In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The Florida governor's race, where incumbent Republican Charlie Crist is leaving to run for Senate, took a major step forward today with state Attorney General Bill McCollum declaring his candidacy for the Republican nomination -- and the state party chairman quickly lining up to support him, too.

McCollum was one of the House prosecutors of Bill Clinton's impeachment, then went on to narrowly lose the 2000 Florida Senate race to Democrat Bill Nelson. In 2004 he sought the GOP nomination for Senate again, but lost to Mel Martinez. Then in 2006 he was elected state Attorney General, the same office from which Crist went on to win the governorship.

The Democrats appear to be quickly coalescing around the state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink as their candidate for governor, meaning that both sides could see clear primary fields in the gubernatorial race -- but some possible friction in the Senate primaries.

Yet another poll has simply awful news for Gov. David Paterson (D-NY), showing him losing in landslides against two possible 2010 Republican opponents in even this heavily Democratic state. Meanwhile, his potential Dem primary opponent, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, leads those same GOPers by hefty margins.

The new numbers from Rasmussen: Rudy Giuliani bests Paterson by a 58%-30% margin, while George Pataki is ahead of the incumbent 47%-33%. On the other hand, Cuomo leads Rudy by 55%-37%, and is ahead of Pataki -- the man who defeated Cuomo's father Mario in 1994 -- by 57%-29%.

The pollster's analysis shows how bad things are for Paterson -- but also hints that anything can happen in seemingly short periods of time: "Paterson's political dilemma begins with the fact that just 31% of New York voters approve of the way he's handling the job of Governor right now. Sixty-seven percent 67% disapprove. In early January, 65% approved of Paterson's work."

A new analysis by Gallup, compiled from their national polling done all this year, shows just how extensive the Republican Party's drop in voter self-identification has been, with decreases in nearly every demographic.

Compared to 2001, when George W. Bush first took office as president, GOP self-identification has fallen by ten points among college graduates, nine points among those 18-29 years of age, nine points in the Midwest, six in the East, five in the West, and even four points in the South. Married people identifying as Republicans have decreased by five points, and the difference is eight points among the unmarried. The list goes on and on.

In 2001, voters were 33% Democratic, 32% Republican, and 34% independent, with a Democratic edge of 45%-44% after leaners were pushed. But now, it's 36% Democrats, 27% Republicans and 37% independents, with a huge Democratic advantage of 53%-39% with leaners.

The only bright spots for the GOP are three base groups: Frequent churchgoers, with no decrease at all; conservatives, with only a one-point decrease; and voters 65 years of age or older, with a one-point decrease. It should also be noted that they've only gone down one point among non-whites -- but this is because they didn't have much party identification there to begin with.

Late Update: This post originally referenced the party-leaner numbers for college graduates, rather than for all Americans. The error has been corrected.

Foreign Policy reports that former President Bill Clinton is set to be named as the United Nations' special envoy to Haiti, and the announcement could be made as soon as tomorrow.

It's worth remembering that during Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, she said she would put Bill's global reputation to use by naming him as a roving goodwill ambassador. Hillary ended up at the State Department rather than the White House in the end, but Bill still clearly has the desire and opportunities to serve.

The 2010 Republican primary for Senate in Missouri seems to be heating up, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, with frontrunner Rep. Roy Blunt and a possible opponent already going at it -- even though the opponent hasn't officially gotten in yet.

Late last week, Blunt's campaign attacked Thomas Schweich, a Washington University law professor and former Ambassador for counter-narcotics and justice reform in Afghanistan, for having donated $500 in 2001 to Democrat Claire McCaskill when she was running for an easy re-election as state Auditor. This was five years before McCaskill was elected as a U.S. Senator, defeating a Republican incumbent.

Now Schweich is hitting back, noting Blunt's early attack. "I am flattered that Roy Blunt is so concerned about me that he has launched a vintage Washington-style smear campaign against me before I have even decided whether to run," Schweich said in a statement. "It underscores the need for our party to go in a new direction in this Senate race, demonstrates how vulnerable Blunt is feeling in light of the recent polls showing him being handily defeated by Robin Carnahan, and makes me more likely to run."

Rep. Michele Bachmann appeared last week on the right-wing talk radio show of Jan Markell, where she spoke out forcefully against the Obama Administration for not wanting to go after foreign terrorists -- and for targeting conservatives through the Department of Homeland Security's report on right-wing extremists:

"It isn't that they don't want to use the word 'terrorism,' it's who they're using this word against," said Bachmann. "And as you had stated correctly, in this report -- which I have read, it's about a nine-page report I believe, if I recall correctly -- the right-wing extremists report, they include people who believe in End-Time prophecies, pro-life. It is appalling the people that they named."

She later warned: "People need to realize that truly, our freedoms are more at risk than they have been at any other time in recent history."

Al Franken appeared over the weekend at a the Minneapolis DFL Party's city convention, where he showed that he's coping with his unusual predicament in a manner that shouldn't be too surprising -- telling some pretty funny jokes:

"A lot of people here have been asking me, 'What do I call you?' And the answer to that is: 'Al,'" he said, with the audience applauding and yelling back his name. "There's only one person in the state who will have to call me 'Senator,' and that, of course, is [his wife] Franni."

"I want to thank you all," he followed up. "You know, when you win an election by 312 votes, there's not a lot of effort that goes to waste. We ran a very efficient campaign."

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) appeared today on Morning Joe, and said the Republican Party is big enough for both the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Colin Powell -- and upon further questioning by Scarborough, Price disagreed with the idea that Limbaugh or Dick Cheney are better Republicans than Powell:

Scarborough: Congressman, do you disagree with Rush Limbaugh that Colin Powell should leave the Republican Party?

Price: Look, it's not up to Rush Limbaugh to decide who ought to be in the Republican Party.


Scarborough: Congressman, do you believe that Rush Limbaugh or Dick Cheney are better, quote -- I'm just using terms that we hear every day on TV and radio -- that they are somehow better Republicans than Colin Powell?

Price: No. Goodness.

Scarborough: God bless you, Congressman. God bless you.

During his Meet The Press appearance yesterday, RNC Chairman Michael Steele appeared to say he could potentially support a Truth Commission to look into Bush-era torture -- and he made the rather interesting claim that a lot of Republicans have called for this:

MR. GREGORY: Should there be a wider--should there be a truth commission? Should there be an investigation?

MR. STEELE: I think, I think you've heard a lot of Republicans call for that. And if this is, if this is a door that the Democrats and, and their leadership, since they have the House and the Senate and the presidency and they want to expose all of this...

GOV. KAINE: Mm-hmm.

MR. STEELE: ...then let's put it all on the table and let's take a closer look at it.

Was this a genuine statement of policy on Steele's part -- or a gaffe as he stumbled his way through a subject he might not know that much about? For one thing, we can't think of any elected Republican who has called for a Truth Commission.

A new Rasmussen poll finds the public closely divided on Nancy Pelosi's claim that she was misled by the CIA on the use of waterboarding, with public opinion on this debate still pretty much up in the air.

The numbers: A 43% plurality of likely voters say it is very or somewhat likely that Pelosi was misled, compared to 41% who say it is not very likely or not at all likely. The margin of error is ±3%.

The pollster's analysis points out that most people seem to be waiting for more information, with only 20% saying it's very likely she was misled and 22% saying it's not at all likely, and others respondents holding softer positions. But some other numbers suggest Pelosi starts out this fight at a disadvantage: "The CIA is viewed favorably by 63% and unfavorably by 24%. For Pelosi, the comparable numbers are 35% favorable and 55% unfavorable."