TPM News

As we reported yesterday, RNC Chairman Michael Steele and potential Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. have a history together, appearing in forums around the country over the past two years.

They had their latest last night at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, for which the two were paid a total of $40,000. (And good, too: Ford recently took a leave of absence from Merrill-Lynch in order to campaign, and told the New York Post that he'd have to rely on a teaching gig at NYU and a pundit gig on MSNBC to "put food on the table." Steele, however, has gotten into some trouble for doing paid speaking gigs while RNC chair.)

There may not have been the rhetorical fireworks you'd expect, but there was a gem or two in the debate, according to the Commercial Appeal.

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Given all the accusations of Senate Republican obstructionism, we checked in with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell about Sen. Richard Shelby's blanket holds on President Obama's nominees.

A McConnell spokesman at first questioned the legitimacy of the Shelby story, asking if the Alabama senator had confirmed the holds.

When told about Shelby's statement detailing why he's holding the nominees, the spokesman then declined to comment.

"Sen. Shelby's office will comment on his holds," the spokesman said.

The White House is not amused.

Sen. Richard Shelby's (R-AL) office has confirmed to TPMDC the reports that Shelby has placed a hold on President Obama's nominees over a pair of government programs set to be based in Alabama. He did not confirm that Shelby has taken the rare step of blocking all of Obama's nominees, as was reported yesterday.

"Sen. Shelby has placed holds on several pending nominees due to unaddressed national security concerns," Shelby spokesperson Jonathan Graffeo said in a statement. "Among his concerns" are the progress on multi-billion dollar defense contract that would see planes built in Mobile, AL and Obama's decision to scrap a $45 million FBI improvised explosive device lab Shelby secured an earmark for in 2008.

Graffeo lashed out at Obama's decision to cancel the lab, which he says "impedes" the ability of the military and intelligence agencies in their efforts to fight terrorism.

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At a DNC fundraiser last night, President Obama had an interesting exchange with a Democratic organizer about health care reform, wherein he appeared to suggest that Congress could drop the ball and fail to pass a bill--and that voters should judge them harshly if they do.

"[I]t may be that -- you know, if Congress decides -- if Congress decides we're not going to do it, even after all the facts are laid out, all the options are clear, then the American people can make a judgment as to whether this Congress has done the right thing for them or not," Obama said.

Curious, because in the same appearance, Obama came closer than he's yet come to laying out a process and a timeline for getting the bill done (I'll give you a hint, not for several weeks).

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White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called out Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) this morning over his rare blanket hold on all of President Obama's nominees in the Senate. Reports from this morning's press gaggle are coming in, and they show a White House that is flabbergasted by Shelby today.

From DailyCaller White House reporter Jon Ward's Twitter feed from inside the gaggle:

"Gibbs on Shelby holds: "I fear there won't [b]e a greater example of silliness throughout the entire year of 2010."

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Organizers of the National Tea Party Convention, who have been at pains to present their confab as a gathering of patriotic and mainstream Americans, may not have been pleased by the speech given by their opening-night speaker.

Former congressman Tom Tancredo declared that President Obama was elected because "we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country."

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Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate this year, has called upon Scott Lee Cohen, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, to withdraw from the race.

Cohen has faced controversy since he narrowly won a six-way primary on Tuesday, over allegations involving past domestic violence, steroid use and being behind on child support payments. Cohen has admitted to steroid use.

"These revelations are deeply disturbing and there is no place in society let alone public office for this type of behavior," Giannoulias said in a statement.

A nice get from a huge batch of internal e-mails released in response to an Alaska open records request show that Todd Palin played a big role in his wife's administration, often corresponding directly with the governor's staff on matters ranging from appointments to contract negotiations.

Todd Palin was known as the "shadow governor" and was a key figure in the Troopergate scandal that dogged Sarah Palin during the 2008 campaign. In recent months, there's evidence that he is still his wife's most important protector: he personally drew up the now-famous "banned list" barring unfriendly media from a Palin book event in Wasilla.

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Scott Lee Cohen, the embattled Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of Illinois, appeared for an interview Thursday on Chicago Tonight, seeking to answer questions about allegations of domestic violence, drug abuse and other damaging issues.

Cohen has faced significant controversy -- including a call from Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn to potentially quit the race -- since he narrowly won a six-way Democratic primary on Tuesday. In 2005, he was arrested for allegedly threatening his girlfriend at the time by putting a knife to her throat and throwing her against a wall. The case was dropped after the woman, who had previously been arrested for prostitution and later pleaded guilty, failed to show up to court. In addition, his wife said in his divorce case that he abused steroids and attempted to sexually assault her. Cohen has admitted to past steroid use.

"You know, all this happened at a rough time in my life, and you know, I understand it looks bad," said Cohen, who was accompanied in the interview by his ex-wife Debra York-Cohen. "And that's why I tried so hard to put it out, the day I announced I was running. I have answered every question that was asked me by the media, in a full, complete, and honest way. Again, I tried so hard to put this out the day I announced so it wouldn't come to this. Nobody wanted to listen."

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