12 November 2008

The Newman Map

For those of you, like me, who are lost without all the eye candy that the pre-election electoral maps represented, take heart. There's still plenty of colorful representation to go around. Mark Newman shows us what the red and blue map looks like when we account for state populations as opposed to land mass.

Not bad, eh? Makes me want to ask Jon Meacham if we're really and truly a center-right nation. Much more eye candy at the source. Thanks, Cody, for the link.

11 November 2008

Obama Win=Increased Flag Sales

Susan Greene points up the spike in sales of the red, white and blue since Nov 5. I'll simply throw in my two cents that this is the same novel strain of patriotism that was piqued in me during the Democratic National Convention. For the first time in my life during those days in August, I heard people talk about the United States of America in ways that resonated deeply.

I'll say it without backpeddling: last August and again last Tuesday, I felt proud of my country for the first times in my life. Yeah, actually--flying a flag doesn't sound funny to me at all.

Cohen Makes the Case for Gore

For Secretary of State. Several popular and capable names have been mentioned, including Kerry, Richardson, and Lugar. And I see pros and cons to them all. But this one stops me in my tracks for the out and out gravitas such a pick would project. Not that an Obama admin needs to prove anything in that department. The transition team, just like the campaign, appears to be moving with intent, thoughtfulness, and in Obama's own words, "deliberate haste," to attract people who are not only good at what they do but may be great for the country and the Obama legacy.

Critics might see such an appointment as too much reliance on an old Clinton hand, but Gore has with certainty risen beyond the Clinton shadow. And forget Gore as merely a steward of the environment. He would be a widely effective messenger for America and for Earth.

Anyway, just a bit of wild "what-if?" speculation to start the morning. FWIW, Obama called Lugar yesterday, and the Indiana senator's office emphatically denies that the call was about the SOS position. So that means it's Lugar, right? Or does it really mean it isn't? Ah ha ha ha ha!

10 November 2008

Keeping Friends Close . . .

Via Benen, word is that Obama wants Lieberman in the caucus. No hint as to which side of the adage that puts old Joe.

Citizens' Groups May Press White House For Emails

Daylight cometh, albeit not quickly enough. See here.

It's a New Day

Just when you think you've maybe had enough of will.i.am, the Obama montage-to-music proves irresistible all over again.

Did I just connect Barack to Kevin Bacon?

Gracias, Luke, for the link.

FOX Has the Fraud Guns Loaded

At FOX News, John Lott tries to explain why if Al Franken ekes out a win in Minnesota it will be due to fraud.

Not-So-Random Pic

Has everyone seen this picture?

Miriam Makeba 1932-2008

Miriam Makeba, an African classic [make that a world treasure! --ed.], dead at 76, still doing what she loved.

09 November 2008

Musgrave Not Over It

I'm particularly pleased to see the Denver Post run this article pointing to the blatant poor sportsmanship exhibited by Marilyn Musgrave and her campaign. Five days after the election, Musgrave still has not conceded the race, has not congratulated her opponent, and has not returned calls for comment. This only reaffirms, in my mind, the rather unflattering opinion I hold for Musgrave's character.

The reason I'm happy to see the Post run this short piece is because the Post, much to the chagrin of readers statewide, offered Musgrave its blessing this election cycle on some mighty thin rationale.

08 November 2008

The Right Words

Garrison Keillor offers up some practical advice and heartfelt thanks to the president-elect.

07 November 2008

On Rahm

A lot of folks are uncertain about whether Obama has tapped the right guy as chief of staff. Rahm Emanuel has a history as a bit of a . . . pit bull, ironically. He's a highly partisan, inflammatory figure in the political world. The right has been quick to point out the blatant about-face from Obama the campaigner to Obama the president-elect. The left has been scratching heads and musing about whether we all got hoodwinked. Meanwhile, Obama himself says "No one I know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel."

What to make of it all? Who knows. Could the honeymoon be over so quickly? Perhaps. But take this into consideration. If Obama is interested in getting hard work done quickly, if he's not interested in hearing "No," and if he's aware that his first steps in office will be embattled from the beginning no matter who his chief of staff, then maybe he's not worried about taking everybody's feelings into account on this. He has a long working relationship and friendship with Emanuel. He trusts Emanuel, and voters as of Tuesday appear to trust Obama.

It's worth pointing out that on Tuesday night, President-Elect Barack Obama did not take the stage grinning from ear to ear. He would have been forgiven had it been the glory of the win that took center stage. Instead, I was struck by the gravity of his demeanor. He smiled, yet he looked exhausted, not elated. And if he projected a single, overriding characteristic at midnight from Grant Park, it was that he appeared resolute. He appeared as a man who knows, after two years of relentless hard work, that the real challenge is just underway. To win this campaign, Obama surrounded himself with brilliant, committed people and did not get caught up in the attacks and questions from cynics and armchair quarterbacks. Today he is lauded as having run perhaps the most flawless campaign in presidential history.

If Obama is an effective president, nobody except a few historians and political geeks will be talking in the future about who his chief of staff was. And if it turns out that he is not going to be an effective president, then there will be plenty of finger pointing and bombast to go around. Let's just wait and see, shall we?

06 November 2008

Headline of the Day

This makes me laugh out loud. As if the requests hadn't piled up already.

Results: CO CD 4

For those out-of-staters who were interested in the results of Colorado's CD 4--the brutal race to oust Marilyn Musgrave--I'm happy to post that Betsy Markey won. Decidedly. And Musgrave, according to reports, went down very much in the same fashion that she legislated. Bitterly.

05 November 2008

Much to Do

When I say "much to do," I'm not just talking about Obama's transition team. A palpable fug of denial hangs over me for what my world involves between now and Monday, so I'll keep this brief.

There's been a lot of curiosity over what the polls looked like yesterday. I was prepared to face long lines, conflicts, manipulations, election incompetence, and the like. Aside from being shy a couple election judges when we opened Casa Loma (an affordable housing facility for seniors) to voting for Denver precincts 414 and 415 yesterday, everything went quite smoothly. Initial observations that struck me:

  • Between the 8 election judges who worked our polling location yesterday, we numbered 7 registered Democrats and 1 unaffiliated voter.
  • Poll watchers for the Colorado Democratic Party and the Campaign for Change (also Democratic) arrived at the polling location before the polls opened. Student poll watchers and a couple of ACORN-type poll watchers (read "young hippies") popped in and out during the day. Only one Republican poll watcher checked in at our location all day. We had not posted numbers yet as a result of late ballot pickups, and he did not stay more than 15 minutes. We did not see him again, nor any other Republican poll watcher, all day.
  • While there were signs approaching the polling place (beyond the 100-foot zone) for Obama, Udall, No on 48 and Yes on 59, there was not one sign for McCain or any right-leaning propaganda of any sort.
  • No voter was challenged on eligibility in our location all day.
  • Voter wait times may have reached 30-40 minutes during a rush at 7 am when we opened the doors and only had one election book judge to check voters in. The rest of the day, most voters at Casa Loma walked right in and were voting within 3-5 minutes.
  • We handed out approximately 240 regular ballots and helped voters complete perhaps 50 or 60 provisional ballots, which remain to be counted yet after the decisive early returns last night. Fairly light turnout.
  • Speculation yesterday suggested that over 50% of Denver House District 4 had already voted before Tuesday, November 4.
  • The election judges with whom I worked were gracious, hard-working, patient, and extremely capable. The poll watchers who turned out were ethical and conscientious. On the whole, I have a quite favorable impression of the Denver Elections process, from what little I saw.
  • Despite being in a heavily Hispanic neighborhood, there was no bilingual election judge. I was as close as we had, y mi espaƱol es muy, muy feo. But with a little patience and a sense of humor from a couple Spanish-only voters, I did help at least two very excited voters to successfully cast their ballots.

That's about all I've got. We were breaking down already 10 minutes before closing time (7 pm). We kept several of the 20 election booths standing. They remained empty. Only one last minute mail-in ballot came in at the wire. I was at the bar watching results come in by 8 pm.

04 November 2008

Get Out The Vote

No posts today on plavwriter. Today's a big day, and we all gotta get out there and do what we can. Take it from Matthew Broderick:

Volunteer. Make phone calls. Drive neighbors to the polls. Remind family and friends to make the time. And remind everybody: don't get out of line. Hang in there, even if the lines are ridiculous. The campaign has crews prepped to deliver water and snacks to voters who are kept waiting.

