Aug. 26 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 273   McCain 252   Ties 13
Senate Dem 56   GOP 43   Ties 1
House Dem 241   GOP 194  

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Presidential polls today: CO TX RSS
Dem pickups (vs. 2004): CO IA NM GOP pickups (vs. 2004): (None) PDA

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News from the Votemaster

Democratic Convention Begins with an Emotional Moment

Sen. Ted Kennedy made a surprise appearance at the Democratic National Convention and got a huge response when he reflected on the last time a young Democrat was elected President and brought hope to the country. Michelle Obama then praised Hillary Clinton for the 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling that she created. Caroline Kennedy said: "I have never had someone inspire me the way people tell me my father inspired them, but I do now: Barack Obama." In case anyone missed the connection with Jack Kennedy, Obama's two young daughters, Malia (10) and Sasha (7) joined their mother onstage while the candidate talked to them via a video link from Missouri.

The Democrats didn't say anything about John McCain. They left that to former 15-term Republican congressman Jim Leach who tore into his party with a blistering attack for abandoning its traditional positions on a multitude of issues, from individual rights to balanced budgets. Leach is not the only Republican supporting Obama this year. The Democrats have scheduled a number of other Republicans to speak as a counterweight to Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT), who is scheduled to speak at the Republican convention next week.

The convention marks an end to the Clinton era in American politics. Hillary is said to have come to terms with her narrow loss this year, but Bill is definitely still nursing a grudge about how Obama spoke of his legacy (not always in glowing terms). In retrospect, he might have learned something from George H.W. Bush, who stayed completely under the radar when a member of his family ran for President in 2000. As a consequence, Al Gore didn't spend much effort trying to belittle the achievements of Bush 41 because he clearly wasn't on the ticket in 2000. This time, Bill was still there with his "pay for one, get one free" pitch so he positioned himself as Obama's opponent rather than as an above-the-fray bystander as the senior Bush did in 2000. Not surprisingly, this led Obama to see him as his opponent and caused him to seek the embrace of the Kennedys, effectively saying: "Look, you're not the only Democratic dynasty in town." Hillary Clinton is speaking tonight and her speech will be closely watched to see if she is really on board the Obama bandwagon or is already looking at 2012.

How Much Bounce?

Modern political conventions are like Broadway plays. There are live actors present, but every word, every movement, every gesture is carefully rehearsed in advance for maximum impact. That wasn't always the case. What nobody wants is a repeat of the 1924 Democratic convention in New York City in which a northern Catholic opposed to prohibition and the Ku Klux Klan, Al Smith, faced off against an (originally) southern Protestant who supported prohibition and refused to denounce the Klan, William McAdoo. On July 4th, 1924, 20,000 Klansmen showed up in full dress uniform to throw baseballs at an effigy of Smith and burn crosses. After 99 ballots, Smith and McAdoo, both exhausted, withdrew. Finally, on the 16th day of the convention, John Davis was nominated on the 103rd ballot. He lost in the general election to Calvin Coolidge.

Nowadays, the only open question is how much bounce the candidate will get in the polls post-convention. Larry Sabato has prepared a table showing the amount of bounce in conventions from 1960 to 2004. For the Democrats it varied from -1% to +13% with 1992 being difficult to rate since Ross Perot dropped out of the race during the convention. For the Republicans, the bounce has ranged from +2% to +12%. The Democrats have averaged 7.3% and the Republicans 6.4%. However bounces don't last long and a few weeks after the second convention, things are usually back to their preconvention state. This year is unusual because the conventions are back to back; normally they are at least two weeks apart. Sabato has also produced a chart showing the number of ballots required, who led on the first ballot, and who the nominee was. 1952 was the last time the Democrats needed more than one ballot; the Republicans last convention that required multiple ballots was 1948. In both cases the eventual nominee (Stevenson and Dewey, respectively), lost.

Whither Biden's Senate Seat?

Delaware law allows Joe Biden to run for the Senate and the Vice Presidency at the same time, as Joe Lieberman did in 2000 and Lyndon Johnson did in 1960. It is a given that he will be reelected to the Senate in a landslide. His opponent is a young woman named Christine O'Donnell who has never been in politics before. She probably filed on a lark and since nobody else did, she became the Republican nominee. If Obama loses, Biden just returns to the Senate and serves his seventh term.

