Sep. 25 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 286   McCain 252  
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House Dem 242   GOP 193  

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PW logo Bonus Quote of the Day National Journal Poll: Key Blue States Still With Obama
How Alaska's Proximity to Russia is Relevant Agreement Reached on Bailout
SurveyUSA: Obama Leads in Pennsylvania McCain Didn't Even Read Treasury Proposal

News from the Votemaster

McCain Suspends Campaign, Cancels First Debate

John McCain suspended his campaign, stopped running ads, and said he would not participate in the first debate scheduled for tomorrow at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, MS. He said that the nation is on the brink of a serious recession and this is no time for politics. McCain has been in the Senate 25 years. He knows precisely what will happen if he barges into the office of Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), chairman of the Senate banking committee and announces: "OK, Outta here, I'm taking over now. Dodd's reaction would not be printable on a family Website like this one and McCain would be instantly and unceremoniously shown the door. There are two people responsible for writing banking bills: Dodd and his House counterpart Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA). If Dodd wants input from the Republicans on this, he will ask the ranking member on his committee, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). McCain and Obama play no role and McCain knows that very well.

So why did McCain propose cancelling the debate? In a word: politics. By flying into D.C. as the savior he might appear as a man of action to people who don't know how the Senate works. The reality of course, is that Obama and McCain's appearance in Dodd's office would instantly turn the entire event into a political circus. If left alone, Dodd can come up with a bill a lot faster than with McCain, Obama, and the entire national press corps in the room "helping." A second point is that by pulling all his TV ads, he saves money, something Obama has more of. McCain may need that money at the end of October, so a penny not spent now is a penny available in October.

McCain not only cancelled his ads, he also cancelled his appearance on David Letterman's show. Letterman wasn't so happy. Here is a video of his reaction.

Obama's response to McCain's surprise move was a speech hammering on the need for a good, bipartisan bill that protects home owners from foreclosure, provides meaningful oversight, and makes sure the taxpayers are not ripped off. To the TV audience, these all sound like reasonable things. What they probably don't know is that treasury secretary Henry Paulson is dead set against all of them. If the final bill does not have these things, Obama can then oppose it, citing the bill's defects.

Dan Balz of the Washinton Post has a good analysis piece on McCain's move. Balz says that McCain is an impulsive gambler and sees his campaign stalled, what with Obama rising in the polls, so he goes for a Hail Mary again. This is actually the third such gamble McCain has taken in less than a month. First, he picked an inexperienced governor who runs a state with a quarter the population of Brooklyn as his running mate. Then he cancelled the first day of the Republican National Convention due to a weather emergency. Now he wants to cancel a debate due to a financial emergency. There is an increasing risk that the voters will see him as an impetuous and reckless politician whereas Obama comes off as stable and mature.

If nothing else, McCain's sudden move got his falling polls and the lobbying of his campaign manager off the front pages. Score a win for McCain today. But he's betting the farm that the American people won't see this as a campaign stunt.

The NY Times also has an analytic article on the politics of this. The view there is that Republican members of Congress know very well that throwing $700 billion at Wall St. in a big hurry with no oversight is not popular with the voters. On the other hand, they don't want to buck their own President who still has a modicum of popularity with the the Republican rank and file. They are hoping McCain can bail them out. Democrats don't want to be seen as obstructionists, but they also see the bailout for what it really is: a ploy to spend so much money that a future President Obama's hands would be tied for lack of money. In effect this move is Bush's attempt to "rule from the grave" by severely constraining what the next President can do. Oddly, it might constrain McCain more than Bush since he (McCain) has spending plans, too. Obama could propose a massive tax increase for the rich claiming Bush's folly forced him to do it. When you read that this "crisis" is about economics, don't believe a word of it. It is 100% politics, pure and simple. Yes, something needs to be done, but if the markets know that Congress is working on it, they will wait a few weeks before dissolving in a puddle.

