Nov. 21 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 365   McCain 173  
Senate Dem 58   GOP 40   Ties 2
House Dem 255   GOP 175   Ties 5

Senate map and races
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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
Map algorithm explained
Presidential polls today: (None) RSS
Dem pickups (vs. 2004): CO FL IN IA NV NM NC OH VA GOP pickups (vs. 2004): (None) PDA SMS

PW logo Richardson to Commerce? Coleman's Lead Shrinks Again
Obama Raised More than $500 Million Online Scowcroft Advising Obama
Obama's Cell Phone Records Breached Clinton Nomination On Track

News from the Votemaster Annual Reader Survey

If you didn't do the annual survey yesterday and can spare 10 minutes, it would be greatly appreciated if you could do it as it will help the many blogs that depend on ads for their survival and operation. For example, Daily Kos sponsored many valuable polls this year, something it couldn't have done without the ad revenue. Thanks.

The State of Minnesota

The Great Minnesota Recount continued yesterday. With 46% of the vote now recounted, Sen. Norm Coleman's lead has slipped from 215 votes to 136 votes. If Al Franken picked up 79 votes on 46% of the recount, projecting this linearly, with 100% of the vote he will pick up 172 votes and Coleman will win by 43 votes. However, there are 823 challenged votes yet to be resolved. In addition, Franken is trying to get thousands of absentee ballots that were rejected for technical reasons (e.g., no zipcode listed) counted. Detailed county-by-county results can be found here. After the recount is finished, then the court challenges begin. This could go on for a while. Stay tuned.

If you want to see why hand recounts sometimes go slowly, take a look at some of these actual ballots from Minnesota. These are also relevant to the posting yesterday about instant runoff voting. Many people sent mail pointing out alternatives to IRV that are "better" in some sense. Unfortunately, one criterion for acceptance is that the voters understand the system. When you look at the actual ballots cited above, you get a better idea of what might work and what might not work. IRV is probably at the outer limit of what low-information voters could manage although it is used in Australia and seems to work there. Anyone advocating a more complex scheme should imagine trying to explain the scheme to one of the voters whose ballot is pictured in the link above, keeping in mind that filling in a single oval was beyond his or her capacity.

Waxman Defeats Dingell for Energy Committee Chairmanship

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) made history yesterday by challenging and defeating the sitting chairman of the House energy and commerce committee, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) by a 137 to 122 vote of the full Democratic caucus. This committee is immensely important, with jurisdiction over a wide variety of domestic matters. Waxman is a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is also from California. Both of them want much tougher laws to reduce global warming, something Barack Obama also promised. Dingell, in contrast, was much more concerned with protecting the automobile industry than with protecting the environment. Waxman's counterpart in the Senate is yet another Californian, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). With most of the power concerning the environment in hands of Waxman, Boxer, Pelosi, and Obama, it is likely that global warming will be addressed very quickly in the new administration, with the views of the Californians playing a dominant role.

In other ways, too, Waxman's victory represents a tectonic shift in the House. Ben Pershing of the Washington Post puts it like this. First, the seniority system is dead. If Dingell could be toppled, how long can Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and John Conyers (D-MI) last? Second, ideology matters. Waxman is a reformer. Everyone in the House knows that. He won not because he is the friendliest guy in town (he can be very irritating) but because a majority of the Democrats agree with his philosophy of government. Third, Nancy Pelosi's power is hugely increased by this turn of events, in part because she and Waxman see eye to eye on almost everything and she now has an ally in a key position. But also because other chairmen now know that if they displease her, she is quite capable of urging a member of their committee to challenge them and she won't lift a finger to save them.

In a little-noted move, Obama named Philip Schiliro as his liason to Congress. Schiliro is not exactly a household name, but Waxman knows who he is: Schiliro was Waxman's chief of staff for 25 years. This appointment means that Waxman has a direct pipeline into the heart of the White House and Obama has a close assistant who probably knows the powerful chairman as well as anybody in the government. While previous Presidents have often had their plans foiled by poor relations with Congress, Obama's personal experience in the Senate and Schiliro's ties to Waxman (and via Waxman, to Pelosi) are likely to provide a smoother ride for Obama.

Public's View of the Republican Party Continues to Drop

A new Gallup poll shows that 34% of Americans have a favorable view of the Republican Party vs. 61% who have an unfavorable view. The 61% unfavorable is the highest for any party in history. For the Democrats the numbers are 55% favorable and 39% unfavorable. As the debate rages within the Republican Party about what to do, the poll gives some guidance. Some 59% of the Republicans polled want it to become more conservative, 28% want it to remain the same, and only 12% want it to become less conservative. With most of the congressional moderates defeated either in 2006 or 2008, the remaining Republicans are very conservative and come from states and districts that are also very conservative, so individual members of Congress have a strong personal incentive to see the party become more conservative: to enhance their chances at the next election. The only problem with this strategy is that piling up even bigger margins in Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Utah is not much consolation if you lose Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada by even bigger margins as a result.

Women Break a New Barrier

While we didn't get female President or Vice President this year, women did break another glass ceiling: women are now a majority in the New Hampshire state senate. This is the first time women have ever formed a majority in any state legislative chamber. In addition, the speaker of the New Hampshire state house is a woman and one of the two representatives is a woman and one of the two senators is a woman. The state also had a female governor from 1997 to 2003, Jeanne Shaheen, who is now a senator-elect.

In neighboring Maine, 3/4 of the congressional delegation consists of women (2 senators and 1 representative), the female representative (Chellie Pingree) is the mother of the speaker of the Maine state house of representatives, Hannah Pingree.

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