Dec. 21 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 365   McCain 173  
Senate Dem 58   GOP 41   Ties 1
House Dem 257   GOP 178  

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strong Dem Strong Dem (258)
weak Dem Weak Dem (33)
barely Dem Barely Dem (74)
tied Exactly tied (0)
barely GOP Barely GOP (14)
weak GOP Weak GOP (39)
strong GOP Strong GOP (120)
270 Electoral votes needed to win
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Dem pickups (vs. 2004): CO FL IN IA NV NM NC OH VA GOP pickups (vs. 2004): (None) PDA SMS

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News from the Votemaster

Franken Expects to Win by 35-50 Votes

Democrat Al Franken has announced that he expects to be elected senator by 35-50 votes. The Minneapolis Star Tribune has estimated Franken will win by 75 votes, so Franken was actually being a bit modest. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) has not made a prediction. Counting will resume tomorrow.

Warren Defends His Inaugural Invitation

Pastor Rick Warren, whose invitation to perform the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration, has strongly defended Obama's choice of him saying: "You don't have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand." He also pointed out that he loves Muslims, people of other religions, Democrats and Republicans and gays and straights. He added that he is a big fan of openly lesbian singer Melissa Ethridge and that his church has probably done more to help people with AIDS than any other in the country.

Bush Loans $17 Billion to the Auto Industry

President Bush brought down the wrath of a large piece of the Republican Party on himself for giving the big three car manufacturers a $17 billion stopgap loan. The loan has a condition in it that members of the United Auto Workers union give back wage and benefits that bring them into line with what the Japanese companies pay at their plants in the South. The Republicans objection is that this condition is not written into law and Barack Obama could easily eliminate it after January 20th.

It is increasingly clear that what southern Republicans really want is to break the back of the UAW (which habitually supports the Democratic Party). Thus while demanding lower wages and benefits as part of the $17 billion loan to the auto industry (where labor costs are 10% of total expenditures) is crucial to them, they didn't make a peep about lowering salaries as part of the $700 billion bailout of the banking industry (where labor costs are 70% of the total). In other words, the $1.7 billion worth of labor costs in the (unionized) auto industry are a big deal but the $490 billion worth of labor costs in the (nonunionized) financial industry is a nonissue.

As Ronald Brownstein points out at the National Journal, the dominance of southern conservatives in the Republican party might lead to a downward spiral for the party. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) led the fight against the auto bailout. While that stand might fly in Tennessee, it is not going to help Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) or any other Republicans from the rust belt in 2010 to be members of a party that has basically said it is perfectly content with seeing the American automobile manufacturers go bankrupt. If Voinovich and other Midwestern Republicans are defeated as a result of the political views of southern Republicans, the Republican party may become more and more a regional party of the South and parts of the interior West. Corker's views could have long-lasting effects in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Bush will have a strange legacy: 7 1/2 years bitterly fighting the Democrats and 1/2 year bitterly fighting the Republicans.

Caroline Kennedy Takes Stands on Some Issues

Caroline Kennedy, who is hoping to be appointed to Hillary Clinton's seat in the Senate, answered some questions about her political views yesterday. Briefly summarized, here is the Q & A.

    Q: Do you support same-sex marriage? A: Yes.
    Q: Should the law require parental notification before a minor's abortion? A: No.
    Q: Should late-term abortions be restricted? A: I support the restrictions in Roe v. Wade.
    Q: Should illegal aliens be allowed to become citizens? A: Yes, as per the McCain-Kennedy bill.
    Q: Has NAFTA worked? A: It has had negative consequences and needs to be reexamined.
    Q: Do you support restrictions on gun ownership? A: I support the NYC, NYS, Brady, etc. gun laws.
    Q: Do you support an undivided Jerusalem as capital of Israel? A: Yes.
    Q: Do you support the bailout of the auto industry? A: Yes.
    Q: Do you support higher taxes on the rich? A: Mumble mumble
    Q: Do you support a two-state solution in the Middle East? Q: Yes, if Israel's security is assured.
    Q: Do you support the unions' desire for a card-check law? A: Yes.
    Q: Do you support school vouchers so parents can opt out of the public schools? A: No.
    Q: Do you want the NYC mayor to control the schools? A: Yes, the mayor is accountable.
    Q: Do you support closing the Indian Point nuclear power plant? A: Yes.

It is noteworthy that most of the questions were from the conservative's list of top priorities and not from the liberal's list (e.g., Do you support single-payer national health insurance?) but her answers are what one would expect from any liberal Democrat. If her uncle, Ted Kennedy, were given the same questions, he would probably have answered pretty much the same way.

Although there has been an enormous amount of media attention given to Caroline Kennedy and her (lack of) qualifications for the Senate, in reality first-term senators don't do anything except vote on bills. They have no power and no influence in the Senate. Much more than in the House, the committee chairmen run the show and anybody appointed to the seat now will not have much power for another 20-30 years, so a candidate's positions (i.e., how he or she would vote) are probably more important than his or her experience. On the other hand, given New York State politics, most Democrats are largely interchangeable and it is doubtful that attorney general Andrew Cuomo or Rep. Carolyn Maloney would have answered the questions very differently.

The NY Times has an interesting story on nepotism and families in politics and how it might affect the choice of Gov. David Paterson, himself the son of a state senator.

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-- The Votemaster