Oct. 07 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 349   McCain 174   Ties 15
Senate Dem 58   GOP 42  
House Dem 241   GOP 193   Ties 1

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strong Dem Strong Dem (207)
weak Dem Weak Dem (97)
barely Dem Barely Dem (45)
tied Exactly tied (15)
barely GOP Barely GOP (11)
weak GOP Weak GOP (63)
strong GOP Strong GOP (100)
270 Electoral votes needed to win
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Presidential polls today: CA CO FL GA MO NH OH VA RSS
Dem pickups (vs. 2004): CO FL IA MO NV NM OH VA GOP pickups (vs. 2004): (None) PDA SMS

PW logo Bonus Quote of the Day Obama Dramatically Outspending McCain
SurveyUSA: Obama Soars Ahead in Pennsylvania Lieberman's Party Turns Against Him
PPP Poll: Obama Regains Lead in Ohio RGJ Poll: Obama Takes Lead in Nevada

News from the Votemaster

Poll: Depression Likely

A new Opinion Research poll commissioned by CNN shows that 60% of Americans think a depression is likely with 25% unemployment, widespread bank failures, and millions of Americans homeless and unable to feed their families. A startling 53% said the economy is very poor and another 31% said it was just poor. And for good measure, the Dow was off 369 points yesterday. Tonight Barack Obama and John McCain will meet at Belmont University in Nashville, TN for a town-hall event. The questions will come from the voters and the economy is sure to be front and center. Candidates, be prepared.

Town Hall Event Rules

The Obama-McCain event tonight consists of two parallel press conferences that happen to be in the same room. The detailed rules hammered out by the two campaigns state that the questions were to have been submitted in advance by the audience members and over the Internet. The questioner may not change the question and the microphone will be cut off after the question. Neither the questioner nor the moderator, Tom Brokaw of NBC, may ask followup questions. The candidates may not question each other. There will be no debate at all. Who does this format favor? Probably neither candidate. Usually the questions the general public asks aren't very hard, are largely predictable in advance, and have already been asked 100 times ("how will you fix the economy?"). The candidates have stock answers they will reel off. Given the current state of polling, McCain needs to shake things up and Obama needs to keep the status quo. An event that doesn't rock the boat much thus de facto works for Obama. Nevertheless, once in a while something unexpected happens at one of these events. In 1992, someone asked the candidates how the national debt affected them personally. George H.W. Bush was flustered by the question (by which the questioner probably meant the budget deficit) and it threw him off stride somewhat. Thanks to Political Wire for the pointer to the event rules.

Palins May Owe Tens of Thousands of Dollars in Back Taxes

When Sarah Palin accepted John McCain's offer to be his running mate, she probably didn't fully realize what being in the national spotlight meant. For example, your tax returns get to be analyzed in public (for free) by miscellaneous tax experts. Gov. Palin actually lives in Wasilla, a suburb of Anchorage, but the state capital is in Juneau, 500 miles away as the crow flies (assuming they have crows in Alaska). On the many nights she stayed at home, she claimed to have been away from the capital on business and was reimbursed $17,000 by the state for this "travel." Being paid a per diem for staying in your own home is ethically dicey but probably legal since "away on business" is probably defined as "not near your office." However, Palin was also paid $25,000 to reimburse her husband and children for being away from "home" (Juneau) which she did not list as income. A D.C. tax lawyer and two law school professors specializing in tax law have concluded that if the State of Alaska wants to pay the governor to take her family on "business trips" that is its good right, but the money received is taxable income under the internal revenue code and the Palins should have declared it and paid tax on it, which they did not.

State Employees will Testify in Troopergate

The Alaska attorney general has reversed himself and announced that the seven state employees subpoenaed by retired prosecutor Steve Branchflower will testify in the Troopergate affair. Branchflower was hired by the Republican-controlled Alaska state legislature to investigate potential abuse-of-power charges against Gov. Sarah Palin in conjunction with her firing the state commissioner of public safety for refusing to dismiss her estranged brother-in-law. In addition, the state supreme court will hold a hearing tomorrow on a defense motion to throw the whole case out. Branchflower is trying to get his report out on Friday. If he concludes that Palin misused her power, it will be a huge bombshell.

