TPM News

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has just issued a statement addressing the searches of cargo planes at airports in Philadelphia, PA and Newark, NJ today. Gibbs said the security precautions triggered by the discovery of two suspicious packages, one on a plane in East Midlands, United Kingdom and one on a plane in Dubai, resulted in the searches of the planes here in the United States. According to the statement, both packages originated in Yemen.

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Jack Conway is down, his campaign says, but he's not out yet. The Democratic nominee for Senate in Kentucky is facing a slew of new public polls showing him down by a significant margin to Republican Rand Paul, but his campaign tells me voters are just now starting to pay attention to the race that's been a top focus of national press for at least a month now. That puts Conway in a good position to pull off the upset win, his campaign says.

"I trust our private internal polls, which put us anywhere...between 2 and 7 points [down]," Conway spokesperson John Collins told me today. "Which is, I think, where we want to be: within striking distance."

Collins isn't the only Conway supporter who apparently thinks there's still a race in the Bluegrass State. Former President Bill Clinton will stump for Conway in Kentucky on Monday, just a day before voters make their choice.

Public polls make Clinton's push and team Conway's read a little tough to swallow -- but not impossible. New robopolls from SurveyUSA and Rasmussen as well as a new live telephone survey from a Kentucky cable channel show Paul with a healthy lead ranging from about eight to around 12 points. The last polls from the three, taken a few weeks ago, showed Paul with a lead from 2 to 11 points.

The TPM Poll Average shows Paul leading 49.5-42.5.

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Sarah Palin is claiming that an unusual bid by the State Department to secure the release of American prisoners in Iran is the equivalent of President Obama coddling dictators. And it all happened on Twitter.

A bit of back story first: In July, 2009, three Americans were detained by Iranian forces near the northern border with Iraq and held on charges of espionage. One has since been released, but the other two -- Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer -- remain in custody and will face charges on November 6. The U.S. government calls the allegations ludicrous and has pushed for their release.

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A new ad from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) attacks Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller for the incident at a town hall when his security team handcuffed and detained a journalist, and for Miller's comment that if East Germany could secure the border, so can the U.S.

The ad says: "Joe Miller's answer to freedom of the press? Arrest the journalist. Joe Miller's answer to illegal immigration? Use East Germany as an example. Exactly what kind of America does Joe Miller live in?"

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The Illinois Senate race has been close for months. Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Rep. Mark Kirk have attacked each other viciously over their respective scandals, attempting to gain advantage in a tight contest. So who is ahead? Well, it depends which polls you look at. Because while Giannoulias and Kirk are the headliners, two other candidates, the Green Party's LeAlan Jones and Libertarian Mike Labno, are each pulling in enough support to sway the results of this close race.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Stranger Than Fiction? TPM Casts The 2010 Midterms Movie]

One note: support for third-party candidates often comes up much lower on Election Day itself than compared to the pre-election polls. In many cases, voters who were thinking of casting a protest vote ultimately pick one of the two major-party candidates. However, this effect is very hard to predict.

That said, let's break down the numbers:

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A Republican candidate for the U.S. House from Arizona this week claimed that his opponents are busing Mexicans over the border to vote illegally in Arizona.

Jesse Kelly, who is challenging Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) in the eighth district, said on the Mark Levin radio show Wednesday in a response to a question about "dirty tricks" that there are "rumors" of Mexicans being brought into vote.

"There are rumors. People have video of them busing people across from the southern border. We're a border district," Kelly said. "They literally bus people across from Mexico to have them vote at the polls on Election Day, give them a meal and then bus them back. It's been done in the past. So we're really fighting against it down there. But it just means more of us have to vote."

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The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights was unable to reach a quorum today to vote approve a report critical of the Justice Department's handling of the civil voter intimidation case once brought against members of the New Black Panther Party. Democratic Commissioner Michael Yaki, who would have allowed the panel to reached a quorum, walked out of the meeting.

"This process for this entire investigation has been a farce from the beginning and done in a way to diminish the opportunity of those who oppose this investigation to participate," Yaki told reporters.

What one conservative member of the commission did discuss, however, was how TPMMuckraker was able to obtain a draft copy of the report.

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In advance of his March To Keep Fear Alive rally this weekend, Stephen Colbert provided a "refresher course on the five basic fear groups" on his show last night. In a segment called "Stephen Colbert's Fear-For All," Colbert talked to representatives of the five things he fears most: A gay man, a Mexican, a Muslim, a bear project leader at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, or "grizzly coddler," and a researcher on artificial intelligence who "could be a robot."

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At the final Louisiana Senate debate last night, incumbent David Vitter (R) dodged repeated questions about whether he broke the law by soliciting prostitutes in Washington, D.C. and Louisiana.

"[Y]ou can look back, you can continue to write stories in the media about it," Vitter told moderators. "That's your decision. It's a free country. I looked the voters of Louisiana in the eye. I spoke to them sincerely. I think they heard me and I think they understood me. And now I'm looking forward, I'm not looking back."

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