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TPMDC Morning Roundup

GOP To Launch Rebranding Effort -- Headed By McCain, Jeb Bush And Others
CNN reports that the Republican Party is set to launch a rebranding effort today, in a new series of town halls billed as the "National Council for a New America." Leading figures will include John McCain, Jeb Bush, Haley Barbour, Bobby Jindal and Mitt Romney.

Some Senate Dems Unhappy With Specter's Full Seniority
The Hill reports that senior Democratic Senators are upset with the deal that Harry Reid made with Arlen Specter, allowing Specter to keep his full seniority as if he had been elected as a Democrat back in 1980 -- thus pushing him ahead of various Dems for plum committee assignments. "I won't be happy if I don't get to chair something because of Arlen Specter," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and another unnamed lawmaker said the full Democratic conference will likely vote against giving Specter full seniority after the 2010 election.

GOP Rep. Gerlach Being Encouraged To Challenge Specter (And Toomey)
CQ reports that Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA), who had been preparing to run for governor in 2010, is now being courted by some Republicans to run for Arlen Specter's Senate seat. Gerlach said he hasn't given the matter much thought, but he's not saying no, either: "Don't rule anything out in life." If Gerlach were to run, he would first have to face a primary against conservative Pat Toomey, whose bid has already caused Specter to switch parties.

GOP Donors Asking For Refunds From Specter
The Washington Times reports that Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) is already facing a stream of requests to refund campaign contributions from upset Republicans, including numerous GOP Senators. Specter is not legally required to do so, but in his announcement of his party switch he made it clear that he would in fact return money raised during this campaign cycle, upon request of the donor.

Rescued Captain To Testify At Senate Committee
Merchant captain Richard Phillips, who was rescued after being held hostage by Somali pirates, will testify today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at a 2:30 p.m. ET hearing. Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) called for the hearing on piracy when Phillips was still being held hostage.

Rove: Obama Outsourcing President To Others, Relying On Photo-Ops
In his latest Wall Street Journal column, Karl Rove accuses President Obama of relying too much on other people to shape legislation, namely Congressional Democrats. Mr. "Obama is a great face for the Democratic Party. He is its best salesman and most persuasive advocate," Rove writes. "But he is beginning to leave the impression that he is more concerned with the aesthetics of policy rather than its contents. In the long run, substance and consequences define a presidency more than signing ceremonies and photo-ops."