TPM News

Rep. Joe Sestak (D) has closed the gap with former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) in the Pennsylvania Senate race, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University out this morning. The survey of 1,367 shows the race tied up at 43-43, with a margin of error of 2.7%.

The TPM Poll Average for the race also shows the race to be a dead-heat, with Sestak drawing 42.6% to Toomey's 42.5%.

Sestak -- who was not the choice of establishment Democrats in part because of questions about his electability in the November race -- has seen a steady increase in his poll numbers since winning the nomination May 18. But this new poll shows most voters still haven't formed an opinion of either candidate, giving each man room to grab a lead by defining the other.

Still, the fact that Sestak is running neck-and-neck with Toomey is a real vindication for his supporters, who saw prominent Democrats from Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell to officials in the White House warn the party that a Sestak candidacy would be a non-starter in the general election.

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Conservative political groups and the NAACP have rarely been friendly. But their already cool relationship has taken a turn for the frosty in the past several days, as the NACCP took direct aim at the tea party movement at its national convention in Kansas City. Last night, delegates at the convention unanimously passed a resolution calling on the tea party movement to "repudiate the racist elements and activities" of its membership in the past.

The reaction from the right is as you'd imagine it.

Scattered incidents of bigotry at tea party rallies have been well documented over the last year, and even tea party leaders have admitted that racism -- among other nasty -isms and -obias -- can be found at tea party demonstrations. So to critics of the NAACP then, the argument essentially comes down this: tea party bigotry is tangential to the movement, not central to it.

NAACP president Benjamin Jealous agrees with that, and rejects the idea that the NAACP is taking on the ideals of all tea partiers.

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Alabama state Rep. Robert Bentley has won the Republican primary for governor, defeating former state community college system chancellor Bradley Byrne in the race to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. Bob Riley.

With 81% of precincts reporting, Bentley leads Byrne by 56%-44%. Back in the June 1 first-round primary, Byrne led with 28% of the vote, with Bentley just barely edging out businessman Tim James for second place at 25% apiece.

This race has seen its fair share of wacky stuff. A teachers union opposed to Byrne set up a phony conservative PAC attacking him on the grounds that he's for teaching evolution -- prompting him to assure the public that he is a staunch creationist. As for Bentley, he came under scrutiny for his ads depicting him as a "Hospital Commander Vietnam War," when in fact he did not serve overseas in Vietnam at all, but was instead a doctor at a military base in North Carolina.

Bentley will now face Democratic state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who won his nomination outright back on June 1.

The Rick Barber revolution has come to an end -- at least for tonight.

Barber, the businessman and Tea Party-backed House candidate who attracted the national spotlight after he ran an ad in which he met with America's founding fathers (played by actors) and talked to them about the tyranny of the Obama administration -- followed by George Washington saying "Gather your armies" -- has been defeated in the Republican primary runoff for Alabama's Second District. With 83% of precincts reporting, Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby leads by 61%-39%.

Back in the June 1 first-round primary, Roby fell just short of the 50% needed to avoid a runoff, with 49% to Barber's 29%. Barber then gained national prominence through the "gather your armies" ad, and another spot in which Abraham Lincoln declared that modern taxation and government social spending was "slavery." (Never mind that Lincoln was a lifelong champion of the big-government policies of his day, the Whig "internal improvements.")

Roby will now face conservative Democratic Rep. Bobby Bright, who won his first term with 50.2% of the vote in 2008. The district voted 63%-37% for John McCain in 2008, so Roby could have a chance here. As for Rick Barber...who knows what he'll do next.

Moments after Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) condemned his Congressional challenger Ed Martin (R-MO) for remarks Martin made about Carnahan's faith, Martin said in a statement to TPM that he stands by the comments.

As we reported, Martin said on the "Dr. Gina show" that the growth of government endangers freedom to worship and, "[T]hat's one of the things that we have to be very, very aware of that the Obama Administration and Congressman Carnahan are doing to us." In his statement tonight Martin defends himself, saying the Obama administration already has "abolished" many freedoms.

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Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) tonight tore into his Republican rival for suggesting that Carnahan and President Obama are trying to "take away" religious freedom. Carnahan said in a statement that Ed Martin (R-MO) is engaging in "fear mongering" that proves his true character.

As TPM reported last night, Martin said on a conservative radio show Tuesday that the growth of government endangers religious freedom and the "ultimate freedom ... to get your salvation." He said on the "Dr. Gina show" that "[T]hat's one of the things that we have to be very, very aware of that the Obama Administration and Congressman Carnahan are doing to us."

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Gov. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has released an official proposal for a proposed state law to clear up the legal situation on replacing the late Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd, which will be debated and potentially passed in a special legislative session this week:

If the legislation is passed, then the governor can proclaim an election this November to fill the U.S. Senate seat, which would include a special primary election, probably to be held in August or September.

...

There are various election deadlines, some that are in federal law and cannot be waived, that the state must follow in order to hold a valid special election that includes a primary. The governor and the secretary of state have been meeting with a bipartisan group of county clerks to outline the process for a special primary and special general election.

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For weeks, Senate Republicans have filibustered an extension of unemployment benefits on the grounds that Democrats aren't willing to cut spending or raise taxes to pay for them. At the same time, the Bush tax cuts are set to expire, and Republicans want them to be renewed. For two days, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl has raised eyebrows by insisting that emergency aid to unemployed people -- what he called a "necessary evil" -- be paid for through either tax hikes or spending cuts, while the tax cuts (which mostly benefit wealthy people) not be offset in any way. Yesterday claimed that this view is shared by "most of the people in my party."

He was correct.

"That's been the majority Republican view for some time," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told TPMDC this afternoon after the weekly GOP press conference. "That there's no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy. So I think what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject."

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