News from the Votemaster
The mother of all swing states is not getting the respect it used to get. This year, Ohio is the belle of the electoral ball, even though Florida has more electoral votes (29 to 18). The reason for Florida's losing its clout is that the polls show Mitt Romney is leading there by a point or two and President Obama can afford to lose Florida if he hangs onto Ohio, where he is leading. Nevertheless, these predictions could be wrong as Floridians started streaming to the polls yesterday. There may be long lines at many precincts as the state legislature reduced the number of early voting days from the 14 the state had in 2008 to 8 this year. Voting hours would have been reduced even more, except a judge ordered the polls open longer than the Republican-controlled legislature wanted.
Early voting is roaring ahead in Nevada, with 150,000 people voting in person and another 30,000 voting by absentee ballot, just in Clark County (home to Las Vegas), in the first five days of voting. Of the votes cast so far, 50% were from registered Democrats and 33% from registered Republicans. Statewide, 23,000 more Democrats have voted so far than Republicans.
In addition to the presidential race, there is a heated race for the Senate seat currently occupied by appointed-senator Dean Heller. He is being challenged by Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV). If far more Democrats vote, Berkley may be carried over the finish line on Obama's coattails. Polls have been showing her behind Heller. Democrats have a 90,000-voter advantage in Nevada, so a high turnout will help them. At least Nevada doesn't have to worry about Hurricane Sandy. It is expected to be bright and sunny out in the desert all week.
A complicating factor in this race is Nevada's only kidney transplant center, for which Berkley got federal funds in 2008. Normally, when a member of Congress gets federal funds for a health-care facility in his or her state, everyone cheers. However, Berkley's husband, a surgeon, has ties to the center, and Heller has made Berkley's "corruption" the centerpiece of his campaign.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee is dropping out of the Maine Senate race and leaving the Republican candidate, Charlie Summers, to fend for himself, although some outside groups are still putting money into the state. Basically, the NRSC is conceding the race to former governor Angus King, who is running as an independent. King refuses to say which party he will caucus with, but most observers expect him to join the Democrats, like fellow independent New Englander Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The seat is open because Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is retiring in disgust. She has said the Senate is completely dysfunctional and wants no part of it any more.
As Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast, President Obama has to decide how much of his time to allocate to dealing with the hurricane vs. doing some last-minute campaigning. So far, he has continued to campaign, albeit with a modified schedule and has spent much of his time while flying from rally to rally talking to federal officials in charge of responding to disasters. When the storm makes landfall in about 2 days, he may be forced to put more effort into handling the consequences of flooding and loss of electric power. However, if he does a good job of convincing people that he is on the ball and cares about people, it may be a net plus for him.
Mitt Romney is getting out of Hurricane Sandy's way by canceling scheduling appearances in Virginia today. Instead he and his running mate Paul Ryan are heading to Ohio, a state where Obama has consistently led by a small amount. Although Romney's chances in Virginia are better than his chances in Ohio, he is probably assuming that it will be hard to get a lot of people to attend a rally if it starts raining heavily today in Virginia as the hurricane approaches. Obama campaigned in New Hampshire yesterday and is flying to Florida today.
It is estimated that 4 to 6 million American civilian citizens live outside the U.S. This is a population comparable to Colorado, Minnesota, or Wisconsin. Those over 18 are entitled to vote by absentee ballot in the state they lived in before leaving the U.S. Assuming they have the same geographical distribution as U.S. residents (e.g., 2.6% are from Virginia), then over 100,000 expats are probably from Virginia. Those tens of thousands of absentee ballots could easily be more than the margin between Obama and Romney in the Virginia election. The same holds for the other swing states.
Both Democrats Abroad and Republicans Abroad are actively working to locate and register eligible voters and get them to cast their absentee ballots. Many of the expats live in Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Europe, but there are clusters all over the world. Some states count all absentee ballots that are postmarked before election day, even if they arrive up to a week later. In close races, this means the results could be delayed until the time limit for all absentee ballots to arrive has expired. To a large extent, the same rules apply to the 500,000 military and government personnel stationed abroad.
Cookies are part of campaign tactics now, but not the kind the girl scouts sell. When you visit a Website, it probably deposits a little file, called a cookie, on your computer. This cookie is used to track you as you visit various other Websites. The campaigns see this as a tool to target personal ads to people based on Websites previously visited. The campaigns also partner with various companies to build profiles of people. Some people are worried that the information collected could be misused. For example, people could be denied jobs based on political Websites they had visited. This kind of tracking is in its infancy now. It the future, it will be far more comprehensive and sophisticated.
Cookies are not the only way of microtargeting voters. The Democrats have set up Catalist, a data base of 280 million voters containing information about each one ranging from car registrations to magazine subscriptions. From this database, Democratic operatives can mine information about which people are likely to be loyal Democrats or loyal Republicans and which ones might be persuadable. If someone belongs to an animal rights group and reads magazines about animals, a flyer about Romney's famous trip to Canada with his dog on the roof, complete with a photo of Obama holding his dog, Bo, on his lap might do the trick. The Republicans do the same thing. A gun owner might get a flyer about Obama's position on gun control, for example.
|North Carolina||46%||52%||Oct 25||Oct 25||Rasmussen|
|New Jersey||51%||41%||Oct 23||Oct 25||Global Strategy|
|Ohio||49%||49%||Oct 18||Oct 23||U. of Cincinnati|
|Pennsylvania||49%||43%||Oct 23||Oct 25||Global Strategy|
|Virginia||51%||47%||Oct 22||Oct 26||Abt SRBI|
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||I||I %||Start||End||Pollster|
|Pennsylvania||Bob Casey*||49%||Tom Smith||42%||Oct 23||Oct 25||Global Strategy|
* Denotes incumbent
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