News from the Votemaster
Anyone who thinks that politics is not topic A at the White House right now probably also believes children's milk teeth put under their pillows are replaced with cash by the tooth fairy riding a pink unicorn. The trick is to be political but not make it look political. Obama can go to inspect storm damage and act like he is coordinating relief efforts. Even going to noncompetitive states, like New Jersey, and saying things like: "I want to repeat my message to the federal government: No bureaucracy, no red tape. Get resources where they're needed as fast as possible" makes him look decisive and presidential. Also, every trip he makes to some hard-hit area is major news and will be on every television set in America--for free. Romney doesn't get equal time and don't you think Obama is not aware of this and will milk it for all it is worth.
Obama can also thank FEMA people for working 24/7 to provide relief and let the media report that Romney wants to abolish it. In Ohio, Romney was peppered by reporters with 14 questions about his statement earlier this year about abolishing FEMA. He refused to answer. When independent voters see Obama working with FEMA to help people get on with their lives and then hear that Romney wants to abolish the agency, it can't be helpful to Romney.
So far, federal officials have gotten good marks for their relief efforts. Even Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), a Romney surrogate, has said: "The president has been outstanding in this." Obama and Christie will travel together to inspect the storm-damaged New Jersey shore today. Why are they working together? For Obama, this is an implicit appeal to those voters who see bipartisanship as the holy grail of politics. For Christie, hanging out with the President gives him some national publicity, which people may vaguely remember in 2016 if Obama wins and Christie runs for President in 2016.
Romney is going to start campaigning again today, but Obama is going to own the news cycle today no matter what Romney does. Romney has to be exceedingly careful not to attack Obama while Obama is out there "helping" people (as if walking along the beach with Christie helps anyone). Romney would be advised to be positive today and talk about how he managed crises in the companies Bain owned, but being positive does not come naturally to him.
While Obama can't campaign now, he has a not-so-secret weapon: Bill Clinton. Clinton--who is more popular than Obama is--is free to continue campaigning since Clinton has no official duties. Clinton is also a master at "I feel your pain" campaigning and can explain in simple terms that Obama can't campaign now because his top priority is helping people. Romney has no official duties, either, but if he campaigns aggressively while people are suffering, the optics looks bad. If there are no major slip-ups and Obama gives the impression of working 24/7 this week to help people, the storm may end up being a net plus for him. But he has to avoid mistakes at all costs since they will be magnified immensely.
There are no doubt all kinds of effects the storm will have on the election that no one sees now and may never see but may be present, such as these.
- Early voting--which is especially important to the Democrats--will be disrupted
- Polling stations and electronic voting machines may be without power on election day
- Voters whose houses have been damaged may skip voting to try to get their houses repaired
- Get-out-the-vote efforts by both parties could be badly impeded
- Mail trucks with absentee ballots may have been washed away and the ballots lost
- Voters who were hoping for government help quickly and didn't get it could blame Obama
Politics could easily enter into the voting process. Elections are overseen by the states, with the Secretary of State generally in charge. Virginia, Florida, and Ohio have highly partisan Republican Secretaries of State who have already shown their willingness to use their power for partisan advantage. For example, in Ohio, Jon Husted banned early voting by civilians the weekend before the election until the courts slapped him down. If chaos reigns on election day, it is the Secretaries of State who decide, for example, which precincts to close down due to a shortage of personnel, whether to increase voting hours, where to allocate scarce paper (and provisional) ballots if there is no power for voting machines, etc. The possibilities for abuse of power are legion and there is no way for the courts to correct matters after the fact.
Several groups, especially the conservative True the Vote, are planning to have up to a million volunteers at voting places next week to make sure that no ineligible voter votes. The problem is, in most states they have no legal authority to question voters' citizenship, address, or other items relating to eligibility. Only the official poll workers assigned to the precinct by the county may do that. It is easy to imagine fights breaking out when a vigilante vote checker asks a voter for his name or ID and in return is told to perform an anatomically impossible act.
In some cases, the vigilantes may be armed with lists of people they think are ineligible, but the lists may be wrong. People may have moved, former noncitizens may have been recently naturalized, storekeepers may live and be registered at an apartment above their stores, and so on. Even if a vigilante does not directly confront a voter, but asks a poll worker to do so, it will take time and slow down the process, especially if the poll worker is in doubt and makes the voter cast a provisional ballot.
