In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Are senior officials at the Pentagon construing Defense Secretary Robert Gates' budget as a proposed defense spending cut?

Earlier today, I noted that the ranking member on that committee, John McHugh, had told Reuters that the Gates proposal would amount to an $8 billion slash in spending. But the numbers tell a different story: Not counting supplementals, Congress last year appropriated $513 billion to the Pentagon. This year, Gates is asking for $534 billion. If he gets everything he asks for, that's an increase of $21 billion, and Congress could always increase the total beyond that.

I asked McHugh's staff where the notion of an overall spending cut came from, and, when pressed, they had a hard time standing by the idea of a decrease in total dollars.

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Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), who is facing a likely primary rematch with his 2004 opponent Pat Toomey, has picked up a high-profile endorsement: Howard Stern, The Hill reports, after Specter appeared on the Stern show. Howard offered to write Specter a check, which Specter accepted, and then the two of them encouraged all the listeners to contribute, too.

This makes sense in many ways, really. Stern's own politics match up pretty well with Specter, as Stern is an economic conservative and cultural liberal (okay, make that cultural libertine). That, and Howard has a proven record of endorsing politicians who have the nerve to come on his show, and those pols have usually been northeastern Republicans like Specter, Christie Whitman and George Pataki, among others.

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NRSC Chairman John Cornyn released this statement, regarding Norm Coleman's continued legal fight after Al Franken's lead grew by 87 net votes today:

"Events today do not address the main issue that remains unresolved: over 4,000 Minnesotans were disenfranchised by this three-judge panel. That's why it's so critical for this process to move forward before the Minnesota Supreme Court and why Senate Republicans fully support Senator Coleman's efforts.

"The message from our side has remained consistent throughout this process: we want this election to resolve itself as quickly, but not at the expense of Minnesota's laws or voters.

"In contrast, the criticisms from the Democrat side as recently as today have expressed the opposite viewpoint. It's blatant hypocrisy that many of the same Democrats who so loudly complained about voter disenfranchisement during the 2000 Florida recount are now willing to compromise this fundamental principle of our democracy when it no longer fits their political agenda. Senate Democrats should stand down, set partisan politics aside, and respect Minnesota's laws and voters."

The latest results from the NY-20 special election now have Republican candidate Jim Tedisco up by 17 votes, out of over 150,000 votes.

Yesterday, Democrat Scott Murphy had been ahead by 83 votes, but that has now shifted -- an official at Saratoga County told PolitickerNY that they caught a mistake in their spreadsheet, having accidentally dropped 100 votes for Tedisco.

One county, Greene, told TPM today that they still haven't re-checked their totals, which should be done tomorrow.

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Yesterday I reported that NARAL is mobilizing in support of three Obama nominees--David Hamilton, Kathleen Sebelius, and Dawn Johnsen--who've been targeted by the right, at least in part, for their pro-life views.

Today, I spoke with NARAL's policy director Donna Crane, who gave me a bit more detail about the nature of their campaign. "We have emails going out [to members of Congress] almost every day," Crane said, "[and] we're doing phone banking for targeted senators."

Those targets won't come as much surprise. Crane says, "in general the senators we look at for these kinds of issues are the two senators from Maine, [Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins] pulled one way by their party and another by their values." She adds that "Sen. somebody we're looking at very closely."

NARAL's reportedly also targeting some pro-life Democrats, though there's considerably less concern that they'll oppose any of these nominees.

Below the fold, a copy of a direct mailer NARAL issued as part of their efforts.

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The Albert Lea Tribune, a local newspaper in Minnesota that endorsed Norm Coleman for re-election last year, has an editorial telling him in no uncertain terms to give it up:

This newspaper endorsed Republican Norm Coleman for senator, but now it is time for him to step out of the race and let Minnesota have two senators again.


Coleman is now only delaying the seating of Franken and in doing so is not servicing his staff, his financial contributors or the people of Minnesota.

For a time many Minnesotans followed the case closely, but now, after five months, they mainly see stalling. As for the rest of the country, at first, Americans thought Minnesota looked like a diligent place for vote recounts. Now, it's starting to seem like an election laughingstock.

And Coleman, who rails against career politicians, is looking like a career politician who is losing his career.

The editorial was published this morning, before Al Franken picked up another net 87 votes, now leading by 312 votes out of about 2.9 million.

Via Wired comes Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) accusing President Obama of gutting the military. Speaking from Afghanistan on a YouTube video posted by his press office, and contrasting the Gates proposal to the President's domestic budget, Inhofe said, "in all the time we're doing this, increasing all these welfares...the only thing in the budget that's being cut is military." Watch:

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On a conference call with reporters, Al Franken's lead attorney Marc Elias reiterated the campaign's position that the outcome of the Senate race is now certain -- that Al Franken is the winner.

"There are a handful of side issues that the court has yet to resolve, but none of them would involve enough votes at this point to affect the outcome," said Elias. "The total margin could change by a handful of votes, either up or down, but while the margin may not be set, the final result is no longer in doubt."

Elias said that Norm Coleman had the opportunity to bring his case -- and there were thousands and thousands of pages of evidence here -- but has only fallen behind: "So he will have to make the decision whether to appeal or not. But I think the question is not whether he has the right to appeal, but whether filing an appeal would be the right thing to do for the state of Minnesota."

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The DSCC has released these two statements, after Al Franken extended his lead to 312 votes when more ballots were counted today:

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the 2008 cycle, released the following statement:

"When you contest the results of an election, and you lose ground, you ought to know time is up. The people have spoken, and now that the courts have spoken, Norm Coleman ought to let the process of seating a Senator go forward."

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, current chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released the following statement:

"Today everyone saw proof of what we have known for a long time: once all the properly cast votes were counted, Al Franken won the election. The people of Minnesota deserve their second Senator and it is time to stop holding the seat hostage to pursue an ideological agenda. We have always said Norm Coleman deserved his day in court - he got two months. It is now time to move on, and let Senator-elect Al Franken get to work for the people of Minnesota."

The Miami Herald reports that Michael Steele urged state party activists in Florida to more aggressively register voters, to directly serve communities, and to reach out to blacks and Hispanics.

"Please send some folks to the convention that look like Florida," said Steele. "Could you help a brother out? No more national conventions with [only] 36 people of color in the room."

Here's the thing: In many ways, Steele is right.