Sep. 28 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 286   McCain 252  
Senate Dem 58   GOP 42  
House Dem 240   GOP 194   Ties 1

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strong Dem Strong Dem (175)
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weak GOP Weak GOP (5)
strong GOP Strong GOP (158)
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Dem pickups (vs. 2004): CO IA NM VA GOP pickups (vs. 2004): (None) PDA SMS

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News from the Votemaster

Obama and McCain Claim Victory in the Debate

Both John McCain and Barack Obama claimed victory in Friday's debate and are running ads touting their respective triumphs. Polling data suggests otherwise. A CBS poll using random sampling showed 39% saw Obama as the winner and 24% see McCain as the winner. An Inside Advantage poll reported a virtual tie, with 42% saying Obama won and 41% saying McCain won. An Opinion Research poll done for CNN gave Obama the win, 51% to 38%, with men splitting evenly and women going for Obama 2 to 1. However, the sample had a slight Democratic bias.

A poll on CNN's Website with 80,500 respondents gave Obama the victory 67% to 28%. An NBC survey, which drew 291,000 responses gave the victory to Obama 51% to 35%. Democracy Corps ran a 45-person focus group in St. Louis. The group was heavily tilted towards the Republicans, with 33% identifying as Republicans, 27% identifying as Democrats, and the rest independents. The group as a whole voted for Bush over Kerry by a 2-to-1 margin in 2004. Nevertheless, by a 38% to 27% margin, they felt that Obama won the debate.

All in all, Obama did what he had to do. He convinced a majority of the voters that he can handle foreign affairs at least as well as McCain, maybe better. All he really needed was a tie, because virtually every poll has shown that large majorities support Obama on domestic issues.

If you prefer spin to facts, that is also available. Both sides have it in oversupply. Obama: McCain is out of touch. McCain: Obama is not ready to be commander-in-chief.

The next debate is on Oct. 2 at Washington University in St. Louis between Vice-Presidential candidates Joe Biden and Sarah Palin.

No Bailout Bill Yet

Everybody in Washington is making optimistic noises about an imminent bailout of Wall St. The only fly in the ointment is a profound disagreement about what it should entail. In particular, House Republicans fiercely oppose having the government buy hundreds of billions of dollars worth of worthless assets, which is the essence of the Paulson plan. While Democrats are generally favorable to a bailout, they will only go along if a number of conditions are met and if House Republicans vote for it. They are not prepared to go out on a limb to support Bush and then be hammered for it by the Republicans for the next 6 weeks.

A new Gallup poll shows that Americans want Congress to prevent a depression but they don't like giving Wall St. $700 billion as a consolation prize for making horrible business decisions. About 22% favor the Paulson bill, but 56% want a different solution. Not doing anything is favored by only 11%. About three-quarters of the people surveyed are following the developments closely. Congress is in a bind because people want action, but not the plan that Bush and Paulson are pushing. Doing something wildly unpopular 6 weeks before an election is not something that your average garden-variety congressman is keen on doing.

How to Bail Out Wall St. at No Cost to the Taxpayers

Thom Hartmann wrote an interesting piece on how to bail out Wall St. without costing the taxpayers a dime. The idea is to create a new government agency to manage the bailout. The treasury would then loan it money to bail out Wall St. firms that are in trouble. The government would then institute a Securities Turnover Excise Tax of 0.25% on stock trades with revenues going to the new agency. For long-term investors who buy stock in companies they believe in and keep it for years adding a quarter of 1% to the cost hardly matters, and even to speculators it is not huge. It is estimated that such a tax would generate at least $150 billion a year, so the $700 billion load would be paid off in 5 years. The US has had such a tax in the past and used it to finance the Civil War, Spanish-American War, WWI and WWII. Many other countries have a similar tax. This proposal is clearly a viable alternative to either giving Wall St. $700 billion as a freebie or even getting stock in return for the money. Wall St. managers might even prefer it to a plan that limited their future compensation. Mother Jones lists yet five more alternative bailout plans.