Everybody votes. Don't take no for an answer, and don't let anybody get pushed out of a polling place without voting.

03 November 2008

Denver, 66 Days Ago

Denver, 66 Days Ago

Denver, 66 Days Ago

For Obama, From Around the World

We've been getting notes and updates recently from friends worldwide. Here are a couple of quick hits on the eve of an election that literally the whole world may be watching. If you have more from friends and acquaintances far and wide, please send and I will post here.

Jeff from New Zealand:

You have worked hard for a cause and I hope that it all goes well for you (and the rest of the world) as we need the change even here in New Zealand. . . it is a real shame that Obama's gran did not get to see what will be one of the biggest changes in US political history. I am in Australia at the moment and it is big news here too.

Amy from Canada (via Facebook status update): "Amy is on the Obama train!"

Cody, in Dakar, Senegal (via Facebook status update): "People are talking in the streets of Dakar: 'I hope Obama wins, incharlat....'"

From Joss, a Brit living in Hungary:
I have to say I am once again uncontrollably excited about things going on in your house which I have no say in. I do trust that this time we won't be in for a scare result. That Obama man is just so convincing he only makes you feel good about the future.
Anything to add?

Poll Tax

Think the poll tax was abolished 44 years ago? Rachel Maddow says think again.

Heartbreaking: Obama's Grandmother Dies on Historic Eve

Madelyn Dunham: October 26, 1922 - November 3, 2008. Information here and here.

Barack Obama: Credible

In the course of my work today, I was compelled to look up the word "credibility" at Merriam-Webster Online. Here's the definition: "the quality or power of inspiring belief."

People all over the world have come to recognize Barack Obama's credibility. So it's only fitting that his picture really does appear under the dictionary definition, in the form of an online advertisement to get out the vote.

McCain a Raiders Fan

Oops. Bad news for the McCain-Palin ticket in Denver yesterday. Yes, the Broncos lost, which put Coloradans in a bad enough mood to begin with. But then there was this.

Colorado CD 4

There are few Republicans whom Democrats would like to unseat as badly as Colorado's Marilyn Musgrave. And campaign contributions tell the story. According to the Colorado Independent, challenger Betsy Markey's campaign has benefited from generous sums from Democratic Party heavyweights.

Congressional Dems Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, James Clyburn and Rahm Emanuel have contributed at least $40,500 from their own warchests in addition to campaigning and fundraising for the candidate. The Independent cites Stuart Rothenberg in suggesting that, at this point in the race, Musgrave appears to be the underdog. Meanwhile, we wait to see.

What Next for Obama 2.0?

Open question: What's to become of Obama's dynamic and impressive social networking platform, my.barackobama.com, after the election?

Softening up the Ground

Colorado's county clerks, and Secretary of State Mike Coffman, counsel voters not to expect tallies before sometime Wednesday.

Of note in the article, almost 50% of registered Coloradans have already voted as of Saturday. That's without counting the flood of 500,000+ mail-in ballots coming back today and tomorrow.

Forgetting the rest of the ballot for just a moment, that's going to make for a real nail-biter as we watch and listen for the results of the Musgrave-Markey battle royal in CD 4.

02 November 2008

Protect Your Vote

Report irregularities or abuses on election day. Here's a host of resources, courtesy of Mother Jones.

. . . And Counting

Picture this: you're in a swing state with 72 hours to go before the close of arguably the most intensely contested presidential election in history. 72 hours and counting.

What do you expect a campaign field office in a highly contested state in a hotly contested election to look like? Answer here.

01 November 2008

Whirlwind: Obama's Aunt

On the subject of Obama's alien aunt, Steve Benen offers what I think is a silly statement. "I have no idea why anyone would find this even remotely interesting."

To be fair to Steve, I rarely find myself in anything but agreement with his observation and analysis. That said, I find his comment decidedly in-credible.

As a nation on the eve of a momentous election, we are interested and fascinated with all things electoral. And this certainly qualifies.

Given how carefully the Obama campaign has moved throughout the paces of this campaign, I am of a mind that this either A) really is a surprise, clear out of left field, or B) the campaign had this information and knew it might come up, and made a conscious decision not to address the issue proactively. Here's the thing: she was in the book. That means, to my thinking, that she's been vetted. Does anybody in the country really believe that a campaign this well orchestrated did not know of the aunt's status? I find that hard to swallow. Obama has drawn a pretty clear line about issues of family as they arise in the campaign. And it does not appear that he and his aunt, his father's half sister, are close. Nevertheless it's family, and more importantly it's a case of human livelihood. Being deported to Kenya qualifies as a major upheaval, and probably not for the better.

Now, Steve is right that no rational person would read this story and decide that, on account of an asylum-seeking aunt kept shrouded in secrecy until the final days of the election, our country would be better off with John McCain's backward looking tax policies and obvious insensitivity to the nuances of global diplomacy. But this is not about rational behavior. This is about the media cycle and American blood lust. It's about a right-wing machine that has proven highly effective at tipping tight elections. For more on the power of the media narrative, check out this piece from Kevin Drum. Not about politics, as it happens, but very much about the media's ability to tell people what matters (and to actually influence how events fall out as a result).

I do not believe that this event alone will necessarily decide an election. Furthermore, a lot of votes are already in, so despite the media response--and the public response--this thing may prove to be a blip. Obviously, this is not a mistress or a love child, nor is it a bribery scandal or similar jaw-dropping type disaster. But a November surprise is a November surprise. It's not the content of the charge, it's the timing. And that's why Americans will be interested in this little issue.

Iowahawk: T. Coddington Van Voorhees VII Endorses Obama

I think this send-up is perfectly hilarious. So do Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Reynolds, and Bill Kristol. Which makes me wonder what I'm missing. Or is the Republican party really so deeply out of step with right-wing conservativism (and I think we know the answer to that is yes), that Rush, Glenn, Kristol, and I are all actually laughing at the same thing? It's some type of full-blown, ideological, eclipse-like phenomenon that allows the far right and the left to come together in a moment of mirth. This really is the election of a generation.

Obama's Aunt

LATER UPDATE: The Obama campaign has commented.

LATE UPDATE: Josh Marshall thinks the leak came from the Bush Admin and is illegal.

UPDATE: Plenty of grist from the right. And here. It's worth noting that Malkin's post portrays Aunt Zeituni's total contributions to the Obama campaign ($260) as a big deal. "Will the Obama campaign return the many donations from this illegal alien?"

Jeebus. What next? Photos of Obama with Ayers, Rezko, Wright, and Aunty Zeituni?

Is Barack Obama's aunt about to become a footnote in political history? This AP story certainly leads one to believe it's possible.

In a nutshell, Obama's father's half-sister, Zeituni Onyango, has been living illegally in South Boston since a judge refused her asylum request in 2004. How she managed to stay this long under the radar, and how she managed to qualify for public housing without legal status, are both mysteries.

In an interesting aside, according to the piece, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has issued a directive making clear that any deportation orders between now and Tuesday must be made known to regional supervisors. Neither ICE nor either of the campaigns has commented on Onyango's status.

If a deportation order comes between now and Tuesday, then Obama will find himself in a politically unsavory situation. In the event of such an order being issued, the nation will either watch Obama stand aside as his family member is forcibly removed from the country, or the nation will watch as Obama inserts himself into the affair in order to keep his aunt here. Neither of these seems like where the candidate wants to be in the final 72 hours of the campaign.

Of course, the order may not come, and thus Obama's aunt won't be the political wedge (cudgel) she could be. But after this election season, I would be shocked if the McCain campaign passes on this opportunity to at least ratchet up some pressure on Obama. It's unknown where the news about Onyango leaked from.

At the same time, after this campaign season, I'd say I'm encouraged that Obama and the campaign may be ready to deal with just about anything. And perhaps nothing moves as quickly as I imagine. Knock wood. And stay tuned.

31 October 2008

Wonk Room: In it for the Music

I like to visit the Think Progress Wonk Room for a pretty well-grounded take on issues of the day. But I also really like the music.

Bush Legacy 2.0

Al Qaeda in Iraq? No Child Left Behind? Politicization of the Justice Dept? The current economic crisis?

