TPM News

A new Quinnipiac poll says that appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is vulnerable to a primary challenge from outgoing New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, who just came surprisingly close in his unsuccessful campaign for Mayor of New York City.

The numbers for the Democratic primary: Thompson 41%, Gillibrand 28%, with a ±3.7% margin of error. On the other hand, a Siena poll that was also released today shows Gillibrand ahead of Thompson by 32%-23%.

Thompson has likely benefitted from recent publicity from his mayoral campaign, in which he was frequently on New York TV (though not as much as Mike Bloomberg, obviously). By contrast, Gillibrand hasn't been on paid TV at all -- not one ad.

One thing the two polls both agree on, though, is that each Democrat currently trails Rudy Giuliani in a general election match-up. Quinnipiac has Rudy ahead of Gillibrand by 50%-40% and ahead of Thompson by 52%-36%. Siena had Rudy leading Gillibrand by 49%-42%, and leading Thompson by 56%-34%.

The scheduled tea party "die-in" this morning didn't exactly live up to the hype. A group of tea partiers gathered this morning and "stormed" Senate offices as planned, but the crowd was smaller than at past events. As for the "dying" part, that didn't seem to play a large part in the event either. TPMDC noticed no deaths, fake or otherwise, while we were there.

The group that was there did travel far to make it, probably because there's another tea party event this afternoon sponsored by Americans For Prosperity, the business-backed charity that has paid for tea party buses in the past. Die-iners hailed from as far away as Washington state. Georgia had a large contingent, though unlike others in the group, they didn't go to visit their senators during the office storm. Instead, they tagged along with the lone tea partier from Connecticut on his way to visit Joe Lieberman.

"We're lucky -- our politicians aren't the bad ones," Joy McGann of Atlanta told TPMDC. "We figured we'd go with this man from Connecticut -- he's alone and he needs the help."

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A new survey by Public Policy Polling (D) shows Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD), a Democrat from a red state, running ahead but nevertheless in a competitive race for her 2010 re-election campaign.

Herseth Sandlin has a 49% approval rating, to 38% disapproval, well ahead of President Obama's 41%-52% rating in this state. She is ahead of Republican state Rep. Blake Curd by a 52%-31% margin, but is in a much closer race against Secretary of State Chris Nelson by only 46%-39%. The margin of error is ±3.7%.

From the pollster's analysis: "Herseth Sandlin's standing is a good microcosm of the difficulties Democrats face this year in Republican areas. Even though she is personally popular and did vote against the health care bill, she still only has a single digit lead against a relatively unknown opponent. If Nelson turns out to be a good candidate this race will be highly competitive but it's hard to say there's really anything Herseth Sandlin should be doing differently -- it's just not going to be easy in places where Obama and the Congressional leadership are so unpopular."

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has a lesson for fellow legislators: wait until legislative proposals have been unveiled in writing before making final judgments (unless those proposals involve the public option or a Medicare buy-in).

"One of the things we've learned in the hectic last couple of weeks is that we all ought to be looking at paper," Lieberman told reporters this morning. "We ought to be looking at specific legislative language before we say I agree or I object."

Of course, Lieberman has objected to a public option compromise, that would allow people age 55-64 to buy into Medicare. "But to be as explicit as I can be now, if, as appears to be happening, the so-called public option government run insurance program is out, and the Medicare out, and there's no other attempts to bring things like that in, then I'm gonna be in a position where I can say--I'm getting to the position where I can say what I wanted to say all along: that I'm ready to vote for health care reform."

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In a case drawing criticism from outside lawyers, an Iranian engineer sentenced to prison Monday for violating arms control laws was lured to the nation of Georgia by American authorities for a fake arms deal, arrested, extradited to the U.S., and held in prison for two years -- including months in solitary confinement before his guilty plea last year -- all totally in secret, according to the Justice Department and media reports.

Export control lawyers told Politico's Laura Rozen the politically-charged case of Amir Hossein Ardebili -- which was under seal until this month -- is troubling for two reasons: first, he was an Iranian who never left Iran, nonetheless lured out of the country and targeted by U.S. law enforcement; and, second, that he was sentenced after two years of secret imprisonment.

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Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) challenged Sen. John Thune (R-SD) in a startlingly tense exchange yesterday, slamming Thune's apparent looseness with the truth by saying, "We're not entitled to our own facts."

Yesterday afternoon Thune took to the Senate floor with a chart that tried to illustrate how the Senate health care reform bill supposedly proposes tax increases immediately while "many of the benefits don't start getting paid out for another 1,479 days."

Franken was having none of it. Franken took issue with Thune's chart, rising to the floor minutes later to challenge its assertions. What followed was an unusually tense exchange between Thune -- fourth in the Senate GOP leadership -- and the freshman Franken.

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House Democrats can't always get what they want, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters today. But if they spin it right, he said, they just might find they got what they need.

Faced with a likely public option-free health care reform bill from the Senate, Hoyer said House Democrats will vote to move the reform process forward without government-run insurance included.

Much as his colleagues in the Senate Democratic leadership did last night, Hoyer said the political reality in the Senate means Democrats have to look past things like the public option to the "guts" of the bill itself.

"[Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid does not have the votes for a public option, obviously," Hoyer said. "In a world of alternatives, you have to take what you can get."

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At a press conference yesterday, RNC Chair Michael Steele announced plans to tell all of America how hard his party is working to prevent the Democrats from passing health care reform. One goal, he said, was to tell Democrats that they had squandered whatever chance of a bipartisan reform they once had. But, the other audience Steele addressed was a little closer to home.

Tea partiers, Steele said, it's time to come back to the Republican Party.

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