TPM News

Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) is starting to send some mixed messages on whether he might bolt the GOP and run for the Senate as an independent, the Miami Herald reports.

"I'm not thinking about that today," Crist told reporters today. "We'll look at that later on." This event comes in the wake of Crist's veto yesterday of a Republican-backed education bill, a bill that many saw as a key choice for Crist and his future in the GOP.

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No one ever said that Congressional Republicans lack chutzpah. But this is rich even for them.

The GOP is trying to use the Jack Abramoff scandal -- in which a Republican lobbyist bribed staffers to Republican members of Congress and members of the Republican Bush administration -- to tar Democrats and their allies.

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Every member of the Senate Republican Caucus has signed a letter, delivered to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, expressing opposition to the Democrats' financial regulatory reform bill, which they all claim will lead to more Wall Street bailouts.

"We are united in our opposition to the partisan legislation reported by the Senate Banking Committee," the letter reads. "As currently constructed, this bill allows for endless taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street and establishes new and unlimited regulatory powers that will stifle small businesses and community banks."

As of last night, 40 of the Senate's 41 Republicans had signed the letter. The lone holdout, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), said yesterday that she opposed the legislation but hadn't yet decided whether to sign, and it's not clear what convinced her.

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Before meeting with his economic advisers today, President Obama told reporters he'd veto any financial regulatory reform bill that doesn't "bring the derivatives market under control."

"I want to see what emerges, but I will veto legislation that does not bring the derivatives market under control and some sort of regulatory framework that assures that we don't have the same kind of crises that we've seen in the past," he said before meeting with the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

"We can't allow history to repeat itself. Never again should American taxpayers be forced to step in and pay the price for the responsibility of speculators on Wall Street who made risky bets with the expectation that taxpayers would be there to break their fall," he said.

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The new Rasmussen poll of Arizona finds Sen. John McCain with only a small lead over his challenger in the Republican primary, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

The numbers: McCain 47%, Hayworth 42%, with a ±4% margin of error. The TPM Poll Average gives McCain a lead in the primary of 48.0%-40.8%, with the incumbent blow the crucial 50% mark.

From the pollster's analysis: "McCain has been losing ground since January when he picked up 53% of the potential GOP Primary vote and Hayworth had only 31% support. Last month, the longtime senator and 2008 GOP presidential candidate earned 48% of the vote, while 41% of likely primary voters supported his challenger."

A new Rasmussen poll finds that the Tea Party-backed effort to recall Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) would have a tough road to success -- and that's even if it survives the current court challenges against it.

The poll asked: "If an election were held today to recall Senator Menendez from office would you vote to recall him or to let him continue serving as a United States senator?" The answer is recall 39%, continue serving 34%, and 27% undecided. Menendez has an approval rating of 45%, with a matching 45% disapproval -- not the sort of mega-unpopular, Gray Davis territory that could lead to a successful recall.

Also bear in mind that this poll result is a long way from even holding a recall election. The effort to gather signatures for a recall must still withstand litigation at the state Supreme Court and perhaps even the United States Supreme Court, on whether members of Congress can be recalled in the first place. And if it is found to be legal, its supporters would then have to gather 1.3 million signatures -- nearly as many people as the 1.6 million who voted for John McCain in New Jersey for the high-turnout 2008 election.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) had a very strong fundraising quarter, taking in over $810,000 for the first three months of 2010, and $1.5 million cash on hand.

Overall, Bachmann has raised a total of $2.4 million so far during campaign cycle. For the two Democrats competing to run against her, state Sen. Tarryl Clark has raised $1.1 million since entering the race last summer, and former state university regent Maureen Reed has raised $1 million, including $250,000 of her own money.

Professor Larry Jacobs at the University of Minnesota told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that the massive amounts of money both for and against Bachmann can be explained as thus: "I think it's one word: passion."

Sen. Harry Reid's re-election campaign is not taking the brutal polls out of Nevada lying down. The campaign is fighting back against two recent Las Vegas Review-Journal surveys by claiming their methods aren't up to code.

The Review-Journal released two polls by Mason-Dixon this week, showing Reid (D-NV) trailing one possible Republican challenger by eight to 10 points in November.

When the first poll came out, the Reid campaign argued that the results weren't accurate because the poll only tested on a Reid vs. Lowden ticket, when the actual ballot in November will have nine options. Those options will include third party candidates and "none of the above."

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Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO running in the Republican primary for governor of California, has found a novel (and probably very expensive) method of getting her campaign message out: A 48-page glossy campaign magazine, mailed to 500,000 Republican households in the state.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that Whitman's campaign is not divulging how much this mailer cost, but campaign experts estimate that it must have been at least half a million dollars. They key here is that Whitman is self-financing her campaign -- and has vowed to spend $150 million of her own money between the primary and general election.

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Jason Levin, the middle school teacher behind the Crash The Tea Party project, is dismissing claims that he misused his position to organize the scheme.

Levin is currently on a paid leave from the Beaverton, Oregon school district where he works while school officials investigate charges that he used school time and equipment to create the website He told me his attorneys have advised him not to do any interviews while the investigation runs its course. But in a written statement he emailed me this morning, Levin said the charges are without merit.

"Any allegation that I used school district equipment or district time to create or maintain the website is completely and totally false," Levin wrote. "The fact that teachers are held to a higher standard when excercising their right to free speech (in their private lives) is patently unfair."

In a sign that the hullabaloo the project has caused is getting to him, however, Levin has offered the site up for sale -- cleaning his hands of the tea party infiltration plan that drew the ire of conservatives across the country, including Sean Hannity.

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