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McCain Memo: Race Isn't Over
Jindal 2012?
Where Are They Today?
New McCain, Obama TV Ads
Poll: CO Initiative To End Affirmative Action Hiring
Vets For Freedom: 'Stop the Smears'
The Morning Report
Dow Up ... 900?
State Polls: CO, GA, NV, OH
NBC/Mason-Dixon Polls: NH, MT, NC
Daley Expects 1 Million At Obama Bash
Obama Camp Responds
McCain Ad: 'Tiny'
A Journal of Politics and the Arts
McCain Camp Hits Obama For Raising Taxes
McCain, Obama Call For Stevens' Resignation
Pew: Obama +15
McCain Jumps on Biden Gaffe
Analyzing the 'Bradley Effect'
Obama Ad: 'Steel In His Spine'
Veepstakes! (The 20/20 Hindsight Edition)
About That Crisis
Politico: Reid Seeking to Oust Byrd
Where Are They Today?
Dean Barnett, RIP
The Morning Report
McCain Ad: 'Compare'
Senator Ted Stevens Guilty
VA Polls: Obama +8, +11
Reuters/Zogby: 8 State Polls
MS Senate Race: Dirty
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McCain's Hometown Support
100,000 at Obama Rally?
Off Message?
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McCain On 'Meet'
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SNL Zings Biden & Murtha
NBC/Mason-Dixon: GA, IA, MO
New Polls In First In The Nation States
Tough Year For Arizona GOP?
McCain's Miserable Map
Obama Ad: 'New Subject'
Star-Tribune Endorses Coleman
Where Are They Today?
McCain vs. Matthews
RNC Ad: 'Storm'
A Look at the Senate
Fighting It Out in Iowa
Obama Camp Sees Its Path To Victory
Tension In The McCain Campaign
Obama Ad: 'Defining Moment'
Where Are They Today?
National Tracking Polls
It Was a Hoax
Fred Makes His Case
Wassup? Change
Bellwethers No More?
Politico/Insider Advantage Polls: OH, FL
Ridge: Race Would Be Different With Me
McCain Ad: 'Ladies and Gentlemen'
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October 2008

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October 29, 2008

McCain Memo: Race Isn't Over

In an internal campaign memo, McCain lead pollster Bill McInturff made the case that the race is tighter than most think, Wall Street Journal's Holmes reports. He stated that "the campaign is functionally tied across the battleground states" and that "all signs say we are headed to an election that may easily be too close to call by next Tuesday."

Read the full memo after the jump.

TO: McCain Strategy Team FROM: Bill McInturff, Lead Pollster, McCain-Palin 2008; Partner, Public Opinion Strategies RE: State of the Race and Ballot Position DATE: October 28, 2008

First, let's be clear: This is a hard election to "predict."

The historic nature of the candidates on both tickets, the huge influx of unregulated money by the Obama campaign, the dour public mood, and the unique level of voter interest all suggest an historic level of turn-out, not witnessed in over 40 years.

Our models/understanding of what is coming is therefore necessarily projective, but, here is what we know for sure:

The McCain campaign has made impressive strides over the last week of tracking.

The campaign is functionally tied across the battleground states ... with our numbers IMPROVING sharply over the last four tracks.

The key number in our mind is Senator Obama's level of support and the margin difference between the two candidates.

As other public polls begin to show Senator Obama dropping below 50% and the margin over McCain beginning to approach margin of error with a week left, all signs say we are headed to an election that may easily be too close to call by next Tuesday.

1. We are witnessing a significant shift across the battleground states.

The race has moved significantly over the past week, closing to essentially tied on the last two-day roll. These gains are coming from sub-groups it should be possible to sustain over the next week, including:

--Non-college men;
--Rural voters, both men and women;
--Right-to-life voters; and most encouragingly;
--We are beginning to once again get over a 20% chunk of the vote among soft Democrats.

Importantly as well, our long identified target of "Walmart women" -- those women without a college degree in households under $60,000 a year in income are also swinging back solidly in our direction.

Finally, in terms of critical improvement, even as this track shows more Republicans voting for us than Democrats supporting Obama, we are witnessing an impressive "pop" with Independent voters.

As I said during our Sunday briefing, we do substantially more interviews per day than any public poll, but, given the shift we were witnessing, it was my expectation that by Tuesday/Wednesday multiple public polls would show the race closing. A quick glance at Real Clear Politics would indicate this is happening by today, Tuesday, and that's good!

2. It is not surprising we are witnessing this closing as we are finally having an opportunity to run a campaign that focuses on Senator Obama's record on taxes and his lack of experience.

We are tracking how much people have seen, read, or heard about a number of thematic elements from both campaigns, including the false charges about Senator McCain's health care plan, being out of touch on the economy, and the Obama's campaign charges about Medicare. At the same time, we are testing awareness of "Joe the Plumber," Senator's Biden's quote about his own running mate being so inexperienced it invites being tested by our enemies around the world, and Obama's proposals that will raise federal spending by a trillion dollars.

This has been the week where "Joe the Plumber" has literally become a household name. An astounding 59% of voters in these battleground states have heard "a lot" about this story, 83% have heard "a lot" or "some" about this episode.

The 59% "a lot" dwarfs the other stories/thematic elements we are tracking this week.

The campaign's relentless focus has helped strengthen our margins on the issue of taxes and broadened as well to the attribute of handling the economy and jobs.

3. Our opponent is being correctly perceived as the most liberal nominee in modern times.

In our tracking, now 59% of battleground voters describe Senator Obama as being a "liberal," a percentage that is higher than previous Democrat losers Gore/Kerry, and significantly higher than for President Clinton and President Carter.

A majority (54%) of voters profile as saying Senator Obama is more liberal than they see themselves politically.

As Senator Obama's profile as a "liberal" increases, it has helped further erode his support among key sub-groups.

4. Turn-out IS going to go through the roof.

Public Opinion Strategies has been using a 1 to 10 scale to help look at self-described interest in the election since 1993. In 1996, in our last track, 48% of voters described their interest in the election as a "10." In 2000, the last track was 54% saying "10." Remarkably, in 2004, our last track had self-described "10s" at 75% of the electorate.

You need to understand we are witnessing a day-to-day trend of serious magnitude as self-described "10s" increase in every roll.

Last night, 81% of voters described their interest in this election as a 10! Wow.

Here is the importance of this number: We have watched as turn-out has gone up in the last three presidential elections from roughly 96 million voters in 1996, to 104 million voters in 2000, to a whopping 122 million voters in 2004.

I now believe turn-out will begin to approach levels not seen since other comparable presidential campaigns in 1960 and 1968.

In today's terms, that could mean breaking the barrier of 130 million voters!

There is simply no model that begins to know or predict the composition of the electorate at this level of turn-out.

My own view ... and our own weights in our surveys ... reflect a belief that African American turn-out will be at historic levels, there will be a significant boost with voters 18 to 29 years old, yet the overall high level of turn-out will begin to mute the increase in the percentage these sub-groups represent in the overall electorate.

5. There is more elasticity in this campaign than is imagined.

We have merged all of our interviews over the last three plus weeks to identify undecided and respondents who "refuse to respond" on the ballot question. This can be as high as one out of ten voters, but is generally about eight percent (8%) of the electorate in battleground states.

