TPM News

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is backing away from his support for Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL), saying that he will not continue to support Crist's Senate bid if Crist were to leave the GOP and run as an independent.

The Hill asked McCain if he would still support Crist as an independent. "No," McCain replied. Pressed further, McCain only added: "I support Republicans."

McCain endorsed Crist last year, when Crist first got into the race and seemed to be unbeatable. Crist previously endorsed McCain for McCain in the run-up to the 2008 Florida primary, helping to deliver that big victory to McCain.a

With signs mounting that Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) could be about to bolt the Republican Party and run for Senate as an independent, the GOP is in a delicate position of having to figure out just how and when to cut him off -- with some politicians getting in early on the act.

National Republican groups have remained mostly mum on how they are walking this tightrope, but it's clear they are starting to react to Crist's performance in the Republican primary -- and his likely exit from it. Perhaps the single biggest development was yesterday, when the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which originally endorsed Crist for the Republican nomination last year, circulated a private e-mail asking recipients to tell Crist to drop out -- effectively an un-endorsement of his candidacy.

"We believe there is zero chance Governor Crist continues running in the Republican primary," wrote NRSC executive director Rob Jesmer. "It [is] our view that if Governor Crist believes he cannot win a primary then the proper course of action is he drop out of the race and wait for another day."

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A conservative legal group that previously has targeted Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) now is going after another Democrat -- Eric Massa.

The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) yesterday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, charging that payments from the former New York congressman's campaign -- one to a former top aide, and another for a car -- broke campaign laws.

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Reporters asked House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer during his weekly briefing today for a reaction to the news about Goldman Sachs' profits posted today. Hoyer (D-MD) said he could understand why people would have two "somewhat contradictory reactions" to the news.

He said on one hand, it shows that the efforts the last Congress and the Bush administration undertook to bailout the nation's banks "had some success in stabilizing the marketplace," and noted that Goldman has repaid taxpayers. But on the other hand, "one could have anger that an organization that got such very significant help" posts the profit "so shortly after it was in distress."

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Two new surveys show a toss-up result in the special election for the House seat in Pennsylvania formerly held by the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha, with a possible edge to the Republicans.

In a new survey from Public Policy Polling (D): Republican businessman Tim Burns 44%, Democratic nominee and former Murtha staffer Mark Critz 41%. Two key numbers form the internals are that President Obama's approval is only 33% in the district, with 57% disapproval, and likely voters also oppose the new health care reform law by a margin of 59%-28%. The Democrat Critz recently ran an ad declaring his own opposition to the health care bill.

"It's going to be somewhat amazing if Mark Critz wins this race given the way voters in his district feel about Barack Obama," writes PPP president Dean Debnam. "His low ratings are something a long time incumbent like Murtha might have been able to weather, but you wouldn't expect Democrats to win an open seat anywhere that gives Obama an approval rating under 40%. Still it remains a toss up with a month to go before the election."

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New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo today filed suit against state Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada (D), charging Espada with using his health care non-profit to funnel money into his campaign, to his family and to pay for personal expenses.

Cuomo, a Democrat and the front-runner in the gubernatorial race, alleges that Espada and his family stole $14 million over five years.

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Sen. Arlen Specter may be ahead in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary polls, but that's not stopping him from taking to the airwaves to trash Rep. Joe Sestak.

With the May 18 primary coming up fast, both Democratic campaigns are on the air with TV spots. Sestak just went up with a minute-long bio ad and Specter's been up for several days now with a set of ads touting his positives.

Specter is the first to go negative on TV, though, smacking Sestak over, among other things, "creating a poor command climate" when he was an Admiral in the Navy.

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Gregory Giusti, who was arrested earlier this month for threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over health care reform, plead not guilty today.

Giusti is charged with making at least four dozen calls to Pelosi's offices in February and March. If he's convicted, Giusti could be sentenced to up to two years in prison and a yar of supervised release, and be hit with a $250,000 fine.

Less than a year after the conclusion of his marathon Senate contest against Al Franken, Norm Coleman is back. He's teaming up with other GOP heavy-hitters on a new group that will likely take advantage of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision to pour money into congressional races this fall.

Coleman is the CEO of American Action, which launched in February, billing itself as an "action tank" -- thinking without action is for liberals, it seems -- that will act as a center-right version of the Center for American Progress. That's the John-Podesta-run operation that has proven adept both at incubating progressive policies and at shaping the day-to-day political debate. The yearly budget for the new venture has been reported at around $4 million.

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