In it, but not of it. TPM DC

A new Gallup poll finds that a majority of Americans favor ending the Cuba embargo -- and in fact, this isn't a new opinion.

The numbers: 51% favor ending the embargo, to only 36% against it, with a ±3% margin of error. Back in 1999 it was 51%-39%, in 2000 it was a plurality of 48%-42%, and in 2002 it was 50%-38%.

At this point it's worth asking: Why is it seen as so controversial and politically risky to favor ending the embargo, or even making lesser moves towards rolling back sanctions against Cuba, when those views in fact have such consistent popular support?

And here is where we meet the political reality. The folks who really care about keeping the embargo are largely concentrated in Florida, a perennially super-close swing state with 27 electoral votes.

In a widely-expected development, two Minnesota Supreme Court justices are officially recusing themselves from Norm Coleman's appeal of his defeat in the election trial.

Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and Associate Justice Barry Anderson, who were both appointed by GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty, did not participate in a routine order to admit two of Al Franken's attorneys to practice before the court in this matter. It was expected that Magnuson and Anderson would recuse themselves, as they were members of the state canvassing board in the recount, and they'd previously recused themselves from other litigation in this election.

It's worth noting that two other justices who have received some media scrutiny did not recuse themselves from this order: Associate Justice Christopher Dietzen, who donated to Norm Coleman's campaign in the years before he was appointed to the bench by Pawlenty, and Associate Justice Helen Meyer, who had donated to Paul Wellstone before she was appointed by Independence Party Gov. Jesse Ventura.

A new national survey from Public Policy Polling (D), already looking forward to 2012, shows President Obama ahead of four potential Republican opponents.

Obama leads Newt Gingrich 52%-39%; he's ahead of Mike Huckabee 49%-42%; he beats Sarah Palin 53%-41%; and he leads Mitt Romney 50%-39%.

"Barack Obama might not have the same overwhelming approval rating he did in the earlier days of his administration," PPP president Dean Debnam said in the polling memo. "But he's certainly still more popular than any of the major Republican figures in the country."

The labor-backed group Americans United For Change is continuing its public campaign against Congressional Republicans and in favor of the Democrats, with this new ad attacking them for saying "No" to progress during a time of crisis:

"Just days into the new session of Congress, Democrats expanded health insurance for children -- the Republicans said 'No,'" the announcer says, repeating the same point about equal pay for women, the Obama budget and long-term prosperity.

The ad will run on national cable for a week.

A major alliance of progressive interest groups--including labor, environmental, and veterans organizations--has launched a new campaign to advance President Obama's energy agenda.

The groups include the Service Employees International Union, the League of Conservation Voters, Political Action, VoteVets, Center for American Progress Action Fund, and others. Their efforts include both targeted, local advertising and a national ad campaign, and come just as the House begins deliberations on a major climate change bill written by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA)

Ads below the fold.

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With Congress back in session, and major liberal interest groups throwing throwing their weight behind her, is the conservative campaign to defeat Dawn Johnsen ramping up?

Some signs certainly point in that direction.

Yesterday, The Washington Times--one of the country's leading conservative newspapers--published an op-ed calling her a "radical" and urging Republicans (and, comically, Democrats) to filibuster the President's choice to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.

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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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