To Debate or Not to Debate, that is the Question

It is not clear yet what will happen in Mississippi tomorrow evening if McCain does not back down. For starters, SurveyUSA already published a poll on whether the debate should take place yesterday. Three quarters of the voters want the debate to happen; only 10% want to cancel it. About 36% would like the focus to be changed to the economy. It is possible that as a "compromise" McCain agrees to changing the topic to the economy so the later debates, closer to the election, focus on national security, his strength. In fact, his whole game plan might have been to switch the subjects. But it is risky because if the first debate is about the economy and Obama does well, many people may make up their minds, cast their vote early, and not watch the other debates.

And suppose Obama shows up in Mississippi tomorrow and McCain does not? What will the Commission on Debates do? Suppose they cancel it and Obama offers moderator Jim Lehrer an exclusive 90-minute interview with TV crews and the press corps invited. It would be a huge coup for Lehrer and he'd probably agree. Saturday's news would be all about Lehrer's interview. There isn't much precedent for what happens when one candidate unilaterally decides to cancel an agreed-upon debate. In football, if one team doesn't show up, the other one wins.

Bush's Speech

President Bush gave a speech last night urging Congress to pass the bill. The speech was necessary because even his own party's leadership isn't sold on it yet. The #4 Republican in the House leadership, Deborah Pryce, said "I'm seeking answers to two fundamental questions: Why this? And why now?" When his own party balks at his plan, what's a President to do? Give a speech and hope that the voters put pressure on Congress. When you are a lame duck with a 19% approval rating you don't have a lot of options.

Today's Polls

We have 21 presidential polls today. The most noteworthy is that New Hampshire has flipped back to Obama, but it is still close. The state is full of mavericks and eccentrics and they do have a fondness for McCain.

State Obama McCain Start End Pollster
Alaska 37% 55% Sep 17 Sep 21 Fairleigh Dickinson U.
Alabama 39% 60% Sep 22 Sep 22 Rasmussen
Colorado 50% 41% Sep 23 Sep 23 Insider Advantage
Colorado 50% 47% Sep 23 Sep 23 Rasmussen
Colorado 51% 47% Sep 21 Sep 23 Opinion Research
Delaware 56% 36% Sep 17 Sep 21 Fairleigh Dickinson U.
Delaware 57% 37% Sep 22 Sep 23 SurveyUSA
Hawaii 68% 27% Sep 20 Sep 20 Rasmussen
Iowa 51% 41% Sep 18 Sep 21 Marist Coll.
Massachusetts 55% 39% Sep 22 Sep 24 SurveyUSA
Maryland 60% 37% Sep 20 Sep 20 Rasmussen
Maine 49% 44% Sep 22 Sep 23 SurveyUSA
Michigan 43% 46% Sep 15 Sep 19 Marketing Resource Grp.
Michigan 48% 38% Sep 20 Sep 22 EPIC-MRA
Michigan 51% 46% Sep 21 Sep 23 Opinion Research
Montana 43% 54% Sep 21 Sep 23 Opinion Research
New Hampshire 47% 49% Sep 23 Sep 23 Rasmussen
New Hampshire 51% 45% Sep 17 Sep 21 Marist Coll.
Pennsylvania 53% 44% Sep 21 Sep 23 Opinion Research
Virginia 44% 47% Sep 17 Sep 22 Mason-Dixon
West Virginia 46% 50% Sep 21 Sep 23 Opinion Research

We also have 4 Senate polls.

State Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
Alabama Vivian Figures 30% Jeff Sessions* 59% Sep 22 Sep 22 Rasmussen
Colorado Mark Udall 46% Bob Schaffer 44% Sep 23 Sep 23 Rasmussen
New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen 45% John Sununu* 52% Sep 23 Sep 23 Rasmussen
Virginia Mark Warner 61% Jim Gilmore 28% Sep 17 Sep 22 Mason-Dixon

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