TPM News

Connecticut attorney general Dick Blumenthal (D) has seen his double-digit lead over former wrestling CEO Linda McMahon (R) collapse in the wake of the New York Times expose on his self-professed "misstatements" about his military record.

A new Rasmussen poll of the race, taken Tuesday night -- about 24 hours after the Times story broke -- shows Blumenthal ahead by a margin of 48-45. The last Rasmussen poll of that matchup, taken May 4, showed Blumenthal decimating McMahon by a margin of 52-39.

In the new poll, Blumenthal's lead over the other two Republicans in the primary race -- Rep. Rob Simmons and businessman Peter Schiff -- also took a dip in the wake of the story. The poll of 500 likely voters was taken on May 18 and has a margin of error of 4.5%.

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What had been a fairly non-contentious debate over Wall Street reform legislation nearly came off the rails on Tuesday after Republicans--tacitly backed (or at least unimpeded) by top Democrats--used Senate rules to block votes on far-reaching, consumer-friendly amendments, portending a potential progressive revolt.

This afternoon at 2 pm, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will attempt to bring debate on the financial reform bill to a close, though it remains unclear whether he has the 60 votes he'll need to prevail.

A big reason for that? A number of Democrats--most vocally, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)--have threatened to vote against ending debate until their flagship amendments get a vote on the floor. But Republicans are standing in the way, saying they'll filibuster those amendments, subjecting each to a 60 vote requirement, and, more importantly, several days' worth of delay. Faced with a choice between picking a fight with Republicans over those amendments and simply moving ahead with the bill, Democratic leadership has, for now, chosen the latter.

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Two Republicans with roles in the Bush-era U.S. attorney firings scandal were fighting for congressional nominations Tuesday, and the result is a split decision:

Mary Beth Buchanan, who was head of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys when the firing list was being drawn up in 2005, was, in the words of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, was "trounced" in Pennsylvania's 4th Congressional District primary, getting just 33 percent of the vote. The winner was attorney Keith Rothfus.

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Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said in an interview that Tuesday's elections look like a "pretty big sweep" for progressives. "They are having a big night," he said.

"My belief is that progressive Dems are a lot more appealing to mainstream voters than tea party advocates," Dean told me in an interview just after Rep. Joe Sestak was declared the winner over Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary.

"This is a big night for people who really want Washington to be a change agent," Dean said, adding the results show a "backlash" against both parties in official Washington. Dean, also former governor of Vermont and a 2004 presidential candidate, said he views Jack Conway as the progressive choice in Kentucky and said Lt. Gov. Bill Halter's forcing of a runoff in Arkansas proves that candidates on the left can prevail.

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Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said in an interview that Sen. Arlen Specter was defeated by Rep. Joe Sestak in the Democratic Senate primary because voters "misunderstood" Specter's reasons for switching parties after four decades as a Republican. He already has endorsed Sestak and said he isn't worried the Democratic party will take long to heal any primary wounds, but sounded downright worried about whether Democrats can keep the seat in a general election matchup with former Rep. Pat Toomey.

"No one can replace Arlen right away but hopefully Congressman Sestak or Congressman Toomey can grow in the job," Rendell (D-PA) told me in an interview after midnight as he drove home from an election night event. "Joe has a real chance to win but it's at best a tossup."

The TPM Poll Average of this race -- based on polls taken before Tuesday's primary -- shows Toomey leading 39.1 percent to 35.4 percent for Sestak.

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Rep. John Boozman (R-AR) won tonight's Republican primary in the Arkansas Senate race, taking 54% of the vote with 71% of precincts reporting.

Although Boozman was expected to win, local Republicans, smelling blood in the water around Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), had crowded the GOP field. But Boozman managed to avoid a runoff, giving him a free pass for the next three-weeks while the Democrats pick their nominee in a runoff.

Boozman, who's been a congressman since 2001, will face off against the Democratic candidate this November. The TPM Polltracker Average shows Boozman leading Lincoln 54.2% to 37.0%, and leading Lt. Gov. Bill Halter 52.8% to 37.1%.

Updated 11:55 ET

Settle in, kids -- this one's going to overtime. National progressives failed to topple Sen. Blanche Lincoln in tonight, sending the hard-fought Arkansas Democratic Senate primary into a three-week sprint to a June 8 run-off election between Lincoln and the choice of left-wing Democrats, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

With 62% of precincts reporting, Lincoln and Halter are tied at 43% each, though Lincoln is leading the popular vote. Conservative alternative D.C. Morrison has a surprising 14%.

Progressives will see this as a victory. Challenging an incumbent Senator in a primary is tough in any circumstances, and Lincoln's considerable war chest and political savvy made this a particularly tough challenge. Still, Lincoln's resilience shows through in the fact that the full force of organized labor and the netroots failed to defeat her on the first ballot.

Turnout for run-offs is generally quite low, which could make the race anybody's game. But Lincoln has proven to be a tough fighter, while Halter seemingly failed to live up to the expectations his national supporters set for him when he jumped in the primary on March 1. They spent millions trying to take out Lincoln so far -- now they'll have to dig deep to do it again.

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Rep. Joe Sestak claimed victory tonight over Sen. Arlen Specter, saying his primary rival for the Democratic Senate nomination has a "legacy to be proud of." Sestak (D-PA) defeated the 30-year incumbent with 54 percent of the vote with 87 percent of precincts reporting.

Sestak thanked Specter for his service and said he "has done good things for Pennsylvania." Specter earlier tonight tweeted that he endorsed Sestak in the general election matchup against Republican Pat Toomey. He said in his victory speech that the election was about voters who "stood up and wanted diverse voices heard."

"This is what democracy looks like," said Sestak, a retired Navy admiral who served in the Clinton White House. With his sleeves rolled up, he said it was a victory over the "establishment" and "status quo" in Washington, a pointed reference to the party machine that campaigned hard for Specter up to the last minute tonight. Sestak said he was willing to "stand up" to his own party. President Obama's robocalls for Specter were still being heard this afternoon.

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