TPM News

The retirement of Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), who was often criticized by progressive Democrats, presents a certain ironic outcome -- that the likely new Democratic nominee to replace him, Rep. Brad Ellsworth, is actually somewhat to Bayh's right.

The various rating systems, and the two legislators' voting records, shows that Ellsworth is generally in the same territory as Bayh on most issues. The difference comes on three key social issues: Abortion, gay rights, and gun control.

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Today: The Texas Primary Voters are headed to the polls today in the Texas primaries, to pick nominees for governor and other offices. Incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry is being challenged by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Tea Party activist Debra Medina. Perry has been well ahead in the polls, but the big question is whether he will be able to surpass the 50% needed to avoid a runoff election in April.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:15 a.m. ET. Obama will depart the White House at 9:45 a.m. ET, take off from Andrews Air Force Base at 10 a.m. ET, and arrive at 11:35 a.m. ET in Savannah, Georgia. He will tour Savannah Technical College at 11:55 a.m. ET, and deliver remarks on jobs and the economy at 12:30 p.m. ET. He will tour a local manufacturing facility at 1:20 p.m. ET, and tour a local small business at 2:50 p.m. ET. He will depart from Savannah at 3:40 p.m. ET. arriving back at Andrews Air Force Base at 5 p.m. ET, and back at the White House at 5:15 p.m. ET.

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A new poll out this morning shows Sen. Arlen Specter on top for the first time in a while in the Pennsylvania Senate race. The new Quinnipiac poll shows Specter ahead of GOP nominee Pat Toomey by a 7 points, 49-42.

The new poll is good news for Specter, but internal numbers inside the poll show he still faces a tough road to reelection. The TPM Poll Average for the Specter-Toomey race shows Toomey ahead 43.8-41.7.

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A labor source confirmed to TPMDC tonight that the AFL-CIO voted to back new Senate candidate Lt. Gov Bill Halter over Sen. Blanche Lincoln in the May 18 Democratic primary in Arkansas. Three unions within the umbrella group have committed to a $3 million independent expenditure on Halter's behalf.

In the day since he officially announced his intention to take on Lincoln in the primary, Halter has lined up the support from Democratic base groups, including progressive groups and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Those two, among others, raised nearly $500,000 for Halter from progressives across the country in less than 24 hours.

Lincoln still enjoys the support of at least one prominent national progressive though. The White House says President Obama backs Lincoln as he would any Democratic incumbent.

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Rep. Harold Ford (D-TN), who had been mulling a run for Senate in New York against appointed Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, has decided not to run.

The story was first reported by the New York Post. Afterwards, the New York Times released portions of an opinion piece that Ford wrote for the paper, to be run in its entirety tomorrow. (Late update: The op-ed is now up in its entirety.)

"I've examined this race in every possible way, and I keep returning to the same fundamental conclusion: If I run, the likely result would be a brutal and highly negative Democratic primary -- a primary where the winner emerges weakened and the Republican strengthened," Ford wrote. He continued: "I refuse to do anything that would help Republicans win a Senate seat in New York, and give the Senate majority to the Republicans."

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Two of the Senate's top Republicans have now publicly come to the defense of Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), whose implementation of the Senate filibuster rules has led to the discontinuation of unemployment and COBRA benefits for thousands of Americans, and has resulted in a 21 percent fee cut for doctors seeing Medicare patients.

"My colleague from Kentucky made a good point," said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) on the floor today. Bunning says he's holding up the bill because he wants it to be paid for with stimulus dollars, during a recession. Kyl agrees.

Likewise, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)--who runs the Senate GOP's re-election committee--said he sympathizes with his beleaguered colleague.

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At a town hall meeting with the Muslim community Thursday, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) seemed to defend comments she made in 2003 about the terrorist threat emanating from the people who run "all the convenience stores across the country."

"I wasn't off the wall," she said, according to the Charlotte Observer. "It may have come across that way, but you have to put it in context."

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