Huffpost Politics

HUFFPOST HILL - MAY 19, 2010

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EDITOR'S NOTE: The story below includes references to polling conducted by the firm Research 2000. The reliability and accuracy of Research 2000's polling has since been called into serious question by a report published in June 2010 by a group of statistical analysts.

After weeks of minor financial overhaul victories for progressive Democrats, Harry Reid failed to procure enough votes to end debate, with two Dems demanding more time to strengthen the bill. Pundits continued to debate the meaning of yesterday's election results, though it appears that the CW was, for once, correct...and John Edwards has come charging back from the recesses of our political memory, begging for a plea bargain. It's Wednesday, May 19th, 2010, the **ONE MONTH ANNIVERSARY** of HUFFPOST HILL:

BREAKING

ROCKY DAY FOR FINANCIAL REFORM - Democrats failed to close debate on financial reform 57-42 late in the afternoon, capping off a day of stubborn opposition from all sides. Maria Cantwell and Russ Feingold voted no while Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe voted yes. Due to a procedural necessity, Harry Reid had to switch his vote to a no. Alaska Senator Mark Begich barely made it in time to vote, telling reporters afterward he had "something with my family." Arlen Specter was a no-show. "Basically, they blocked their own members from being able to bring up amendments, and I think that led to the chaos you just saw on the floor," said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) after the vote, who described the Democrats as looking "cranky."

The vote was a leadership test, making the Democratic defections that much more meaningful. Reid vented his frustration: "I know how to count votes," he said. "A Senator broke his word with me. Broke it." Though Reid didn't specify which Senator broke his word, the Majority Leader did have a tense discussion with Scott Brown on the chamber floor and Brown had previously told reporters he was a yes vote. Reminded of that after the presser, Reid said: "I'm not referring to anyone about anything."

Reid's vote-counting skills aside, there were some unusually Johnsonian moments of wrangling on the floor during the nearly hour-long vote. Reid pressed his case hard on Snowe, the lone holdout vote present, with Bob Corker and Mitch McConnell at her side. He won and she cast an aye vote. After finding Brown, Reid put his arm around him and shook his head, then found Cantwell seated alone at the opposite end of the floor. He and Chuck Schumer encircled her, Reid leaning over her with his right arm on the back of her chair and Schumer leaning in with his left hand on her desk. Cantwell stared straight ahead, not looking at the men even as she spoke. Schumer called in Chris Dodd, who was unable to sway her. Feingold hadn't stuck around. Cantwell, according to a spokesman, wanted a guarantee on an amendment that would fix a gaping hole in the derivatives section of the bill, which requires the trades to be cleared, but applies no penalty to trades that aren't, making Blanche Lincoln's reform package little better than a list of suggestions. (Now that Lincoln faces a primary run-off against the progressive Bill Halter, Dodd has withdrawn his attempt to weaken her derivatives reform section that he introduced on election day. God bless democracy.)

More on the loophole Cantwell wants closed: http://huff.to/aKGUDb

By helping Cantwell and Feingold continue the floor debate on the bill, the GOP is playing with fire, as the bill could now become stronger given more time. Reid, however, vowed to try for a second cloture vote tomorrow. A long line of progressive amendments that appear to have majority support are waiting for a vote, including ones that would ban commercial banks from trading in derivatives and impose local interest rate caps on credit card companies. Under intense time pressure, Democratic leaders are nevertheless working to wrap up the debate. After all, there's a war to fund. And an economy to deal with. And unemployment benefits expiring. And tax credits for business languishing.

