In it, but not of it. TPM DC

RNC Chairman Michael Steele is set to deliver a speech today to state GOP chairmen, seeking to re-energize the party.

"The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over. It is done," Steele will say. "We have turned the page, we have turned the corner. No more looking in the rearview mirror. From this point forward, we will focus all of our energies on winning the future."

When has the GOP been apologizing, you might ask? In all fairness to Steele, he could be referring to his own speeches in which he himself has owned up to the Republican Party's mistakes. As he famously said in February: "Tonight, we tell America: we know the past, we know we did wrong. My bad." So does this mean the Republican Party is going to stop apologizing -- or more specifically that Steele, in his position as chairman, is going to knock it off?

Read More →

Last night, the House passed the final version of a bill intended to enhance enforcement of financial crimes, one of the provisions of which will create a 10-member commission to investigate the causes of the financial crisis. The vote was 338 to 52.

"While the Commission undertakes its investigation," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi upon passage of the legislation, "Chairman Barney Frank and the House Financial Services Committee will continue their ongoing work to reform federal oversight of our financial markets, and to reform lending practices to protect consumers."

The Senate passed the same version of the bill last week, and the President is expected to sign it short order. During deliberations between House and Senate leaders to resolve differences between the bills, negotiators made one potentially important change to the commission's guidelines, which now require that at least one member appointed by the Senate or House Minority Leader assent to the issuance of subpoenas, should they be necessary to compel testimony or other evidence. Whether that impacts the functioning of the commission will depend, I suppose, on how many subpoenas turn out to be necessary, and how much the Republican appointees resemble their appointers in Congress.

Obama, Automakers To Roll Out New Mileage And Emissions Standards President Obama and the country's automakers are set to announce this morning a new set of national mileage and emissions standards, with cars and trucks required to get 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. The automakers cooperated with the government in reaching these standards in order to pre-empt battles with individual states, and they have been given more time to reach the goals.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will deliver remarks at 12:15 p.m. ET, on the new set of auto emissions and efficiency standards. At 1:45 p.m. ET, he will meet in the Oval Office with formers Secs. of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, former Sec. of Defense William Perry, and former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA). At 3:30 p.m. ET, he will speak at a ceremony honoring the National Small Business Award Winners. At 4:30 p.m. ET, he will meet with Sec. of Defense Robert Gates in the Oval Office.

Read More →

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."