderate House Republicans may have a special reason to vote against the White House's stimulus plan: A fear of primary challenges from the right-wing Republican Study Committee. In addition, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) pointed out that there is a certain political freedom that comes now: "We no longer have to worry about being blamed for all of the problems of the president and his administration. Now, it's the moderate Democrats who have to worry about that."

Specter: We Can't Afford Not To Pass Stimulus In a new op-ed piece, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) explains why he has broken ranks to negotiate the new stimulus bill. "I am supporting the economic stimulus package for one simple reason," Specter says. "The country cannot afford not to take action."

WaPo: Speed And Oversight Could Be Mutually Exclusive The Washington Post reports that true efficiency in administering the stimulus plan may be close to impossible, thanks to the need for speed combined with staff cuts in the government procurement offices that occurred under both the Clinton and Bush Administration. "You can't have both," said Eileen Norcross, a senior research fellow at George Mason University's Mercatus Center, on the questions of speed and oversight. "There is no way to get around having to make a choice."

Holbrooke: Afghanistan "Much Tougher Than Iraq" Special Afghanistan envoy Richard Holbrooke warned the Munich Security Conference that the Afghanistan War will be "much tougher than Iraq," with no easy resolutions. "There is no Dayton agreement in Afghanistan," said Holbrooke. "It's going to be a long, difficult struggle."

Feingold Asking Appointed Senators To Help Abolish Appointment Process Russ Feingold is so far not having much luck in picking up support for his proposed constitutional amendment to abolish gubernatorial appointment of Senators. Feingold is specifically looking for backing from the current crop of appointed Senators, and so far has gotten a No from both Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Ted Kaufman (D-DE), and a "maybe" from Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Labor Group Launches Radio Ads Thanking Specter, Collins, Snowe, Nelson Americans United For Change, the labor-backed group that has run attack ads tying anti-stimulus Republicans to Rush Limbaugh, now has a set of new positive ads thanking Senators Ben Nelson, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Arlen Specter for their work in writing the compromise bill. Here's the radio ad praising Specter:



"Fortunately, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter is providing the leadership we need to get the job done," the announcer says. "Senator Specter has with President Obama to reach agreement on a plan that has support from a broad range of groups -- including the US Chamber of Commerce and organized labor."

Obama Arriving Back At White House President Obama and his family spent the weekend at Camp David, and are scheduled to arrive back at the White House at 5:30 p.m. ET

McCain: Parts Of Plan "Fundamentally Bad For America" Appearing on Face The Nation this morning, John McCain affirmed that he will not support the current stimulus package -- and seemed to be saying that the package is even bigger than the New Deal. "I think it's a massive -- it's much larger than any measure that was taken during the Great Depression," said McCain. "I think it has policy changes in it which are fundamentally bad for America."

Van Hollen: We'll Hold The GOP Accountable For Opposing Stimulus Appearing today on Fox News Sunday, DCCC chairman Chris Van Hollen said that the Democrats will be going after Republicans for their opposition to the stimulus plan. "Well, we're certainly going to hold people accountable for their votes and explain to the American people what the consequences are," said Van Hollen. "When you've got millions of Americans losing their jobs, it's hard to defend the position that you don't want to get the economy moving again."

Cornyn: Pelosi Wrote The Stimulus Bill Also on Fox News Sunday, NRSC chairman John Cornyn laid out the GOP's case that the stimulus plan, in its current form, will be tied entirely to Nancy Pelosi. "But this bill is not the president's bipartisan plan. It's Nancy Pelosi 's plan," said Cornyn. "And she said, 'We won the election. We're writing the bill.' And that's what happened in the -- in the House."

Sanford: America Moving Close To "Savior-Based Economy," Like Russia, Venezuela, Zimbabwe Appearing on CNN, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) said that America should have to work through the current economic problems without government intervention, as opposed to what he sees as a movement to a "savior-based economy." Sanford added that the current economic interventions are "what you see in Russia or Venezuela or Zimbabwe or places like that where it matters not how good your product is to the consumer but what your political connection is to those in power."

Summers: New Bailout Package Coming, Aimed At Increasing Credit Flow Larry Summers told George Stephanopoulos this morning that the White House's revamped financial rescue package will be rolled out this week -- Summers appeared to confirm a target date of Tuesday -- with the delay happening because of the need to focus on the stimulus package. "The focus will be on increasing credit flow with transparency, accountability and consistency we haven't seen so far," said Summers.

Steele Fires Back At Washington Post In an appearance on This Week, Michael Steele lambasted the Washington Post for an article questioning payments to his sister by his 2006 Senate campaign, saying the payments were legitimate reimbursements and that he is getting to the bottom of it. "We're going to take it to the FBI. I'm not going to wait for them to come to me," Steele said, adding: "This is not the way I intend to run the RNC with this over my head."

Obama Address: "We Can't Afford To Make Perfect The Enemy Of The Absolutely Necessary" In this weekend's YouTube address, President Obama gives his support to the newest version of the stimulus plan, and says it is vitally important to pass the bill:



"Legislation of such magnitude deserves the scrutiny that it's received over the last month, and it will receive more in the days to come," says Obama. "But we can't afford to make perfect the enemy of the absolutely necessary. The scale and scope of this plan is right. And the time for action is now."