Earlier, Democrats scrambled to get their amendments up. One last way to get aboard the departing train is to attach an amendment to another that has already been ruled germane. Sam Brownback's amendment that would exempt auto dealers from a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is the only such provision. Seeing no other option, Carl Levin and Jeff Merkley decided to attach their amendment to Brownback's. The measure would require banks to cease trading taxpayer-backed money for their own gain. The current bill leaves the decision of whether to ban such activity up to regulators. The gambit would put progressives in the uncomfortable position of being forced to back the auto-dealer loophole in order to pass the Levin-Merkley amendment. http://huff.to/aLYMWW

CLASS WAR: FUND MANAGERS BATTLE UNEMPLOYED - John Kerry and Maria Cantwell tell HuffPost they want certain investment managers treated differently as Congress closes a loophole that has Warren Buffett paying a lower tax rate than his secretary (or so he has said). As loyal HuffPost Hill readers know, last week, Max Baucus agreed with House Ways and Means Chairman Sandy Levin that the "carried interest" loophole would be closed to pay for a jobs package of unemployment benefits and tax extenders. http://huff.to/9V305Y

The SEIU isn't happy with Dems for backsliding on this at all, no sir. Spokewoman Lori Lodes to HuffPost Hill: "How do you explain to the nurse or 911 operator or teacher - who are all struggling to pay their mortgages right now - that Wall Street hedge fund managers or venture capitalists are the ones who will get a special tax break. Their states are cutting back on services and their neighbors are losing their jobs. But somehow Senators have decided to hold up a jobs package because they want to keep a tax loophole for money managers. Never could that make sense."

BLACK SWANS: THE PROBLEMS WITH THE WALL STREET BILL: "Current efforts to reform financial regulation are 'cosmetic' and won't prevent another crisis, economist Nouriel Roubini said Tuesday. "The way I think about this crisis is not in terms of black swans (a sudden, rare event), but white swan events," Roubini said. "Crises are much more common than we think... We need more radical reforms. The idea that we'll be able to close down an institution like Goldman (Sachs) in an orderly way--a business that operates in nearly a hundred countries--is absurd." http://bit.ly/b9kZhC

EXCLUSIVE SNEAK PEEK: The New Republic's gold-standard health care reporter Jonathan Cohn is publishing his definitive health care account all this week. Some highlights from today's password-protected portion:

- Their political logic [Axelrod, Rahm, and Biden were all imploring Obama to take half a loaf of health care last August] was impeccable. And, at another time, Barack Obama might have heeded it. Universal health care had not been a defining cause for him before his presidential bid. During one of his first policy tutorials on the subject, back in 2006, advisers were dismayed that he spent the session typing away on his BlackBerry--attention they believed that he desperately needed to spend mastering intricacies. Focus had come with the campaign and, later, the first months of his presidency. By August, Obama could square off against any health care wonk in the country, including the ones who worked for him. Still, the passion he discovered wasn't ultimately about the substance of health care policy--not entirely, anyway. Obama had come to view this debate as a proxy for the deepest, most systemic crises facing the country. It was a test, really: Could the country still solve its most vexing problems? If he abandoned comprehensive reform, he would be conceding that the United States was, on some level, ungovernable. Besides, several aides recall him saying, "I feel lucky."

- In early 2007, SEIU and the Center for American Progress invited all the Democratic presidential candidates to Las Vegas to discuss health care with a live audience. The two best-known front-runners, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, gave detailed disquisitions that reflected their deep knowledge. Obama seemed vague and hesitant. One audience member, whom friends would later nickname the Obaminator, said she'd checked his website--and found nothing of substance there. "Keep in mind," Obama replied, "our campaign right now is a little over eight weeks old." Obama had seemed surer of himself when Stern met him at a Washington restaurant months before. Maybe Obama just hadn't realized, until that moment in Vegas, how demanding a presidential campaign was--and how he'd be competing against politicians of similar intellect. "I just felt like the valedictorian had met the other valedictorians and suddenly realized that he maybe wasn't the smartest kid in the class anymore," Stern told me.

Click here to subscribe to TNR and get the full motherlode: http://bit.ly/ciKDGc

KAGAN WATCH: HEARINGS SET FOR JUNE 28th - Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy announced that the confirmation of the Solicitor General to the high court will begin late next month. The date suggests Senate Dems expect a speedy month-long nomination process that should be finalized by August recess.