These voters might generally be non-voters in most cycles. But, in this cycle, 61% describe their interest in the election as a 10. This is higher than the last track among ALL voters in 1996 and 2000.

These voters are older, downscale, more rural, and are certainly economically stressed. They are quite negative about the direction of country and seek change. They voted for Bush over Kerry by a margin of 47% to 24% and this partisan advantage is a critical element to understanding our capacity to "get" these voters.

They have significant hesitations about Senator Obama's experience and judgment.

Given an Obama TV media barrage we have not witnessed since the last candidate to run without public financing, Richard Nixon in 1972, and the daily drumbeat about Obama's chances, given their demographics, it is my sense these voters WILL vote in this election and WILL break decisively in our direction.

These undecided/refuse to respond voters breaking decisively against Senator Obama mirrors the pattern of the last two months of the Democrat primary season.

When they do break, I believe they will add a net three plus points to our margins.

6. I am becoming more and more convinced Senator Obama "gets what he gets in the tracking."

Typically a Republican candidate trails among African Americans on a survey by a margin of something like 78% to 14%. As a firm, we consistently warn our clients that on Election Day, they will underperform their polling margins with African American voters. If their tracking says 78% - 18%, they should expect to only carry 8% of the African American vote, as the Democrat candidate will typically carry more than 90% of the African American vote.

Senator Obama's numbers are different than anything we have ever seen before among African Americans.

In most polls, McCain is losing these African American voters by margins like 97% to 1%.

This means when you see Senator Obama's number in a survey, it already reflects his significant and full support among African American voters.

Functionally, this means the only undecided/refuse to respond voters are white and Latino.

So, in a state like Indiana where he has recently "led" Senator McCain, in most tracks, Senator Obama is at 46% to 47% of the vote.

I am becoming increasingly persuaded it will be very difficult for Senator Obama to perform much above his percentage of the vote in a state. This puts any number of historically red states very much "in play" and MUCH more competitive than is generally believed by the media. But critically, as Obama drops below 50% in other blue states, some of these states may also becoming back in play as well.

Jindal 2012?

Ross Douthat and Chris Orr debate the question.

From Orr:

Now, yes, four years is a longer time in politics than it used to be. But I still don't see these toxins leaching out that quickly, particularly from a GOP that will, in all likelihood, continue trying to raise subliminal doubts about Obama's Americanness. Add to this the blunt fact that the GOP probably can't afford to lose racist white voters, especially in the South (you think a Jindal - Obama race wouldn't invite a conservative, white, third-party candidacy?), and I think Jindal's chance of being the nominee in 2012 is, despite his obvious talents, pretty close to nil. The GOP isn't going to be looking for its own Obama; it's going to be looking for an anti-Obama.

To which Douthat responds:

If anything, I think the way the McCain campaign has finished up - and the way the media has covered it - works to Jindal's advantage in 2012: Conservatives are going to be extremely eager to prove that they only hate Obama because he's a radical, not because they're racist, and what better way to demonstrate that than to nominate a dark-skinned conservative with a funny-sounding name? Indeed, much of the current affection for Jindal among movement conservatives - and especially in talk-radio land - can be traced to precisely such a yearning for a conservative Obama: A multicultural prince who channels Ronald Reagan, and whose nomination would at least reduce the taint of racism that clings to the American Right.

I agree with Douthat on this one and think Orr is letting his own Republican stereotypes cloud his analysis here. As Douthat notes, Jindal has already overcome his "otherness" by getting elected in Louisiana. Furthermore, playing the "otherness" card against a President Obama won't exactly bring the same rewards as playing it against a first-term senator. It all depends on where the country is then of course, but the GOP will rely on the liberal card with some degree of "Had enough?" due to the Democratic Congress.

Where Are They Today?

A quick look at where the candidates and their running mates are campaigning today with links to those states' RCP Avgs:

* McCain is in Florida;

* Obama is in North Carolina, then Florida;

* Palin is in Ohio;

* Biden is in Florida.

New McCain, Obama TV Ads

McCain's new TV ad hits Obama on his lack of experience. "Behind the fancy speeches, grand promises and TV special, lies the truth," the announcer states. "The fact is Barack Obama's not ready yet." The ad will air on national broadcast channels, according to the campaign.

"TV Special":

Along with Obama's 30-minute ad that will air tonight on network TV, his campaign released a new 30-second ad this morning that hits McCain on his selection of a running mate. There is no talking in the ad -- only quotes from McCain appear on the screen with a background tune. The ad will begin airing in key states tomorrow, according to the campaign.

"His Choice":

Poll: CO Initiative To End Affirmative Action Hiring

A Rocky Mountain News poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, found 53% in favor of Amendment 46, a ballot initiative in Colorado that "effectively ends government-sponsored affirmative action programs that use race or gender."

According to the poll, which surveyed 500 registered voters from Oct. 21-23 with a margin of error of 4.38%, the initiative is supported by a 53%-40% margin, with 7% undecided. The pollster said the relatively low support for the initiative is not a good sign for supporters heading into the election. The poll also found higher than expected support from minority and women voters, "an indication that there is a low level of awareness that it actually ends race- and gender-based affirmative action."

Vets For Freedom: 'Stop the Smears'

Hitting John Murtha:

The Morning Report

In the Headlines

"With Time Running Short, Campaigns Engage in a Noisy Air War" (Jim Rutenberg, New York Times) - The campaigns of Senators Barack Obama and John McCain are making their last-ditch advertising pitches in a loud, televised shouting match over health care and taxes, terrorism and presidential readiness, trying to sway the few remaining undecided voters or to push wavering supporters to the polls on Tuesday.

"McCain campaign accuses L.A. Times of 'suppressing' Obama video" (Los Angeles Times) - John McCain's presidential campaign Tuesday accused the Los Angeles Times of "intentionally suppressing" a videotape it obtained of a 2003 banquet where then-state Sen. Barack Obama spoke of his friendship with Rashid Khalidi, a leading Palestinian scholar and activist.

"Poll: McCain has cut into Obama's edge on jobs, economy" (Steven Thomma, McClatchy) - "Joe the Plumber" may be paying off for John McCain. The Arizona senator scored sharp gains on the pivotal issue of jobs and the economy in the past week, helping him gain a bit on front-runner Barack Obama and narrow the presidential race as it heads into the final week, according to an Ipsos/McClatchy Poll released Tuesday.

"Dems get ready to rule" (Michael Sandler, The Hill) - A landslide victory next Tuesday would give Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape government policy dramatically. By controlling the White House and expanding their Senate majority, Democrats would remove the most reliable weapons used by the GOP to block their agenda: the filibuster and the veto.

On the Morning Shows

CBS Early Show - Dan Bartlett, Bush's ex-communications director on Obama's infomercial tonight: "He has this tendency to get presumptuous as if he's already won. I think it can have a negative ad in some of these states. I do think there's a little bit of risk."

From Late Night

Letterman:

(Greg Bobrinskoy contributed to the Morning Report.)

October 28, 2008

Dow Up ... 900?

Just near 900, which is its second biggest day ever.

