News from the Votemaster
John McCain has been searching for a good campaign issue where he can offer something positive instead of just reacting to what Barack Obama does. He thinks he has it in the energy issue. He wants to drill for oil off America's coasts to reduce gas prices and reduce the amount of oil imported from the Middle East. Polls have shown that gas prices are very important to many people and they want them lowered and quickly. Most energy experts say that drilling for oil off the coast will do little to nothing to lower gas prices, which have gone up due to the law of supply and demand. Furthermore, new wells won't start producing oil for 10 years and the amount would be a drop in the bucket. Obama's energy plan would force oil companies to drill on the land they have already leased or lose their leases. The focus of congressional Democrats is to crack down on oil speculators, something that sounds good on paper but is impossible to enforce (who is a speculator vs. a real customer? If Exxon buys oil futures is that speculation?) This is one of the few domestic issues where the majority is on McCain's side.
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), who was indicted on seven felony counts Tuesday for not reporting bribes he received from an oil services company, was back in the Senate yesterday attending a committee meeting, voting on the floor of the Senate, and acting like a perfectly normal, respectable senator. He also said: "I am innocent." All this is good news for Democrats, bad news for Republicans. Stevens was trailing his Democratic opponent, Anchorage mayor Mark Begich by 9 points before he was indicted. It is hard to imagine the next poll will suddenly show him ahead. The Republicans' best hope to keep the seat is for him to win the Aug. 26 primary and then withdraw his candidacy before Sept. 17 so the Alaska Republican Party can name an untainted replacement. So far, Stevens has given no sign he wants to play ball.
Everyone knows about many of the economic problems facing Americans including higher gas and food prices, tight credit, foreclosures, and job losses. But there is another one that has affected 3.7 million people and is completely under the radar: pay cuts. Many companies are reducing hours and pay for workers. While the free time is appreciated, the reduced wages are not, especially for people already struggling to make ends meet. The NY Times has a story on this. What is ironic is that during the 1990s, in Europe, many unions fought for 38-, 36-, or shorter work weeks (usually with the same pay) and in some countries, won. In France, the work week for public employees is 35 hours by law although the new conservative President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, opposes the law. Four to six week vacations are standard all over Europe. Americans and Europeans seem to have different attitudes towards work vs. leisure, but forced cuts in hours at a moment when prices are rising is not making life more pleasant for millions of American workers. All in all, this is another factor making the economy the main issue in the election.
Speaking of things under the radar, one item of intense speculation all year is how many voters will refuse to vote for a candidate because he is black. Rasmussen has been polling on this question since it became clear early this year that that might become one of the options. In a poll taken July 29, 85% of the respondents said that would be willing to vote for an African-American candidate and 8% said they would not. Now, of course, some of them may be lying, but remember that all of Rasmussen's polls are automated and experience has shown in other controversial areas that people who are unwilling to admit prejudice to a human caller will do it more readily to a computer. Also, in February, only 73% answered that they were willing to vote for a black candidate. Undoubtedly many prejudiced voters personal experience with blacks is with people in low-end jobs. Seeing a U.S. senator with two Ivy League degrees who draws huge, worshipping crowds everywhere he goes, both at home and abroad, may give them a different perspective. The real third rail of American politics is class, not race. A lot of Americans see "black" and think "poor." During the height of segregation, it sometimes happened that an African king visiting the U.S. wanted to see New Orleans or some other part of the South and the officials and population generally treated him with dignity at the same time they wouldn't allow native blacks to eat at public lunch counters. The difference? The king was rich.
In a somewhat off-handed comment to the Denver radio station, Mitt Romney said he didn't plan on being part of the Republican ticket. If this is true, it is big news, of course. But maybe Romney doesn't have any current plans to be on the ticket because he hasn't been asked (yet). Thanks to Political Wire for the tip.
A new CNN national poll puts Barack Obama ahead of John McCain 51% to 44%.
We have state polls in Mississippi and Nebraska today. McCain is way ahead in both states. There is little doubt that McCain will win the popular vote in Nebraska, although this is one of the two states that splits its electoral votes by congressional district and Obama has an outside chance of picking up one congressional district here. Mississippi is interesting for another reason: 37% of the population is black. If Obama is successful in getting them all registered and to the polls, he needs only 25% of the white vote to carry the state. With solid support from younger voters and professionals he might be able to at least come close, but for the time being, count Mississippi as a McCain state.
Rasmussen also polled the Senate races in Nebraska and Mississippi. Mike Johanns (R) is on his way to a landslide victory in Nebraska. In Mississippi-B, appointed senator Roger Wicker (R) is ahead of former governor Ronnie Musgrove 48% to 42%. This race is being very closely watched because Wickers has never won a statewide race and Musgrove has.
Finally, SurveyUSA has polls in two House races in Washington state. Darcy Burner, the darling of the lefty blogosphere, is trailing incumbent Dave Reichert (R-WA-08) in WA-08. Her house burned to the ground last month, probably due to a short circuit, and that has probably cut into her time on the campaign trail appreciably. In WA-02, incumbent Rick Larson (D) has a big lead over challenger Rick Bart (R).
-- The Votemaster