Today Kagan met with Russ Feingold, Ted Kaufman, Jeanne Shaheen, Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad, Claire McCaskill and Daniel Akaka. Ben Nelson, always a thorn in the Democrats' side, said he came away with a "very favorable impression."

Kagan on Bush v. Gore, via Sam Stein: "Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan wrote in 2003 that the court's decision to effectively grant George W. Bush the 2000 election was an example of politics and policy affecting the process of judicial review. In preparatory notes for remarks she delivered to Princeton alumni in June of that year, the soon-to-be dean of Harvard Law School clearly suggested that in Bush v. Gore, the court strayed from strict judicial mores... 'There does remain a problem. Problem of Platonic Guardians, deciding what we the people can + can't do,' Kagan went on. 'If Judicial Review were mechanical, [this] wouldn't be issue. That's their job.... Read the constitution.... Apply it to prevent majority's attempts to violate it. The problem is that intent is difficult itself - the problem is that [interpretation] is intoned -- necessarily + inevitably -- with political + policy questions. Bush v. Gore is only the tip of the iceberg. It happens all over. And we know it does.'"

Daily Intel combs through the upper chamber and predicts 65 yea votes (echoing Pappa Bear Mike "Boo Radley" Allen): "It's safe to count all the Democrats and Democrat-aligned Independents as 'yeses'... We can also assume that all of the Republicans who voted against Kagan for solicitor general a year ago will vote 'no' again... To determine [who] will ultimately vote to confirm, we looked at their recent public statements, their past votes on Supreme Court justices nominated by Democratic presidents, maverickiness, and political endangerment." http://bit.ly/9GQTt3

NEW POLL: HALTER LEADING LINCOLN - Research 2000 has Halter up 48-46. http://bit.ly/9hQfWM

BUT @Blanche4Senate tweets: President Clinton, Sen. Lincoln to Launch "Countdown to Victory" Tour, May 28: http://tinyurl.com/2errubp

The NRSC already has an ad out targeting Sestak. "Just how liberal is Joe Sestak?" asks Don LaFontaine-lite. "So liberal that the chairman of his own party called winning the primary cataclysmic for November... thought Specter had the better chance." http://huff.to/aFg9rx

CHRIS MATTHEWS KNOWS HOW TO PICK 'EM...OR NOT - Here's a clip from October of political oracle Chris Matthews casting doubt on Joe Sestak's chances. After criticizing Sestak's fundraising prowess and listing off his extensive military experience, Matthews told the congressman, "I don't think you got any teeth." http://huff.to/cobAI3

MIKE PENCE KNEW ABOUT SOUDER WEDNESDAY - "I was approached by a journalist I think Wednesday of last week who asked if I had heard anything about my colleague," said Pence. "I indicated that I hadn't. But I did approach Mr. Souder on Thursday on the House floor to inform him of that inquiry, and it was at that point that he shared the fact that he had been involved in an extramarital affair. It's a deeply saddening event. Congressman Souder's circumstance is a family tragedy, but he also betrayed the public trust. He did the right thing by resigning from Congress." http://bit.ly/cglIbB

Tonight in Roll Call, the politics of sleeping with your congressional colleagues: "The good news for soon-to-be ex-Rep. Mark Souder... it turns out the House Ethics Manual has no specific prohibition against Members engaging in romantic relationships with their staff."

No "ifs" "ands" or "buts" or "ins' or "durings" about it. Eric Schultz is smiling over this video of Richard Blumenthal correctly recounting his military service during the same event highlighted by the New York Times yesterday: http://huff.to/9peMif

Times defends not running full Blumenthal clip. In a statement to HuffPost's Sam Stein -- does this not read like a McMahon campaign statement? "The New York Times in its reporting uncovered Mr. Blumenthal's long and well established pattern of misleading his constituents about his Vietnam War service, which he acknowledged in an interview with The Times," spokeswoman Diane McNulty said. "Mr. Blumenthal needs to be candid with his constituents about whether he went to Vietnam or not, since his official military records clearly indicate he did not." ... And in a follow up email to Stein: "The longer version of the video doesn't change the story. Saying that he served 'during Vietnam' does not contradict or override his later, more specific, statement that he served in Vietnam."