State Polls: CO, GA, NV, OH

New state polls in four states:

Colorado - Politico/InsiderAdvantage (Oct. 26, 636 LV)
Obama 52
McCain 45

Obama leads by 6.8 points in the RCP Average for Colorado

Georgia - InsiderAdvantage/PollPosition (Oct. 27, 637 LV)
McCain 48 (+1 vs. last poll, Oct. 23)
Obama 47 (-1)

McCain leads by 5.2 points in the RCP Average for Georgia

Nevada - Suffolk (Oct. 26, 600 LV)
Obama 50 (+5 vs. last poll, Sept. 17-21)
McCain 40 (-6)

Obama leads by 4.8 points in the RCP Average for Nevada

Ohio - SurveyUSA (Oct. 26-27, 648 LV)
Obama 49 (-1 vs. last poll, Oct. 12-13)
McCain 45 (nc)

Obama leads by 6.0 points in the RCP Average for Ohio

NBC/Mason-Dixon Polls: NH, MT, NC

From NBC/Mason-Dixon's new polls taken Oct. 23-25 in New Hampshire (Obama +11), Montana (McCain +4) and North Carolina (tie):

New Hampshire (625 LV)
Obama 50
McCain 39

Obama leads by 8.4 points for the RCP Average in New Hampshire

Montana (625 LV)
McCain 48
Obama 44

McCain leads by 3.4 points in the RCP Average for Montana

North Carolina (800 LV)
Obama 47
McCain 47

Obama leads by 1.5 points in the RCP Average for North Carolina

Daley Expects 1 Million At Obama Bash

From CBS2:

Mayor Daley predicted Tuesday that more than a million people would descend on Grant Park for Barack Obama's election night "celebration" and said the city has no plans to screen people entering the park.

The mayor said "everybody's talking about" the Obama celebration.

"It's gonna be surprising. There's gonna be a lot of people who will want to come down and celebrate...We hope it's a million or more. It would be wonderful."

Unless ... well, let's just say an election still needs to be held. On the logistics, since Grant Park hosts some of the biggest festivals in the country, the area should be able to handle the expected sea of people.

Obama Camp Responds

Following the McCain campaign's jumping on an interview Joe Biden gave in which he seemed to lower the cap at which people would see a tax increase in an Obama administration, Biden spokesman David Wade responds:

"We have a big choice in this election between tax relief for the middle class or more of the same Bush tax giveaways for Exxon Mobil and the most wealthy corporations. As Senator Obama and Senator Biden have always said, under their plan no family making less than $250,000 will see their taxes increase one cent. And if your family makes less than $200,000 - as 95 percent of workers and their families do - you'll get a tax cut."

"Maybe the McCain campaign keeps lying about Obama's tax plan because with seven days left in this election," Wade continued, "Voters are rejecting McCain's plan to give billions more in tax giveaways to big corporations and the wealthiest Americans - but nothing to more than 100 million middle-class families."

Short version: Biden flubbed it.

McCain Ad: 'Tiny'

Hitting Obama on foreign policy:

The ad will air in Florida.

UPDATE: This ad is a re-release. It first aired in late August.

A Journal of Politics and the Arts

Who over at TNR thought this was a good idea?

McCain Camp Hits Obama For Raising Taxes

On a conference call with reporters today, the McCain campaign continued to attack the Obama campaign for what it perceives as confusion over at what salarly-level Sen. Obama would raise taxes.

Explaining that over the weekend the Obama campaign released an ad putting the cap at $200,000, followed yesterday by Joe Biden seemingly lowering it to $150,000 yesterday, McCain senior adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin said that the "bottom line is that the Obama-Biden ticket wants to raise taxes."

The Obama campaign has clarified that those making under $200,000 would see a tax cut while those making under $250,000 would not see a tax increase.

Also on the call was former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp, who said he didn't know "an economist around the globe, and I don't know of an economic theory, left, right or center, that allows for a tax increase during a recession."

"It is a disgrace to call for America to be competitive in the global economy and turnaround and tax corporations in Virginia or Michigan," said Kemp. "This is not a battle over tax cuts; it is a battle over how to keep this economy from going further into a recession and to get restoration of the American dream."

McCain, Obama Call For Stevens' Resignation

Issued from the campaign on behalf of Senator McCain:

"Yesterday, Senator Ted Stevens was found guilty of corruption. It is a sign of the health of our democracy that the people continue to hold their representatives to account for improper or illegal conduct, but this verdict is also a sign of the corruption and insider-dealing that has become so pervasive in our nation's capital.

"It is clear that Senator Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down. I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will be spurred by these events to redouble their efforts to end this kind of corruption once and for all."

UPDATE: Obama does too:

"Yesterday's ruling wasn't just a verdict on Senator Stevens - but on the broken politics that has infected Washington for decades. It's time to put an end to the corruption and influence-peddling, restore openness and accountability, and finally put government back in the hands of the people it serves. Senator Stevens should step down.

"But Stevens' resignation won't solve anything on its own. It's clear that if we're going to put the economy back on track and provide relief to working Americans, we're going to have to change the way that Washington works. That's why I'm running for president."

Pew: Obama +15

While the national tracking polls have shown some tightening, Pew Research is out with a new poll showing Barack Obama maintaining a big lead over John McCain:

Obama 53 (nc vs. last poll Oct 16-19)
McCain 38 (-1)

Obama's lead in the RCP National Average is back up to 7.2%

McCain Jumps on Biden Gaffe

At a rally in Hershey, Pa., McCain jumped on a statement from Joe Biden that those who makes less $150,000 would get a tax cut. Problem is, the Obama campaign has put the threshold at $250,000.

Today, McCain said:

Senator Obama has made a lot of promises. First he said people making less than 250,000 dollars would benefit from his plan, then this weekend he announced in an ad that if you're a family making less than 200,000 dollars you'll benefit -- but yesterday, right here in Pennsylvania, Senator Biden said tax relief should only go to "middle class people -- people making under 150,000 dollars a year." You getting an idea of what's on their mind. A little sneak peek. It's interesting how their definition of rich has a way of creeping down. At this rate, it won't be long before Senator Obama is right back to his vote that Americans making just 42,000 dollars a year should get a tax increase. We can't let that happen. We won't let that happen.

Fox News is reporting that the Obama campaign argues that there is no change, that those making under $250,000 would not see a tax increase and those making under $200,000 would get a tax cut.

Analyzing the 'Bradley Effect'

In looking at the "Bradly Effect" and whether we'll see it this year, Jim Geraghty points to this study by two UC-Irving researchers, ""Ashamed Not to Vote for an African-American; Ashamed to Vote for a Woman: An Analysis of the Bradley Effect from 1982-2006."

Perhaps my colleague Jay Cost could take us through all the mathematics, but, skipping ahead, here is the authors' conclusion:

Those who claim that the Bradley Effect is an artifact of the past are partially correct. ... Our findings suggest that black candidates are truly susceptible to problems with pre-election polling.

Most pre-election polls predicted Barack Obama to win in the 2008 New Hampshire Democratic Presidential Primary. On election night, Hillary Clinton surprised everyone and defeated Obama. This was déjà vu for many political commentators and some began to argue that the Bradley Effect had reappeared. While several political
pundits called this the Bradley Effect, our study provides new insight into this case. Perhaps it was not that the polling was not only overestimating Obama's support, but also underestimating Clinton's. This seems to be consistent with the findings from this election. One of the major findings in this paper seems to be that female candidates are the victims of the Hillary Effect. White women candidates like Hillary Clinton tend to do worse in pre-election polls than in actual elections.

