Oct. 03 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 338   McCain 185   Ties 15
Senate Dem 58   GOP 42  
House Dem 241   GOP 193   Ties 1

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This day in 2004

strong Dem Strong Dem (182)
weak Dem Weak Dem (78)
barely Dem Barely Dem (78)
tied Exactly tied (15)
barely GOP Barely GOP (22)
weak GOP Weak GOP (63)
strong GOP Strong GOP (100)
270 Electoral votes needed to win
Map algorithm explained
Presidential polls today: CO KY MN MT NC NE NM NY VA RSS
Dem pickups (vs. 2004): CO FL IA NV NM OH VA GOP pickups (vs. 2004): (None) PDA SMS

PW logo Huge Audience for VP Debate Obama Adds Staff in Nebraska
Leaked from Palin's Debate Prep? What If McCain Picked Romney?
Debate Recap SurveyUSA: McCain Inches Ahead in Minnesota

News from the Votemaster

Expanded Graphs Now Available

The density of polls was getting so high that the graphs of polls over time had become unreadable for the swing states. Starting today, if you click on a state, the page you get has three graphs: polls for all of 2008, polls for Sept. to Nov. 2008, and polls for 2004. The Sept. to Nov. 2008 polls have a linear regression line plotted based on a least-squares calculation with a look-back window of 30 days. In addition, the page with all the poll graphs now has two versions: the full year and Sept. to Nov. (with regression lines).

The Vice-Presidential Debate

Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin faced off in their first and only Vice-Presidential debate last night, each one claiming to be the champion of the middle class. The debate was cordial but pointed, with each of them clearly attacking the other party's positions, but not each other. At the beginning, Palin asked permission to call him "Joe," which he granted. This made her seem folksy. But he didn't take the bait and always referred to her as "governor" to sound respectful and avoid insulting women.

Biden was clearly in command of the material, as one might expect from someone who has been in the Senate 36 years. Palin was shakier, but not as bad as in the interview with Katie Couric. She often avoided answering questions and didn't get any follow-up questions from moderator Gwen Ifill as she did from Couric. For example, when Ifill asked her what she'd do about the mortgage crisis, she said: "Let's commit ourselves--just everyday American people, Joe Six-Pack, hockey moms across the nation--I think we need to band together and say, 'Never again.'" She didn't explain how hockey moms could get together to prevent a financial crisis. If you missed the debate or want to see it again, the Washington Post has the full video available.

The bottom line is that Vice-Presidential debates are fun to watch but don't really matter. The greatest line in any Vice-Presidential debate in history was surely Lloyd Bentsen's 1988 reply to Dan Quayle's comparing himself to President Kennedy: "I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." But it didn't help. The Dukakis/Bentsen ticket was crushed by a Bush/Quayle landslide.

The first polls of the Vice-Presidential debate are already in. A CNN poll run by Opinion Research shows that 51% of the voters think Joe Biden did the best job at the debate and 36% thought Sarah Palin did the best job. As to beating the expectations (which both parties were trying furiously to set as low as possible), both did. Eighty-four percent said Palin did better than expected and 64% said Biden did better than expected. But debating skills and beating artificially low expectations don't really matter. What matters is whether the candidate is qualified to be President should the need arise. On this score, Biden clearly won as 87% said Biden is qualified to be President and only 42% said Palin is.

CBS also did a quickie poll among uncommitted voters. In this one, 46% said Biden won and only 21% said Palin won. In terms of being knowledgeable about the issues, 98% think Biden is and 66% think Palin is. On the key question of whether the candidate could be an effective President, 91% said Biden could be and only 44% said Palin could be, similar to the CNN poll.

CNN ran a focus group in Ohio, where participants could rate what they were hearing in real time. Biden's score zoomed through the roof when he talked about his wife and daughter dying in a traffic accident many years ago. In general, his responses scored well, better than Palin's, especially when she defended McCain. Republican pollster Frank Luntz ran a focus group for Fox and said that Palin did very well. But only three members of his group said they were more likely to vote for McCain as a result of the debate. Political Wire has collected some reactions to the debate from the blogosphere.

With Palin's qualifications for the presidency much in doubt, when the mud begins the fly (e.g., when Republicans beging airing ads about Wright, Ayers, and Rezko), the Democrats may try to exploit fears about Palin becoming President by running ads like this one. Nominally, it is only about McCain not releasing his medical records, but the message is pretty clear.

