TPM News

Toward the end of the summer, when it was unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would include a public option in his health care bill, progressives let it be known that he would not be forgiven if he allowed a handful of nameless Democrats silently filibuster the provision. In the end, this pressure, and various other factors, ultimately convinced Reid to include the opt out public option in the legislation, and the opponents have had to come forward. Their names won't surprise students of Democratic politics: Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

These conservative Democrats are known for taking stances at odds with the party on key issues, but in this health care debate they are ultimately driven by very different motives. They have suddenly become the targets of every major reform organization in the country, and understanding what makes them tick will be key to the advocates who are now trying to change their minds.

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Doug Hoffman, the unsuccessful Conservative Party candidate in the recent NY-23 special election, has now conceded the race to Democrat Bill Owens -- for a second time.

Owens was sworn in two and a half weeks ago, after Hoffman had conceded the election. The correction of routine clerical errors, however, narrowed Owens' margin from 5,000 votes to about 3,000, leading Hoffman to take back his concession. He furthermore accused ACORN of stealing the election.

In his new statement, Hoffman acknowledges that Owens did indeed win. Hoffman wishes the Democrat well, thanks his own supporters, and also calls upon the election officials to avoid mistakes in the future:

"Yesterday, the remaining ballots were counted in the 23rd Congressional District special election. The results re-affirm the fact that Bill Owens won.

Since, the morning of November 4th, many of my supporters have asked me to challenge the outcome of this race. Their concerns centered on the veracity of the new voting machines used, for the first time, in the majority of the eleven counties that make up the Congressional District. Over the past three weeks, we nearly cut Bill Owens' lead in half. Sadly, that is not enough.

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As you know, national polls have shown President Obama's approval rating headed below 50% recently, a sign of discontent after his solid win in the 2008 election, and his sky-high approval ratings during his honeymoon period. But how has this worked out on a state by state level?

A look at key swing states suggests that the current political situation has really become a lot like last year -- from one state to another, Obama's approval ratings are pretty close to election results from 2008. Using those election results as a benchmark, it's as clear a sign as any that the honeymoon is truly over -- we're right back to 2008 campaign mode, in terms of average voter opinion.

In all these states, and in the country overall, Obama had a very strong honeymoon period, but that really does seem to have worn off. There may be one difference, though, and it's a crucial one: Obama's own supporters aren't as revved up as they were back then, while the opposition has become very energetic. And that can make all the difference in 2010.

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Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) has his hands on the reins of the Justice Department budget at the same time the Feds are investigating his personal finances and allegations he steered taxpayer dollars to non-profits Mollohan himself created.

The Washington Post today reports on the conflict, which led Mollohan to recuse himself from voting on certain DOJ budget items, including for the FBI, according to his office. He is the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science.

But Mollohan's recusal hasn't mollified one conservative critic of the lawmaker:

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Last night, the man responsible for a billboard in Colorado that asks "President or Jihad?" appeared on MSNBC and explained his definition of "jihad."

"To me it means, it's an extreme element of a struggle to overcome somebody ... It's certainly not one of us. It's certainly not what an American is," said Phil Wolf, the owner of an auto dealership in Wheat Ridge, Colo., where he's posted the billboard.

"Do you think Obama wants a religious war?" asked host Ed Schultz.

"I think he is an anti-Christian," Wolf responded. When pressed, he said, "My statement up there on the sign has got a question mark behind it. And the question has to be answered."

Video after the jump.

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Census worker Bill Sparkman committed suicide and deliberately made it look like murder as part of an insurance scam, Kentucky state police have concluded.

State police, working with the FBI, said at a press conference moments ago that Sparkman had recently taken out two life insurance policies that would not pay out for suicide. It appears Sparkman hoped that the scheme would benefit his son, Josh Sparkman.

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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.'"