TPM News

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) has lost at his state Republican convention -- officially defeating him for re-nomination without a primary. He is the first incumbent Senator to lose re-election in 2010, a Republican driven from office by the anti-establishment conservative insurgency.

The results of the second ballot, courtesy of the Salt Lake Tribune: Businessman Tim Bridgewater 37%, attorney Mike Lee 36%, and the incumbent Sen. Bennett 27%. There will now be a final round of voting pitting Bridgewater against Lee, to see whether one of them can get 60% of the delegate vote and thus be nominated outright. If neither receives 60% of the delegate vote, the race will go to a primary on June 22.

It should of course be noted that Utah is one of the most conservative, Republican-friendly states in the nation. The last time it voted Democratic for president was in the 1964 Lyndon Johnson landslide; the last time it elected a Democratic Senator was 1970; and it voted for John McCain in 2008 by a margin of 63%-34%. So with that said, the eventual GOP nominee will be heavily favored to keep the seat in Republican hands.

Late Update: There will be a primary. Bridgewater took 57.28%, short of the magic 60%, to Lee's 42.72%.

Obama: 'This Is What Health Care Reform Is Achieving' In this weekend's YouTube address, President Obama promoted the benefits that he said the new health care reform law has already achieved.

"I've said before that implementing health insurance reform won't happen overnight, and it will require some tweaks and changes along the way. Ultimately, we'll have a system that provides more control for consumers, more accountability for insurance companies, and more affordable choices for uninsured Americans," said Obama. "But already, we are seeing how reform is improving the lives of millions of Americans. Already, we are watching small businesses learn that they will soon pay less for health care. We are seeing retirees realize they'll be able to keep their coverage and seniors realize they'll be able to afford their prescriptions. We're seeing consumers get a break from unfair rate hikes, patients get the care they need when they need it, and young adults get the security of knowing they can start off life with one less cost to worry about. At long last, this is what health care reform is achieving."

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Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican candidate for governor, paid George Rekers at least $60,900 to be an expert witness in 2008 while defending Florida's ban against gay couple adopting children. When a judge called Rekers' testimony neither "credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy," McCollum explicitly defended him in following briefs.

Rekers is currently embroiled in a scandal for hiring a male escort to accompany him on a trip to Europe. But he's also a leader in the ex-gay movement. He co-founded the Family Research Council and sits on the board of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. He has, by all accounts, dedicated his life to protecting children from the "harmful" influence of gay people.

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New battlelines are being drawn over offshore drilling in the race for the open U.S. Senate seat in Florida, and Democrats are attempting to get a political boost from Republican divisions on the issue.

From the Democratic candidate Rep. Kendrick Meek to rank-and-file state lawmakers, the Democrats are hammering at Republican Marco Rubio and Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running as an independent. They paint Rubio as an unflinching and foolish member of the "Drill, baby, drill" crowd and Crist as a political opportunist for considering their proposed ban on drilling. (Even though, of course, they want him on their side.) The issue is all the more messy thanks to the massive oil spill and the upcoming Senate race.

A Democratic source in the Florida legislature said Crist has been telling state lawmakers that he is strongly considering their request to hold a special session examining whether to ban certain offshore drilling. But of course that's all political too, since the main advocates for the ban of drilling within 5 miles of the coastline are running for statewide office. Alex Sink is running for governor and state Sen. Dan Gelber is running for attorney general. The Democrats held a press conference Thursday asking for Crist to order the session so they can craft language to put on the November ballot.

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George Rekers, a leader of the ex-gay movement who was caught recently employing a male escort, paid the escort $75 a day for his services during a 10-day trip to Europe, which included carrying luggage and daily one-hour massages, according to a contract obtained by CNN.

The escort, "Lucien," gave AC360 a copy of the contract, which also stipulated that Rekers would pay for his airfare. Lucien, which is not his real name, will appear on the show tonight.

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The Obama Administration is applying an old exception to the Miranda rule in a new way in order to interrogate terrorism suspects before reading them their rights, several experts tell TPMmuckraker, finding what one law professor calls a "middle ground" between those who want suspects put through the criminal justice system and those who believe they should be classified as "enemy combatants."

Federal agents questioned both Faisal Shahzad, the man accused of planting a makeshift bomb in Times Square, and Umar Abdulmutallab, the failed Christmas Day bomber, under the so-called public safety exception to the Miranda rule for substantial periods before informing the men of their right to remain silent, and to an attorney.

Information gleaned during questioning under the public safety exception -- in which police "ask questions reasonably prompted by a concern for the public safety," according to the 1984 Supreme Court case that recognized the exception -- is admissible at trial.

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Senate candidate Sue Lowden (R-NV) has a new ad responding to the attacks over her promotion of the barter system -- and the use of chickens therein -- to lower healthcare costs, claiming that it's all a dirty trick that took her statements out of context.

"They want to make this about chickens and checks, a check I wrote decades ago, and a statement they've taken out of context," Lowden says, referring both to Dem attacks over the "Chickens For Checkups" fiasco, and to attacks from her GOP opponents over a contribution she made to Harry Reid many years ago. "That's what's wrong with Washington -- lies and dirty tricks."

But was the chickens statement taken out of context? Let's look at what Lowden said about three weeks ago: "Let's change the system and talk about what the possibilities are. I'm telling you that this works. You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor. They would say I'll paint your house."

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Sen. Bob Bennett's (R-UT) political life is on the line tomorrow, with a state Republican convention that has the power to deny him even any chance to fight for the GOP nomination in a primary -- and a party base that has been dissatisfied and sees him as being too settled in Washington after three terms.

Bennett, who for his part has a conservative voting record, has been targeted for defeat by the right for not being conservative enough. In addition to grassroots angst with his vote for the TARP bailout, the Club For Growth has also targeted him for having briefly worked with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) on a health care bill, though he ultimately voted against the bill that passed a month and a half ago. At the party caucuses in March, many supporters of challenger candidates won delegate seats for the convention thanks to a heavily increased turnout.

Bennett faces a total of seven challengers at the convention, but three are the most significant: Attorney Mike Lee, businessman Tim Bridgewater, and businesswoman Cherilyn Eagar. A Mason-Dixon poll from two weeks ago, of a sample of convention delegates, gave Lee 37%, Bridgewater 20%, and Bennett only 16%, with Eagar at 11%.

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The new Muhlenberg tracking poll of the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary shows Rep. Joe Sestak closing fast on incumbent Democratic (and former Republican) Sen. Arlen Specter, with the two of them tied in today's numbers.

Specter and Sestak are now at 43% apiece. In the May 2 poll, the most recent day that does not include any overlapping data, Specter was ahead by 48%-42%. The poll of likely Dem primary voters has a ±5% margin of error.

The TPM Poll Average for this primary gives Specter a lead of 46.6%-37.1%. The notable thing is that Specter's support has stayed more or less within the same narrow range since last year, while Sestak has been climbing up since February. The primary will be held on May 18.

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