Aug. 31 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 Bush May Skip Convention Fowler Caught on Camera
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News from the Votemaster

Hurrican Gustav Threatens New Orleans

Normally the top political story of the day is not a weather story, but today it is. Hurricane Gustav has now reached category 4 status and is expected to hit category 5 status with winds exceeding 155 mph before making landfall along the Gulf Coast. New Orleans appears to be directly in its gunsights, but hurricanes sometimes zig-zag so meteorologists are not entirely sure where it will hit. After the experience with hurricanes Katrina and Rita three years ago, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has ordered a mandatory evacuation of the entire city just in case. In the worst case scenario, the entire city could be under water, even areas that did not flood in 2005. Here is the story in the Times-Picayune, the local paper.

The human implications of this monster hurricane are immense--80 people have already died in the Carribean--but we will stick to the political implications here. First, most people living far from the Gulf Coast have already forgotten Katrina and Rita; this will remind them. The media will no doubt trot out all the photos of a happy President Bush in sunny Arizona ignoring the drowning city because he was too busy celebrating John McCain's 69th birthday. In case they forget, here is the photo from the official White House Website.

Second, if the storm hits Tuesday, it will be smack in the middle of the Republican National Convention. Normally, the RNC would be the only news story of the week, but it will have to compete with news of drowning people on the Gulf Coast. This diverts attention from the Republican's message of national security and focuses everyone on domestic affairs, such as the government's role in helping people. The Republicans core message of low taxes and less government may not go over so well juxtaposed with photos of old people on their roofs pleading for help from the government while the Republicans are busy saying that free markets solve problems far better than government bureaucrats. Heck-of-a-Job Brownie may get another 15 minutes of fame.

Third, depending on the actual path the storm takes, it could hit oil rigs and refineries. Heaven forbid there is an accident that causes an oil spill. That would remind people of why the Democrats oppose off-shore drilling. On the other hand, if there are no accidents, the Republicans will say: "If off-shore oil rigs can withstand this, they can withstand anything." In any event, rigs and refineries are likely to shut down, reducing the gas supply and driving up prices in the next few months, something that will remind the voters of the economy, in case they had forgotten.

Fourth, under federal law, the person in charge of handling natural disasters in a state is the governor. He can call up the national guard, ask for federal help, or whatever he wants to, but he's the boss. The governor of Louisiana is now a Republican, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal. Last time around, the botched response was coordinated by a Democrat, Kathleen Blanco. If Jindal does a great job and the evacuation goes smoothly, help arrives on time, and nobody dies, the Republicans will be crowing about their management skills and that the real problem last time was that a Democrat was running the show. However, Jindal is only 37 and has been governor for scarcely 8 months, even less time than the Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin. If Jindal messes up, the Democrats will be saying: "It's more of the same." To say that McCain's political fortunes rest on Jindal's ability to cope with disasters is not entirely true, but it will be a big factor. Unlike Blanco last time, Jindal is surely fully aware of what is about to happen and the potential consequences of failing to handle it.

Republican National Convention Starts Tomorrow

The Republicans will meet in St. Paul. MN, starting tomorrow to nominate John McCain and Sarah Palin as their presidential ticket. No doubt it will be a big show with lots of top politicians giving speeches, starting with President Bush tomorrow. However, if hurricane Gustav is as devastating as meteorologists expect it to be, having the Republicans whooping it up while people in the deep South are drowning may look bad. John McCain has said he is praying for minimal damage. But in this polarized atmosphere, even that could become controversial. If there is massive damage, some people are going to say God doesn't care what John McCain wants. There is little doubt that if this storm had occurred during the DNC, many Republican-oriented preachers would be saying this is God's way of punishing the Democrats for their evil views on abortion and homosexuality. Such statements are not likely to be heard much this week.

For better or worse, all five potentially affected states have Republican governors: Rick Perry in Texas, Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, Haley Barbour in Mississippi, Bob Riley in Alabama, and Charlie Crist in Florida. If they do a good job getting help where it is needed, they will get the credit; if they don't they will get the blame. It is likely that all of them will skip the convention and stay home. In an odd way, the hurricane might actually have a silver lining for the Republicans. The Democrats spent all of last week yelling: "McCain is Bush III." Having Bush speak at the convention, as scheduled, reinforces their point. However McCain could hardly have told Bush to stay home since that would infuriate the 30% of the country that still supports him. Enter St. Gustav stage left. McCain could now announce that much as he wants Bush to speak at his convention, for the good of the country, Bush should go tour the Gulf Coast to help the poor people there. This solves two problems: keeping Bush away from Minnesota without McCain getting blamed for it and having Bush appear to be on top of the situation at the hurricane site in an attempt to wipe out the bad memories of his doing nothing when Katrina struck. Bush doesn't have to actually do anything at the Gulf Coast (except pose for pictures) since it is the five governors who have to do all the heavy lifting.