Hurricane Sandy has lost much of its power, leaving rubble in its wake. Power is out in parts of New York and New Jersey. For the polling world, that is important because Gallup, SurveyUSA, and Rasmussen are located in New Jersey. Of course, they all realize this is high season for them and will do everything possible to maintain normal operation. Nevertheless, even if they get their offices powered up, poll quality may go down. Proper pollsters call random phone numbers and if no one answers, call it again and again and again, maybe 10 times before giving up. Rasmussen doesn't do this and has been widely criticized for it because if a pollster calls a household on a Friday or Saturday evening and gives up if nobody answers (as Rasmussen does), it will undersample younger voters, who may be out on the town. With phone service disrupted and people displaced, it may be harder to collect a valid sample of 600 people in the normal time frame. Also to be considered: power and phone service are likely to be restored faster in cities than in rural areas. This may cause samples to overweight urban people, who skew Democratic, and underweight rural people, who skew Republicans. The pollsters know this, but changing their software to reflect the new, if temporary, reality, may not be easy, especially if key employees can't get to work due to floods or having relocated themselves during the storm.
While it is not a debate exactly, it is amusing at least to note that the National Journal has two stories today about the possibility of Romney winning the popular vote and Obama winning the electoral college. White House correspondent Major Garrett pooh poohs the chances of a split while political guru Charlie Cook says it is a real possibility. Our view is that the events of this week and those of the next few days make even educated guesses about the popular vote pointless. Obama probably does have the edge in the electoral college though, mostly because of the 29 polls held in Ohio in October, he has led in 22 of them and trailed on only 3. The other 4 were ties. While his lead is small (2-3%), it is clearly real. Unless Romney can pick up 3 points in Ohio this week, he is in deep doo doo.
Mitt Romney is running an ad in Ohio saying that Chrysler is going to build a plant in China to manufacture Jeeps there and will ship jobs there. Now Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has refuted Romney and said that the Chinese plant will manufacture Jeeps for sale in China and not affect U.S. workers, much as Toyota manufactures cars in the U.S. for sale in the U.S. The odd thing about this flap is that is brings up the subject of the auto bailout again, something that helps Obama and hurts Romney. Even Republicans don't understand why Romney wants to put the topic back in the spotlight.
While more Democrats than Republicans have voted already nationwide, in Colorado, a key swing state, the GOP has the edge in early voting. So far, 371,000 Republicans have voted and only 344,000 Democrats have cast their ballots. In addition, 241,000 independents have voted already. The race there is expected to be very close.
Former governor and former Republican Charlie Crist is campaigning with Bill Clinton in Florida. A lot of observers take this as an omen that Crist is planning to run for public office again, and as a Democrat. The most likely office he will go for is governor against the unpopular Rick Scott in 2014. Alternatively, he could run against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in 2016 if Rubio is not the Republican presidential nominee.
The closeness of the race is emphasized today by the unusual situation of four key swing states being extact ties (when the average of this week's polls are rounded to an integer). The states are Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Iowa. Romney is leading in North Carolina and Obama is leading in Colorado and Nevada. It is really going down to the wire. However, note that Obama has 280 electoral votes without any of the tied states. He could lose them all and still be reelected. For him, hanging onto Ohio is really the key. This is why Romney has been trying everything he can think of there.
|California||56%||33%||Oct 21||Oct 28||Pepperdine U.|
|Florida||47%||47%||Oct 25||Oct 27||SurveyUSA|
|Florida||48%||47%||Oct 27||Oct 29||Zogby|
|Georgia||44%||52%||Oct 25||Oct 28||SurveyUSA|
|Indiana||42%||55%||Oct 26||Oct 28||Pharos Research Group|
|Massachusetts||63%||31%||Oct 25||Oct 28||Suffolk U.|
|Montana||43%||50%||Oct 26||Oct 28||Pharos Research Group|
|North Carolina||45%||50%||Oct 26||Oct 29||SurveyUSA|