McCain Pulling Out of Michigan

Politico reports that McCain is closing down his campaign in Michigan, terminating his TV ads, and moving his staff there to Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida. If true, this is a major development. Michigan is one of only two Kerry states McCain has any realistic chance of winning (the other being New Hampshire). If Obama wins all the Kerry states, as now seems likely, and wins Iowa and New Mexico, both of which are almost in the bag for him, he needs only one more state to win. That means McCain must win all the swing states: Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Missouri, Colorado, and Nevada. Obama is leading substantially in a number of them. McCain does not have a statistically significant lead in any of them.

House to Vote on Bailout Today

The whips are out rounding up stray votes as both the Democratic leadership and Republican leadership want the Senate bailout bill to be approved by the House today. The bill started out at 3 pages, but is now 451 pages. But the additional pages just add pork and a tad of oversight. The core idea--the secretary of the treasury gets $700 billion over time to buy whatever assets he wants to at whatever price he wants to from whomever he wants to--is still intact. The taxpayers may get something in return for their money, but what they get is entirely up to the discretion of the treasury secretary. These points notwithstanding, it is expected that enough pork has been added to the bill (448 pages is a lot of pork) to buy off a net of 13 representatives, so the bill will probably pass, albeit with some procedural wrangling.

Americans' interest in this bill has reached unprecedented levels. Not only is it impossible to get through to your representative on the phone to give him or her guidance on how to vote, but even e-mails are being rejected because the House e-mail system can't handle the load. It is a sorry state of affairs that just when Americans are paying attention to Congress, they can't get through to their representatives because the phone and e-mail systems don't work.

September Saw the Biggest Job Loss in Five Years

The government reported that 159,000 jobs were lost in September, the largest number lost in a single month in five years. Just two weeks ago, John McCain said: "The fundamentals of our economy are strong." Between heavy job losses and a shinking 401(k) retirement fund, the average voter is likely to need some convincing that all is well with the economy, especially when respected economists like Paul Krugman think we are on edge of the abyss.

Today's Polls

We have nine presidential polls today. Three of them are a bit surprising. SurveyUSA has John McCain ahead of Barack Obama in Minnesota 47% to 46%. Most other polls have shown Obama with a wide lead there. Similarly, a poll by Ciruli Associates in Colorado shows it to be statistical tie when pretty much all other polls have shown Obama to be ahead there, albeit by a small margin. Finally, in Virginia, Mason-Dixon gives McCain a 3-point lead there, when everyone else says Obama is ahead. Also of note is Obama's continuing strength in North Carolina. McCain is supposed to be 10 points ahead here. An ominous sign for him.

State Obama McCain Start End Pollster
Colorado 44% 43% Sep 19 Sep 23 Ciruli Assoc.
Kentucky 42% 52% Sep 30 Sep 30 Rasmussen
Minnesota 46% 47% Sep 30 Oct 01 SurveyUSA
Montana 44% 52% Oct 01 Oct 01 Rasmussen
North Carolina 50% 47% Sep 30 Sep 30 Rasmussen
Nebraska 37% 56% Sep 30 Sep 30 Rasmussen
New Mexico 49% 44% Oct 01 Oct 01 Rasmussen
New York 58% 36% Sep 28 Sep 30 Siena Coll.
Virginia 45% 48% Sep 29 Oct 01 Mason-Dixon

We also have six Senate polls. The most noteworthy one is in Minnesota, where Norm Coleman is 10 points ahead of Al Franken according to a new SurveyUSA poll.

State Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
Colorado Mark Udall 45% Bob Schaffer 38% Sep 19 Sep 23 Ciruli Assoc.
Kentucky Bruce Lunsford 42% Mitch McConnell* 51% Sep 30 Sep 30 Rasmussen
Minnesota Al Franken 33% Norm Coleman* 43% Sep 30 Oct 01 SurveyUSA
Nebraska Scott Kleeb 38% Mike Johanns 52% Sep 30 Sep 30 Rasmussen
New Mexico Tom Udall 55% Steve Pearce 41% Oct 01 Oct 01 Rasmussen
New Mexico Tom Udall 58% Steve Pearce 39% Sep 29 Sep 30 SurveyUSA

We also have three House polls.

Cong. Distr. Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
FL-13 Christine Jennings 33% Vern Buchanan* 49% Sep 30 Oct 01 SurveyUSA
IN-02 Joe Donnelly* 53% Luke Puckett 35% Sep 29 Sep 30 Research 2000
KY-04 Michael Kelley 36% Geoff Davis* 58% Sep 30 Oct 01 SurveyUSA

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