TPM News

The huge field of GOP candidates to oppose Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) has just gotten a bit smaller, and could shrink even further, as the state readjusts to an open gubernatorial race.

Former Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley has announced that he is now considering a run for governor, in the wake of GOP Gov. Jodi Rell's announcement that she's retiring: "We no longer have an incumbent Governor seeking re-election. I have had a number of conversations with people who are encouraging me to consider running for Governor because they believe I could better serve Connecticut today as Governor than as a Senator. They believe that as an experienced executive and someone who understands the economy and how jobs are created, I have a background and set of skills uniquely suited to addressing the very serious spending problems and other economic challenges now facing our state."

State Sen. Sam Caligiuri has also announced that he's definitely out of the Senate race, and is instead running for the House of Representatives against second-term Democrat Chris Murphy.

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The White House is offering reporters a preview of tonight's state dinner, from the menu to the table settings.

TPMDC is among dozens of news outlets currently crammed into the state dining room, where two tables have been set up to show how the festivities will play out this evening.

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CNN will retain the services of Alex Castellanos, despite his new role as unpaid flack for the RNC (his official title will be Senior Communications Adviser).

"CNN has political strategists that provide unpaid advice to both sides of the aisle, and Alex will remain as a CNN contributor," a CNN spokesperson emails. "CNN will continue to be vigilant in disclosing contributor affiliations and their profiles."

Castellanos' consulting firms have produced ads for the Chamber of Commerce and America's Health Insurance Plans as part of the groups' ongoing efforts to defeat key Obama agenda items like climate change legislation and health care reform.

And now, Democrats have latched on to the development both to criticize CNN for allowing such a partisan figure to appear on the network as a news analyst, and to attack the Republican party for its closeness to industry.

"By bringing on a senior strategist for the Chamber and AHIP, the Republican Party can no longer pretend that they aren't in the pocket of big business and the insurance industry lobby and it made it crystal clear who Republicans are fighting for -- and it's not our families and small businesses," DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan emails. "When Castellanos is on CNN as a top strategist for the GOP, the insurance industry, and the Chamber of Commerce, he certainly won't be offering any 'independent analysis.'"

The Washington Post has announced the winner of its "America's Next Great Pundit" contest. The winner of a three-month stint as an opinion columnist for the paper is Kevin Huffman, a Teach for America executive and Ohio native.

The two-month-long contest whittled 4,800 entries down to 10 contestants. Those finalists then had to compete in "challenges" designed to "test the skills a modern pundit must possess." They had to write columns, blog on deadline, answer reader questions and participate in a videotaped discussion.

In a format familiar to the world of reality shows, the winner of each round, determined by the judges, automatically moved to the next round. Reader votes then determined who would be cut.

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You might not necessarily think that health care reform would end up in the crosshairs of the gun lobby. But you'd be wrong. Gun Owners of America have been raging against the Senate health care bill for all sorts of imagined threats to the Second Amendment, and now the White House has taken notice.

What exactly are their concerns? Well, for instance, "Special 'wellness and prevention' programs (inserted by Section 1001 of the bill as part of a new Section 2717 in the Public Health Services Act) would allow the government to offer lower premiums to employers who bribe their employees to live healthier lifestyles -- and nothing within the bill would prohibit rabidly anti-gun HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from decreeing that 'no guns' is somehow healthier."

The White House says: "Section 2717 section creates guidelines for insurers to report on initiatives that improve quality of care and health outcomes, and it specifically lists what types of programs would be involved - such as smoking cessation, physical fitness, nutrition, heart disease prevention. There is no mention of guns, and there is no language that could result in higher premiums for gun owners or lower premiums for people who do not own guns."

You can read the gun owners' gripes here, and the fact-check here.

Google is using a house ad to explain why an offensive image of First Lady Michelle Obama is the first result in an image search.

Search Engine Land reports that complaints about the image appeared in a Google help forum last week. A Google employee responded to the complaints on Wednesday, explaining that Google does not remove results "simply because the content is in very poor taste or because we receive complaints concerning it."

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During a joint press conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today, President Obama addressed his upcoming announcement on his Afghanistan troops decision.

"I will be making an announcement to the American people about how we intend to move forward," the president said. "I will be doing so shortly."

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From federal prosecutor to accused violent gangster, pimp, and drug-dealer...That's the unusual career trajectory taken, say the Feds, by Paul Bergrin, who was indicted earlier this month in a 39-count racketeering indictment.

In a drama that could have been made for HBO, Bergrin -- a white-collar defense lawyer who once represented, pro bono, a solider accused of abusing Abu Ghraib detainees -- seems to have allowed his gangster clients to drag him into a world of violent crime. And he may have gone a lot further than Maury Levy ever did for Stringer Bell.

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