TPM News

The new survey of Minnesota from Public Policy Polling (D) finds President Obama leading various potential Republican challengers for 2012 -- including the state's departing governor, Tim Pawlenty. And not only that, but this poll has an extra-bad data point for Pawlenty. Mitt Romney actually does better in Minnesota than Minnesota's governor.

Obama carried Minnesota by a 54%-44% margin against John McCain in 2008. The state has not voted Republican at the presidential level since the Nixon landslide of 1972. It was the only state to vote for its Democratic native son Walter Mondale in the Reagan landslide of 1984, but in fact he won it only narrowly.

In this poll, Obama leads Newt Gingrich by 51%-38%, leads Mike Huckabee by 50%-40%, and trounces Sarah Palin by 54%-36%. As it turns out, he leads Pawlenty by 51%-43%, but only leads Romney by 47%-42%.

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South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) has stumbled upon a simple formula for legislating: experience a career-killing scandal. The term-limited Republican, who will leave office in January, saw his upward political trajectory apparently end in June 2009, after he disappeared for six days and later admitted he'd run off to Argentina to be with his lover. But his approval ratings have bounced back (Rasmussen recently pegged him at an Obama-would-be-envious 55%) and in an interview with WISTV this week, he credited the scandal itself with helping him accomplish a number of things in his last legislative session. How's that?

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Staff for Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who Democrats point to as the woman who can make or break Don't Ask, Don't Tell's repeal in the Senate this year, say their boss is negotiating in "good faith" on a compromise that will allow a cloture vote on the Senate defense spending bill containing the repeal language.

And when I asked whether they were making progress, I was told that "yes," and that "negotiations continue."

"Senator Collins is working in good faith with the Majority Leader to come up with a fair process under which the Defense Authorization bill could be considered," spokesperson Kevin Kelly told TPM. "She and Senator Lieberman met with the Majority Leader last week and they shared with him very specific information about how the Defense Authorization bill has been handled in the past."

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Here's an interesting tidbit we can thank jailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for: according to cables included in the recent WikiLeaks document drop, informants have told diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia that American television-particularly Fox News Channel and David Letterman's Late Show-are proving to be powerful weapons against "violent jihad."

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Yesterday, House Republicans dealt the Tea Party and conservative advocacy groups a blow by electing Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) to chair the powerful Appropriations Committee next year.

Rogers is a famous earmarker, and a lot of critics see this as a harbinger that the GOP earmark ban might not be as ironclad as they'd like folks to believe. But just how much earmarking did Rogers really do? Enough to be named "Porker of the Month" by an anti-pork pressure group just four months ago.

Citizens Against Government Waste saddled Rogers with the award for "sponsoring legislation that could give federal funding to his daughter's nonprofit organization, which promotes overseas wildlife protection for cheetahs."

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Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and Fox News' Megyn Kelly this afternoon spent the better part of 10 minutes talking over each other on the White House's compromise with Republicans to temporarily extend the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans.

Weiner lamented the fact that the House in the past two years has sent more than 200 bills to the Senate only to see them "die," which he said makes it essentially impossible to get much of anything done.

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A Baltimore man was arrested by the FBI this morning in connection with what the feds say was a plot to attack an armed forces recruiting station in Catonsville, Md., with what the suspect thought was a car bomb.

"There was no actual danger to the public as the explosives were inert and the suspect had been carefully monitored by law enforcement for months," Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd told TPM in a statement. "There is no evidence this individual is tied to the recent shootings at military recruiting centers in the Washington, D.C. metro area."

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Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) confirms that he's still negotiating with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) to bring a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell to the Senate floor as early as today. In a statement just released to reporters from his office, Lieberman says that despite Democratic claims that Collins is holding up the works with "unreasonable" requests, the negotiations are continuing apace.

"Senator Collins has been working in good faith to achieve an agreement on the process to move forward with the defense bill that contains the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' I categorically reject reports by uninformed staffers who have suggested otherwise," Lieberman said. "As she always does, Senator Collins is working diligently and across party lines to find solutions to the challenges that confront our country."

Lieberman took a swipe at Democratic aides who are telling reporters that Collins doesn't seem willing to budge. "I call on those responsible for such baseless allegations to stop immediately and instead work to get to an agreement to bring this critical bill to the floor for Senate action."

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Maine's junior Senator, the Republican Susan Collins, has the power to end the military's ban on openly gay soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen today -- or the ability to crush the hopes of those hoping to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell this year, according to a Democratic aide. It's her choice, says the Senate Democratic aide, who has direct knowledge of the talks leading up to today's planned cloture vote on the defense spending bill that contains the repeal language.

The aide says supporters of repeal have all the votes they need to move the bill to a final vote, save for Collins, who has been the focus of a coordinated campaign to shift her position by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and President Obama, who the aide said called Collins yesterday to lobby her on DADT.

All three have attempted to get Collins to budge from her position that a cloture vote on the defense bill must be preceded by unlimited debate, which in Senate parlance means any Senator -- including the many vocal opponents of DADT repeal -- could offer a "non-germane amendment" (the aide suggested repeal of the health care law as an example) that would shut down debate and prevent a final vote on DADT. The aide said that an unlimited debate process would be all but unprecedented on a defense spending bill, and amounts to an "unreasonable demand" on Collins' part.

Now, with the hours ticking down until Reid announces a cloture vote on the defense bill, Democrats are waiting for Collins' counteroffer to their proposal to offer ten amendments before the final vote, which the aide says is a good faith effort to give Collins what she has professed to need all along.

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Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hit back at critics of the settlement reached between the government and African-American farmers who say they were discriminated against by the Agriculture Department. Conservatives said the legislation, which President Barack Obama is set to sign into law today, has the potential for fraud.

TPM asked at a news conference this morning what the government was doing to combat fraud in the Pigford settlement.

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