TPM News

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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Here are the line-ups for the Sunday talk shows this weekend:

• ABC, This Week: Attorney General Eric Holder, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R).

• CBS, Face The Nation: Senior White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Adm. Thad Allen.

• CNN, State Of The Union: Senior White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL).

• Fox News Sunday: Senior White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Rep. Peter King (R-NY).

• NBC, Meet The Press: Attorney General Eric Holder.

A municipal court judge in New Jersey resigned this week after the state Supreme Court advised him not to promote his new movie -- a satire about President Obama's life that depicts him making a deal with the devil in order to become a communist dictator.

"It put me in an impossible position," the ex-judge, Kenneth Del Vecchio, told TPM in an interview today. "I had two choices: Either I could remain as a judge and shut up and have no free speech rights whatsoever ... or I had to resign."

Del Vecchio, a prolific filmmaker and author, produced, wrote and stars in "O.B.A.M. Nude," a movie about a coke-addled college student who sells his soul to the devil in order to impose his socialist will on the country. Satan starts him out by hooking him up with the "Righteous Reverend," a "close friend" of the devil's.

An excerpt from the trailer:

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Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D-AR) has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission over racially-tinged attack ads in which Indian actors thank Halter for helping to get them jobs.

The conservative group Americans For Job Security paid for the ads, which Halter opponent Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) denounced as "offensive" -- before launching an India-themed mailer of her own.

The TPM Poll Average for the May 18 Arkansas Democratic Senate primary shows Lincoln leading Halter 45.2% to 31.8%.

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As David flagged on the Editors Blog last night, the Pentagon yesterday banned four journalists from covering trials at Guantanamo after they reported the name of a former military interrogator (which, the reporters note, has been public for years, including from a media interview the interrogator himself gave).

In any case, here's the striking video of Department of Defense spokeswoman Maj. Tanya Bradsher announcing the banning, and the military's rationale, to members of the press yesterday. Watch:

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The new Rasmussen poll of the Ohio Senate race shows Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher enjoying a bump from his win in this past Tuesday's primary, gaining a one-point edge on Republican former Congressman and ex-Bush administration official Rob Portman.

The numbers: Fisher 43%, Portman 42%. The survey of likely voters has a ±4.5% margin of error. A month ago, while Fisher was fighting it out with Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner for the Democratic nomination, Portman led Fisher by 43%-38% and led Brunner by 45%-38%. The TPM Poll Average for the race currently gives Fisher a lead of 41.5%-39.8%.

As the pollster's analysis notes: "But as is often the case after a primary is over, party support lines up behind the chosen nominee. It remains to be seen whether the new numbers reflect a temporary bounce or a lasting change in the race."

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Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele appeared on MSNBC this afternoon and found himself defending the RNC's decision to hold a recent meeting in Hawaii, maintaining that there's nothing "lavish" about the way the RNC operates. He also dismissed questions about a visit to an unsanctioned visit to a bondage-themed nightclub, saying it's "what happens in a business."

When host Andrea Mitchell asked why the RNC would choose to hold a meeting in Hawaii in a recession -- a location she called "lavish" -- he was aghast.

"Lavish? What evidence do you have of lavishness at our winter meeting in Hawaii?" he said.

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