Nov. 16 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 365   McCain 162   Ties 11
Senate Dem 57   GOP 40   Ties 3
House Dem 255   GOP 174   Ties 6

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News from the Votemaster

Stevens' Ejection Vote Scheduled for Tuesday

The Republican senatorial caucus is scheduled to vote on a motion made by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) to eject convicted senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) from the Republican caucus. If Stevens is voted out of the caucus, he loses all his committee assignments and becomes a man without a party. However, that situation won't last for long: he is virtually certain to be expelled from the Senate itself if he is reelected. His only ray of hope--if you can call it that--is that he will lose the election. In that case he goes down in history as the longest serving Republican senator in history who eventually ran out the clock and was defeated by a much younger man, Anchorage mayor Mark Begich (46). But losing an election looks better in the history books than being expelled from the Senate. Of course, his seven felony convictions will be there unless they are overturned on appeal.

Big Fight for Open Slot on the Senate Finance Committee

Speaking of Jim DeMint, he is no ordinary backbencher. He is a conservative firebrand who is causing minority leader Mitch McConnell no end of headaches. He constantly attacks earmarks--including those benefitting Republicans--and is now demanding a seat on the powerful Senate finance committee, which writes the tax laws. Two Republican slots are open due to the defeat of two Republican members, Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Sen. John Sununu (R-NH), but due to the shift in the partisan composition of the Senate, the Republicans will be able to keep only one of them. If McConnell were to give DeMint a seat, he would have to skip over two other Republicans, Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), both of whom have more seniority than DeMint. The argument that DeMint is making is that the seniority system is broken and should be ditched. He says that appointments should be made on merit.

The last thing the leader of a small minority, with 41 or 42 seats needs, is an intraparty revolt. Remember that to get 41 votes to invoke cloture, he has very little margin for error. And if Al Franken wins in Minnesota, he has no margin of error at all. Imagine that Franken wins, which is probably 50-50 at this point, then the first time a cloture vote comes up, DeMint could say: "Either you put me on the finance committee or I am voting for cloture." Needless to say, the new finance committee member, either Enzi or Voinovich, would balk and threaten to vote against cloture if removed from the committee. McConnell will have his hands full if Franken wins because then every Republican in the Senate gets a veto over everything by just threatening to side with the Democrats. And, of course, the majority leader, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), will do everything in his (considerable) power to create more dissension in the Republican ranks, as in: "Jim, how many more dams would you like for South Carolina?"

Center-Left vs. Center-right Nation

Although the Democrats won huge victories in 2006 and 2008, a Republican talking point for weeks has been that this is still a center-right nation and Barack Obama had better govern from the center-right--or else. The basis for this statement is that more people self-identify as "conservative" than as "liberal." However, Tod Lindberg, a former editor for the Washington Times, a conservative newspaper, says the definitions of these terms have changed immensely over the years. So has the boundary of acceptable behavior.

Some examples may be illuminating. In, say, 1980, it would not have been acceptable for a Democratic candidate to have an unwed pregnant teenage daughter; now it makes a Republican candidate more human. In 1980, the Democrats would have been crucified if they had proposed nationalizing the banks; now a Republican administration de facto does it. In 1980, no Democrat even mentioned homosexuals in public, let alone argued that same-sex marriage should be legal; now about 40-50% of the country supports the idea and a substantial majority supports the same thing as long as it is called a "civil union" and not a "marriage." The list goes on with things that were at the outer limits of the Democrats' wildest dreams in 1980 and now most Democrats, many independents, and even some moderate Republicans support. The landscape has shift far to the left since Ronald Reagan first took office.

Obama Will Have to Give Up His Blackberry

Barack Obama will be the first President completely plugged into cyberspace. He uses his Blackberry for everything. When a staffer prepares a report for him, it is sent to the Blackberry. Unfortunately, while Presidents get their own fully staffed state-of-the-art aircraft and many other perks, Blackberries are not among them. The Presidential Records Act requires presidential correspondence to the archived so that's the end of Obama's Blackberry. However, Obama has said he wants a notebook computer on his desk, which is OK as long as all the e-mail is saved. he would be the first President to have a computer on his desk. He will also be the first President to deliver his weekly radio address as a Webcast archived on YouTube. When Obama campaigned about bringing the presidency into the 21st Century, he clearly meant it. It is hard to imagine a President McCain communicating with the nation using Webcasts.

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-- The Votemaster