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  • Is Pennsylvania an Outlier, or are Things Looking up for Democrats?

    Pennsylvania is supposed to be a swing state, one of the Big Three along with Ohio and Florida that dominates election nights. It has been leaning bluer in recent years: It went Democratic in 2000 and 2004, sent conservative Republican Senator Rick Santorum packing in 2006, and 2008 saw a massive switch to the Democrats in party registration, partly to participate in the party's exciting presidential primary. 2009 saw another blow to the state GOP: fearing an intra-party challenge from the vociferously conservative Pat Toomey, Republican Senator Arlen Specter switched over to the Democrats' side. But, in a year that's supposed to be terrible for Democrats, the state's leftward drift was supposed to stop. Rep. Joe Sestak's challenge to Specter from the left was supposed to be doomed by Specter's support from Washington and greater name recognition. Meanwhile, legendary Democratic Rep. John Murtha recently passed away. Murtha represented the sort of...
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    How Mark Critz Won: Following Dems Playbook

    All day long, bullish Democrats built expectations for victory in Tuesday’s special election to replace the late representative John Murtha in Pennsylvania, e-mailing taunting quotes from political observers: “Republicans have no excuse to lose this race,” Charlie Cook wrote in his famous political report.
  • Should Sex Offenders Be Jailed Indefinitely?

    On Monday, the Supreme Court released two important decisions about the prison system: one ruling that juveniles can’t receive life sentences for crimes other than murder and another that the federal government is allowed to hold sex offenders in custody indefinitely, even after they have completed their sentences.
  • Why Blumenthal's Vietnam 'Lies' Matter

    Ben Adler writes that Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal had not really done anything wrong when he claimed to have served in Vietnam, and that it would probably not be a political death blow.
  • The Conservative Backlash Against Rand Paul

    On a rough night for conservatives, Rand Paul's victory in the Kentucky Senate primary was a rare bright spot. The opthalmologist and son of Rep. Ron Paul is one of the highest profile wins yet for the Tea Party, a constituency he trumpeted last night: "I have a message from the Tea Party. A message that is loud and clear and does not mince words: We have come to take our government back." Fox News's Sean Hannity, chatting with Sarah Palin, termed it a "Randslide." Of course, Paul's triumph is bad news for the GOP establishment. Mainstream pick Trey Grayson, who got walloped, was hand-chosen and backed by major establishment figures—from Mitch McConnell to Dick Cheney. ...
  • Dems Fall Out on Financial Reform

    The biggest financial overhaul since the Great Depression—which has been flirting with incoherence for weeks—lurched backward yet again Wednesday, with a failed vote of 57 to 42 to close off debate in the U.S. Senate. The Democrats' inability to get the needed 60 votes for cloture was yet more evidence of a worsening state of disunity and confusion in the party. It was also only the latest evidence of what happens when the White House, which purports to champion tough reform of Wall Street, leaves all the hard dealing to legislators. ...
  • Who is Jack Tough? Meet Jack Conway, Democrat from Kentucky

    Viewers of Rachel Maddow on MSNBC last night might have been confused when Doug Heye, the communications director of the RNC, referred to Jack Conway, the Democratic nominee for Senate from Kentucky, as "Jack Tough." Maddow, being hip to everything, knew though: someone posted a video on YouTube mocking Conway's self-description as "one tough son of a bitch." It contrasts "tough," such as conservative hero Chuck Norris, with "Jack Tough," which is John Edwards' getting his hair styled, or Conway when he was blond a few years back. The video is clever, which is why Heye turned down Maddow's repeated offers to disavow it. (It seems to have been removed from YouTube although the reposting cat-and-mouse game is sure to continue). ...
  • Who to Expect at Tonight's State Dinner

    State dinners don't happen often—tonight's is only the second of Obama's presidency—which makes this evening's black-tie affair honoring Mexico's Felipe Calderón the hottest ticket in town. Who landed an invite? We'll post the list below, compliments of the White House. But we'll also do the reading for you. Most are top government folks in the U.S. and Mexico, but also some names from the far-away world of pop culture. George Lopez will be there, as will actress Eva Longoria and Oprah pal Gayle King. And your Gaggler's favorite—although he can't figure out why—Whoopi Goldberg is in the house. ...
  • Obama and Calderón: Good Friends in Front of the Cameras

    It's not a perfect comparison, but there are striking similarities between joint presidential press conferences and funerals. Both are formalities, produced simply because they have to be. They're fairly predictable, letting one know exactly what will happen and the general themes that will be mentioned. And the imperative: always—with no exception—mention only good things, such as how valiant and valuable the partner country is on a wide set of issues. Mention the longstanding history of cooperation between the two countries, take a few preselected questions, and call it a wrap. ...
  • NSA Accused of Fumbling Intelligence on Underpants Suspect

    The Senate Intelligence Committee is publicly criticizing the ultrasecret National Security Agency for fumbling intelligence that might have kept would-be airplane bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from boarding the Christmas Day transatlantic flight he allegedly tried to blow up with a bomb hidden in his underpants. An NSA spokesperson said the agency declined to comment. ...
  • Low Turnout in Philly Bodes Ill for Specter

    The rain has stopped, but it's still cold, gloomy, and damp here in Philadelphia's Center City district. I'm at a polling place—the 15th Division of the 8th Ward of the City of Philadelphia—and the turnout is very light. Of the approximately 1,000 voters registered to vote at the old Sidney Hillman Clinic on Chestnut Street, only 71 had done so by 4 p.m. "It's very slow," said a poll worker stationed by one of the new electronic voting machines in the auditorium. "Maybe it'll pick up." Sen. Arlen Specter had better hope so. If he is going to hold off the hard-charging Rep. Joe Sestak, Specter is going to need a decent city turnout of traditional (older, Jewish, black, and academia) voters. So far today, he isn't getting it. All of the big-city wiseguys who met for lunch with a close friend of mine are saying, "Arlen by one." Not exactly a strong vote of confidence.
  • Quote of the Day: Smoking Cleanser

