TPM News

After hearing that Kentucky senate candidate Rand Paul created his own National Board of Ophthalmology to certify himself, Stephen Colbert said last night that Paul "has inspired me to exercise my constitutional right to call myself an ophthalmologist."

So Colbert created his own "USA Board of Ophthalmologist Freedom," and with the help of his cat Professor Buttons, performed Lasik eye surgery on a bespectacled, and unsuspecting, intern.

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The Hill reports that staffers for Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) have told the Senate Ethics Committee that their boss knew he was breaking a one-year lobbying ban when he helped a former staffer set himself up as a lobbyist.

In depositions to the committee, Ensign's staffers said several aides openly discussed helping to get lobbying gigs for former staffer Doug Hampton, after Ensign had an affair with Hampton's wife. The aides also discussed that such help apparently violated a one-year ban on Congressional staffers moving to K Street, sources close to the investigation told The Hill.

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North Carolinians made their choice in the 13th Congressional District Republican runoff last night. And most of them went with the guy whose take on the worst environmental disaster in the nation's history makes Oliver Stone's JFK look like a Ken Burns documentary.

Bill Randall, a tea partier who made headlines with his suggestion that BP and the federal government worked together to blow up the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig in April, decisively won last night's runoff, defeating magazine publisher (and relatively more mainstream Republican) Bernie Reeves by a margin of 59% to 41%. Randall will now carry his party's flag to the general election, where he'll face incumbent Rep. Brad Miller (D).

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Gen. Stanley McChrystal, walking into the Pentagon this morning for a meeting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, denied reports that he's already offered to resign his post as general in charge of the Afghanistan War.

"Come on, you know better than that. No!" he told an NBC News reporter.

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It seems that Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) doesn't have the most discriminating standards when it comes to who he employs on his staff: ABC today tells the dark story of Vitter legislative assistant Brent Furer, who was accused in a 2008 criminal case of assaulting his girlfriend with a knife but nevertheless remains on the job at the senator's office.

Furer, who has worked on Vitter's staff since 2005, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor threat and property destruction charges after the January 2008 incident involving him and his girlfriend, Nicolia Demopoulos.

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NRCC chairman Pete Sessions, whose job it is to increase GOP ranks in the House, says Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) will likely retain his post as the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Asked last night after a House vote if Barton may face further repercussions for apologizing to BP CEO Tony Hayward, Sessions told reporters that Barton's already paid his penance.

"I don't think that's the direction we're headed in," Sessions said. "...I believe that Joe has adequately addressed the issue."

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Attorney Mike Lee has won the Republican Senate primary in Utah, the Associated Press projects, defeating businessman Tim Bridgewater after they had jointly knocked out incumbent GOP Sen. Bob Bennett last month.

With 84% of precincts reporting, Lee leads Bridgewater by 52%-48%. Bennett was eliminated at his state Republican convention in May, due in part to anger among the regular grassroots over his vote for TARP, combined with the new rise of anti-incumbent Tea Party activism. Lee and Bridgewater then went on to face each other in a primary, as neither received the 60% delegate vote needed to clinch the nomination outright. Bridgewater very nearly took the nomination with 57% of the delegates, but Lee was able to win tonight.

After the convention, Bennett subsequently endorsed Bridgewater, choosing from among the two opponents who had previously defeated him, while groups such as the Tea Party Express backed Lee -- with the latter winning out. Lee is heavily favored to win election in this deep-red state, which voted for John McCain by a 63%-34% margin in 2008, and last voted for a Democratic Senator in 1970.

Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), a Blue Dog who was forced into a primary as a result of his vote against the health care bill, has easily survived the challenge from educator Claudia Wright.

With 31% of precincts reporting, Matheson leads Wright by 68%-32%. At the state Democratic convention in May, Matheson received 55% of the delegate vote against Wright's 45%, short of the 60% threshold needed to be nominated without any primary at all in Utah.

But in the end, Matheson's incumbency -- and far superior war chest -- easily put him over the top against his more liberal challenger. It should also be noted that the district voted 58%-40% for John McCain in 2008, and 66%-31% for George W. Bush in 2004. So had Matheson lost his nomination to a liberal challenger, the district would have stood a strong chance of going to the Republicans.

It's the end of an era in South Carolina politics -- with a son of the legendary Strom Thurmond losing a Republican primary for Congress against a Tea Party-backed candidate.

In the race to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Henry Brown, state Rep. Tim Scott has defeated Charleston County Commissioner Paul Thurmond, the 34-year-old son of the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC), who died in 2003 at age 100. With 83% of precincts reporting, Scott leads by 69%-31%. Scott, who led in the first round of the primary two weeks ago with 31% to Thurmond's 16%, had the support of elements of the Tea Party movement, as well as the endorsement of Sarah Palin. If he is elected in this Republican-leaning district, Scott would be the first black Republican in Congress since the retirement of Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK) in 2002.

The elder Thurmond was a legend of state politics. Elected governor in 1946 as a conservative Southern Democrat, Thurmond led the Dixiecrat ticket in 1948 on a staunchly segregationist platform, winning 39 electoral votes in the deep South. He was later elected to the Senate in 1954 -- the only person to ever be elected to the Senate as a write-in candidate -- and switched to the Republican Party in 1964, serving until his retirement in 2002.

Another incumbent member of Congress has gone down in defeat in their primary -- and in this case, it's a big win for the Tea Party-style right and a defeat for GOP moderation, with Rep. Bob Inglis losing to Spartanburg County Solicitor Trey Gowdy.

With 75% of precincts reporting, Gowdy leads Inglis by a whopping 73%-27%. In the first-round primary two weeks ago, Gowdy had actually come in first place with 39%, and Inglis was behind at 28% -- practically the death-knell for the incumbent. In the home stretch of the primary, Inglis appeared on the Colbert Report, in an interview making fun of his own dire straits, and even included a joke about the Birthers.

Inglis had been targeted for defeat by the right, due his various heresies from core conservative doctrines: He has called for action on climate change, told Tea Partiers to "turn Glenn Beck off," and he called upon fellow South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson to apologize for yelling "You lie" at President Obama during that famous addresses to Congress in September 2009. Combine that with a general anti-incumbent, anti-Washington mood in the country, and you have one defeated Congressman.

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