TPM News

With the expected news that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is opting to run for Senate as an independent, the general election is set to have two major candidates -- Crist and presumptive GOP nominee Marco Rubio -- tarred by the wide-ranging spending scandal that is rocking the state Republican Party.

The scandal -- in which GOP officials are accused of spending party money on lavish personal expenses along with other financial malfeasance -- is tailor-made for attacks ads come the general election season, which is shaping up to be a three-way contest among Crist, Rubio, and likely Democratic nominee Rep. Kendrick Meek.

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Today: Crist's Big Announcement Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) is widely expected to announce today that he will leave the Republican primary for Senate, and instead run for Senate as an independent. Crist's official announcement is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET, in his hometown of St. Petersburg.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will receive the presidential briefing at 9 a.m. ET. At 10 a.m., the President, Vice President and First Lady will attend the funeral of civil rights activist Dorothy Height, at the National Cathedral, with Obama delivering remarks. Obama and Biden will have lunch at 12:30 p.m. ET. Obama will deliver remarks in the Rose Garden at 1:40 p.m. ET, honoring the 2010 National Teacher of the Year. Obama and Biden will meet at 4:30 p.m. ET with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Obama will attend a DNC fundraising dinner at 7:35 p.m. ET, at a private residence.

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With Congress seemingly out of the immigration reform business for the moment, all debate on the topic has shifted to Arizona's controversial new law. With no national bill to talk about, politicians are positioning themselves on the Arizona legislation in order to grab hold of a growing wave of discussion about immigration the law has sparked.

Thanks in part to the bill's tough language -- which critics say puts anyone who even appears to be Latino under suspicion in the eyes of the law -- the lines being drawn nationally on the bill do not always reflect the traditional Republican vs. Democratic order of things, though national Democrats do seem to be leading the way on calling for repeal or blockage of the law in the court.

The debate on the Republican side so far seems to come down to this: Where you are, who you are and what you're running for.

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Aboard Air Force One last night, President Obama called Arizona's controversial new immigration law "a mistake" -- and said he'll need the help of Republicans to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year.

"What I think is a mistake is when we start having local law enforcement officials empowered to stop people on the suspicion that they may be undocumented workers, because that carries a great amount of risk that core values that we all care about are breached," he said.

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President Obama told the traveling press pool aboard Air Force One yesterday that he's "very pleased that the United States Senate has decided to proceed to the financial regulatory bill."

"It is the right thing to do," the president said. "And I want to reiterate what I said earlier, that this shouldn't have to be a partisan issue. Republicans, Democrats, independents -- everybody was hurt by the crisis on Wall Street."

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Arizona may be making headlines these days for putting the AZ in CRAZY, but it's definitely not the only state that's been passing legislation that's controversial, misguided, or just plain bizarre.

As we documented, Arizona has introduced a wave of conservative legislation over the past year or so, leading up to a law that makes it a state crime to be an illegal immigrant, and requires law enforcement officials to demand papers from anyone they suspect to be in the country illegally.

This got us thinking -- Arizona can't be the only state that's produced some head-scratchers recently. And with the help of TPM readers, we found that we were right...

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Without a single objection, Republicans tonight dropped their three day filibuster of financial reform legislation, agreeing unanimously to debate the Democrats' bill on the Senate floor.

Though clearly a big defeat for the Republicans, their line tonight is that they endured this week's political maelstrom for a substantive reason: to allow Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) to extract as many concessions out of Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd as he could. When Dodd said no more, they relented. Of course, bipartisan talks have broken down several times before, without Republicans relenting, and if you scratch below the surface, you find that the GOP's calculation was rooted more in an understanding that the caucus didn't have an appetite for endless obstruction this time around.

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Today is the one-year anniversary of when Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) switched to the Democratic Party, after 28 previous years as a Republican Senator. And this has become one of the most interesting races of the cycle -- starting with a Republican Senator in danger of losing his primary, then him becoming a Democrat in order to avoid that fate, and now lingering in a state of political peril similar to the rest of his newfound party in this cycle.

Until last fall, Specter narrowly led Toomey in the polls. But the drag on Democratic fortunes since the fall has taken a toll on Specter just as it has for other Dems. The TPM Poll Average shows him trailing his long-time Republican nemesis Toomey by a margin of 45.2%-39.6%. On the bright side for him, he leads Sestak in the Democratic primary by a margin of 45.0%-29.8%. The primary is three weeks away, and TV ads have just begun running in heavy amounts.

For today's anniversary, Toomey's campaign has marked the occasion by promoting a money-bomb fundraiser, with a goal of raising $280,000 today. As of this writing, they slightly over $150,000.

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On CNN tonight, RNC Chairman Michael Steele addressed Arizona's controversial new immigration law -- seeming to come out both for and against it.

The law makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally, and requires local law enforcement to ask for papers from anyone they reasonably suspect is in the country illegally.

First off, Steele said "the governor of Arizona acted in the best interests of the people of Arizona." Other governors, he continued, might act differently in their own states, and "that's why the federal action at this time is so important."

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RNC Chairman Michael Steele defended the RNC's 'Census' mailer in an appearance on CNN a few minutes ago, saying the mailer "complied to what the law required."

The RNC mailer bears the words "Census Document" and, in all caps, "DO NOT DESTROY/OFFICIAL DOCUMENT," on the outside of the envelope. In smaller letters, it says: "This is not a U.S. government document."

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