TPM News

Stephen Colbert talked last night about how China recently started purchasing the one thing the U.S. has plenty of: No, not "back fat," but guys like Colbert. Apparently, as CNN correspondent Kyra Phillips explained it, white people can be purchased in China for business meeting appearances in order to show prestige. This is called the "white guy in tie" plan, or a "face job."

Colbert had high praise for Phillips, because "'face job' is the second hardest thing to say on CNN without laughing. Right behind, 'back to you Rick Sanchez.'"

He added: "Close third: Calling Larry King 'live.'"

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Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), who is challenging Sen. John McCain in the Republican primary, has gone up with his first TV ad, starring his wife Mary Hayworth. The ad comes after Hayworth has gone through relentless attacks from the McCain campaign, mainly relating to Hayworth's appearance in a 2007 infomercial promoting a company's questionable seminars for "free money" in government grants.

"Tired of John McCain's negative ads? So am I," Mary Hayworth says -- who then proceeds to attack McCain right back. "I'm Mary Hayworth, and John McCain is hiding his record behind false attacks on my husband. John McCain has sold out the people of Arizona on immigration, bailouts and tax increases. Now John McCain has embraced character assassination to keep his job. John McCain should be ashamed. J.D.'s not perfect -- but he is a principled conservative."

The TPM Poll Average gives McCain a lead of 52.3%-30.6%. The primary will be held on August 24.

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The tens of millions in personal funds that billionaire Republican Meg Whitman has pumped into the California gubernatorial race are still paying off. According to a new poll from the well-respected Field polling firm, Whitman, who won her party's nomination June 8, continues to run neck-and-neck with Democratic nominee Jerry Brown. But internals of the poll show that Whitman is making inroads among the Democratic base -- and tearing down Brown in the process.

The Field Poll shows Brown leading by just one point, 44-43. The survey of 1,005 likely voters has a margin of error of 3.2%. The last Field Poll of the race, conducted in March, in the midst of the highly publicized GOP primary, also showed the race to be a tie but showed Whitman with a slight advantage, leading Brown 46-43.

The TPM Poll Average for the race shows Brown ahead 45.2-40.9.

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Is there a new, bipartisan consensus forming on Capitol Hill about whether (and how) to scale back Social Security benefits? A surprising number of signs point to "yes" -- and that has many progressives looking ahead a few months to what they believe could become a serious fight.

Several of the most powerful members of the House -- Republicans and Democrats -- have recently voiced real support for the idea of raising the retirement age for people middle-aged and younger as part of a larger plan to reduce long-term deficits, inching closer to what not too long ago was the third rail of American politics.

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Obama Makes Recess Appointment Of Medicare Official President Obama is recess-appointing Dr. Donald Berwick to head up the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, after Republicans had threatened a tough confirmation process over Berwick's past comments on health care rationing and his praise of the British National Health Service. "Many Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the nomination as long as they could, solely to score political points," White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House blog. "But with the agency facing new responsibilities to protect seniors' care under the Affordable Care Act, there's no time to waste with Washington game-playing."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the presidential daily briefing at 10 a.m. ET. Obama will meet at 10:30 a.m. ET with senior advisers. At 11:25 a.m. ET, Obama will deliver remarks on the administration's commitment to export promotion. Obama and Biden will receive a briefing at 12 p.m. ET on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Obama and Biden will have lunch at 12:30 p.m. ET. They will meet at 2 p.m. ET with Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, and they will meet at 3:30 p.m. ET with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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As he's often done during his tenure as chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele last week put the phone to his ear to save his embattled rear. On Friday, Steele arranged a raft of conference calls to explain his remarks that Afghanistan was a war of President Obama's "choosing," and tried to offer members now very used to his gaffe-prone tendencies context for the remarks.

"When the video broke Mike sent out a gargantuan amount of emails to members, to senators. He emailed by the pound," an RNC member told TPM in an interview. Steele even called conservative columnist Bill Kristol who began the drumbeat that the chairman should go in hopes of setting him straight. (Steele's friends complained that Kristol has not introduced himself to the chairman.)

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Harry Reid isn't letting threats of a lawsuit stop him -- he' sticking with his Web campaign against "the real Sharron Angle." After the Angle campaign sent the Reid camp a cease-and-desist letter last week demanding that they take down their reposting of Angle's old campaign website, the Reid camp has now made just a few modifications and put it right back up.

After she won Nevada's Republican Senate primary, Angle's campaign took down most of its website, and later replaced it with a relaunched (and somewhat toned down) version. But the Reid campaign saved the old version, and put up a website called "The Real Sharron Angle," reproducing the old content. Then on Friday, the Angle campaign sent them a cease-and-desist letter, alleging violation of copyrights for Reid having reposted Angle's old campaign literature.

The Angle campaign also claimed that by leaving fill-in boxes for e-mail addresses intact, the Reid campaign was in a position to gain contact information of Angle's supporters who were deceived into thinking this was actually her site. Angle spokesman Jerry Stacy said in a press release: "Make no mistake, the Reid campaign was forced to take this site down because they were breaking several laws and trying to deceive the voters."

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A new report from the USDA, via The Atlantic, examines the potential effect of a soda tax as a possible obesity curb.

Not surprisingly, since you wouldn't expect a government agency to say that a tax wouldn't help the government, the USDA's conclusion is that such a tax would work.

Here is is in a nutshell.

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Republicans aren't giving up yet on forcing a special election in West Virginia this year for the Senate seat of the late Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd, the Hotline reports, with RNC and West Virginia GOP lawyers exploring a possible lawsuit.

"It's an open question," a Republican source in West Virginia told TPMDC, who confirmed that the conversations are happening. "There's probably something there. If not, the Attorney General, who is a Democrat, wouldn't be looking into the ruling that the Secretary of State made. How much is there, and whether it's substantial enough to overturn the Secretary of State's interpretation of the law, I don't know. That's why we're looking at it closely, and haven't made a decision yet."

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) announced last week that there would not be an election, but instead a gubernatorial appointment to last through November 2012, when the term would have been up anyway. This result, which struck many people as odd, was actually the product of the state's very confusing statute on the subject, and in fact had a binding precedent from the 1990s. Tennant herself has called for the law to be changed, though it remains unclear whether any change will be made at all, either in the legislature or in the court.

Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN), the Democratic nominee for the open Senate seat of retiring Dem Evan Bayh, has launched his first TV ad of the campaign. Ellsworth cast himself as an anti-Washington candidate taking on Washington lobbyists -- a not-so-subtle attack against his Republican opponent, former Sen. Dan Coats, who had been a lobbyist for the past decade.

"One thing that 25 years as a sheriff teaches you is zero tolerance for bull. There's too much at stake. But out in Washington it's like they live and breathe the stuff," Ellsworth says. "They waste our money. They take care of special interests. And they don't care if lobbyists write the laws or if our jobs get shipped overseas. I'm Brad Ellsworth and I approve this message because the special interests and lobbyists already have enough senators on their side."

Ellsworth never directly mentions Coats in the ad, but appears to be laying the groundwork for further attacks down the road. Ellsworth begins this general election as a severe underdog, with the TPM Poll Average giving Coats a lead of 49.4%-33.6%.

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