Liberty University to Cancel Classes on Election Day

Liberty University, founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell and located in Lynchburg, VA, is trying very hard to get all its students to register to vote in Virginia and is canceling classes on election day so they can vote. The university has about 20,000 students. It is thought that the vast majority are Republicans.

Senate Rundown

While most people are entirely focused on the presidential race, there are 35 seats up for election in the U.S. Senate in November. Here is a map of the Senate races and here is a page describing all of them in some detail. Below is a summary of where we stand on the 13 most exciting ones. Twelve of the seats are currently held by Republicans and all of them are in greater or lesser jeopardy. The one Democratic seat, held by Mary Landrieu of Louisiana was once thought to be winnable by the Democrat-turned-Republican John Kennedy, but polling shows her way ahead. The candidate of the incumbent party is marked with an asterisk.

State Democrat D-pct Republican* R-pct Pollster
Alaska Mark Begich 49% Ted Stevens* 45% Ivan Moore + Research 2000
Colorado Mark Udall 43% Bob Schaffer* 38% Mason-Dixon
Georgia Jim Martin 44% Saxby Chambliss* 46% Research 2000
Kentucky Bruce Lunsford 42% Mitch Mcconnell* 46% Rasmussen + Mason-Dixon
Louisiana Mary Landrieu* 54% John Kennedy 40% Rasmussen
Maine Tom Allen 43% Susan Collins* 53% SurveyUSA + Rasmussen
Minnesota Al Franken 38% Norm Coleman* 39% Princeton Survey + SurveyUSA
Mississippi-B Ronnie Musgrove 45% Roger Wicker* 49% Rasmussen + Insider Advantage
New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen 49% John Sununu* 43% Rasmussen + Saint Anselm Coll.
New Mexico Tom Udall 55% Steve Pearce* 39% Rasmussen + SurveyUSA
North Carolina Kay Hagan 37% Elizabeth Dole* 35% Elon U.
Oregon Jeff Merkley 45% Gordon Smith* 41% Research 2000 + SurveyUSA
Virginia Mark Warner 59% Jim Gilmore* 29% Mason-Dixon + Rasmussen

A year ago if anyone had said the Democrats had a decent shot at achieving 60 Senate seats they would have been declared completely loony. Now such a statement would draw the response: "It is unlikely." Maybe odds of 1 in 3, but not worse. Jeanne Shaheen, Mark Warner, and the Udall cousins are almost certainly winners. Unless indicted senator Ted Stevens is cleared of all charges before the election, Mark Begich looks like he will depose Stevens in Alaska. If the Republicans can hold their losses to those five, NRSC chairman John Ensign will dance a little jig for joy. But Democrats have at least even shots at winning North Carolina, Mississippi-B, Minnesota, and Oregon. That would give them 60. And even minority leader Mitch McConnell's seat and Saxby Chambliss seat in Georgia are not truly safe. If the Democrats win 58 or 59 seats, majority leader Harry Reid is going to go all out to get Republicans to jump ship and become independents aligned with the Democrats (like Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders) or outright Democrats. Such shifts have happened before. In 2001, former Republican senator Jim Jeffords (R-VT) became Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-VT). Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) was first elected to the Senate as a Democrat and became a Republican in 1994.

Let's get really speculative and now look at 2010. Who's up for relection? The list is below. The Republicans are defending 19 seats and the Democrats 15. While not as lopsided as this year, it is always tougher to be defending more seats than the other guys.

