In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Earlier today we brought you a letter signed by conservative Manuel Miranda and dozens of other activists calling for Republicans to consider a filibuster of Sonia Sotomayor. On Hardball tonight, though, Manuel Miranda characterized things a bit differently.

A "great debate" (followed by a sixty vote requirement for confirmation. Cough.) Chris Matthews insisted that what Miranda and other Sotomayor critics really want is to slow her confirmation process down, but Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, said he'd speed the confirmation process up if the unfair attacks continue.

A new polling analysis from Gallup shows that as President Obama prepares to tour the Middle East, the Arab world now has significantly higher approval of the U.S. leadership than they did last year under George W. Bush -- though it's still far from being a thumbs-up.

In Egypt, the approval rating of the American leadership rating last year was only six percent, to 74% disapproval -- a number that has now gone up to 25%-52%. Saudi Arabia has gone from 12%-81% last to 29%-52% now; and Syria from 4%-91% to 15%-71%, among others.

It hasn't been all positive, though. In the Palestinian Territories -- which have seen a lot of political strife thanks to the recent war with Israel -- things have gone from 13%-81% to 7%-80%.

From the pollster's analysis: "Gallup Polls show that Obama will deliver his message Thursday with an arguably stronger basis of support than his predecessor ever had in many Arab countries. Nonetheless, approval remains low and underscores the work that remains as Obama seeks to pave a new, more positive way forward."

So with the Minnesota Supreme Court having heard arguments yesterday in Norm Coleman's appeal of his defeat in the Senate election trial (check out our coverage here, here, here and here), what comes next?

I spoke today with Prof. Larry Jacobs of the University of Minnesota, and he predicts that the state Supreme Court will likely put out a ruling by the end of the month -- and that this ruling will be for Franken, based on their very sharp questioning of Coleman's lawyer yesterday. "I would take from that session that the judges may have already written a good part of their decision," said Jacobs, "because their thinking was very far along, and there were a number of them on the same page."

At that point, the outcome here really hinges on one man: Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who announced today that he is not running for a third term in 2010.

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A group of 11 Arkansas business leaders met with the state's congressional delegation today to voice their opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act. According to Arkansas Business, the the group included Michael Keck, whose St. Vincent Health System has been found time and again to be in violation of federal labor law.

Nurses there successfully joined a union in 2000 after a previous failed attempt was overturned by the National Labor Relations Board "amid charges that St. Vincent officials improperly tried to influence staff."

Two years later, St. Vincent was found to be involved in a similar attempt to decertify the union by "illegally lobby[ing] unions to end union representation."

Altogether, negotiations dragged on for nearly three years before before a contract was finally ratified. Those quotes come from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, but were aggregated by the Service Employees International Union before Keck's meeting with the delegation was announced. SEIU has been pressuring key Democrats in Arkansas to end their opposition to EFCA.

A new CNN poll finds that there is no immediate frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2012. Here are the numbers, with a ±4.5% margin of error among GOP respondents:

Mike Huckabee 22%
Sarah Palin 21%
Mitt Romney 21%
Newt Gingrich 13%
Jeb Bush 6%
Someone else (volunteered answer) 10%

At this point there really doesn't need to be an immediate Republican frontrunner. It's even quite plausible that the lack of a current leading candidate could have its own mix of pluses and minuses.

It looks like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) will not be running for governor, in the wake of GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty's announcement that he is not seeking a third term.

"I don't think so," Bachmann campaign manager Michelle Marston told Minnesota Public Radio. "I think she's very happy where she is."

Bachmann's name had come up in various media reports as a possible candidate for governor in case of an open seat. For some strange reason, liberal bloggers were especially fond of the idea.

Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL)--the chair and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee respectively--may disagree about the overall timeline for the Sotomayor confirmation process. But now Leahy says if the Republicans want Democrats to speed the process along, all they have to do is keep smearing Sotomayor.

Tom Tancredo and Newt Gingrich aren't really the kind of people who acquiesce to this type of threat, but let's see what happens.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) just officially announced that he is not running for a third term in 2010.

A reporter asked him whether he is running for President. "I don't have any plans beyond serving out my term," he said. "So I'm not ruling anything in or out."

He did, however, offer some wisdom for the Republican Party on a nationwide level. "We're the party of the marketplace. The marketplace has been signaling movement to our competitors, so we need to do better." He later added: "My party needs new ideas, new policies, and I think I can contribute to that."

A reporter asked how this decision will affect the controversy surrounding an election certificate to the U.S. Senate for Al Franken, and Pawlenty's response was in line with previous public comments. "I think you guys have really over-baked that issue, you're spinning out of control. I'm gonna do whatever the court says," Pawlenty responded. And if a courts tells him to sign the certificate, "I'm not gonna hold it up or delay it in any fashion."

Late Update: It's worth noting that Pawlenty will be speaking to the College Republicans national convention this week in Washington.

Manuel Miranda is, perhaps, the most vocal conservative calling on the GOP to filibuster Sonia Sotomayor--an ironic fact given Miranda's long history of opposing judicial filibusters. But he's also been the subject of a thorough investigation by former Senate Sergeant at Arms William Pickle.

Miranda became mired in controversy several years ago, after he and a fellow Senate Judiciary Committee aide distributed thousands of pages of Democratic memos--supposedly documenting the minority members' ties to liberal interest groups--to friendly reporters and conservative activists from late 2001 until early 2003.

The two aides--Miranda and Jason Lundell--worked in concert. Lundell had learned how to access private Democratic documents by observing the keystrokes of a young system administrator, who didn't realize that many files on the committee server were unprotected. Armed with an ill-begotten password, Lundell accessed reams of forbidden memos, which he brought to his superiors who initially scolded him and advised him to burn the evidence.

Enter Manny Miranda.

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A new Gallup poll finds that 54% of Americans favor the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, compared to only 28% against.

This level of support is just slightly higher than the initial support for Samuel Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas -- all of whom were confirmed -- and lagging just slightly behind the initial approval of John Roberts. It is significantly ahead of the initial support for Harriet Miers and Robert Bork, whose nominations were respectively withdrawn or defeated.

Not surprisingly, Democrats favor confirmation by a 76%-6% margin, Republicans oppose it 57%-24%, and independents correspond almost exactly to the top-line numbers at 54%-27%.