In it, but not of it. TPM DC

In our Friday interview, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) called into question the idea that Pennsylvania Democrats will be automatically loyal to Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) just because he's the de facto incumbent. "Does that automatically buy loyalty--because you changed an R to a D--from those within the party?" Sestak asked, rhetorically.

"Well actually it appeared to do so within the wash political establishment, which was quite disturbing, but I think that's a long haul from where Pennsylvanians will be."

And, as it turns out, a new poll (PDF) suggests there's some evidence for this claim.

As you may know, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter recently switched from Republican to Democrat. Should Arlen Specter be the Democratic nominee for the 2010 election for US Senate or should he face a challenge from one or more other Democrats in the primary?
  1. Specter should be nominee 28%

  2. Specter should face challenge 63%

  3. Undecided 32 09%

This comes via Greg Sargent--and, presumably, as good news for the nascent Sestak campaign. Other recent polls show Specter with a sizable lead over the relatively unknown Sestak, but this new poll shows a hunger for a primary challenge on general principle.

The local CBS channel in Minneapolis reports that Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible 2012 GOP presidential candidate, will announce today that he is not running for a third term as governor in 2010.

Pawlenty was narrowly re-elected in the big Democratic year of 2006 -- and in what is usually a Democratic state, though it has a habit of electing GOP governors -- and had reportedly made the list of finalists to be John McCain's running mate.

Keep a close lookout for Pawlenty's actions in a few key areas: His continuing budget battle with the heavily-Democratic legislature, where he's taken a strong anti-tax line; potential travel around the country for GOP candidates; and of course, how he handles the upcoming battles over whether or not Al Franken gets an election certificate to the U.S. Senate.

As Eric Kleefeld reported, President Obama will nominate Rep. John McHugh (R-NY)--ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee--to be the Secretary of the Army later today. If all goes as planned, though, McHugh will be working in a Pentagon he has recently, and dubiously, attacked.

In April, McHugh criticized the administration's Pentagon budget outline, which he inaccurately characterized as a proposed defense spending cut. He suggested, moreover, that Pentagon officials had complained to committee minority that the budget would slash defense spending by $8 billion. That claim couldn't be verified, but Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters, basically, that McHugh was fudging.

"Some of these things we have put in the base budget we elected to put into the base budget to send a signal to the troops that these things were going to be a permanent part of the budget, that we weren't going to be dependent on a supplemental," Gates said. "[W]hat you chose to put into the supplemental and so on, is probably how Mr. McHugh gets to his numbers."

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Steve Lonegan, the conservative insurgent candidate running in today's New Jersey Republican gubernatorial primary against establishment favorite Chris Christie, sure has a way with words.

Appearing on a local radio show yesterday, Lonegan was asked about a new Fairleigh Dickinson poll showing Christie ahead by a 54%-30% margin. Lonegan then referred to the poll as "retarded," prompting radio host Casey Bartholomew to make sure he'd heard the candidate correctly.

"I said just that," said Lonegan, "retarded Fairleigh Dickinson poll."

Former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe appears to have slipped from his previous position as the frontrunner for next week's Democratic gubernatorial primary in Virginia -- going from a strong first place to a close second in the latest survey from Public Policy Polling (D).

The latest numbers: State Sen. Creigh Deeds 27%, McAuliffe 24%, and former state Del. Brian Moran 22%. Two weeks ago it was McAuliffe 29%, Deeds 20%, Moran 20%, and in early May it was McAuliffe 30%, Moran 20% and Deeds 14%.

Moran recently began attacking McAuliffe's record as a businessman and political figure, which may have taken some wind away from McAuliffe -- but apparently didn't help Moran either as the aggressor, leaving the third man Deeds as the true beneficiary.

With reports coming in that President Obama will appoint Rep. John McHugh (R-NY) as the new Secretary of the Army, the political world will now be gearing up for what could be yet another high-stakes special Congressional election in upstate New York, so soon after we already had a photo-finish for the former House seat of appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). And so far, both parties seem to be downplaying expectations.

The district itself has all the makings of a swing seat. President Obama carried it 52%-47% in 2008, just slightly behind the curve of his overall 53%-46% national victory over John McCain. Before that, it voted 51%-47% for George W. Bush in 2004. Compare this to the NY-20 special election, which was won by Democrat Scott Murphy by a razor-thin margin, where Obama had carried it 51%-48% in 2008, and Bush had taken it 53%-45% in 2004. So on paper, this could be a potential Dem pickup in the special election.

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Last night, with the typical eloquence of a 75 year old man using Twitter, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee wrote, "The prez is meetin w Finance and Help Demo bc doesn't appear they on same page Finance working biparty HELP more partisan. Where Prez land?"

Translated roughly from the Twitterese, that means that President Obama met with Democrats from both the Finance Committee and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee because they disagree about the direction health reform should take. Unsurprisingly, all signs indicate that the more liberal HELP Committee--chaired by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA)--will soon introduce a fairly dramatic reform proposal, with a truly robust public insurance option. Soon thereafter, though, the Finance Committee will unveil a rather less progressive proposal of its own with the issue of the public option--how robust it will be, or whether it will be included at all--still unsettled.

Grassley's spinning this as a rift between partisans and centrists within the Democratic party, and in a way that rift really exists. But the political play here is somewhat more complicated.

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Yesterday we reported that prominent Sonia Sotomayor critics including Tom Tancredo ("Latina KKK") and Pat Buchanan ("That woman... is for race-based justice") were employing, with full knowledge of the events, a young man named Marcus Epstein, who plead guilty to karate chopping a black female pedestrian and calling her a "nigger."

Dave Weigel of The Washington Independent asked a number of conservative Sotomayor critics what this apparent hypocrisy says about the larger campaign to block her confirmation, and one response, in particular was telling.

Curt Levey, the executive director of the Committee of Justice, has been optimistic about the right's fight against Sotomayor, but he admitted to TWI that he "underestimated the degree to which a few conservatives would say a few extreme things, and that would be characterized as what all conservatives think."

As we've noted before, the campaign against Sotomayor has exposed and widened a rift between a sensible faction within the conservative movement and die-hard activists. By basing the attacks on charges of racism, while simultaneously lobbing ethnically loaded insults at her, people like Levey have, inadvertently or not, poured gasoline on the embers of this conflict.

Obama: Cheney "Happens To Be Wrong" On National Security In an interview with National Public Radio, President Obama responded to Dick Cheney, saying that while Cheney has every right to speak up on national security, "He also happens to be wrong, right?" Obama added: "Last time, immediately after his last speech, I think there was a fact check on his speech that didn't get a very good grade."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be meeting with Senate Democrats at 2:30 p.m. ET in the State Dining Room, to discuss health care reform. At 3:45 p.m. ET, he will sign the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission Act. At 4:15 p.m. ET, he will meet in the Oval Office with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. At 6:45 p.m. ET, he will depart from the White House, heading for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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The Sotomayor confirmation process moves forward, however slowly, tomorrow when she meets with Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The two will host a photo op in Leahy's Senate office building at 11:30 and Leahy will brief the press after the meeting at noon.

Last week, the committee sent Sotomayor a broad questionnaire in anticipation of her coming confirmation hearing.