Rasmussen has Blumenthal down 10 points in instant-reaction poll but still leading Linda McMahon by 3 points. http://bit.ly/a3DR4q

STATE DINNER TONIGHT - The president and First Lady honor Mexico's head of state Felipe Calderon and his wife this evening in what administration officials are hoping will be a Salahi-free event. Performers include Beyonce, Rodrigo y Gabriela and the US Marine Band.

The White House just released the guest list. Attendees include George Lopez, Eva Longoria Parker and the New York Times' best friend, Carlos Slim. http://bit.ly/c5oWYd

Reid began his press conference noting that he'd now be late, following the failed vote and long negotiations ahead. Here's the list of government attendees, via Ed O'Keefe: http://bit.ly/blaAiJ

On the menu: Guests will be treated to a refined interpretation of Mexican cuisine by celebrity chef (and Chicagoan) Rick Bayless. USA Today says he will serve, "[D]ishes inspired by Mexican street food, dishes from the seafood-dominant coastal regions, a special green-herb ceviche, and a dish with a Oaxacan black mole (MO-leh), the spicy chocolate-like sauce (indigenous Mexico being the origin of chocolate)... the sauce is so complicated (28 ingredients) it requires several days to prepare, so Bayless arrived in Washington early to start work." http://bit.ly/anbNy9

Complete menu, via Lynn Sweet: http://bit.ly/9ZW1oc

HuffPost Hill spotted Mexico's First Lady Margarita Zavala flanked by a sizable security detail at the Starbucks near HuffPost's Pennsylvania Ave. office.

In The Hill Tonight: Jared Allen and Bob Cusack have a wide-ranging interview with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) who details her legislative agenda and why she is confident that the House will remain in Democrats' hands.

House Republicans killed a science bill for the second time today despite the addition of an anti-pornography rider. Roll Call: "GOP leaders ripped the bill as bloated, arguing for a freeze in spending as long as there is a deficit and for the elimination of any new programs. Democrats added the same anti-porn language that Republicans used last week to attach an amendment that would have gutted the bill. But Democrats tried to put the GOP on the spot this week by putting the bill on suspension with no opportunities for another mischief-making amendment." http://bit.ly/dvVy4F

Wired.com got a first look at the Obama team's newly redesigned Data.gov project and are extremely impressed. http://bit.ly/bcps0E

Glenn "The Pen" Thrush is closing down Thrushblog so he can focus on White House coverage and moonlighting as a Leon Trotsky impersonator. Godspeed, comrade.

MICHAEL LEWIS TOURS CAPITOL - The best living author in America addressed the House Democratic caucus today, complaining that they're a brutally tough crowd to keep focused. "When you have an itch, you scratch it," he observed to the Dems. He then wandered to the Senate to watch the failed cloture vote, where Carl Levin and Sherrod Brown ventured up to the visitors gallery to hang out with him. Warner Bros. optioned the rights to his talk to the Dem caucus for $3.2 million, heading off an auction.

Don't be bashful: Send tips/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to huffposthill@huffingtonpost.com

TRENDING

ELECTION ANALYSIS - Three cheers for conventional wisdom! Turns out the whole anti-establishment theme panned out. Joe Sestak sent Arlen Specter packing after a political career spanning five decades and nearly as many party changes. In Kentucky, Rand Paul rode a wave of incoherent Tea Party RAGE to the GOP nomination. Bill Halter sent the Arkansas contest into extra innings, depriving Blanche Lincoln of an easy renomination. So things went as expected... BUT WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN???

