Sep. 09 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 281   McCain 230   Ties 27
Senate Dem 56   GOP 43   Ties 1
House Dem 243   GOP 192  

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This day in 2004

strong Dem Strong Dem (140)
weak Dem Weak Dem (88)
barely Dem Barely Dem (53)
tied Exactly tied (27)
barely GOP Barely GOP (65)
weak GOP Weak GOP (75)
strong GOP Strong GOP (90)
270 Electoral votes needed to win
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Presidential polls today: CO FL MD OH OK PA VA WA RSS
Dem pickups (vs. 2004): CO IA NV NM ND GOP pickups (vs. 2004): (None) PDA

PW logo Palin Stays Off the Record SurveyUSA: McCain Way Up in North Carolina
Quote of the Day BBC Poll: Most Countries Want Obama Elected
Tracking Poll Update IBD/TIPP: Obama Leads By Five Points Nationally

News from the Votemaster

Problems Yesterday

As many of you no doubt noticed, the site was unreachable for several hours yesterday. Sorry for the inconvenience. The problems were due to a potentially deadly combination of (1) a very rapidly increasing popularity (300,000 visitors last Friday and growing exponentially), (2) an attack, and (3) a very, very tired (and possible failing) hard disk (imagine YOU had to move your arm hundreds of times a second all day long--wouldn't you get tired?). These problems have hopefully been solved by substantially upgrading the hardware capacity and switching to a new Web server that is much faster than Apache. And kudos to our small but very expert team of John and Grumpy for yeoman's service in dealing with the problems.

McCain Surging

John McCain, a big supporter of the surge in Iraq, is having a surge of his own in the U.S. In the national polls, he has gained half a dozen points since the start of the Republican convention and that is starting to appear in the state polls as well. However, as Rick Hasen points out, legal battles about voting laws, voter registration, voter fraud, third party ballot access, and provisional ballots may ultimately determine the outcome in half a dozen swing states and thus the election. If you really want to impress your friends with how much you know about the microscopic details of this election, check out Hasen's daily blog Another previously low-profile site that is good source of news about the never-ending Alaska political scandals is the Anchorage Daily News Website.

Palin Billed State for Nights at Home

Gov. Sarah Palin billed the state of Alaska for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months as governor according to a story in the Washington Post. This allowance is intended to cover the governor's expenses when she is away from her office on state business. She also billed to take her children on official state trips and her husband also billed when he went along on these trips (presumably from Juneau, the state capital, to Wasilla, where the Palins live). The legality of this billing aside, a candidate who is strongly against government waste may have some explaining to do. If Palin went alone and spent the night in, say, Fairbanks to confer with the mayor, no questions would have been raised, but billing the taxpayers to stay in your own home probably qualifies as waste, even if it is legal (which is far from clear). Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) also spends a lot of time in his Los Angeles home, but he doesn't bill the state for it. Palin's position on "the bridge to nowhere" (initially for it but later against it) is also in the news. As the press begins digging deeper into Palin's past, more of this stuff may come out. This is the downside of putting a former unknown governor in the national spotlight. In contrast, Joe Biden has been around so long that all the dirt on him is already well known and not newsworthy.

Primaries Today in Several States

There are primary elections today for the House and local offices in D.C., Delaware, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin today. A number of these are for competitive House races.

Young is Strong

The Alaska state Republican chairman, Randy Ruedrich, expects Rep. Don Young (R-AK) to win his closely fought primary for Alaska's lone House seat. His challenger is Lt. Gov. Sen Parnell (R-AK). The counting of the absentee ballots is still going on but Young seems to be holding his own there. Polls show that Democrat Ethan Berkowitz can beat Young but not Parnell. Logically then, Alaskan Republicans should be supporting Parnell, but Young has been in Congress for 35 years and has acquired a lot of support and many friends in that period.

Open House Seats in Swing Districts

Yesterday we looked at the close Senate races. Today will take a look at the House. Congressional districts are usually measured with Charlie Cook's PVI (Partisan Voting Index), which measures how much a district deviates from the national average in presidential elections. For example, a D+3 distict is 3% more Democratic than the country as a whole and an R+4 district is 4% more Republican than the country as a whole. There are 47 districts in which the 2006 winner is not running. Today we will focus on the open seats (no incumbent running) that are between D+4 and R+4, all of which are swing districts and could go either way. All but 1 of these 14 swing districts have a Republican incumbent, so they are prime hunting grounds for the Democrats. Since the Republicans have to devote a lot of time, energy, and money to holding their own seats, they have less left over to go after weak Democrats. Here is the rundown. For the scoop on about 60 competitive House districts, see the "Hot House races" link below the map.