Steele Address: Cut Taxes, Don't Spend, To Stimulate The Economy Michael Steele, as the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, is getting in on the YouTube Address motif, too, with this new speech. Steele declares that power has already gone to the Democrats' heads, and he attacks the idea of government spending to boost the economy:



"The fastest way to help those families is by letting them keep more of the money they earn," says Steele. "Individual empowerment: that's how you stimulate the economy."

Stimulus Could Pass Senate Tuesday -- But It Won't Be Over The Senate is expected to vote on cloture on the new stimulus bill on Monday. Should that succeed, it would then proceed to vote on final passage for Tuesday. At this point, the bill will then have to go to a House-Senate conference committee, which will negotiate the differences between the House and Senate versions, with the goal being to get something passed by the next weekend.

McConnell: This Plan Won't Work; GOP Won't Support It Mitch McConnell has released a statement saying that while he hasn't seen the full compromise plan, he has seen enough to say that Senate Republicans will still oppose it. "So let me just sum it up by saying no action is not what any of my Republican colleagues are advocating," said McConnell. "But most of us are deeply skeptical that this will work. And that level of skepticism leads us to believe that this course of action should not be chosen."

Boehner: Stimimlus Bill Is "90 Percent Of A Bad Idea" John Boehner has also released a statement deriding the new plan. "But ultimately this bill should be judged on whether it works, and 90 percent of a bad idea is still a bad idea," said Boehner. "Like the House-passed bill, the proposed Senate bill appears to be focused overwhelmingly on slow-moving and wasteful Washington spending, rather than immediate job creation and fast-acting tax relief. This is not what the American people want; nor is it what the President called for at the start of the process."

Biden: It's Time To "Press The Reset Button" On Diplomacy Vice President Biden spoke today to the annual Munich Security Conference, promising a fresh start in U.S. foreign policy. "It's time, to paraphrase President Obama, to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should work together," said Biden. He also added: "We will engage. We will listen. We will consult. America needs the world, just as I believe the world needs America."

Poll: Sebelius Could Win Kansas Senate Seat For Dems A new Research 2000 poll shows that Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who is not at this time a candidate for Senate, ahead of two Republican Congressmen in the open-seat race. Sebelius leads Rep. Todd Tiahrt by 47%-37%, and is ahead of Rep. Jerry Moran by 48%-36%. The last time a Democrat won a Kansas Senate race was in the first FDR landslide of 1932.

The group of centrist senators who have worked for days on a package of proposed cuts to the stimulus bill just finished pitching their final product to the Democratic caucus -- and after a day of pessimistic signals, reports indicate that a roughly $140 billion package of trimmed tax cuts and spending has been okayed by the Democratic caucus.

The Senate is slated to return to floor action tonight, though the time frame for a vote on the slimmer stimulus remains very up in the air. A spokesman for Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), who has led the centrist talks alongside Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), offered two words of caution when asked about a deal: "Not yet."

Remember, though, that unanimous consent is necessary to get anything done in the Senate, so Republican leaders would have to sign off before the economic recovery plan could come to a final vote. GOPers have adopted a slightly fatalist approach to the stimulus debate from the beginning -- as one conservative sighed last night, ultimate passage is "pretty much a foregone conclusion" -- but that doesn't meant that Republicans wouldn't try to slow things down tonight if they see a political upside.

It really does seem like the Minnesota Senate race is never going to end.

At a post-court press conference this evening, Coleman lawyer Ben Ginbserg announced that Washington County elections official Kevin Corbid had just informed the court that he found two previously unknown, unopened ballots, while searching through his office.

"That would stand somewhat in marked contrast to the Franken campaign's assertion that there's anything resembling a final result of this election," said Ginbserg, if counties seem to be finding new ballots.

This election gives you an idea of what it would be like if lawyers conducted autopsies, instead of doctors. They could just keep on arguing long enough for decomposition to set in, anyway.

(Ginsberg press conference c/o The Uptake.)

In the Minnesota election court this afternoon, Franken lawyer Kevin Hamilton continued to demonstrate how the Coleman campaign is now working to get ballots put into the count, that they previously insisted were not legal votes.

Hamilton reviewed a particular ballot that had been shown earlier to Anoka County elections manager Rachel Smith, for which the Coleman campaign is arguing that it shouldn't have been excluded simply because the voter signed the envelope in the wrong place.

Smith herself had changed her mind on this issue when reviewing the rejected ballots this past December, and she submitted it to the campaigns for further review. It turned out it was objected to by a campaign, though Smith couldn't remember which one, keeping it out of the count.

Hamilton got out the form submitted by the campaign that vetoed it -- the Coleman campaign, objecting that the signature had been put on the wrong line.

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The Senate Commerce Committee has yet to schedule Judd Gregg's confirmation hearing to lead the Commerce Department. Still, don't be surprised if the bone-dry subject of the Census -- as our own Matt predicted -- makes Gregg the latest Obama nominee to be caught up in a GOP-generated flap.

But it won't be Gregg directly caught in the cross-hairs of his former Senate Republican colleagues. Instead it looks like GOPers are ready to go after Rahm Emanuel, accusing the White House chief of staff of yanking the Census away from Gregg's department and claiming it for himself.

I know, the notion sounds absurd -- but let me walk you through it.

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Check out these two blog posts at National Review's The Corner blog, one right after the other:



Do these people have any sense of self-awareness?

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