Sep. 26 absentee ballot for overseas voters

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House Dem 242   GOP 193  

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News from the Votemaster

Bailout Bill in Turmoil

The Battle of the Bailout has taken a strange turn. Yesterday afternoon, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), the chairman of the Senate banking committee and the man largely responsible for writing the nation's banking laws, together with his House counterpart, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), announced that he was pretty close to a consensus on what should be in the bill. Later in the afternoon, a number of leaders met at the White House to discuss the details. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), emerged from the meeting and blasted the bailout saying: "There's still a lot of different opinions. Mine is: It's flawed from the beginning." Earlier this week at a hearing Shelby said: "The Treasury's plan has little for those outside of the financial industry. It is aimed at rescuing the same financial institutions that created this crisis with their sloppy underwriting and reckless disregard for the risks they were creating." Shelby was originally elected to the Senate in 1986 as a Democrat but switched to the GOP after the Republicans took control in 1994. He is now the ranking Republican (i.e., minority leader) on the Senate Banking committee and generally a proponent of tighter government regulation (in other words, while he can be labeled an opportunist for jumping ship in 1994, deep in his heart he is a still populist Southern Democrat).

All in all, the Republican Party is deeply divided on this bill. While Democrats can stomach the idea if the taxpayers get something (like stock) in return for their money and certain other conditions are met (like limiting CEO salaries to that of the President), Republicans fundamentally oppose government intervention in the markets and even wrote this opposition into their platform three weeks ago. In fact, yesterday a group of Republican congressmen led by minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) floated an alternative plan that would have the banks set up (with their own money) an insurance system to guarantee troubled mortgages and leave the government out of the loop. Such a plan would be fully in keeping with the traditional Republican principle of having the free market police itself. Only then the banks wouldn't get a $700 billion freebie from the taxpayers, something that a few of them have suggested they could live with, principles or no principles. Secretary of the treasury Henry Paulson opposes this alternative plan. Barney Frank basically said that unless the Republicans can agree on a bill, there will be no bill. Democrats were not about to stick their necks out and vote for a highly unpopular bill just before an election and then have the Republicans hammer them for it unless the Republicans also vote for it. All the meetings ended at 10:30 P.M. with no agreement. The NY Times headline on the story starts with Talks Implode During Day of Chaos. That about sums it up.

Curiously enough, although John McCain came roaring into Washington to solve the problem, he has been quiet as a mouse since getting there. In particular, he has not given any indication whether he supports Boehner's plan or Paulson's plan. If he could forge a compromise, he might look good, although Democrats would surely note that all he had done was bring warring factions of the Republican Party together, not working with the Democrats.

Washington Mutual Goes Belly Up

As if to underscore, the problems banks are having with bad motgages, the U.S. government seized the failing Washington Mutual yesterday and sold off pieces to J.P. Morgan. This is the largest bank seizure in U.S. history, and there may be more to come, depending on what happens on the bailout front.

Psychological Warfare, Friday Edition

When John McCain abruptly paused his campaign and flew to Washington, he also put the presidential debate scheduled for tonight on hold. Barack Obama has called his bluff and said he will be at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS tonight and looks forward to debating McCain there. McCain, in turn, has said he won't go to Mississippi until the economic crisis is solved.

To a large extent, McCain has taken a riverboat gamble because (1) he is not even on the Senate banking committee and Dodd won't give him the time of day, let alone a real role in shaping the bill, (2) the ranking member of the banking committee (Shelby) opposes the bill, and (3) the House Republicans are in open revolt against the President. If McCain tucks his tail between his legs and flies to Mississippi to debate Obama at Ole Miss, he will hardly look like a man of action who flew to Washington, banged heads together, and got a bill. On the other hand, if he stays in Washington to work on the bill (meaning fighting Dodd, Shelby, and the House Republicans) Obama will ask the moderator, Jim Lehrer, to moderate a town hall meeting with questions from the audience. That would be an unmitigated disaster for McCain. Obama would get at least an hour of free TV time and look like a President at a press conference fielding questions in a mature way and McCain would look like just another squabbling congressman. Of course, McCain knows this very well so he will try really, really hard to get a bill today so he can fly off to Mississippi in triumph. Dodd, of course, knows all this, too, and will try to extract huge concessions from McCain (which he knows Boehner will never swallow) in return for a bill today. It's all high-stakes poker with Paulson, Bush, Dodd, Boehner, McCain and Obama all having different interests. Anything is possible at this point.