If you thought you knew the Bush legacy by now, just wait. There's more coming, in the form of a late-term effort to deregulate just about everything. Literally from the ocean depths to the mountain tops, George W. Bush and his crew of liquidators are working feverishly for faster development, greater exploitation, and less oversight. The administration is putting the finishing touches "as many as 90" deregulatory efforts.

Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.
Meanwhile, it sounds like a veritable who's who list over at the OMB.
According to the Office of Management and Budget's regulatory calendar, the commercial scallop-fishing industry came in two weeks ago to urge that proposed catch limits be eased, nearly bumping into National Mining Association officials making the case for easing rules meant to keep coal slurry waste out of Appalachian streams. A few days earlier, lawyers for kidney dialysis and biotechnology companies registered their complaints at the OMB about new Medicare reimbursement rules. Lobbyists for customs brokers complained about proposed counterterrorism rules that require the advance reporting of shipping data.
Makes perfect sense to deregulate our Homeland Security rules because they're inconvenient for shippers. Will this at least mean that I can finally quit taking off my shoes and belt at the airport? Because that's really inconvenient and not worth a damn, whereas inspecting shipping manifests is just inconvenient.

Anyone taking odds on whether Jack Abramoff gets a pardon, while we're at it?

30 October 2008

Tancredo in 2010?

From the Denver Post. It leaves one speechless. Needless to say, I'll be happy to beat the streets, knock on doors, make phone calls, whatever it takes, to keep this from happening.

Kevin Drum on China and the IMF

Kevin Drum reminds us there's a whole big world out there beyond the edge of today's tracking polls. And while China and Russia may be watching the US horserace with a genuine interest in the outcome, what they're really watching--cautiously--are all those little nations on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of the spreading economic crisis.

This, in turn, is what the candidates ought to be watching (though Drum doesn't say so), because what happens next between China, Russia, and all those lesser-stans may have decisive effects on us here at home, regardless of who wins this election. And that's where the IMF comes in.

Kevin explains it all much better than I can, so I'll let him. In a nutshell, a positive byproduct of these troubled times (my take) is that the IMF may be learning to move a little more quickly and a little less, shall we say, pompously, to release funds to struggling nations.

Texan Kindness

Texas sort of gets a bad rap. This is classy, and then some. "I just happened to be there and anybody else would have done the same thing."

That's Texan Marilyn Mock, describing how she came to spontaneously buy Tracy Orr's house at auction in order to give it back to Orr.

Denver County Elections: Poll Workers & Election Day Challenges

Just under two weeks ago I posted about poll watchers and election day voter challenges in Denver county. That post was based on my impressions of Denver election law gleaned from a three hour poll worker training course. Today I am happy to report that some of my impressions were wrong.

I wrote at the time that one of the things I learned (seasoned hands will recognize the neophyte here) is that every citizen has the right to challenge any citizen's eligibility to vote. I further wrote that, once a voter has been challenged, his or her only recourse is to cast a provisional ballot and wait for the elections commission to sort out the details within the ten days following the election. This, happily, is not true.

During a second training I received clarification on this issue.

First, there's a limit to the extent to which one person may challenge another's eligibility to vote. The challenger must also be a registered voter in the same precinct as the challenged voter. This would prohibit me from driving into a heavily contested precinct that was not also part of my polling locale and interfering with an election. The notion behind the law, as explained to me, is that if you know your neighbor is not eligible to cast a ballot for one of three reasons, then you can challenge.

Those reasons are quite clear, and quite limited, to the following:

According to Denver Elections officials, those are the only three reasons a voter may be challenged. Interestingly enough, Secretary of State Mike Coffman's "Voter Challenge" form includes a fourth: "Other." Denver Elections officials instructed a group of about forty of us to disregard that "Other." It's the Secretary of State's form, said course supervisor Tom Mann. "We don't like it." Here's the law, he went on: citizenship, residence, or age. Those are the only reasons a challenge may even be considered. Of course, this isn't the first Coffman-designed form that has raised questions and eyebrows in the state.

Taking the challenge process a step further, I was also relieved to learn that it is not incumbent on any poll worker to determine the outcome of a challenge. Both parties are taken aside. Paperwork to report the challenge is begun. The voting process slows down (which may be exactly the point of the challenge, under certain circumstances). If the voter was challenged on citizenship, say, the poll supervisor would ask: "Are you a citizen?"

If the challenged voter says "Yes," then nothing more is needed except a quick extra detail or two on the Voter Challenge form. The challenged voter attests under federal law that she is eligible to vote. She votes a standard ballot (not a provisional ballot). Her information will be checked out by elections officials after the election. If there is any discrepancy between her claim and her actual status, then that will be dealt with appropriately according to federal law. Same for any challenge regarding residence or age. Regardless of the challenged voter's actual status, her vote counts--and counts on election day--on the strength of her testimony.

In the event that a would-be voter says "No," she's not a citizen, an interesting scenario plays out. Either she casts aside her aspirations and leaves, or she insists that she wants to vote. Denver's answer? Okay. She can vote. By provisional ballot. Of course, her vote will be reviewed and disqualified based on citizenship status. But Denver Elections officials are very clear about this point: Everybody votes. Diffuse conflicts in the polling place. Use the provisional ballot as a tool to afford people the vote in the moment, and let the referees figure out afterward which votes were cast eligibly and which were not.

Campaigns and special interest groups may apply to have poll watchers in polling locations citywide to ensure that polls are running smoothly, e.g. to the best interests of a candidate or cause. In some cases, I infer, since it came up in training, those poll watchers may launch inappropriate challenges in order to interfere with the voting process. The poll supervisor does have the responsibility to watch for this abuse and address it should it come up. Poll supervisors can call for a field representative to come to a polling location and remove any poll watcher who abuses the challenge. (I had originally written that it would fall to the poll worker to call the police for removal, which I am also happy to report is not the only recourse. If a supervisor calls a field rep, the field rep may in turn take strip poll watcher's certificate, thus rendering the poll watcher's presence at the polls illegal. The police might then be called as a last resort.)

As we approach November 4, I am happy to report any information that clarifies how Denver poll workers will work to ensure a smooth process this voting day. It sounds like there are quite a lot of us working the polls, according to Denver Elections Director Michael Scarpello. He told the Rocky Mountain News yesterday that the county has overhired poll workers this year precisely to deal with record turnouts.

If you have questions or comments about poll workers, Denver, and this election, please write and share. There's nothing more powerful this year than ensuring that every voter votes, and every vote counts.

29 October 2008

Warchests and Possible Pickups

Matthew Yglesias thinks Senate Dems could afford to spread a little wealth to achieve magic number 60.

Jake Break

Work is winning today. So let's have a Jake break:

Yeah, I've got a uke. And no, I can't do that. Not even close.

Unease Surrounds Early & Mail-In Ballots

I'm not black and I don't live in Florida, but this article in the New York Times gets at the heart of why my completed, mail-in ballot is sitting here in my house, and not in a ballot box with the Denver Elections Commission.

[I]n conversations with about a dozen Jacksonville residents in cafes, outside churches and at their homes over three days, Mr. Jones and many of his black neighbors worry anyway, unable to put aside the nagging feeling that somehow their votes will not be counted.

. . . “They’re going to throw out votes,” said Larone Wesley, a 53-year-old black Vietnam veteran. “I can’t say exactly how, but they are going to accomplish that quite naturally.”
Yeah. I think I know that feeling, albeit minus the spectacular history that must accompany it in a state like Florida and a county like Duval, where the article points out some 26,000 ballots were tossed in 2000. The article goes on to note that as many as 40% of Democratic votes from precincts surrounding Jacksonville were disqualified during that election.

Meanwhile, if Colorado elections officials are concerned about the paucity of ballots that have come back thus far, it could have something to do with the mixed messages Coloradans received from their county clerks offices. In separate conversations with Denver Elections employees, I've heard two different things about what happens to my ballot after I drop it off.

In a conversation at the end of poll worker training, my training facilitator informed me that my ballot would be secured in the Denver Election Commission offices and stored until election day, when it would be counted. In a phone call to the city's 311 line, which routed me to Denver Elections, I was told my ballot would be opened immediately and counted by the machines, and that data (my vote) would be stored until election day. A follow up phone call reinforced that latter conversation. Nothing in the three responses made me exactly confident along the way, however.

I'm not saying I think it's a bad idea to turn votes in early. I know the Democratic campaigns are practically begging us to get our votes in. But I'm not entirely comfortable, either, and Secretary of State Mike Coffman has done very little in recent weeks to ease my sense of concern for the process. So my ballot sits, and I hold out as long as I can before relinquishing control of my vote.

