Jun. 07 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Senate Dem 59   GOP 40   Ties 1
House Dem 257   GOP 178  

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News from the Votemaster

Note:I am traveling for about 10 days so updates may be a bit sparse during this period.

Of Presidents and Primaries     Permalink

Traditionally, Presidents don't pick sides during primary fights to avoid the potential embarrassment of betting on the wrong horse. Next year may be different, however. President Obama is publicly supporting two incumbent senators in the Northeast, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Both seem likely to face primary opponents. Specter may face Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), a former Vice-Admiral, who will attack Specter for being a turncoat after 28 years in the Senate as a Republican. Gillibrand may face Manhattan-based Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the lone potential contender after Rahm Emanuel scared off two other Democratic representatives from Long Island, first Steve Israel and now Carolyn McCarthy. Vice President Joe Biden tried to talk Maloney out of it last week, but he may not have succeeded.

While the conventional wisdom is that a primary is bad for the party since the loser's supporters normally are angry and whine that they will stay home on election day rather than vote for the person they just spent months hating, the reality is often different. Barack Obama was hugely strengthened by having to defeat Hillary Clinton, who ultimately was a stronger opponent than John McCain. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), also faced tough primary opponents and yet went on to defeat incumbents to win their respective general elections in 2006. One complication here is the calendar. Pennsylvania's primary is early--May 18, 2010--which gives time for primary-induced wounds to heal. New York's primary is very late--Sept. 14, 2010--so there is little time for the winner to make nice to the loser's supporters.

Also not clear is how serious Obama is at supporting the incumbent in the two states. In Pennsylvania, he has every reason to keep the pressure up on Specter to make him vote like a Democrat. With Gillibrand, who is the protege of the state's powerful senior senator, Chuck Schumer, there is no reason to do that. With the exception of her former opposition to gun control when she represented a rural upstate district, Gillibrand votes like a standard-issue Democrat with a 98.45% lifetime score according to Progressive Punch. This makes her the 4th most liberal member of the Senate, far ahead of, say, liberal stalwart Russ Feingold (#35 this year). And if she has any doubts about how to vote on an upcoming bill, she can just check with Chuck. Maloney's only real case to the voters against Gillibrand is geography: Maloney lives in Manhattan and Gillibrand lives upstate. But more than half the Democratic primary voters are from New York City, so that could resonate. On the other hand, Gillibrand can point out that she has a proven record of getting upstate Republicans to vote for her. Also, Gillibrand is 42 and Maloney is 61 and it takes 20 years to gain real power in the Senate so there is value in starting young.

UpdateCreigh Deeds won the Virginia gubernatorial primary with 50% of the vote to 26% for Terry McAuliffe and 24% for Brian Moran

Virginia Democratic Gubernatorial Primary is a Tossup     Permalink

Democrats in Virginia will choose their candidate for governor on Tuesday. The candidates are:

     - Creigh Deeds: a state senator
     - Terry McAuliffe: a fundraising powerhouse for the Democrats now running for office for the first time
     - Brian Moran: a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates

Here are four recent polls:

Pollster Creigh Deeds Terry McAuliffe Brian Moran
Research 2000 30% 26% 27%
PPP 27% 24% 22%
SurveyUSA 29% 35% 26%
Suffolk U. 29% 26% 22%
Average 29% 28% 24%

McAuliffe had been leading most of the year, in no small part because he had more money, but Deeds has been rising of late. Whether he can beat McAuliffe Tuesday remains to be seen. Moran will probably finish third. The Republican candidate, Bob McDonnell, a former state Attorney General, is unopposed for the nomination. Virginia has been trending blue of late, with Jim Webb (D) being elected senator in 2006 and Mark Warner (D) being elected senator in 2008. The current and previous governors (Tim Kaine and Mark Warner) are also Democrats. Democrats have small majorities in the congressional delegation and the state Senate. And, of course, Obama carried the state in 2008, the first Democrat to do so since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. All Republicans have is control of the House of Delegates.

Legal Experts See No Hope for Coleman     Permalink

The Minnesota Supreme Court has not published its verdict yet, but in an article in Politico, various experts who have followed the case closely say that Norm Coleman's chances of winning are virtually nil. They deduce this from the questions all five justices asked Coleman's lawyers during the oral hearing on June 1. All five of them wanted to see evidence that the canvassing board made mistakes. Not speculation, but evidence. In effect, they were saying: "Show us actual legally cast absentee ballots that were rejected." The argument that such ballots might exist didn't seem to impress the justices. Rick Hasen, a professor and specialist in election law at Loyola University, thinks the justices had already made up their minds that Franken won even before the hearing based on the voluminous briefs and transcripts they got in mid-May. A decision is expected this month.

Obama May Take on Immigration This Year     Permalink

In addition to the economy, banking regulation, global warming, and health care, President Obama is seriously considering taking on yet another massive challenge this year: immigration. Although never stated explicitly by anyone, immigration has political benefits for the Democrats as it is an explosive issue within the Republican Party. The Tancredo wing of the party is violently opposed to amnesty--providing a path to citizenship to the estimated 12 million illegals already in the country--and will not be ashamed to trumpet its opposition loudly. While the expected onslaught will be against illegal immigrants, most of them have friends and family who are legal immigrants who won't like attacks on their friends and family. However, the business wing of the Republican Party wants lots of immigrants, legal or otherwise, to depress wages, in the form of a "guest worker" program. These two factions will be at loggerheads during the debate, but the anti-immigrant group is much noiser. In addition, if the illegal immigrants do eventually become citizens and can thus vote, most of them will probably remember which party fought for them and which one fought against them. Getting an immigration bill through the Senate won't be easy, since there are regional as well as ideological issues in play, but even a serious attempt to pass a bill could make the GOP even less popular in the Latino community than it already is. For certain, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod are keenly aware of this. On the Democratic side, the only institutional opposition to an immigration bill would come from the unions, which are mostly focusing on the card check bill now.

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