SESTAKULAR - Chris Cillizza on Specter's swan song: "Specter never seemed to adequately explain to Democrats why he switched parties -- beyond the fact that it would allow him to be re-elected. Sestak, in what is the early front-runner for ad of the year, brilliantly exploited Specter's seeming lack of principle on the switch with a commercial that said the incumbent's party switch was designed to 'save one job... his... not yours.' Specter's inability to articulate why he had decided to go from 'R' to 'D' after spending nearly three decades on the GOP side was compounded by a strong sentiment among voters that the people they have been sending to Washington aren't getting the job done and a course correction is required." http://bit.ly/bljMW9

AP's Marc Levy on Sestak v. Toomey: Expect the race to "focus on wallets, pocketbooks and kitchen tables from opposite ends of the political spectrum." http://bit.ly/9m7Qfw
Kos takeaway: "Nancy Pelosi, ineffective boogeyman" http://bit.ly/aUOqBy

BLUEGRASS BLOWOUT - Hotline's James A. Barnes with the GOP post-game: "The sweep of Paul's victory was impressive and lends credibility to the Tea Party movement. Paul carried 109 of the state's 120 counties, winning Jefferson, home to the state's largest metropolitan are, Louisville; college counties like Fayette and Warren, home to the University of Kentucky and Bowling Green State University; and even Boone County, Grayson's home turf in Cincinnati suburbs. The inability of Grayson to carry Boone, Campbell and Kenton, GOP establishment enclaves across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, was a telling sign of his inability to rally party loyalists and perhaps an indicator the strength of the insurgent sentiment in the Bluegrass state."

Ever the populist, Paul defended his campaign's decision to host its victory party in a country club, telling ABC News that it was OK because Tiger Woods had brought golf to "cities and city youth." Word to yo mother, Rand. http://bit.ly/cTJ5kS

AG Jack Conway beat out his more centrist opponent Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo in the Democratic contest. Alex Pareene thinks Conway can win in November (and so does HuffPost Hill): "With 99% of precincts reporting, Conway has received 44% of the vote. That's 226,773 votes. His opponent, Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo received 221,269 votes. Rand Paul, the runaway winner of the Republican primary, received a total of 209,159 votes. In other words, both Democrats received more votes than either Republican. Which doesn't make it sound like the GOP base is energized for the Rand Paul rEVOLution... Rand Paul has the national media attention, and a small lead in the polls, but both candidates can credibly claim to be a change from the norm (especially if Rand keeps going around praising the departing Bunning for stunts like blocking unemployment filing extensions) and there's months of digging up crazy shit the Pauls have said yet to come." http://bit.ly/90qaJJ

HALTER EXTENDS ARKANSAS RACE - Though very much in Bill Halter's corner, OpenLeft makes a convincing case for his chances: "[A]ll the momentum is with Halter. Research 2000 has been polling this race all spring for Daily Kos. The last 4 polls look like this for Halter: March 25: 31 percent. April 15: 33 percent. April 29: 35 percent. May 13: 37 percent. In the same polls, Blanche Lincoln was always within 1.5 points of 44.5 which is almost exactly the percent she tallied last night. She's not likely to do any better in June for several reasons. Turnout for special elections is usually quite low which will favor the candidate with more excited voters. Halter's momentum shows he is overcoming lower name ID. Lincoln's favorable/unfavorable numbers are terrible. And finally, polling versus the Republican nominee shows Halter stronger than Lincoln which may also move Democrats to Halter." http://bit.ly/cpPuOg

TPM thinks Halter may have temporarily saved derivatives reform: "A far-reaching proposal to regulate derivative trading will not be scaled back in Wall Street reform legislation, at least for now, multiple Senate aides confirm... It also faced a raft of negative press. But as soon as the trial balloon took flight, Lincoln's opponent's pounced, characterizing the populist proposal as an election-time ruse meant to dupe voters, and which was always going to be cast aside after primary season. And maybe it would have, if Lincoln's election Tuesday night hadn't ended in a draw, forcing a runoff between her and Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter." http://bit.ly/8Xnnj1

Neil Cavuto to Michael Steele: Well, yeah, everybody hates you. http://bit.ly/aRiLAx

PUTTIN' ON THE CRITZ - Git out yer Drudge sirens cause we got ourselves a **CW CHANGE ALERT**. After Mark Critz handily beat Tea Party candidate Tim Burns, who had been heavily promoted on Fox News, endorsed by Sarah Palin and stumped for by Newt Gingrich and Scott Brown, pundits are already starting to downplay November as a GOP landslide.

