Morning Must Reads: Looking Ahead

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

–It’s primary day in Arkansas, Kentucky, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Contests between Lincoln and Halter, Paul and Grayson, and Specter and Sestak, as well as a special election between Critz and Burns in PA-12 are widely seen as yardsticks by which to measure this cycle’s anti-establishment mood. Members of Congress are reportedly “fixated” on today’s races “in search of clues for what lies ahead.”

–As Jay notes, the revelation that Richard Blumenthal made misleading statements about serving in Vietnam comes as a shock. Blumenthal, Connecticut’s attorney general and Democratic golden boy, has long been viewed as a Senator-in-waiting. Joshua Green puts it this way:

For almost two decades, Blumenthal has been so pure, so revered throughout Connecticut that he has seemed to exist in a realm beyond politics…. For as long as I can remember, Blumenthal has been the crusading consumer advocate, humble, modest, unprepossessing, with that guileless Brylcreem haircut that somehow made him seem even more honorable–a throwback to an earlier era. That Blumenthal clearly could have won statewide office if only he hadn’t been blocked by Dodd and Lieberman only added to this saintly impression. Or anyway, it appeared that he could have won office. It doesn’t appear that way anymore.

Despite assertions to the contrary, he’s not necessarily finished. Linda McMahon, the Republican frontrunner and former WWE exec who is claiming Blumenthal’s pelt, is far from ironclad. But as gaffes go, repeatedly misstating a war-time service record approaches the point of no return. If the story wasn’t enough fodder for attack ads already, there’s video too:

–Blumenthal’s camp is calling the Times piece “an outrageous distortion” and plans some pushback at an event with veterans today.

Stu Rothenberg suggests Democrats may want to switch out candidates in the race for Obama’s old Senate seat. Alexi Giannoulias is having a rough go of things, and the talent pool in blue Illinois is deep. But the national party (read: the White House) has struggled to flex its muscles in clearing the field for favored candidates this cycle, and they can’t afford a public spat.

–President Obama is planning to create a commission to investigate the Gulf oil spill by executive order, à la Three Mile Island.

–Elena Kagan is back on the Hill today for more Senate meetings.

–Majority Leader Reid filed for cloture on financial reform last night, and a vote to end debate could come as early as Wednesday. The amendment process continues apace.

–A very interesting debate is underway over the Volcker Rule, a measure in financial reform to ban proprietary trading desks at banks: The language currently in the bill is vague, lacking specific definitions for what counts as prop trading or market-making transactions. Enter Merkley-Levin, an amendment that takes a crack at specifically defining what kind of trading banks can and cannot do under Volcker. The issue, some fret, is that being vague allows regulators broad discretion, while the Merkley-Levin language might hogtie overseers and allow banks to get around the spirit of the law.

–And Tim Pawlenty takes a budget victory lap.

What did i miss?