TPM News

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) keeps insisting that the LGBT community coined the phrase "ick factor," which he recently used to describe same-sex relationships.

On Fox News Sunday yesterday, Huckabee argued that it's "disingenuous" that the gay community uses the phrase, and "somehow it's OK if they talk about it, but if someone else talks about it it's off bounds."

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The new Rasmussen poll of the South Carolina gubernatorial race gives Republican state Rep. Nikki Haley a double-digit lead over her Democratic opponent, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen. Interestingly, though, this poll suggests that Haley may have gotten the opposite of a bump from her landslide win in last week's GOP primary runoff -- with her lead against Sheheen narrowing.

The numbers: Haley 52%, Sheheen 40%. The survey of likely voters has a ±4.5% margin of error. In the previous poll from two weeks ago, during the runoff campaign, Haley led Sheheen by 55%-34%, a greater margin than her opponent Gresham Barrett's 46%-38% lead over Sheheen.

The TPM Poll Average gives Haley a lead of 50.3%-36.0%.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan today will introduce herself to the Senate Judiciary Committee by promising she would adhere to the law, respect the "choices made by the American people," and keep an "open mind" while serving on the nation's highest bench. Kagan will talk about deference to politicians and the democratic process.

"The Supreme Court, of course, has the responsibility of ensuring that our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals. But the Court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people," she will say today, according to excerpts distributed by the White House. Kagan planned to talk about the phrase engraved on the Supreme Court building just down the street from the hearing room: "Equal Justice Under Law."

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At least one potential Republican presidential candidate is squarely taking Gen. Stanley McChrystal's side, saying that President Obama should not have sacked the general and should have instead taken responsibility for the insults coming from the general and his top aides.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) told the Quad-City Times in Iowa that McChrystal's comments did not merit replacing him. Santorum said that if he had been president in that situation, he would have felt "chastened" that his hand-picked general had said such things. "I would think, you know, I bear some of the responsibility and I would act differently," said Santorum.

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The State reports today that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division -- a state agency with subpoena power -- is investigating Senate candidate Alvin Greene's finances.

Investigators will focus on how Greene, an unemployed veteran, came up with the $10,440 filing fee to run for the office. Greene won the Democratic nomination earlier this month without campaigning.

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In fairness, Barack Obama never said he wanted to quit Blackwater. But it's still notable that the troubled firm made famous by helping to fight George W. Bush's wars has become a permanent part of the U.S. foreign policy tableau, with news of two big contracts issued to the firm by the Obama Administration in recent weeks.

CIA chief Leon Panetta, whose agency's $100 million contract with Blackwater for security in Afghanistan was recently revealed, explained on ABC Sunday (emphasis ours):

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The legal and political situation surrounding the Senate seat formerly held by the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) remains murky for now. West Virginia's governor will undoubtedly appoint Byrd's replacement. But it remains unclear whether that successor will serve the full remainder of Byrd's term through 2012, or whether a special election will also be held this year.

State law provides for an appointment in any case. If the vacancy occurs with less than two years and six months in the term (the key date being this coming July 3), then the law doesn't require any further special election until Byrd's term would have come up anyway, at the regular election in 2012. With a vacancy of more than two years and six months, the law calls for a special election, with a temporary appointment.

But when does a vacancy officially occur? Is it when Byrd died last night? Upon the state officially declaring a vacancy? Or the Senate officially declaring a vacancy? So far, no definite answers have been revealed.

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In a bid to keep pace with House Republicans, Democrats are sending supporters a fundraising letter from former Vice President Al Gore, who's been under media scrutiny for several days after the National Enquirer brought to light an allegation, first raised last year, that Gore sexually assaulted a hotel masseuse in 2006.

"After eight years of the Bush-Cheney administration, America is now beset with major challenges: A massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, an economic downturn that has put good people out of work, and a crisis that I have dedicated my life to solving -- global warming," the DCCC letter reads. "And yet, Republicans are asking for another turn at the wheel."

I've confirmed the authenticity of the letter, and am told that Gore signed off on it, making it in essence his first public statement since the allegations were disclosed. Of course, it's common for both Democrats and Republicans to use surrogates in fundraising pitches, and Gore no doubt still enjoys a great deal of support among Democratic voters. And obviously Gore hasn't been charged with, tried for, or convicted of anything. But it's hard to deny that the recent news makes him a lightning rod.

You can read the entire email below the fold.

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