Closing Arguments

If these two ads are indications of the candidates' closing arguments, then I have to say the point goes to Obama. The McCain camp takes a potentially powerful ad--great images, a call back to the "celebrity" ads that hurt Obama over the summer, and strong criticisms of the tax-and-spend liberal--and blows it at the very end. "Yet"? What is that? Does anybody understand why that last word is tagged on the end?

Meanwhile, the Obama camp takes an ad that could have been stronger through the middle, I think, and, saving the best for last, delivers. If there's any question about how the Obama campaign has responded to the Sarah Palin pick, this 30-second spot pretty much puts that to rest. They've let the McCain campaign flail in their own soup, and now come in with the verdict leveled. Sure, it's a pot-shot at Palin, although minor in the scope of the election. But it's an out-and-out roundhouse to McCain.

McCain Could Win Undecided Voters, Lose Election

Nate Silver took a look last night at the inside numbers regarding undecided voters. The takeaway? Even an optimistic break for McCain doesn't add up. In fact, Silver says, if "McCain wins 2/3 of white undecideds" and "100 percent of third-party support collapses" (which I take to mean that all votes cast go for the two, major-party candidates), that would translate to a net gain of 1 point for McCain in the final tally.

Even if John McCain did better than that, taking 77% of undecided whites, 10% of undecided blacks (as opposed to the 5% Silver cites as likely) and 40% of undecided Latinos (as opposed to the 35% likely), it comes out to a net gain of 1.1 points for McCain. Based on yesterday's numbers, that's about as good as it could possibly get, according to Silver.

To put that another way, even if support breaks about as well as it possibly could for McCain, the math doesn't equal a comeback. And Silver thinks that, while remaining undecideds may in fact favor McCain at this point, the actual numbers will come out to about a half-point shift overall for McCain.

It bears noting, at this point, that the undecided voters we're talking about today is not the same group of people it was five weeks ago. Then, we were talking about 18% of the electorate. Today we're talking about 6.72% of the electorate. Looking at that figure, and the position of the race today, it's probably fair to say that Obama has won a majority of the 18%.

Republican Quotes on the McCain Campaign

This is hardly an exhaustive list, but as a freebie from the AP first thing in the morning, we'll take it. Anybody think Tom Ridge is bitter?

28 October 2008

Udall Looking Even Better in CO

I won't steal their image this time, but the boys at FiveThirtyEight have now labeled Colorado a "Safe Dem" state in their Senate projections. This comes as little surprise, at this point, after the RNCC pulled funding from Bob Schaeffer late last week. Udall, remember, had lost his DNCC support even earlier, but precisely because the race appeared to be locking in on the Democratic side.

From the Wonk Room: Igor Volsky and the Politics of Health Care

From the ThinkProgress Wonk Room, Igor Volsky takes a look at some embattled Senate incumbents on the Republican side and notes a trend: they all voted against increasing health coverage for children under the SCHIP program. It's worth pointing out that these are not all the Repubs up for reelection, and these are not all the Repubs in tight races, so it stands that not all Republican incumbents voted against SCHIP. All the same, in an age where "nanny state" issues fall away when we talk about being unable to afford basic health services for our children, Americans appear poised to accept government intervention on this particular topic. And yet, it hasn't been forthcoming. That leaves lawmakers who did support the (unpopular) president's veto in a bind.

As long as we're in the Wonk Room, and as long as we're on the topic of health care, I'll grab another post from Igor to rebut this Robert Carroll op-ed from Monday's Wall Street Journal. I'm afraid I don't have a lot of time between now and Nov 10 for substantive discussion of the issues (I'm cribbing from my favorite VP candidate), so I'll let my surrogates do the hard work for me. Volsky's argument against Carroll's support for the McCain health care tax credit sheds a little light on why I'm currently uninsured: because the alternative, for the time being, is to be underinsured, which means that despite paying my premiums I still wouldn't be able to afford the care I need when I need it. In which case I'd most likely miss out on the services I thought I was buying--or be left to pay for them myself--and be throwing my money away on the insurance that doesn't actually cover me. Yet one more reason I'll be voting for Obama and continuing to look for employer-sponsored health care benefits, because those group benefits are almost always more comprehensive than individual benefits. And let me say this: as a healthy, 32-year-old male, I'd be happy to join the pool of insured Americans and help bring the rates down for everybody. But I can't do that if it's not going to work out well for me, also. There's no invincibility complex here: I worry about this situation for my wife and me every day. But that doesn't mean we can go shell out good money for a bad product that doesn't meet our needs.

25 October 2008

AP: Palin Rigged Pipeline Bid

A new AP report reveals that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin--with apparent input from Vice President Cheney--helped to rig the bidding process on her much-touted natural gas pipeline in order to craft terms that favored the eventual contract winner, a company with ties to the Palin administration.

This, while a second Troopergate investigation continues, cannot be what the beleaguered McCain campaign was looking forward to hearing this afternoon. If there's good news for the campaign in any of this, it's that the AP released the story on a Saturday afternoon. Investigative reports don't get more buried than that, although the Sunday papers do have room to run the long items.

If the campaign's woes can actually get worse, it's that CNN, instead of leading this afternoon with the pipeline story, is flogging anonymous reports from McCain staffers on just what a "diva" Sarah Palin is, that she enjoys no trusting relationships with anybody on the campaign, and that aides fear she may be distancing herself from the ticket in order to position for 2012. Ouch.

Ah, well. All in a slow day's news watching, I suppose. Back to work.

Denver Elections: 11,000 Missing Ballots

I don't want to alarm anybody, but we all saw this morning's Rocky, right?

24 October 2008

Video: Obama Loses By 1 Vote

UPDATE: Seems I neglected to include the link yesterday so that readers could personalize the video and pass along. My neglect is now remedied. Fire away.

I had heard about this spoof going around, but had not seen ituntil this morning. You've got to see it to appreciate it, because it really is spot on. And, as it turns out, I'm the butt of the joke (and so are you, and you, and you, if you don't get out to vote).

Bottom line? No complacency, folks. Polls don't matter and, after 2000 and 2004, we ought to damn well know by now that every vote counts and nothing can be taken for granted. Watch the clip.

First Wardrobe, Then Cosmetics

Via TPM, Sarah Palin's makeup artist is the highest paid worker (in a two week period) on the campaign. All one can say is "Wow."

23 October 2008

All Growed Up

Via Andrew Hudson (sorry, no direct link), Ron Howard points out that it's been decades since he played these characters on TV, but for this election it's worth channeling a couple oldies but goodies to drive the point home.

John McCain: Miserable Old Bastard?

John McCain sounds perfectly miserable. It cuts through his voice even when we can't actually hear his voice, as in this AP write-up on the candidate's responses to questions about Sarah Palin's shopping spree, Obama's spending advantage, and the prosecution of illegal immigrants who commit crimes. At every turn, anguish, resentment, and misery.

The Game: "Maple Story" Claims a Real Victim

My feeble brain can't quite wrap itself around the real-world ramifications of this virtual divorce-turned-homicide. But somebody actually went to jail over the thing, albeit not on murder charges.

Campaigning CO

Via TPM this morning (last night), the NRCC can no longer support Marilyn Musgrave in her bid for reelection in Colorado's 4th District. The NRCC ad buy that came this week on Musgrave's behalf will run until Oct 28, then go off the air. That leaves Musgrave on her own in the crucial last days until the election.

Not sure how early voting factors in here, and whether or not Betsy Markey and the DNCC can capitalize on this late breaking bit of good news for Dems. The Denver Post today characterizes the race succinctly: "Internal polling from both campaigns has the congresswoman breaking even, at best." That should encourage the Markey campaign, but this has been a tough race through and through, including a surprising endorsement from the Post for the embattled Musgrave.

I'm no campaign strategist, but I'm betting now may be a good time to make a donation (or an extra little donation) to the Markey campaign and see if they can't capitalize on this recent news. Musgrave is, politically speaking, a cousin of the Michelle Bachman breed, and as such may actually polarize voters (and electrify donors) more than Markey herself can in the final days of the race. If you want an up to the minute ticker on the leaning of that race, I'd say watch the numbers. If Markey can effectively outraise Musgrave in the final days--and put that money to good use--then Markey's schedule may be intensely busy in District 4 and in Washington starting November 5.