Obama Ad: 'Steel In His Spine'

Pushing back at McCain's attack on Biden:

(ht: Ben Smith)

Veepstakes! (The 20/20 Hindsight Edition)

There has already been a lot of ink spilled about John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin for Vice President - much of it critical. Nevertheless, some are already framing a likely McCain loss next week through the "what if he had picked someone else" prism, which is silly - not to mention premature - but makes for good fodder.

Among those who've started the second guessing early are Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Steve Kornacki, and, most prominently, Adam Nagourney in yesterday's New York Times.

The first two pieces - and to a lesser extent Nagourney's - single out Mitt Romney as having been the wiser choice for McCain. Hutchinson wrote:

Romney could have made a credible case that as a businessman and a true fiscal conservative who did business the right way, and that's not through banking, stock and brokerage conniving, speculation, wheeling dealing, and fraud. He could have helped ease the fears and the banking and big businesses of even more shocks, meltdowns, and instability. Since much of investor panic even terror is more psychology and perception of more economic doom, this would have been a major GOP and voter selling point.

To the contrary, the Obama campaign was licking its chops at the prospect of Romney on the ticket and would have slammed him as ultra-rich and out of touch (remember the preemptive line about the ticket with 13 houses?). They would have had a field day in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio lobbing accusations that Romney slashed jobs while at Bain Capital. And while Romney may have provided some marginal benefit to McCain in Michigan, it seems clear now that the financial crisis tsunami that shifted the entire electoral map over the last few weeks put Michigan beyond McCain's reach regardless of who was on the ticket.

Interestingly, one name that is missing from these preemptive "what if" discussions about McCain's vice presidential selection is Mike Huckabee. He clearly would have energized the evangelical base as much or more than Palin.

More to the point, Huckabee had been fully vetted by the primary process, is exceedingly likable, and is arguably every bit as eloquent on behalf of conservative principles as Obama is on behalf of liberal ones. There's no question Huckabee's down home economic populism would have played extraordinarily well throughout the financial crisis with working class voters in battleground states.

There's also little question that the media would have portrayed Huckabee as a Bible thumping zealot, or that Huckabee would have ignited the same sort of elite vs. everyman rift in the Republican party that Palin has.

On the other hand, I'm not all convinced, even in hindsight, that a pro-choice pick like Lieberman or Ridge would have McCain in a better spot right now. If anything, I'd be inclined to think the opposite. Tim Pawlenty is a fresh young face with a nice life story, but it's hard to see the base falling as fast or as hard with him as they did with Palin - or would have with Huckabee.

We can argue these things round and round - which is part of the fun. But in the end we'll never know with any degree of certainty that another pick would have made the extra difference for McCain - assuming he doesn't shock the world and win in an upset seven days from now, of course.

About That Crisis

Joe Biden's recent comment about a "generated crisis" to test Barack Obama's mettle brings to mind a counterintuitive thought I've been nursing for a while. If, God forbid, there is a terrorist attack on the United States during the next four years, could it be the case that the hot headed and erratic John McCain would be the more measured in his response and that the preternaturally calm and cool Mr. Obama might be pressured into reacting rashly and imprudently?

Fair or not, as he takes control of managing two wars in a post-9/11 world, Obama will carry with him to the White House the generic public perception of Democrats being soft on national security. Should a national security crisis arise, especially at or near the beginning of his administration, Obama would be under immense, almost unimaginable pressure to respond - and respond forcefully.

McCain would face pressure, too, but one could argue that because he has such strong bona fides on national security and more public trust to handle an international crisis, McCain would have greater latitude and flexibility in crafting a response.

Put another way, if there is an attack on America Obama might be pressured into proving his "toughness," which is something McCain wouldn't necessarily have to do.

Agree or disagree? Email me.

Politico: Reid Seeking to Oust Byrd

The scoop from the Politico's John Bresnahan:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is quietly preparing to ease 90-year-old Sen. Robert C. Byrd from his perch as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Democratic insiders tell Politico.

Reid has not yet discussed his plans with Byrd. But in a recent closed-door meeting with his advisers in Las Vegas and a private conversation with Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Reid has laid out a scenario that would have Inouye -- the committee's second-ranking Democrat -- taking over Byrd's chairmanship by the time the 111th Congress convenes in January.

Where Are They Today?

A quick look at where the candidates and their running mates are today with links to those states' RCP Avgs:

* McCain and Palin will campaign together in Pennsylvania, with McCain later traveling to North Carolina;

* Obama is also in PA, then later Virginia;

* Biden is in Florida today.

Dean Barnett, RIP

Let me briefly add my voice to the the number who've already commented on the tragic and early death of Dean Barnett. I didn't know Dean personally, but I can say this: whether you agreed with him or not, Dean was a damn good writer. Many of us will miss reading his work - and that's the highest compliment you can pay to someone who made a name for himself through the power of his words.

The Morning Report

In the Headlines

"Obama stresses unity, change" (Mike Dorning, Chicago Tribune) - In a speech promoted as his closing argument, Democrat Barack Obama came to a struggling industrial town in northern Ohio to join criticism of the Republican Party's record on bread-and-butter issues with the soaring themes of hope, unity and common purpose that have propelled Obama's political rise since he debuted on the national stage.

"McCain tackles Obama on plan to 'spread the wealth'" (Maeve Reston and Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times) - Addressing a boisterous crowd in eastern Pennsylvania, John McCain said Monday that Barack Obama wanted to be "Redistributionist in Chief," putting a new twist on his warning that the Democrat intends to "spread the wealth around," as he told Joe the Plumber.

"Obama ads overwhelm TV presence of McCain" (Fredreka Schouten, USA Today) - Democrat Barack Obama, who is on track to spend a record $230 million on television advertising, will punctuate his broadcast strategy Wednesday with prime-time commercials on CBS, NBC and Fox.

"McCain needs to win left-leaning Florida" (Jonathan Martin, The Politico) - Florida and its 27 electoral votes are essential to John McCain's hopes of winning the presidency -- but with a week until the election even some Republicans in the state say it is tilting toward Barack Obama.

On the Morning Shows

Early Show - Ed Rendell on race influencing voters: "I don't think it'll be a factor, I think the economy has trumped it."

Tom Ridge: "If you take a look at Pennsylvania, they don't' drive their cars in the far left lane. Obama is farther to the left than some in his own party. The job is to create wealth, not to share it or redistribute it."

Fox and Friends - Rudy Giuliani: "I was with small business people, I wish I could explain how they feel about Obama. Look at his voting record. 90 or 100 times he's voted to raise taxes or not cut taxes. It's Barack Obama who used the words 'spread the wealth'. Joe the Plumber got him to say that, no one put those words in his mouth."

From Late Night

Leno:

(Greg Bobrinskoy contributed to the Morning Report.)

McCain Ad: 'Compare'

A new McCain TV ad gives a simple argument to voters, asking which candidate they'd rather have. "Your choice," the announcer states, "for higher taxes [a picture of Obama on the screen] ... for workin' Joes [picture of McCain]." The ad is set to air "in key states," according to the campaign.

