TPM News

So what exactly is going on in Connecticut, the seat where 30-year incumbent Democrat Chris Dodd is retiring? It was widely believed since Dodd's retirement that this would be an easy hold for Dem state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. But the latest polls show Republican former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon making up ground -- and conventional wisdom has been moving accordingly.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Bringing The Smackdown: Linda McMahon's Campaign For Senate, And Her Colorful Pro-Wrestling Past]

When Dodd announced his retirement back in January, the first survey numbers from Public Policy Polling (D) showed Blumenthal way ahead of McMahon by a margin of 60%-28%, compared to Dodd only tying her at 43%-43%. A Quinnipiac poll taken soon after gave Blumenthal a similar lead of 64%-23%. But now a Quinnipiac poll from last week had McMahon narrowing the gap to just 51%-45%.

The TPM Poll Average currently gives Blumenthal a narrow lead of 50.3%-43.0%. And as the graph below shows, he has been losing support -- and she has been gaining -- each with very even and consistent slopes.

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During one of her many appearances on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher in the '90s, Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell (R-DE) sparred with now-Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) over sex, condoms and hypocrisy.

The first topic: A provision in then-President Bill Clinton's welfare reform bill that would fund sex ed, but only if the curriculum taught that extra-marital sex "will have harmful physical and psychological effects."

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Bill Clinton: 'I Was Wrong' That Health Care Law Would Become Popular Quickly Appearing on Meet The Press, former President Bill Clinton said he was wrong to have predicted that the health care reform law would be immediately popular after being signed into law: "Well, I was wrong about that for two reasons. First of all, the benefits of the bill are spread out over three or four years. It takes a long time to implement it. And secondly, there was--there's been an enormous and highly effective attack on it. But I think it's important. Let's--forget about the politics. Let's talk about the facts here. The real reason that the interest groups want to repeal, not fix health care, is that they like the way it's going now. They're dumping people every year and making the government pick them up. We are spending 17.2 percent of our income on health care. None of our wealthy competitors spend more than 10 1/2. Yet our infant mortality rate is higher than theirs, our overall mortal--age expectancy is lower than theirs. We don't have a better health system than they do. What's happened? That's a trillion dollars we spot our competitors every year for a health system that doesn't work as well. The people that are getting a trillion dollars have a lot of money to spread all this information--misinformation."

Kaine: Dems 'Proud Of The Accomplishment' Of Health Care Legislation Appearing on State of the Union, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine said that the new health care law would be politically beneficial to the party. "I travel all over the country. I guess I've been in about 42 states, and most Democrats that I see on the trail are very proud of the accomplishment and they're talking about it," said Kaine. In response to Democrats who have touted their votes against the bill, Kaine said: "Some, particularly House members in districts that, you know, can often get gerrymandered and become tough districts are distancing themselves from the health care bill. I don't tell people how to run their races, but I've been on a ballot seven times and won seven races, and in my experience, you ought to be proud of what you're doing and promote the accomplishments."

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Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) is the valueiest politician around. At least that's what participants in the 2010 Values Voter straw poll think. Pence, whose 2012 presidential aspirations are no secret, swept both the presidential and vice-presidential polls.

Pence gave a raucous and engaging speech to the crowd here Friday, which Family Research Council president Tony Perkins told me was at least partially responsible for his double win. Pence, of course, wasn't the only presidential hopeful to address the crowd yesterday. Rick Santorum spoke, too, though his sixth place finish suggests (by Perkins' logic) that people here were unmoved by his morality-focused speech. Mitt Romney tried to slay 'em in the aisles with a series of one-liners that seemed to amuse the crowd here. He came in third in today's results.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Morals, Morals, Morals! Conservatives Gather For Values Voter Summit]

Last year's winner straw poll winner, Mike Huckabee, also addressed the crowd yesterday, ripping into the health care reform law with what can only be described as true relish. He finished second in the presidential poll.

Sarah Palin, who didn't show up here at all, finished fifth in the presidential poll and second in the veepstakes. Because Pence won both polls, Palin was declared the winner of the VP straw poll, meaning -- if it means anything -- that participants here hope to have Pence/Palin bumper stickers on their cars come 2012.

"What a dream ticket," Perkins told the crowd.

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Christine O'Donnell, the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate from Delaware, had been set to appear on CBS' "Face the Nation" and "Fox News Sunday" tomorrow, but has scrapped both appearances to attend campaign events, including a picnic, the AP reported.

O'Donnell's planned appearance on the Sunday shows would have put her in the position of answering tough questions about her track record of attention-grabbing statements on pre-marital sex, Joe Biden allegedly tapping her phone and her own dabbling in witchcraft.

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Obama: 'The Special Interests Want To Take Congress Back' And GOP Is Helping Them In this weekend's YouTube address, President Obama blasted Republicans for blocking a vote on the DISCLOSE Act, which would mitigate the Citizens United decision by forcing transparency of corporate funding of political advertisements.

"Now, the special interests want to take Congress back, and return to the days when lobbyists wrote the laws," said Obama. "And a partisan minority in Congress is hoping their defense of these special interests and the status quo will be rewarded with a flood of negative ads against their opponents. It's a power grab, pure and simple. They're hoping they can ride this wave of unchecked influence all the way to victory."

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The second morning of speeches at the Values Voter Summit here in DC was dominated by a man who is swiftly becoming the nation's spokesperson for Islamophobia -- former House speaker Newt Gingrich. Fresh off the release of his Islam-focused film "America At Risk," Gingrich told the crowd at VVS that it's time to take federal action to prevent Shariah Law from infiltrating courtrooms in the US.

"We should have a federal law that says sharia law cannot be recognized by any court in the United States," Gingrich said to a standing ovation from the audience. The law will let judges know, Gingrich said, that "no judge will remain in office that tried to use sharia law."

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Morals, Morals, Morals! Conservatives Gather For Values Voter Summit]

Gingrich made a not-so-subtle reference to the right wing meme about freshly-minted Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan which claims that Kagan is "sympathetic" to Shariah and -- as some suggested during her confirmation hearings -- might allow it to be recognized as law in the United States.

But beyond the Kagan hit, Gingrich's anti-Shariah talk inserted him directly into the most extreme end of the Islamophobic push-back against mosque projects all over the country.

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Eleven years ago a boisterous Christine O'Donnell confessed to Bill Maher and his ABC audience that she'd dated a witch, "dabbled into witchcraft" and even went on a midnight date involving blood on an altar.

Maher aired the Oct. 29, 1999 clip last night on the season premiere of his HBO show "Real Time." You can watch it below. Maher repeatedly called O'Donnell a "nice" person, and twice noted, "I created her!"

O'Donnell appeared on his "Politically Incorrect" nearly two dozen times, speaking about her faith and her conservative beliefs. Now she is the Republican Senate nominee in Delaware.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Christine O'Donnell: Anti-Masturbation Crusader. Witchcraft Dabbler. Republican Senate Nominee.]

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) took the floor tonight in the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage to announce that she was not going to give up her Senate seat so easily. Instead, she plans to mount a write-in campaign to win re-election -- a feat only ever successfully accomplished by Strom Thurmond in 1954.

"Come November," she told supporters, "if you stand by me, I will stand by Alaska." She promised supporters that, unlike in the primary, the gloves would be off. And, to prove it, in addition to the expected swings at Republican candidate Joe Miller, she took an open swipe at Sarah Palin -- promising not to "quit on Alaska."

She also told supporters, "Alaska is not fair game for outside extremists," tweaking the Tea Party Express and its outreach efforts on behalf of Miller in the state.

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