In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The first public poll is out in the 2010 Ohio Senate race, which is expected to be a tight election for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. George Voinovich. Republican former Congressman Rob Portman starts out with an early advantage over three potential Democratic candidates -- but it's not a very solid one at all.

The numbers from Public Policy Polling (D):

• Portman 42%, Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner 34%.

• Portman 41%, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher 39%.

• Portman 40%, Rep. Tim Ryan 34%.

The margin of error is ±4.1%.

Along with the very high undecideds, the internals also show some clear untapped potential for the Dems to catch up. For one thing, the undecided number among self-identified Democrats is higher than for self-identified Republicans in all three heats. And Portman is also registering support among black respondents of over 30%, which is something we never realistically expect to see for a Republican in an actual general election.

In short, it appears that Portman's lead right now owes more to the fact that the Democratic candidates aren't very well known to the voters -- nor is Portman, for that matter, but it helps him that he is the only Republican being tested against three different Democrats.

The White House has announced that President Bush has commuted the sentences of Ignacio Ramos and Joe Compean, the two former border agents who became a cause célèbre of anti-immigration conservatives when they were convicted for shooting and wounding an unarmed drug smuggler, spending the last two years in prison.

The two are now scheduled to be released on March 20, 2009, seven years ahead of schedule for Ramos and eight years early for Compean, with Bush choosing to leave intact three years of supervised release.

Some of the right-wingers out there might be dissatisfied that this wasn't a full pardon -- the two are still convicted felons -- but the conservative movement overall can chalk this one up as a small victory.

Late Update: Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the anti-illegal immigration group the Minutemen Project, has sent out an e-mail praising the commutation, and thanking everyone who supported the grassroots effort -- especially Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity.

I'm delighted to be helping out with TPMDC and TPM's coverage of the new administration. I've been a fan of Josh Marshall and the site for a long time and it's nice to be a part of it. I continue to write for Conde Nast Portfolio, where I'm a contributing editor, as well as its website, and other publications. But I'll be doing a lot here, trying to make sense of this new era and what it means. I covered the Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies for mainstream media outlets like Time and Newsweek, but I have deep roots in publications like this, having started my journalism career at The Washington Monthly and later having written the "White House Watch" column for The New Republic. Like so many people I'm deeply interested in two questions: How will Barack Obama solidify his political power and pass his agenda and will it work to address both the financial crisis and the country's longer-term problems. I don't know what the answers are but hopefully in a dialogue with you, the readers of TPM and its off shoots, and through reporting and thinking hard we'll begin to get them. It's good to be with you.

The Manifest Hope Exhibit is an art gallery open during the inauguration that gathers together an array of visual artwork all focused around our incoming president. TPMtv caught up with producer and curator Yosi Sergant and Shepard Fairey, the artist responsible for the iconic "Hope" poster.

WaPo: Unemployment Going Up Among Washington Republicans The Washington Post reports that Republican political appointees are now facing unemployment in the middle of a tough job market, and with K Street preferring Democrats. Said former George H.W. Bush advisor Ron Kaufman: "You have lots of folks in the House and Senate on the streets and 3,000 administration appointees on the streets at a time when the job market is shrinking anyways. It's just not a fun time."

Barack And Michelle Obama To Attend Community Service Lunch Barack and Michelle Obama are attending a lunch today with community service volunteers in Washington, as part of Obama's "Renew America Together" initiative, calling for more people to volunteer.

Obama To Honor Powell, McCain, Biden Barack Obama will be attending three dinners tonight to honor three different political figures from across the spectrum. First up is a dinner honoring Colin Powell, beginning at 5 p.m. ET, then a dinner honoring John McCain, also beginning at 5 p.m. ET, and finally a dinner at 6:30 p.m. ET to honor Joe Biden.

Michelle Obama, Jill Biden Hosting Concert For Military Families Michelle Obama and Jill Biden will be attending the Kids' Inaugural, a concert honoring military families and for which free tickets were distributed by the Presidential Inauguration Committee and the Department of Defense. The event begins at 7 p.m. ET, featuring acts such as Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers.

Sullenberger Gets Inauguration Ticket Captain Chesley Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who successfully landed his damaged passenger plane into the Hudson River with no deaths or serious injuries, has been given free tickets to Barack Obama's inauguration tomorrow, for both himself and his family.

NYT: Obama Reaching Out To McCain The New York Times reports that Barack Obama has been consulting closely with John McCain on his appointments and other areas of foreign policy, seeking to build a consensus on how to pursue his own policy goals. "He said that he understands that we had differences but he wanted to let us know that he also understands that we have got to be responsible in how we leave Iraq," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Poll: Nearly 7 In 10 Blacks Believe King's Dream Is Fulfilled A new CNN poll finds that 69% of African-Americans believe Martin Luther King's dream has been fulfilled, to 30% who say it has not. This number is actually higher than it is among whites, only 46% of whom say it has been fulfilled, to 52% who say it has not.

Some bad news for Florida (and national) Democrats: State Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has announced that she isn't running for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring GOPer Mel Martinez.

Had she entered the primary, Sink would have started out as the immediate frontrunner and probably a slight favorite for the general election, too. Rep. Kendrick Meek is running in the Democratic primary, and is currently the only announced candidate from either party. Meek could very well be a strong candidate -- and at least one other Dem, state Sen. Dan Gelber, is indicating he'll be getting in, too -- but Sink would have started out in an even better position.