"Compare":

October 27, 2008

Senator Ted Stevens Guilty

On all seven counts of lying on his financial disclosure forms.

Stevens may have lost this race anyway, but it's now probably safe to say Mark Begich will be going to Washington as Alaska's new Senator.

UPDATE: From McClatchy:

Stevens, who was indicted in late July, sought an early trial date, gambling that he'd face voters as an innocent man. Even without the conviction, though, in order to re-elect Stevens, voters would have to overlook four weeks of testimony that exposed some of the senator's innermost financial and personal secrets.

The guilty verdict will complicate not only his re-election bid but also the remainder of his term in the Senate. His colleagues have the option _ never exercised _ of voting to expel him before his term ends in January. Four U.S. senators have been convicted of crimes, historians note, but not one has received a presidential pardon.

UPDATE II: Chris Cillizza reports:

The Alaska Democratic Party immediately called for Stevens' resignation. "Senator Stevens' felony convictions are very serious and he should immediately resign from the United States Senate," said Patti Higgins, the chairwoman of the Alaska Democratic Party. "He knew what he was doing was wrong, but he did it anyway and lied to Alaskans about it. Alaskans deserve better from their public officials."

VA Polls: Obama +8, +11

Two new Virginia polls show Obama with a significant lead in the Old Dominion.

Washington Post (Oct. 22-25, 784 LV, MoE +/- 3.5%)
Obama 52
McCain 44

VCU (Oct. 20-22, 817 LV, MoE +/- 4.0%)
Obama 51
McCain 40

Sarah Palin is making three campaign stops in Virginia today, as the McCain campaign attempts to salvage Virginia's 13 electoral votes. Obama now leads by 7.7 points in the RCP Average for Virginia

Reuters/Zogby: 8 State Polls

New Reuters/Zogby polls taken from Oct. 23-26 in eight states that voted for Pres. Bush in 2004 shows Obama up in Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia. McCain leads in Indiana and West Virginia, while the two are tied in Florida. In the RCP Averages, Obama leads in seven of the eight states, with McCain leading in just West Virginia.

Florida
Obama 47, McCain 47

Obama leads by 1.9 points in the RCP Average for Florida

Indiana
McCain 50, Obama 44

Obama leads by 0.3 of a point in the RCP Average for Indiana

Missouri
Obama 48, McCain 46

Obama leads by 1.0 point in the RCP Average for Missouri

Nevada
Obama 48, McCain 44

Obama leads by 3.5 points in the RCP Average for Nevada

North Carolina
Obama 50, McCain 46

Obama leads by 1.5 points in the RCP Average for North Carolina

Ohio
Obama 50, McCain 45

Obama leads by 6.0 points in the RCP Average for Ohio

Virginia
Obama 52, McCain 45

Obama leads by 7.7 points in the RCP Average for Virginia

West Virginia
McCain 50, Obama 40

McCain leads by 8.0 points in the RCP Average for West Virginia

MS Senate Race: Dirty

In the competitive special election race in Mississippi to fill Republican Trent Lott's Senate seat for the next four years, appointed Sen. Roger Wicker (R) and former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) -- roommates while in the state Senate -- have engaged in what the Clarion Ledger calls "one of the most spirited and, unfortunately, dirty campaigns in some time."

This editorial from the Ledger ultimately endorses Musgrove, but makes sure to point out how muddy the campaign has gotten:

Interim-Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican, faces former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove for that coveted position and it has created one of the most spirited and, unfortunately, dirty campaigns in some time.

Due to the tsunami of attack ads by the national parties and outside interests, it's difficult to see past the mud and find out who voters should choose in this important post.

Honestly, can anyone put credibility in the cartoonish ads showing Musgrove's campaign getting cash from a person made up to look like a cow? Or that Wicker would vote himself a raise nine times? Both are exaggerations that say nothing of substance. (Musgrove was governor during the beef plant debacle; Wicker didn't vote against raises that were set automatically.)

While the ballot will not show party identification since it is a special election, it's doubtful many voters can miss it. It is very partisan.

From a Ledger cartoon today:

MS Senate toon.jpg

Where Are They Today?

A quick look at where the candidates and their running mates are campaigning today with links to those states' RCP Avgs:

* McCain will be in Ohio and Pennsylvania;

* as will Obama;

* Palin will be in Virginia;

* Biden will be in North Carolina.

The Morning Report

In the Headlines

"End of Battle Centers on Turf Bush Carried" (Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny, New York Times) - Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama are heading into the final week of the presidential campaign planning to spend nearly all their time in states that President Bush won last time, testimony to the increasingly dire position of Mr. McCain and his party as Election Day approaches.

"Defiant John McCain pledges no sleep till victory over Barack Obama" (James Meek, New York Daily News) - John McCain promised a fight to the end of the presidential campaign yesterday despite gloomy polls, Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama and reported backbiting among campaign aides. "We're going to win it, and it's going to be tight, and we're going to be up late [on Election Night]," McCain said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"Rally pulls record-setting crowd" (Kirk Mitchell, Denver Post) - Close to 150,000 Coloradans in two cities stood in hours-long lines to listen to the Democratic presidential candidate nine days before the Nov. 4 general election.

"Economy Casts Shadow Over Local Ballot Measures" (Dionne Searcey and Easha Anand, Wall Street Journal) - State ballot initiatives can't do much to address the Wall Street financial crisis, but its continuing economic fallout is bound to affect how angry voters decide scores of local issues on Election Day.

On the Morning Shows

Early Show - Mitt Romney on Sarah Palin: "Of course anyone is going to make some mistakes. I think she's fired up the base and is drawing up volunteers. Some of the polls show us a very tight race, that gives us a lot of encouragement. You want someone who has been tested and proven."

Gov Tim Kaine on Obama's chances in Virginia: "We've got a very good chance. Since we haven't done it since 1964 we've got to consider ourselves the underdog. I haven't seen a poll where we've been behind since early October."

(Greg Bobrinskoy contributed to the Morning Report.)

October 26, 2008

McCain's Hometown Support

The Arizona Republic picks its native son:

Nobody in the country knows the Republican presidential candidate better than we do. And no one is better placed to judge whether he would serve honorably and admirably as president of the United States.

We are confident he will. The Arizona Republic proudly recommends John McCain for president.

...

Considering what we do know of his record, it is hard to envision Obama tamping down even the wildest leftist aspirations of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

100,000 at Obama Rally?

CBS News says 100,000 greeted Obama at a rally in Denver today:

Barack Obama drew a crowd of 100,000, according to police estimates, in his third visit to Colorado since the Democratic Convention. Speaking at Civic Center Park in downtown Denver, Obama appeared to be stunned by the sea of supporters.

"Goodness gracious! Who are those folks way at the top of the capitol over there? Unbelievable!" he said to cheers.

Ben Smith notes, however, this Denver Post dispatch:

Denver police estimated the crowd at more than 100,000. Civic Center park holds 34,000, and there were several thousand more in the streets surrounding the park and on the steps of the state Capitol.

Here's video:

Sure looks like a lot people.

Off Message?

