In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Poll: Americans' Optimism On The Rise A new AP/GfK poll finds that a 48% plurality of Americans now believe the country is on the right track, compared to 44% who say it is on the wrong track. This is the first time since January 2004, shortly after the capture of Saddam Hussein, that the right-track number edged out the wrong-track figure.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be speaking at 11 a.m. ET, at the Holocaust Days of Remembrance ceremony at the Capitol. At 1:05 p.m. ET, he will meet with representatives of the credit card industry in the Roosevelt Room. At 2:15 p.m. ET, he and Vice President Biden will meet in the Cabinet Room with the Congressional leadership of both parties. At 3:30 p.m. ET, he will receive the University of Florida football team in the East Room. At 4 p.m. ET, he will meet with Hillary Clinton. At 7:30 p.m. ET, he and the First Lady will host a reception for Congressional members and their spouses, in the Blue Room.

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Oh the (rare, but occasionally exceptional) joys of Twitter. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)--the ranking member on the House Energy & Commerce Committee--says (tweets?) "I seemed [sic] to have baffled the Energy Sec with basic question - Where does oil come from?"

He's referring to Nobel prize winning Energy Secretary Steve Chu, and this exchange.

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Now that Congress is back in session, House and Senate negotiators will have to get together in conference committee to resolve the differences between their budgets, which they passed in the days before the most recent recess. Moments ago the House chose Reps. John Spratt, Rosa DeLauro, and Allen Boyd to be their conferees.

More on them in a second. Recall first that there are some important discrepancies between the two resolutions, most notably that the House budget contains reconciliation instructions for health care and the Senate does not. Republicans (and some Democrats) aren't pleased, and are doing whatever they can to kill reconciliation altogether. So how is that fight shaping up so far?

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Democratic candidate Scott Murphy's lead in the NY-20 special election has expanded yet again, after some challenged ballots were counted in his stronghold of Warren County, and he now leads Republican candidate Jim Tedisco by 365 votes in the latest state numbers.

In the previous numbers on Friday, Murphy's lead was at 273 votes, so he has now gained 91 votes in Warren, plus an additional one vote added in Essex County. Things just keep looking better and better for Murphy.

The ballots that were counted here, Warren Democratic chairman and local election official Bill Montfort explained to me, were votes that had been set aside when a campaign had objected, even if both the Democratic and Republican election commissioners thought they should be counted.

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During today's hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Hillary Clinton made something clear to a very critical Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN): President Obama won the 2008 election.

Pence gave a lengthy question in which he criticized Obama for being seen shaking hands with Hugo Chávez, and asked Hillary about the negative effects of this event. In her response, Hillary explained that Obama is taking a different approach than what has been tried in the recent past and didn't work -- and that Obama is the president:

"We want your constructive criticism, we want your feedback," said Clinton. "But President Obama won the election. He beat me in a primary, in which he put forth a different approach, and he is now our president. And we all want our president, no matter of which party, to succeed, especially in such a perilous time."

Al Franken made a public appearance today in Minneapolis, speaking to an Earth Day rally where he was introduced to an applauding crowd as "Senator-elect Al Franken."

"I'll be going to Washington soon and will tell my colleagues that Minnesotans are ready to do their share of the work," Franken told the crowd.

Franken also spoke to reporters, and said he expects that Gov. Tim Pawlenty will sign the certificate of election after Norm Coleman's appeal has finished at the state Supreme Court.

"I'm very certain that the governor will do the right thing," said Franken. "The state Supreme Court has said that once the loser has exercised all his options in the state court, then that would be the appropriate end of that, then the winner should be certified."

A new survey of Colorado from Public Policy Polling (D) shows appointed Sen. Michael Bennet in a potentially tough situation going into his 2010 campaign, though he could still have some room to grow.

Bennet's approval is at only 34%, with 41% disapproval and a high undecided number. When matched against former GOP Rep. Bob Beauprez, who was also the 2006 nominee for governor, Beauprez gets 43% to Bennet's 42%. Bennet leads 39%-35% to Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier 39%-35%; he leads Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck 40%-34%; and he leads state Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry 41%-34%.

"These numbers for Michael Bennet are not very good," said PPP president Dean Debnam, in the polling memo. "The good news for him is that he still hasn't had the opportunity to define himself the way he wants to the voters in a campaign, and when he has the opportunity to do that next year he may fare better than he is now."

Jim Tedisco, the GOP nominee in the disputed NY-20 special election, has just won a legal victory for now, with Judge James V. Brands reversing himself on a major ruling from last week, which had appeared to stop Tedisco in his tracks in his efforts to challenge absentee votes for Democrat Scott Murphy. But he still has a lot of work to do in overcoming Murphy's current 273-vote lead.

Brands had ruled last week that Tedisco and the GOP were not entitled to copies of the original absentee-ballot applications. Brands has now agreed with the Tedisco camp's arguments that the legal precedents he cited didn't truly apply here, and that the law does entitle Tedisco to those absentee applications.

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The Coleman campaign has now filed its reply to the Franken camp's motion yesterday for an expedited appeal in the Minnesota election litigation -- arguing that while this case does necessitate a sped-up schedule, they need more time than Franken has asked for.

"Appellants agree this is a time-sensitive case that should be resolved as expeditiously as possible," the filing says. "Appellants respectfully submit, however, that the parties, and the Court, must be given enough time to fully develop and consider the issues on appeal."

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Two new polls in New Jersey show Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine trailing GOP frontrunner Chris Christie, a former U.S. Attorney under George W. Bush, in this year's gubernatorial election.

From Strategic Vision (R): Christie 47%, Corzine 36%, with a ±3% margin of error. Corzine's approval is at only 36%, to 54% disapproval.

And from Quinnipiac: Christie 45%, Corzine 38%, with a ±4.6% margin of error. Corzine's approval rating here is 37%-54%. From the pollster's analysis: "By any measure, Corzine is losing the support of key independent voters. More importantly, he is not generating the level of love from fellow Democrats he needs to offset his big negatives among Republicans and independents."

Corzine could very well lose this election. On the other hand, we have not yet made it to the crucial home-stretch period in a New Jersey election -- in which the Dems attack the GOP nominee as right-wing and Bush-friendly, which in prior elections has spurred reluctant Dem-leaners to shift back into the blue column. A big question is whether that can work again this time, with Bush now out of office.