Sep. 27 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 286   McCain 252  
Senate Dem 58   GOP 42  
House Dem 240   GOP 194   Ties 1

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strong Dem Strong Dem (175)
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270 Electoral votes needed to win
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Presidential polls today: CO CT FL MO MT PA SC VA WY RSS
Dem pickups (vs. 2004): CO IA NM VA GOP pickups (vs. 2004): (None) PDA SMS

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News from the Votemaster

Debate Rundown

When John McCain suddenly suspended his campaign this week and flew to Washington to broker a deal to keep Wall St. afloat, he said he would not debate Barack Obama unless there was a bill to solve the credit crisis. There is still no bill but McCain ate his words, flew to Mississippi, and debated Barack Obama at the University of Mississippi anyway last night. Probably every newspaper in the country has a story on it. The Washington Post has particularly good page on it, with the full debate video, the full transcript, and a video analysis by Chris Cillizza.

This debate was largely about foreign policy, McCain's strong suit. In that respect, the expectation was that McCain would do well since he has far more foreign policy experience than Obama. On the other hand, to "win" the debate, all Obama had to do was show that he is McCain's equal. Since most of the country favors the Democrats on the economy, health care, and domestic policy generally, if Obama can create the mindset of "on foreign affairs the two men are roughly equal and on domestic affairs Obama is better," he wins.

Political Wire has collected comments from pundits of various stripes. On the whole, they feel that neither candidate made any major gaffe and neither one landed a knockout blow. McCain claimed that Obama was wrong about the surge; Obama claimed that McCain was wrong in 2003 saying there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

In addition to the policy differences, there was a difference in style, and of course, in generations. McCain emphasized his experience and Obama accused him of having a 20th century view of the world. McCain's best comment was probably: "There are some advantages to experience, and I honestly don't believe Senator Obama has the knowledge or experience, and has made the wrong judgment in a number of areas." Obama's best comment was probably: "At the time when the war started, you said it was going to be quick and easy. You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong. You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shia and Sunni, and you were wrong." And so it went.

CBS ran a poll immediately after the debate and found that among undecided voters, 39% thought Obama won vs. 24% who thought McCain won. In addition, 46% of the uncommitted voters said their opinion of Obama got better and only 8% said their opinion got worse. For McCain, 32% said they now thought more of him but 21% thought worse of him after the debate. Many observers have said this election is about Barack Obama. There is no doubt the country agrees with him on almost every policy issue. The key question is do people think he is up to the toughest job in the world. In terms of convincing people that he is ready for the top slot, the debate definitely helped him.

Bailout Still Up in the Air

Debates are fun, but occasionally the real world rears its ugly head in the campaign, such as the financial markets melting down. Congress is still trying to cobble together a bill that can pass but with perhaps $700 billion available for the taking here, the lobbyists have descended on Congress like a swarm of locusts. Secretary of the treasury Henry Paulson originally drew up a plan that took only three pages, but which boiled down to one sentence: "The Congress hereby appropriates $700 billion for the secretary of the treasury to spend as he sees fit." The current plan runs to over 100 pages. Some of the new provisions are:

  • The money will become available spaced over time, not all at once
  • The government will get stock in return for its money
  • There will be some (as yet unclear) limits on executive pay

However, the passage of this bill is by no means certain. A substantial group of Republicans still oppose the bailout. Instead, they want the financial industry to set up an insurance organization and have it be funded by the banks rather than the government. Talks will continue all weekend.

A Fillibuster-proof Senate is Conceivable

The current projection for the Senate is 58 Democrats and 42 Republicans. Click on the "Senate map and races" link to the right of the map for the details. Currently Democrats are poised to pick up Republican seats in Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, and Virginia. Could the Democrats actually win 60 seats in the Senate? A year ago that was unthinkable. With the current state of play, they need only two more. The candidate states are Minnesota, where Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) is in a close battle with Al Franken (D) and Mississippi-B*, where appointed senator Roger Wicker (R) is fighting former governor Ronnie Musgrove (D). While it is unlikely that the Democrats can get 60 seats, it is now at least conceivable, a huge change from a year ago. Before the 2006 election, the Democrats had 45 seats and were looking despondent. Now 60 is within their grasp. Much of the change has been due to a singularly effective DSCC chairman, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and a pair of singularly ineffective NRSC chairs, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) last time and Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) this time.

