TPM News

A Neighborhood Research poll of likely Iowa caucus voters released this week found Mike Huckabee once again leading the pack, while Donald Trump placed a surprising third place, ahead of big-name GOPers including Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich.

That affirms previous polls that have shown Huckabee comfortably leading all comers in Iowa, which holds the nation's first -- and therefore highly important -- primary nominating contest. And it seems to show that Trump, the eccentric business tycoon who has recently made some noise about a possible presidential bid, may be a viable candidate after all.

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In another sign of just how big a contest the Wisconsin Supreme Court became -- going from sleepy spring election and likely easy win for incumbent conservative Justice David Prosser, to a hot race in which liberal-backed challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg now has a very narrow lead -- the results show that turnout was incredibly high.

Craig Gilbert at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

With 99% of the returns in, almost 1.5 million people had voted in the state Supreme Court race, which would represent a turnout of 33.5% of voting-age adults.

That's 68% higher than the official state prediction of 20% turnout, which was based on recent historical norms.

A 20% turnout would be about 874,000 votes. Tuesday's turnout exceeded that by almost 600,000 votes.

Another way to look at it: Each candidate has just under 740,000 votes right now -- compared to the 874,000 votes total that would have occurred under typical conditions.

A Senate Democratic leadership aide tells me that top negotiators for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) are nearing an agreement that would cut federal spending by somewhere between $33 billion and $40 billion dollars but "much closer to 33."

The men quarterbacking that side of the spending fight are Boehner's chief of staff Barry Jackson and Reid's chief of staff David Krone. They're working with multiple frameworks that contain somewhat different allocations, and mixes of discretionary and mandatory spending, but according to the aide, are close to resolving that side of the issue.

However, another side of the equation is still holding up a final deal. That's where things get tough.

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Fox News and Glenn Beck's production company have announced that Beck will "transition off" his daily television program later this year, and that the two companies plan to work together "to develop and produce a variety of television projects for air on the Fox News Channel as well as content for other platforms including Fox News' digital properties."

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According to results of Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday morning, the percentage of Floridians who now approve of Gov. Rick Scott's (R) job performance has remained unchanged since two months ago. But at the same time, the percentage who disapprove of his job performance has more than doubled, putting his net approval rating deep underwater.

In the latest poll, a 48% plurality of registered voters now disapprove of how Scott has handled his job, a huge leap from February when only 22% of voters disapproved of the new Governor's job performance. Meanwhile, 35% of voters currently approve of Scott's job performance, the exact same percentage who gave Scott a thumbs up two months ago.

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The Wisconsin Supreme Court race is down to the wire, after the lead see-sawed back and forth all of Tuesday night and into the early hours of Wednesday, with challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg taking a very narrow lead over incumbent Justice David Prosser -- for now, anyway.

With 3,627 precincts out of 3,630 reporting on the Associated Press's spreadsheet, Kloppenburg has 739,574 votes to Prosser's 739,350 -- a lead of 224 votes, with the AP continuing to make adjustments and corrections that further swing the numbers around slightly. The remaining precincts come from Milwaukee County (from the suburban town of West Allis, the Milwuakee Journal Sentinel reports) and Jefferson County (carried by Prosser). At this juncture, the race remains simply too close to call.

And the campaigns appear to be gearing up for a recount. WisPolitics reported this morning:

Prosser campaign director Brian Nemoir says he's still trying to chase down some wards.

"While we are cautiously optimistic, it's safe to say that this campaign will transition from turning out votes to protecting the integrity and recounting the votes," he said.

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"As I'm speaking to you, you must either think I'm a con man sitting in front of you, plain and simple, or I'm genuine," Ali Safavi, a former spokesman for the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK, told TPM in an interview last week. "There is nothing in between."

As TPM has reported, a growing number of former U.S. government, military and intelligence officials have recently been attending events in support of the MEK, an Iranian opposition group classified as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. These officials have called the MEK critical to any chance of regime change in Iran, and have urged President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take the group off the terror list. Furthermore, supporters have called for the protection of the roughly 3,400 MEK members who currently reside at Camp Ashraf, the organization's main base, in Iraq. Ashraf has fallen into a kind of diplomatic no-man's land between Iraq, Iran and the U.S., and the MEK says its members there have been subject to attacks and other privations.

Safavi, a former MEK spokesman and current member of the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), which the State Department considers the MEK's "political arm," spoke to TPM about the controversy surrounding the group. Several times, he put the debate in the starkest possible terms.

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The Alabama House of Representatives voted Tuesday to pass an immigration bill modeled after Arizona's, that would give law enforcement officials the authority to demand papers from people in cases "where reasonable suspicion exists that a person is an unauthorized alien," and jail those suspected of being in the country illegally until their immigration status can be confirmed.

The bill, which passed the House by a vote of 73-28, makes it a crime to be an illegal immigrant in the state of Alabama, and could lead to trespassing charges for those found to be in the state unlawfully. In Alabama, trespassing carries a sentence of up to a year.

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Reporters covering the health care law should disclose that their parent outlets are subsidiaries of the Obama administration, if those outlets benefit from the law in any way.

That's the argument at least one House Republican is making, with respect to the latest conservative bogeyman -- a program in the health care law that allows retirees to maintain insurance coverage if they're not yet eligible for Medicare.

"It is fine with me if they continue covering the ObamaCare debate," Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) told The Daily Caller in an email. "When NBC used to cover energy issues, they identified themselves as a subsidiary of General Electric. CBS and Washington Post just have to disclose that they are subsidiaries of the Obama Administration."

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Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appeared on Fox & Friends and shared harsh criticism of Attorney General Eric Holder and his recent decision to move ahead with trying suspected terrorists in military tribunals rather than in federal courts.  Rumsfeld declared it to be the "right decision, more than two years too late."

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