The Denver Post further predicts today that "Colorado's days as a battleground state for the Nov. 4 election may be waning." In the closely watched Senate campaign, Mark Udall leads Bob Schaffer by a broad enough lead to inspire the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to pull its funding for the Democratic candidate in Colorado, probably to direct resources to tighter races in Oregon, North Carolina, Alaska (keep an eye on deliberations in the Stevens trial for indicators in that race) and Minnesota. The Udall campaign is likely feeling quite exposed in the closing weeks of an intensely bitter campaign, but has to be happy with their current standing.

One last Colorado campaign note: The McCain campaign continues to insist that "We are not pulling ads and will be on the air in Colorado through Election Day." That's campaign spokesperson Tom Kise, but the numbers tell a different story. The Post report today indicates that McCain dollars spent this week on airtime have dropped off 46% from last week and 54% from two weeks ago. For the final week of the election, McCain has purchased approximately 1/7 the airtime that the Obama campaign has reserved in Colorado. In an interesting aside, the McCain campaign has not purchased any advertising time from Channel 7. Not sure if that bodes poorly for the campaign, or for the ABC affiliate, a bit of an also-ran (like McCain?) in the Denver market.

22 October 2008

Sean Quinn in Richmond, VA

The FiveThirtyEight traveling roadshow is still putting on the miles. Sean Quinn & Co. got largely boxed out of McCain ground game action in Richmond, VA, but were able to grab a few bleak pics all the same. The real highlight of this post focuses on the effects of McCain/Palin comments on the "real America." Not surprisingly, VA governor Tim Kaine (D) thinks it's a bad strategy to go dividing up the country. Slightly more surprisingly (if you're a stereotyping curmudgeon like me), a former Miss Virginia has some pretty astute thoughts on the matter. She gave Quinn the face time he couldn't get with McCain's people, and also got in a pretty good dig at another former beauty queen, but you'll have to read to the end of the post to catch it.

Palin Sizes Up the Race

Maybe the McCain campaign can take a breath, just relax, and trust in fate. After all, the election is in God's hands now.

Report: RNC Shells Out on Palin Family Wardrobe

UPDATE: Steve Benen (and others) have already picked up on this. He points out a few reasons why it's important, and takes a guess or two at why it's not helping the Republican brand right now. Short, sweet, and worth a read.

I have no idea what the status quo is for these types of things. For example, I don't know how much, if any, Dems have spent to doll up the Obamas during Barack's campaign. This may all be perfectly normal in the course of the most expensive campaign season ever. That said, the number $150K seems pretty . . . noteworthy. That's how much the RNC has reportedly spent to make over the Palin family for prime time.

21 October 2008

Palin in Larimer, El Paso & Mesa Counties

I met a protester yesterday who was removed from the Sarah Palin appearance in Loveland. Basically, he was invited off the road and had to watch from a little further away, probably on account of his t-shirt picturing McCain and Bush in that awkward embrace . Nothing particularly newsworthy there.

What did strike me about the tale was that Palin campaigned in Loveland. And Colorado Springs. And Grand Junction. I'm no whiz on Colorado math, but I'm betting those are counties the McCain campaign had hoped to make Obama stretch for, not the other way around. Seriously? Grand Junction? In the final two weeks of the race?

When the Denver Post headline reads "Palin visit energizes Colorado supporters," you can practically hear the groan go up from the McCain camp. They don't need to energize supporters, they need to turn new votes red. And that means reaching undecideds, if there are still any left. At the height of my optimism about this election I'm not sure I believed McCain would be defending the Western Slope in the final two weeks of the campaign.

Monday Night Football: Denver Debacle

In a bizarre and disheartening turn of events last night, I actually found myself thinking by the mid third quarter "At least I've got Detroit to root for as a backup."

20 October 2008

McCain Ceding Colorado?

No time to comment, but don't miss this CNN Ticker post.

Jeffrey Goldberg on the TSA and Security Theater

This Jeffrey Goldberg article is fascinating, which sort of means I wish I hadn't read it. But my friend Brien posted it on Facebook all the way from Krakow, and I figure that means it includes information worth knowing. Like confirmation that all the unpleasantness of TSA lines at airports really just amounts to "security theater."

19 October 2008

McCain Fiercely Defends Robocalls to Chris Wallace

Toward the end of today's installment of Meet the Press, Newsweek's Jon Meacham related a story about Walter Mondale's ill-fated bid for the presidency in 1984. When it was obvious that nothing Mondale could do would win him the election, an advisor suggested that the candidate spend the last days campaigning as he wanted his grandchildren to remember him.

John McCain, by all accounts, did not get that memo. And I'd go so far as to say it's noteworthy to see FOX's Chris Wallace, of all people, go after McCain so aggressively.

18 October 2008

Poll Watchers and Election Day Challenges

UPDATE: This post contains errors and inaccurate reporting--indicated by asterisk (*)--which have since been corrected. Clarification here.

Via TPM, this Milwaukee news clip regarding GOP efforts to recruit veterans, police officers, firefighters and security personnel as certified poll watchers in inner city precincts smacks of potential voter intimidation efforts.

Fresh off a poll worker training held yesterday by the Denver Elections Commission, I can report that I learned a couple of essential new things. First of all, at least in Denver, the bottom line should be that everybody votes. Elections officials yesterday emphasized the need to minimize conflict at voting locations and to allow people to walk away happy. This may be a stretch. The plan is to resolve any disputes, disagreements, or uncertainties by furnishing a provisional ballot to any person who for any reason may not meet eligibility standards on election day. It is not the poll worker's responsibility to determine, in cases of questionable eligibility or citizen challenge (which we'll come to in a moment), whether the voter is eligible. Instead, the provisional ballot is voted, and elections officials will make the final determination of eligibility within ten days of the election. At that time, a person's vote will either be counted toward the official election result that is submitted to the federal government 30 days after the election, or the vote will be tossed.

The other key thing I learned is that any citizen can challenge any other citizen's eligibility to vote.* This frankly scares the hell out of me. The idea is that if you see your next door neighbor at the polls and know for a fact that he or she is ineligible for any reason, you have the right to raise the issue with a poll worker on the spot. In Denver, the response should be for a poll worker to call a supervisor over, and the supervisor will evaluate the challenge. Since it will be impossible to determine on site and beyond doubt whether or not the voter in question is definitely eligible, that voter will likely end up voting a provisional ballot*, to be assessed for eligibility and, assuming the voter is in fact legit, counted in the days after the election.

This is where poll watchers, and the above news clip, come in. Poll watchers are individuals sent to ensure that election day activities are fair. In order to watch the polls, individuals must apply for and receive special accreditation, and also swear to an oath not to abuse the privilege of watching. Poll watchers are different from observers who may include city, state, or federal officials, as well as members of the media, who monitor the activities in a polling location throughout the day. Poll watchers are citizens who represent the interests of the candidates, the campaigns, special interests, or the initiatives, proposals, or amendments that pepper a ballot such as Colorado's. And this is where the soup gets pretty thick.

Poll supervisors have the ultimate say* on whether or not poll watchers are behaving appropriately or crossing any lines. If, as the media picked up on in Milwaukee, there's a concern that poll watchers may be in place to intimidate voters, then the poll supervisor will be tasked with making the final determination on election day. A poll supervisor can ask a poll watcher to leave, if need be, and I strongly suspect that the majority of poll watchers understand this and will not be so overt in their actions as to push a supervisor to that point. If, however, poll watchers are also local law enforcement or connected with local law enforcement, then that creates a unique situation for the poll supervisor, who's only recourse* to insist that a poll watcher leave an election site is to call the police. Of course, we all assume it will never come to that. And yet the last two elections cast a shadow of a doubt.

According to the City and County of Denver Poll Worker Manual, poll watchers may only interact with a supervisor at the polling place. If I understood the Milwaukee news cast correctly, poll watchers there may ask voters any of four questions to determine eligibility, and then presumably challenge that eligibility to the poll supervisor at the front of the line. There are also clear rules that no poll watcher or observer may encroach within six feet of a voter at the voting station or voting machine. Regulations about activities in the line, or immediately outside a polling place, are however not so clear to me.

