Aug. 23 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 269   McCain 256   Ties 13
Senate Dem 56   GOP 43   Ties 1
House Dem 242   GOP 193  

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strong Dem Strong Dem (134)
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Presidential polls today: CA IN TN RSS
Dem pickups (vs. 2004): IA NV NM GOP pickups (vs. 2004): (None) PDA

PW logo Early Reactions to Obama's Pick Obama's Text Message
Biden Gets Secret Service Protection Bloomberg May Fight Term Limits
Activity at Biden's House Obama Text Message Will Be In Morning

News from the Votemaster

Godot Arrives

After months of speculation, Barack Obama has chosen his running mate: Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE). The NY Times, Washington Post, and LA Times all have stories. A text message was sent to Obama supporters at 3 A.M. reading: "Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be our VP nominee. Watch the first Obama-Biden rally live at 3pm ET on Spread the word!" Note the fact that he told his supporters to watch him on the Internet. Broadcast TV? Not for the hip.

Biden has an unusual biography as well as pros and cons. A brief rundown follows. He was born in Scranton, PA, to a working-class Irish Catholic family. They moved to Delaware whe he was 10. His father was a car salesman. He went to college in Delaware and then got a law degree from Syracuse University. Lawyers are drawn to politics like bees are to honey and at 27 was elected to the local county council. At 29 he ran for the Senate and won, despite being constitutionally ineligible. Fortunately, he hit 30 before being inaugurated so they let him him. He has been in the Senate ever since and is now in his sixth term and running for reelection this year.

A few weeks after his election to the Senate, his wife and baby daughter were killed in a car accident and his two young sons were almost killed. He wanted to resign from the Senate to care for his boys but the Democrats convinced him to stay on. He decided to commute an hour and a half every day from his home near Wilmington, DE, to the Senate to maximize his time with them. Thirty-five years later, he is still doing it. In 1977, he married his current wife, Jill. He started an abortive run for President in 1987 but dropped out after he was caught plagiarizing part of a speech from a British politician, Neil Kinnock. In February 1988 he suffered a brain aneurysm but recovered fully.

Biden is currently chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a job he has held before. He has also chaired the Senate Judiciary committee.

Like any politician, he has pros and cons. First the pros. Every serious observer of the Senate, on both sides of the aisle, readily admits that few, if any, senators know as much about foreign policy as Biden. He shores up a critical weakness in Obama's CV--lack of foreign affairs experience. When McCain attacks Obama for lack of experience, Biden is going to say: "John, Barack and I are a team and I've been in the Senate 14 years longer than you and I'm chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, a job you've never held." This alone is worth the price of admission. It makes it hard for the Republicans to attack the Democrats on foreign policy when the Democratic ticket has more experience than the Republican ticket (short of McCain picking Colin Powell as Veep).

From an electoral point of view, Biden also has virtues. While Obama would carry Delaware even with Dick Cheney on the ticket, Biden's working-class roots in northern Appalachia are going to be a big plus during the campaign. He is going to campaign in Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, and North Carolina extensively. He will also appeal to ethnic Catholics in the rust belt. He certainly brings gravitas to the ticket. He is one of the most senior people in Washington and about as prepared to be President as one can be.

He also has some cons. As mentioned above, he plagiarized part of a speech in 1988. The Republicans will hammer him on for being dishonest. He will apologize and say it was a long time ago. Then the Republicans have a tough decision to make. They can say: "There is no statute of limitations on people who are fundamentally dishonest so we can keep talking about this." But that runs the grave risk of the Democrats saying: "Fair enough. Let's also talk about McCain taking bribes from convicted felon Charles Keating also in the 1980s." Then the Republicans can't dismiss that by saying: "It was long ago." If both transgressions are big news, there is a chance people may see what McCain did as more serious than what Biden did.

A second Biden problem is that he has a severe case of verbal diarrhea. He just can't shut up. That doesn't always add to his allure. On the other hand, having run for the Senate seven times, he knows the basics of campaigning and dealing with the media.

A third liability is that he is old (65). It will be tough for Obama to hit McCain for being too old (71) when his own VP is almost as old. Age might have been a strong argument, but with Biden on the ticket, the Democrats can't use that.

