TPM News

Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) has announced that he will not run in the special election for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat.

"Gov. Romney's focus right now is on helping other Republicans run for office, and that is how he will be spending his time," said Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom.

Not running is the right decision for Romney -- and quite frankly, it seemed odd that anybody was floating this idea in the first place. After one term as governor, Romney was unpopular when he left office, and then spent the 2007/2008 Republican primary season routinely talking about how he was the conservative champion inside that dreaded, liberal state.

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A new Democracy Corps (D) poll of the New Jersey gubernatorial campaign suggests that it could be a very close race, though Republican former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie still leads Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine.

Christie has 43%, Corzine 41%, and independent candidate Chris Daggett is at 7%. In a two-way race -- support for independents can often evaporate going into Election Day, so this is an important number -- Christie leads by 46%-43%. In the last poll from two weeks ago, Christie led in the three-way race by 40%-35%-10%, and Christie led the two-way race by 43%-37%.

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Chris Broughton, the man who brought an assault rifle and a handgun to the Obama event in Arizona last week, attended a fiery anti-Obama sermon the day before the event, in which Pastor Steven Anderson said he was going to "pray for Barack Obama to die and go to hell", Anderson confirmed to TPMmuckraker today.

Anderson also said Broughton had informed the pastor about his planned show of arms-bearing, but "he planned out the AR15 thing long before he heard that sermon," delivered Sunday August 16 at the fundamentalist Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, AZ.

This is the second example of the gun-toters at the Arizona Obama event tied to the violent fringes of American life.

"I don't obey Barack Obama. And I'd like Barack Obama to melt like a snail tonight," Anderson said in the sermon.

The sermon, which was titled "Why I Hate Barack Obama" and also contained virulent anti-gay themes, continued:

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At a town hall Wednesday night, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) told constituents, "We're almost reaching a revolution in this country."

The reason? "People are not buying these concepts that are completely foreign to America."

Inhofe also said he doesn't need to know what's in a health care reform bill to vote against it.

"I don't have to read it, or know what's in it. I'm going to oppose it anyways," he said at the event in Chickasha, Okla.

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Two crucial questions hang over the Senate. Will it pass Democrat-only health care reforms? And can a public option survive the whims of the so-called budget reconciliation process?

If the answer to both questions is yes, then the public option could survive in the stasis-oriented upper chamber. But if the answer to the second question is "no," then the Democrats will a lot of whipping to do. Below are the key hold outs.

One thing that's striking about this the list is how reluctant senators are to take a firm position. Compare that to the situation in the House, where dozens of liberals have vowed that they'll oppose any health care bill without a public option, and it casts some doubt on the conventional wisdom that health care reform will pass without a public option after the Congressional Progressive Caucus caves to pressure from Democratic leadership and conservatives in their own party.

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Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) said today he advocates appointing an interim replacement for Sen. Ted Kennedy, but wants that person to pledge not to run in a special election for the seat.

"We are going to have an election, that's not in question," Frank said today on MSNBC. "We will have a clean, open, honest, fast election. ... The question is what do you do during the interim period, and I think it makes absolute sense to have someone appointed who will have promised not to run again."

He admitted that the state couldn't legally hold someone to that promise.

"You cannot, I think, constitutionally enforce that, legally. But I believe you can easily find someone who will say, 'Yes, I'll serve for these months, I will vote,'" he said.

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As an update to this post, the RNC says it screwed up by suggesting that, under the Democrats' health care reform proposal, " the government could use voter registration to determine a person's political affiliation, prompting fears that GOP voters might be discriminated against for medical treatment in a Democrat-imposed health care rationing system."

"Although the question was inartfully worded, Americans have reason to be concerned about the failure of the Democrats' health care experiment to adequately protect the privacy of Americans' personal information," an RNC spokesperson tells Greg Sargent.

Right. It's just a hop, skip, and a jump from "inadequate privacy protections," to "doctors might discriminate against Republican patients."

Sarah Palin will not give a pro-life speech tonight for the Alaska Family Council at Anchorage megachurch ChangePoint, as event organizers had previously advertised.

A spokeswoman for Palin said the former governor had never accepted the invitation in the first place, though Alaska Family Council organizers said they've been speaking with "Palin contacts" for weeks. This is the fourth time such an incident has happened: Palin scheduled to speak at an event, organizations advertising the event for weeks, and the speech being cancelled at the last minute due to apparent miscommunication.

Spokeswoman Meg Stapleton told the Anchorage Daily News that Palin was invited to a private fundraiser for the group, and that "she had hoped to be able to attend but cannot return (to Alaska) in time for that private fundraiser." Stapleton also said "this is the first time we have ever heard of a speech" at the megachurch.

Alaska Family Council President Jim Minnery was surprised at the news, however, citing his organizers' work with the Palin contacts. "All we can do is take people at their word that we've worked with in the past. We've been working for several weeks on the event, promoting it very heavily. It would be a grave disappointment if she doesn't show up but the show will still go on," he said.

Previous scheduling mishaps with Palin:

*February: Palin pulls out of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where she was due to speak, because of the "duties of governing."

*June: Palin attends a major GOP fundraiser in DC after weeks of hedging. She was originally invited to speak, but organizers gave her speaking role to Newt Gingrich after she wavered on the invitation, at which point Palin seemed to cancel her appearance at the dinner entirely, and didn't give organizers a definite answer until the afternoon of the event.

*August: Palin does not speak at an event for a California Republican women's group at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, despite it being advertised for weeks. Stapleton posted a statement saying Palin would not attend and had never been committed to the event on Palin's Facebook site.

Republican nominee Chris Christie has a new ad in the New Jersey gubernatorial race, finely tuned for this deep-blue state. The ad features voters from all different backgrounds -- including at least two who voted for Barack Obama talking about how Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine is out of touch, and they want change:

Christie is ahead in all the polls right now, but other New Jersey Republican candidates in the past have looked pretty good at this point and then flattened out in the end. As such, this ad is clearly crafted to hold on to his lead by tapping into the traditional Democratic messages like change, jobs and reform.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) threw a protester out of a town hall last night in Phoenix when she shouted at him before he started the meeting.

"Ma'am, you're gonna have to stop or you're gonna have to leave," McCain said. "Goodbye, see ya."

The crowd cheered as the woman, dressed in pink and carrying a cane, was escorted out.

The tone of the meeting was markedly different than one he held Tuesday in Sun City, a retirement community in Arizona. That meeting was packed with health care reform opponents -- mostly white senior citizens -- many of whom booed when McCain said President Obama believes in the Constitution.

At Wednesday's event, one town haller angrily asked McCain why the senator deserves better health care than him. After the event, while McCain attempted to answer questions from the press, another audience member yelled that he gets hundreds of thousands of dollars from insurance companies.

"Really?" he answered. "I didn't know that."

Late update: We were curious about whether the woman who got kicked out was for or against health care reform. (You can only hear her yell, "Insurance!" in the video.) But her position was unclear to a McCain spokeswoman, who tells us she was standing just five feet away.