I have more questions than answers right now about what actually happens between supervisors, poll workers, poll watchers, and the voting public on election day. I also have another training pending before November 4, so this whole process will be a bona fide civic education, I'm sure. I like to think that with all the federal laws involved around the voting process, that all this concern amounts to nothing, since nobody wants to risk ending up in court over election day antics. And yet I wonder how enforceable those laws are, and who will be watching for bad faith practices in lines or immediately outside polling locations.

After the last two elections, I am convinced that party officials will stop at nothing to achieve their desired results (and that cuts both ways, though Democrats appear to be on the receiving end of more of these efforts than Republicans). The single biggest problem, I worry, is the over-aggressive local party chair who organizes some monstrous guerrilla election day effort to disrupt the process and challenge specific voting blocs, say Hispanics, African-Americans, or single, working moms, in an attempt to affect the outcome in a specific precinct. I'm not sure how any poll worker with 3 hours of training will be expected to deal with a challenge like that. I am reminded of the saying we heard routinely in Oaxaca: Vamos a ver. We will see.

On a final note regarding Denver procedures, I was wildly pleased to discover yesterday that electronic voting machines will not be used except by persons who request them. All voters will be issued a paper ballot unless they specifically ask for the touch screen voting machine. Also, according to Denver Elections officials, 50% of registered voters have requested mail-in ballots. That promises to alleviate at least some of the challenges possible on election day.

*Indicates inaccurate information. See here for clarification.

17 October 2008

Final Debate in a Minute

Via HuffPost, the final debate in 1 minute. Frickin' hysterical.

Bob Schaffer: Just as Unpleasant in Real Life

TPM has footage up from Denver's Channel 7 News. The film was shot moments before U.S. Senate candidates Bob Schaffer and Mark Udall squared off Thursday for an on-air debate. Apparently, the understanding was that the format would be very off the cuff, and that neither candidate would have notes during the debate. Schaffer balked, and Udall scored his first point before the debate even started.

"I got the letter I signed. It said no notes, no props . . . . If Bob needs to have a few notes with him, fine. But I'm here with an empty pad and let's go. Let's debate."

Politicker CO has more.

Washington Post Endorses Obama

The debates are over. Let the newspaper endorsements begin. Via TPM, WaPo glowingly endorses Obama for pres. Of course, the media is "in the tank" for Obama, so who could be surprised?

CO: Top 10 Least Prepared for Election

Oh boy. Colorado ranks among the 10 least-prepared states in the nation for this year's election day vote. The Denver Post reports today on a study released by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU. The state flunked 3 out of 4 categories involving voting day contingency plans, ballot accounting, verifiable paper trails, and post-election audits. Yikes. Add to that the length of Colorado's ballot, with 14 initiatives (down from 18 in a late-breaking deal between business and labor groups) and we're bound to have some turbulence and technical difficulties.

Secretary of State Mike Coffman, however, is not worried.

"Fact is, Colorado is much better prepared than the 2006 election," said Coffman, a Republican. "These groups have an obvious agenda, and the timing of the report is definitely suspect.
Nice. I feel reassured already.

It just so happens that I'm heading off in a couple hours for poll worker training. With any luck I'll be able to comment afterward about Denver's readiness and how the city will handle the mighty flood come election day. Here's to voting early and voting by mail.

16 October 2008

Shocking: Sacramento County Republican Party Official Site

We've heard some ugly in the past week, but this takes the cake. Newser's got the screenshots.

Hockey Moms, Plumber Dads, and the Greatest Hoax Ever

Joe Wurzelbacher thinks people who earn $250,000 are middle class, and that Obama's tax policy represents a "slippery slope." Have a listen. C'mon. Even John McCain said last night "Hey, Joe, you're rich, congratulations."

What's amazing about this is the great hoax, the impression left by all of last night's pandering on this particular meme, that Joe the Plumber represents average American workers. He does not. I can appreciate that he works hard, that he supports his family and has invested time and sweat in the business he wants to buy, and that he has not always been wealthy. But by his own acknowledgment he is poised to accede into the richest echelon of Americans. Candidates' personalities and politics aside, this guy Joe the Plumber is protecting his bottom line. And you can bet we're gonna hear Sarah Palin, who's worth $1.2 million, on the stump pronto talking about America's commitment to hockey moms, plumber dads, and the American dream. The biggest myth the Republican Party ever successfully perpetrated is convincing so many of the middle class that Republicans are on the side of the American worker.

15 October 2008

The Last Gasp

I had an engagement earlier tonight, so I missed the live debate broadcast and had to settle for watching the video in installments afterward on ABC News. After all was said and done, I strongly suspect the two candidates will agree on this: thank goodness the debates are over.

Both candidates had a fairly strong debate, inasmuch as they each showed up like savvy politicians. McCain's chronic blinking belies his extreme discomfort, but the root of that discomfort is still a mystery. Is it Obama? Is it the format? Is it knowing how far he's down and how much he needs to accomplish? Is it shame?

I lean toward an amalgam of all of the above, and possibly a dose of chagrin, too. I can't help listening to McCain speak, and even on his strong points, like linking Obama to Hoover ("from a deep recession to a depression") and repeatedly pushing Ayers and ACORN (neither of which will decide the election), I thought "Now here's a man who's swallowed the bitter pill."

John McCain, to put it mildly, looks out of his element. That said, I also think tonight was his best debate, but that it doesn't matter. Nothing that came up tonight improved McCain's position among the people he most needed to impress. If he didn't outright lose the debate on the topic of Sarah Palin's qualifications, then the health care discussion did him in.

Tonight may not have been Obama's overall strongest performance. We may have seen that in the second debate. But Obama scored two important victories tonight on health care and on the people he pals around with. On the former topic, he really distanced his plan from the McCain plan in a way that voters can relate to. During the second debate I thought Obama missed several opportunities there. He explained his plan but didn't expose the incredible weakness of McCain's plan. Tonight he did both, and I felt a different tone throughout that conversation than previously. After the second debate, voters who had just tuned in may have been aware only of two different but more or less equally political plans on the table. Tonight there is a clear plan from Obama, and a clear sense that McCain's health care plan will do less to support those in need than Obama's. "Hey, Joe, you're rich, congratulations." That's McCain's rebuttal. Seriously? Did anybody understand the lateral move McCain attempted to make?

On health care, though, this takes the cake:

Now, 95 percent of the people in America will receive more money under my plan because they will receive not only their present benefits, which may be taxed, which will be taxed, but then you add $5,000 onto it, except for those people who have the gold-plated Cadillac insurance policies that have to do with cosmetic surgery and transplants and all of those kinds of things.
That's McCain making zero sense at the top of the quote, because how taxing benefits works out as "more money" for Americans under McCain's plan is a complete mystery to everyone, including I think the candidate. But John McCain also revealed a telling tendency to trivialize huge issues. People who get transplant coverage--or people who want transplant coverage--are the lucky ones, the ones who have or want more than they need. They're the ones who get gold-plated Cadillac insurance policies. For "cosmetic surgery and transplants and all those kinds of things."

It takes the breath away. I have a couple acquaintances I'd like to touch base with about the triviality of transplants and those kinds of things.

On the second point, who the candidates surround themselves with, which wasn't actually a question so McCain dodged a bullet, Obama made good on the opportunity to spin the Ayers attack into a mention of Joe Biden, Warren Buffet, Paul Volcker, Dick Lugar, and Jim Jones. This may well be lost on many voters, but these guys are heavyweights. We're not talking Phil Gramm and Rick Davis. Obama's team reflects a level of seriousness and thoughtfulness that the McCain campaign can't touch. You want to compare finance management credentials between Warren Buffet and Phil Gramm? How about international security credentials between Jim Jones and Randy Scheunemann? Oh man. That doesn't win the debate for Obama, but it further emphasizes the distance between the two candidates and how they will govern.

The Obama campaign no doubt wishes they could hold the election tonight, right now, immediately. Three weeks is an eternity, and a lot can happen. But I wonder if the McCain folks, and perhaps John McCain himself, aren't also ready to finally get out the vote, if only to put an end to what has become a palpably unpleasant experience for the candidate and for those of us fortunate enough to watch this chapter of history unfold. I'm not saying it's over, but except for the ads and a few highly orchestrated "news breaks," tonight may have been John McCain's last gasp to prove that he's the man for the job. He needed to stage a brilliant coup to topple Obama, and he fell short of that mark.