Finally, in 2016, Biden will be 73, probably too old to run for President himself so there might be a big primary battle.

Other than plagiarizing one speech, Biden is clean as a hounds' tooth. His first wife was tragically killed, then he remarried. He has never been mentioned in any kind of sex scandal, financial scandal, or anything else. If there had been any dirt on him, it would have come out during his many campaigns. If Biden is elected Vice President, the Democrats lose a Senate seat. He could resign from the Senate right after being elected, in which case the current governor, Ruth Minner (D-DE) would replace him. Or he could wait until there is a new governor. Currently, two Democrats are engaged in a gubernatorial primary there, Lt. Gov. John Carney is facing off against state treasurer Jack Markell. But the state is so heavily Democratic that either one is expected to easily defeat whoever the Republicans nominate. The Republican candidates are a former judge and an airline pilot, an indication that the Republicans have basically conceded the race already.

While it is an indirect plus, the choice of Biden greatly complicates McCain's situation and enhances Mitt Romney's chances. The people most commonly named as being Veepable are former OMB director Rob Portman, Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Portman served as a representative from Ohio, a key swing state, but the Democrats will attack him by saying: "If you need any more proof that McCain will continue Bush's economic policies, observe that he has chosen the architect of them as his running mate." Not a great selling point. Pawlenty will instantly be compared to Biden and seen to be a lightweight. He won election as governor of Minnesota in 2002 in a three-way race with 44% of the vote. In 2006 he was reelected 46.7% to 45.7% in another three-way race. Thus he has never even won 50% in his home state. He has had a decent record as governor, but other than making some trips abroad to encourage foreign companies to invest in Minnesota, Pawlenty doesn't know much about foreign affairs. In the Vice Presidential debate, he won't be able to match up to the experienced Biden. But at least he won't be cut off by the moderator on every answer.

That leaves Romney. Romney was elected governor of a very blue state, Massachusetts, no small feat for a Republican, and had a long and successful career in business. Wall Street loves him and he has had experience on the campaign trail and did well. His only scandal is his 1983 trip from Boston to Canada with his dog in a box strapped to the roof of his car. His real problem is his success. He was worth about $250 million, but after his unsuccessful presidential campaign he's down to his last $200 million. Can you imagine what the Democrats are going to say? Try this:

(Long shot zooming in on mansion) John McCain's family is worth over $100 million but the exact amount isn't clear because they have consistently refused to release their complete tax returns. McCain thinks that people earning a mere $4 million aren't rich. He has so many houses he can't remember them all. His chief economic advisor said our economic problems are all mental. He just bought his daughter a $700,000 condo. But McCain's money is peanuts compared to his running mate, Willard Romney's, whose net worth is more than $200 million. Barack Obama was raised by a single mother and just finished paying of the loans he needed to take out to get through college. His daughters get an allowance of $1 a week. Who do you think understands how much you are struggling through the Bush economy?

Get the idea? McCain plus Romney allows the Democrats to attack the Republicans as the Plutocrat Party. With the experience issue partially nullified by Biden, it is not clear what their best strategy is. Profiling McCain's war heroism will obviously be front and center, but will America's admiration for his personal courage in Vietnam be enough to offset their personal economic worries? McCain could offset this by picking a Veep who pulled himself up by his bootstraps, rather than the son of a wealthy CEO who was later three-term governor of Michigan. But except for Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), who is only 37, he doesn't have a lot of good choices.

Today's Polls

We have three new polls, but all are pretty much as expected.

State Obama McCain Start End Pollster
California 51% 37% Aug 20 Aug 20 Rasmussen
Indiana 42% 46% Aug 19 Aug 21 Rasmussen
Tennessee 32% 56% Aug 20 Aug 20 Rasmussen

Only one new Senate poll, but it is an important one. Al Franken (D) is in a statistical tie with Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) in Minnesota. Coleman had been way ahead. This result suggests the race may be close after all.

State Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
Minnesota Al Franken 41% Norm Coleman* 40% Aug 07 Aug 17 U. of Minnesota

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