In it, but not of it. TPM DC

As you've probably heard, the Minnesota election court has just handed down their very much-awaited ruling: That Al Franken was the rightful winner of the most votes in the 2008 Senate election, and he is entitled to receive the certificate of election.

To make a long story short, the court -- who, by the way, are a rare tri-partisan selection of judges -- rejects pretty much every single argument that Team Coleman put forward, and either accepts all of Team Franken's arguments as is or in a somewhat modified form.

So where do we go from here?

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Here's a good question as the seven-judge Minnesota Supreme Court gears up for an expected appeal from Norm Coleman, who is nearly certain to lose the election trial: Just how many justices will be left to hear it?

As it is, it already seems like two justices are solid bets to recuse themselves: Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and Associate Justice Barry Anderson, who served on the special state canvassing board, and previously recused themselves in state Supreme Court proceedings in this case, when the court addressed questions such as rejected absentee ballots and when a certificate of election could be granted.

But now we know that Justice Christopher Dietzen has donated money to Norm Coleman -- the checks were written over five years ago, before Dietzen first became a judge -- should he recuse himself? He's already participated in the other litigation listed above, and in all fairness he didn't seem to be biased.

And this one isn't quite so solid, but some people might wonder whether Associate Justice Alan Page should recuse himself, because he appointed the three-member trial court. (That job originally would have gone to the Chief Justice -- but he'd recused himself, leaving it to Page as the most senior associate justice.)

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We haven't had much to say about the now-resolved pirate hostage situation off the coast of Somalia. It's not really our bailiwick. But much of the rest of the media has been All Pirates All The Time for the last several days, and since the stand-off was resolved by the Navy at a time when the administration is trying to overhaul the U.S. military, the spending cut meme was destined to rear its ugly head:

At a time when the president is trying to trim the Pentagon budget, the political consequences for Obama could have been dire. Instead, he's presiding over a triumphant rescue.
Needless to say, none of the administration's proposed changes involves reducing the ranks of the Navy SEALs, whom we have to thank for staging the rescue.

A new Gallup poll finds a surprising attitude among the American people regarding taxes, as we head towards April 15: Amazingly high satisfaction.

The question asked is: "Do you consider the amount of federal income tax you have to pay as too high, about right, or too low?" The numbers: About right 48%, too high 46%, and too low 3%.

This is the second-highest "about right" number since Gallup began asking this question over 50 years ago, beat out only by 50% in 2003, after successive rounds of Bush tax cuts. And since the early 1960s, this question has almost always shown a significant gap between "too high" on top and "about right" on the bottom.

Last week, we reported that Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) had experienced an epiphany about the stimulative effects of government spending...when that spending is on weapons.

Over the weekend, Paul Krugman took a shot at Congressional Republicans who fit the Chambliss profile--i.e. the subset of Republicans who voted against the stimulus but are now coming forward to claim that a (fictional) reduction in defense spending will cost jobs.

Since only three of Capitol Hill's 219 Republicans--Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Susan Collins (R-ME)--voted for the stimulus bill, it's possible that many scores of them will ultimately fall afoul of this contradiction.

Until then, though, we've poked around a bit, and come up with the names of a few Republicans that have already fallen in to The Chambliss Hypocrisy.

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A new CNN poll finds that Americans don't agree with former Vice President Dick Cheney when he says President Obama is making the country less safe:

Do you think the actions Barack Obama has taken as president have increased the chances of a terrorist attack against the U.S., or don't you think so?

Have increased 26%
Have not 72%


One thing worth noting is that the question didn't attribute this idea to Dick Cheney -- respondents were asked to judge it on its own merits. If they had included Cheney, pitting his reputation against Obama's, who knows whether agreement would have been higher or lower.

The NY-20 special election's litigation was put on hold today, when the scheduled court proceedings were delayed due to Judge James V. Brands being hospitalized and undergoing tests.

Senior court clerk Karen Bitonte told TPM that Judge Brands expects to be back in his chambers tomorrow, and court will resume on Wednesday. In Judge Brands' absence, the lawyers for both sides spoke to Brands' clerk. "The lawyers voiced their concerns to the judge's law clerk, and she was going to take them to the judge," Bitonte explained.

One outstanding issue here is whether the campaign of GOP candidate Jim Tedisco can successfully challenge certain absentee voters who maintain two addresses -- voting in the district, but having driver's licenses in New York City or elsewhere. If Tedisco were to be turned down in all or most examples, that would likely result in a pickup of as many as 100 votes for Democrat Scott Murphy.

The Club For Growth, the economic right-wing political group known for backing staunch anti-tax candidates in GOP primaries, has selected a new chairman, replacing Pat Toomey: Former Rep. Chris Chocola (R-IN).

Chocola was first elected to Congress in 2002, picking up an open seat for the Republicans, but later lost re-election in 2006 by a 54%-46% to Democrat Joe Donnelly. From his first unsuccessful campaign in 2000 and through his career in Congress, he at times strongly favored total privatization of Social Security, and at others didn't support privatization.

Another thing here is that the real news isn't so much Chocola signing on to the Club For Growth, as it is Toomey signing off. Toomey, a former Pennsylvania Congressman, is widely believed to be about to challenge Arlen Specter in the Republican primary for Senator from Pennsylvania, after he'd previously run in 2004 and lost in a 51%-49% squeaker. Toomey is officially leaving the Club to pursue "other opportunities."

The NRCC has announced a new wide-reaching ad campaign, composed of TV and radio spots plus robocalls, targeting key House Democrats over the federal budget. They aren't targeting President Obama -- he's too popular right now, obviously -- but are instead focusing their firepower on Nancy Pelosi.

Here's a TV ad against Rep. Zack Space (D-OH):



"Nancy Pelosi pushed a budget with a trillion-dollar deficit -- and Space voted to let Nancy Pelosi get her way," the announcer says. There's also a radio version of the ad, with this sample against freshman Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA).

Space's district voted for John McCain 53%-45%, and Dahlkemper's went for McCain by less than one point. The NRCC will also have other TV and radio ads and robocalls against a diverse line-up of House Dems, some from Obama districts and others from McCain districts, though all of them are swing seats to various degrees. The full listing is after the jump.

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Now here's something interesting in the Minnesota Senate trial, which is sure to be appealed to the state Supreme Court: As Senate Guru over at MyDD points out, one of the state Supreme Court justices has in the past donated to Norm Coleman.

In the years before he was appointed to the state bench, Christopher Dietzen was a private attorney and occasional Republican donor, including a check for $250 to Coleman in December 2001, and another $250 for the current cycle in January 2004. The Hill also points out Dietzen served as a campaign counsel for GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty, during the 2002 open-seat race.

A spokesman for the state Supreme Court told TPM that no information is available about any possible recusal. Since there hasn't been an actual ruling in the trial, much less the filing of an appeal, we don't know and cannot predict what would happen.

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