In it, but not of it. TPM DC

It's been just over a week since Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) switched parties, and already progressive activists are taking the temperature in Pennsylvania to see if the climate's right to retire him. The liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in partnership with some of the Netroots' most visible blogs, is conducting a week-long straw poll to determine both the level of progressive grassroots support for challenging Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) in the 2010 primary, and whether the challenger should be Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA).

The development resembles in some ways the early days Ned Lamont's successful campaign--backed by the progressive grassroots--to defeat Sen. Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Connecticut primary. Lieberman, of course, turned around and beat Lamont in the general election by running as an Independent, but election laws in Pennsylvania would prevent Specter from doing the same thing.

For his part, Sestak seems to be positioning himself to become Netroots darling. In the last week he has grown more and more critical of both the party establishment for thoughtlessly backing Specter, and of Specter himself, who he says is an unreliable representative for Pennsylvania Democrats.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) has put out this statement on his committee assignments:

"Senator Reid assured me that I would keep my committee assignments and that I would have the same seniority as if I had been elected as a Democrat in 1980. It was understood that the issue of subcommittee chairmanships would not be decided until after the 2010 election. Some members of the caucus have raised concerns about my seniority, so the caucus will vote on my seniority at the same time subcommittee chairmanships are confirmed after the 2010 election. I am confident my seniority will be maintained under the arrangement I worked out with Senator Reid. I am eager to continue my work with my colleagues on the various committees on which I serve and will continue to be a staunch and effective advocate for Pennsylvania's and the Nation's priorities."

Harry Reid appeared on CNN this afternoon, and apparently indicated that he may be trying to cut a deal to get Arlen Specter some important committee position.



"Arlen is a senior member of the Senate, and that's significant. I think also we can try to work something out with individual chairmen, and I'm certainly doing that," said Reid. "But I think everyone should just kinda relax and understand that he's a Democrat. We're doing our best to make him happy as a Democrat. I think he is, I've talked to him often. And any other situation I think is something that's kinda being made up."

John Baldacci, the Governor of Maine, has signed a law legalizing gay marriage.

"I have followed closely the debate on this issue," Baldacci said. "I have listened to both sides, as they have presented their arguments during the public hearing and on the floor of the Maine Senate and the House of Representatives. I have read many of the notes and letters sent to my office, and I have weighed my decision carefully. I did not come to this decision lightly or in haste."

The move represents a change in the governor's thinking. "In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions," Baldacci said. "I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage."

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Labor organizations may be unsure whether their old allegiances to Sen. Arlen Specter can withstand his new anti-Employee Free Choice stance. But Pennsylvania Democrats aren't nearly as conflicted--they're welcoming the new Republican with open arms, despite an older allegiance to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA)

"He's our incumbent senator," noted Abe Amoros, Acting Executive Director for the Pennsylvania Democratic party. "We've welcomed him with open arms."

"Congressman Sestak is one of the hardest working congressmen in Pennsylvania," Amoros said, but, he adds, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Governor Ed Rendell "have promised to back Specter and raise money for him and make campaign appearances throughout the state."

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Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) just appeared on CNN, and was asked about the loss of his seniority on his committees. He responded that Harry Reid made a commitment to him that he would keep the seniority, and he's confident he'll get it back "in due course," apparently after the 2010 elections:



"Sen. Reid said that I would maintain my committee assignments, and that my seniority would be established as if I had been elected in 1980 as a Democrat," said Specter. "Now that has to be ratified by the caucus, and I think in due course that will be done. It may not -- we did agree, but as to committee assignments, that would await until the new election, and the caucus action overall apparently is gonna wait until after the election. But I'm confident that Sen. Reid's assurances will be fulfilled."

Last month, when teabaggers were rampant and the Governor of Texas was threatening to secede, we brought you the story of a movement--with roots in right wing separatism--making its way through conservative states.

That movement has resulted in the Georgia Senate, the South Dakota House, and both chambers of the Oklahoma legislature passing resolutions affirming their sovereignty and affirming their belief that the federal government stands in violation of the Constitution. The Georgia resolution in particular held that if the U.S. Congress were to pass, say, an assault-weapons ban, then "all powers previously delegated to the United States of America by the Constitution for the United States shall revert to the several States individually." In other words, in the eyes of the Georgia legislature, the union would cease to exist!

The Oklahoma resolution is significantly milder, but the state's governor Brad Henry vetoed it anyway. That's not stopping the legislature, though, which is set to override the veto and put Washington on notice.

This doesn't really change anything in a legal sense, but it's interesting inasmuch as it tells us whom Oklahoma's elected officials take their cues from.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has announced a new series of radio ads against five Blue Dog Democrats from districts that voted for John McCain, attacking them as "lapdogs" for Nancy Pelosi and President Obama.

The five targeted members are Reps. Marion Berry (D-AR), Charlie Melancon (D-LA), Earl Pomeroy (D-ND)), Zack Space (D-OH)), and John Tanner (D-TN).

Here's the ad targeting Pomeroy:



"But this year in Washington, Earl Pomeroy's not voting like a Blue Dog," the announcer says. "He's voting like a lapdog -- a lapdog for Nancy Pelosi and President Obama. Pomeroy's been voting with liberal Pelosi 99% of the time."

And here's the ad against Melancon:



The ads are essentially the same, with the scripts localized for the Congressman's name -- and if you listen carefully, the announcer taking on the appropriate regional accent.

Late Update: This post originally referred to the ads as robocalls. They are not calls, they are radio ads.

Michael Steele has given in to his RNC critics who were seeking to curtail his power, the Washington Times reports, agreeing on a set of rules for Steele's spending as chairman.

Steele has agreed to restore "good governance" rules for contracts and other expenditures, which were instituted after 2004 and were scrapped after the 2008 primary season. In addition, he has agreed to bring in former long-time RNC financial officer Jay Banning -- who was fired by Steele last month -- to serve as an on-call adviser to the treasurer. Other staffers are also being kept on either payroll or retainer, as well.

As the Washington Times points out: "It represents the first time in memory that rebel members of the Republican Party's national governing body have successfully taken on the party's historically powerful national chairman and his loyalists."

The new Quinnipiac poll of Ohio shows that the 2010 Senate race for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. George Voinovich is wide open, with the Democrats appearing to start out with an early advantage.

In the Democratic primary, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher has 20% to Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner's 16%, followed by state Rep. Tyrone Yates at 4%. In the Republican primary, former Rep. Rob Portman has 29%, with his potential major opponent, state Auditor Mary Taylor, at 8%, and auto dealer Tom Ganley at 8%.

In the general election match-ups, Fisher leads Portman by 42%-31%, and he leads Taylor by 41%-29%. Brunner leads Portman by 40%-32%, and she's ahead of Taylor by 38%-29%. The undecideds are clearly very high, and anything could happen in the next year and a half, but for now the Dems have an advantage.

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