TPM News

Meg Whitman's campaign team is sounding confident thanks to several polls showing that the eBay founder is leading her Republican rival, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, in the party's June 8 primary to pick a nominee for governor in California.

Team Whitman's senior strategist Mike Murphy and senior adviser Jeff Randle told reporters today that a new internal poll of 600 primary voters done by campaign pollster John McLaughlin has Whitman leading Poizner 53-27. Read the campaign's memo about the poll here. The campaign saw a tightening when Poizner went after Whitman with a negative ad campaign, with one SurveyUSA poll even putting the Republicans within two points of one another. Murphy said their internals were never that close. But now several polls have her holding a more than 20-point lead. It's "quite a comeback," Murphy told reporters on a conference call. He said they take nothing for granted but already are looking to the general election versus all-but-certain Democratic nominee Attorney General Jerry Brown.

The TPM Poll Average of this race has Whitman leading Poizner 45.0 to 35.3 percent. There also is a competitive Republican primary for the Senate nomination to challenge Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), so turnout is likely to be higher on the GOP side than it has been in recent years.

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House Republicans are looking for a few good ideas from Americans -- as long as they're Republican ideas. At a flashy media event at the Newseum this morning, House GOP leadership formally introduced AmericaSpeakingOut.com, a new campaign that the leaders said will invite average Americans to submit their ideas for legislation, and that the leaders said they'll bring to the floor as soon as next month.

The project is funded by taxpayer dollars and run by the House GOP. That has raised criticism from Democratic circles, who claim the program amounts to campaigning on the public dime. House Republicans pushed back at the event today, saying the program was designed to create legislation for this Congress, and that campaign-focused policy initiatives will come later.

"We are looking for ideas today to face the challenges of today," Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) told reporters.

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The new CNN poll finds that Americans overwhelmingly support allowing gays to openly serve in the military. Furthermore, this is not some new, suddenly progressive development -- it's been the status quo for quite a while.

The poll asked: "Do you think people who are openly gay or homosexual should or should not be allowed to serve in the U.S. military?" The result was 78% in favor to only 20% opposed. The poll of adult Americans has a ±3% margin of error. This is roughly unchanged from an 81%-17% margin in December 2008, and 79%-18% in May 2007.

"Support is widespread, even among Republicans. Nearly six in ten Republicans favor allowing openly gay individuals to serve in the military," writes CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "There is a gender gap, with 85 percent of women and 71 percent of men favoring the change, but support remains high among both groups."

In a radio interview Monday, South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley accused her GOP primary opponents of being responsible for blogger and political consultant Will Folks' claim that he had an "inappropriate physical relationship" with the married Haley a few years ago.

Throughout the interview with WORD radio host Bob McLain, Haley paints Folks' claim as the work of enemies (she frequently refers to "they") including her opponents and entrenched state interests, rather than simply coming from Folks himself. She again denies any affair.

McLain asked Haley if she felt "as if a competitive campaign, somebody in an opposition camp, is behind this release on this website today?"

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Disgraced ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced today to 18 months to five years in prison for violating his probation by not disclosing assets as required under a plea deal.

Judge David Groner slammed Kilpatrick in court today, saying that "your testimony in this court amounted to perjury" and that "the initial 120 days incarceration did nothing to rehabilitate you."

"Probation is no longer an option," Groner said. "That ship has sailed."

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The new survey of South Carolina by Public Policy Polling (D) says that state Rep. Nikki Haley had a huge lead over the weekend, when the poll was conducted -- just before allegations surfaced of a possible extra-marital affair.

The numbers: Haley 39%, state Attorney General Gresham Barrett 18%, Congressman Gresham Barrett 16%, and Lt. Gov. Andrew Bauer 13%. The survey of likely GOP primary voters has a ±3.9% margin of error. The TPM Poll Average gives Haley 27%, McMaster 19.3%, Barrett 15.7%, and Bauer 14.0%. Keep in mind that this poll was taken before the story came out regarding the alleged affair. As such, it provides a baseline measurement of where Haley was at the beginning of this development, but not any picture of how it might affect her now, going into the June 8 primary.

"Nikki Haley was clearly headed for a first place finish before yesterday," writes PPP president Dean Debnam. "Given the magnitude of her current lead the fallout from allegations of an extramarital affair would have to be huge for her not to at least make the runoff."

North Carolina Republicans are circulating court documents that suggest a far-right Tea-Party-backed congressional candidate claimed to be the Messiah, tried to raise his stepfather from the dead, believed God would drop a 1,000-mile high pyramid as the New Jerusalem on Greenland, and found the Ark of the Covenant in Arizona.

Tim D'Annunzio also has written that he wants to abolish several key government departments, including the IRS. But there's more going on here than just another wacky conservative politician. The effort by GOP leaders to stop D'Annunzio at all costs offers an intriguing test case of their ability to keep control of the party in the face of challenges from the Tea Party wing. Or as D'Annunzio himself has put it: "The power brokers in Raleigh and in Washington are willing to go to any length and use any unscrupulous tactic to try to destroy somebody. They think that they're losing their control over the Republican party."

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