TPM News

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters today that unprecedented and "opaque" spending on television ads by shadowy groups is "dangerous," sounding a political note that could indicate she has a future within the administration or on the ballot down the line.

"I have never seen a situation like this at least in my lifetime. The amount of money being spent is just staggering. ... I think that's pretty dangerous," Sebelius said at a breakfast hosted this morning by the Christian Science Monitor.

Sebelius brought up campaign finance unprompted, and said she would prefer to see transparency since so many "millionaires and billionaires" are funding groups that pretend to be grassroots, especially to drive an anti-health care message. She twice called it "dangerous," adding that it's "pretty alarming."

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Republican Dino Rossi has taken a one-point lead over incumbent Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) according to the latest poll from Rasmussen. Murray leads in the poll 48-47.

That's a big momentum shift for Rossi, who trailed Murray by seven in Rasmussen's last poll of the race which was taken on Sept. 14. Both polls were conducted among likely voters, using the Rasmussen screen that Democrats have long contended is slanted toward the GOP (Rasmussen has just as long denied this).

Other polling from the contest shows a tightening race as well. The TPM Poll Average shows Murray leading 49.6-47.2.

The last three polls of the race -- two of which were conducted using Ramussen's methodology and automated call system -- have shown the race to be razor-close. A live-interview poll of the race conducted by CNN/Time on Sept. 14 showed Murray leading by 9 points.

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A new poll of the Alaska Senate race from Craciun Research gives Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who is running as a write-in candidate after she lost the Republican primary to Tea Party-backed lawyer Joe Miller, a strong lead in her newly-constituted campaign.

The numbers: Murkowski 41%, Miller 30%, and Democratic nominee Scott McAdams 19%. The survey of likely voters has a ±5.7% margin of error. There is no prior Craciun survey of this race for direct comparison.

The poll's internals show Murkowski splitting voters who identify as "somewhat conservative" with Miller, while Miller dominates among "very conservative" respondents. Meanwhile, Murkowski wins a majority of moderates, the single largest group -- and even takes a third of self-identified liberals, who are choosing her over the Dem nominee in an apparent case of tactical voting to stop Miller.

As Nate Silver points out, this poll listed Murkowski as a choice for voters, though in fact they will have to write in her name on the ballot. (Alaska law applies a liberal standard for ascertaining the intent of the voter -- thus, a vote for her would still be counted even if her name is somewhat misspelled.) By contrast, Rasmussen has taken the opposite approach by not listing her in the initial question, and allowing respondents to voluntarily give her name -- and Rasmussen has shown her polling further behind. It is not clear what method is better for this highly unusual race.

Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), who lost the Republican primary for Senate to conservative activist Christine O'Donnell in a big upset two weeks ago, has announced that he will not run a write-in campaign for the general election.

Today was the deadline to register a write-in candidacy with the state, had Castle decided to do so. "The party has spoken," Castle told the Wilmington News Journal. "I know a lot of people who didn't vote but that's the way it works. It's just part of the process. I respect the process." However Castle still said he has not changed his decision to not endorse O'Donnell, citing the "personal attacks and misrepresentations" by her campaign, but is simply endorsing the "Republican ticket." (Note: By "personal attacks," Castle might be referring to how O'Donnell's campaign spread rumors and innuendo that he was gay.)

A recent Rasmussen poll said that Castle would only get five percent of the vote as a write-in candidate -- and furthermore, he would take most of those votes away from Democratic nominee Chris Coons, thus doing O'Donnell a favor in the race.

The TPM Poll Average gives Coons a lead of 55.0%-39.6% over O'Donnell. The polls have also consistently shown that Castle would have led Coons if he had won the Republican primary.