So far both parties have managed to lose a top potential recruit for this seat: Sink on the Dem side, and Jeb Bush for the Republicans.

TPMtv will be bringing you coverage of the presidential inauguration from Washington, D.C. through Wednesday. Here is our first report. Stay tuned for more!

Today: The Inaugural Concert Today is the big inaugural concert to celebrate Barack Obama's incoming presidency, featuring acts such as Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Beyonce, Stevie Wonder and many more. HBO has the exclusive TV rights, but the audio will also be streamed online by NPR from 2-5 p.m. ET.

Obama And Biden Visits Arlington National Cemetery Barack Obama and Joe Biden visited Arlington National Cemetery this morning, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Obamas Attend Church In Washington The Obamas attended church this morning at the 19th Street Baptist Church, the oldest historically-black church in Washington. A release from the Presidential Inauguration Committee indicated that the Obamas are still looking at various churches in the area, and will settle on a permanent one at a later time.

Polls Give Obama Sky-High Ratings Ahead Of Inauguration Multiple polls out this morning give Barack Obama some incredibly high approval ratings in the days leading up to his inauguration. A new CBS/New York Times poll has 79% of Americans saying they are optimistic about the next four years with Obama as president, compared to only 16% who are pessimistic; the new CNN poll gives him an 84% approval rating; and the new ABC/Washington Post poll gives him an 80%-15% approval ratings.

Polls Also Show Approval For Obama's Economic Plan The new CBS/NYT poll shows a 63%-24% approval of Obama's economic plan. The ABC/WaPo poll shows that 72% of Americans are confident that Obama's plan will improve the economy, compared to only 17% who are not confident. And the CNN poll finds 58%-40% approval for increased government spending to stimulate the economy, with support jumping to 71%-28% when the spending is combined with tax cuts.

More Polls: People Don't Like Bush The new CBS/NYT poll gives George W. Bush an approval rating of only 22%, with a disapproval of 73%. The ABC/WaPo poll gives him a 33%-66% rating. And the CNN poll shows 68% of Americans rating George W. Bush's president as a failure, with only 31% saying it was a success.

Pelosi To Obama: Don't Wait For 2010, Repeal Bush Tax Cuts Sooner During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Nancy Pelosi said that Barack Obama should not wait for the Bush tax cuts on the top-earners to expire, but should instead seek to repeal them ahead of schedule. However, she did add that any discussion on this issue is not part of the economic stimulus plan.

Axelrod Predicts Strong Action From Obama David Axelrod told CNN that Barack Obama will take diplomatic action "early and aggressively." Said Axelrod: "I think that the events around the world demand that he act quickly, and I think you'll see him act quickly."

Obama: Let Us Celebrate The Peaceful Transfer Of Power In his new Presidential YouTube Address, his last one before the inauguration, Barack Obama recognizes the importance of the transition of power, and how we often take the peaceful transfer of power for granted:

"Through the ages, many have struggled for the right to live in a land where power does not belong to one person or party, and many brave Americans have fought and died to help advance that right," Obama says. "Through the long twilight struggle of the Cold War, our transitions from one President to the next provided a stark contrast to the suffocating grip of Soviet Communism. And today, the resilience of our democracy stands in opposition to the extremists who would tear it down."

Obama And Biden On Whistle-Stop Tour Barack Obama and Joe Biden are traveling today by train from Philadelphia to Baltimore, in a whistle-stop tour for people who want to see the new president-elect but wouldn't have been able to go to the inauguration itself. The Philadelphia event began earlier this morning, with Obama scheduled to met Joe Biden in Delaware at 1 p.m. ET, with another event scheduled for 4:15 p.m. ET.

Obama In Philly: The Election Should Only Be The Beginning Speaking to the crowd this morning in Philadelphia, Barack Obama declared that his election victory should only be the beginning of changing America for the better. "Starting now, let's take up in our own lives the work of perfecting our union," Obama said, according to the prepared remarks. "Let's build a government that is responsible to the people, and accept our own responsibilities as citizens to hold our government accountable. Let's all of us do our part to rebuild this country. Let's make sure this election is not the end of what we do to change America, but the beginning."

Obama Creates Political Organizing Committee The Obama campaign is now being transformed into a new committee, "Organizing for America," which will leverage his database of 13 million e-mail addresses and other supporter information to set up community organizations across the country. Here's his YouTube announcing it:

Essentially, as the Associated Press points out, this will be his re-election campaign-in-waiting for 2012, as a parallel organization to the Democratic National Committee, in addition to the stated purpose of promoting his policy goals.

Obama: I Think I Can Keep The BlackBerry -- But I'll Be Careful Barack Obama told CNN that he thinks he'll be able to keep his BlackBerry, rather than have to give it up over privacy and security concerns. "Now, my working assumption, and this is not new, is that everything I write on e-mail could end up being on CNN," Obama did say cautiously. "So I make sure that -- to think before I press 'send.'"

Obama Calls US Airways Pilot Sullenberger The Obama transition team announced that Barack Obama yesterday called Captain Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot of US Airways flight 1549 who safely landed his damaged passenger plane in the Hudson River, and spoke to him for five minutes. Obama thanked Sullenberger for his heroism.