TPM News

Labor unions are doubling down in Arkansas as Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter are set to duel for another three weeks in a Democratic primary runoff election. The AFL-CIO announced this morning they will keep up an aggressive push on Halter's behalf, and a top labor official lashed out over Lincoln's Tuesday night speech after polls closed.

After earning 45 percent of the vote (below the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff) to Halter's 43 percent, Lincoln lamented "outside groups," ordering them to "go home." I asked labor officials about the remark this morning. "There's nothing outside about people who are members of unions in Arkansas," AFL-CIO political director Karen Ackerman responded in the conference call with reporters. "I don't know what she's talking about. This was an effort initiated by union activists in Arkansas for Arkansas."

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A scheduled 2 p.m. vote to end debate on the Senate financial reform bill had to be pushed back this afternoon because of objections by Democrats.

The exact sequence of events is a bit unclear, but it centered around an attempt by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), who's managing the bill on the floor, to call up some final amendments before the 2 p.m. cloture vote. But Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), who's trying to secure a vote on his own amendment, and who is one of several progressives dismayed by Democratic leadership's unwillingness to allow votes on consumer-friendly amendments, objected.

Dodd and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could try and cut off debate anyhow, but their decision to delay, at least for now, may indicate that they're shy of the 60 votes they'd need to prevail. Democrats will be caucusing shortly, to figure out a way around the impasse. The way things work around these parts, that could take hours...or much longer.

Tea Party favorite Rand Paul won the Republican nomination for Senate in Kentucky last night, and celebrated his victory at a country club.

Today, Paul was asked about the "mixed messages" of running on an anti-Washington fat cat platform, and then delivering his victory speech from a private club. Paul responded that though people used to think of golf as exclusive, "now you see a lot of people playing golf."

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Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) will vote with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) today to end debate on financial reform legislation and allow the bill to move forward.

Nelson released a statement saying, "This afternoon, I plan to vote for the cloture motion to move this bill to debate on a final round of amendments and a final vote."

Reid intends to call for a vote to end the debate at 2 p.m. ET. Reid needs 60 votes to end the debate. Earlier today, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said she'd vote for cloture and allow the bill to move forward.

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The new Rasmussen poll of Arizona shows Sen. John McCain expanding his lead against his challenger in the Republican primary, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth. But he's not quite in the clear just yet.

The numbers: McCain 52%, Hayworth 40%. The survey of likely GOP primary voters has a ±4.5% margin of error. Last month, McCain's lead was a much narrower 47%-42%. The TPM Poll Average gives McCain a lead of 52.7%-37.4%. Since then, McCain has gone further to the right on immigration, backing Arizona's new anti-illegal immigration law and running an ad promising to "complete the danged fence."

Rasmussen writes: "The 2008 Republican Presidential nominee cannot be comforted by the fact that his level of support in early primary polling is similar to the numbers for Arlen Specter. Specter, defeated by Joe Sestak, led in just about all early polling but could never get much above the 50% level of support. That provided Joe Sestak with a chance to defeat the 30-year veteran of the Senate yesterday."

The new survey of Colorado by Public Policy Polling (D) suggests that Dems are picking up steam in this state's key Senate race, with both incumbent Dem Sen. Michael Bennet taking a lead over Republican establishment favorite Jane Norton, and both Bennet and his primary challenger Andrew Romanoff leading all of the Republican contenders.

Bennet leads former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton by 44%-41%, and leads Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck and state Sen. Tom Wiens by six and eight points respectively. Romanoff edges Norton by 43%-41%, is ahead of Buck by three points, and leads Wiens by four points. The poll of registered voters has a ±3% margin of error. The full results are available here.

The TPM Poll Average has Norton edging Bennet by 44.1%-43.0%, with recent momentum in Bennet's favor, and Norton narrowly leading Romanoff by 44.2%-41.2%.

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Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), who won the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) last night, said today that though Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) had said he doesn't think Sestak can win the general election, "his predictions haven't been too accurate this past year on this election."

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Appearing at the White House today with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, President Obama said he can get immigration reform done -- if Republicans will help.

"I have confidence that I can get the majority of Democrats both in the House and the Senate to support a piece of legislation," he said.

But I don't have 60 votes in the Senate. I've got to have some support from Republicans.

"I don't expect to get every Republican vote, but I need some help to get it done."

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This week should determine Texas' nationally influential U.S. history textbook standards, as the conservative-dominated State Board of Education prepares to vote on the new standards Friday amid intense interest from activists on both sides.

These are the standards that publishers seeking to sell textbooks in Texas will have to use as a guide. TPMmuckraker started covering the story back in September, and it has since attracted national attention for what critics see as the board's outlandish right-wing recasting of U.S. history. Given the [makeup]( of the board, look for a big win for conservatives Friday.

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A far-reaching proposal to regulate derivative trading will not be scaled back in Wall Street reform legislation, at least for now, multiple Senate aides confirm. The development comes as welcome news to an unusual mix of progressives, financial officials, and at least one conservative Democrat: Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR).

Lincoln is the author of the derivatives title in the Senate's financial regulation bill, and for weeks has faced opposition from Wall Street, the White House, and members of her own party over a provision to force financial firms to spin off their derivatives trading desks into stand-alone entities.

The proposal to weaken the derivatives title was ultimately drafted by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd--the Democrats' chief financial reform negotiator--and introduced yesterday at the eleventh hour of the debate over Wall Street reform. In it, Dodd proposed kicking the spin-off provision down the road for two years pending review by federal regulators, many of whom are already unfavorably disposed to it.

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