If he wins, it gets a bit more complicated. If he resigns his Senate seat, the governor gets to appoint a new Senator. However, there will be a new governor in January as Gov. Ruth Minner (D-DE) is not running for reelection. There is a contested Democratic gubernatorial primary, featuring the lieutenant governor and the state treasurer. Whoever wins the primary will almost certainly be elected governor in this heavily Democratic state. If Biden wins the Vice Presidency and resigns before Minner leaves office, she might appoint Biden's son, Beau, who is the state's attorney general. But Beau Biden is in Army National Guard and scheduled to be shipped out to Iraq in the Fall for a year and it is not clear what would happen with a senator in Iraq. Alternatively, she could appoint someone who promised to serve only until the special election in 2010, by which time Beau would be back stateside. Alternatively, she could appoint the loser of the gubernatorial primary to the Senate, always a pleasant consolation prize. In any event, she has to worry about the possibility of Delaware's sole representative in the House, Mike Castle (R) running in the special election. On the other hand, Castle will be 71 in 2010 and suffered several strokes in 2006 from which he has mostly receovered. If Biden waits until after Minner has left office to resign, the new governor makes the appointment.

Historical Election Map Movie

The University of Richmond has produced a cinematic tour of American presidential elections from 1840 to 2004. Each frame shows a different year. Go to and click on "Cinematic Maps" then on "Elections, 1840-2004". All the options are interesting but especially "Counties won in popular voting." What is noteworthy is how solidly Democratic the South has been throughout most of our nation's history. The South only went Republican starting around 1964. The county-level maps for 2000 and 2004 show graphically what is well known: the vast majority of counties vote Republican. It is only the counties with high population densities that vote Democratic.

Colin Powell Beats John McCain in Poll

One of the advantages of robopolling is that outfits like Rasmussen can run all kinds of strange polls basically for free. Rasmussen released a poll yesterday asking about a hypothetical matchup between John McCain and Colin Powell. Powell won 54% to 26%, with the rest undecided. Might this be a hint to McCain to choose Powell as his running mate?

Today's Polls

A new Colorado poll from Suffolk University shows Barack Obama leading John McCain by 44% to 39%. Yesterday we had a Mason-Dixon poll showing Obama ahead 46% to 43%, so probably Obama has a slight lead in this new swing state. In Texas, however, McCain has a comfortable lead and should win the state easily.

State Obama McCain Start End Pollster
Colorado 44% 39% Aug 21 Aug 24 Suffolk U.
Texas 41% 50% Aug 21 Aug 21 Rasmussen

Several new Senate polls confirm what has been long expected. In Colorado, Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) is heading towards victory over former representative Bob Schaffer (R) by 8 points. In Michigan, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) is coasting to an easy reelection and in Texas so is Sen. Jon Cornyn (R-TX).

State Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
Colorado Mark Udall 39% Bob Schaffer 31% Aug 21 Aug 24 Suffolk U.
Michigan Carl Levin* 59% Jack Hoogendyk 27% Aug 18 Aug 21 EPIC-MRA
Texas Rick Noriega 37% John Cornyn* 48% Aug 21 Aug 21 Rasmussen

House polls are real gems because they are so rare. We have three today. In KS-02, Democratic incumbent Nancy Boyda is clearly getting a lift from the bitter Repubican primary which state treasurer Lynn Jenkins won over former representative Jim Ryun. Bitter primaries are never good for a party. In two hotly contested Michigan districts, the Republican incumbents are ahead, albeit by a very small margin. In MI-07, Rep Tim Walberg (R-MI) is barely ahead (3 points) of challenger Mark Schauer (D) in a race expected to go down to the wire. In MI-09, Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) has a bit more breathing room, leading his Democratic opponent, Gary Peters, 43% to 36%.

Cong. Distr. Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
KS-02 Nancy Boyda* 50% Lynn Jenkins 43% Aug 19 Aug 21 SurveyUSA
MI-07 Mark Schauer 40% Tim Walberg* 43% Aug 20 Aug 22 EPIC-MRA
MI-09 Gary Peters 36% Joe Knollenberg* 43% Aug 21 Aug 23 EPIC-MRA

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