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First thoughts: Crist makes his move

Crist makes his move, while the press plays up the GOP's ideological civil war… Don't forget that Meek has a Dem primary to deal with first… Axelrod says no more drilling will be authorized until after authorities learn what caused the rig explosion… White House pushes back against criticism that it hasn't responded fast enough to the oil spill… GDP grows by 3.2%... First Read's Top 10 TV ads… Lincoln leads Halter by eight points, according to a new poll… And SEIU hits Lincoln with a $1 million ad buy.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Crist makes his move… : Charlie Crist did it, and his move now sets up what will probably be the most-watched Senate contest this year in a battleground the political world knows very, very well. (Move over Blunt vs. Carnahan in Missouri, and Fisher/Brunner vs. Portman in Ohio.) In his interview on "TODAY" this morning, Crist was certainly a man who not only was appealing to the middle, but also Florida Democrats. "This is an embracing of all the people," he said of his move to depart the GOP primary. "Let all the people to make this decision; it is too important… I just want to give them this opportunity." It also was striking when Crist said yesterday that he was doing the "right thing" for America before he said it was the right thing for Florida. He knows he will be a big national player if he pulls this off.

*** … And it's to his left: Crist's announcement event yesterday also was telling as to his strategy -- it had the feel of a "You can trust me, Democrats" rally. And while he has avoided the question about which party he would caucus with, given the Republican reaction, it's hard to imagine Crist ever being welcomed back into the Republican fold. Contrast the Democratic leadership reaction to Lieberman, for instance, versus the Republican reaction to Crist yesterday. Democrats were trying to send a signal in 2006 that they WOULD welcome Lieberman in the caucus. But that's not the case with the GOP and Crist right now. And if that's the situation, will we see Crist continue a slight shift to the left?

*** Playing up the GOP's ideological civil war: The Crist story -- just like the Specter one year ago -- is an excuse for the media to write about the GOP's ideological civil war, at a time when things couldn't be going better for the Republican Party. Here's the Washington Post's Karen Tumulty: "Crist's decision to flee the party that incubated his political career says as much about the state of the GOP as it does about the governor." And here's the AP: "Charlie Crist's departure from the Republican Party is not just a Florida story; it's an American story -- a tale of two parties driven by their ideologues, squeezing out moderate candidates." Ironically, as Tumulty later notes in her story, there are centrist Republican candidates who are thriving (Scott Brown, Mike Castle, Mark Kirk). But they're not the ones getting attention, thanks in part to stories like Crist vs. Rubio.

*** Don't forget about the Dem primary: By the way, while we're all assuming that Kendrick Meek will win the Dem nomination, don't forget that he primary challengers -- including one from the eccentric (but very wealthy) Jeff Greene, who will force Meek to spend a lot of money to win the primary.

*** Spill, baby, spill? Just weeks after the Obama administration announced its plan to open areas to offshore drilling -- in an effort to get more GOP votes for a comprehensive energy/climate change bill -- the BP spill in the Gulf Coast is changing all of that. And it probably will change the politics of the energy/climate change debate. White House adviser David Axelrod told ABC that no new oil drilling will be authorized until authorities learn what caused the explosion of the rig, the AP says.

*** White House pushes back: The White House also is pushing back against criticism that the federal government hasn't done enough responding to the spill. An administration official emails First Read that 1) Interior Secretary Salazar deployed his deputy to the Gulf the morning after the rig explosion; 2) the administration began immediately holding regular calls with BP officials; 3) President Obama began monitoring the situation and contacting governors whose states will be impacted; and 4) Obama dispatched DHS Secretary Napolitano, Secretary Salazar, and EPA Administrator Jackson to the Gulf to ensure that all is being done to respond to the spill. The administration official also says that 1,178 personnel have been deployed to protect the shoreline and wildlife; that 76 response vessels have been responding on site; and that 174,060 feet of boom/barrier have been deployed to contain the spill. And here's one thing for all of us to remember: The initial focus, post-explosion, was the loss of human life, not the spill.  

*** GDP, yeah you know me: While the White House pushes back against criticism that it hasn't done enough responding to the oil spill, it is welcoming this new: The U.S. economy grew by 3.2% in the first quarter of this year. President Obama will make remarks about that economic growth at 10:35 am ET. The AP writes, "Friday's report provides more evidence that the recovery remains on track. It marked the third straight quarterly gain as the United States heals from the longest and deepest recession since the 1930s. But that's weaker than the fourth quarter of last year, when the economy grew at 5.6%."

*** May Day, May Day: Tomorrow is May Day, and we bet they will be marches/protests on immigration that could catch the political world by surprise. These rallies could be a lot larger than anything we've seen from the Tea Party movement.

*** First Read's Top 10 TV Ads: If it's Friday, it's another First Read Top 10 -- this time a look at what we consider to be the most provocative, eye-catching, talked-about TV ads this midterm cycle.
10. Frankenstein's Coroner: This made our list last month, and it's still a good one. The nastiest ad in a race for corner -- ever. As it turns out, the target of the ad, Dr. Minyard, won the race. 
9. "Strange" Ways Here We Come: Last month, Trey Grayson began hitting Rand Paul for his "strange ideas" on national security. 
8. Rand Paul's 9/11 Response: Paul's response to the ad invoked 9/11 and the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. "Trey Grayson, your shameful TV ad is a lie, and it dishonors you," Paul says to the camera.
7. Hook(er), Line, And Sinker: The Louisiana Democratic Party goes there with this Web video aimed at Sen. David Vitter (R) and his admission of using the D.C. Madam's prostitution services. Vitter has a comfortable lead in the polls.
6. Sh#%storm: This week's Goldman Sachs congressional hearing wasn't the only place where we heard bleeped-out bad words; we also heard in this TV ad by former Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bob Schillerstrom (R). 
5. Specter's Slam: Arlen Specter has earned the reputation as a brass-knuckled campaigner, and this TV ad explains why, as he hits Joe Sestak on his attendance record and even his military record. 
4. Revenge of the Nerd: "Michigan gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder (R) is trailing in the polls, but this ad was quite a splash for the former Gateway exec.
3. Speak English: This TV ad, by Alabama gubernatorial Tim James (R), is certainly provocative coming on the heels of the Arizona's new immigration law. "This is Alabama, we speak English. If you want to live here, learn it."
2. The Hug: The Obama-Crist hug, and this Rubio ad featuring it, is one of the main reasons why Crist dropped out of the GOP primary. 
1. "Demon Sheep": No surprise here, folks. We can't get enough of ... Demon Sheep. (Caveat: It's a Web video rather than an actual TV ad.) 

*** Super Senate Tuesday: In Arkansas, a new DailyKos/Research 2000 poll shows Blanche Lincoln leading Bill Halter by eight points (43%-35%); earlier this month, Lincoln's lead was 12 points (45%-33%)… Also in Arkansas, the SEIU is launching a $1 million TV ad campaign against Lincoln, hitting her on her trade votes.

*** More midterm news: In Colorado, Vice President Biden raises money for Rep. Betsy Markey (D)… In New Hampshire's Senate race, Paul Hodes (D) is trailing Kelly Ayotte (R) by 15 points, according to a new WMUR Granite State poll.

Countdown to IN, NC, and OH primaries: 4 days
Countdown to NE and WV primaries: 11 days
Countdown to AR, KY, OR and PA primaries, and PA-12 special: 18 days
Countdown to HI special election: 22 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 186 days

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