|North Dakota||38%||55%||Oct 26||Oct 28||Pharos Research Group|
|Nebraska||39%||58%||Oct 26||Oct 28||Pharos Research Group|
|Ohio||48%||45%||Oct 26||Oct 29||SurveyUSA|
|Ohio||49%||45%||Oct 27||Oct 29||Zogby|
|Ohio||49%||46%||Oct 26||Oct 28||Pharos Research Group|
|Oregon||47%||41%||Oct 25||Oct 28||Elway Poll|
|Pennsylvania||48%||44%||Oct 23||Oct 28||Franklin+Marshall Coll.|
|Virginia||45%||49%||Oct 27||Oct 29||Zogby|
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||I||I %||Start||End||Pollster|
|California||Dianne Feinstein*||51%||Elizabeth Emken||32%||Oct 21||Oct 28||Pepperdine U.|
|Florida||Bill Nelson*||49%||Connie McGillicuddy||41%||Oct 25||Oct 27||SurveyUSA|
|Florida||Bill Nelson*||50%||Connie McGillicuddy||41%||Oct 27||Oct 29||Zogby|
|Indiana||Joe Donnelly||47%||Richard Mourdock||46%||Oct 26||Oct 28||Pharos Research Group|
|Massachusetts||Elizabeth Warren||53%||Scott Brown*||46%||Oct 25||Oct 28||Suffolk U.|
|Minnesota||Amy Klobuchar*||65%||Kurt Bills||22%||Oct 23||Oct 25||Mason Dixon|
|Montana||Jon Tester*||48%||Denny Rehberg||47%||Oct 26||Oct 28||Pharos Research Group|
|North Dakota||Heidi Heitkamp||45%||Rick Berg||47%||Oct 26||Oct 28||Mason Dixon|
|North Dakota||Heidi Heitkamp||50%||Rick Berg||48%||Oct 26||Oct 28||Pharos Research Group|
|Nebraska||Bob Kerrey||47%||Deb Fischer||50%||Oct 26||Oct 28||Pharos Research Group|
|New Jersey||Bob Menendez*||50%||Joseph Kyrillos||32%||Oct 23||Oct 25||Global Strategy|
|New Mexico||Martin Heinrich||50%||Heather Wilson||42%||Oct 23||Oct 25||Research and Polling|
|Ohio||Sherrod Brown*||46%||Josh Mandel||38%||Oct 27||Oct 29||Zogby|
|Ohio||Sherrod Brown*||46%||Josh Mandel||41%||Oct 26||Oct 29||SurveyUSA|
|Ohio||Sherrod Brown*||50%||Josh Mandel||43%||Oct 26||Oct 28||Pharos Research Group|
|Ohio||Sherrod Brown*||51%||Josh Mandel||47%||Oct 18||Oct 23||U. of Cincinnati|
|Pennsylvania||Bob Casey*||46%||Tom Smith||35%||Oct 23||Oct 28||Franklin+Marshall Coll.|
|Texas||Paul Sadler||39%||Ted Cruz||54%||Oct 15||Oct 21||U. of Texas|
|Virginia||Tim Kaine||45%||George Allen||46%||Oct 27||Oct 29||Zogby|
* Denotes incumbent
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Previous HeadlinesOct30 One Week to Go
Oct30 Obama Cancel Events to Stay in Washington
Oct30 Obama Cancels Events to Stay in Washington
Oct30 Five Hidden Factors That Could Affect the Election
Oct30 Hurricane May Delay Final Jobs Report Scheduled for Friday
Oct30 Who Gets the Blame for the Loss?
Oct29 National Polls Are Divided
Oct29 Where Do We Stand Now?
Oct29 Sandy, Barack and Mitt
Oct29 Lawyers Are Massing for Election Day and Beyond
Oct29 Response Rates to Pollsters Are at an All-Time Low
Oct29 Supreme Court Appointment(s) Could Be the Next President's Only Legacy
Oct29 Palm Beach County Has Another Ballot Snafu
Oct29 Could Faithless Electors Change the Election Result?
Oct29 A Possible Compromise on the Electoral College
Oct29 Another Analysis of Rasmussen Polls
Oct28 Early Voting Started in Florida Yesterday
Oct28 Early Voting Explodes in Nevada
Oct28 NRSC Pulls Out of Maine Senate Race
Oct28 Obama Has to Balance Being Mr. President with Being Mr. Candidate
Oct28 Romney Canceling Virginia Appearances and Heading to Ohio
Oct28 Expat Vote Could Affect Election Results
Oct28 Cookies Are Planning a Big Role in Campaign Advertising
Oct28 Cookies Are Playing a Big Role in Campaign Advertising
Oct27 Frankenstorm Could Determine Election Results
Oct27 As Many as 40 Percent of the Votes May Be Cast Early
Oct27 Ohio Results May Not Be Known Until Nov. 17
Oct27 Possible Key Players in the Election: Ginsberg and Bauer
Oct27 Clinton Campaigning for--Clinton?
Oct27 Democrat Proposes To Add New Members to the Electoral College
Oct26 Are We Heading Toward a Split Decision?
Oct26 When Will We Know the Results of the Election?
Oct26 Electronic Voting in Swing States Could Lead to Chaos
Oct26 Could a President Romney Govern with a Democratic Senate?
Oct26 Republicans Support Mourdock
Oct26 Younger Voters Are Apathetic
Oct26 Romney Outraises Obama in First Half of October
Oct25 The Battle for the West Heats Up
Oct25 Advertising Executives Not Impressed
Oct25 Goodbye Soccer Moms, Hello Waitress Moms
Oct25 Workplace Intimidation Becoming an Issue
Oct25 As Election Day Nears, Dirty Tricks Multiply
Oct25 McCain Keeps Mourdock in the News
Oct25 Follow the Money to See the Senate Action
Oct25 Rasmussen Has a Two-Point Republican Bias Compared to Other Pollsters
Oct24 With Less than Two Weeks to Go, It Is All About Ohio
Oct24 Eight Races That Will Determine Control of the Senate
Oct24 What Did We Learn from the Three Presidential Debates?
Oct24 The Three Faces of Mitt
Oct24 Under Pressure, Obama Announces Plans for His Second Term