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News from the Votemaster

Early Voting Reinstated in Ohio

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th circuit has reinstated early voting for the weekend just before election day for all voters. The Ohio Secretary of State, Jon Husted (R), had earlier decided that only military families could vote on the three days before election day. This was a more-or-less naked attempt to suppress Democratic votes since he knew very well that many Democrats, especially minorities and poorer voters, could not take time off from work on election day and thus preferred voting during the weekend before election day. The panel said that there was no compelling reason to allow one group of voters to vote during the weekend and prohibit other voters from doing the same thing.

Husted said he would decide Monday what to do. He could appeal the decision to the full 6th circuit court or even appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The latter might be a bit gun shy about deciding another election case so soon after 2000 though.

Democrats Fight Voter Suppression Laws with Voter Encouragement Laws

While Republican-controlled states have passed various laws to make voting harder, states controlled by the Democrats have passed laws making it easier. California, as it so often does, has taken the lead here, enacting laws allowing voters to register online and also to register in person on election day.

Expanding/contracting the vote has not always been partisan. In the 1990s, Republican states like Idaho and Wyoming instituted election-day registration. It was seen as a service to voters whereas now changing the election laws is a partisan tactic to win elections.

How Bipartisan Was Romney as Governor?

During the debate, Mitt Romney repeatedly claimed that as governor he worked with the Democratic controlled Massachusetts state legislature in a constructive way to get things done. This is music to the ears of the bipartisanship fetishists who don't realize the reason that Congress is dysfunctional is not that the individual members are acting like petulant children but that the parties' goals are diametricallly opposed. What the Republicans want at all costs is lower taxes and what the Democrats want is better government services. These two things are fundamentally incompatible, which is why the parties can't agree on anything.

A closer inspection of Romney's term as governor shows the same forces were at work at the state level. The Democrats controlled over 85% of the seats in the state legislature, so Romney was forced to work with them. Nevertheless, he exercised his veto power 844 times during his term, only to have the vast majority of his vetoes overridden. As a result, laws and budgets were passed, but not due to some spirit of cooperation. They became law because the Democrats repeatedly shoved legislation Romney opposed down his throat due to their veto-proof majority.

Pretty much his only legislative achievement, universal health insurance, was something Democrats had dreamed of for decades. Romney knew that if he vetoed it, his veto would just be overridden and since the plan was essentially that of the conservative Heritage Foundation ("make everyone buy insurance from a private insurance company") he figured that if he went along with it, he would get credit for it. Little did he know that a future Democratic President would pass the same plan on a national scale and then the Republicans would revolt against a plan they themselves had been championing for 15 years.

In short, there is relatively little evidence of bipartisanship during Romney's term as governor. Most of his campaign promises, such as restructuring the state government, overhauling the state university, consolidating the transportation agencies, and bringing new jobs to the state went unfulfilled because the Democrats opposed them.

Democrats Counting on Biden to Attack the Ryan Plan for Replacing Medicare

Democrats clearly understand that Obama failed to make the case against Paul Ryan's plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system. They are hoping that with the author of the plan, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), on stage Thursday in a debate with Vice President Joe Biden, the subject will be thoroughly discussed. It will be difficult for Ryan to evade the issue since he is the author of the plan. Biden, who, unlike Obama, loves attacking the Republicans, is sure to do everything he can to make it clear to seniors and near-seniors that their current right to whatever medical care they need would be replaced by a lump-sum payment from the government and instructions to go buy private insurance with it. Polls have shown that once people understand this, large majorities oppose it. When Ryan talked about his plan at the AARP convention in late September, he was roundly booed.

What will be tricky for Biden is to explain some of the implications for the distant future. In V1.0 of Ryan's plan, everyone just got a voucher for private insurance and that was it. There was much criticism of it from people who said: "What if someone is so sick no insurance company will take him or her?" So in V2.0, Ryan added a provision that people could buy into Medicare if they wanted.

Now here is the rub. Insurance companies see this as a godsend. They will devise policies that appeal to the young old but not the old old. Their goal will be to get healthy seniors to buy private insurance with their vouchers while discouraging sick ones from doing so by making the plans unattractive, for example, with annual limits on payments, large copayments, etc. The sick seniors will then opt for Medicare. In the long run, Medicare will be insuring mostly very old, very sick, people, so it will become insolvent and future Republicans will call it a drain on the taxpayers and work to abolish it. Biden's problem is to explain this in such a way that people in their 40s and 50s see the threat down the road.

Why Isn't Romney Really Rich?

An interesting piece in the Washington Post asks the question why Mitt Romney isn't really rich. Yes, he is worth $250 million, which is more than Joe Sixpack is worth, but when compared to the big players in the private equity world, the Henry Kravis and Steve Schwarzman types, Romney's bank account is small potatoes. Why isn't he a billionaire like they are? After all, he ran Bain Capital during the 1980s and 1990s, when gogo funds made real money.

Several possible explanations are offered. Possibly Romney shared the wealth with his seven partners very generously. A second possibility is that he is really a billionaire but for political reasons is hiding most of his wealth. Yet a third possibility is that he was not nearly as good a businessman as some of the others in the private equity business. There might be other explanations, but Romney is not talking.

Romney Drops Talking Point

One of the main points in Mitt Romney's stump speech is that unemployment has been above 8% for 43 straight months. Now that it has dropped to 7.8%, Romney has lost a key talking point. Of course, he could say that unemployment has been above 7.7% for 44 straight months, but that is somehow less convincing.

But on a deeper level, the economy is becoming a less potent issue for Romney. Historically, voters react more to the direction of the unemployment numbers than to their absolute value. Since the trend is in the right direction, this is likely to help, rather than hurt, Obama next month.

Will Black Voters Turn Out in Virginia and North Carolina?

The key to Obama's historic victories in Virginia and North Carolina in 2008 was the enormous turnout among black voters. Now many observers are asking if they will do this again. The Obama campaign is not so sure, so it has dispatched Michelle Obama to North Carolina to speak at several historically black colleges there to get the students excited.

Today's Presidential Polls

Rasmussen is out with polls in three key swing states, Florida, Ohio, and Virginia, that show much closer races than all the other pollsters. Rasmussen has been criticized in the past for using a model of the electorate that contains more Republicans than other pollsters have seen. Of course, he could be right and everyone else wrong or the first debate could have made some people change their minds. We will have a better idea when other pollsters release polls taken after the debate.

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Florida 47% 49%   Oct 04 Oct 04 Rasmussen
New Mexico 52% 43%   Oct 02 Oct 03 PPP
Ohio 50% 49%   Oct 04 Oct 04 Rasmussen
Virginia 48% 49%   Oct 04 Oct 04 Rasmussen

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
New Mexico Martin Heinrich 51% Heather Wilson 41%     Oct 02 Oct 03 PPP
Virginia Tim Kaine 52% George Allen 45%     Oct 04 Oct 04 Rasmussen

* Denotes incumbent