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Some bad news for Florida (and national) Democrats: State Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has announced that she isn't running for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring GOPer Mel Martinez.

Had she entered the primary, Sink would have started out as the immediate frontrunner and probably a slight favorite for the general election, too. Rep. Kendrick Meek is running in the Democratic primary, and is currently the only announced candidate from either party. Meek could very well be a strong candidate -- and at least one other Dem, state Sen. Dan Gelber, is indicating he'll be getting in, too -- but Sink would have started out in an even better position.

So far both parties have managed to lose a top potential recruit for this seat: Sink on the Dem side, and Jeb Bush for the Republicans.


TPMtv will be bringing you coverage of the presidential inauguration from Washington, D.C. through Wednesday. Here is our first report. Stay tuned for more!



Today: The Inaugural Concert Today is the big inaugural concert to celebrate Barack Obama's incoming presidency, featuring acts such as Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Beyonce, Stevie Wonder and many more. HBO has the exclusive TV rights, but the audio will also be streamed online by NPR from 2-5 p.m. ET.

Obama And Biden Visits Arlington National Cemetery Barack Obama and Joe Biden visited Arlington National Cemetery this morning, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Obamas Attend Church In Washington The Obamas attended church this morning at the 19th Street Baptist Church, the oldest historically-black church in Washington. A release from the Presidential Inauguration Committee indicated that the Obamas are still looking at various churches in the area, and will settle on a permanent one at a later time.

Polls Give Obama Sky-High Ratings Ahead Of Inauguration Multiple polls out this morning give Barack Obama some incredibly high approval ratings in the days leading up to his inauguration. A new CBS/New York Times poll has 79% of Americans saying they are optimistic about the next four years with Obama as president, compared to only 16% who are pessimistic; the new CNN poll gives him an 84% approval rating; and the new ABC/Washington Post poll gives him an 80%-15% approval ratings.

Polls Also Show Approval For Obama's Economic Plan The new CBS/NYT poll shows a 63%-24% approval of Obama's economic plan. The ABC/WaPo poll shows that 72% of Americans are confident that Obama's plan will improve the economy, compared to only 17% who are not confident. And the CNN poll finds 58%-40% approval for increased government spending to stimulate the economy, with support jumping to 71%-28% when the spending is combined with tax cuts.

More Polls: People Don't Like Bush The new CBS/NYT poll gives George W. Bush an approval rating of only 22%, with a disapproval of 73%. The ABC/WaPo poll gives him a 33%-66% rating. And the CNN poll shows 68% of Americans rating George W. Bush's president as a failure, with only 31% saying it was a success.

Pelosi To Obama: Don't Wait For 2010, Repeal Bush Tax Cuts Sooner During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Nancy Pelosi said that Barack Obama should not wait for the Bush tax cuts on the top-earners to expire, but should instead seek to repeal them ahead of schedule. However, she did add that any discussion on this issue is not part of the economic stimulus plan.

Axelrod Predicts Strong Action From Obama David Axelrod told CNN that Barack Obama will take diplomatic action "early and aggressively." Said Axelrod: "I think that the events around the world demand that he act quickly, and I think you'll see him act quickly."

Obama: Let Us Celebrate The Peaceful Transfer Of Power In his new Presidential YouTube Address, his last one before the inauguration, Barack Obama recognizes the importance of the transition of power, and how we often take the peaceful transfer of power for granted:



"Through the ages, many have struggled for the right to live in a land where power does not belong to one person or party, and many brave Americans have fought and died to help advance that right," Obama says. "Through the long twilight struggle of the Cold War, our transitions from one President to the next provided a stark contrast to the suffocating grip of Soviet Communism. And today, the resilience of our democracy stands in opposition to the extremists who would tear it down."

Obama And Biden On Whistle-Stop Tour Barack Obama and Joe Biden are traveling today by train from Philadelphia to Baltimore, in a whistle-stop tour for people who want to see the new president-elect but wouldn't have been able to go to the inauguration itself. The Philadelphia event began earlier this morning, with Obama scheduled to met Joe Biden in Delaware at 1 p.m. ET, with another event scheduled for 4:15 p.m. ET.

Obama In Philly: The Election Should Only Be The Beginning Speaking to the crowd this morning in Philadelphia, Barack Obama declared that his election victory should only be the beginning of changing America for the better. "Starting now, let's take up in our own lives the work of perfecting our union," Obama said, according to the prepared remarks. "Let's build a government that is responsible to the people, and accept our own responsibilities as citizens to hold our government accountable. Let's all of us do our part to rebuild this country. Let's make sure this election is not the end of what we do to change America, but the beginning."

