Aug. 29 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 278   McCain 247   Ties 13
Senate Dem 56   GOP 43   Ties 1
House Dem 243   GOP 192  

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PW logo Palin Backs Teaching Creationism Bonus Quote of the Day
McCain Barely Knows Running Mate Palin's Homes
Republicans Consider Delaying Convention Obama's Speech Tops Ratings

News from the Votemaster

Obama's Speech

Barack Obama accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party last night before 84,000 cheering supporters at the Denver Broncos' stadium. By all accounts he gave one of the best political speeches in decades. It soared, but it was also full of policy details. Only the most partisan Republicans found fault with it. It will be very difficult for John McCain to match it. Here is a link to the video and text of the speech. Political Wire has collected some of the reactions to it. More reactions and user comments here.

Obama said: "I don't fit the typical pedigree and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington" but he emphasized that he is not quite as exotic as some people think. His Kansas-born grandfather fought in World World II and his grandmother worked her way up from the secretarial pool to be a bank manager. He noted that when he was a child, his mother was on food stamps because she couldn't afford to feed her family. Later, after getting a degree from Harvard law school, instead of getting a high-paying job at a big law firm he decided to go to Chicago to help organize steel workers who had been laid off. While he didn't say this time, but count on it later, is a comparison of his background to McCain's privileged youth as the son and grandson of four-star admirals.

The speech had many specifics, as a reply to the Republican attacks that he is all style, no content. He promised to cut taxes for the great majority of Americans (paid for by rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the rich). He said he would eliminate capital gains taxes on small businesses. He talked about turning the defense of Iraq over to the Iraqis and focusing the war on terror on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. He promised to end America's dependence on Middle East oil within a decade by investing $150 billion in alternative energy sources, including solar, wind, biofuel, nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas.

Obama attacked John McCain more than he ever did before. He harped on a McCain presidency being Bush III, noting that McCain has voted with Bush over 90% of the time in the Senate. He said McCain isn't evil; he just doesn't understand the modern world. That's why he thinks someone making under $5 million isn't rich. That's why he proposed billions in tax breaks for big corporations and nothing for ordinary Americans. That's why his health care plan taxes employer-paid health benefits. That's why he wants to gamble with people's retirements by privatizing Social Security. It was Obama's strongest attack on McCain so far and foreshadows a change in the campaign in the coming months.

Possibly even more important than Obama's policy points and attacks was the fact that after his speech, his two young daughters ran on stage and began playing with the falling confetti. For many people that may make him seem less a politician and a celebrity and more a human being and a father. That is what he needs now. Relatively few people disagree with his policies as poll after poll has shown. It is Obama the person they are concerned with. This performance was probably just what the doctor ordered. Next week John McCain gets his chance, but the bar has been set very high.

McCain's Veep Choice Expected Today

John McCain is expected to celebrate his birthday today by naming his running mate. His hope is that the excitement generated by the running mate will deflect attention from the fact that he turns 72 today as well as drawing attention away from Obama's speech yesterday. Most people are expecting him to make a safe choice, either Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty.

Update: John McCain fooled everyone and chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) as his running mate. People had talked about her but not many people took her seriously. She comes with an unusual mix of characteristics. First, she's a woman. Second, she's a woman. Third, she's a woman. McCain is betting the farm that the female Democratic PUMA voters who said they would vote for McCain will now really do it. The (unspoken) reasoning, of course, is either McCain is old and has had cancer four times and might die in office, leaving us with a woman President or in 2012 or 2016 she can run for the office on her own. It is likely that the working-class male supporters of Clinton, especially those in the rust belt will think she's a hot chick (she's a former beauty pageant runner-up and fond of motorcycling) but whether they will vote for her is something else again. She is a very devout Christian with five children, the youngest of whom has Down syndrome. She is very strongly against abortion. This pick allows him to say to the Base: "You had doubts about me. Look who I picked." It will give him enormous credibility with the evangelicals. In that respect it was a brilliant choice. She is a member of the NRA (and likes to eat mooseburgers), which will be popular with gun owners.

However, the conventional wisdom dismissed her for a variety of reasons that are still true. First, some reporter is going to ask him: "Of the hundreds of governors, senators, congressmen, and business leaders available to you, do you really think that a 44-year old person who has two years' experience as governor of a thinly populated state is the best person in the country to be President of the United States after yourself?" After all, she knows nothing of foreign policy and not even that much about domestic policy except that drilling for oil is a good thing.

