TPM News

Republicans and even House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer were none-too-pleased with Stephen Colbert's testimony Friday on immigration, but he's far from the only celebrity to bring the sacrosanct hearings down to a new low.

Compare Colbert appearing in character to highlight that the agricultural work performed by many illegal immigrants is backbreaking, with, say, Michael Crichton helping push Republicans' line that global warming is fake, or with a Sesame Street muppet championing education reform. From the Jonas Brothers to Sean Astin, celebrities have long offered their fame to highlight some pet issue. And let's face it, Congressional hearings are far from pristine, serious events. Half the time members don't show up, or they check out, reading the newspaper. Witnesses go through some pre-coaching, and protesters interrupt proceedings.

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In 2008, Barack Obama somehow proved wrong the skeptics who swore up and down that young people can't be motivated to vote in large numbers. His campaign aggressively targeted college campuses, enticed 17-year-olds who'd be just old enough to participate and asked school-age children to convince their parents he was the best candidate.

And Obama needs them now more than ever.

Cue this week's big education push, which Democrats say aims to respark energy and voting enthusiasm among young people.

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Fox News hosts are masters at shouting down their own guests when disagreements arise. Here's a somewhat less-used tactic: increasingly absurd, scattershot questions, meant to yield an admission from the guest that she's a socialist.

This afternoon, Stuart Varney interviewed Occidental College professor Caroline Heldman, with the goal of walking Heldman, in Socratic-fashion, to the conclusion that President Obama is wrong to criticize the GOP for proposing "a series of policies that are just irresponsible...they say they want to balance the budget, they propose $4 trillion worth of tax cuts."

Unfortunately Varney confused "fiscal responsibility" with spending levels, and things went south from there.

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The Texas gubernatorial race could still be a close one, according to a new poll from a consortium of Lone Star State newspapers this weekend. The poll of likely voters was conducted last week and shows incumbent Gov. Rick Perry (R) leading Democratic nominee Bill White 46-39.

"It certainly looks like [Perry] is headed for another term," pollster Mickey Blum told the Austin American-Statesman. "Not that Bill White couldn't get it."

Still, internals of the poll show that's an uphill climb:

Despite White's yearlong effort to attract independents and Republicans, the race breaks down along party lines. Republicans and right-leaning independents largely support Perry, while Democrats and left-leaning independents prefer White.

But there are more Republicans than Democrats in Texas, and GOP voters are more excited about the election, so White has been stuck in second place.

Catching Perry will be difficult because the Texas electorate is relatively stable, Blum said.

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Gov. Charlie Crist (I-FL), the former Republican now running for Senate as an independent, picked up the support of a big Democratic name yesterday: Former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), the self-proclaimed "fire-breathing liberal."

"There is a special time in which elected officials and people to which people look to have to put country before party and this is one of those times," Wexler told a campaign audience in his old district. "I am here to endorse Gov. Charlie Crist because he has earned it. He has truly earned it."

As reasons for his support, Wexler cited Crist's veto of a bill that would have eliminated teacher tenure -- a key event that sealed Crist's switch from a Republican to independent -- and his veto of another bill that would have required women seeking abortions to get ultra-sounds.

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The AFL-CIO is continuing to throw its weight into the midterm elections, Politico reports, with a whole new load of mailers in different key races.

All in all, the AFL-CIO is dropping 3.5 million mailers into 66 races this week. Among the key picks:

• A mailer in the Connecticut Senate race, featuring a pro-wrestler in a mask, with the text proclaiming: "Don't let Linda McMahon put the smack down on Connecticut workers.

• A mailer in the West Virginia Senate race, hammering Republican businessman John Raese and promoting Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin: "After the deadliest mining disaster in 40 years, one Senate candidate wants to 'unshackle' management from safety regulations, and one is fighting to make them stronger."

• A mailer in Florida's 8th District, home to the fiery liberal Dem Congressman Alan Grayson, attacking Republican candidate Dan Webster for wanting to renew the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy: "Wall street wrecked our economy, and America's middle class paid the price. Now, Daniel Webster wants to repeat the past."

A longtime Democratic mayor of Harrisburg endorsed Republican Pat Toomey for Senate Monday, as the GOP nominee sought to build cross-partisan credentials of his own.

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The Ohio Senate race may be looking like a runaway for the GOP, but the Buckeye State's gubernatorial fight could still be interesting, according to a new poll from the University of Cincinnati out this weekend.

The poll of likely voters taken last week shows Republican nominee John Kasich leading incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland (D) 49-45. A previous poll taken by the university in May showed Strickland ahead 49-44. Since then, polls have shown Kasich with the momentum. Still, with other recent polls showing Kasich ahead by double-digits, Strickland seems to think the university poll -- which is co-sponsored by several newspapers in the state -- is cause for celebration.

"Clearly the race for governor is tightening up -- a contest which takes place as Ohio struggles to lift itself out of a severe economic downturn (unemployment stood at 10.1 percent in August) and a looming multi-billion dollar budget hole," the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. "But there is good news and bad news for the incumbent governor in the fact that the race is now close."

The paper quotes a pollster who says "the fact is, for an incumbent governor, it's a little bit late in the year to be under 50 percent support." For his part, Strickland seemed more than pleased by the numbers.

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The Pinal County, Arizona Sheriff's Office has announced that it is reopening the case of a sheriff's deputy who was shot on April 30, after an article last week raised questions about the deputy's story that he'd been involved in a shoot-out with drug smugglers -- and just hours after telling TPM that the department stood by the original investigation.

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Louis Farrakhan and members of the New Black Panther Party during his trip to the U.S., the New York Post reported.

During his trip, Ahmadinejad "wore the same tacky suit and shirt all week" and took every precaution to keep himself safe. Bulletproof glass was installed over room windows, he left through the employee entrance without stepping foot in the lobby of his hotel, and kept his head covered with a white cloth, the newspaper reported.

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