14 October 2008

Obama on X-Box: Candidate Campaigns in Video Game

UPDATE: "If it's in the game, it's in the game." That's the EA Sports slogan (or at least it was when I was still playing Sega hockey), and it seems pretty apt right about now. (H/T Ben Smith.)
Via Facebook friend Luke, Obama campaign debuts product-placement strategy in video game. Pretty cool.

Udall Carrying Colorado

More good news for U.S. Senate candidate Mark Udall today. FiveThirtyEight.com likes Udall's chances in Colorado so much that they're forecasting a 91% chance of a Udall win on November 4.

FiveThirtyEight cites new Public Policy Polling (Colorado Poll October 11, .pdf page 10) and Quinnipiac numbers that give Udall 10-14 points on his opponent Bob Schaffer, which means watch for this race to get even uglier.

Voter Registration Questions in Colorado

To follow up on yesterday's post about CO Secretary of State Mike Coffman, I've been informed by a Larimer County source (aka my mother-in-law) that voters who did not check the "I-don't-have-a-CO-driver's-license" box will be advised of the incomplete status of their paperwork and provided an opportunity to fix this or cast a provisional ballot.

Here's a link to the Secretary of State website where Colorado voters can check their registration status.

If you think you may be ineligible to vote as a result of Secretary of State Coffman's interpretation of the form, call (303) 894-2200 to learn about your options. Revising your paperwork now greatly increases the likelihood that your ballot will be counted. Provisional ballots should be considered a last resort.

13 October 2008

Drum on Troopergate Report

Kevin Drum reads the Troopergate report so you don't have to.

State of CO

The Denver Post endorsed Mark Udall for Senate over the weekend, which comes as good news for the embattled but leading Udall campaign. I must admit that after I read the Musgrave endorsement last week I was not certain how the Post would break. I'm glad to see reason and responsibility trump whatever blind insanity prompted them to herald Musgrave along on her quest for a fourth congressional term.

In other news from CO, Secretary of State Mike Coffman has thrown out over 6,000 new voter registration applications, citing them as incomplete because registrants who provided social security numbers did not also check the box indicating that they have no driver's license or state ID. This on the heels of Colorado's citation last week in the New York Times for illegally removing registered voters from voter lists within 90 days of the election. Reading Coffman's account of how he came to design the current registration form pretty well reveals the planned sabotage inherent in the process. As if back in 2006 state GOP leaders got together to figure out how to make certain that forms would be invalidated.

I have to say, unfortunately, that from my view as a canvasser this almost certainly nullifies a majority of the new registrations I helped eligible voters complete, since the last four of a social security number was much more popular than the registrant's license number. Much to GOP glee, I'm sure, no voter registration drive organizer ever pointed the box out to me in advance of a registration effort. I was not aware that a check mark in the box was mandatory, and never passed that info along to a single registrant. It seems logical to me that if the options are a CO driver's license OR a CO state ID OR a social security number, then there's no problem simply choosing the one the applicant wants to use. Logic, however, as we said down in Mexico, can get you killed. Alas, I fell into the trap.

My question, since Coffman is also running for Congress in Colorado's 6th district, is how the hell is all this not a huge conflict of interest? He's also the guy, by the by, who resolved the investigation into CO voting machines by authorizing their use for 2008 without any changes to the machines themselves, after himself acknowledging that problems with the machines plagued the 2006 elections and cost Coloradans votes. Arggggh. It's garbage politics like this that prompted me to muse, two weeks ago, on the need for a landslide victory for Obama just to keep the results close.

On a separate note, blogging is likely to be quite light in coming weeks as I work under a looming deadline. Thanks for reading, and please do check back as I'm sure I'll become so enraged by what I read at some point that I'll have to mash some words online just to figure out how I feel about a thing.

10 October 2008

Updating Troopergate

The report is out. Trouble is, it's not out, out. Special investigator Steven Branchflower released abridged copies to 14 Alaska legislators, and they've yet to vote on whether to share the findings of that report with the public. It has been well documented that the legislative council, comprised of 4 Democrats and 10 Republicans, voted unanimously back in August to hold this inquiry into Palin's actions. What is not clear is whether or not those 10 Republicans are still as committed to rooting out the truth as they were before the embattled governor became nominee to the second-highest post in the land. Stay tuned.

Can bin Laden Win the Election for McCain?

You wouldn't immediately think that a baseball geek would have such a keen read on American politics unless you'd checked into Nate Silver's bio. That said, I shouldn't be surprised when Silver digs up another gifted writer from the baseball world to make some predictions about the late stages of the election cycle. Right?

I turn to FiveThirtyEight.com almost daily for a dose of the numbers and a good bit of accessible analysis. I've come to expect a level of insight as sharp as any on the Internet (or anywhere else, for that matter). I'm consistently impressed by Silver's summaries, and also by the road musings of cowriter Sean Quinn, who's currently on a wide-ranging, cross-country tour to take the pulse of the candidates' respective ground games. If we judge the blogger by the company he keeps (and please do--my wife is so much smarter, nicer, and prettier than I am!), then Silver is doing pretty well.

So I should not be surprised when Silver gives guest space to another quality blogger. Nevertheless, this piece from Silver cohort (and fellow baseball geek) Rany Jazayerli stuns me. If he runs a little alarmist, Jazayerli also supports his assertions with cogent historical details at every turn. In a nutshell, Jazayerli, a Muslim American, explains why Osama bin Laden has a vested interest in the outcome of this election, and how that could play as the clock ticks down. October surprise? Let's hope not. But should it come to pass, you can no longer claim to be surprised after reading Jazayerli's post.

Palin (Preemptive) Ethics Report

Steve Benen comments on an AP headline:

In all sincerity, I saw this headline this morning, "Palin pre-empts state report, clears self in probe," and assumed it was satire. Those under investigation don't get to clear themselves. I have this image in my mind of Nixon, in July 1974, issuing a statement: "I've looked into this whole Watergate thing, and I've decided I've done nothing wrong. Time to move on."
Turns out it's not satire. The McCain-Palin campaign has seriously issued a Troopergate report that relies on evidence from a blog post in Alaska to exonerate Sarah Palin from any wrongdoing.

You cannot make this stuff up. The party that decries the "liberal blogosphere" anytime a writer strikes a nerve has found a connection between Palin's former brother-in-law, Mike Wooten, and Andrew Halcro, a former opponent of the Palin campaign. This is thin, folks. Thinner even than Palin's resume.
"It is tragic that a false story hatched by a blogger after drinks with Trooper Wooten led the legislature to allocate over $100,000 of public money to be spent in what has become a politically driven investigation," the 21-page report concludes.
The goal, I suppose, is to preempt today's release of the report of the independent investigator in Alaska. Special investigator Stephen Branchflower's role in all this remains murky, as it is tough to tell whether or not he'll issue a decisive comment on the abuse of power investigation since he never actually subpoenaed Sarah Palin to testify.

That said, the campaign must be pretty damn nervous about the pending news cycle to draw more attention to the thing by releasing its own report on Thursday. Conventional wisdom has it that bad news is best delivered on Friday afternoon when no one's watching, to be hashed out on Saturday when no one commutes or reads the paper. The preemptive move on the part of the campaign suggests that the campaign hopes to blur the reporting on the report, so that Thursday's listeners and Friday morning's readers will head into the weekend with one idea about what happened, and that by Monday there will be a new campaign narrative launched to eclipse the lingering effects of any real bad news released Friday afternoon. Bristol Palin wedding announcement, anyone?

Interestingly enough, I didn't catch the AP story until I hopped over to Steve's site, which makes me wonder if it's getting the exposure the campaign hoped for. So far I've found FOX News carrying the story on their homepage, but no one else, not even CNN. Makes me think that the media doesn't even care to play into the transparent ploy.

Strong Words

Via TPM, former McCainiac Frank Schaeffer unleashes his strongest words directly to the candidate in a letter today in the Baltimore Sun.

John McCain: In 2000, as a lifelong Republican, I worked to get you elected instead of George W. Bush. In return, you wrote an endorsement of one of my books about military service. You seemed to be a man who put principle ahead of mere political gain.

You have changed. You have a choice: Go down in history as a decent senator and an honorable military man with many successes, or go down in history as the latest abettor of right-wing extremist hate.

. . . Stop! Think! Your rallies are beginning to look, sound, feel and smell like lynch mobs.

