News from the Votemaster
Early Voting Has Started
Absentee ballots have been mailed out in North Carolina already and will be mailed out in September in a total of 30 states. In-person early voting starts in South Dakota and Idaho Sept. 21, and Vermont Sept. 22. Other states follow later. In many states the early voting period is 4 or 5 weeks, so there is plenty of time to vote early and avoid the crowds. In 2008, almost 32 million people voted early out of a total of 131 million (24%).
State of the Electoral College
With early voting already started and both conventions now history, let's take a look at where we are now. Here is a graph of the electoral college score since January, including all states, even those within the margin of error (this graph is updated every day and is available under the "Electoral vote graphs" link).
It is hard to look at this and conclude that Romney is ahead now or has been ahead at any point during the year. The Republican National Convention was Romney's first big shot at shaking the race up but nothing much changed as a result of it. If Obama gets a bounce that lasts, it will only reinforce Romney's status as the underdog. Romney's next big chance is the first debate, on Oct. 3 in Denver. He is already preparing hard with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), playing Obama. For Obama's preparation, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is playing Romney. Here is the full debate schedule.
Another way of looking at the race is to see which states have flipped since 2008. Currently Romney leads in only one state that Obama won in 2008: Indiana. Romney is the overwhelming favorite there. All of the other 49 states are currently leaning in the same direction as they did in 2008. Obama has not flipped any McCain states and is very unlikely to do so, but all he has to do is hang onto most of the states he won in 2008. Even North Carolina, which many observers thought was a sure thing for Romney, is now a virtual tie. Privately, Romney's advisors concede that Obama is ahead at the moment.
Republicans Hold the Edge in the Senate
Here is the analogous graph for the Senate since January. The situation here is different, with the race being much closer and the Republicans currently ahead.
Republicans are currently leading in four states with Democratic senators: Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. Victories here would raise their total from 47 to 51 if nothing else changes. However, three states are ties: Arizona, Massachusetts, and Virginia. Republicans already hold two of these, Arizona and Massachusetts, so wins here would net them one more seat (Virginia) bringing their total to 52 absent any other changes. However, Angus King is certain to win the seat of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who is retiring in disgust. If he decides to caucus with the Democrats, the Republicans' best case scenario is 51, but that is enough. Actually, one other state might be competitive: Missouri. But after Todd Akin's remarks about "legitimate rape," the Republican Party and all Republican-allied superPACS closed the money faucet, so he is on his own against a well-funded incumbent, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).
There is a map of the Senate races and descriptions of all of them here or click on the word "Senate" at the top of this page.
If things continue along the current trajectory, Obama could be elected President but the Republicans would control both chambers of Congress. This could lead to the mother of all deadlocks, with absolutely nothing happening for four years as the Republicans block every Obama initiative, possibly even any Supreme Court appointments that come up. However, Obama has one ace up his sleeve that he could use to make a deal with the Republicans. All the Bush tax cuts expire at pumpkin time on Dec. 31. If Obama is reelected, he could simply tell Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to refrain from calling a special session of the Senate after the election. This would automatically end all the Bush tax cuts. The Republicans would be livid, but desperate to reduce the top rate. In January, they could pass any bill they wanted to but Obama would veto it. Finally they would be forced to make a deal with him. Absent a deal, the top rate would go up, something they want to avoid at all costs. That would probably be Obama's only leverage for the foreseeable future. Of course, Congress could chicken out and kick the can down the road, freezing the Bush tax cuts in place for only 2 more years.
On the other hand, it is not a given that the Republicans will get their best case scenario. Elizabeth Warren could pick up the seat of Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) and some of the ties could break for the Democrats. Also, the four pickups mentioned above are not sure things, either. One thing that everyone agrees on is that the Senate will be closely divided. Politico has a good story on the Senate races.
Election May Depend as Much on Judges as on the Voters
Once again, we're back in court. Oral arguments will be held this week in Ohio and Pennsylvania about contentious laws that affect who can vote and when. Ever since the newly empowered Republican legislatures in 2010 passed laws in numerous states restricting early voting and requiring voters to show ID for in-person voting (but not to get an absentee ballot), there have been court fights all over the country. If the election ends up being close, we might not know who won until way after the election. The real nightmare scenario is that some of the cases might not be decided before the electoral college meets on Dec. 17. Just about everything that can be litigated is being litigated. We could have fights like Florida 2000 in half a dozen states. It is for good reason that the election administrator's prayer goes: "Lord, let it be a landslide." A good place to keep informed on legal developments related to the election is Rick Hasen's Election Law Blog.
Romney and Ryan Want to Close Loopholes but Refuse to Say Which Ones
Both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have said that their plan to reduce the top marginal tax rate will not result in lower taxes for the wealthy because they will also eliminate loopholes and deductions. Both were pressed very hard yesterday to name one loophole they would close but both refused to name even one. What is a loophole and what is a middle-class entitlement is a very contentious topic. If, for example, Romney were to reduce or eliminate the deduction for mortgage interest, it would hit upper-income taxpayers, but would also devastate the middle class as well. Consequently, there is a lot of interest in finding out exactly how Romney would make up the income lost by cutting the top rate, but he steadfastly refuses to say. Neither will Ryan.
Obama and Romney Are Even in August Fundraising
President Obama raised $114 million in August to Mitt Romney's $111 million, a virtual tie. This is the first time since public funding of campaigns was introduced that neither major party candidate has accepted the public money. As a consequence, both candidates are spending (i.e., wasting) large amounts of time traveling to states that are not competitive (e.g., New York and California) because that's where the money is. These totals do not include what independent groups, such as Karl Rove's American Crossroads, have raised.
Has New Mexico Become a Blue State?
Traditionally, New Mexico has been considered a swing state, but neither campaign is contesting it. A Rasmussen poll from Aug. 21 puts Obama ahead by 14%, more than his lead in Oregon, which everyone considers to be a blue state. However a new poll today puts Obama's lead at only 5%. Here is the polling history for New Mexico this year.
Despite this new poll, Politico's swing state map does not list New Mexico as a swing state. Nor does it list Missouri as one. Of the 10 states listed there, in only one (North Carolina) is Romney ahead, and a new PPP poll released late yesterday shows Obama a tad ahead there, too.
Today's Presidential Polls
In New Mexico, Libertarian Gary Johnson is polling 7%, unusually high for a third-party candidate although traditionally third-parties fade by election day. Still, his presence, plus that of Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode, could affect a few close races, probably mostly to Obama's advantage since both Johnson and Goode are running to the right of Romney and conservatives unhappy with him might decide to "teach the Republicans a lesson" just as Ralph Nader did to the Democrats in 2000. Only it is not clear what the lesson is.
|North Carolina||49%||48%||Sep 07||Sep 09||PPP|
|New Mexico||45%||40%||Sep 03||Sep 06||Research and Polling|
|Ohio||50%||45%||Sep 07||Sep 09||PPP|
Today's Senate Polls
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||I||I %||Start||End||Pollster|
|New Mexico||Martin Heinrich||49%||Heather Wilson||42%||Sep 03||Sep 06||Research and Polling|
* Denotes incumbent
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Previous HeadlinesSep09 Romney Pulls Ads from Michigan and Pennsylvania
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