From First Read: "[T]his was a race that Republicans should have been able to win. Yes, Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district. And, yes, the Dem turnout in the competitive Sestak-vs.-Specter primary helped Critz (though the statewide Dem turnout wasn't overly impressive). But this was the only congressional district in the country that John Kerry won in '04 but Obama lost in '08, meaning that it was ripe for the picking. Remember, back in 1994, Republicans were the ones winning House special elections. But can this be '94 all over again if the Democrats are the ones winning these things -- four straight this cycle (PA-12, NY-23, CA-10, NY-20) and seven since 2008 (IL-14, MS-1, LA-6)? By the way, there was a ton of finger-pointing among House Republicans after they lost the NY-23 special late last year; it could be worse internally after last night." http://bit.ly/bGvBvZ

The Times echoed the sentiment, meaning you can consider the CW FINALIZED. Carl Hulse (who loves our bowel jokes) and Jeff Zeleny: "The triumph by Mark Critz, the Democratic candidate in the blue-collar 12th District, which was represented for decades by the late John P. Murtha, was interpreted by Democrats as clear evidence that they can prevail even in a tough political environment, if they emphasize local issues and reach out intensively to voters." http://nyti.ms/ci56re

With apologies to POLITICO ("Activists seize control of politics"), Marc Ambinder provides some much-needed cold-water-dousing: "Yes, it stinks to be an incumbent this year, but the truth is 90% of congressional incumbents will probably be re-elected. Our system can only tolerate a bum turnover rate of about 10 percent a cycle, even when the 'Throw The Bums Out' mentality is driving voter preferences. How is Arlen Specter like Bob Bennett? How is Bob Bennett like Allan Mollohan? How is Blanche Lincoln like Charlie Crist? Republican pollster Glen Bolger has a theory, and it makes sense to me. Simply put: 'Those who face anger from the grassroots, coupled with a challenger candidate with the resources to get their message out, have challenges.' http://bit.ly/cMMJ1h

POTUS STAYS MUM ON ELECTIONS - Probably because of deflating stories like this one from AP's Charles Babington: "Sen. Arlen Specter became the fourth Democrat in seven months to lose a high-profile race despite the president's active involvement, raising doubts about Obama's ability to help fellow Democrats in this November's elections.
The first three candidates fell to Republicans. But Specter's loss Tuesday to Rep. Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania's Democratic senatorial primary cast doubts on Obama's influence and popularity even within his own party - and in a battleground state, no less...Obama's poor record thus far could hurt his legislative agenda if Democratic lawmakers decide they need some distance from him as they seek re-election in what is shaping up as a pro-Republican year. Conversely, it might embolden Republican lawmakers and candidates who oppose him." http://huff.to/9RdoeW

DALE PETERSON UPDATE - You knew it was going to happen: here's your Dale Peterson spoof from FunnyOrDie. http://huff.to/bUvRmp

P.S. Did Dale pull a Blumenthal by saying he was a Marine "during" Vietnam? http://bit.ly/d4XmXV

Speaking of the crazies, Steve King (R-idiculous) says favoritism was behind the granting of asylum to President Obama's Kenyan aunt. In a statement, the Iowa Republican said that Zeituni Onyango received preferential treatment: "A judge granted President Obama's aunt amnesty through asylum despite her blatant disregard for the Rule of Law. Ms. Onyango has been living in the country illegally since her first application for asylum was rejected and she was ordered to be deported in 2004." http://huff.to/dmbMRj