Second, picking her destroys McCain's strongest argument against Obama: he has no experience. Little as he has (8 years in the Illinois state senate and 3.5 years in the U.S. Senate) it is more than she has (6 years as mayor of Wasilla, a town then of 5,000 people, and 1.5 years as governor). How is he going to argue that she is qualified to be President and Obama isn't. He can say experience doesn't matter (and a case can be made that it doesn't) but there goes his whole argument against Obama--lack of experience.

Third, like many Alaska politicians these days, Palin is involved in an ethics scandal. Her sister was married to a state trooper named Mike Wooten. The two of them got divorced and were involved in a bitter child custody battle. Sarah wanted to help her sister so she asked the state commissioner of public safety, Walt Monegan, to fire Wooten. He refused, so she fired him. He protested so loudly that the Republican-controlled state legislature appointed a retired prosecutor, Steve Branchflower, to investigate whether she abused her power as governor. Needless to say, Monegan is about to get a small army of reporters camped on his doorstep. It seems very strange indeed that McCain wants to be associated with someone under investigation for an ethics violation. The Democrats are going to say: "More of the same." Time will tell how this will play out. One can already envision the Vice Presidential TV debate featuring the long-time member and now chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee facing someone has has been governor for 2 years. Romney or Ridge could have held their own against Biden, but Palin is going to have a tough time.

In short, McCain is gambling that Palin's support among conservatives (where he needs help) and disgruntled Clinton supporters will offset voters who don't see her as qualified to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency. Despite the closeness of the national polls, McCain probably realized that he is behind (see the second graph on the Electoral coll. graph page) and needed something to shake things up. This might just do it.

McCain's Economic Policies

Clive Crook, the former deputy editor of The Economist and Washington columnist for the Financial Times has written a devastating piece about the feasibility of John McCain realizing his economic policies. McCain's general principles are pro-business, pro-trade, small government, low taxes, and a balanced budget. Crook applauds all these goals and says McCain knows what he wants and has a coherent program. What he doesn't have is any conceivable plan to achieve them. He compares McCain's economic program to Monty Python's receipe for rat pie: (1) Find a rat; (2) bake it in a pie. To keep the Bush tax cuts (which he now supports although he voted against them twice in the Senate) while balancing the budget means massive cuts in other government spending programs. But he has said nary a word about which ones. He has been in Congress for 25 years and knows that any attempt to eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars in expenditures will cause storms of protests. Eliminate all farm subsides? Will be real popular in Nebraska. Cut out all the tax breaks and subsidies for the oil industry? They'll love it in Texas. Welfare? Bill Clinton abolished welfare as an entitlement in 1996. No savings there. The military? While fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and maybe Iran? Seems unlikely. Privatize Social Security? Bush tried very hard and look what happened. His economic program can't be implemented and McCain is smart enough to know it. Crook goes through his whole economic program and little is left standing. McCain could make a could case, for, say, eliminating all farm subsidies ("farmers should enjoy the benefits of free markets") but he knows the electoral consequences of that. It won't be any different if he is President.

Alaska Update

The dogsled with the votes from the Village of Hughes arrived and were counted. Big disappointment. They're all Democrats up there. Nobody voted in the Republican primary. So Don Young still leads Sean Parnell staewide by about 150 votes with several thousand absentee ballots yet to be counted next week. The primary is important. If Parnell wins, the Republicans will probably hold the House seat. If Young wins, it will probably flip to the Democrats.

Today's Polls

State Obama McCain Start End Pollster
California 48% 39% Aug 12 Aug 19 Pub. Policy Inst. of Calif.
Idaho 29% 52% Aug 18 Aug 22 Greg Smith

We have one Senate poll today. Lt. Gov. Jim Risch (R-ID) is way ahead of his opponent, Larry LaRocco (D) in Idaho and should win in this normally Republican state fairly easily.

State Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
Idaho Larry LaRocco 30% Jim Risch 41% Aug 18 Aug 22 Greg Smith

We also have one House poll. There are several hotly contested House races in Florida and FL-21 is one of them. Raul Martinez (D) has a tiny lead over incumbent Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) in this R+6 South Florida district with a large Cuban-American population.

Cong. Distr. Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
FL-21 Raul Martinez 48% Lincoln Diaz-Balart* 46% Aug 24 Aug 26 SurveyUSA

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