In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The counties are now all done with the initial counting of absentee ballots in the NY-20 special election, and the latest results show Democratic candidate Scott Murphy ahead of Republican Jim Tedisco by 273 votes, as the counting finished up in the pro-Murphy areas of Dutchess and Washington Counties.

There now remain about 1,500 challenged absentee ballot envelopes, most of which have been kept completely out of the count based on objections lodged by the campaigns. It appears that far more challenges were lodged by the Tedisco campaign than by Murphy, which would lead to Murphy picking up more net votes due to the expectation that the vast majority of challenges will be thrown out and the ballots counted. The court review of the challenged ballots will begin on Monday.

At this point, it's difficult to envision a scenario under which Tedisco wins.

Late Update: The Tedisco campaign gives us this statement from their attorney James E. Walsh:

"After two weeks of counting the votes, the one thing that remains certain is that this continues to be a remarkably close race and every vote matters. On Monday, we intend to make our case before the judge that this important election should be decided by the lawful voters of the 20th Congressional district and not by residents of New York City."

Here are the line-ups for the Sunday talk shows this weekend:

• ABC, This Week: White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel; House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH).

• CBS, Face The Nation: White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod; plus a debate on guns with Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) and NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre.

• CNN, State Of The Union: Sec. of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano; Gov. David Paterson (D-NY).

• Fox News Sunday: Former CIA Director Michael Hayden; Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

• NBC, Meet The Press: National Economic Council Director Larry Summers.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) just held a conference call with reporters to discuss the nomination (and threatened filibuster) of Dawn Johnsen, President Obama's designated chief of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Council.

Whitehouse is a member of the Judiciary Committee and has repeatedly spoken out on Johnsen's behalf. Though it's uncertain whether Republicans will ultimately seek to block Johnsen's nomination, Whitehouse is prepared in the event that they do. "I actually have a little bit of ammunition gathered in the event that I happen to be...on the floor defending this," Whitehouse said.

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The major question mark that still remains in the NY-20 special election, where Democratic candidate Scott Murphy currently leads Republican Jim Tedisco by 264 votes, is how those absentee ballots that are being kept out the count because of challenges by one campaign or another will ultimately add up.

A Democratic source tells me that the total number of challenged absentee ballots comes in at 1,579 -- of which 1,025 were lodged by Tedisco. This number has some plausibility to it, as there are already about 200 more Tedisco challenges each in Columbia and Warren counties, based on my own discussions with local elections officials. The big question is the breakdown in Saratoga County, which hasn't divulged the makeup of its 740 challenges.

Assuming this data is correct, and also that most campaign-launched challenges are overruled and the envelopes opened and counted, this would mean that Murphy could gain about 500 more net votes after these are all sorted out. The review process will begin in court on Monday.

The blogosphere has been abuzz about a reported filing by Republican Congressional candidate Jim Tedisco, asking to be declared the winner in the NY-20 special election. Does the filing really say that he should be declared the winner, notwithstanding the fact that he's down in the count?

Not exactly. I've now had the chance to look through the filing, and what it really does is formally state Tedisco's goal of being declared the winner -- after all, you can't go to court without some kind of specified goal -- and then it goes into the various complaints that Tedisco has, mainly relating to challenges against Murphy voters as being allegedly ineligible to vote in the election.

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U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand can rest easy, at least for now: Her absentee ballot in the NY-20 special election, which had been challenged by the campaign of GOP candidate Jim Tedisco, has been counted, and is included in the current vote totals that put Democrat Scott Murphy ahead by 264 votes.

However, this is not quite the end of the story, and the potential remains for it to be un-counted later on, though it doesn't seem likely that such a thing would actually happen.

Tedisco's campaign alleged on Tuesday that Gillibrand was ineligible to vote absentee because she was in her home county on Election Day. Gillibrand denies that she was there when the polls were open -- that she only arrived after the polls had closed. And it's also worth noting that the current governing case law in New York says that the ballot would still be counted.

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In huge news for environmentalists (and, more generally, anybody who worries about the fate of human life), the EPA, with the support of the White House, has determined that greenhouse gases are dangerous to public health. This has been coming down the pipe for some time, but now that it's official, it opens the door for the EPA to begin regulating Carbon Dioxide. But before they do, the House and Senate will probably take a stab at climate change legislation, and this ruling will no doubt affect the speed and thoroughness with which they act.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) responded with typical couth. "Today's action by the EPA is the beginning of a regulatory barrage that will destroy jobs, raise energy prices for consumers, and undermine America's global competitiveness," Inhofe said. "It's worth noting that the solution to this 'glorious mess' is not for Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation, which replaces one very bad approach with another. Congress should pass a simple, narrowly-targeted bill that stops EPA in its tracks."

We await the introduction of that legislation.

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It's no surprise that Republicans have supported Norm Coleman's (now all but doomed) effort to be reelected in Minnesota. After all, the Senate's closely divided and Republicans hate Franken who has been tweaking them for a decade. But at some point, I think, Republicans will give up the fight not only because there will be pressure on them to do so but because they'll realize that they are better off with Al Franken in the Senate than without.

I also think the fact that Coleman, who no doubt would like to run again someday, will bow to Minnesota's good-government culture and not stretch this thing out, thereby giving Pawlenty the space to certify Franken. I could be wrong. Maybe they'll make this a scorched earth policy for months to come, the opposite of Gore's exit after the legal battle was lost. But I don't think so. Coleman's self preservation instincts will combine with the need of GOP's consultant culture to put Franken in the Senate. Mitch McConnell won't like it but I think he'll be stuck with it.

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The latest score in the NY-20 special election shows Democratic candidate Scott Murphy ahead of Republican Jim Tedisco by 264 votes, as more absentee ballots were tallied in the Murphy strongholds of Columbia and Warren Counties.

In the absentee ballots counted so far, Murphy's percentage of the vote has been better for most counties than his Election Night totals were on a county by county basis. The only exceptions have been Saratoga County, the single largest county and a Tedisco stronghold, and Otsego County, which only cast about two percent of the total absentees. But the overall trend elsewhere has more than outweighed those two.

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We've reported on the conservative anger over this Department of Homeland Security report (pdf). Note that the reaction hasn't just been unnecessarily partisan (the report wasn't commissioned by President Obama, and was written under the auspices of a Bush appointee), it has also been curiously sensitive. The report, after all, isn't about the conservative movement in any way, but rather about the potentially growing ranks of radical right wing groups.

In response, conservatives have largely ignored the true origins of the report, and, enabled by the mainstream media, continue to direct their outrage at the new administration. But on the second point--the curious sensitivity--they've countered that their real anger has more to do with the fact that the DHS assessment suggests that veterans are particularly susceptible to the allure (whatever it is) of such groups when they return from service.

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