McCain is a Gambler

Everyone knows about McCain's political gambles--picking an unknown governor as running mate, suspending his campaign to fly to Washington to try to help negotiate the bailout bill, etc. But in real life he really is a gambler who enjoys frequenting casinos. As former chairman of the Indian affairs committee in the Senate, he has had a huge impact on the laws regulating Indian gambling. He also is very close with lobbyists for the $26 billion/year gambling industry as are many of his top advisors. The NY Times has a scoop on McCain's numerous ties to the gambling industry. Part of the reason he lost the nomination in 2000 is that although few people know McCain is a lifelong gambler, evangelicals know this and oppose gambling. Even in 2008 they are still cool to him, although the choice of Sarah Palin helps a lot.

Are Young and Minority Voters Underpolled?

Pollster Ann Selzer thinks that pollsters may be undercounting young voters and minority voters because they are hard to find (because many do not have a landline). In principle, a pollster who thinks, for example, that voters 18-29 represent 17% of the electorate could weight that demographic at 0.17 independent of how many actual 18-29 year olds were actually reached, but she says some major firms do not weight at all. Furthermore, she says that firms that do weight often use the 2004 exit poll data, which is where the 17% comes from. She believes that 22% is a better figure for this year. However, since younger voters normally have a lower turnout than older ones, this remains guesswork.

One polling firm that does weight for various categories of voters is Rasmussen, which today announced that it is weighting (nationally) for 39.0% Democrats and 33.4% Republicans for the coming week. These numbers have come from the previous 6 weeks of polling.

Tracking Polls Show Obama Ahead

Four separate tracking polls show Barack Obama ahead of John McCain nationally. His leads are Hotline (Obama +5), Gallup (Obama +5), Rasmussen (Obama +6), and Research 2000 (Obama +6), a surprising amount of agreement. All the data was collected before the debate. In the next few days we will see what happens to Obama's lead and that will be the real verdict on the debate.

Today's Polls

We have only two presidential polls today, Iowa and Louisiana. Iowa continues to be Obama territory, in large part because Obama trudged through the snows of December and January to meet people in small groups at farms, factories, and diners across the state. Iowans take their caucuses very seriously and Obama's presence has not been forgotten. McCain basically skipped Iowa. Bush won the state in 2004, but McCain has almost no chance this year. The other poll is in Louisiana, which, like most states in the deep South, is solidly for McCain. Obama probably won't even bother campaigning in the South except for Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.

State Obama McCain Start End Pollster
Iowa 51% 43% Sep 25 Sep 25 Rasmussen
Louisiana 40% 55% Sep 25 Sep 25 Rasmussen

We also have two Senate polls. Anchorage mayor Mark Begich (D) is still a little bit ahead of indicted senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) in Alaska. Almost everything rests on Stevens' trial, which has already started. If he is found guilty, he is toast. If he is acquitted, he has at least a small chance of salvaging his job, but even that is not a sure thing. In Louisiana, the incumbent, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has a large lead over state treasurer John Kennedy. Kennedy was a Democrat until Karl Rove talked him into jumping ship and running against Landrieu as a Republican. He has been a huge disappointment. There are only two Senate races where Republicans had a decent shot at defeating a sitting Democratic senator. This is one of them, but Kennedy hasn't done well at all, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of (poor black) Democrats left the state after hurricane Katrina and still haven't returned. The upshot of Kennedy's poor performance has been that DSCC chairman Chuck Schumer does not have to spend $5 million or so to save Landrieu. She can probably carry the state under her own power. That frees up millions to be spent in places like North Carolina, where state senator Kay Hagan is giving Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) a real run for her money. The other race where Republicans had a chance to unseat a Democrat is South Dakota, where the incumbent senator suffered a cerebral bleeding in Dec. 2006 and is still not back to 100%. However, the Republicans couldn't find a top-tier challenger, so Sen. Tim. Johnson (D-SD) will win reelection easily.

State Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
Alaska Mark Begich 48% Ted Stevens* 46% Sep 20 Sep 22 Ivan Moore Research
Louisiana Mary Landrieu* 54% John Kennedy 40% Sep 25 Sep 25 Rasmussen

We also have 1 House poll.

Cong. Distr. Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
AK-AL Ethan Berkowitz 49% Don Young* 44% Sep 20 Sep 22 Ivan Moore Research

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