OBAMA MEETS WITH MEXICAN PRESIDENT, DECRIES ARIZ. LAW - Jeez, he just can't stop palling around with fer'ners. The president met with Felipe Calderon in advance of the White House's state dinner tonight. Both denounced Arizona's draconian immigration law: "We're examining any implications, especially for civil rights, because in the United States of America, no law-abiding person, be they an American citizen, a legal immigrant, or a visitor or tourist from Mexico, should ever be subject to suspicion simply because of what they look like," Obama said. Calderon seconded: "We will retain our firm rejection to criminalize migration so that people that work and provide things to this nation will be treated as criminals. And we oppose firmly the SB-1070 Arizona law, given unfair principles that are partial and discriminatory." http://nyti.ms/ci56re

Could Calderon have gotten across if we finished the danged fence?

As the president criticized the Arizona law with Mexico's head of state,the First Lady was asked by a Maryland second-grader why her husband was taking everyone without papers away. "My mom ... she says that Barack Obama is taking everybody away that doesn't have papers," the young girl said. OPTICS FAIL. http://huff.to/c4HXQU

"Justa y Equilibrada" -- Fox News will launch a Latino centric website this fall, the network announced. "The website known as 'FOX News Latino' (www.FoxNewsLatino.com) will feature the latest breaking news, politics, economic and lifestyle stories that impact the Latino community. FNC will provide an independent website with original content focused exclusively on the Latino community and El Seuno Americano."

LOWDEN'S CLUSTERCLUCK - Harry Reid's campaign has posted video of Sue Lowden denying she ever made that chickens-for-checkups comment. From yesterday's Nevada GOP Senate debate: http://bit.ly/cEuoGJ

A new PPP poll shows Michael Bennet now leads over GOP challengers Jane Norton (44-41) and Ken Buck (45-39). He's beating his primary challenger Andrew Romanoff 46-31. http://bit.ly/dhnRPF

JOHN EDWARDS WANTS PLEA DEAL TO AVOID THE CLINK - So says the National Enquirer. From the AP: "Edwards is 'terrified' of going to jail, according to the Enquirer source, and 'he's willing to cop to a misdemeanor charge" to avoid jail time, but "is asking to keep his law license.' This is just the latest revelation in a scandal that refuses to go away. Rielle Hunter recently went on Oprah to dish about her relationship with Edwards, confirming among other things that the couple made a graphic sex tape. Former Edwards confidante Andrew Young, who initially tried to cover for his boss by falsely claiming paternity of Edwards' love child with Hunter, accused Hunter of lying in the Oprah interview in an effort to "deflect blame" from herself." http://huff.to/dgNAjc

The first post-arrest photo of confessed Time Square bomber Faisal Shahzad was released today. Check it out, along with Runnin' Scared's rundown of the hottest trends in terrorist facial hair: http://bit.ly/aYjWsV

COMFORT FOOD

- Is Eliot Spitzer headed to CNN? http://huff.to/anTm7g

- Sharon Stone hasn't gotten lucky in a while, FYI. http://huff.to/aI9pgf

- The definitive guide to being cool. http://huff.to/dwpzPE

- How to avoid getting ripped off by a cabbie. http://bit.ly/cP8Ni1

- Seven wildly successful people who had previously been expelled from school. http://bit.ly/9hT0DX

TWITTERAMA

@brianbeutler Who among us hasn't starred in an abstinence promotion video with a mistress, fornicated in public, then resigned from Congress? http://bit.ly/bRDPaZ

@laurameckler 1st WH state dinner for foreign head of state? Pres. Grant, 1874, King David Kalakaua of Hawaii. // See how that turned out. http://bit.ly/bNPFVR

@Markknoller: The State Dinner guests will be dining on the Clinton China from 2000 and the Eisenhower Porcelain from 1955. http://bit.ly/ctU8Lm

THE TUBE

Ratigan spoke to Sherrod Brown and Jeff Merkley about financial reform, Anthony Weiner about Goldline, Joe Sestak on his primary win and Tom Coburn about his primary reactions. Rand Paul takes a victory lap on the O'Reilly Factor. The always delightful Michelle Bachmann appears on Hannity. Maddow talks to primary victors Rand Paul and Joe Sestak. Paul Ryan is on Greta Van Susteren.