It's probably not the best thing for the campaign that Sarah Palin had to respond to the wardrobe-gate in Tampa today:

"This whole thing with the wardrobe, you know I have tried to just ignore it because it is so ridiculous, but I am glad now that Elisabeth brought it up, cause it gives me an opportunity without the filter of the media to get to tell you the whole clothes thing," she said.

"Those clothes, they are not my property. Just like the lighting and the staging and everything else that the RNC purchased, I'm not taking them with me. I am back to wearing my own clothes from my favorite consignment shop in Anchorage, Alaska. You'd think -- not that I would even have to address the issue because, as Elisabeth is suggesting, the double standard here it's -- gosh, we don't even want to waste our time."

Palin, however, forged on.

"I am glad, though, that she brought up accessories also. Let me tell you a little bit about a couple of accessories, didn't think that we would be talking about it, but my earrings -- I see a Native Americans for Palin poster," she said. "These are beaded earrings from Todd's mom who is a Yupik Eskimo up in Alaska, Native American, Native Alaskan.

Here's video:

More McCain 'Meet' Clips

McCain On 'Meet'

John McCain, appearing on "Meet the Press" this morning, on the state of the race:

"We're doing fine. We have closed in the last week. We continue to close this next week, you're going to be up very, very late on election night. We are very competitive in many of the battleground states."


More State Polls: MO & IL

Research 2000 polls in Illinois and Missouri for the St. Louis Dispatch, taken October 20-23 among 800 likely voters:


Missouri

Obama 48 (+2 vs. last poll in September 22-24)
McCain 47 (nc)

Obama leads by 1.0% in the RCP Average for Missouri.

Illinois
Obama 59 (+3 vs. last poll September 15-18)
McCain 35 (-1)

Obama leads by 23.4% in the RCP Average for Illinois.

SNL Zings Biden & Murtha

Everyone is fair game this year:

NBC/Mason-Dixon: GA, IA, MO

New state polls this morning from NBC News/Mason-Dixon in Georgia, Iowa, and Missouri. All polls were conducted October 22-23 among likely voters:

Georgia
McCain 49
Obama 43

Iowa
Obama 51
McCain 40

Missouri
McCain 46
Obama 45

New Polls In First In The Nation States

New polls in Iowa and New Hampshire show identical numbers: Obama leading 54%-39% over McCain.

Iowa - Quad-City Times/Research2000 (Oct. 19-22, 600 LV)
Obama 54 (+1 vs. last poll, Sept. 15-17)
McCain 39 (nc)

Obama leads by 12.2 points in the RCP Average for Iowa

New Hampshire - Boston Globe/UNH (Oct. 18-22, 725 LV)
Obama 54 (+9 vs. last poll, Sept. 14-21)
McCain 39 (-8)

Obama leads by 9.3 points in the RCP Average for New Hampshire

Tough Year For Arizona GOP?

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl admitted in an interview last week that John McCain's chances of winning the presidency are not good. From the Arizona Daily Star:

During a visit to the Arizona Daily Star last week for an editorial board meeting, Kyl resurrected an old quote from Arizona Democrat Mo Udall, who ran for president in 1976 and famously quipped that Arizona is the only state in the union where a mother can't tell her son that he can grow up to be president.

"Unfortunately, I think John McCain might be added to that long list of Arizonans who ran for president but were never elected," Kyl said, listing Republican Barry Goldwater, Udall and Democrat Bruce Babbitt. "Maybe, we'll be able to say Arizona's the only state where your child can't grow up to be president. Let's hope that doesn't happen," the Republican added.

"If it's not John McCain, it'll be another Arizonan someday," said Kyl.

A McCain loss might not be the only setback on Election Day for the Arizona Republican Party. Many believe Republicans could lose two U.S. House seats to Democrats (they'll almost certainly lose one), giving the Dems a majority in the delegation. The delegation is currently split with four Democrats and four Republicans. From the New York Times:

Few doubt that Mr. McCain will win Arizona's 10 electoral votes. But less clear is whether he will have the coattails to rescue his party from Democratic advances in the state.

Democrats -- and privately, some leading Republicans -- say they believe that the Democrats can pick up one and possibly two Congressional seats now held by Republicans. That would give them a majority of Arizona's Congressional delegation -- now with eight members -- for the first time since 1966.

McCain's Miserable Map

To appreciate the dominant position Obama currently holds in the Electoral College, consider the following map. I've taken the 2004 Electoral College results, and colored "gray" all the red states that are in play this year.

obamamap1.gif

Obama has locked up every Kerry state from 2004, which gives him a starting point of 252 Electoral votes.

So of the 12 states currently in play which total 129 electoral votes, Obama needs to pick up only an additional 18 electoral votes to get to 270. He can do that by winning Ohio, Florida, or any combination of the other states. Even more to the point: Obama leads in the polls in 10 out of 12 of these states, Montana and North Dakota being the only exceptions.

Obama's leads in the RCP Averages in these ten states rank as follows: Iowa +12.2, New Mexico +8.4, Virginia +7.0, Colorado +6.5, Ohio +6.1, Nevada +3.3, Missouri +2.7, Florida +2.2, North Carolina +1.0, and Indiana +0.5.

As has been noted, McCain's most likely route to 270 is an inside straight that wins every one of these states but Iowa and New Mexico for a 274-264 win:

mccainmap1.gif

McCain's chances of flipping one of the Kerry states from 2004 to offset his red state losses this year are exceedingly slim. McCain has abandoned Michigan and pulled back from the Upper Midwest, leaving Pennsylvania as the only option. (McCain and Palin have spent time in New Hampshire, though they would also need to win two out of the three states of IA, CO, and NM to have the Granite State's 4 EV's make a difference getting to 270). Thus a second, but even more unlikely, scenario for McCain to get to 270 looks like this:

mccainmap2.gif

The McCain campaign's hope - and that's basically what they are down to at this point: hope - is that the national polls close from the current 7.7% lead for Obama down to into the 3-5% range over the next week and that the corresponding move in these traditionally red states put them back into McCain's column.

Obama Ad: 'New Subject'

Star-Tribune Endorses Coleman

Turning quickly to one of the most closely-watched Senate races, today the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has endorsed Sen. Norm Coleman over his challenger comedian Al Franken:

Count this newspaper among the Minnesota voices that long for a lessening of partisan polarization and a return to constructive problem-solving in Washington. If demonization of the partisan opposition continues to be the political coin of this realm, effectiveness of American democracy will be diminished.

Independent judgment, exercised on behalf of the best interests of the country and state, is what we hope to see from our U.S. senators. With that hope in mind, this newspaper recommends the reelection of Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.

Curiously, the Star-Tribune never mentions Franken by name.

In any case, if endorsements matter, this one is noteworthy since the Star-Tribune isn't exactly a GOP house organ. Currently, Franken holds a 2.6-point lead over Coleman in the RCP Avg.

Where Are They Today?

A quick look at where the candidates and their running mates are campaigning today with links to those states' RCP Avgs:

* Obama is in Denver, Colorado;

* McCain, on "Meet the Press" today, will be in Iowa later, then Ohio;

* Palin in in Florida, then North Carolina;

* Biden has no public events.

