TPM News

The campaign of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is publicly accusing her opponent, Republican nominee Joe Miller, of launching frivolous challenges against write-in ballots for the incumbent. And for its part, Team Miller simply maintains that they are trying to uphold the letter of the law, making sure any votes for Murkowski have her name written in properly.

But as the counting goes on, both media monitors and Murkowski poll watchers keep finding evidence that the Miller campaign might be interested in more than just the letter of the law.

Miller has maintained that the strict interpretation of the statute, requiring an exact spelling of Murkowski's name as it was written on her declaration of write-in candidacy, is the only standard by which votes for her should be counted. Initially, Miller pitched the idea that misspellings of Murkowski's name are not votes for her at all, but rather protest votes against her campaign to educate voters on how to spell her name for writing it in.

In an unsuccessful lawsuit to stop the vote-counting, his campaign argued against state officials using a more liberal voter-intent standard, which they say is backed up by case law, that would pardon some degree of spelling errors. Counters are simultaneously counting some challenged ballots while setting them aside for the spelling issue, in case the officials are reversed; in the mean time, Miller's camp is challenging any ballot they think they're entitled to -- even, it seems, some that many people would have trouble arguing about.

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President Obama has been studiously mum about the proposals laid out Wednesday by his fiscal commission's co-chairs, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. In fact, he urged critics of the report to hold their fire for now.

"Before anybody starts shooting down proposals, I think we need to listen, we need to gather up all the facts, I think we have to be straight with the American people," he said.

But would he be so blasé if he knew that the draft, as written, would require scrapping or destroying his signature health care law?

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Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh accused House Democratic leaders of racism today, for attempting to squeeze Jim Clyburn (the highest ranking African-American congressman in history) out of party leadership... only to then suggest that Clyburn would be a good fit for a new position as Nancy Pelosi's chauffeur.

"We've got the Democrats worried that Clyburn's getting the shaft because he's not going to have a car, he's not going to have a driver, he's not going to have security, he's not going to have any of the stroke, or the perks," Limbaugh said. "A white, racist leadership of the Democrat party trying to ace out Clyburn." Limbaugh got his information on Clyburn's driver from Martin Frost, who appeared on MSNBC.

If Clyburn loses his race to be Democratic whip, he'll either have to drop out of party leadership, or move into a lower-ranking leadership position, with fewer perks. Limbaugh claimed that this supposed avarice is what's animating Clyburn's fight to stay in leadership... and then noted that Clyburn could keep his car if he was willing to drive around the party's white leader.

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Former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, currently in prison for charges stemming from the bribes he confessed to accepting while in office, is presenting a new narrative to those who've been following his spiral into disgrace. Turns out, Cunningham now says, he wasn't bribed at all. At least not as much.

One of the men convicted of bribing Cunningham, former defense contractor Brent Wilkes, is attempting to reopen his case on the grounds that Cunningham now says the hundreds of thousands in money and stuff Wilkes was convicted of giving him was, in fact, not a bribe at all. In a pair of "declarations" Cunningham made in the past few weeks, the San Diego Union Tribune reports that former Republican congressman said the payments were just "gifts between longtime friends."

"This was not a bribe to me," Cunningham said, referring to a more than $500,000 payment Wilkes was convicted of offering Cunningham to help "pay off a mortgage for a $1.2 million mansion Cunningham purchased in Rancho Santa Fe."

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Another indicator of the changing of the guard in Washington came yesterday as dozens of representatives and leaders from conservative groups convened for a private meeting in the suburbs of Virginia. Representatives of a wide variety of Tea Party groups, mainstream conservative think tanks and right-wing media outlets came together to talk about the future of the conservative movement, TPMmuckraker has learned.

The agenda indicates that they attempted to hash out some of their priorities for the legislative agenda in the upcoming Congress, which will feature a GOP-controlled House for the first time in four years.

The hush-hush meeting was sponsored by the Conservative Action Project (CAP), an offshoot of the Council for National Policy.

