TPM News

The mastermind of the 2008 Obama campaign David Plouffe today is making a last-minute push for Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, asking the most loyal of President Obama's supporters to help the struggling senator prevail in tomorrow's primary election.

"President Obama is committed to seeing Senator Specter re-elected. Whenever he has needed a crucial vote for a top priority, Arlen Specter has been there for our President and this movement," Plouffe wrote in an email that will be sent today by the Democratic National Committee's Organizing for America and obtained by TPMDC.

Plouffe was the campaign manager for Obama and has been a special adviser to the president ever since. The White House had him take on a more visible role this winter following the loss of Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts.

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The White House announced this afternoon that President Obama plans to nominate FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole to lead the Transportation Security Administration.

"The talent and knowledge John has acquired in more than two decades of service with the F.B.I. will make him a valuable asset to our administration's efforts to strengthen the security and screening measures at our airports," Obama said in a statement. "I am grateful that he has agreed to take on this important role, and I look forward to working with him in the weeks and months ahead."

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Mainstream Republicans have their work cut out for them if Rand Paul wins in Kentucky tomorrow. If the polls are to be believed, Paul is about to become the GOP nominee to replace the retiring Sen. Jim Bunning, and Republican leaders are already getting on board. As we've seen over the past week or so, establishment Republicans are preparing to embrace Paul as their man in the fall. But what are they in for? Paul is no establishment Republican, and bringing him into the fold could make for some uncomfortable joint campaign appearances between now and November.

Republicans have no choice but to get behind Paul if he wins, and doubtless most prominent Republicans will praise him when he does. But that means they'll have to take uncomfortable questions on Paul's "unorthodox views," as Salon reports them, "including a desire to abolish both the Federal Reserve and the Department of Education."

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Is a key business lobby group back on the right-wing reservation?

Earlier this year, Grover Norquist, the long-time majordomo of Washington's conservative alliance, called out the National Federation of Independent Businesses for not doing enough to fight President Obama's agenda. "The biggest hole in the center-right bloc is that the NFIB is not being the tribune of the masses on this," Norquist told National Journal in February. "Why is that? That is a fascinating question."

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As two of their colleagues battle for their political careers, Senate Democrats tonight are pushing forward on financial reform in hopes of finishing up a bill this month. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is going to file for cloture tonight, setting up the final stages of the process to begin after a vote on Wednesday.

But Reid is still facing the threat of a filibuster from retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan, who hasn't tipped his hand yet today on whether the Democrats have convinced him to vote for moving ahead with the bill. An aide told me that Dorgan (D-ND) expects to get a vote on his amendment dealing with credit default swaps but would not say if anything has changed since he told leadership he would block the bill from a final vote last week.

Reid (D-NV) said on the Senate floor this afternoon he's aiming for a final vote by the end of the week, perhaps as early as Thursday. "This cannot be delayed any longer," Reid warned Republicans, who are aiming to prolong every floor battle in hopes of gaining traction during this fall's midterm elections.

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Scott Walker, a Republican candidate for governor in Wisconsin, may have set the record for fastest flip-flop on the Arizona immigration law yet.

In a story first published Friday, Walker told the AP, "In America, we don't want our citizens getting pulled over because of how they look."

Throughout the day Friday, Walker's campaign Facebook page was deluged with comments, many from people threatening not to vote for him.

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When a brutal television ad hit the airwaves starring Sen. Arlen Specter and his then-ally President George W. Bush, the incumbent Republican-turned-Democrat did little to defend against it. How could he, when it used footage of his own words from his days as a Republican?

With voter opinions of the longtime politician already formed, the ad helped drive home a reminder for Democrats -- they'd been voting against Specter for decades. That allowed Rep. Joe Sestak in the weeks since putting the Bush ad on the air to surge to the lead before tomorrow's still too-close-to-call Democratic primary race.

Republicans and Democrats say they started to think Specter was toast in early May, when Sestak went up on television with what they described as a "just brutal" campaign ad starring Bush. Specter countered with an ad starring President Obama, who won the state in 2008, but did not mount an aggressive defense against his own party-switching.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) posed for a picture with Birther leader and California secretary of state candidate Orly Taitz at a tea party lunch event in California Friday, Taitz tells TPM.

Taitz and Bachmann both spoke at a lunch sponsored by the Tea Party Patriots, Taitz said in an email. But Birtherism did not come up at the event, according to Taitz.

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All eyes are on the big Senate primaries tomorrow in Arkansas, Kentucky And Pennsylvania -- but there are some other races going on, too, which could have important repercussions for the fall.

One of the top races to watch will be the special election for the Johnstown-area district formerly held by the late Rep. John Murtha, who passed away in February. The TPM Poll Average gives Republican businessman Tim Burns an edge of 43.0%-42.4% over Democratic candidate and former Murtha aide Mark Critz. A key X-factor in the race is that Democratic turnout could be disproportionately high in this swing district, because the election is being held at the same time as the regular statewide primaries. There are far more contested Democratic primaries than Republican ones -- most notably the Senate race between incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Joe Sestak -- and this could disproportionately drive Dem voters to the polls.

Murtha was first elected in a 1974 special election, picking it up from the Republicans in the middle of the Watergate scandals, and held the seat for 36 years until his death in February 2010. The district voted for John McCain in 2008 by a margin of less than one point -- the only district in the country to switch from John Kerry in 2004 to McCain in 2008, having voted for Kerry 51%-48% in 2004. CQ, Stuart Rothenberg, Charlie Cook and Larry Sabato all rate this race as a toss-up.

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