TPM News

The new Rasmussen poll of Rhode Island gives former Sen. Lincoln Chafee, an ex-Republican and now independent candidate for governor, a solid lead in the race against his Democratic and Republican opponents.

Chafee was tested against Republican John Robitaille, a businessman and former aide to term-limited GOP Gov. Don Carcieri, and against two Democrats, Attorney General Patrick Lynch and Treasurer Frank Caprio. With Lynch as the Democratic nominee, Chafee has 38%, Lynch 24%, and Robitaille 22%. With Caprio as the Democratic nominee, it's Chafee with 37%, Caprio 27%, and Robitaille 19%.

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On April 16, 2001, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) took to Fox News to boast about the GOP's first major use of the budget reconciliation process in the Bush-era. "I think we can do a reconciliation bill that'll have an overwhelming number of senators and congresspeople voting for this $1.3 trillion to $1.6 trillion tax cut," he said.

Today, he has a somewhat different take.

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The Department of Labor calculates that 400,000 people will lose unemployment benefits if the Senate isn't able to break Sen. Jim Bunning's blockade of a measure that would extend the benefits.

The Labor tally says Bunning has "blocked the process each time" and Secretary Hilda Solis complained that "[t]he consequences of partisan obstructionism could not be clearer."

"If the extension is not approved immediately, millions of Americans could lose the safety net programs they deserve and desperately need," she said.

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The New York Times is reporting that Gov. David Paterson played a bigger role than previously known reaching out to a woman who was the victim of an alleged assault by one of the governor's top aides.

The woman, Sherr-una Booker, did not appear for a Feb. 8 court hearing to get a protective order against Paterson aide David Johnson, whom she accused of assaulting her last October.

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Progressives are doubling down on their push to have the Senate pass a public option via reconciliation. But are they underestimating the extent to which the House may be as much the problem as the Senate?

The House is currently shy of the votes needed to pass the Senate health care bill, and, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, they're looking to make up the difference among public option foes in the Democratic caucus.

"I think the Senate bill, which is now the center of the President's consideration, I think you had a lot of people who indicated they'd like the Senate bill better," Hoyer said after an event at the Brookings Institution yesterday in response to a question from TPMDC. "It doesn't have the public option that gave a number of people concern. But there's still a way's to go."

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The retirement of Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), who was often criticized by progressive Democrats, presents a certain ironic outcome -- that the likely new Democratic nominee to replace him, Rep. Brad Ellsworth, is actually somewhat to Bayh's right.

The various rating systems, and the two legislators' voting records, shows that Ellsworth is generally in the same territory as Bayh on most issues. The difference comes on three key social issues: Abortion, gay rights, and gun control.

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Today: The Texas Primary Voters are headed to the polls today in the Texas primaries, to pick nominees for governor and other offices. Incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry is being challenged by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Tea Party activist Debra Medina. Perry has been well ahead in the polls, but the big question is whether he will be able to surpass the 50% needed to avoid a runoff election in April.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:15 a.m. ET. Obama will depart the White House at 9:45 a.m. ET, take off from Andrews Air Force Base at 10 a.m. ET, and arrive at 11:35 a.m. ET in Savannah, Georgia. He will tour Savannah Technical College at 11:55 a.m. ET, and deliver remarks on jobs and the economy at 12:30 p.m. ET. He will tour a local manufacturing facility at 1:20 p.m. ET, and tour a local small business at 2:50 p.m. ET. He will depart from Savannah at 3:40 p.m. ET. arriving back at Andrews Air Force Base at 5 p.m. ET, and back at the White House at 5:15 p.m. ET.

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A new poll out this morning shows Sen. Arlen Specter on top for the first time in a while in the Pennsylvania Senate race. The new Quinnipiac poll shows Specter ahead of GOP nominee Pat Toomey by a 7 points, 49-42.

The new poll is good news for Specter, but internal numbers inside the poll show he still faces a tough road to reelection. The TPM Poll Average for the Specter-Toomey race shows Toomey ahead 43.8-41.7.

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