TPM News

Gov. John Hoeven (R-ND), the GOP frontrunner to win the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan, has an interesting wrinkle in his political history: When he first got into politics 14 years ago, he proclaimed himself to be a Democrat -- and strongly denied any implication that he was a Republican.

The North Decoder blog dug up a letter that Hoeven wrote to a local newspaper in 1996. At the time, Hoeven was president of North Dakota's state-run bank, and was eyeing a possible run for governor, which he ultimately did as a Republican in 2000. "I have always been moderate in my political views, but now that I am considering elective office, I realize I must join a political party and stick to it," Hoeven wrote in 1996. "I have decided to join the Democratic-NPL Party because I believe that is the best fit for my views."

Also in his 1996 letter, Hoeven strongly rejected the suggestion that he could be a Republican: "What people don't want is partisan politics as usual. The effort by overly partisan members of the Republican Party to cast me as one of their own is just that, partisan politics as usual." So we asked Hoeven's campaign manager, why did he end up becoming a Republican instead?

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Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), the Congressman who was rocketed to fame last year when he shouted "You lie!" during a presidential address, says he's not planning a repeat performance at tonight's State of the Union. He is, however, planning his own live response to the speech.

"That was a one-time incident," Wilson told McClatchy Newspapers. "I will continue, through my agreement with the White House, to discuss issues civilly."

But he does plan to give his own response to Obama, and will stream it live on his Facebook page tonight at 10:30 ET.

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Bad news for those planning to attend the Feb. 4 Lincoln Day Dinner of the Salt Lake County Republicans: the keynote speaker, James O'Keefe, won't be making it after all.

O'Keefe, the filmmaker famous for dressing up as a pimp in an ACORN video sting, was arrested with three other men Tuesday for allegedly attempting to tap the phones in Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D-LA) New Orleans office.

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Democratic insiders, members of Congress, and health care reformers are now ramping up pressure on the Senate to take procedural steps to assure a comprehensive bill can become law. The House is signaling that it's ready to pass the Senate's health care bill, but only if the Senate gives concrete signs that they will follow suit, and pass a separate amending bill through the budget reconciliation process--a move that is increasingly seen as a necessary precondition of a successful reform push.

Today, 49 leading health care experts--who recently urged the House to act--are now acknowledging that the House deserves an act of good faith from the upper chamber before it pulls the trigger on reform.

"Key differences between the bills, such as the scope of the tax on high-cost plans and the allocation of premium subsidies, should be negotiated through the reconciliation process. Key elements of a reconciliation compromise enjoy broad support in both houses," reads a new letter from the experts to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV); Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Max Baucus (D-MT); and President Obama. "Other discrepancies between the House and Senate bills can be addressed through other means."

Last Friday, we urged the House to adopt the Senate-passed bill along with improvements that can be immediately achieved through reconciliation. We urge the Senate to join the House in this effort, and we urge the President to sign both bills.

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In his new book, the former CIA operative who made the bombshell -- and thoroughly debunked -- claim that a terrorism suspect was made to talk after one waterboarding session has admitted he was wrong.

John Kiriakou made waves, and supplied the pro-torture crowd with ammunition, when he told ABC News in December 2007 that al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah gave information that prevented dozens of terrorist attacks after being waterboarded once, for about 30 seconds.

The claim was full of holes, and ABC admitted so, quietly. For one, Zubadayah was actually waterboarded at least 83 times, according to a Justice Department memo. And Kiriakou, the head of the man's capture team, was not present for his interrogation and instead relied on reports.

Kiriakou admits he was wrong on the second-to-last page of his new book, titled "The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror," according to Foreign Policy.

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Democrats tried their hardest to paint Rep. Mark Kirk as cozying up with conservatives to win his Senate primary bid and tea partiers made him public enemy No. 1, but he appears poised to capture the Republican nomination next Tuesday.

Kirk (R-IL) holds a wide advantage leading up to the primary, with a 33-point advantage over his nearest challenger Patrick Hughes.

As we reported, the Tea Party Nation said Kirk had a "consistently liberal" record and was their "next battle" after Republican Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts last week. The group asked tea partiers to help Hughes, and sent a followup email lauding Don Lowery, a circuit court judge also seeking the nomination. The group said any help for these conservative candidates over Kirk will help them "turn back the tide of liberalism and RINOs in our midst."

Despite these efforts, Kirk still has what seems to be a commanding lead in the primary. Our TPMPolltracker average has Kirk with 44.5 percent of the vote, compared with Hughes at 4.5 percent and the others trailing farther behind.

"This race is a battle for the soul of the Republican party," Hughes said in October, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

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Gibbs: 'Every President Makes Mistakes, Including Barack Obama' White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that President Obama will acknowledge that mistakes have been made during his first year in office. "The president is going to explain why he thinks the American people are angry and frustrated," said Gibbs, who also said that "every president makes mistakes, including Barack Obama."

Obama's Day Ahead: The State Of The Union President Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:30 a.m. ET. Obama will meet at 2 p.m. ET with senior advisers. At 9 p.m. ET, Obama will deliver his State of the Union address, to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol.

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Conservative new media figure Andrew Breitbart revealed last night on Hugh Hewitt's radio show that he pays a salary to James O'Keefe, the filmmaker who was charged yesterday in an alleged attempt to tamper witt the phones of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

But Breitbart, who runs the Big Government site where O'Keefe's now-famous ACORN sting videos were posted, is maintaining that he had no "connection to" the incident at Landrieu's New Orleans office.

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Last night on The Daily Show Harvard professor and Congressional Oversight Panel chair Elizabeth Warren gave Jon Stewart a brief and cogent history of the American economy and laid out the stakes for the economic reform now being considered by congress.

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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has learned a lesson from awkward State of the Union responses in years past, and tonight will offer his rebuttal to President Obama's speech in front of 300 people in the House of Delegates chamber.

McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin told TPMDC that the newly inaugurated governor will speak surrounded by family, supporters, government officials and lawmakers who will be seated on chairs on the risers behind him.

That image - and likely applause - will be a stark contrast to Gov. Bobby Jindal's response to the Obama speech (not officially a State of the Union since he'd just taken office) last year and to the two other Virginians tasked with the response during George W. Bush's presidency.

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