In it, but not of it. TPM DC

When Pat Toomey announced that he'd be challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania primary, we were prepared for Specter to tack to his right. And he did just that. After ushering forward and voting for the stimulus spending package, Specter voted for a Republican alternative budget that would have frozen spending. He announced his intent to oppose EFCA. And he withheld support from President Obama's OLC-chief designate Dawn Johnsen.

But then he ditched the Republican party and, with it, much of the incentive to do the bidding of conservatives. At about noon, he became a Democrat. At about 2:15, in a move that vexed liberals, he announced that he doesn't support Dawn Johnsen. A few hours later he voted to confirm the supposedly controversial Kathleen Sebelius to be Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. This morning he appeared with Obama and other Democrats in a celebratory photo-op at the White House.

And tonight, he'll have another test.

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The national Democrats are now going on the air for the first time in a key 2010 Senate race -- against a potential candidate who isn't even officially in the race yet!

The new TV ad from the DSCC takes on Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), who is widely viewed as being likely to run for the open GOP-held Senate seat in this perennial swing state:

"Crist enjoys being governor when he attends basketball games and Super Bowl activities and when he takes over sixty days off with no schedule," the announcer says. "But now, the job's getting tough and Crist wants out -- leaving Floridians with the mess."

It's not immediately clear just how extensive the ad buy might actually be.

Late Update: The DSCC tells me it should start airing in Tallahassee tomorrow, and may expand later.

Late Late Update: NRSC press secretary Amber Wilkerson gives us this comment: "The DSCC obviously knows they're in trouble in Florida because this reeks of desperation. Too bad they haven't learned that voters in the Sunshine State are looking for real solutions, accountability, and checks and balances in Washington - not another round of pithy negative attacks."

Now here's an interesting spin on the Arlen Specter switch. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) appeared on Fox News today, where he presented the case that Specter's switch is the first evidence that people are rebelling against Obama, and that the Republican Party is coming back!

Inhofe explained that this was a sign that Obama and the Democrats were overreaching, just as Bill Clinton did in 1993, and the people are rebelling against it just as they did in 1994:

"Now the evidence of this was found out when Arlen Specter made his decision," Inhofe explained. "And that is all of a sudden, we find out that Arlen Specter is down in the Republican Party, down in terms of his popularity. The guy that ran against him and was defeated by Arlen Specter in, six years ago, now is so far ahead of him that Arlen Specter's own advisers said there's no way that you can win this thing unless you change to the Democratic Party. Now to me, that's the evidence it's coming."

Inhofe appears to be thinking here that the state of opinion in the Republican Party is tantamount to the nation's opinion overall. This might be true enough if it's just applied to his home state of Oklahoma. But as we've learned in 2006, 2008 and recent months, this doesn't exactly apply to the whole country.

Rep. Scott Murphy (D-NY) was just sworn in to the House of Representatives, capping off a four-week process that has lasted since the photo-finish on the night of his special election way back on March 31.

Murphy has taken the upstate New York seat formerly held by U.S. Sen Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), whose appointment to the Senate caused the special election in this marginal district. It took over three weeks for the winner to be known as absentee ballots were counted, with Murphy up by 399 votes at the end of last week when his Republican opponent Jim Tedisco conceded the race.

Murphy's certificate of election has not actually been issued yet, as the state continues to go through the bureaucratic niceties of finalizing the vote count. But because the outcome is no longer in any doubt, Murphy was permitted to take the oath of office.

Late Update: A funny moment occurred during the swearing-in. Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for the whole New York delegation to step forward. "Aren't there any Republicans from New York?" Pelosi asked rhetorically, and then chuckled. There are three GOP members out of 29, down from nine GOPers just four years ago.

This is a little bit deep in the weeds, but you may recall that back in early April when the Senate was debating the budget, Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) introduced an amendment meant to prevent the Senate from passing climate change legislation through the reconciliation process, and it passed by a wide margin.

Well, in conference, that amendment was stripped out completely. Mike Johanns is very unhappy. But that doesn't mean that a cap-and-trade program will absolutely be established during the reconciliation process. And it doesn't mean that Democrats will be hanging the threat over Republicans' heads the way they are with health reform. In fact, the conference report basically says this won't happen. But technically there won't be anything (other than Senate politics) stopping Democrats from doing so.

A new survey of Illinois from Public Policy Polling (D) finds that Sen. Roland Burris appears to be a sitting duck in any Democratic primary, if he does indeed run in 2010.

Burris' approval rating among likely Democratic primary voters is only 27%, to 49% disapproval. In a primary against state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who has already declared his candidacy, Giannoulias leads with 49% to Burris at 20%. Adding Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who is publicly mulling a candidacy and will announce her intentions in June, it's Giannoulis 38%, Schakowsky 26%, Burris 16%.

If state Attorney General Lisa Madigan were to get in, though, she could take the whole field: Madigan 44%, Giannoulias 19%, Burris 13%, Schakowsky 11%. If Madigan were to run for governor instead, she also has a 45%-29% lead over the new Governor Pat Quinn, who took office after Rod Blagojevich was removed from office.

The complete Roll Call isn't posted yet, but the final tally was 233-193. The Senate votes next, and then all of it--including the threat of an October 15 health and education reform deadline--will be a done deal. I'll update this post when that happens.

Late update: House Roll Call here. As you can see, it got zero Republican votes, just as the House budget resolution got zero votes, and just the stimulus got zero votes. A complete coincidence, I'm sure. Seventeen Democrats voted no as well.

Al Franken is moving further to present his victory in the Minnesota Senate race as a settled matter, with his campaign announcing that he has hired Drew Littman, a former staffer for Barbara Boxer, to be his chief of staff in Washington.

"I'm honored and excited to join Senator-elect Franken in Washington," Littman said in the press release. "Over my long career, I have had the privilege to work with many elected officials and organizations who believed in the same vision Al Franken will work towards as a Senator. I know that Al Franken is ready to serve and that he will work hard on behalf of Minnesota's working families. And I can't wait to help him get started."

Franken's office announced another hire last week, for the position of state director.

Full press release after the jump.

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As I noted below, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) thinks the Republican party will be fine as long as it embraces "mainstream" Americans like Pat Toomey, who stick to their laurels and don't push conservative voters on to a trail of tears to the South. Perhaps Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) will turn to that advice for when, as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he addresses the question, which he raised yesterday, of how to turn the GOP into a national party once more. Or perhaps he'll pay more attention to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who wrote penned for the New York Times a counterpoint of sorts to Jim DeMint's bizarre interpretation of Arlen Specter's move into the Democratic party.

"Republicans [have] turned a blind eye to the iceberg under the surface," she wrote, "failing to undertake the re-evaluation of our inclusiveness as a party that could have forestalled many of the losses we have suffered."

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