TPM News

Tonight at 9 p.m., Christine O'Donnell will become the latest controversial Republican nominee to launder her past in an interview with Sean Hannity. Like Sharron Angle, Rand Paul and Sarah Palin -- just to name three -- before her, Delaware's Republican nominee for Senate will dodge the mainstream media spotlight in the midst of uncomfortable questions and make a beeline for the Cheers of primetime cable news, the show where everyone knows your name and they're always glad you came (if you're a conservative Republican, that is.)

The script that leads O'Donnell to her Hannity interview tonight is nearly identical to the one that led Paul and Palin to him after their somewhat botched national roll-outs. In each case, the candidate took a preliminary step onto the national stage, got singed by their own past, and ran back to the safe and comforting arms of Hannity.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Christine O'Donnell: Anti-Masturbation Crusader. Witchcraft Dabbler. Republican Senate Nominee.]

Let's start with Palin. Back in September 2008, Palin -- still a fresh face on the political scene -- was flailing after her first national TV interview as the GOP's vice-presidential nominee. Palin had been badly burned in her sit-down with ABC News anchor Charlie Gibson, and it became clear that tough interviews were not going be a central (or successful) part of Palin's media strategy. But, critics howled, how could Palin avoid the press all together and maintain even a shred of credibility?

Enter Hannity, a shred of credibility if ever there was one. As the wreckage of her Gibson appearance still smoldered, Palin announced she was headed for Hannity country to cool out for awhile.

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A newly released Rasmussen poll of the California Senate race finds Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer leading Republican former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina 47%-43%.

The latest survey tells a very different story than the one told by Rasmussen's September 6 survey. In that earlier poll, Fiorina was up on Boxer by five, 47%-42%. Fox News released new numbers on the contest this morning, which showed the Democrat leading Fiorina 47%-46%. Rasmussen's newest poll also echos the results from a September 16 PPP that had Boxer at 50% and Fiorina at 42%.

The TPM Poll Average shows Boxer leading Fiorina 46.7%-44.7%. The margin of error of the newest survey is ±4.0 percentage points.

For more on the race, check out TPMDC's full coverage here.

Sen. Carl Levin said this afternoon while there is not an agreement finalized yet, the tax cuts debate could begin as early as Thursday.

He said he believes leadership will allow votes on both the Democrats' middle-class only position and the Republicans' plan to freeze tax rates at the Bush-era levels including the rich.

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Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) now tells TPM he's "not inclined" to filibuster an extension of the Bush middle-income tax cuts, even if they're not paired with a tax cut for the wealthy. He does, however, want a temporary extension of the high-income tax cuts at a minimum -- and he wants it to be paid for with unspent stimulus funds.

"My sense is I don't think permanent can pass, so as a practical matter I think we ought to offset as much of these extended tax cuts as possible and extend them for some period of time," Nelson told reporters outside the weekly Democratic policy lunch.

When asked about his favorite offsets by TPM, Nelson replied, "Well, you still have unspent stimulus funds."

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With elections approaching, the national Democrats can perhaps find some comfort in being ahead of Republicans in at least one aspect of the campaign -- fundraising.

The Democratic National Committee out-raised its GOP counterpart, the Republican National Committee, by approximately $3 million in the month of August. The DNC raised $10.9 million last month, whereas Republicans raised $7.9 million. This gives the DNC around $13.4 million in cash on hand; the RNC has about $4.7 million cash on hand. It should be noted, however, that the DNC has $8.4 million in debt, versus the RNC's debt of $1.2 million.

As we reported yesterday, last month the DCCC out-raised the NRCC on the House side of the campaign, and the DSCC outdid the NRSC in fundraising for Senate races.

The Senate today blocked the start of debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, with Republicans objecting to a provision that would repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The vote was 56 to 43, with 60 votes needed to break the filibuster.

Two Democratic senators, Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln, both from Arkansas, voted with Republicans to block the bill. Majority Leader Harry Reid also voted no, a procedural move so he can bring the cloture motion back to the floor later.

DADT was one of several sticking points of the defense authorization bill, which must pass in order to fund the military.

Republican senators, including Sens. John McCain (AZ) and Susan Collins (ME), argued that passing repeal now would undermine the Defense Department's review of the policy, which won't be completed until December.

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In a press conference moments ago, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley announced charges against the eight Bell, California city officials who were arrested today after they inflated their salaries, allegedly using around $5.5 million in public funds.

Former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo, who allegedly banked close to $800,000 a year, was charged with "53 counts of misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest," according to the Los Angeles Times.

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The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has begun monitoring eight separate cases of alleged discrimination against Muslims under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) since May 2010, according to a report issued Tuesday.

"We see a spike, regrettably," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez in a speech before the American Constitution Society. A spokeswoman declined to name the individual investigations, but confirmed that the department was monitoring those cases and had not yet opened full investigations.

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TPM noted yesterday that, in direct conflict with President Obama's agenda, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is organizing Senate Democrats and Republicans to temporarily extend Bush tax cuts for high-income Americans.

This afternoon, on his way into a weekly Democratic caucus policy lunch he explained that he'd like to head up another bipartisan "gang" to reach a tax cut compromise.

"All I'm saying now is that this is a place where we really do need -- it's an awful word --but we need another gang. We need a bipartisan gang to come to a bipartisan agreement on tax cuts," Lieberman said.

I asked Lieberman whether he's organizing such a bloc. He claims he's working on it: "I'm talking -- as always it'll be a 'group' -- but that's what I'd like to see happen."

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