AZ-01      PVI: R+2

Challenger Challenger Notes
Sydney Hay

Ann Kirkpatrick

Congressman Rick Renzi has announced that he will retire in 2009. He is under indictment for various crimes and is severely damaged goods. His retirement means there will be a battle royal in this swing district. While Arizona tends to vote Republican in Presidential elections, the Democrats picked up two House seats here in 2006: Gabrielle Giffords in AZ-08 and Harry Mitchell in AZ-05. After bitter primary fights, the Democrats nominated Ann Kirkpatrick and the Republicans nominated Sydney Hay. Either way, Arizona will send another woman to Congress.

FL-15      PVI: R+4

Challenger Challenger Notes
Bill Posey

Steve Blythe

Rep. Dave Weldon (R), a mere stripling, is retiring at 54 for unknown reasons leading to a battle in this R+4 district that runs from Vero Beach to Merritt Island along the Atlantic coast. The Republican candidate is state senator Bill Posey. The Democrat is Steve Blythe, a physician who is emphasizing health care issues.

IL-11      PVI: R+1

Challenger Challenger Notes
Marty Ozinga

Debbie Halvorson

This seat opened up due to the retirement of Rep. Jerry Weller (R). The district's PVI is R+1, which ensures a huge battle here. The Democratic candidate is Debbie Halvorson, majority leader of the Illinois state Senate. The Republican candidate is Marty Ozinga, who owns one of the largest ready-mix concrete businesses in the country. This is a classic battle between an experienced Democratic politician who has come up through the ranks vs. a rich Republican businessman who can self fund the race. Historically, the politician wins most of the time, both due to existing name recognition and knowledge of how you run a campaign. While state senate districts are smaller than congressional districts, most of the knowledge you acquire campaigning for the state senate also applies to campaigning for the House. Someone who has never run for office doesn't have an experienced staff and has to learn everything "on the job." It's tricky.

MN-03      PVI: R+1

Challenger Challenger Notes
Erik Paulsen

Ashwin Madia

This seat opened up due to the surprise retirement of Rep. Jim Ramstad. Nobody saw this coming. Ramstad was popular in his district and not embroiled in any scandals. At 61, he could have been elected another 10 times. Since the district has a PVI of R+1 and Minnesota is trending blue, the Democrats will go all out to pick up this one. In a surprise upset, young Iraq veteran Ashwin Madia won the Democratic nomination over state senator Terri Bonoff. The Republican will be state representative Erik Paulsen (R). This race will be one of the most closely fought in the entire country. Both parties will throw everything they have into this one.

NJ-03      PVI: D+3

Challenger Challenger Notes
Chris Myers

John Adler

The unexpected retirement of Jim Saxton (R) in this slightly Democratic district (PVI of D+3) will set off a huge battle as the Democrats smell blood here. This contest will be the biggest single political event in the state in 2008, since the Democrats will probably win the presidential and Senate races easily. The Democratic candidate is state senator John Adler. The Republicans nominated Medford mayor Chris Myers. All the big guns will show up to help their candidate.

NJ-07      PVI: R+1

Challenger Challenger Notes
Leonard Lance

Linda Stender

The unexpected retirement of Mike Ferguson (R) in this slightly Republican district (PVI of R+1) will set off a huge battle as the Democrats will go after this seat with hammer and tongs. The only NJ race that will overshadow it is the congressional race in NJ-03, which is in a more Democratic district. The Republican candidate is state senator Leonard Lance, the third generation of his family to serve in the state legislature. The democrat is Linda Stender, who ran in 2006 and lost by 4000 votes. The Republicans slogan last time: "Stender is a spender" worked then, but is getting tiresome.

NM-01      PVI: D+2

Challenger Challenger Notes
Darren White

Martin Heinrich

In 2006, this was an extraordinarily close race in a swing state. State Attorney General Patricia Madrid (D) lost by only 1000 votes to incumbent Heather Wilson. Wilson ran for Pete Domenici's Senate seat and lost the primary, so we have an open seat here. The Democratic candidate is Albuquerque city council member and small businessman Martin Heinrich. The Republican candidate is Bernalillo County sheriff Darren White. An open seat in a D+2 district with two popular Democrats atop the ticket, Barack Obama and Tom Udall, will give Heinrich a boost. White's got to come out with both guns a blazin'.

NY-13      PVI: D+1

Challenger Challenger Notes
Robert Straniere

no D

Rep. Vito Fossella (R) of Staten Island was stopped by a police officer for running a red light. Turns out he was drunk. Worse, yet, turns out he was on the way to visit his family in Virginia, a family that his wife and children in New York didn't know about, which led to his decision to retire. The Republicans were unable to find an established politician to run for the seat and settled on a rich businessman, Francis Powers, who could fund the race himself. Powers' estranged son tried (and failed) to get on the Libertarian ticket to defeat his father, Then Powers, Sr. died of a heart attack. Next, the GOP picked former assemblyman Robert Straniere. The dean of Staten Island Republicans, Guy Molinari hates Straniere so much that he publicly said he would do everything he can to defeat him. What an exciting race! The Democratic nominee will be chosen in the primary today. The favorite is city councilman Mike McMahon.

