TPM News

Anthony Weiner's seat, which includes parts of Queens and Brooklyn, should be safe for Democrats, but the September 13 special election to replace him is proving surprisingly competitive. Democrat David Weprin is losing ground to Republican Bob Turner. Making matters worse for Democrats, Weprin has turned into a gaffe machine right as voters are tuning in for the final stretch.

The influential New York Daily News savaged Weprin over the weekend after he belly flopped on a simple question from their editors: what is the national debt? With a reported "deer in headlights" look, he twice guessed $4 trillion, about $10 trillion off from the correct answer. As cringe-worthy a moment as it was on its own, its impact is much worse in Weprin's case: he's been selling himself as a fiscal Mr. Fix-it, touting his eight years as chair of the City Council's finance committee as his top qualification.

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For some undefined but Texas governor-sized-and-shaped reason, Mitt Romney is suddenly very interested in attending tea party events.

It's a strategy that's easy to mock, considering the tea party-friendly Rick Perry's poll numbers -- and Romney's penchant to say the right (read: well-received) thing -- but it shows that Team Romney is actively stepping up to the Perry challenge, which could have a dramatic effect on Perry's march to the top of the field.

But for now, the sheer political expediency of Romney's upcoming tea party tour has political observers snickering and Democrats pointing and laughing. But Team Romney says there's nothing to see here.

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Over the last week we've seen that the "inevitable candidate" strategy from former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney will surely need recalibration -- mainly due to Rick Perry's arrival in the race. Where Perry has succeded in crafting both hype around his candidacy and real support amongst a wide section of the GOP base, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has struggled to expand her appeal beyond the far right of the party, influential though it is.

But is Romney finished just because of a round of bad polls? Of course not. In fact, it's been reported that he'll now contest Iowa, something he had previously not committed to given his polling leads in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. That lead in South Carolina is now gone, according to two new polls, and it vanished within a few weeks of Perry entering the race. So now Romney may be in the fight for Iowa, and as such could make moves towards a new strategy. Sure, Romney was on soft ground as the frontrunner, but that ground doesn't immediately harden when Perry puts his feet down.

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It's a mistake to read much into the fact that the Super Committee picked a staff director, or that he's a long-serving Republican aide. There's a temptation to read deeply into these developments, but ultimately the 12 members of the Super Committee will either reach an accommodation or they will not, and that much is up to them.

On that score, it is interesting that the staff director, Democrat or Republican, has extensive knowledge of the tax code.

This goes back to the final hours of the debt limit deal. The Super Committee will draft legislation that CBO will score relative to current law. That means CBO will score whatever they produce as if expiration of ALL the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of 2012. Want to make Bush's lower-income and middle-class tax cuts permanent, and let the top bracket cuts expire? No can do. That scores as a big tax CUT -- and thus counts against the committee's goal of reducing the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

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The recently-concluded Wisconsin state Senate recalls, in which Democrats came just shy of their uphill goal of winning a majority in a backlash against Gov. Scott Walker's anti-public employee union legislation, may have set a record. In addition to many millions of dollars and countless man-hours being expended -- resembling Congressional races at the federal level -- they were possibly the most negative campaigns on record in this country.

According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which is now headed up by former UW-Madison professor Ken Goldstein, the overall advertising on the pro-Democratic side weighed in at 99% negative, with 89% negativity on the pro-Republican side.

"People are always wanting to say, 'This campaign is the most negative!'" Goldstein told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "I'll say it. I've never seen a campaign more negative."

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The Russian Federal Space Agency says it has identified the primary cause of the Aug. 24 crash of an unmanned Soyuz rocket, according to Russian news agency Itar-Tass.

The crash of the rocket, which was carrying a Progress 44 cargo transport vehicle to the International Space Station, led a NASA official to say on Monday that the station might have to be temporarily abandoned come November, as the Soyuz is currently the only class of spacecraft capable of transporting NASA astronauts and Russian cosmonauts to the International Space Station since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in July.

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China's official state news agency published an editorial Tuesday calling for a clampdown on the spread of "toxic rumors" by users of the country's popular Twitter-like websites, just days after the administrators of one such website temporarily suspended the accounts of several users for spreading what was deemed as unfounded rumors.

The development, while not unexpected, directs attention to the tightrope that Chinese authorities are walking as they try to foster Web innovations at the same time as they try to maintain a tight grip on the flow of information in their society. But comprehensive censorship is likely an exercise in futility, given how fast Chinese microblogs are growing and how quickly information spreads through them.

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