TPM News

Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor and ex-Bush administration Secretary of Health and Human Services, has just announced that he will not challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold -- a rare instance this cycle of Senate Republicans failing to get their strongest possible candidate.

"My family did not want me to run," Thompson told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, just before he took the stage to speak at a Tea Party event in Madison.

Thompson was probably the GOP's best shot at beating Feingold, with the TPM Poll Average showing him ahead of the incumbent by 45.3%-41.9%. By contrast, Feingold is ahead of the two Republicans who are already in the race, leading businessman Terrence Wall by 50.7%-37.0%, and leading businessman Dave Westlake by 49.4%-34.2%.

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Could Democrats have a liability in the performance of their candidate in the Connecticut Senate race, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal -- even though he is currently way ahead in the polls?

The New York Times reports that some Dems are worried about Blumenthal's rusty campaign showing so far, as exhibited by long-winded answers and a few gaffes -- with some even calling him "Martha Coakley in pants." For example, his performance in a recent debate with his obscure Dem primary opponent was widely panned, and he has ruled out having another debate. He has not had a tough race since his first election as attorney general in 1990, and this year he could have to work for it.

For now, it doesn't seem like Blumenthal is in any real danger. The TPM Poll Average has him leading the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon, by 57.0%-32.5%. Then again, Martha Coakley initially led Scott Brown in the Massachusetts special Senate election. And this is expected to be a tough year for Democrats.

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Thomas A. Drake, a former senior executive with the National Security Agency, has been charged by a federal grand jury in Maryland with obstructing justice, making false statements and retaining classified information.

According to the DOJ release:

The indictment alleges that between approximately February 2006 and November 2007, a newspaper reporter published a series of articles about the NSA. The indictment alleges that Drake served as a source for many of those articles, including articles that contained classified information. The indictment also alleges that Drake took a series of steps to facilitate the provision of this information to the reporter.

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Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL), who has been trailing badly in his Republican primary for Senate, has just vetoed a signature Republican-backed education bill in Florida -- a sign that he could potentially break with his party and run for the Senate as an independent.

The legislation, which was passed through the Republican legislature in the face of massive protests from teachers, would have abolished tenure for new teachers and instituted strict merit pay guidelines. It was heavily supported by conservatives both inside and outside the legislature, notably former Gov. Jeb Bush.

There has been much speculation about whether Crist might abandon his GOP primary -- the TPM Poll Average gives Rubio a lead of 59.1%-27.9% -- and run as an independent. And many media reports have pointed to Crist's choice of signing or vetoing this bill as a key indicator. A Quinnipiac poll this morning suggested that Crist could potentially win a three-way race as an independent.

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The defeat of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was from the outset perhaps the top priority of the Tea Party Express, according to an internal memo obtained by Politico. The group's focus on unseating the Democratic Senate leader appears to bolster the charge that its priorities dovetail more closely with those of the Republican party than with the more independent Tea Party movement.

The memo (pdf) was written in April 2009 by Joe Wierzbicki of Russo, Marsh -- the California Republican consulting firm, run by veteran consultant Sal Russo, that created the PAC that runs Tea Party Express. As Politico reported, Wierzbicki proposed launching the Tea Party Express as a bus tour across the country, arguing that it would "give a boost to our PAC and position us as a growing force/leading force as the 2010 elections come into focus."

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Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said today that he thinks health care reform legislation may be a good candidate for review by the court.

Speaking to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science about next year's funding, Breyer suggested the legislation could come before the court in the coming years.

Asked about the court's relatively light caseload, he said that will probably change.

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Porn star Stormy Daniels has announced that she will not run for U.S. Senate in Louisiana, against Republican incumbent David Vitter.

Daniels had been seemingly laying the groundwork for a campaign for the past year, frequently making light of Vitter's status as a family-values conservative who was embroiled in a prostitution scandal a few years ago. Last week, for example, she officially declared herself to be a Republican -- saying that the party had swayed her with the RNC's spending of $2,000 at a bondage-themed night club in West Hollywood. All in all, it looked to be a great opportunity to put forward her libertarian philosophies in a very entertaining manner, by running against Vitter in the Republican primary

But in her statement today, Daniels cited Vitter's financial war chest as a decisive reason that will not run: "The simple fact that David Vitter has $5 million in his bank account pretty much says it all. Against that shear accumulation of special interest dollars, I have no legitimate means of winning a race for the United States Senate under these circumstances. As a businesswoman, I know that better than anyone."

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