In it, but not of it. TPM DC

According to Ryan Grim of The Huffington Post, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) told a gathering of labor and health care advocates that he's now open to the idea of a public health insurance option.

"The good news for all sides involved is that he's open minded," said Barry Rubin, the former Executive Director for the Nebraska Democratic Party, who was in the meeting. "He's not closed minded about a public option."

Jane Kleeb, a top Democratic powerbroker in Nebraska, said Nelson's openness to a public option was the biggest takeaway from the meeting.

"He made it clear that he is open to the public option. That's not a line in the sand where he says it must be off the table for him to move forward on health care reform," she said.

That's a pretty abrupt about face. Just a couple weeks ago, he was perhaps the only member of the Democratic caucus who said he outright opposed the idea, calling it a "deal breaker."

Of course, it would've been difficult for Nelson to say he'd foreclosed on the issue in front of this particular audience. But that doesn't mean he hasn't genuinely changed his position.

The right-wing fear-mongering against Sonia Sotomayor just keeps getting more and more comical. The latest grievance is her membership in the National Council of La Raza, a large national organization that bills itself as "the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States."

Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), who spent his career in Congress calling for a moratorium on immigration, appeared on CNN to lambaste Sotomayor for belonging to a group whose name would translate as "The Race," made the false claim that La Raza has the motto, "All for the race, nothing for the rest," and bashed it as being "a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses."

The KKK without the hoods or the nooses? Um, those hoods and nooses do make a really important difference!

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The news of Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak's intent to primary Sen. Arlen Specter may still be settling in among most Democrats and Republicans, but Sestak himself seems pretty comfortable with his transformation from possible, to all-but certain candidate.

"As important as the President's endorsement is, and who wouldn't want President Obama's endorsement, at the end of the day I don't believe that most voters vote because someone else endorsed someone," Sestak told Greg Sargent.

He's equally undeterred by the possibility that Specter will cut a deal with major unions whereby he supports a compromise on EFCA, and they endorse him. Sestak says he plans to run regardless.

Greg also reports that, according to Sestak, "the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had commissioned a poll testing him running against then-Republican Specter in a general election -- and that it showed Sestak winning."

Of course, a Democratic primary is a much different animal than a general election--but it's still a noteworthy finding.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) is now saying the confirmation process for Sonia Sotomayor will likely have to wait much longer than President Obama wants -- going into September rather than happening before the August recess.

"My guess is that if you apply the same general standards as were applied to the Roberts and Alito nominations that probably it goes into the first part of September," Kyl told Fox News.

Simply put, this is baloney on multiple levels. For one thing, John Roberts was first nominated for the Supreme Court in late July 2005, then confirmed as Chief Justice in late September 2005 -- a period of just over two months. Alito took a bit longer, being nominated in late October 2005, and confirmed in late January 2006 -- a period of three months. Kyl is using these two examples to justify a period of nearly four months.

And by the way, the process in those two examples was especially convoluted due to unique circumstances. Roberts was originally nominated for Sandra Day O'Connor's seat, then was switched over to the Chief Justice post after William Rehnquist died. A search then began anew for the O'Connor seat, and Alito's confirmation probably got more scrutiny after the misfire of the Harriet Miers nomination.

The Pennsylvania chapter of the conservative group Americans For Prosperity has launched a letter-writing campaign to pressure Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) to oppose Democratic labor, energy, and health reform proposals. Unfortunately, they seem to have misspelled his name.

How embarrassing. One reader writes in to tell us that AFP is robocalling Pennsylvanians in an attempt to increase the number of signatures on a petition they plan to send him. I'm sure Senator "Spector" will carefully consider AFP's objections.

If your only source of news was cable television, you might think that the Senate was gearing up for an historic fight over a Supreme Court hopeful so out of the mainstream that it might be worth questioning the sanity of the President who nominated her.

The reality on the Hill is much less exciting than that. Most Republicans, I'm sure, don't really care for Sonia Sotomayor, but they're nonetheless preparing themselves for her eventual confirmation. And, for the most part, they're actually pretty sanguine about it.

Not so in the land of conservative activism. For weeks, members of a number of co-ordinated groups have been trying desperately to assure anyone in earshot that, by replacing one moderately liberal Justice with another, slightly more liberal Justice, Obama will ruin the country.

The most prominent face of this campaign is the legal counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, Wendy E. Long.

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So with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) now gearing up to challenge party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary, what happens now to his House seat?

A Pennsylvania Democratic source says that state Rep. Bryan Lentz, an Iraq War veteran who had briefly run for the seat in 2006 before yielding to Sestak, will be in the race for sure. A Republican source points to Steven Welch, founder of biopharmaceutical manufacturing company Mitos Technologies, as a prospective candidate.

National Democrats feel reasonably optimistic about retaining the seat, as the district voted 56%-43% for Barack Obama. On the other hand, my GOP source does point out that it was closer in 2004, with Kerry winning it 53%-47%, and Republican Rep. Curt Weldon held the seat for quite a while before Sestak's win in 2006.

The conservatives organizing against Sonia Sotomayor have so far have coalesced around the arguments that Sotomayor has been picked as a "reverse-racist" appointment of a Hispanic, and how dare you call them racists for opposing her. But as Media Matters points out, back in 2003 the right was more than willing to accuse Democrats of being racist against Hispanics for opposing George W. Bush's nomination of Miguel Estrada for the Court of Appeals.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who is now the Senate GOP whip, said of the Dems blocking the nomination: "I see this, really, as a slap at Hispanics." And Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) declared that "some of the opponents of him are racist." Other Republicans who are no longer in Congress, including Sens. Rick Santorum and Trent Lott and Rep. Henry Bonilla, made similar remarks.

And the Committee For Justice -- one of the groups now mobilizing against Sotomayor -- ran an ad: "Call the Senate Democrats. Tell them it's time for intolerance to end. Anything less is offensive, unfair, and not the American way."

We now have the first Senator going on the record in opposition to the Sotomayor nomination, The Hill reports: Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS).

"I do not plan to vote for her," Roberts said on a local talk radio show in Kansas city.

"I voted no in 1998. I did not feel she was appropriate on the appeals court," Roberts said. "Since that time, she has made statements on the role of the appeals court I think is improper and incorrect."

Two new national polls show that Sonia Sotomayor is starting out the confirmation process with solid ratings among the American public -- a sign that the initial wave of right-wing attacks doesn't seem to be working.

In the new Gallup poll, 47% of Americans rated President Obama's choice of Sotomayor as either excellent or good, compared to only 33% who characterize it was fair or poor, and 20% with no opinion.

In the Rasmussen poll, Sotomayor has a 49% favorable rating among likely voters, against 36% unfavorable. In addition, 45% of likely voters said the Senate should confirm her, to 29% who say they should not, and 26% who don't know. Even more telling, 59% say it is very likely she will be confirmed, 28% say it is somewhat likely -- and only 4% say it is not very likely and 1% not likely at all.