Women Divided on Palin

The NY Times has a story on women's reactions to Sarah Palin. Some are enthusiastic about her. One said: "Having a child with Down syndrome, and being the governor, and she calls herself a hockey mom. I was impressed. She's very pretty and seems very smart." However, another said: "No one in my office has any idea about her, and the only comment I'm hearing, which is not good, is that 'she's a woman and that's why she was picked.' " After the Republican convention, which will try to show that she is ready be President on day 1 if the need arises, people will know more about her.

More on Troopergate

Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin is formally under investigation for potential abuse of power. TPM has a timeline of what happened when. The Washington Post is now also investigating the story. with reporters up in Alaska talking to the principals. First reports show that Palin was much more deeply involved in trying to fire her brother-in-law (who was engaged in a bitter child custody dispute with her sister) than she previously admitted. The Republican-controlled state legislature has appointed a former prosecutor, Steve Branchflower, to investigate. What started out as a scoop in the blogosphere is now becoming major national news. If it turns out that Palin abused her gubernatorial power and then lied about it, it will hurt her reputation and raise questions about McCain's judgment. If she is entirely innocent, it is in her interest to get the facts out as fast as possible, volunteer for lie detector tests, and get this story out of the way immediately. At the very least, it is black cloud hanging over her head until it has been resolved.

The story doesn't end here. After firing Monegan, Palin appointed Charles Kopp, the Kenai chief of police to be the new commissioner of public safety. Kopp lasted two weeks, resigning July 25, 2008 in a swirl of charges relating to a 2005 complaint that he sexually harassed a woman and was reprimanded for it. The facts will no doubt be dribbling out in the coming weeks as they always do in cases like this, but at the very least two things stand out. First, the charges about Palin trying to fire her brother-in-law were serious enough for the Republican-controlled legislature to hire a heavyweight retired prosecutor to look into them. Second, Palin didn't do a very good job of vetting Kopp if whatever he did in 2005 was serious enough that he lasted only two weeks on the job. What does that say about her ability to make appointments?

While pundits of all stripes on national TV who never heard of Palin until Friday are blathering all manner of nonsense about her, both good and bad, the power of the Internet allows you to get a jump on them. Alaska newspapers have been following her closely for a year and a half, of course. The most respected source is the Anchorage Daily News ( It has many stories on her, for example, this one. If you want to know what the Lyda Green, the president of the state senate and a Republican and John Harris, the speaker of the state house and also a Republican, think about her, check out this story.

Biden Can't Pull a Bentsen

Joe Biden is probably hopping mad at NY Times columnist Gail Collins now. He can't use a one-liner in his debate with Sarah Palin that would have brought down the house. When Palin inevitably praises Hillary Clinton and compares herself to Clinton, Biden could have said: "Governor, I serve with Hillary Clinton; I know Hillary Clinton; Hillary Clinton is a friend of mine. Governor, you're no Hillary Clinton." Collins just published it.

Really Bad Veeps

Veeps are in the news now. Nobody knows if either Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) or Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) would be a good Vice President yet. In general, Vice Presidents don't do much since their only constitutional duty is breaking ties in the Senate, which are pretty rare. President Bush delegated an unprecedented amount of work and authority to Vice President Cheney, but that is very much the exception. Many Veeps have gone on to be President, but some of them were pretty awful. Time Magazine has drawn up a list of the 15 worst in history. The first five winners (?) chronologically are as follows. These are old enough not to be controversial

  • Aaron Burr (Jefferson's VP) shot and killed former treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Hamilton was so respected he is now on the $10 bill.
  • Elbridge Gerry (Madison's VP) refused to sign the constitution, invented gerrymandering, and was third choice for VP when nobody else of note wanted the job.
  • John Calhoun supported nullification and served under J.Q. Adams and Jackson until the latter booted him when Jackson ran for a second term.
  • Richard Johnson (served under Martin van Buren) scandalized the nation by shacking up with his slave and proposed an expedition to the North Pole to drill a hole to the center of the earth. When Van Buren ran for reelection, he not only dropped Johnson from the ticket, he didn't bother to have a running mate at all.
  • Willian King (served under Pierce) was Veep for only six weeks before he died of tuberculosis. He was the only bachelor Vice President and lived with James Buchanan (the nation's only bachelor President) for years. After King died, the office of Vice President remained vacant for almost four years

The other 10 are: John Breckinridge, Hannibal Hamlin, Thomas Henricks, Thomas Marshall, Calvin Coolidge, Henry Wallace, Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Dan Quayle, and Dick Cheney.

Today's Polls

No polls of any kind today, state or national, due to the holiday weekend.

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