TOMORROW

Mark Warner is on "Morning Joe".

ON TAP

6:30 pm: 826DC celebrates the launch of its new book, targeted to new high schoolers, "Get Used to the Seats: A Complete Survival Guide for Freshmen." Volunteers, partnering educators, and students will celebrate its completion [True Reformer Building, 1200 U Street NW].

7:00 pm: The NoMa Film Festival rolls on with a screening of "Wall-E," a movie that no one dislikes [L Street NE between 2nd & 3rd].

5:30 pm - 7:30 pm: Crohn's & Colitis Foundation hosts a congressional reception [Senate Visitors Center 215].

5:30 pm - 7:00 pm: Sam Farr (D-Calif.) has a fundraising reception at the home of Lucie Gikovich for "family and friends." We really hope he doesn't ask for $500 from his family [The Home of Lucie Gikovich, 514 Seward Square SE].

5:30 pm - 7:00 pm: The DCCC hosts a reception honoring John Dingell (D-Mich.) and John Lewis (D-Ga.) for just being...so damn sexy [The Liaison Hotel, 415 New Jersey Avenue, NW].

5:30 pm: Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Pete Sessions (R-Texas) team up to raise money for Easter Seals, an organization that assists mentally disabled children (not unlike the DNC and RNC) [JW Marriott Hotel, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave. NW].

5:30 pm - 7:30 pm: Join Illinois congressman and apparent chalupa enthusiast Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) for a reception at Tortilla Coast [Tortilla Coast, 400 First Street SE].

5:30 pm - 7:00pm: Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) passes the hat around at the offices of Democratic fundraising shop Erickson & Co. [Erickson & Co. Townhouse, 38 Ivy Street SE]

6:00 pm - 7:30 pm: Chris Carney (D-Penn.) heads over to the UPS Townhouse to vacuum cash from his fundraiser attendees. Wouldn't you know that Rep. Carney is a member of the Transportation Committee??? [UPS Townhouse, 421 New Jersey Ave SE]

6:00 pm - 7:30 pm: "Big" John Cornyn (R-Texas) hosts a "Margaritas and Mariachi" fundraiser at NRSC headquarters. Consider, if you will, the nausea-inducing absurdity of the Immigration, Refugees and Border Security Subcommittee's top Republican hosting a Mexican-themed soiree. Arriba! [National Republican Senatorial Committee, 425 2nd Street NE].

6:00 pm - 8:00 pm: Albio Sires (D-N.J.) doesn't just host fundraisers at the UPS Townhouse (listen up, Chris Carney), he invites Wal-Mart in on the action! [UPS Townhouse - 421 New Jersey Ave SE]

6:30 pm: Heath Shuler raises funds for his 3rd and Long leadership PAC [Oceanaire Seafood Room, 1201 F Street NW].

TOMORROW

8:00 am: Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.), with backing from Barney Fank (D-Mass.) holds a small breakfast to raise some cash [446 New Jersey Ave SE].

8:30 am: Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) welcomes you to the Capitol Hill Club, grotto and all [Capitol Hill Club, 300 First Street SE].

8:30 am: Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) puts on a breakfast fundraiser [601 Pennsylvania Ave. SW, Suite 250].

8:30 am: Chuga-chuga-chuga-chuga-ka-ching! Jim Gerlach (R-Penn.) raises money at his "Railroad Industry Breakfast" at the Association of American Railroads [AAR, 425 3rd Street SW, Suite 1000].

8:30 am: Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), who won his last contest with 71% of the vote, has a breakfast fundraiser at Bistro Bis [Bistro Bis, 15 E Street NW].

8:30 am: Ever the party animal, Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), tones it down for a fundraising breakfast [National Democratic Club Townhouse, 40 Ivy Street SE].

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