TPM News

When a brutal television ad hit the airwaves starring Sen. Arlen Specter and his then-ally President George W. Bush, the incumbent Republican-turned-Democrat did little to defend against it. How could he, when it used footage of his own words from his days as a Republican?

With voter opinions of the longtime politician already formed, the ad helped drive home a reminder for Democrats -- they'd been voting against Specter for decades. That allowed Rep. Joe Sestak in the weeks since putting the Bush ad on the air to surge to the lead before tomorrow's still too-close-to-call Democratic primary race.

Republicans and Democrats say they started to think Specter was toast in early May, when Sestak went up on television with what they described as a "just brutal" campaign ad starring Bush. Specter countered with an ad starring President Obama, who won the state in 2008, but did not mount an aggressive defense against his own party-switching.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) posed for a picture with Birther leader and California secretary of state candidate Orly Taitz at a tea party lunch event in California Friday, Taitz tells TPM.

Taitz and Bachmann both spoke at a lunch sponsored by the Tea Party Patriots, Taitz said in an email. But Birtherism did not come up at the event, according to Taitz.

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All eyes are on the big Senate primaries tomorrow in Arkansas, Kentucky And Pennsylvania -- but there are some other races going on, too, which could have important repercussions for the fall.

One of the top races to watch will be the special election for the Johnstown-area district formerly held by the late Rep. John Murtha, who passed away in February. The TPM Poll Average gives Republican businessman Tim Burns an edge of 43.0%-42.4% over Democratic candidate and former Murtha aide Mark Critz. A key X-factor in the race is that Democratic turnout could be disproportionately high in this swing district, because the election is being held at the same time as the regular statewide primaries. There are far more contested Democratic primaries than Republican ones -- most notably the Senate race between incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Joe Sestak -- and this could disproportionately drive Dem voters to the polls.

Murtha was first elected in a 1974 special election, picking it up from the Republicans in the middle of the Watergate scandals, and held the seat for 36 years until his death in February 2010. The district voted for John McCain in 2008 by a margin of less than one point -- the only district in the country to switch from John Kerry in 2004 to McCain in 2008, having voted for Kerry 51%-48% in 2004. CQ, Stuart Rothenberg, Charlie Cook and Larry Sabato all rate this race as a toss-up.

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Republican Dale Peterson is running for Alabama Agricultural Commissioner. And he wants the people of his state to know how powerful that position is. Unfortunately, "thugs and criminals" who "don't give a rip about Alabama" are keeping it quiet.

In his new ad, Peterson, his horse, and his rifle send a clear message to the state's people: "I'll name names and take no prisoners."

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A major backer of Ken Cuccinelli is being probed in several states for running a charity that a lengthy newspaper investigation suggests may be an elaborate and long-running fraud.

There's no evidence that Cuccinelli, now the attorney general of Virginia, was aware there was anything untoward about Bobby Thompson or his charity, the U.S. Navy Veterans Association (USNVA), which says it offers assistance to navy veterans. Still, the news has forced the ambitious AG -- whose reputation for rectitude is a key part of his appeal to conservatives -- to answer some awkward questions. And the full story of what happened in Virginia suggests how easily one state government may have been taken in by a noble-sounding cause and a some well-timed campaign contributions.

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A new Miss USA was crowned last night, the first time a Muslim, Arab-American woman won the honor. But for Daniel Pipes, a neocon pundit who writes for the National Review and was a Bush appointee to the Peace Institute, that's one too many.

On his blog yesterday, Pipes pointed out five other Muslim women who've won beauty contests in the U.S., Britain and France over the last five years.

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The new Rasmussen poll of Florida shows Republican candidate Marco Rubio taking a lead in this wild and wacky three-way Senate race.

The numbers: Rubio 39%, ex-Republican and now independent Gov. Charlie Crist 31%, and Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek 18%. The poll of likely voters has a ±4.5% margin of error. Two weeks ago, shortly after Crist jumped ship from the Republican primary and went independent, he had taken a lead of 38%-34% over Rubio, with Meek at 17%. The TPM Poll Average has Rubio at 36.6%, Crist 35.1%, and Meek 16.9%.

From the pollster's analysis: "Crist, whose numbers had been in freefall in his primary match-up with Rubio, has been actively courting Democrats. But Meek now edges Crist among Democratic voters after trailing him two weeks ago."

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Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA), a strong supporter of Arlen Specter in the heated Pennsylvania Senate race, said today that there are no guarantees that Specter will win the Democratic primary against Rep. Joe Sestak tomorrow.

The TPM Poll Average shows Sestak leading Specter 45.3% to 43.4%. Sestak's been making gains in recent weeks, while Specter's poll numbers have remained relatively steady.

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Bernard Kerik, the former NYPD commissioner who served during 9/11 and was President Bush's first choice for Homeland Security secretary, will report to prison today to begin a four-year sentence. In February, Kerik pleaded guilty to lying to White House officials during his DHS vetting process and to charges of tax fraud.

Yesterday, Kerik, who has been under house arrest since his sentencing, reflected on the past 10 years in a lengthy blog post titled, "It is time to move forward."

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