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The plane crash last night that reportedly involved former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), and his previous 1978 plane crash that resulted in the death of his wife, were not the first plane crashes in Alaska to involve high-profile political figures. In fact, a crash in 1972 resulted in the deaths of not only an Alaska politician, but a major national Democratic leader.

On October 16, 1972, House Majority Leader Hale Boggs (D-LA) was campaigning with first-term Democratic Rep. Nick Begich when their plane disappeared in the mountains en route to a fundraiser in Juneau. The disappearance resulted in a 39-day search, covering an area of 300,000 square miles. In October 1977, the twin peaks of the mountain barrier where the two were presumed to have died were renamed Mt. Boggs and Mt. Begich. (From the Associated Press, via Nexis.)

Begich, who had not yet been legally declared dead, was re-elected in November 1972 against Republican nominee Don Young, who in turn later went on to win the special election to replace Begich. Young has held the seat ever since. Begich's son, Democrat Mark Begich, would later serve as Mayor of Anchorage and is now Alaska's junior Senator, having narrowly defeated Ted Stevens in 2008. Boggs was succeeded by his widow, Democrat Lindy Boggs, the first woman elected to Congress from Louisiana, who held the seat until her retirement at the 1990 election.

With the reports today that former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) may have been on a plane that has crashed in Alaska, it should be remembered that Stevens was once on another plane that crashed, with very tragic consequences.

In December 1978, Ted Stevens and his wife Ann Stevens were on a small chartered plane that crashed while attempting to land. Ted Stevens survived -- but his wife Ann, and four other people, were killed. Ted Stevens suffered head, neck and arm injuries, but was conscious when two of his daughters visited him in the hospital.

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Former Bush administration NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe was aboard the plane that crashed in remote Alaska last night, according to EADS North America, the defense contractor for which he's served as CEO since October 2009. Former Sen. Ted Stevens was also reportedly on board.

EADS spokesperson Guy Hicks said, "No other details are available at this time."

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The Federal Elections Commission yesterday ruled that there was no reason to look further into allegations that former Rep. Chip Pickering (R-MS) used Gov. Haley Barbour's (R-MS) PAC to funnel campaign contributions to Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) in order to avoid bad publicity.

Pickering, of course, last made national news when his wife sued his long-time mistress for alienation of affection in Mississippi; Vitter's reported extramarital assignations with prostitutes are well-documented.

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Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT), who is running in today's Connecticut Republican Senate primary, appeared yesterday on Laura Ingraham's radio show -- where the two sharply criticized the national Republican Party for favoring self-funding candidates like former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Bringing The Smackdown: Linda McMahon's Campaign For Senate, And Her Colorful Pro-Wrestling Past]

Simmons, who dramatically re-entered the primary in the home stretch, talked about how he polls just as well as McMahon against the presumptive Democratic nominee, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, despite all the money that McMahon has put into the race. Ingraham then asked whether national party committees are favoring self-funders who would make their own jobs easier.

Simmons agreed. "And that has been the topic of some national news stories within the last few weeks, that they have focused very much on self-funders because their own fundraising has not been as aggressive or as successful as it should be," said Simmons. "I think that's a damn shame. If you look at the polls, I am very competitive against Richard Blumenthal, and I"m the kind of guy that can take him on at every level. I can take him on in debates on the issues, on serving in Vietnam. She can't. The only thing she's got is a checkbook."

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Nathan Deal has pulled out in front of Karen Handel in today's GOP gubernatorial runoff in Georgia, a last-minute Landmark survey (PDF) finds. The poll shows Deal edging Handel 43.7%-41.9%, a lead that fall's within the poll's 3.9-point margin of error.

Landmark's last poll of the race, from August 1, showed Handel in the lead, 45.8%-37.1%.

Handel seems to have the wind at her back going into today's runoff election -- she won more votes in July's primary and boasts an endorsement from Sarah Palin. Landmark's new numbers, though, may give Deal supporters a reason to be hopeful as they await tonight's results.

The TPM Poll Average gives Handel a slim 43.7%-41.6% lead. Check out TPMDC's full coverage of the race here.

Sharron Angle is now getting on board with those Republicans who are calling for an end to birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants. But instead of amending the Constitution, Angle is apparently in the camp that believes it can be done through legislation.

Jon Ralston reports that Angle said during a media availability yesterday that "certainly someone who has not come here under the rule of law is not under our jurisdiction." She also added: "I think Congress needs to become involved."

Birthright citizenship comes from the very first sentence of the 14th Amendment: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." This was enacted in order to guarantee racial equality, especially for the freed slaves after the Civil War, and has been extended to cover all racial groups.

But when it comes to the children of illegal immigrants, some conservatives think they've found their loophole. However, experts have told TPM that any such plans to change the law are "clearly unconstitutional."

The TPM Poll Average for the Nevada Senate race gives Harry Reid a lead of 45.1%-42.7%.

It's no secret that since Rand Paul became the Republican nominee for Senate in Kentucky, media access has been tough. And so even during my weekend trip to Kentucky's Fancy Farm political picnic, I was forced to observe Paul from the outside rather than chat one-on-one with the Republican candidate.

Still -- I learned a lot just by watching. Paul very obviously remains an outsider who does his own thing, and comes across like a regular guy who simply doesn't look or talk like a politician. He still seems to be at odds with the local party after a brutal GOP primary. And he just doesn't seem to be interested in running a traditional campaign -- or abiding by local customs.

Let's break it down.

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The Anchorage Daily News reports that the family of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) is concerned that he may have been on-board a GCI-owned plane that reportedly crashed near Dillingham, Alaska. Stevens was on his way to the GCI-owned Agulowak Lodge near Lake Aleknagik.

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