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1||Veteran's Day Parade in Detroit, Michigan, November 8, 2008. ||flickr/cc/Wigwam Jones&&

2||U.S. Army Ssg. Jason Rasmussen, prepares to begin digging fighting positions at Observation Post Barracuda near Bala Murghab in Badghis Province, Afghanistan on May 25, 2010.||n87/ZUMA Press/Newscom&&

3||Pompano Beach High School JROTC participant salutes the fallen heroes of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Wednesday, November 10, 2010. ||Joe Rimkus Jr./MCT/Newscom&&

4||U.S. soldiers who were liberated from German POW camps in spring 1945, upon arriving at an airstrip in France following their evacuation.||akg-images/Newscom&&

5||Isabella Peterson, right, and other kindergarten students sing ''You're a Grand Old Flag'' during the annual Veteran's Day Celebration at Gulfside Elementary in Holiday, Florida on November 10, 2010. ||s70/ZUMA Press/Newscom&&

6||U.S. soldiers and infantrymen from the South Vietnamese military wait for an enemy attack from their position at the edge of a rice field.||akg-images/Newscom&&

7||American soldiers establish a machine-gun nest during the Meuse-Argonne offensive in World War I.||HANDOUT/Scripps Howard News Service/Newscom&&

8||U.S. soldiers returning from a deployment to Taji, Iraq, arrive at the Andrews Joint Base outside Washington D.C., on August 28, 2010.||Zhang Jun/Xinhua/Photoshot/Newscom&&

9||After replenishing their water and ammunition supply, soldiers from the 173rd U.S. Airborne troops continue their "Search and Destroy" patrol in the Phuoc Tuy province in 1966. ||akg-images/Newscom&&

10||Army reservist marchers in the 91st annual Veteran's Day Parade in New York on Wednesday, November 11, 2009.||RICHARD B. LEVINE/Newscom&&

11||U.S. soldiers from an African-American mortar unit of the 92nd Division aiming at German machine gun positions during the Battle of Massa, November 1944..||akg-images/Newscom&&

12||A soldier with some children in Afghanistan ||flickr/cc/Afghanistan Matters&&

13||President Wilson with British Field Marshal Sir John French, reviewing a parade of marines during a visit to England.||akg-images/Newscom&&

14||The Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. ||Pete Souza/KRT/Newscom&&

15||U.S. soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq in July 2009. ||cc3/ZUMA Press/Newscom&&

16||Oklahoma Veteran's Day parade, November 7th, 2009. ||flickr/cc/pcol&&

17||The Marine Corps Memorial in Washington, D.C. ||Reed F W/Newscom&&

Did Joyce Kaufman, the South Florida right-wing radio talk show host who was named (and then unnamed) as Republican Rep.-elect Allen West's chief of staff, inspire the deranged person whose threats led to yesterday's lock down of Broward County public schools, libraries and post offices? It looks that way.

As you might recall, someone emailed Kaufman's radio station, WFTL, declaring that he or she was planning a violent act against some kind of government building, possibly a school. A phone call to the station yesterday, from a woman identifying herself as the e-mailer's wife, later warned that this man could potentially commit a terrorist act against a public school. That prompted a countywide lock down of all public schools.

The local Fox affiliate since reported that the threat-maker had said he was inspired by none other than Joyce Kaufman, who had received publicity in the last few days for her previous calls for violent action against the government in order to protect citizens from the tyranny of the Obama administration.

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Rep.-elect Allen West (R-FL) has had a change of plans -- he is not hiring as his chief of staff local talk radio host Joyce Kaufman. Kaufman recently called outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) "garbage" and earlier this year called for violent revolution if the Republicans didn't win the midterm elections.

As The Hill reports:

"It is with deep regret that this congressional office and the people of CD 22 will not have Joyce Kaufman as my chief of staff," West said in a statement. "Joyce is a good friend, and will remain loyal to South Floridians and to me. I will always seek Joyce's counsel for being a good representative of this congressional district."

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In an appearance today on ABC's TopLine, Alaska Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller insisted that he could yet win the election -- that is, if a strict spelling standard is applied to those write-in votes cast for incumbent GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

"Well, if the margin of disqualification holds, and assuming that the courts uphold that, and the court makes a decision on how these votes will be counted, we're gonna be right in there," said Miller, who garnered 36% of the vote in an election in which 40% of the total were write-in votes.

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Just a few months after the 2010 mid-term elections ended, the 2012 presidential cycle will begin. Politco and NBC News will co-sponsor the first Republican presidential debate "during the spring of 2011," the website reports today. The debate will be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA.

A spring presidential debate, though it comes months before caucusing begins in Iowa or most Americans are paying any attention, is becoming a tradition of the now elongated presidential election process. The Democratic candidates for president in 2008 gathered in Orangeburg, SC on April 26, 2007 for what was then the earliest presidential debate. The organizers of next year's debate did not announce specific dates for the forum, but there's a chance it could come even earlier than the '07 debate did. (The Reagan Library was also the site of the first Republican debate of 2008, but it took place in May after the Democratic forum.)

For Republicans, the early debate comes in a much different environment than the Democratic debate three years ago did. Democrats, newly unified by their party's win in the 2006 Congressional elections, were vying for the nomination in a world where there would be no incumbent in the presidential race and most gave the advantage to the Democratic nominee.

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