TPM News

An early event is already taking shape in Iowa for potential Republican presidential candidates: A series of lectures organized by social conservative group the Family Leader, headed up by former gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats.

Vander Plaats ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010, winning 40% in the GOP primary to 50% for ex-Gov. Terry Branstad, who went on to win the general election.

Five speakers have been lined up so far: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, his fellow Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and businessman Herman Cain.

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Republicans may be enjoying their ascendancy and critics may be suggesting the President Obama is tilting to the right along with them, but former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean says the "the State of the Progressive Movement is strong."

In a long letter sent to members of Democracy For America -- the progressive group that operates out of Dean's 2004 presidential headquarters in Vermont -- Dean opines on the state of the left after a year that saw many setbacks for progressives, from the death of the public option to the Republicans' November electoral sweep.

"The next few years aren't going to be easy either," Dean writes. "It's going to be a fight to stop right-wing Republicans from rolling back progress and forcing gridlock in Congress."

Despite the progressive critics of Obama, Dean makes it clear that he's fully behind Obama -- and that Obama's cause is a progressive one.

"We'll need to work harder than ever to accomplish real change and reelect President Obama in 2012," Dean writes. "But we've never been afraid of hard work."

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Rank and file Republicans aren't happy with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). They think the GOP should take a hatchet to the federal budget now, to make good on their pledge to slash spending by $100 billion "this year." And their displeasure is spilling out into the open.

"Despite the added challenge of being four months into the current fiscal year, we still must keep our $100 billion pledge to the American people," reads a draft of a letter to Boehner, obtained by TPM, being circulated by the Republican Study Committee. "These $100 billion in cuts to non-security discretionary spending not only ensure that we keep our word to the American people; they represent a credible down payment on the fiscally responsible measures that will be needed to get the nation's finances back on track."

The problem, as Boehner and Ryan have explained, is that they won't even get a whack at the budget until March, when the government's current spending authority expires. By then it will only be six months until the end of the fiscal year in September, and they're having a hard time squeezing a year's worth of promised cuts through a half-year window.

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On a conference call with reporters this afternoon, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT) laid out some key priorities of his newly-launched campaign for the Senate seat held by retiring independent Sen. Joe Lieberman -- with filibuster reform being one of his top concerns.

Murphy said that during his travels throughout his House district, "I've heard a real frustration with the U.S. Senate, and how it too often stands as an unjustifiable barrier to positive change." He said that his campaign would discuss issues such as the economy, but also reforming the Senate so it is no longer, in Murphy's words, "an old boys' club" that stops progress on key issues.

"Part of the reason that reform can't occur in the Senate is because of the way they do business," Murphy laster said, during the Q&A. "The filibuster is in dire need of reform. Whether or not it needs to go away, we need to reform the way the filibuster is used, so it is not used in the order of everyday policy, but is only used in exceptional circumstances."

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Notorious anti-abortion noisemaker Randall Terry is running for president. Here's why: Terry thinks he can use his campaign as a vehicle to put graphic images of aborted fetuses on national television, preferably during the Super Bowl. The strategy worked for him last year, when the Terry-managed Missy Reilly Smith campaign -- she was a candidate for DC delegate to the House -- was able to broadcast ads so graphic YouTube pulled them.

So, that's the plan: raise enough money with his campaign to get a graphic anti-abortion ad on during the Super Bowl in 2012 by using his presidential candidacy as a hook to prevent TV stations from refusing to air them in the middle of the primary calendar. (More on the scheme here.)

But at a press conference held outside the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington today, Terry outlined loftier goals for his run for president, including freeing the tea party movement from leaders he says are intent on shying away from social issues and the humiliation of President Obama in Iowa, the state where his unlikely journey to the White House began in earnest back in 2008.

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One year after the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate influence of elections, a deep divide still remains over whether that's a good thing or a bad thing for the county. And both sides think the Founding Fathers would be on their side.

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