In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The Minnesota election contest is headed into one of its final steps this morning, with officials from the Secretary of State's office preparing to count previously-rejected ballots, after the judges reviewed 387 envelopes yesterday and approved counting an as yet undisclosed number of them. Judge Elizabeth Hayden has just handed down the list of ballots, but the number is not known at this moment.

Video is being carried by our good friends at The Uptake, and the counting itself could happen any minute now, after the envelopes are organized and the ballots separated from them.

Just now, Coleman attorney Tony Trimble just requested a 15-minute recess to review the list, and Hayden refused to grant it, saying the court was ready to proceed.

Meanwhile, the Franken camp sent an e-mail last night to their supporter list, from campaign manager Stephanie Schriock and lead attorney Marc Elias, with Elias explaining that things looked good for them:

Essentially, the Court agreed that the law should be followed as written. That's exactly what our argument has been all along. And although Coleman is likely to appeal in the hopes of finding a venue less picky about the rule of law, our analysis shows that the meticulousness of the Court's procedure and ruling would make such an appeal a difficult proposition.


Full Franken camp e-mail after the jump.

Late Update: Judge Hayden just let everybody know that even if an observer for a candidate were to leave the table, the process would still continue.

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The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias has raised $1.1 million for his Senate campaign exploratory committee, in his potential bid in the Democratic primary against Roland Burris -- an extraordinary amount, considering the tough economic environment, and the fact that Giannoulias only got in with 28 days left in the quarter.

The Giannoulias committee also says that this does not include any of his own personal or family wealth, or contributions from PACs.

Said Giannoulias: "We were thrilled and flattered by the outpouring of support that we've received over the last 3 1/2 weeks, and I think it's evidence that people are hungry for fresh leadership and new ideas in Washington, D.C."

Maybe people are just hungry for a candidate who isn't Roland Burris.

Obama: "I'm Not Naïve." Speaking to a student town hall in Istanbul, Turkey, President Obama emphasized both his ambitions and his realism about his hopes for international cooperation. "My attitude is, is that all these things are hard," he said. "I mean, I'm not naïve. If it was easy, it would have already been done. Somebody else would have done it. But if we don't try, if we don't reach high, then we won't make any progress. And I think that there's a lot of progress that can be made."

Obama Tours Turkey, Is Coming Back To Washington President Obama met with religious leaders at 3:50 a.m. ET in Istanbul, Turkey. At 5:10 a.m. ET he toured the Hagia Sophia with Prime Minister Erdogan, and they toured the Blue Mosque at 5:40 a.m. ET. At 6:20 a.m. ET he held a student town hall, and Obama left Turkey at 8:30 a.m. ET. He is scheduled to arrive back in Washington at 5:30 p.m. ET.

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Much has been made of the new Pew Poll that seems to find President Obama as polarizing figure, with a 61-point differential between the 88% approval among Democrats and the 27% approval from Republicans.

Pew associate director Michael Dimock told Greg Sargent that the amazing part here is the 88% approval among Democrats, which would seem to guarantee a differential high enough to be termed "polarizing."

But here's another theory I have, that I called Dimock up to ask about: That Republican approval of Obama is so low because the number of Republicans is so low -- only 24% self-identification in this survey, in fact, compared to 33% in 2004. Here's how it would work: If the number of Republicans has shrunk, then the people who peeled away would have been the more moderate GOP respondents, the type of people willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt in the form of an approval answer.

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Civil rights groups aren't the only organizations rallying behind Dawn Johnsen. Women's organizations are getting involved as well. Last week, the group NARAL Pro-Choice America announced that it would be mobilizing activists and supporters to help confirm not just Johnsen, but two other Obama nominees--Judge David Hamilton nominated to serve on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and Governor Kathleen Sebelius, nominated to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

Johnsen served as legal director for NARAL from 1988-1993 during which time she filed a brief which contained a footnote arguing that forcing a woman to carry a child to term against her will is "disturbingly suggestive of involuntary servitude". The quote has raised the ire of conservative groups and Republicans, including Sen. Arlen Specter who met with Johnsen last week to discuss that and other issues.

The group comes to the defense of their former colleague at a time when reports suggest that Republicans are contemplating a filibuster of her appointment.

NARAL's full statement follows below. Back in February, the umbrella group civilrights.org sent a letter to Specter and Judiciary committee chairman Patrick Leahy urging them to support Johnsen's nomination. Among the signatories were NARAL, the National Abortion Federation, National Council of Jewish Women, National Organization for Women, National Partnership for Women & Families, and the National Women's Law Center.

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And the count just keeps getting crazier in NY-20, with Democrat Scott Murphy now on the top end of this see-saw result.

The state's latest official results put Republican candidate Jim Tedisco ahead by 97 votes, as the counties have double-checked their spreadsheets. But now the latest numbers from Washington County give Murphy a 180-vote pickup compared to the state's figures, for an overall lead of 83 votes.

The numbers were first reported by PolitickerNY, and confirmed to TPM by the county.

Arlen Specter maybe an unknown for now, but Dawn Johnsen may also find an unlikely ally in Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn.

Back in 2005, during the nuclear option imbroglio Coburn took a fairly absolutist position on the Senate's advise and consent powers, telling the newspaper Tulsa World that no presidential nomination should ever be filibustered. "There is a defined charge to the president and the Senate on advice and consent," he said.

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The latest numbers have been posted in the NY-20 special election, with Republican candidate Jim Tedisco ahead by 97 votes, as the counties go through the process of correcting errors in their spreadsheets.

Democratic candidate Scott Murphy had ended Election Night up by 65 votes, but the numbers have swung around since then. The state's official numbers from Friday had shown an exact tie, with Murphy then picking up votes in one county later in the day and another as of today. But obviously, Tedisco has made up the difference somewhere else.

This doesn't include any of the nearly 7,000 absentee ballots that have been returned so far, though, which brings us to the next piece of news: Dutchess County Judge James V. Brands has handed down an order that absentee ballots other than the military and overseas votes are to be counted on Wednesday, ruling against Tedisco's efforts to delay the count.

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Senate Republicans may or may not mount a filibuster of Dawn Johnsen, but if they do, it will be a numbers game. Assuming Al Franken is still all tied up in court, Democrats will need at least two Republicans to cross over and vote to end debate on her nomination or it may go nowhere.

One of those Republicans could be Arlen Specter who's the ranking member on the Judiciary committee and the only member of that committee who didn't vote against moving the nomination to the floor. More specifically, he didn't vote at all. He took a pass, saying he'd have to meet with Johnsen personally before he made a decision.

Well, I've just confirmed that the two did meet at the end of last week, and, with that all wrapped up, Specter is...still undecided about the appointment.

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