TPM News

The two candidates in the expected Minnesota gubernatorial recount, Democratic former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton and Republican state Rep. Tom Emmer, have each been assembling the kinds of high-powered legal teams that we should expect for a potential stiff legal fight. And there is quite a bit of history linking them all to the previous statewide recount from just two years ago, in the super-close and controversial Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman.

Dayton currently leads by by slightly less than 9,000 votes, or 0.42%, within the 0.5% threshold that would trigger an automatic recount under state law. However, many observers -- including Fritz Knaak, a former lawyer for Norm Coleman -- have said that it would be very difficult for Emmer to pull out the win. By contrast, the 2008 Senate recount resulted in a net margin shift of only about 500 votes, which was enough to change the winner in a race that was even closer than this one.

But a lot is at stake here. The midterm election also produced a Republican-led legislature, overturning previous Dem majorities, and which governor takes office will have a vast difference on the policies the state adopts. And furthermore, if this were to last into early January then it would result in neither taking office immediately. Instead, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty would remain in office for the interim.

So let's take a quick look at the current state of the legal teams that have been put together.

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Gov.-elect Rick Scott (R-FL) is already facing his first mini-scandal just a week after he beat Democrat Alex Sink in one of the nation's closest and nastiest gubernatorial races. A part-time campaign worker who found the job through an ad on Craigslist is upset that the campaign paid him with an American Express gift card.

Mark Don Givens told Florida's WTSP News that he was expecting a paycheck after he made phone calls and knocked on doors for the Scott campaign, which made jobs a top issue in the election. Givens said he and other workers were upset after they were told by the campaign that they could not offer them a paycheck and given American Express gift cards instead.

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Back on the air tonight after his brief suspension, MSNBC personality Keith Olbermann acknowledged the suspension -- punishment, MSNBC said, for making political donations without permission -- and apologized to viewers.

Olbermann apologized for the "drama" he had caused, and for not knowing beforehand about MSNBC's policy about donations, which he said was not in his ($30 million) contract and which he derided as potentially illegal. He also apologized for doing a "Worst Person" segment on the opponent of one of the politicians he gave to.

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A source close to outgoing DCCC chairman Chris Van Hollen confirms that the Maryland Democrat is angling to be the party's top budget guy in the House when they assume the minority in January. He would replace current chairman John Spratt, who was defeated in last week's midterm elections.

Van Hollen is not currently a member of the Budget Committee, but did deal with these issues when he was a member of the Maryland General Assembly. He was given a leadership title at the beginning of the 111th Congress, but will likely be squeezed out when Democrats lose the Speakership.

If he wins, Van Hollen would leapfrog the Budget Committee's Vice Chair Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) for the top slot. As ranking member he'd spar with incoming Budget Chairman Paul Ryan -- a conservative but, like Van Hollen, not known for his pyrotechnics behind the dais.

Kentucky's incoming Senator is pushing back hard on critics who claim he has sold out when it comes to earmarks. Republican Rand Paul told CNN's Wolf Blitzer today that concerns that he backed away from his pledge to refuse federally-funded pet projects, a key tenet of his tea party-fueled campaign, just aren't warranted.

"I won't use earmarks as a senator," Paul told Blitzer. As he had on the campaign trail, Paul said earmarking "shows some of the abuse of Washington" and promised he won't be among the Senators who participate in the process. But that doesn't mean he won't try to get money for Kentucky through the open appropriations process.

Conservatives got upset at Paul after a Wall Street Journal article from the weekend reported Paul had offered a "shift" on "his campaign pledge to end earmarks." That led National Review to worry Paul was "selling out already."

On CNN, Paul dismissed the article. In a flashback to the campaign trail -- when Paul's early national media appearances haunted him for months -- the Sen.-elect said the Journal had misquoted him and demanded a correction.

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Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and retiring Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) are giving their endorsement to a new ad campaign called "OweNo," seeking to expand public awareness about the national debt -- and signaling an opening volley in the Social Security debate, the Huffington Post reports,

OweNo? Hasn't she ruined everything she touches?

The ad campaign is being run by the Peter G. Peterson foundation, created by the former Nixon-era Secretary of Commerce and co-founder of the budget hawk group the Concord Coalition. The first ad -- part of a $20 million campaign -- does not feature Bayh or Conrad, but a fictional politician named "Hugh Jidette," and his crowd of supporters who stop cheering once he describes his policies of spending more money and passing the tab on to their kids.

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A newly released Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows that in Colorado, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, a generic Republican opponent is leading President Obama in the 2012 presidential race. He trails by five points in Colorado, 50-45%, 10 points in Pennsylvania, 52%-42%, and 14 points in New Hampshire.

The survey also looked at blue states California, Connecticut, and Illinois, where the president is found ahead. He leads 50%-42% in Connecticut, 51-44% in California, and 49%-45% in Illinois.

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