In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Donald McFarland, the Minnesota state director for Americans United for Change, released this statement in response to Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's reported decision to not seek re-election in 2010. McFarland calls on Pawlenty to not play politics with the ongoing dispute over the 2008 Senate race:

"Tim Pawlenty's national political ambitions have become clear with his reported decision not to seek reelection -- but he is still the governor of Minnesota. Gov. Pawlenty, the Iowa caucuses can wait - the people of Minnesota need you now. During these extraordinarily difficult economic times, we cannot afford to be without full representation in the Senate a day longer. We implore the Governor to sign the election certificate should the Minnesota Supreme Court rule in Al Franken's favor. Refusing to do so would be an act of political cowardice that will unfairly punish the people of Minnesota."

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the head Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, just spoke to reporters and said that Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings should be held in September -- that is, three months or more from now.

Sessions said that Sotomayor has had 4,000 cases as part of her 17-year record, that this whole record must be held up to review, and the process should not be rushed.

Said Sessions: "We've got until October 7, I believe, or the fifth, for the nominee to take office."

As I've previously pointed out, Republican calls for September hearings would take this process well beyond the timeframe that John Roberts and Samuel Alito both had for their confirmations -- which by themselves took place under complicated and convoluted circumstances.

Dozens of conservatives today sent Senate Republicans a letter, urging them to filibuster Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

"We call on display leadership, if the nominee merits it, in preparing for the use of the traditional that the debate on the Senate floor is appropriately long and, therefore, suitably catalyzed to the American people."

The signatories are of a coalition of conservative activists called Third Branch, led by a storied character named Manuel Miranda.

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The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is trying a new angle to attack Florida's Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who is currently the big frontrunner for the open Senate seat in this big swing state -- an attack that relies upon a political technology of yesteryear.

The DSCC has launched a joke 800 phone number, the "Charlie Crist's Scheduling Office" Hotline, in which a satirical recording of a secretary tries to find him for you -- only tell you he's taken 62 weekdays off from work, meets with big donors, etc.

Check it out at 1-800-403-2195. It's unclear whether something like this will actually be politically effective -- but they do deserve some credit for at least being mildly entertaining.

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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