Today's Polls

We have 10 presidential polls today. ARG has John McCain taking the lead again in Colorado, 48% to 45%. Most other polls have shown Obama ahead here. This could just be an outlier. Two polls in Florida show it be close to an exact tie, ensuring a real battle there. Missouri is also a tie, with McCain ahead 47% to 46%. Finally, Obama seems to be building on his small lead in Virginia. He is now up by 5 points. Virginia is a must-win state for McCain.

State Obama McCain Start End Pollster
Colorado 45% 48% Sep 23 Sep 25 ARG
Connecticut 54% 38% Sep 24 Sep 25 SurveyUSA
Florida 47% 46% Sep 23 Sep 25 ARG
Florida 47% 48% Sep 24 Sep 24 Rasmussen
Missouri 46% 47% Sep 22 Sep 24 Research 2000
Montana 39% 52% Sep 22 Sep 24 Research 2000
Pennsylvania 47% 43% Sep 21 Sep 25 Muhlenberg Coll.
South Carolina 39% 54% Sep 22 Sep 24 Research 2000
Virginia 50% 45% Sep 25 Sep 25 Rasmussen
Wyoming 36% 57% Sep 22 Sep 24 Research 2000

We also have 7 Senate polls. In New Hampshire, Jeanne Shaheen (D) is ahead of Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) again. He briefly took the lead, but has trailed most of the year. In another very important race, Jeff Merkley (D) is ahead of Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) in Oregon again.

State Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
Mississippi Ronnie Musgrove 43% Roger Wicker 48% Sep 26 Sep 26 Insider Advantage
New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen 41% John Sununu* 40% Sep 21 Sep 24 Suffolk U.
New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen 50% John Sununu* 41% Sep 22 Sep 24 Research 2000
Oregon Jeff Merkley 45% Gordon Smith* 40% Sep 22 Sep 24 Research 2000
South Carolina Bob Conley 42% Lindsey Graham* 51% Sep 22 Sep 24 Research 2000
Virginia Mark Warner 60% Jim Gilmore 34% Sep 25 Sep 25 Rasmussen
West Virginia Jay Rockefeller* 61% Jay Wolfe 33% Sep 24 Sep 24 Rasmussen

We also have eight House polls. Two of them are noteworthy. In CA-04, the open seat being vacated by disgraced congressman John Doolittle, Democrat Charlie Brown is leading Republican Tom McClintock in this R+11 district. While this may look like a good omen for the Democrats (lead by 5 points in an R+11 district), the bad smell from Doolittle hangs in the air and McClintock doesn't even live in the district. So while Brown may win this seat, it doesn't mean the Democrats are going to win all the open Republican seats. Another surprising result is in WY-AL, where Gary Trauner (D) is exactly tied with Cynthia Lummis (R) at 42% each. Despite the fact that it has a Democratic governor, Dave Freudenthal, Wyoming is a reliably Republican state, so the fact that the seat is even in play is striking.

Cong. Distr. Democrat D-pct Republican R-pct Start End Pollster
CA-04 Charlie Brown 46% Tom McClintock* 41% Sep 23 Sep 25 Research 2000
KY-02 David Boswell 43% Brett Gurthrie* 49% Sep 24 Sep 25 SurveyUSA
NH-01 Carol Shea-Porter* 42% Jeb Bradley 45% Sep 14 Sep 21 U. of New Hampshire
NH-01 Carol Shea-Porter* 44% Jeb Bradley 43% Sep 22 Sep 24 Research 2000
NH-02 Paul Hodes* 38% Jennifer Horn 26% Sep 14 Sep 21 U. of New Hampshire
NH-02 Paul Hodes* 47% Jennifer Horn 34% Sep 22 Sep 24 Research 2000
NY-26 Alice Kryzan 37% Tom Reynolds* 48% Sep 24 Sep 25 SurveyUSA
WY-AL Gary Trauner 42% Cynthia Lummis 42% Sep 22 Sep 24 Research 2000

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