TPM News

The Secret Service is investigating after an effigy of President Obama was spotted hanging Saturday from a building in Plains, Ga., the hometown of former President Jimmy Carter.

The effigy, a black doll with a sign that reportedly identified it as Obama, was hanged by a rope in front of a large red, white and blue sign that reads, "Plains, Georgia. Home of Jimmy Carter, Our 39th President." The sign, painted above a storefront, is a prominent landmark on the town's Main Street.

The manager of the store below the sign wouldn't comment to a local TV station.

Republican contenders scrambling to win the nomination to challenge Rep. Tom Perriello in Virginia's fifth Congressional district are sparring over taxes and one candidate is trying to get back in antitax crusader Grover Norquist's good graces.

State Sen. Robert Hurt (R-VA) recently signed Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform pledge to oppose any tax increases if elected, and huddled with the group in Washington to say he regretted voting for a $1.4 billion tax increase in 2004 under then-Gov. Mark Warner (D).

Hurt has been criticized as too moderate for the nomination, though he's considered the favorite among a field of lesser known challengers. One conservative blogger hailed the transformation as coming back from the "dark side," then mocked Hurt as thinking his constituents are gullible.

Norquist told CQ Politics that Hurt "basically made the case that this was not a vote he was comfortable with and that it wouldn't happen again."

That's a far cry from Norquist's sentiment in 2004, when he plastered Hurt's face on the poster below as one of the state's "least wanted" for being a tax-increasing Republican.

He vowed then to back a primary challenge against Hurt, then a state delegate, but Hurt was later elected to state senate with little trouble.

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Last week, we told you about the tea party movement's next national target -- American businesses believed to be supporting the "socialist agenda" of Democratic politicians. On Jan. 20, the tea partiers plan to boycott these corporations during their "National Day of Strike."

The plan is controversial among some conservatives, who worry the tea partiers might alienate their natural allies. However, the strike's organizer, Allen Hardage, told TPMDC that these critics are missing the central point of the plan.

"Here we are exposing the agenda of some of the most widely known companies in America and letting the consumer decide," he said. "If a corporation decides to jump into politics to the tune of millions of dollars, then they need to expect that they will alienate some of their customers."

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Democratic aides in both the House and Senate have confirmed to TPMDC that the House of Representatives will likely take up the Senate's health care bill, amend it, and send it back to the Senate for final passage--a process known informally as "ping-pong"--with the hope of avoiding the procedural hurdles that the more standard conference committee process presents.

Confirming a report that first appeared in The New Republic, aides say the process would mimic the conference committee in a number of ways, while at the same time closing out Republicans and streamlining final passage.

They also provided further details.

"Most conferences, everything's decided by the time you get to the table," one aide said.

In this case, instead of creating a final conference report that both chambers would pass, principals in both chambers would agree upon a package of changes to the Senate bill that passed on Christmas eve. The House would then vote to amend the Senate bill to reflect those agreed-upon changes, pass the legislation, and send it back over to the Senate for--they hope--a final vote.

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A group of tea partiers and Second Amendment activists in New Mexico decided to kick off the new decade with a show of arms at a demonstration protesting President Obama's "socialist" policies, according to local media reports via Think Progress.

Over three hundred people attended the protest in Alamogordo in southern New Mexico, which was organized by the Otero Tea Party Patriots and a group called the Second Amendment Task Force.

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In a stark public move to distance themselves from their former boss, former staffers for Rep. Parker Griffith (R-AL) sent out a press release this morning announcing that "nearly every staff member" has quit as a result of his party switch from the Democrats to the Republicans.

The quitting staffers are chief of staff Sharon Wheeler, legislative director Megan Swearingen, senior legislative assistant Brian Greer, legislative assistant Will Crain, press secretary Sean Magers, legislative correspondents Arinze Ifekauche and Chase Chesser, staff assistant Mary Lou Hughston, Congressional fellows Dr. Anjali Shah Kastorf and Leslee Oden -- and even an intern, Andrew Menefee. The only staffer remaining, Magers tells us, is the Congressman's scheduler Leigh Pettis.

"Alabama's Fifth District has deserved and has benefited from great Democratic conservative leadership since Reconstruction. And until now they had it," Wheeler said. "But Parker Griffith has abandoned the legacy of conservative leadership provided by Bud Cramer, Ronnie Flippo, Bob Jones, Howell Heflin, Jim Allen, Lister Hill, John Sparkman, Big Jim Folsom, and so many more."

Wheeler concludes by saying that the staffers are "taking a leap of faith with the belief we will soon find ourselves in the employment of principled public officials." That's a pretty strong insult against Griffith, who has faced criticism from both sides of the political spectrum that his switch was allegedly motivated by electoral considerations. The clear implication is that finding a principled politician to work for would be a change.

The full press release is available after the jump.

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Rep. Henry Brown (R-SC) will reportedly announce today that he is retiring from Congress. The Palmetto Scoop reports that significant factors in the decision were Brown's age -- he is 74 -- and also that he did not want to continue serving as a member of the minority party.

Brown was first elected in 2000 to a safe Republican seat. (His predecessor was Mark Sanford, who left Congress in order to honor a term-limits pledge. Sanford was of course later elected governor, and has been in the midst of a sex scandal since last spring.) But in 2008 he had an unusually close race, winning by only 52%-48%, at the same time as John McCain carried the district by 56%-42%. He was already facing challenges in the Republican primary from several credible candidates -- who will now effectively be the main GOP bench for the open seat.

A Republican source was optimistic about holding the seat, telling TPM: "Democrats might think they'll have a smidgen of a chance here, but as the year progresses they'll find it's not working out for them."

A Democratic source, on the other hand, looked to the infighting between the state GOP's moderates and hard-line conservatives. "Oh yeah, it definitely could be winnable," the source said. "It's clear that the fight within the Republican party has taken a toll on South Carolina's GOP members of Congress, and that's gonna matter straight through election day."

Late Update: Possible Democratic candidates, our Dem source tells us, are former minister and small business owner Robert Barber, businesswoman Linda Ketner (the 2008 nominee who came very close to upsetting Brown), and state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) on Sunday became the latest Republican to criticize the Obama Administration for handling the would-be Christmas day bomber as a civilian, and Bond's communications director added on Twitter that trying shoebomber Richard Reid in federal court was a "mistake."

The comments by Bond, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Fox News Sunday echo calls by Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, for Umar Abdulmutallab to be tried in a military tribunal.

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Former Massachusetts governor and probable second-time presidential hopeful Mitt Romney will soon be back on the trail and hitting Iowa to promote what has been described by his spokesman as "an ideas book.''

The Boston Globe took a look at the March 2 kickoff for Romney's "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness."

Romney (R) will speak at Iowa State University in Ames and visit Des Moines, but the book tour should not be expected to mirror Sarah Palin's, the Globe reported. They haven't announced the stops for the rest of the tour, which will wind through 18 states.

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