In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Well, the Daschle nomination is no more. He's withdrawn his name which is in keeping with the idea that Obama would not actually have to fire him. We're still sorting out details on what happened between Obama's endorsement yesterday and the predictions of the likes of myself and George Stephanopoulos who thought that he'd muscle through it despite being bruised. Were there more tax problems? Did he just grow tired of the scrutiny? Was he asked to withdraw or did he do it of his own volition? We'll know more, I'm sure, as the day goes on.

After Daschle, a few big questions:

1. How many more officials are going to run into the tax buzzsaw. Just spoke to someone who is applying for a senior job in the administration. "If you haven't been preparing for public service your whole life, you're really kind of screwed," said the person. That may be a bit much, but it does raise the question of what tax indiscretion/error is now enough to derail your career in the Obama administration.

2. What's Plan B for HHS and the health care campaign? Remember Daschle was not only supposed to run the largest cabinet agency but also to quarterback health care reform. Will the jobs now be bifurcated?

3. What're the recriminations for Leo Hindery, the New York financier for whom Daschle worked? Did he do anything untoward or was this all Daschle's failure to keep his accounting straight?

4. How badly is Obama tarnished by this both in terms of his competence--two cabinet nominees choke before they reach their confirmation hearings--and his promise of reform.

5. It's No Fun Being Majority Leader. Look what's happened to the last majority leaders in the Senate. Bob Dole quit the post and his senate seat in 1996 and lost badly. Trent Lott got ushered out of office thanks to TPM and others who noted his praise of Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign. Bill Frist was a flameout. Now Daschle's career in public service seems at an end. Makes you not want to run for the leadership.

John McCain is now adding his voice to the Republican activism against the stimulus bill, sending out an e-mail to his supporter list that asks recipients to sign a petition opposing it.

McCain's e-mail complains that there is too much government spending in the bill that won't create jobs, and that instead there should be payroll tax cuts and a clear "end game" to the stimulus to guarantee that the spending stops after the recessions is over. McCain also complains that the White House has behaved in a partisan manner, as evidenced by the House Republicans' unanimous vote against the bill:

But as of yet, Republicans have not been given the opportunity to be involved. The House of Representatives passed a stimulus bill without a single Republican supporting it. In the Senate, the Democrat leadership is trying to jam the existing proposal through regardless of reservations from a number of members. With so much at stake, the last thing we need is partisanship driving our attempts to turn the economy around.


The Republican position here is now clear: They say that government spending during an economic crisis does not prop up the economy. The question is whether they will maintain just enough strength in the Senate to put this theory into practice, by making sure that whatever bill does eventually pass would be more to their liking.

The full McCain e-mail is available after the jump.

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The Democrats now have a top-tier candidate in the wings for the 2010 New Hampshire Senate race, the Union Leader reports, with sources telling them that second-term Congressman Paul Hodes will announced his campaign for Judd Gregg's seat within the week.

Republican Bonnie Newman is expected to be appointed to the seat, but it's believed that she won't be running for a full term in 2010.

The Republicans were until just recently the long-dominant party in New Hampshire. But in recent years the Dems have taken over pretty much everything: Both House seats, the other Senate seat, both houses of the state legislature, the governorship, and Barack Obama beat John McCain by nine points.

Democrats could have possibly made a real race against Judd Gregg had he been running again, but he probably would have still started out as the favorite. On the other hand, taking Gregg off the political stage entirely leaves the race now subject to the political lay of the land in New Hampshire as it now stands -- meaning that this now has be considered as leaning towards a Dem takeover.

Republicans truly did consider Sen. Judd Gregg (NH) one of their most effective strategists, both on policy and politics, and they'll miss him in leadership meetings now that Gregg has accepted the Commerce Secretary nod. As Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) acknowledged this morning on CNBC's "Kudlow & Cramer":

ENSIGN: To me, I told Judd this. I think Judd's one of our best strategists. He's a great thinker. And I think it's a mistake for him to leave the U.S. Senate.

REPORTER: I was afraid of that. ... Come on, Senator, rally the troops. Unified bill. The time is now. Profiles in courage.


Here's a challenge: Can anyone name a substantive similarity between Obama's first choice for Commerce Secretary and his second one?

Some news out of the Minnesota trial: The Coleman legal team has now dropped another complaint from their lawsuit against the election results.

The Coleman campaign has let go of a complaint alleging that some of the 933 previously-rejected absentee ballots that were opened up on January 3 -- after both campaigns sorted through the envelopes and agreed that they were legally cast, and had been improperly tossed because of clerical errors -- were not in fact legally cast, and shouldn't have been counted.

To be blunt, this was perhaps the single worst gambit that Coleman was trying to make. Remember that all of these envelopes were declared by his own campaign to have been legally cast -- but once they were opened and revealed to have gone for Al Franken by a 176-vote margin, they suddenly became illegal and had to be picked through for potential rejection.

The Coleman team probably realized two important things. First, this complaint had no chance of winning. And second, having this claim still out there was undercutting their current drive to open up even more rejected absentees, even in cases where a lighter standard would be needed to forgive obvious voter errors. So they're now stipulating that the votes were legit.

Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan has now announced her candidacy for the 2010 Senate race, running for the seat that has been opened up by the retirement announcement of four-term Republican Kit Bond:



Carnahan, the daughter of the late Governor Mel Carnahan and former Senator Jean Carnahan, was essentially coronated by the state Democrats right after Bond announced his retirement a few weeks ago, but this makes it official. The GOP is still sorting out a wide field of potential candidates, none of whom have officially gotten in yet.

Missouri is widely expected be a top-tier race for 2010 -- after all, most of the campaigns here are very close. John McCain enjoyed a super-thin victory here over Barack Obama, but Democrats won almost all the other statewide races, and both parties have strong campaign infrastructures in place.

President Obama has just officially nominated Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) to take the reins at the Commerce Department. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sure (D-NV) sounds pleased:

I commend President Obama for selecting an outstanding Senate leader to guide our nation's commerce at a critical time for our economy. And I applaud his willingness to include another Republican in his bipartisan Cabinet. Senator Gregg is respected on both sides of the aisle for his impressive intellect and strong commitment to public service.


And why shouldn't Reid be psyched? Gregg may be a Republican who has consistently opposed much of the Democrats' economic agenda, but nominating him was Reid's idea, "at least in part," according to today's New York Times:

The idea of offering the job to Mr. Gregg came, at least in part, from the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada. (The two senators are close, aides to both men said.) Mr. Reid mentioned the idea to Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama's chief of staff, who passed it on to the president-elect.


Gregg and President Obama, the Times explains, "barely knew each other, aside from occasional chats in the Senate gym."

President Obama will take to the airwaves tonight to pitch the economic recovery bill to the people -- and he'll have his work cut out for him.

What becomes more apparent with each passing day in Washington is that the change in administrations has changed little about Congress' standard operating procedure, the wheeling and dealing that inspired Otto von Bismarck's famous quote about lawmaking and sausage-making.

Exhibit A: the business tax breaks in the Senate version of the stimulus bill.

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