NY-19      PVI: R+1

Incumbent Challenger Notes
John Hall

Kieran Lalor

Challenger John Hall (D) wasn't expected to win in this Hudson Valley district, but a hugely successful grass roots effort put him over the top by about 2%. The district is R+1, so as an incumbent, he has a good chance of being reelected in 2008. The most likely winner of the Republican primary is Iraq veteran Kieran Lalor.

NY-25      PVI: D+3

Challenger Challenger Notes
Dale Sweetland

Dan Maffei

Incumbent Jim Walsh (R) beat back a challenge from novice Dan Maffei (D) by beating him by just under 4000 votes in this slightly (D+3) Democratic district around Syracuse. Maffei is running again in 2008, but Walsh dropped out of the race in January 2008. Now far more experienced, Maffei has a good chance in this district that Kerry carried in 2004, albeit by a 2% margin. The Republican is a rich businessman, Dale Sweetland, with roots in agribusiness and insurance.

OH-15      PVI: R+1

Challenger Challenger Notes
Steve Stivers

Mary-Jo Kilroy

This seat is held by Deborah Pryce, a 9-term congresswoman who is #4 in the House leadership. In August 2007, she announced that is returning to Ohio to spend more time with her family. In her announcement, she did not mention anything about the fact that an unknown local county commissioner, Mary Jo Kilroy came within 1100 votes of unseating her in 2006 (out of over 200,000 votes cast). Kilroy is running again. Her opponent is state senator Steve Stivers.

OH-16      PVI: R+4

Challenger Challenger Notes
Kirk Schuring

John Boccieri

This seat is held by Ralph Regula, who is retiring. The Democratic nominee is state senator John Boccieri. The Republican nominee is also a state senator, Kirk Schuring. This is a top-tier race and will be closely watched.

OR-05      PVI: D+1

Challenger Challenger Notes
Kurt Schrader

Mike Erickson

Darlene Hooley's surprise retirement left the Democrats with an open seat. State senator Kurt Schrader won a competitive primary. The Republican candidate, Mike Erickson, is a rich businessman who ran in 2006 and got 43% of the vote. He also got a woman pregnant in 2001 and paid for her abortion. Considering that politically he rails against abortion as evil, this revelation will hurt him badly. Erickson's primary opponent has refused to endorse him and Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) won't endorse him either. Not a good sign when your own party is not behind you. DCCC chairman Chris Van Hollen will help fund Schrader's campaign while NRCC chairman Tom Cole has told Erickson to fund himself.

VA-11      PVI: R+1

Challenger Challenger Notes
Gerald Connolly

Keith Fimian

In a surprise move, Rep. Tom Davis (R) announced he is not running for reelection. Northern Virginia is trending Democratic in recent years and this district is just about evenly split between the parties. It is going to become a huge battleground as the Democrats smell a pickup here. After a contested primary, the Democrats nominated Fairfax County supervisor Gerry Connolly. The unchallenged Republican candidate is a rich local businessman, Keith Fimian.

Today's Polls

State polling is rolling again. We have 10 presidential polls today. The numbers are below. All in all, John McCain's convention bounce is starting to show up in the state polls. For example, in Washington state, McCain has closed a double digit lead and is now trailing by only 4 points. He has also taken a sizeable lead in Ohio by 7 points. On the other hand, Obama is hanging onto Colorado (Obama +3) and Florida, where McCain has led all year is now a tie. Pregnant chads, here we come! Or worse (see Florida counties now use a mix of paper ballots and touch screen machines without paper trails, so if their are problems, there is no way to do a recount. For the richest country in the history of the world to have voting systems that can be easily manipulated is a scandal of unprecedented proportions.

State Obama McCain Start End Pollster
Colorado 49% 46% Sep 07 Sep 07 Rasmussen
Florida 48% 48% Sep 07 Sep 07 Rasmussen
Maryland 52% 38% Aug 29 Sep 05 Gonzales Research
Ohio 44% 51% Sep 07 Sep 07 Rasmussen
Oklahoma 32% 65% Sep 05 Sep 07 SurveyUSA
Pennsylvania 47% 45% Sep 07 Sep 07 Rasmussen
Virginia 47% 49% Sep 05 Sep 07 SurveyUSA
Virginia 47% 49% Sep 07 Sep 07 Rasmussen
Washington 49% 45% Sep 05 Sep 07 SurveyUSA

We also have 2 Senate polls.

State Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
Oklahoma Andrew Rice 34% James Inhofe* 56% Sep 05 Sep 07 SurveyUSA
Virginia Mark Warner 56% Jim Gilmore 35% Sep 05 Sep 07 SurveyUSA

We also have a House poll.

Cong. Distr. Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
KY-03 John Yarmuth* 53% Anne Northup 45% Sep 05 Sep 07 SurveyUSA

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-- The Votemaster