TPM News

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has a new ad out, making use of the seasonal State Fair's imagery (without permission) to attack her Dem opponent, state Sen. Tarryl Clark, on some very important issues: Deep-fried foods -- and beer!

The ad continues the theme of having the friendly "Jim the Election Guy" tell voters about issues. (I don't get it, and neither does anyone else in this office. If you understand the reference, please tell us.) "I know, I know, it's State Fair time and you don't want to hear about politics," says Jim. "But while you're at the fair, you should know Tarryl Clark here wanted to raise taxes on your corn dog. And your deep-fried bacon. And your beer."

"So if you see Tarryl Clark while you're at the fair, just ask her: What's up with voting to tax my beer?"

I still don't get this whole "Jim the Election Guy" stuff, but I can confirm the importance of beer as a political issue in the Upper Midwest. Furthermore, this election is over if Bachmann manages to pin down the cheese-curd vote.

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A veteran of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division says he'd be surprised if the fire at the site of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn. isn't investigated as a hate crime.

"I think it's pretty clear that there's a hate crime investigation underway," William Yeomans, who served in the division for 24 years and was briefly the acting director, told TPMmuckraker today.

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A conservative Republican Senator has now come out strongly against efforts to block the construction of the Cordoba House Muslim community center near Ground Zero in New York: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

In an interview with the local Fox affiliate in Salt Lake City, Hatch stated his support and past work for religious freedom. "So, if the Muslims own that property, that private property, and they want to build a mosque there, they should have the right to do so," said Hatch. He also discussed his past experiences dealing with discrimination against the construction of Mormon temples -- and when his late friend Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) helped him to resolve just such a dispute in Boston.

Hatch acknowledged that there have been objections to the construction of the center, on the grounds of sensitivity and whether it should be built, but ultimately he came down on the side of the right to build it without interference. He also added: "And there's a huge, I think, lack of support throughout the country for Islam to build that mosque there, but that should not make a difference if they decide to do it. I'd be the first to stand up for their rights."

It should be noted that there has been much discussion about a possible right-wing challenge against Hatch for his party's nomination in 2012, just as his co-Senator Bob Bennett lost renomination at the state convention this year. If that were to come to pass, don't be surprised to see these comments used against him.

(via Think Progress)

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Louisiana Senate hopeful Charlie Melancon has challenged David Vitter (R) to a series of debates today, in an effort to make him account publicly for recent scandals, TPM has learned.

Melancon issued the challenge this afternoon in letters to Vitter, and other qualified candidates, and will argue that all major candidates agreed to five debates in 2004, when Vitter first won his Senate seat.

As part of the challenge, Melancon is asking that the debates be town hall-style, without podiums, pre-screened questions, pre-selected questioners. Vitter has been avoiding reporters for most of campaign season, and has confined himself for the most part to events with pre-screened questions.

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The FDIC's latest quarterly banking profile generally shows an industry nursing itself back to health. Total quarterly earnings of $21.6 billion compared to losses of $4.4 billion in the year-ago quarter. And the $40.3 billion that banks set aside for loan-losses is the lowest level since Q1 2008.

But the industry still has a long way to go, and one obvious statistic is that the total number of problem institutions hit a new high in Q2. When this starts coming down, that will be a reason to rejoice.

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For a time, opposition to health care reform legislation was on the decline and support appeared to be rising. That trend has frozen, and possibly even reversed, according to both a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll, and TPM's PollTracker.

The Kaiser survey of 1,203 adults finds opposition to the health care law at 45 percent, up from 35 percent when they last polled the issue in July. At the same time, support has fallen, from 50 percent down to 43 percent.

Though that swing is wide, the new findings closely mirror TPMs average, which finds opponents outnumbering supporters 47.6-42.2.

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The Senator who has been the most financially supportive of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) re-election is none other than...Joe Lieberman, the ex-Democrat and now independent who is often a thorn in the side of liberal activists.

As The Hill reports, Lieberman is the top contributor to Reid's re-election from among the Senate Democratic caucus, chipping in $14,000 from his two PACs. This surpasses the contributions from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who gave $12,300 to Reid, and 22 other Dem Senators who put in $10,000 each.

As the paper reports:

Lieberman has given $30,000 overall during this election cycle, all to Democrats. The Democrat-turned-Independent has been especially generous to those facing -- or who faced -- uphill re-election battles, such as Sens. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Chris Dodd (Conn.) and Arlen Specter (Pa.). Lincoln is trailing in her race by double-digits, while Specter lost his May primary bid and Dodd announced his retirement this spring after polls showed him trailing in Connecticut.

Hmm. Is Lieberman's staunch support a sign that Democrats really will lose big this November?

The TPM Poll Average for the Nevada Senate race puts Reid ahead of Republican Sharron Angle by a margin of 46.6%-43.7% -- for now.