Americans Want the Debate Tonight

A new SurveyUSA poll yesterday shows that 74% of Americans want the tonight's debate to be held on schedule. About 23% want it postponed. Only 3% don't know, a fairly low percentage that indicates almost everyone is tuned into the metadebate about the debate. Thirty-one percent want the focus changed to the economy. There is no significant difference between men and women. Whites are evenly split on hold the debate vs. cancel the debate whereas blacks favor holding it 66% to 17%. Latinos want it 60% to 21%. There are two possible causes for the large number of blacks who favor the debate. First, Obama wants to hold it as scheduled. Second, Mississippi has the highest percentage of blacks in the country (37%) and some blacks may see canceling a debate in a state with such a large black population as an insult.

Sen. Ted. Stevens Trial Has Started

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) trial started with prosecutors trying to first establish that he received additions to his home worth $250,000, which he then concealed on official Senate forms. Stevens claims he was in Washington and wasn't in the loop concerning renovations to his house or who was paying for them. CQ Politics has more.

Straniere Stays on the Ballot in NY-13

A day without news about the zany congressional race in NY-13 (Staten Island and a bit of Brooklyn) is no fun at all. The latest update: Republican candidate Robert Straniere was nominated to be on the New York supreme court and he turned it down. He said that he won his primary 2 to 1 and fully intends to become the next congressman from NY-13. So it will be New York city councilman Mike McMahon (D) against Straniere. Given how divided the Republican party is over their candidate and how unified the Democrats are, McMahon is the odds-on favorite to win the open seat.

Today's Polls

We have 20 presidential polls today. One very ominous poll for John McCain is in North Carolina, which is a statistical tie (Obama 49%, McCain 47%). North Carolina is not supposed to be a tie. It is supposed to deliver a crushing blow to Obama. Bush won it by 12 points in 2004 and 13 points in 2000. Even the southerner Bill Clinton didn't win it. If McCain is going to have to fight hard for bulwarks like North Carolina and Virgina*, that is going to take time, energy, and money away from the true swing states like Ohio and Colorado.

State Obama McCain Start End Pollster
Arkansas 42% 51% Sep 22 Sep 22 Rasmussen
California 53% 43% Sep 23 Sep 24 SurveyUSA
Massachusetts 58% 38% Sep 23 Sep 23 Rasmussen
Michigan 46% 46% Sep 18 Sep 23 Mason-Dixon
Michigan 47% 39% Sep 18 Sep 22 FD
Michigan 51% 38% Sep 22 Sep 24 Selzer
Missouri 46% 48% Sep 23 Sep 24 SurveyUSA
North Carolina 49% 47% Sep 23 Sep 23 Rasmussen
New Hampshire 44% 43% Sep 18 Sep 22 FD
New Hampshire 46% 45% Sep 20 Sep 24 Suffolk U.
New Hampshire 48% 44% Sep 22 Sep 24 Research 2000
New York 57% 38% Sep 23 Sep 24 SurveyUSA
Ohio 46% 47% Sep 23 Sep 23 Rasmussen
Oregon 52% 41% Sep 22 Sep 23 SurveyUSA
Oregon 53% 39% Sep 22 Sep 24 Research 2000
Pennsylvania 43% 41% Sep 18 Sep 22 FD
Pennsylvania 49% 45% Sep 24 Sep 24 Rasmussen
Pennsylvania 50% 44% Sep 23 Sep 24 SurveyUSA
Wisconsin 49% 43% Sep 22 Sep 23 Research 2000
West Virginia 42% 50% Sep 24 Sep 24 Rasmussen

Also of note today are the blue states where Obama has been having problems. He has small leads in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Michigan is another story. This is a really a must-win state for Obama and McCain had been making inroads there. There are three Michigan polls today. Mason-Dixon says it is tied, FD puts Obama ahead by 8 points, and the legendary Ann Selzer puts it at Obama 51%, McCain 38%, a huge margin. That's quite a difference.

We also have 5 Senate polls. Two are especially noteworthy. In North Carolina, state senator Kay Hagan (D) is again leading Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC). In three of the four most recent polls, Hagan has been ahead. The fourth was a tie. Dole was expected to win this one easily, but she has a real fight on her hands. DSCC Chairman Chuck Schumer has been pouring money into this race and it is clearly having a big effect. On the other hand, Democrats thought they had a good challenger to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) in Rep. Tom Allen, but his campaign has fizzled. Collins looks like she is on her way to reelection.

State Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
Delaware Joe Biden* 64% Christine O\'Donnell 32% Sep 22 Sep 23 SurveyUSA
Massachusetts John Kerry* 65% Jeff Beatty 30% Sep 23 Sep 23 Rasmussen
Maine Tom Allen 39% Susan Collins* 55% Sep 22 Sep 23 SurveyUSA
North Carolina Kay Hagan 48% Elizabeth Dole* 45% Sep 23 Sep 23 Rasmussen
Oregon Jeff Merkley 44% Gordon Smith* 42% Sep 22 Sep 23 SurveyUSA

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