Obama Creates Political Organizing Committee The Obama campaign is now being transformed into a new committee, "Organizing for America," which will leverage his database of 13 million e-mail addresses and other supporter information to set up community organizations across the country. Here's his YouTube announcing it:



Essentially, as the Associated Press points out, this will be his re-election campaign-in-waiting for 2012, as a parallel organization to the Democratic National Committee, in addition to the stated purpose of promoting his policy goals.

Obama: I Think I Can Keep The BlackBerry -- But I'll Be Careful Barack Obama told CNN that he thinks he'll be able to keep his BlackBerry, rather than have to give it up over privacy and security concerns. "Now, my working assumption, and this is not new, is that everything I write on e-mail could end up being on CNN," Obama did say cautiously. "So I make sure that -- to think before I press 'send.'"

Obama Calls US Airways Pilot Sullenberger The Obama transition team announced that Barack Obama yesterday called Captain Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot of US Airways flight 1549 who safely landed his damaged passenger plane in the Hudson River, and spoke to him for five minutes. Obama thanked Sullenberger for his heroism.

Ask, and ye shall receive.

Earlier this week I lamented the conservative House Blue Dogs' ability to command the political spotlight in Washington while the larger Congressional Progressive Caucus seemed to sit on the sidelines. And now we have a sign that the left wing of the Democratic party is ready to flex its muscle.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler's (D-NY) office just mentioned that the Progressives are requesting a meeting with President-elect Obama "to discuss greatly increasing the size" of the economic recovery package. Nadler also rapped the House stimulus bill as too small to truly lift the nation out of recession, signaling a showdown to come over despite the legislation's likely weakening in the Senate.

Nadler's full statement after the jump.

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The Defense Department inspector general has absolved the Pentagon of any guilt for its systematic farming-out of military officials to promote the Iraq war on TV. But Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH) isn't about to let the issue drop.

From a statement his office provided to TPMmuckraker:

This report is a whitewash and did not ask the right questions. There are factual inaccuracies and a lack of depth to the investigation. It's a nice parting gift to the Bush White House from the Pentagon. I plan to continue to pursue this matter to get the answers the American people deserve to ensure that they are not the victims of propaganda and deception in matters of war and peace.


Given that the IG report essentially declared there to be insufficient evidence to prove whether the pundits program violated anti-propaganda rules, Hodes has a point about the depth of the probe. Perhaps the coming Government Accountability Office report on the military's Iraq marketing will get more substantive answers from the networks.

I'm starting to dig into the differences between House transportation panel chairman Jim Oberstar's $85 billion proposal for infrastructure funding in the stimulus bill (available for download on the right-hand side of the committee page) and the actual final product, released yesterday.

David Alpert at Greater Greater Washington has a chart that tells the tale well. But my first question is: Where did you go, Amtrak Joe?

When the perennially cash-poor train system got a $15 billion authorization signed by George Bush last fall, it represented a big win for Acela-loving Vice President-elect Biden. Now, however, it would seem that Biden's administration has given mass transit the short end of the stick.

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We wrote earlier about the still-murky significance of a FISA court's ruling that a law passed by Congress in 2007, giving the president the power to conduct warrantless wiretaps, is constitutional.

And now Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin senator who has led Democrats' efforts to oppose Bush on the issue, has weighed in to help make the case that the decision is limited in its implications.

In a statement just distributed to reporters, Feingold declared that the court's decision "in no way validates or bolsters the president's illegal warrantless wiretapping program."

He continued:

It did not support the President's claim of inherent constitutional authority to violate the law. In fact, the court explicitly stated that "we caution that our decision does not constitute an endorsement of broad-based, indiscriminate executive power."


The whole statement and an accompanying "fact sheet" follows after the jump...

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The DOD's just-released report on its TV pundit hiring program finds that the department did not violate prohibitions on using public finds for propaganda by ceding the networks with retired military analysts (RMAs).

Here's the key passage:

The Comptroller General has interpreted the publicity and propaganda riders to prohibit three types of activities--self-aggrandizement or puffery, partisanship, and covert communications. Applying these standards, we found the evidence insufficient to conclude that RMA outreach activities were improper. Further, we found insufficient basis to conclude that OASD(PA) conceived of or undertook a disciplined effort to assemble a contingent of influential RMAs who could be depended on to comment favorably on DoD programs.

With regard to RMAs who had ties to military contractors, extensive searches found no instance where such RMAs used information or contacts obtained as a result of the OASD(PA) outreach program to achieve a competitive advantage for their company.


But it also admits at the end that the report wasn't informed by much information from the networks themselves:
We requested interviews with the official responsible for the news divisions at five networks: ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NBC. All declined our request for an interview. ABC, CNN, and FOX provided formal written responses to our inquiry. NBC forwarded copies of their responses to Congresswoman DeLauro and the New York Times. CBS provided "off the record" remarks.


Given that the networks appear to be just as culpable as DOD here, if not more so, that seems like a serious flaw.

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