TPM News

The two-man team of Florida political activists who are claiming the rights to the "Tea Party" name have been accused in the past of engaging in political trickery for profit, including allegedly pressing opposing candidates to pay for the endorsement of their candidate.

In August, Orlando lawyer Fred O'Neal registered the "Tea Party of Florida" (TPOF) as an official political party. Since then, as we reported yesterday, he and his close ally, GOP political consultant Doug Guetzloe, have asserted rights to the Tea Party name, and tried to strong-arm some local groups to drop the well-known moniker.

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National Security Council Spokesman Mike Hammer issued a statement today on the conclusion of National Security Advisor Jim Jones' week-long trip through the Middle East. Read the full text after the jump.

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A new Rasmussen poll in Minnesota suggests that Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, would have a very hard time picking up his traditionally Democratic state in the general election.

The poll asked: "Suppose Governor Tim Pawlenty runs for President in 2012 and wins the Republican nomination. If Pawlenty was the Republican Presidential candidate, would you vote for him?" The answer was only 37% yes, 46% no. This down from a 42%-46% margin, when Rasmussen previously asked this same question of Minnesotans two months ago.

I asked Alex Conant, spokesman for Pawlenty's Freedom First PAC, for comment on whether Pawlenty would have difficulty carrying his home state, and whether he would intend to compete there. "It's absurdly early to be contemplating, let alone polling, the 2012 landscape," said Conant. "Gov. Pawlenty is focused on balancing Minnesota's budget, finishing his term strong, and helping elect Republicans in this fall's elections."

A new SurveyUSA/Firedoglake poll of the Arkansas Second Congressional district finds that Tim Griffin -- a "star" of the U.S. Attorney scandal in 2007 -- is a frontrunner to get elected to Congress this year against a Democratic incumbent.

The numbers: Griffin 56%, Democratic Rep. Vic Snyder 39%. This district voted 54%-44% for John McCain in 2008, and the new poll gives President Obama a 33% approval rating, with 63% disapproval. The poll also finds heavy opposition to the proposed individual mandate, which would require everyone to carry health insurance.

Griffin briefly served as a U.S. Attorney, after having had an extensive career as a Republican political operative specializing in opposition research. He was appointed in December 2006, in such a manner as to circumvent the need for Senate confirmation due to a March 2006 revision to the PATRIOT Act. He resigned in June 2007.

After a big hurdle was cleared yesterday when the White House struck a deal with Congressional leaders and labor unions on the excise tax, the team went right back to negotiating late last night.

An administration official told us that several top leaders huddled in the Cabinet room from 9:15 p.m. until 1:25 a.m. That's after a more than 8-hour meeting Wednesday. (President Obama left just before 1 a.m., the official said.)

"The President and congressional leaders continued to work through the differences in the health bills. They made solid progress toward a final package, including common-sense adjustments that strengthen the legislation and make sure it works for middle-class families while bringing down costs and expanding coverage to millions of Americans," the official said.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) was at the White House this week discussing health care, TPMDC has learned. Officials wouldn't disclose details of what was discussed, but to be sure Obama and Democratic leaders want to make sure they keep his vote in place for the final health care compromise.

Members attending last night's meeting after the jump.

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Obama Pledges Campaign For Health Care Bill And Democrats Speaking to the House Democratic caucus yesterday, President Obama pledged to mount a nationwide campaign for them in this year's elections, promoting the health care bill: "I'll be out there waging a great campaign from one end of the country to the other, telling Americans with insurance or without what they stand to gain."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:30 a.m. ET, and meet at 10 a.m. ET with senior advisers. He will receive the economic daily briefing at 1:45 p.m. ET, and he will meet at 3:45 p.m. ET with Secretary of Treasury Tim Geithner.

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The latest poll in the Massachusetts Senate race shows Scott Brown (R) taking a slim lead over Martha Coakley (D) as the clock ticks down in the special election to replace Ted Kennedy in the Senate.

The poll, conducted by Suffolk University Jan. 11-13, shows Brown leading Coakley by four, 50-46. It's the latest in a string of polls showing the race is too close to call less than a week before voters go to the polls Jan. 19. The Suffolk poll has a 4% margin of error.

Yesterday, both the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report officially listed the race as a "toss up." National political forces have shifted their attentions to Massachusetts, with both Brown and Coakley backers dispatching millions in money and resources to the state in the final days of the campaign.

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