October 25, 2008

McCain vs. Matthews

McCain blogger Michael Goldfarb has a quibble with Chris Matthews:

Earlier this week Chris Matthews exhibited such a stunning combination of bias and ignorance that we feel compelled to set the record straight.

Matthews mocked Governor Palin for telling a third grader that the Vice President is 'in charge of the U.S. Senate so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes.' Matthews said 'either she's right about the role of the vice presidency or I'm wrong.' Fortunately for the American people, Chris Matthews is wrong. Though it escaped comment at MSNBC, Joe Biden recently made a comment to the New Yorker promising to play a similar leadership role in the Senate. Biden told the magazine, 'I would see one of my jobs as essentially being the president of the Senate, in the sense of actually not presiding as much as interacting, continuing to interact, talking to Harry Reid every day, or talking to Nancy Pelosi.'

You can watch what Matthews said here. Critics of Palin will find something to attack in nearly everything she says, but Goldfarb does make a good point about holding the candidates to the same standard. Can you imagine the media ruckus that would have followed had Palin said "a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S" as Biden did a few days ago?

RNC Ad: 'Storm'

A new one from the RNC:

(ht: Ben Smith)

A Look at the Senate

That Democrats will pick up several seats in the Senate to add to their majority is not really in doubt. What is in doubt is whether they can grab enough seats to push them into that all-valuable 60-seat territory. As the AP's David Espo writes today, despite the favorable Democratic environment out there, that's still going to be a tall order:

Democrats are overwhelmingly favored to pick up seats in Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado where Republicans are retiring.

Additionally, GOP Sens. John Sununu of New Hampshire, Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Gordon Smith of Oregon are in jeopardy. So, too, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, whose fate may rest on the outcome of his corruption trial, now in the hands of a jury in a courthouse a few blocks from the Capitol.

Even if they win all four of those races -- a tall order -- Democrats would be two seats shy of 60 and looking South to get them.

Taking a look at those Southern seats Democrats have their eyes on:

* Georgia: The RCP Avg gives incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss a 2.2-point lead over challenger Jim Martin.

* North Carolina: The RCP Avg gives challenger Kay Hagan a 2-point lead over incubment Republican Elizabeth Dole.

* Mississippi: The RCP Avg gives incumbent Republican Roger Wicker a 2.7-point lead over challenger Ronnie Musgrove.

Taking at least one of these seats is certainly doable for Democrats, particularly in North Carolina, where an Obama victory will almost certainly have coattails. But getting two will the real trick.

Fighting It Out in Iowa

Sarah Palin is campaigning in Sioux City today, while John McCain will follow her tonight in Waterloo, reports CBS News' Scott Conroy:

The Democrats are maintaining a solid lead in the latest Iowa polls, and the state's dynamics would seem to suit the Democrats. Iowa was the state that catapulted Obama to the front of the Democratic pack after his victory in the state's caucuses in January, and John McCain finished a distant fourth in the Republican field.

Still, the Republicans have to compete in states with less than ideal conditions, and one GOP operative with strong Iowa ties recently told CBS News that internal polling numbers show that the state could be a lot closer than the polls indicate.

Well, the RCP Average of those polls gives Obama an 11.4-point lead in a state that went for Bush in 2004 at the moment, which might make some wonder why the McCain campaign would spend one of its precious few weekends left battling it out instead of going to some states a bit tighter in the polls. But, hey, they must know something we don't, right?

Obama Camp Sees Its Path To Victory

On a conference call with reporters yesterday, Obama field director Jon Carson, along with campaign manager David Plouffe, laid out the path to victory. "We really feel that in a number of these states, the election is going to come down to our ground organization," Carson said. "We have around 1.5 million active volunteers around the country."

"The most important barometer for us is our voter contact," Carson said. "We measure how many people we actually have a conversation with. We average about 400,000 contacts a day. This weekend alone we will hit over 1.2 million contacts."

Plouffe said the campaing feels "very strongly about" Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado and Virginia, four states that voted for Pres. Bush in 2004. On Florida, Nevada and Ohio, Plouffe said they "assume all three will end up being competitive and close."

"There are an enormous number of states where we feel we have an opportunity to flip them," Plouffe said. "Even in states like Georgia and North Dakota."

On the call, Carson also offered early voting numbers in key states, and later distributed them in a memo to reporters. Read the memo after the jump.

TO: Interested Parties
FR: Jon Carson, Obama-Biden Campaign Field Director
RE: State of the early vote
DA: October 24, 2008

According to information from Secretaries of State from all over the country, Democrats are voting early at significantly higher rates than Republicans compared to 2004 and new and sporadic voting Democrats are voting early at higher rates than new or sporadic voting Republicans.

Below is the data on early voting I provided on the conference call earlier this afternoon.

Democrats are voting early at significantly higher rates than Republicans compared to 2004:

North Carolina - 2008 to date
All Votes By Party Registration
DEM 520,064 56%
REP 254,515 27%
UNA 155,476 17%

North Carolina - 2004 Final Early and Absentee Vote Numbers
All Votes By Party Registration
DEM 479,305 48%
REP 363,294 37%
UNA 149,632 15%

Nevada - 2008 to date
All Voting
Dem 107,122 53%
Repub 63,577 32%
Other 30,938 15%
Total 201,637

Nevada - 2004 Final Early and Absentee Vote Numbers
All Votes By Party Registration
DEM 147,408 45%
REP 135,743 41%
OTHER 45,211 14%


Iowa - 2008 to date
All Voting
Dem 132,882 50%
Repub 76,689 29%
Other 53,787 20%

Iowa - 2004 Final Early and Absentee Vote Numbers
All Voting
Dem 185,115 48%
Repub 118,167 30%
Other 86,071 22%

New Mexico - 2008 to date
All Voting
Dem 84,123 56%
Repub 49,145 33%
Other 16,484 11%

New Mexico - 2004 Final Early and Absentee Vote Numbers
All Voting
Dem 178,216 50%
Repub 132,505 38%
Other 42,461 12%

Colorado - 2008 to date
All Voting
Dem 184,352 39%
Repub 181,424 38%
Other 110,284 23%

Colorado - 2004 Final Early and Absentee Vote Numbers
All Voting
Dem 307,244 34%
Repub 384,642 42%
Other 221,336 24%

Florida - 2008 to date
All Voting
Dem 650,363 43%
Repub 651,700 43%
Other 225,980 14%

Florida - 2004 Final Early and Absentee Vote Numbers
All Voting
Dem 1,056,986 42%
Repub 1,097,616 43%
Other 386,367 15%

Tension In The McCain Campaign

Today's must-read is Politico's look at Sarah Palin and the increasing tension with her handlers.

Four Republicans close to Palin said she has decided increasingly to disregard the advice of the former Bush aides tasked to handle her, creating occasionally tense situations as she travels the country with them. Those Palin supporters, inside the campaign and out, said Palin blames her handlers for a botched rollout and a tarnished public image -- even as others in McCain's camp blame the pick of the relatively inexperienced Alaska governor, and her public performance, for McCain's decline.

"She's lost confidence in most of the people on the plane," said a senior Republican who speaks to Palin, referring to her campaign jet. He said Palin had begun to "go rogue" in some of her public pronouncements and decisions.