Senator State Party
Richard Shelby Alabama GOP
Lisa Murkowski Alaska GOP
John McCain Arizona GOP
Blanche Lincoln Arkansas Dem
Barbara Boxer California Dem
Kenneth Salazar Colorado Dem
Christopher Dodd Connecticut Dem
Mel Martinez Florida GOP
Johnny Isakson Georgia GOP
Daniel Inouye Hawaii Dem
Michael Crapo Idaho GOP
Barack Obama Illinois Dem
Evan Bayh Indiana Dem
Charles Grassley Iowa GOP
Sam Brownback Kansas GOP
Jim Bunning Kentucky GOP
David Vitter Louisiana GOP
Senator State Party
Barbara Mikulski Maryland Dem
Kit Bond Missouri GOP
Harry Reid Nevada Dem
Judd Gregg New Hampshire GOP
Chuck Schumer New York Dem
Richard Burr North Carolina GOP
Byron Dorgan North Dakota Dem
George Voinovich Ohio GOP
Tom Coburn Oklahoma GOP
Ron Wyden Oregon Dem
Arlen Specter Pennsylvania GOP
Jim DeMint South Carolina GOP
John Thune South Dakota GOP
Robert Bennett Utah GOP
Patrick Leahy Vermont Dem
Patty Murray Washington Dem
Russell Feingold Wisconsin Dem

Retirements are potentially an issue here. Daniel Inouye will be 86 on election day in 2010. He might decide that 48 years in the Senate is enough. Another possible is David Vitter, who was identified as a client of the D.C. madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey in 2007. Since that event didn't involve $5000 ladies or airport mens rooms, he got away with it for the time being. But a reelection campaign with an opponent who is actively trying to tar you is a horse of a different color.

Obama Continues to Lead in the National Polls

We have nine national (tracking) polls today. Obama leads in all nine of them. Here are the numbers.

    - Battleground (Obama +7)
    - CNN (Obama +8)
    - Diageo (Obama +6)
    - Gallup (Obama +8)
    - NYT/CBS (Obama +3)
    - Rasmussen (Obama +8)
    - Research 2000 (Obama +8)
    - WSJ/NBC (Obama +6)
    - WaPo/ABC (Obama +6).

The polls are remarkably consistent, with an average lead for Obama of 6.7 points.

Today's Polls

We have 11 presidential polls today. The most amazing ones are in Virginia, where SurveyUSA has Obama ahead by 10 points and Suffolk University has him ahead by 12 points. If McCain can't win Virginia, he's toast. This is an absolutely must-win state for him. Also ominous for him is that Obama has taken a small (3-point) lead in Missouri and maintains his lead in Florida. New Hampshire looks bad for him and so does Ohio. The event tonight will be absolutely critical and is probably McCain's last big chance to turn things around.

State Obama McCain Start End Pollster
California 55% 39% Oct 04 Oct 05 SurveyUSA
Colorado 51% 45% Oct 05 Oct 05 Rasmussen
Florida 52% 45% Oct 05 Oct 05 Rasmussen
Georgia 43% 50% Sep 29 Oct 01 Research 2000
Missouri 50% 47% Oct 05 Oct 05 Rasmussen
New Hampshire 53% 40% Oct 04 Oct 05 SurveyUSA
Ohio 47% 48% Oct 05 Oct 05 Rasmussen
Ohio 51% 45% Oct 03 Oct 05 Washington Post
Virginia 50% 48% Oct 05 Oct 05 Rasmussen
Virginia 51% 39% Oct 03 Oct 05 Suffolk U.
Virginia 53% 43% Oct 04 Oct 05 SurveyUSA

We also have six Senate polls. New is the situation in Georgia, where former representative Jim Martin (D), is almost even with Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). Everyone had expected Chambliss to coast to an easy victory. It is likely that Obama's massive voter registration drive is the cause of Chambliss' problems here.

State Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
Georgia Jim Martin 44% Saxby Chambliss* 45% Sep 29 Oct 01 Research 2000
Maine Tom Allen 43% Susan Collins* 53% Oct 02 Oct 02 Rasmussen
New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen 48% John Sununu* 40% Oct 04 Oct 05 SurveyUSA
New Mexico Tom Udall 51% Steve Pearce 36% Sep 29 Oct 02 Research and Polling
Virginia Mark Warner 57% Jim Gilmore 25% Oct 03 Oct 05 Suffolk U.
Virginia Mark Warner 61% Jim Gilmore 31% Oct 04 Oct 05 SurveyUSA

We also have one House poll, where Chris Myers (R) has a slight lead over John Adler (D) in NJ-03.

Cong. Distr. Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
NJ-03 John Adler 41% Chris Myers 44% Sep 30 Oct 02 Monmouth U.

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