TPM News

by Lois Beckett ProPublica

As we've been documenting in our ongoing series, political parties and other powerful players use the once-a-decade redistricting process to advance their own goals--often at the expense of voters.

A recently released trove of e-mails from Ohio offers a rare inside glimpse into how it works.

The e-mails, sent from June to September, show collaboration between the national GOP and state Republicans to re-draw Ohio's map and thus cement control of both the statehouse and a majority of congressional districts.

In one of the emails, a Republican consultant working on redistricting for the state suggested that the new political maps could save the GOP "millions" of dollars in campaign funds by making districts safer for Republican candidates.

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the frontrunner in Iowa, despite having next to no campaign organization there. His strength in the state -- and elsewhere -- seems largely based on the enthusiasm generated from his combative debate performances.

But while there's been evidence that Gingrich's lead is a bit stronger than other previous flash-in-the-pan frontrunners, because he challenges former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney on the key question of electability, he's still the latest love of a fickle GOP electorate. And new polling data suggests that the race will continue to shift even though Newt stands to do better than the previous flavors of the month.

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The Obama administration is continuing to review a compromise struck between the House and Senate on the National Defense Authorization Act that congressional leaders believe solves the issues over the detention of terrorism suspects that caused the White House to issue a veto threat. But civil liberties groups have already given the proposal their assessment, and they don't like what they see.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) announced the changes Monday night, saying that the conference report "provides a number of additional assurances that there will be no interference with civilian interrogations or other law enforcement activities." A Justice Department spokesman told TPM they were still assessing the compromise, while a White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Civil liberties groups, on the other hand, contend the changes aren't enough. Take this language, added to the bill last night:

'Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect the existing criminal enforcement and national security authorities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or any other domestic law enforcement agency with regard to a covered person, regardless of whether such covered person is held in military custody.'

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With less than a month to go until the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, you'd probably think the candidate with the most offices and the the biggest operation in the Hawkeye State would be a Republican.

You'd be wrong.

The Obama campaign is touting what it says is already a superior ground operation in Iowa, saying the offices and thousands of volunteer hours it already has up and running in the state are a sign that it's better prepared for the general election than the other side.

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The new national poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal shows the biggest lead for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich yet: Gingrich hit 40 percent in the new survey, followed by former Mass. Gov Mitt Romney with 23, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) 9, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) at 8, Texas Gov. Rick Perry 6, former UT Gov. Jon Huntsman with 5, and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) 3.

It was fun while it lasted -- which is to say, it wasn't much fun at all. Donald Trump's debate died Tuesday afternoon, a little more than a week after it was announced.

Perhaps it was doomed from the start. Trump couldn't pull together enough candidates to fill the podiums: Only Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum agreed to participate. The others cited concerns over Trump's flirtation with an independent bid if his favorite candidate isn't nominated. So enough is enough, Trump decided. Here's Trump's full statement Tuesday:

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Former Minnesota governor and current Mitt Romney surrogate Tim Pawlenty is pushing the current Romney camp line against Newt – that Gingrich is a flip-flopper. This time he’s going after the current frontrunner for flopping on foreign policy, and Libya in particular.

George Stephanopoulos will replace Christiane Amanpour as host of ABC’s This Week, the AP reports. Stephanopoulos will stay on as host of “Good Morning America” during the week. Amanpour will return to CNN to anchor a weekday program, CNN announced Tuesday, but also continue reporting for ABC News.

A new national poll of the Republican primary race from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal will be out on Tuesday evening. They teased a portion of the results in the afternoon: the survey will show that only 21 percent of the GOP electorate describes their field of presidential candidates as "strong," while 27 percent think it's weak and 51 percent see it as average.

Hardly a rip-roaring battle cry for the party trying to take back the White House, but not a complete shock either. Conservative Republicans have moved from candidate to candidate in an attempt to find someone besides former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, and the oscillation seems to show no one potential nominee can fully captivate the party faithful.

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