In it, but not of it. TPM DC

A new political science study that's gone viral finds that majority-rule democracy exists only in theory in the United States -- not so much in practice. The government caters to the affluent few and organized interest groups, the researchers find, while the average citizen's influence on policy is "near zero."

"[T]he preferences of economic elites," conclude Princeton's Martin Gilens and Northwestern's Benjamin I. Page, who work with the nonprofit Scholars Strategy Network, "have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do."

TPM spoke to Gilens about the study, its main findings and its lessons.

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In a strange twist during this year's election cycle, one candidate vying for the Democratic nomination for Maryland governor is attacking another for the state's botched Obamacare rollout.

Doug Gansler, Maryland's attorney general, is battling Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown for the Democratic nod. A big part of Gansler's strategy seems to be blaming Brown for the poor launch of the state's Obamacare marketplace, which Brown had taken a primary role in creating.

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If recent polls are any indicator, Republican businessman Curt Clawson could succeed former Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL), who resigned after getting caught buying cocaine in D.C., as the congressman representing the Florida 19th Congressional District.

Clawson was one of a number of Republican candidates competing in the Republican primary for Radel's seat and he's lead in recent polls of the race as well as how much money he's had to spend. The primary came about after Radel was busted for cocaine possession.

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Republicans are taking no chances when it comes to Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. They're closing every possible door. Under bills passed in Georgia and Kansas recently, even if a Democratic candidate were to pull off an upset and take the governor's seat, they would not be able to expand the program without the consent of the state legislature -- which will almost certainly remain Republican.

In other words, GOP lawmakers have taken steps to guarantee that many of their poorest residents will remain uninsured under the health care reform law, no matter what happens in the gubernatorial election.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) both oppose Medicaid expansion. They both look likely -- if not quite certain -- to win re-election in November. That should make the bills passed by their respective state lawmakers unnecessary, but they seem intent on guarding against even the remote possibility of a Democratic governor.

An explanation offered by a GOP lawmaker in Kansas, where the bill was signed into law by Brownback last week, points to the motive.

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In an election cycle that Republicans appear persistent in making about Obamacare, Michelle Nunn is in an interesting spot in the Georgia Senate race. The daughter of popular former Sen. Sam Nunn, she's never held political office, so unlike vulnerable Democrats like Louisiana's Mary Landrieu and Arkansas's Mark Pryor, Nunn never voted for the health care reform law.

One of the only Democrats with a real hope of stealing a Republican-held seat, Nunn can chart her own course on Obamacare. And while President Barack Obama last week was urging Democrats to "forcefully defend" the law as it hit 8 million sign-ups, don't expect her to follow his lead.

It's more of a tightrope walk for Nunn: distancing herself from a law that's unpopular in Georgia, which should help her win over independents, without going so far that she estranges herself from the Democratic base that she'll need in November. But some outside the campaign question whether she can maintain it through the fall.

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Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)'s primary challenger this time around is unusual, even for a long-shot candidate. His last name is also Ryan -- something he hopes will help him on election day, and he's haunted the Wisconsin state legislature as he rides around on his Segway during singing protests.

Meet "Segway" Jeremy Ryan, an eccentric activist renowned in Wisconsin for mainly two things: citations for public disruptions and moving around virtually only on a Segway. Ryan, 25, filed to run in the Republican primary against Rep. Ryan.

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