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With the Senate Democrats indicating that they will wait for the state of Massachusetts to follow its own procedural guidelines for certifying a winner in the Massachusetts special Senate election, the next question should be asked: What are the state's guidelines and procedures?

We asked Michelle Tassinari, the legal counsel for the state Elections Division, and she sent us over a list of the relevant statutes.

First of all, no certificate of election can be issued until at least ten days following a special election, and in real terms it would probably be at least 15 days. State law can allow for a certificate seven days after a special election -- but that law is trumped by the federal laws governing overseas and military ballots, which are triggered because this is an election for federal office, and which create a longer window in this election.

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ARG's latest poll from the Massachusetts Senate race shows Scott Brown (R) extending his lead over Martha Coakley (D) in the final hours campaigning.

The previous ARG poll, taken Jan. 12-14, showed Brown with a 3-point lead over Coakley, 48-45. The new poll, released today, was taken over the weekend and shows Brown's lead to now be 7 points. He leads Coakley 52-45, with 2% undecided. The margin of error is 4%. Libertarian Joe Kennedy, who some have suggested might split the anti-Coakley vote tomorrow, polled at just 2% in both surveys.

Yet another Tea Partier is sounding the alarm about the upcoming National Tea Party Convention and questioning the motives of its organizer.

Shane Brooks worked closely with convention organizer Judson Phillips and his Tea Party Nation (TPN) group, until a falling out last month in part over what Brooks saw as TPN's overly close relationship with the GOP, which Brooks distrusts. Now, Brooks, based in Texas, has posted a YouTube video urging fellow activists to "boycott the National Tea Party Convention," and declaring, "we will not allow Tea Party Nation or any group to achieve national leadership of this historic grassroots revolution by the people!"

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January 16, 2010: President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and former President George W. Bush walk toward the Rose Garden, where they'll give a press conference about the former presidents' efforts to raise money for Haiti relief, called the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. In a statement released earlier, Bush and Clinton said: "We are pleased to accept President Obama's request to lead private sector fundraising efforts. In the days and weeks ahead, we will draw attention to the many ways American citizens and businesses can help meet the urgent needs of the Haitian people."


Bush and Obama shake hands before the press conference. In his address to the crowd, Bush said: "The most effective way for Americans to help the people of Haiti is to contribute money. That money will go to organizations on the ground and will be -- who will be able to effectively spend it. I know a lot of people want to send blankets or water -- just send your cash. One of the things that the President and I will do is to make sure your money is spent wisely."

Newscom/Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT

In his own remarks, President Obama said: "What these gentlemen are going to be able to do is when the news media starts seeing its attention drift to other things but there's still enormous needs on the ground, these two gentlemen of extraordinary stature I think are going to be able to help ensure that these efforts are sustained. And that's why it's so important and that's why I'm so grateful that they agreed to do it."

Official White House Photo By Pete Souza

Bush and Clinton listen as Obama makes his remarks. Clinton had also made a brief statement at the press conference: "I believe before this earthquake Haiti had the best chance in my lifetime to escape its history -- a history that Hillary and I have shared a tiny part of. I still believe that. The Haitians want to just amend their development plan to take account of what's happened in Port-au-Prince and west, figure out what they got to do about that, and then go back to implementing it. But it's going to take a lot of help and a long time."

Newscom/Mike Theiler / CNP

After the press conference, President Obama leads the former presidents back to the Oval Office for a meeting.

Newscom/Kristoffer Tripplaar/ Sipa Press

Things aren't all serious when Bush, Obama, and Clinton meet in the Oval Office.

More information on the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund can be found at

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Here's one that will play well in the Muslim world.

ABC is reporting that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have been using rifle scopes that bear abbreviated references to Bible verses, including lines like "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

That verse is rendered on tiny letters on the the scopes, made by Wixom, Michigan-based Trijicon, as "2COR4:6" referring to chapter 4, verse 6 of the Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians.

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With health care reform on the line, Republicans worry that Democrats may try to slow walk the seating of Scott Brown if he wins tomorrow's election. But the Senate leadership says they will follow the usual process which requires the state to certify the winner--so any delay between the election and Brown's swearing in would be because of the process for certifying the election in Massachusetts. Not because of Senate delays.

The winner, says Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, "needs to be certified by the state. Question is how long will that take."

"When there is a certified winner in Massachusetts, the Senate has received appropriate papers and the vice president is available, the successor to Kennedy/Kirk will be sworn in," Reid spokeswoman Regan Lachapelle told the Washington Post last week.

According to the Secretary of the Senate, this falls directly out of Senate rules (specifically Rule 2). The Secretary of the Senate's office has said she needs the certificate before winner can be sworn in, according to a Senate Democratic aide. The Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has said it will take "up to 10 days" to allow for absentee votes and the military votes to be counted, then cities and towns each have to certify the results, then the statehouse.

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A new poll by the Omaha World-Herald shows Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) is losing support back home after the Senate health care debate.

The poll shows just 42% of Nebraskans approve of the job Nelson's doing in the Senate, while 48% disapprove. More than 60% of respondents said they were opposed to the health care bill and "a majority" were opposed to Nelson's vote in favor it of it. That's after Nelson negotiated a unique deal in exchange for his vote that requires the federal government pay the full costs of expanding Medicaid in the Nebraska in perpetuity.

The dip in approval would worry any politician, but it's especially surprising for Nelson, whose political career has been marked by broad support in his state. In 2006, pollster SurveyUSA reported Nelson was the highest-rated Senator in America, based on his 73% approval rating at the time.

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As the Tea Party movement approaches its one-year anniversary, grassroots activists increasingly are finding themselves fighting off what they see as cynical bids by unscrupulous sophisticates to co-opt the movement for their own ends.

These new players on the Tea Party scene are lawyers, political consultants, business-people, and even Republican politicians. They're not working together for the most part, and the details of their efforts differ. But all have taken steps lately that have been denounced -- often by Tea Party activists -- as efforts to benefit personally from a movement that prides itself on its independence and incorruptability.

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The new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll of the Massachusetts special Senate election has the race as a tie between Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown -- the best independent poll result that Coakley has had in the last few days.

A Research 2000 poll from last week, which was commissioned by the local liberal blog Blue Mass Group, had Coakley with a stronger lead of 49%-41%.

Daily Kos's Laura Clawson writes: "As we keep saying, this one comes down to GOTV."