TPM News

Voters last week sent Washington a strong message about fixing the federal budget, according to exclusive numbers from a new poll obtained by TPM: Raise taxes on the wealthy and cut the military budget before you touch the nation's largest entitlement program, Social Security.

The survey of voters who cast ballots last Tuesday -- conducted by Democratic pollster PPP and commissioned by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee -- found that when respondents were given the choice between cutting the defense budget, raising taxes on the wealthy and cutting Social Security to reduce the deficit, just 12% said they'd like to see the entitlement program cut. Forty-three percent said they'd prefer to see taxes on the wealthy go up, and 22% said cutting the huge defense budget was the best way to go.

The PCCC hailed the result as evidence that voters are not ready to embrace the conservative economic agenda, even after they just voted a huge number of new conservatives into Congress.

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The lawsuit to stop the construction of a mosque in middle Tennessee is getting expensive. The preliminary hearing has dragged on, with several days of testimony stretching over more than a month. The county has added $50,000 to its litigation budget to cover expected defense costs and is warning that that number could go up.

So who's funding the plaintiffs -- three local residents who don't have access to taxpayer money?

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Obama To G-20: Strong US Economy Key To Global Recovery The Associated Press reports: "President Barack Obama said a strong, job-creating economy in the United States would be the country's most important contribution to a global recovery as he pleaded with world leaders to work together despite sharp differences. Arriving in South Korea on Wednesday for the G-20 summit, Obama is expected to find himself on the defensive because of plans by the Federal Reserve to buy $600 billion in long-term government bonds to try to drive down interest rates, spur lending and boost the U.S. economy. Some other nations complain that the move will give American goods an unfair advantage."

Obama: 'Indonesia Is A Part Of Me' The AFP report: "Obama said Indonesia's transformation had been mirrored in his own life, in the 40 years since he left the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, as a scruffy youth destined to become the president of the United States. 'Indonesia is a part of me,' Obama said, recalling how his late mother had married an Indonesian man and brought her son to then sleepy Jakarta, where he would fly kites, run in rice paddies and catch dragonflies. Obama said he had been encouraged by Indonesia's more recent rejection of Suharto-era authoritarianism and embrace of democracy, and said, with its new skyscrapers in now teeming Jakarta, it was now a key force in Asia."

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Alaska Republican Joe Miller filed a lawsuit in federal court yesterday over the planned count of write-in ballots in the Senate race. The suit asks that the judge stop the state from counting ballots that misspell write-in candidate Sen. Lisa Murkowski's name.

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The two candidates in the expected Minnesota gubernatorial recount, Democratic former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton and Republican state Rep. Tom Emmer, have each been assembling the kinds of high-powered legal teams that we should expect for a potential stiff legal fight. And there is quite a bit of history linking them all to the previous statewide recount from just two years ago, in the super-close and controversial Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman.

Dayton currently leads by by slightly less than 9,000 votes, or 0.42%, within the 0.5% threshold that would trigger an automatic recount under state law. However, many observers -- including Fritz Knaak, a former lawyer for Norm Coleman -- have said that it would be very difficult for Emmer to pull out the win. By contrast, the 2008 Senate recount resulted in a net margin shift of only about 500 votes, which was enough to change the winner in a race that was even closer than this one.

But a lot is at stake here. The midterm election also produced a Republican-led legislature, overturning previous Dem majorities, and which governor takes office will have a vast difference on the policies the state adopts. And furthermore, if this were to last into early January then it would result in neither taking office immediately. Instead, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty would remain in office for the interim.

So let's take a quick look at the current state of the legal teams that have been put together.

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Gov.-elect Rick Scott (R-FL) is already facing his first mini-scandal just a week after he beat Democrat Alex Sink in one of the nation's closest and nastiest gubernatorial races. A part-time campaign worker who found the job through an ad on Craigslist is upset that the campaign paid him with an American Express gift card.

Mark Don Givens told Florida's WTSP News that he was expecting a paycheck after he made phone calls and knocked on doors for the Scott campaign, which made jobs a top issue in the election. Givens said he and other workers were upset after they were told by the campaign that they could not offer them a paycheck and given American Express gift cards instead.

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Back on the air tonight after his brief suspension, MSNBC personality Keith Olbermann acknowledged the suspension -- punishment, MSNBC said, for making political donations without permission -- and apologized to viewers.

Olbermann apologized for the "drama" he had caused, and for not knowing beforehand about MSNBC's policy about donations, which he said was not in his ($30 million) contract and which he derided as potentially illegal. He also apologized for doing a "Worst Person" segment on the opponent of one of the politicians he gave to.

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A source close to outgoing DCCC chairman Chris Van Hollen confirms that the Maryland Democrat is angling to be the party's top budget guy in the House when they assume the minority in January. He would replace current chairman John Spratt, who was defeated in last week's midterm elections.

Van Hollen is not currently a member of the Budget Committee, but did deal with these issues when he was a member of the Maryland General Assembly. He was given a leadership title at the beginning of the 111th Congress, but will likely be squeezed out when Democrats lose the Speakership.

If he wins, Van Hollen would leapfrog the Budget Committee's Vice Chair Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) for the top slot. As ranking member he'd spar with incoming Budget Chairman Paul Ryan -- a conservative but, like Van Hollen, not known for his pyrotechnics behind the dais.

Kentucky's incoming Senator is pushing back hard on critics who claim he has sold out when it comes to earmarks. Republican Rand Paul told CNN's Wolf Blitzer today that concerns that he backed away from his pledge to refuse federally-funded pet projects, a key tenet of his tea party-fueled campaign, just aren't warranted.

"I won't use earmarks as a senator," Paul told Blitzer. As he had on the campaign trail, Paul said earmarking "shows some of the abuse of Washington" and promised he won't be among the Senators who participate in the process. But that doesn't mean he won't try to get money for Kentucky through the open appropriations process.

Conservatives got upset at Paul after a Wall Street Journal article from the weekend reported Paul had offered a "shift" on "his campaign pledge to end earmarks." That led National Review to worry Paul was "selling out already."

On CNN, Paul dismissed the article. In a flashback to the campaign trail -- when Paul's early national media appearances haunted him for months -- the Sen.-elect said the Journal had misquoted him and demanded a correction.

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