In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Scott Murphy is creating some more distance between himself and Republican candidate Jim Tedisco in the NY-20 special election. Murphy now leads by 401 votes, compared to a 365-vote lead yesterday.

Some more absentee ballots were counted in the Murphy strongholds of Columbia, Essex, Warren and Washington Counties -- plus the Tedisco stronghold of Saratoga County. And while Tedisco did net 38 votes from the newest ballots in Saratoga, it was more than outstripped by the other places.

Keep in mind that Tedisco actually won the Election Night count by 68 votes -- but by the time we found that out, after errors in the counties' spreadsheets were all double-checked, the absentees had started to come in. And Murphy has been consistently picking up votes during the absentee count.

Early this morning over at the mother ship, Josh made an interesting comparison between members of the Republican rump and the members of Junta Parties in post-Junta Banana Republics. A Junta could rule a country for years, but when its members are overthrown, they face the real risk of recriminations, and forming a solidarity party is one key way for them to forestall any consequences.

For future reference, members of Junta Parties around the world should consult either Sen. John McCain, or Sen. Kit Bond, a Missouri Republican who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. After spending years supporting Bush-era torture and other crimes, Bond, with an assist from McCain, has turned the tables (sort of) on the new party of power by accusing it of fashioning the United States after a Banana Republic. Watch:

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A new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll finds that Rick Perry's suggestion at the Tea Party last week, that Texas might have to secede from the Union, actually has significant support from his home state's Republican voters.

One question: "Do you think Texas would be better off as an independent nation or as part of the United States of America?" The top-line number is United States 61%, independent nation 35%. Among Republicans, it's a dead-even tie at 48%-48%.

And then there's this one: "Do you approve or disapprove of Governor Rick Perry's suggestion that Texas may need to leave the United States?" The top-line is only 37% approval to 58% disapproval -- but among Texas Republicans, it's 51% approval to 44% disapproval.

President Chuck Norris (of the Texas Republic), here we come!

The Minnesota Democrats have announced that they're filing an FEC complaint against Norm Coleman, arguing that he may have broken the law by using campaign funds for personal legal expenses in the Nasser Kazeminy case -- a lawsuit in Texas that charges, among other things, that a Coleman donor conspired to funnel payments to Coleman via his wife.

"Five months ago, former Senator Norm Coleman told us that he was seeking an opinion from the Federal Election Commission to ensure that he was following the law," DFL Party chairman Brian Melendez says in the release. "Now it appears that he never sought such an opinion and, more to the point, that he was and is breaking the law by diverting campaign money for personal use."

Usually, a political party's FEC complaint against a rival politician ends up going nowhere fast. On the other hand, this is just one more thing for Norm Coleman to worry about right now.

The Senate passed an amendment to an anti-fraud bill yesterday that would create an independent outside commission, complete with subpoena power, to investigate the causes of the crisis on Wall Street. The amendment was written by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), but was cosponsored by, among others, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT)

"Through dozens of hearings at the Banking Committee, we have documented a web of negligence, regulatory failures, and other abuses that caused this crisis in our financial system, and in the broader economy," Dodd said upon passage of the measure. "It will be the responsibility of this independent commission to build upon these findings, investigating every level of regulatory failure, and sniffing out any illegal or abusive activity within the financial services industry."

The vote was an overwhelming 92-4, which isn't surprising given obvious political problems with voting against an investigation of Wall Street at this particular time. The dissenters were Sens. Jim Bunning (R-KY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Kyl (R-AZ), and John McCain (R-AZ).

McCain, however, is an interesting case.

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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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