John McCain, you're walking a perilous line. If you do not stand up for all that is good in America and declare that Senator Obama is a patriot, fit for office, and denounce your hate-filled supporters when they scream out "Terrorist" or "Kill him," history will hold you responsible for all that follows.
Take a moment to read this one straight from the source. It's a doozy.

Tim Dickinson on John McCain: A Blistering Biography

It's fun to say "My mother-in-law reads Rolling Stone." Especially since she passed along this incredible link. The nickel version, if I may be presumptuous enough to reduce some 10,000 words, is that the real John McCain biography dramatically undermines the generally accepted mythology of John McCain.

The thesis rests on two key points. A) The pampered flyboy never grew up, never actually underwent that pivotal coming to Jesus that the campaign touts as McCain's revelatory moment, from which point he knew that his life everafter was dedicated to his country first; and B) the Keating-croney politician never truly adopted the philosophies he has espoused since his near political ruin over the savings and loan debacle in 1989. John McCain found a political lifeline in running hard for campaign finance reform and denouncing a system that allowed so much soft money to determine political discourse and policy making in our country; simultaneously, however, the foundation he built to sustain his presidential candidacies was fueled--illegally, since he applied for and got 501(c)3 status as a nonprofit--by those same soft monies and political cronies he so artfully decried.

In telling the back story of the John McCain we see today, Tim Dickinson appears to have done his research. He cites former classmates and POWs, and McCain's colleagues from the Navy, the Arizona Republican Party, and the U.S. Senate. Taken individually, the accounts amount to slightly-more-critical-than-average beefs against a career politician. Put together, however, the criticisms advance an increasingly consistent biography of a John McCain that the campaign wants voters to be desperately ignorant about.

As Dickinson points out, the candidate himself likes to point to his own past weaknesses and mistakes as evidence of his personal and professional growth. Dickinson takes it a step further, though. McCain seems to be aware of the power of the story of his youth to affect political gain. Beyond that, however, the candidate on whom Dickinson reports has little to no use for the lessons that the self-proclaimed maverick claims to have learned the hard way. He is not cool and calm in the face of direct fire; he is not a hero who selflessly puts his own well-being on the line to protect or save others; he does not value the role of coalition building to achieve political goals; he is not the candidate who puts integrity of character and loyalty to truth above personal ambition.

Dickinson backs these statements and many more with disheartening amounts of personal testimonies from the people who know McCain and have worked with McCain since his earliest career in the Navy. More of these statements are made on the record than provided as background, and more are adjoined to a name than delivered anonymously. In an age when sources-who-cannot-be-named-because-they-have-not-been-cleared-to-speak-with-the-media appear to be those most often turned to, Dickinson's determination to rely on named sources to support the bulk of his article is noteworthy.

From crashing three Navy planes to commandeering aircraft to carry out his adulterous affair with now-wife Cindy; from chasing tail across three continents (while married to his first wife) to pulling strings to keep his career afloat; from distorting the actual events surrounding his captivity and torture to distorting the actual events around his second coming as the maverick leader of the Straight Talk Express; from being maliciously smeared and run out of the 2000 presidential race to hiring those very same tacticians to run his 2008 bid, Tim Dickinson devotes every single word to debunking the great McCain mythology that Americans have been asked to swallow whole this election year.

Bookmark the page or buy the issue, and settle in to read a blistering account of the John McCain that only McCain's lifelong familiars could tell.

09 October 2008

Palin's Mug on Newsweek Leaves FOX Asking Questions

If a picture is worth a thousand words, FOX News has 999 of them. This hilarious point/counterpoint is so worth checking out, if only to take the temperature on election season news coverage.

Troopergate Report Due Tomorrow

Lest anybody forget, the independent counsel's report on Sarah Palin's possible ethics violations in an abuse of power investigation and ensuing cover up will hit the streets tomorrow. Granted, it will be a much diluted document, since the once cooperative governor grew noticeably less enthusiastic about participating in the affair since becoming VP nominee. Thankfully for our reading edification, we've got the First Dude's written testimony as fodder for speculation. Despite GOP efforts, though, Alaska's Supreme Court decided today that the investigation will continue.

The courtroom today sounded like an Olympic ping pong match between judges and lawyers. From the ADN:

Clarkson, who was up first, didn't speak long before the justices began firing questions at him.

Justice Daniel Winfree asked how Clarkson figured his clients had any standing to sue based on the notion an unconstitutional investigation violates the individual rights of others, chiefly Palin's.

Because this is a case of "public significance," Clarkson replied.

"Is this one of public significance or just one of public interest?" Winfree shot back.

"It's both," Clarkson said.

Later, Justice Robert Eastaugh asked, "What are we to make of the fact" that a bipartisan panel voted unanimously to conduct the investigation?

. . . As with Clarkson, justices soon were questioning Maassen.

"Who's doing this investigation?" Winfree asked. Is it the Legislative Council, which ordered the probe, the Senate Judiciary Committee that issued subpoenas to the governor's husband and aides, or who exactly?

The legislative branch, Maassen replied.

Maassen argued that if the governor's rights or those of other people were somehow violated, it's up to them to go to court for protection, not the Republican legislators acting as citizen taxpayers.

. . . Clarkson acknowledged he's also working with, though not receiving payment from, the McCain-Palin campaign.

"Have I talked to them? Sure. Do they tell me what to do? No," he said, adding: "Sometimes they don't know what they're talking about."
Ah, to have been a fly on the wall. Stay tuned.

McCain Condescends, Debate Participant Responds

Via Benen, anybody remember the McCain line "You probably never heard of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before this"? McCain used that line while fielding questions on stage Tuesday night. The question asker was not amused.

What's more, NBC's Michael Levine posted a number of questions to the debate participant, Oliver Clark, and Clark was not afraid to answer candidly. Most striking was that Clark was not really an uncommitted voter, and had been forthcoming with that information.

Sunday before last, I received a call from the Gallop Poll [sic]. They asked a few questions regarding my choice in the Presidential election. They asked who I would vote for. I said most likely I would be voting for Barack Obama. They followed with, “is there any chance that you would change your mind“? I said “Of course anything is possible.” They then asked me as an uncommitted voter would I like to participate in the Town hall debate. I said “Of course!”
Very. Interesting. Makes me wonder how much integrity there is to any of the "undecided" polls. Also puts me in mind of this article from the LAT six weeks ago. How many truly undecided voters are there, really?

Great Pumpkin? This Ain't Your Usual October Special

My first thought was "Holy sh*t, that must cost a fortune." And my second thought was "That's pretty friggin' smart." Can McCain afford to buy 30 minutes of primetime air?

Obama scores points for reaching out to the electorate and forcing his opponent to either concede ground or expend dear resources just to keep up. While McCain looks more desperate by the day, Obama continues to steadily increase pressure. Anymore I just look for the pulsing vein in McCain's forehead. (Just kidding. We all know he clenches his teeth when he's really miffed.)

¡Viva Obama!

Now I'm not even waiting for readers to send links to me. My friend Susy posted this to her Facebook page, and I just had to grab it for plavwriter.

Take me back, Dorados del Norte, and sing it like we're politicking banda style.

Politicians as Trains

While we're picking up quick hits off assorted links, I got a version of this in an email from my father in law and laughed out loud.

RFK Jr. Points up Palin's Very Current Secessionist Ties

Here's another good one from Uncle Mark, though as a general rule I can't promise to be so prompt with the links.

While I think RFK Jr. definitely makes a clear, defining argument, he's gonna have to bring the reading level down a couple notches if this is ever going to run in the major media outlets. Huff Post? Seriously? The guy is preaching to the choir.

Let's get the reading level down to something we can put in USA Today. Just so happens I can help with that sort of thing, since my day job involves writing and editing content for sixth graders. Lexile score of 1620? Graduate work. Hey, Jr: Let me bring that down to a nice, even 1000 for you. Whaddya say?

Rednecks for Obama

Here's the link. Requires no analysis.

Keillor: Where's the Outrage?

From Uncle Mark. Garrison Keillor on the nature of crisis.

Got a good link? Want to share what you're reading? Feel free to pass the good words along and. If they seem about right, I'll be happy to post links here for others to enjoy.

McCain Renegs on Mortgage Plan

Via TPM, this is probably old news already. McCain has already rewritten the mortgage buy-up plan he introduced Tuesday night. And the quick gloss doesn't look good for taxpayers, but banks are probably happier.