Obama Ad: 'Defining Moment'

Obama has released a 2-minute TV ad that changes the question Democrats have been asking this election year. "At this defining moment in our history," Obama says in the ad, "the question is not, 'are you better off than you were four years ago?' We all know the answer to that. The real question is will our country be better off four years from now?"

"Defining Moment":

Where Are They Today?

Following the candidates as they traverse the country, with links to those states' RCP Avgs:

* Obama is in Reno, Nevada, this morning, then New Mexico;

* McCain is in New Mexico;

* Biden is in Virginia;

* Palin is in Iowa this morning, then Indiana.

October 24, 2008

National Tracking Polls

This is where the national daily tracking polls stand as of today:

Rasmussen: Obama 52 (nc), McCain 45 (nc)
Hotline/FD: Obama 50 (+2), McCain 43 (nc)
GWU/Battleground: Obama 49 (nc), McCain 46 (+1)
Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby: Obama 51 (-1), McCain 41 (+1)
IBD/TIPP: Obama 46 (+1), McCain 42 (-2)
ABC News/Wash. Post: Obama 53 (-1), McCain 44 (+1)
Gallup (Expanded LV model*): Obama 51 (nc), McCain 44 (-1)
Gallup (Traditional LV model*): Obama 50 (nc), McCain 45 (-1)
(change since yesterday)

*Gallup's "Traditional" and "Expanded" Likely Voter models are weighted at 50%, so that the survey only counts once in the RCP National Average.

Overall, Obama leads by 7.6 points in the RCP National Average

It Was a Hoax

Ashley Todd, the woman who told police she had been mugged by a black man who scratched the letter "B" into her face after seeing a McCain bumper sticker on her car, has now admitted she made the whole thing up, according to this report from KDKA.

What a disgrace.

This hardly ranks as one of the great racial hate crimes hoaxes of all time - Tawana Brawley, Susan Smith, and the Duke Lacrosse case were all far more egregious and damaging to the country's race relations - but it still is just a dirty and utterly irresponsible act that defies logic and deserves condemnation.

Fred Makes His Case

Fred Thompson has released this new ad on behalf of the RNC for McCain:

A longer, 12-minute version can be found here.

Wassup? Change

The guys from the famous Budweiser spots reprise their roles for Election 2008:

Bellwethers No More?

Missouri is widely referred to as the premier bellwether state in presidential politics, having voted for the winning candidate in 25 out of 26 elections from 1904 to 2004. But Missouri isn't the only state with a remarkable record of voting with the majority of the country. Tennessee voted for the eventual winner in all but two elections between 1912 and 2004 -- its only aberrations coming in 1960 when it voted for Richard Nixon and 1924 when it chose John Davis over Calvin Coolidge.

While recent polling shows Missouri in play for both candidates this year, it's already clear which direction Tennessee is leaning -- away from Barack Obama, whom national polling indicates is favored to be the next president.

"The state seems poised to lose its status as a bellwether state this year," says Mark E. Byrnes, a political scientist at Middle Tennessee State University. "Barack Obama trails in Tennessee and few observers give him much chance of winning here. In general, the state appears to be trending more Republican, in part because of rapid population growth in white-collar suburban communities."

Franklin D. Roosevelt and other Democrats consistently won Tennessee in the first half of the 20th century. But after 1952 the only Democrats the state has supported for president have been those from south of the Mason-Dixon line. "The Democratic presidential candidates who have carried Tennessee in recent decades have been Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Southern moderates," Mr. Byrnes points out. "Candidates who appear too liberal, like Obama -- or even native son Al Gore in 2000 -- have difficulty here."

Should both Missouri and Tennessee end up voting for the loser in 2008, it may be just another sign that a dramatic realignment of U.S. politics is underway.

Politico/Insider Advantage Polls: OH, FL

New Politico/Insider Advantage polls show a dead heat in Florida and Obama up by 10 points in Ohio.

Florida (Oct. 22, 562 LV)
Obama 48
McCain 47

Obama leads by 2.2 points in the RCP Average for Florida

Ohio (Oct. 22, 408 LV)
Obama 52
McCain 42

Obama leads by 6.6 points in the RCP Average for Ohio

Ridge: Race Would Be Different With Me

Although he defended McCain's choice of Palin as a running mate, former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge said his hometown state is vital to McCain's chances of winning and that things would be different were he on the ticket, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. McCain currently trails by 10.7 points in the RCP Average there, though Ridge said he's "not buying" that there is a double-digit margin. From the Tribune-Review article:

"I think the dynamics would be different in Pennsylvania," Ridge said when asked if he should have been chosen to run as vice president over Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. "I think we'd be foolish not to admit it publicly."

Ridge, the campaign's national co-chairman, said McCain "had several good choices and I was one of them."

He nonetheless defended the Palin selection, calling it a "typical, bold McCain-like choice."

Asked if Palin has hurt the Republican ticket, Ridge said that perception might exist because "she's been hammered by the pundits."

A great piece by Politico's Charles Mahtesian illustrates McCain's need to carry the Keystone State if he is to win the presidency.

McCain Ad: 'Ladies and Gentlemen'

A new ad running in "key states," according to the McCain campaign, hitting Joe Biden for his remarks the other day:

Where Are They Today?

A look at where the candidates and their running mates are campaigning today with links to those states' RCP Avgs.

* McCain is in Colorado;

* Biden is in West Virginia this morning, then Virginia this evening;

* Palin is in Missouri;

* Hillary Clinton is in Colorado;

* Obama's in Hawaii, not campaigning as he visits his sick grandmother.

The Morning Report

In the Headlines

"McCain kicks off 'Joe the Plumber' Tour" (Lisa Lerer, The Politico) - John McCain stopped at a series of small businesses along central Florida's I-4 corridor on Thursday, hoping to win-over economically-anxious voters with a bus tour through one of the Sunshine State's most buffeted and hotly contested regions.

"Obama, McCain Tax Plans Dominate War of Words" (Christi Parsons, Chicago Tribune) - Democrat Barack Obama on Thursday accused his Republican rival of putting corporations ahead of workers by offering tax cuts even to companies that move jobs overseas. John McCain accused Obama of endangering American jobs with a tax plan that the Republican candidate says would hinder economic expansion with its disregard for small business owners.

"Polls Show Tightening Race in Florida" (Elizabeth Holmes, Wall Street Journal) - Amid an increasingly dark electoral map, John McCain has found a bright spot in Florida, where polls show him catching up to Barack Obama.

"Obama's fundraising drops as McCain's cash dwindles" (Jim Kuhnhenn, AP) - Barack Obama and John McCain enter the final days of the presidential campaign amid dwindling reserves, with Obama hindered by a sudden drop in fundraising and McCain restrained by spending limits.

On the Morning Shows

Fox and Friends -- Joe Lieberman, on whether he agrees with McCain's tax proposals: "I do right now, because of the recession. ... I'm totally with McCain on this: Joe the Plumber is obviously not a rich guy. He's a hard-working, middle-guy, who like most middle-class people, wants to be rich."

On the polls and where the race is headed: "[Voters] look at the two candidates and say, wow, Obama's smart and well-spoken, but no resume, no record of accomplishment, no record of working across party lines to get things done, which is what we need in the next president, which is why it's going to move back to McCain."