TPM News

President Obama said in the Rose Garden this afternoon that the Gulf Coast oil spill is "the greatest environmental disaster of its kind in our history" -- and offered assurances that his administration will enact the necessary reforms to make sure nothing like it happens again.

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Americans don't know what to think about the way President Obama is handling the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico according to a new national poll released by Quinnipiac University today. The poll, conducted last week, confirms a trend that shows the public is increasingly wary of the White House's response to the still-spewing deep water oil spill.

The new Q poll shows 39% of Americans approve of the way Obama is handling the Gulf crisis, while 42% disapprove. The poll was conducted May 19-24 and has a margin of error of 2.2%

The TPM Poll Average of Obama's handling of the spill shows 39.2% approve while 55.2% disapprove. The trend line shows that as the spill has continued, public support for Obama's handling of it has dipped.

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Former President Bill Clinton stars in a new radio ad for Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), who is in a heated Democratic primary runoff against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in Clinton's native state of Arkansas.

"We've never had a Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee before, and we shouldn't give it up now," says Clinton. "In Washington everybody was betting Wall Street would beat her efforts to clean up trading practices that led our country to the brink of economic collapse, but they were wrong, she won that fight. And, when President Obama needed her help on health care reform she stood with him to secure health coverage and better and more affordable care. She took a lot of heat for that vote, but you and I know she did the right thing."

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Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), who is in a heated Democratic primary runoff for June 8 with the more liberal Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, has a new pair of TV and radio ads for the home stretch of the campaign -- proudly declaring her independence from the labor unions that have backed her opponent.

"I'm Blanche Lincoln, and I know you're angry at Washington. Believe me, I heard you on May 18. I'm even being attacked for where my family lives," Lincoln says in the TV ad, referring to the first-round primary in which she came in first place with 45%, but with less than the 50% needed to win. She is also apparently referring to the Halter campaign's gloating over Lincoln's initial trouble voting in the primary, after she had sent away for an absentee ballot and had not mailed it back. "But I won't back down to the Washington unions or the Wall Street banks that don't care about Arkansas."

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BP, struggling to maintain its image while taking responsibility for the worst oil disaster in U.S. history, has hired someone new to head its American public relations operation: Anne Womack-Kolton, the former campaign press secretary for Vice President Dick Cheney.

Womack-Kolton ran Cheney's press shop during the 2004 campaign, and worked as an assistant press secretary in 2000. She was also an assistant in the White House press office.

She begins today, the BP press office tells TPM.

In the private sector, she's worked for the Brunswick Group and APCO Worldwide.

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A new survey of Iowa by Public Policy Polling (D) suggests that former Gov. Terry Branstad, who is seeking to reclaim the office he held for 16 years in the 1980s and 1990s, could be surprisingly vulnerable in next Tuesday's Republican primary against Tea-Party aligned businessman Bob Vander Plaats.

The numbers: Branstad 46%, Vander Plaats 31%, and state Rep. Rod Roberts 13%. The poll of likely GOP primary voters has a ±4.5% margin of error.

"The race is particularly tight among the conservative voters who have been giving GOP establishment candidates fits across the country so far in 2010. With them Branstad leads Vander Plaats only 41-35. He expands his overall lead thanks to a 58-19 advantage with moderates," writes PPP communications director Tom Jensen. "Among voters that actually know who Vander Plaats is- whether they see him favorably or unfavorably- he leads Branstad 42-37. The question is if there's enough time left for Vander Plaats to completely make up the huge gap in name recognition he began the campaign with."