TPM News

At a town hall at the University of Pennsylvania last Friday, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) surprised students by showing up alongside basketball Hall-of-Famer Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

Johnson and Specter met by chance right before the town hall.

"This young man is a person who really cares about America," Johnson said. "I only hope to do half as much as he's done."

Johnson endorsed Specter and also said he's a "treasure."

And Specter's obviously proud of the endorsement: He just tweeted about it.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) spoke to the Florida Democratic Party convention this past weekend, and was sure a hit with the party activists.

"I want to say a few words about what it means to be a Democrat," said Grayson. "What it means to be a Democrat. It's very simple: We have a conscience."

"You know, scientists have studied for years this difficult question of why some people have a conscience, and some people don't," Grayson later explained. "Some people are called Democrats, and some people are called Republicans."



Late Update: NRCC spokesman Andy Seré gives us this comment: "Some people are called serious-minded public servants, and other people are called self-obsessed creatures of the fringe who have no business representing 800,000 Central Floridians."

Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of conservative web site RedState.com, today compared Linda Douglass, the spokeswoman for the White House Health Reform Office, to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

"Linda Douglass really is the Joseph Goebbels of the White House Health Care shop," Erickson tweeted this afternoon. He echoed the sentiment on RedState's homepage, wondering if Douglass "likes" being the Goebbels of the Health Reform Office.

A bit of history: in addition to taking control of every facet of German media, Goebbels, Hitler's minister of propaganda, burned books and organized Kristallnacht, an operation which destroyed Jewish businesses and synagogues, killed Jews and sent thousands to concentration camps.

Erickson has been on a bit of a bender when it comes to hyperbolic freakouts about the Obama administration.

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The endorsement of independent gubernatorial candidate Chris Daggett by New Jersey's largest newspaper, the Star-Ledger, has already had one major consequence: The Ledger has pulled out of Friday's upcoming debate, or else violate state law.

The debate is still on through its other partners, including the northern Jersey Record and the Herald News, as well as Fox News. But the Ledger will not be sending their reporter to take part in the panel.

The state election commission's regulations require that officially registered debate sponsors not endorse a candidate, at least until after the debate. "We came to the conclusion that it was probably the best for everyone involved if a replacement were found for us," managing editor Kevin Whitmer told TPM, "that there was something in place that if we endorsed before the debate, that would be in violation."

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On a conference call with reporters a few minutes ago, AHIP president and CEO Karen Ignagni addressed skeptics of the new PriceWaterhouseCoopers report her group commissioned and released last night.

"This is a world-class firm with a stellar reputation," she said.

Ignagni said AHIP had its own "sophisticated modeling capability" in-house, and contracted with PWC for a second opinion on the numbers AHIP has been projected "for months" during the creation of the Baucus health care bill.

The PWC audit "confirms what we were seeing in our own analyses," she said.

The White House is tempering its reaction to the new health insurance industry report we've been writing about today since the administration questions its legitimacy.

A senior administration official said they weren't yet sure if America's Health Insurance Plans was launching an offensive to try and defeat health care before tomorrow's Senate Finance Committee vote, but was skeptical of AHIP's motivations.

"Given how they behaved in the past, it's very likely they could be up to their old tricks," the official told TPMDC.

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AHIP spokesperson Robert Zirkelbach went on Fox News this morning to discuss what the network has been calling his group's "bombshell" report on the Senate Finance Committee's health care reform bill. AHIP released the report just a day before the Finance Committee is expected to take its final vote on the bill, but Zirkelbach told Fox News' Bill Hemmer the timing was just luck, saying the group had a "responsibility" to put its audit out as quickly as possible.

Though the report was highly critical of the bill, Zirkelbach said there are some things his group and Finance Committee Democrats agree on when it comes to health care reform -- namely, the parts of the bill that would result in millions of more customers for insurance companies. Zirkelbach said the industry supports plans to eliminate pre-existing condition screening from insurance applications as well as plans to mandate all Americans buy coverage.

"We strongly support the insurance market reforms so that everybody has guaranteed access to coverage," he said. "To make it work, everybody needs to be required to participate."

Liz Cheney made something of a splash in her debut as a Fox News panelist yesterday. After being introduced on Fox News Sunday by Chris Wallace as a "former State Department official, daughter of the former vice president, and first-time panelist," Cheney had an, um, interesting take on President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize.

"The president himself understands he didn't earn this prize," Cheney said. "And I think, therefore, the notion that, as the White House has said, he would go to Oslo to accept the prize would just sort of add to the farce."

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Ever since the boat accident in late August in which Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) and two staffers were seriously injured, the congressman has denied that he had been drinking heavily and has maintained that the driver, who was charged with felonies last week, was not impaired either.

Now, a musician who says he saw Rehberg in Lakeside, MT, shortly before the accident, has come forward to say that Rehberg was not drunk.

Terry Brick, a member of the Toby Stone Duo, playing the night of the crash, said in a letter to the Missoulian Friday that Rehberg was not exhibiting the signs of inebriation:

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