TPM News

It was a busy political convention weekend in Utah, with party activists feeling restless. Over on the Democratic side, five-term Rep. Jim Matheson was unable to reach 60% of the delegate vote at his party's convention, forcing him into a primary for his house seat against retired high school teacher and adjunct college instructor Claudia Wright. And all this in the same weekend that saw Utah GOPers unseat their own incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett.

Matheson took 55% of the vote to Wright's 45% -- a stunning position for a nine-year incumbent. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Democratic activists were put off by the Blue Dog Matheson's instances of voting against the Democratic legislative agenda, with his vote against the new health care reform law as one example.

"You're angry about some of my votes," Matheson told the convention, which responded with what the Tribune described as ironic applause. "But I'm a Democrat and I'm here to tell you I don't run from that label because it's in my blood."

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The White House is moving quickly to portray Elena Kagan as a worthy successor to the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, emphasizing that her "leadership qualities" are what set her apart from the other contenders on the Supreme Court short list. The implication is that the President sees in Kagan someone who can be an intellectual counterweight to Chief Justice John Roberts.

"You can't overnight replace 34 years of experience," presidential adviser David Axelrod told reporters, but Kagan "shows the prospect over time of stepping into those shoes and being a leader on the court."

Axelrod and White House Counsel Bob Bauer briefed a small group of reporters in the Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House about an hour after President Obama publicly unveiled Kagan in a ceremony in the East Room.

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The Club For Growth is declaring victory from the defeat of Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) at this past weekend's Utah Republican convention, when the incumbent was denied renomination after three terms. And what's more, they are pointing to a whole record of successes in Republican Senate primaries so far this cycle.

In an interview with TPMDC, Club executive director David Keating estimated that the group spent about $180,000 against the incumbent Senator.

"Well, we put a lot of work into it. I think as far as I could tell, we were the only organization that was trying to defeat Bennett at the convention," said Keating. "So we put a lot of effort into the caucus itself. What we hoped to do, and it seemed to work well, was to drive up knowledge about Bennett's record -- and to tell people that there even was a caucus, which a lot of people didn't seem to know."

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Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT), who became the first senator to lose this year when he failed to win his party's backing at Utah's GOP convention over the weekend, appeared to tear up as he thanked his staff.

"I offer my congratulations, as I say, to whoever wins," he said. "But I assure him, he will not have any more loyal, dedicated or efficient staff than I have had."

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The Senate race isn't the only GOP war going on in Florida. Surprise late-entry gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott -- the former CEO of the the Columbia hospital system and a leading astroturfer during the health care town halls in 2009 -- is threatening to dismantle Republican party plans to replace Gov. Charlie Crist (I) with state Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Scott, a millionaire several hundred times over, jumped into GOP primary on April 13, after months of a campaign that already moved onto the general, with likely GOP nominee McCollum facing off against likely Democratic nominee and state CFO Alex Sink. But a new poll released over the weekend shows Scott has succeeded in forcing McCollum into an unexpected and costly primary fight.

Like so many Republicans these days, Scott is running as an outsider. It's his deep pockets and connection to the conservative anti-health care reform movement from the August 2009 town halls that could be causing Florida Republicans to rethink a race they already thought was over. Now they're left pondering if their nominee for governor might end up being a disgraced hospital executive who says he killed the public option.

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Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has issued a statement in response to President Obama's nomination of Elena Kagan to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. Cornyn says he doesn't doubt Kagan's "first-rate intellect," but he wonders if someone who "has spent her entire professional career in Harvard Square, Hyde Park, and the DC Beltway" understands "how ordinary people live."

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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) needed someone to reform his state's government and shrink its budget. So who's he turning to? Fred Malek: right-wing insider and former President Richard Nixon's "Jew counter."

On Friday, McDonnell released a list of 31 names -- the members of his "Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring," which, according to the Washington Post, "will consider closing some of the state's 130 agencies" and will "consider selling the state's 350 liquor stores."

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A Republican fundraising pro who was fired from the RNC after putting purchases at a high-end jewelry boutique on the party's tab, could potentially wind up in more hot water.

Debbie LeHardy was terminated Friday as the RNC's deputy finance director. Last month, reporters for Alternet and other outlets, combing through the RNC's FEC filings in the wake of the recent scandal over a night out at a bondage-themed night-club, found that LeHardy was reimbursed for a $450 purchase from Henri Bendel, a Manhattan jewelry and accessories boutique that touts itself as a "girls' playground for trendsetting young women from around the world." Though the store has no restaurant, the expenditure was listed on the FEC report as a meal.

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