TPM News

Not much attention has been paid to Libertarian Joe Kennedy in the Massachusetts Senate race. But might he be the deciding factor in who wins the seat?

As Campaign Diaries points out, polls which include Kennedy (no relation to the late Ted Kennedy) make things look better for Democratic candidate Martha Coakley. Polls that only include Coakley and her Republican rival, Scott Brown, look better for Brown.

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The Massachusetts Democratic Party released a hard-hitting mailer against Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown, Greg Sargent reported over the weekend, accusing Brown of wanting the state's hospitals to turn away all of the 1,736 Massachusetts women who were raped in 2008.

"1,736 WOMEN WERE RAPED IN MASSACHUSETTS IN 2008," the mailer said (all capital letters in the original). "SCOTT BROWN WANTS HOSPITALS TO TURN THEM ALL AWAY."

The ad is an extension of a a Coakley TV ad from last week, which attacked Brown for having backed proposed legislation in the state Senate to allow hospitals or hospital personnel to refuse to dispense emergency contraception to rape victims. That ad was also particularly brutal, with the visual of a woman cowering with her head in her hands, presumably meant to signify that the woman was a rape victim being harmed even further by Brown's policies.

So is the claim true, or not? The short answer is that Brown did not want hospitals to turn away rape victims en masse, refusing to provide any and all care. He did want to guarantee them the legal ability to refuse to provide emergency contraception. This was presented accurately in the Coakley TV ad, but is being seriously twisted around in this state Dem mailer.

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The conservative bloc on the Texas State Board of Education won a string of victories Friday, obtaining approval for an amendment requiring high school U.S. history students to know about Phyllis Schlafly and the Contract with America as well as inserting a clause that aims to justify McCarthyism.

Outspoken conservative board member Don McLeroy, who reportedly spent over three hours personally proposing changes to the textbook standards, even wanted to cut "hip-hop" in favor of "country" in a section about the impact of cultural movements. That amendment failed.

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A new way forward on health care is gaining some traction among Democrats, who are preparing for the possibility that Democrat Martha Coakley will lose her bid to replace Ted Kennedy in the Senate, costing Democrats their 60th vote, which they'll need to overcome the filibuster.

The House has been preparing to tweak the Senate bill with a package of amendments based on a deal reached last week with organized labor, send it back to the upper chamber for final passage, and claim victory. But Coakley could well lose her race, depriving Democrats of the 60th vote they'd need to overcome a filibuster, and that unthinkable possibility is forcing party leaders to consider a Plan B.

As I noted last week, the House could simply pass the Senate bill unchanged, and Obama could sign reform into law. As recently as last week, a number of high-profile Democrats were saying that would never fly. But many are now suggesting that the House might still pull through, if House members are promised that the deal they agreed to last week will be passed separately--and quickly--through the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process.

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Massachusetts Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown's campaign is distancing itself from comments he made in 2008, which we reported on over the weekend, in which Brown expressed doubts over whether Barack Obama was born in wedlock -- and is declaring that any idea that he might believe otherwise is a lie.

Said Brown spokesman Eric Fehrnstom told Greg Sargent: "He doesn't believe that. This is more desperate campaigning from Martha Coakley. When she isn't calling for higher taxes, she's making things up about Scott Brown."

For the record, Brown was debating another guest on a regional news show during the 2008 election, when a discussion came up of Bristol Palin's pregnancy. Brown pointed out that Obama's mother had him when she was 18. The other guest said "And married." Brown then replied, "Well, I don't know about that," and chuckled.

Out-of-staters descended on Massachusetts this weekend, flooding the Bay State with money and manpower in the final days of the special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

In a bit of a shift from other big elections, activists in both parties are dialing in to help as the race is down-to-the-wire and closer than either party would like.

Administration staffers and Capitol Hill types flocked to phone banks in D.C. to dial in for attorney general Martha Coakley (D) while Republicans across the country rallied to help state Sen. Scott Brown (R).

Former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove told his nearly 100,000 followers yesterday, "#RETWEETTHISIF You want to help Scott Brown but don't live in MA." He sent out a link to the Brown campaign's Web site allowing for supporters to "call from home."

Arkansas Democrats asked their supporters to "Help Win the Massachusetts Senate Seat," blasting out a link to the DNC's Organizing for America phone banking site which also says Democrats can "make calls from home."

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Pajamas Media has published another poll in the Massachusetts Senate race that differs significantly from others in in the field on the final days of the race. But unlike the last Pajamas Media outlier, this poll shows Martha Coakley (D) with more momentum than the polls from other firms.

The Pajamas Media poll from Friday -- which produced more than a little consternation from readers when we posted it -- showed Scott Brown (R) ahead by 15 points, 54-39. The new Pajamas Media poll, taken yesterday afternoon, shows Coakley has cut that lead to 10, 52-42. Other polls over the weekend from PPP (D) and the Merriman River Group also show Brown ahead, but the PPP shows Brown with the momentum.

The House ethics committee is probing two lawmakers' ties to PMA Group, the now-defunct lobbying firm that has been at the center of a federal investigation since last year.

The identity of one of those lawmakers, Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN) comes as little surprise. That of the other, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), is more unexpected.

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