Congress Flees DC To Campaign The Associated Press reports: "Battle-weary members of Congress are coming soon to neighborhoods near you to press for re-election, more eager to campaign before angry constituents than compromise in Washington on tax cuts, child nutrition or a federal budget. Majority Democrats facing tough re-election fights rebelled in both chambers Wednesday against their leaders' decisions to call off controversial votes, pass a temporary bill to keep the government running and head home."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the economic daily briefing at 10:30 a.m. ET, and Obama will receive the presidential daily briefing at 11 a.m. ET. Obama will meet at 11:30 a.m. ET with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. He will meet at 12:45 p.m. ET with the Democratic Congressional leadership, and will meet at 2 p.m. ET with senior advisers. At 7:35 p.m. ET, he will attend a Democratic National Committee fundraising dinner. He will deliver remarks at 9:15 p.m. ET, at a DNC Gen44 event.

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Carl Paladino still has to convince New York's most prominent Republican that he's ready for the state's top job. On a conference call with reporters yesterday, I asked Rudy Giuliani if he planned to cast his ballot this fall for Paladino, the increasingly crazy-sounding nominee to replace the increasingly witty Gov. David Paterson (D). Guiliani said, essentially, that he's just not ready to commit to Paladino just yet.

The call came before Paladino's latest strategic moves, which include accusing his Democratic opponent of having an extramarital affair with no evidence and threatening on camera to "take out" a reporter he doesn't like.

Before anyone had seen any of that, Giuliani was not willing to say he'll personally vote for Paladino.

"You know, you can generally assume I'll vote Republican," he told me. "I've voted for Democrats but I mainly vote Republican most of the time. That'd be my inclination and my thinking, but frankly I haven't made a decision about that race yet."

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Seems that Carl Paladino has lived up to his "mad as hell" campaign slogan.

Last night at a campaign event in Lake George, the New York Republican gubernatorial nominee and New York Post state editor Fred Dicker had to be seperated, after they nearly came to blows during a heated exchange over Paladino's out-of-wedlock daughter.

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Experts are now seriously questioning Pinal County Sheriff's Deputy Louie Puroll's much-hyped tale of being shot by drug smugglers in a remote part of the Arizona desert. But even if every detail of Puroll's story is true, it still does not square with many of the claims the Sheriff's office has peddled about the case.

The department says the original criminal investigation "had concluded and the facts of the case confirmed the accounts of the event as Deputy Puroll described." And though the case has now been reopened, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu told local news this week that he "absolutely" still believes his deputy. Beside Puroll and his alleged attackers, who were never found, there were no other witnesses to the event.

But in the immediate aftermath of the April incident, and to this day, Babeu and the department have made statements about the event that clash with the recorded account that Puroll gave to detectives on May 6, and which was released to the public in early July (audio here). These statements have included exaggerations and unverified information, and have been repeated often by Babeu as his national profile has grown as a voice on border security. Some of the claims have been walked back. Others have not.

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Remember the dire warnings and shrill allegations of voter fraud surrounding the 2008 election? That ACORN would steal it, that the New Black Panthers were intimidating voters, that fraud across the county would be "rampant?"

They never panned out. ACORN no longer exists. (Although that hasn't stopped 20 percent of the American public from believing they'll try to steal the election.) The DOJ found that the New Black Panthers incident was isolated -- although that case found new life in allegations against the Justice Department itself (more on that below). A five-year effort by the Bush DOJ to weed out fraud, an effort the Obama team said was designed to suppress minority voter turnout, turned up "virtually no evidence."

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Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and her Republican opponent, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, met today for a heated debate (though Boxer phoned it in from DC), hosted by the radio station KPCC in Pasadena and the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion. A major theme emerged from the discussion -- that each one would often answer a question about their own position by attacking their opponent.

For example, when Fiorina was asked for comment about what federal regulations she would roll back, she referenced Endangered Species Act rules that cut off access to water resources in California's rural areas -- and how Barbara Boxer's links to "extreme" environmental groups keep her from doing anything about it.

On job creation, Boxer said, "The fact is our nation needs to incentivize companies like yours to hire American workers. We need to see the words 'made in America' again." And then she turned it right at Fiorina's business record: "She laid off 30,000 workers, shipped their jobs to China, to India, to Malaysia. She's said she's proud of what she did. The fact is I've met some of these people who she's laid off, I've heard some of their stories."

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