Sep. 05 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 301   McCain 224   Ties 13
Senate Dem 56   GOP 43   Ties 1
House Dem 243   GOP 192  

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strong Dem Strong Dem (151)
weak Dem Weak Dem (109)
barely Dem Barely Dem (41)
tied Exactly tied (13)
barely GOP Barely GOP (59)
weak GOP Weak GOP (75)
strong GOP Strong GOP (90)
270 Electoral votes needed to win
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Presidential polls today: AK IN ND RSS
Dem pickups (vs. 2004): CO IA NV NM ND OH GOP pickups (vs. 2004): (None) PDA

PW logo The Sunday Shows Stevens Surges in Alaska Senate Race
Most Don't Think Palin Has Right Experience The Home Stretch
Quote of the Day Reactions to McCain

News from the Votemaster

McCain's Speech

John McCain delivered his first (and possibly only) State-of-the-Union speech last night. No more red meat, like Sarah Palin did the night before. He was serious and said he understood the country wanted change. He argued that despite his 25 years in Washington and the fact that he would be the oldest first-term President in history, he is the one who can effect change. He pointed out that he has repeatedly crossed swords with his party and President Bush and thus he can be trusted to put country ahead of party. He didn't mention that on some of the highest profile issues where he opposed Bush (e.g., tax cuts) he now supports the position he previously opposed. In general, it was a workmanlike speech emphasizing his biography and his reformer credentials. However, it got nothing like the response Palin's speech got the night before. But the image that McCain is a serious guy who understands the issues and Palin is a former runner-up beauty queen turned attack dog isn't a bad one for the Republicans. People vote for the President with the Veep being a free add-on.

McCain's speech was about change but entirely devoid of what he wanted to change. It is clear he has seen the dozens of polls showing that 80% of the population thinks the country is on the wrong track. He used the word "change" 10 times. But he didn't spell out what he wants to change from. Barack Obama is very clear when he says he wants to change from the dreadful policies of the Bush administration on war, taxes, health care, and much more. What exactly does McCain want to change from? It is odd to run against your own party, but maybe McCain can pull it off citing his "maverick" status. CNN's Jeffrey Toobin called it one of the worst convention speeches he has ever heard. Pollster and analyst Bill Schneider has a good piece on the speech. He said McCain doesn't have to show he is a military hero. Everyone knows that. He has to show that he has gotten beyond Ronald Reagan's cure for everything--low taxes and small government--and demonstrate that he can fix the economy. Schneider and others said it was a straightforward and sincere speech, but people want to know what he is going to do as President and he didn't say.

Getting to Know Sarah Palin

Palin continues to dominate the news though, largely because she is still an unknown quantity. Three months ago, Sarah Palin addressed her church. You can get a good feel for what she believes in from this video. This appearance was made long before she had any idea that she might be on the national stage soon, so it probably gives a better insight into her than her reading a speech Wednesday that somebody else (Bush's speechwriter Matthew Scully) wrote. There is little doubt she wrote this one.

Also of note is this letter from a housewife in her home town of Wasilla who has known her personally for 16 years.

According to an AP story Palin attended six colleges in six years before graduating from the University of Idaho in 1987. It is not (yet) known why she transferred so many times, but that is certainly unusual.

As an aside on Palin, she did an incredible job of fundraising with her speech. But perhaps not what she had in mind. Her speech motivated both sides and Democrats sent Obama $8 million in 24 hours, probably $10 million before McCain reached the podium.

Abramoff Sentenced to Four Years in Prison

Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced to four years in federal prison yesterday for defrauding his clients and bribing public officials, including a congressman (Bob Ney) who himself went to prison. His crimes consisted of giving officials free food and drinks at his restaurant, free vacations to Europe, and free tickets to sporting events. There were no suitcases stuffed with $100 bills passed out. What is amazing is how cheap a congressman is. For a couple of thousand dollars you have a vote. It's really easy.

House Looking Lopsided

Based on the available data, which is admittedly incomplete at this point, it looks like the Democrats will have a majority of over 50 seats in the House, 243 to 192 (see score every day on top of the page). In fact, this is probably a lower bound for the Democrats since there are 20-30 close races in which a Republican is defending a seat against a strong, well-funded challenger and the Democrats are sure to win some of those. There are only a handful of Democratic seats in play such as OR-05 and TX-22 so the Democrats have much less to lose. Most of their seats are safe. More on the House next week, after the dust has settled from the conventions.

Unlike the Senate, where a single recalcitrant senator can tie the Senate in knots, in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) can schedule a vote on pretty much anything she wants to whenever she wants to do it. If it gets a majority, it passes. If you have 218 votes lined up, you can change the colors in the American flag. The significance of 243 or more is that many of the Democrats are blue dogs, from conservative districts. If a particularly contentious bill is up for a vote, Pelosi could grant permission to 25 Democrats to vote against it so their opponents won't be able to hammer them on it at reelection time.

2008 Jib Jab Video

If you have't seen the 2008 Jib Jab video It's Time for Some Campaignin', go watch it now. It's nonpartisan and fantastically well done.

Today's Polls

We have three new presidential polls today, two of them surprising. In North Dakota, Barack Obama has a small lead over John Mcain, 43% to 40%. This is within the margin of error, so it is a statistical tie. This is a state George Bush won by 27 points in 2004 and 28 points in 2000. It is not supposed to be a tie. It is supposed to be a rout for any Republican. It bears watching. If Obama actually campaigns here at the very least it will force McCain devote some money and energy to a state he should win on autopilot.

State Obama McCain Start End Pollster
Alaska 35% 54% Aug 30 Sep 02 Ivan Moore Research
Indiana 43% 45% Aug 29 Aug 30 Howey-Gauge
North Dakota 43% 40% Aug 23 Aug 27 DFM Research

The same is true of Indiana. Here McCain is ahead 45% to 43%, again a tie. Bush won Indiana by 21 points in 2004 and by 16 in 2000. Shouldn't even be on the radar, but it is and has 11 electoral votes. It is hard to tell what's going on in North Dakota (except maybe the people who like small government--except for farm subsidies--are disappointed in the current administration). Indiana is a bit different. The northeastern part of the state is a bit like Ohio, which is a swing state and the northwestern part is close to Obama's base of Chicago and gets Chicago TV stations. With Palin on the ticket, Alaska is off the table and the Republicans will pick up its 3 EVs as usual.

We have one Senate poll, in Alaska. Indicted senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) seems to be closing the gap with Anchorage mayor Mark Begich (D). Whether this is due to the presence of Gov. Sarah Palin on the ticket or not is unclear at this point.

State Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
Alaska Mark Begich 49% Ted Stevens* 46% Aug 30 Sep 02 Ivan Moore Research

We also have one new House poll, in MO-09. Republican Blaine Luetkemeyer is heading towards a big win over Democrat Judy Baker. This is the seat Kenny Hulshof vacated in his run for governor. Far more important is what happens with the Republican House primary in Alaska between Rep. Don Young (R-AK) and Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell (R-AK). Young is leading by 151 votes but today the state will start counting 25,000 absentee and provisional ballots, so anything can happen. A new poll there shows Democrat Ethan Berkowitz beating Young by 17 points but losing to Parnell by 11. Thus we have the odd sight of the Democrats rooting for a long-time incumbent Republican representative they can't stand.

Cong. Distr. Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
MO-09 Judy Baker 38% Blaine Luetkemeyer* 50% Sep 01 Sep 02 SurveyUSA

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