    "When you talk about Sestak being more vigorous, you must be smoking Dutch Cleanser." –Sen. Arlen Specter, comparing himself to his opponent in today’s Pennsylvania Democratic primary
  • Mark Souder's Loss Is Richard Blumenthal's Gain

    With two big scandals battling it out today, who's the biggest loser in today's news cycle? In one corner, there's Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut attorney general and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, who was revealed to have been exaggerating (at best) his military service record. In the other corner is Rep. Mark Souder, Republican of Indiana, a family-values politician who cheated on his wife with a staffer, and will resign effective Friday. Here's today's scorecard:...
  • The Indirect Sort-Of Apology While Blaming Someone Else: Blumenthal Coins New Kind of Mea Culpa

    Imagery is always deliberate in political apologies. Clearly, Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's attorney general and Democratic Senate candidate, put some thought into how he'd apologize in front of the cameras just hours after a devastating front-page story in The New York Times implicated he had lied on several occasions about serving in Vietnam. Flanked by former Marines, two of Blumenthal's former colleagues lamented the "malicious, deceptive charges" levied by the newspaper, then vouched for Blumenthal's record speaking up for vets. Even the presentation was considered: rather than stare down at prepared statements, both speakers, attempting to appear authentic and not like political hacks, went off script, praising their brother Blumenthal.The candidate took the mike, but only after several minutes of listing his experience as a Marine Corps reservist did he even get to the question everyone had. Specifically, why did you lie about Vietnam? "...
  • I Thought It Was Always Sunny in Philadelphia!

    Rain today in Philadelphia, by far Pennsylvania's largest city and metropolitan region, is depressing turnout in the hotly contested Democratic Senate primary. Conventional wisdom holds this is bad news for Arlen Specter, whose support is concentrated in the southeastern part of the state.
  • Blanche Lincoln Turned Away From Polls

    Memo to Sen. Blanche Lincoln: In a close race, every vote counts. Make sure yours makes it into the tally. Talking Points Memo reports that Lincoln, who's trying to reach 50 percent in today's Arkansas Democratic primary to avoid a runoff with Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, has been turned away from the polls because she previously requested an absentee ballot. It was apparently a belt-and-suspenders move, just in case she couldn't be at home for the vote, and Lincoln's campaign says she never mailed the absentee ballot. Instead, she'll be filling out an absentee ballot.
  • Indiana Rep. Souder to Resign Due to Affair

    Rep. Mark Souder, an Indiana Republican, will resign this morning in Ft. Wayne, effective Friday, because of an affair with a female staffer. According to Politico, Souder told House Minority Leader John Boehner of the affair on Sunday. Fox News reports that Souder was absent from D.C. most of last week and missed several votes. "I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff," Souder said in a statement this morning. A former aide to Dan Coats, who is now running for Senate in Indiana, Souder has been elected to eight terms, coming to Congress in the 1994 Republican revolution. He has been reliably conservative, opposing abortion and emphasizing the importance of religion. But Souder was hammered in a tough primary over his votes for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the "Cash for Clunkers" program, although he ultimately won. Although few details are available so far, Souder's case seems...
  • Specter of Defeat: If Obama Angers Arlen Specter, What Happens if Specter Wins?

    The political press is abuzz over the fact that President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden (who was born in Scranton, Pa.) are not stopping in Pennsylvania to campaign for Sen. Arlen Specter in the waning hours of his effort to defend his seat from Rep. Joe Sestak in Tuesday's Democratic primary. This makes sense under normal political circumstances: polls show the two candidates are tied, there is a large undecided vote remaining (which usually swings toward the challenger), and this is shaping up to be a bad year for incumbents. So Specter very well might lose. Typically, a presidential administration tries not to campaign too hard for a primary candidate who is destined to lose, because they don't want to weaken or alienate the party's eventual nominee. But what happens if Specter wins? Sestak's victory is far from certain at this point. And this is not exactly a normal circumstance. Specter, a veteran Republican, switched parties last year and gave the...
  • Times Square Suspect Finally Expected to Get Lawyer

    Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American charged with attempting to attack New York's Times Square on May 1 with a dud car bomb, is expected to meet with a lawyer for the first time since his arrest some time after an anticipated federal-court hearing in Manhattan late Tuesday. Two law-enforcement officials, who asked for anonymity when discussing the case, told Declassified that during the hearing, a federal magistrate is expected to assign Shahzad a lawyer as well as formally notify the suspect of the criminal charges pending against him, which include several terrorism offenses. ...
  • Threatened with Firing, Rhode Island Teachers Agree to Reformers List of Demands

    Remember the uproar back in February when President Obama commended Rhode Island school leaders for threatening to fire the entire staff of Central Falls High School, the lowest-performing high school in the state, after negotiations over a transformation plan fell apart? The ensuing controversy—reformers lauding the state’s aggressive action and teachers’ unions decrying the move as union busting—eventually resulted in everyone coming back to the negotiating table. And it’s a good thing they did. Today, an agreement was reached and both sides are declaring victory. The teachers get to keep their jobs—by agreeing to every transformation reform proposal the local superintendent, Frances Gallo, had originally asked for back in February, including a longer school day, extra tutoring for struggling students and more professional development over the summer. The February negotiations fell apart when the union pushed for an additional $90 an hour for any extra work—much more than the $30...