TPM News

Staffers might be kicking back with bottles of beer right now, but this will be no week of relaxation for those members of Congress with eyes on this fall's critical midterm elections. Leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties sent rank-and-file members home armed with reams of talking points aimed at tooting their own horns and tweaking their rivals.

Internal documents designed to help members prepare for the week-long recess (and obtained by TPM) show that each party is engaged in a pitched battle over the economy. Democrats were even handed a "Job Fair in a Box" kit with suggestions on how to prove to their constituents that reducing unemployment numbers is their top concern. Republicans have their soliloquies prepped too, and will say that the Democratic Party has pursued a "reckless agenda" that cost the nation thousands of jobs.

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who is facing a challenge in the Republican primary from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, now appears to be tacking right on an issue that had long gotten him in trouble with the GOP base. On immigration, McCain is now making it clear that he favors the deportation of many residents who are here illegally.

The Hill reports that McCain said in an interview today with local radio in Tucson that he opposed any program that would allow illegal immigrants a way to become citizens, after he had previously championed a pathway to citizenship in 2006. "No amnesty. Many of them need to be sent back," said McCain, who also explained that a temporary-worker program would only be for those who are entering the country as part of that future program, and not for those now here illegally.

The TPM Poll Average gives McCain a lead of 52.3%-30.6% over Hayworth, whose own campaign has been damaged badly from his 2007 involvement in an informercial promoting a company's questionable seminars for "free money" in government grants.

An Army intelligence analyst, arrested in April for allegedly leaking a classified military video of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad to WikiLeaks, is now facing eight criminal charges in connection with the leak.

Pfc. Bradley Manning was charged Monday with violating the Espionage Act by transmitting classified information to an unauthorized third party. He's also facing criminal charges for abusing access to a secret-level network, and is accused of uploading unauthorized software to the network.

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Have you heard? President Obama has turned NASA into one big self-esteem booster for the Muslim world. At least that's what conservative commentators -- who say they have proof Obama is ordering NASA to boldly go to the Middle East and make Muslims feel better about themselves -- are saying today.

At issue is an interview NASA administrator Charles Bolden gave to Al Jazeera while on a trip to Quatar recently. The interview came as Bolden was in the Middle East to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Obama's Cairo speech, where he called for renewed ties between the U.S. and Muslim nations around the world. Bolden renewed the message of the speech, and said that NASA will be a part of forging the new path, thanks to a new focus on international engagement included in the Obama administration's space policy guidelines released last month.

NASA says Bolden's comments are no big deal, and merely represent Bolden's attempt to reach out to his local audience. But right-wing commentators say the interview is a sign that the only booster rockets NASA will be developing under Obama are the ones that lift Muslim spirits.

Bolden's comments show "Obama's lack of interest in American achievement or, indeed, American greatness," Paul Mirengoff at the Powerline blog wrote. They reflect "Obama foreign policy, which views American national greatness as an anachronism," wrote Elliot Abrams wrote at the National Review. "Group and identity politics at its worst," Lou Dobbs said.

So, what did Bolden really say?

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In a tragic (for us) turn of events, an Ohio elections board has ruled that former Rep. Jim Traficant cannot run for the U.S. House after failing to get enough signatures to put his name on the ballot.

Traficant, who was released from prison last fall after serving seven years for corruption, filed the paperwork in May to run for the 17th House district as an independent. But now, as the Youngstown Vindicator reports, the Trumbull County Board of Elections has disqualified Traficant. According to the board, Traficant only had 2,092 valid signatures -- 107 short of the required 2,199.

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The new survey of the North Carolina Senate race by Public Policy Polling (D) shows Republican Sen. Richard Burr in a close race against Democratic Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, with very high undecideds and both candidates remaining heavily unknown.

The numbers: Burr 38%, Marshall 33%, and Libertarian candidate Michael Beitler at 10%, with a whopping 20% undecided. The survey of registered voters has a ±4.4% margin of error. In the previous poll from a month ago, which did not include Beitler and was also conducted during the Democratic primary runoff campaign, Burr led Marshall by 46%-39%. In a three-way match-up, the TPM Poll Average gives Burr 44.0%, Marshall 36.5%, and Beitler 8.0%.

PPP's Tom Jensen writes: "Burr's relatively anonymity for an incumbent Senator can be seen in his approval numbers. 28% of voters still have no opinion of him, with those who do splitting negatively. 34% like the job he's doing while 39% disapprove. Marshall is still pretty unknown too despite 14 years in statewide office and a recently completed campaign to secure her party's nomination. 58% of voters have no opinion about her with 22% seeing her favorably and 20% unfavorably. "

The Wall Street Journal tells the tale of a feud in the deserts of Nevada, where a sheriff recently arrested the district attorney on charges that he misused public funds, prompting the D.A. to arrest one of the sheriff's deputies, creating an intractable boondoggle for the poor desert county where they live.

The Nye County feud has been going on for years. It came to a head in May, when the sheriff, Tony De Meo, had a deputy arrest the D.A., Robert Beckett. De Meo alleges that Beckett is illegally using money his office collects from a bad check program to fund his wife's cheerleading squad. No charges have been filed, as Beckett refuses to file charges against himself.

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More and more Democrats just keep lining up behind Gov. Charlie Crist (I-FL) in the Florida Senate race.

Crist, who left the Republican Party to run for Senate as an independent, is picking up momentum, the Tampa Tribune reports -- that is, momentum in gaining Democratic donors that would have otherwise gone to Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Kendrick Meek. And a key reason for this is a perception that only Crist can beat Republican Marco Rubio.

Among the latest examples, the paper reports, is Democratic donor Peggy Land of Tampa, who said: "I don't think there's really any other choice. I don't think Kendrick is going to be able to do much better than he's doing now." The paper lists other Democrats in the Tampa area who are backing Crist, including a city council member, a former mayor, and some local political activists.

As we've previously noted, Crist has been picking up support from Democrats in opinion polls, has gained some Democratic staffers, and has also made inroads with organized labor.

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Dale Peterson gained some internet fame a couple months ago for cutting an ad in his campaign for Alabama Agricultural Commissioner, co-starring his rifle and his horse.

Well, Peterson lost, and his opponents are campaigning in a runoff. But he's back to warn any "thugs and criminals" out there that he might just take out anyone who tries to steal his former opponent John McMillan's yard signs.

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