TPM News

Now that Democratic primary for Senate in North Carolina is headed to a runoff, and political operatives in the state are expecting a close fight for support -- that is, among those voters who will actually show up for a second primary. And voters will have their choice between a well-know candidate with a long history in the state, and the alternative candidate who has the unofficial support of the national Dems and the sort of profile that appeals to younger activists.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall won 36% of the vote, followed by former state Senator and Iraq War veteran Cal Cunningham with 27%. North Carolina primaries have runoff elections if no candidate attains a 40% threshold, so this race will continue for another month and a half until the June 22 runoff, at which time Dems will then have a nominee to face GOP Sen. Richard Burr.

A Democratic source in North Carolina told TPMDC that Dems are expecting the race to be close all the way to June, and would be a contrast between Marshall, who was first elected statewide in 1996 and has cultivated a loyal following with the state's Democratic voters, with Cunningham's younger activist base who are looking for something relatively new.

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When George Alan Rekers, a cofounder along with James Dobson of the Family Research Council and a leader in the ex-gay movement, was caught walking off a plane from Europe with a young male prostitute, he first insisted that he didn't know the young man was an escort until halfway through their 10-day vacation.

"I had surgery," Rekers told the Miami New Times, which broke the story yesterday, "and I can't lift luggage. That's why I hired him."

Rekers had hired the escort, dubbed "Lucien" by the New Times, through the website (NSFW), a popular site that hosts ads for gay male escorts. There's little mistaking what the site is for.

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A day and a half after his arrest, a portrait is starting to emerge of Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-born American citizen who was pulled off a flight to Dubai at JFK Airport Monday night and arrested in connection with Saturday's attempted Times Square bombing.

That portrait, compiled based on accounts in several news outlets, is notable for the way in which Shahzad -- like so many of the young men behind Islamic terror attacks on the U.S. and Europe -- seems to have been simultaneously alien from, and embedded within, western culture. Born in Pakistan's remote and tribal Northwest Frontier Province, Shahzad, 30, grew up in a country that banned alcohol and taught Islam in school, and he maintained close ties to family members in the region. But he also went jogging in his suburban Connecticut neighborhood, and perused used car websites to find the Nissan Pathfinder that he's charged with using in the bomb plot. And he seems to have gone over the edge not long after participating in that archetypal American ritual of recent years -- defaulting on his mortgage.

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It's been in the works for over a week now, but it's now official. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd and his Republican counterpart Richard Shelby have agreed to final language on a section of financial reform legislation regarding the unwinding of failed firms. The development could speed up progress on financial reform legislation, which had slowed to a crawl as Republicans awaited a final announcement.

The deal does away with a proposed $50 billion fund, raised by assessing a fee on big financial institutions, which would have been used to help liquidate systemically significant, insolvent firms.

That fund, as Dodd said on the floor this afternoon, "was opposed by the Obama Administration."

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As the oil industry went into full damage control mode following the catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico, their corporate public relations went into overdrive too, with firms across Washington jumping in to help British Petroleum and BP firing up its Facebook page and Twitter feed. The universe of flacks Americans might be seeing on television and quoted in news stories has widened, with BP executives making the rounds, hosting journalists for explainer sessions and corporate PR folks helping craft an image of a company doing everything it can to help.

The industry already had an army of lobbyists and PR hands deployed in Washington to influence the negotiations over climate change legislation (which may be in dire straits thanks to the spill), and BP brought in the international consulting firm the Brunswick Group.

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After the Washington State Democratic party unleashed a barrage of e-mail and website attacks trying to scare potential GOP challenger Dino Rossi from getting into the Senate race, Rossi has started pushing back.

In an interview with the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Rossi avoided personally attacking Sen. Patty Murray (D), but questioned her tactics. "She could stop this with one phone call. After 18 years, is this all she has to run on?" he asked.

The this he is referring to is a series of e-mails and a website designed by the Democratic party attacking Rossi for, in their words, "committing assault on Washington's families."

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Drop this one in the "people say the darndest things" file. A clearly frustrated Harry Reid said today that Republican delays on financial are rooted in their desire to "continue making love to Wall Street." Metaphorically speaking.

"Republicans are having difficulty determining how they can continue making love to Wall Street," Reid said at a press conference this morning. "It's obvious that they do not want to put any decent restrictions on what Wall Street has done or [is] doing."

To provide some meaningful context, last Wednesday, Democrats broke a nearly week-long Republican filibuster of financial reform. The GOP had been refusing to allow debate on the Democrats' bill. But after relenting, they resumed a de facto filibuster, by refusing to allow swift votes on amendments until the principal negotiators of the bill finalize a compromise on how best to liquidate failed financial firms.