News from the Votemaster
Computer security experts have determined that the presidential election can be hacked. The people cited in the story (David Wagner and Ed Felten) are probably the two most knowledgeable people in the world on the subject of electronic voting. The voting machine companies will go to any length to prevent anyone from even talking about possible flaws in the machines. When several NJ counties asked Felten, who is a computer science professor at Princeton, to audit their voting machines, the manufacturer said they would sue him if he did. When companies try to intimidate neutral experts like this, it is clear they have a lot to hide. If they were convinced their machines were bulletproof, they would be delighted to have someone of Felten's stature certify that publicly. After his report they'd be swimming in new orders.
A new Gallup Poll gives President Bush his lowest approval rating ever, 28%, with 67% disapproving how he is doing his job. Jimmy Carter also hit 28% (during the Iran hostage crisis), the lowest he ever went. Richard Nixon and Harry Truman were in the mid 20s during their final years in office. Modern historians now rank Truman as the 7th best President ever. Carter and Nixon have recovered somewhat, but not like Truman. Whether Bush will ever recover probably depends on what the Middle East looks like in 10-20 years. Bush's continuing lack of popularity poses a problem for John McCain: how does he put enough distance between himself and Bush without offending the 28% of the country (virtually all Republicans) who think Bush is going a good job.
Byrd succession is slowly moving out of the shadows. All senators are special but Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) is more special. He has served longer than any senator in history. Next January he will celebrate his 50th year in the Senate. In simple terms, no sitting senator has ever served in a Byrdless Senate. He was a U.S. senator before Barack Obama was even born. And Byrd isn't just any old senator. He has had a tumultous career. He used to be an industrial-strength racist and during his 20s was not only a member, but also a recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan. He personally fillibustered against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He was the only senator to vote against the confirmation of both Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. But all that has changed. Byrd has apologized a million times for his youth. He achieved a 100% approval rating from the NAACP for his recent voting record on civil rights bills. He violently opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning and personally fillibustered against the bill that authorized it (but couldn't get 39 other senators to prevent cloture). He is the President Pro Tem of the Senate as as such third in line of Presidential succession (after Dick Cheney and Nancy Pelosi). He carries a copy of the constitution in his pocket all the time and often quotes from it. Virtually all Democrats and many Republicans revere him now.
So what's up? There's always been a Byrd and there will always be a Byrd, you say. Maybe not. In February (at 90) he had a bad fall in his home and was hospitalized. He reacted badly to the medicine that was prescribed for him. He hasn't really been able to do his job that well since and people are beginning to think about where do we go from here. Byrd is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee (that's the one that decides how to spend the government's money). The #2 Democrat on the committee is Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), who is 83 and not really interested in the job. This leaves #3, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) as a potential contender and Leahy is starting to quietly lobby for the job to be positioned right when the time comes. It is an immensely powerful position and Leahy is a popular senator. He has a good shot at it.
The other implication of Byrd's declining health is that while Byrd can get reelected to the Senate as long as he can keep breathing on his own, it is not clear if the Democrats can hold the seat without Byrd. West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin is a Democrat and might run. There are also two Democratic representatives, Alan Mollohan and Nick Rahall. Mollohan is one of the most corrupt members of Congress not currently under indictment. He's definitely out. Rahall is a maybe. The Republican candidate will most likely be Rep. Shelley Moore Capito. But Byrd is a one tough old bird. He has survived worse than this. Don't count him out yet.
Here are three new polls for Pennsylvania. Any way you cut it, Hillary Clinton is leading Barack Obama in the Keystone state and the lead is definitely smaller than it was a few weeks ago, but she is still ahead.
Here are the delegate totals from various news sources rounded to integers (Democrats Abroad has 22 delegates, each with 1/2 vote). The sources differ because in most caucus states, no delegates to the national conventions have been chosen yet, just delegates to the district, county, or state convention so there is some guesswork involved. Furthermore, some of the unpledged delegates are elected at state conventions in May or June. Finally, the PLEOs (Party Leaders and Elected Officials) sometimes waver and may tell different reporters slightly different stories that they interpret differently.
Needed to win: Democrats 2024, Republicans 1191.
Here is another source for delegate totals.
-- The Votemaster