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News from the Votemaster

Senate Passes Middle-Class Tax Cut Bill

In a dramatic vote yesterday, the Senate passed a bill that would extend the Bush tax cuts on the first $250,000 of everyone's income. The vote was 51 to 48. Vice President Joe Biden chaired the session in his role as President of the Senate, just in case his vote was need to break a tie. All Democrats except Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) voted for the bill. All Republicans voted against it except Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who is enmeshed in an extremely tight race in very blue Massachusetts and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who is in a good mood because she is getting married next month (if you are looking for a wedding gift for her, red and white kitchen towels would be appreciated).

What is surprising about the vote is that it happened at all. Normally the Republicans filibuster bills like this. Minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) allowed the vote to proceed because he wanted Democratic senators in tough reelection battles to be forced by party discipline to vote for what he called a "tax hike" although the bill actually is a tax cut, just not on all income. Majority leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) was happy to let the vote happen because it represents a central promise President Obama made in 2008--continuing the Bush tax cuts on income below $250,000. Thus both sides thought the vote was to their advantage.

Another factor that probably entered McConnell's mind is that the bill will never become law because (1) it is unconstitutional and (2) it will die in the House. The constitution clearly states that all revenue bills must originate in the House. In principle, the House could pass it as is and send it back to the Senate for another vote, but the Republican-controlled House is going to kill it.

Presidential Debate Schedule Announced

The presidential and vice presidential debate schedule has now been announced by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The schedule is as follows.

All the debates are at universities to lend an intellectual aura to what is likely to be a mudfight. What is somewhat surprising is that while two of them are in swing states, two are in deeply partisan states (Kentucky and New York). Surely there are universities in say, Ohio and New Hampshire that would be happy to host a debate. The debates are going to be crucial this year. The amount of (negative) advertising that has been broadcast already this year is immense, but it hasn't moved the needle at all. Obama still has a national lead of 1-2% and nothing seems to change that. If things remain as they are, he is likely to eke out a tiny victory. The debates, especially the first one, are Romney's main chance to convince people that only he can fix the economy but it is also Obama's chance to show that Romney is a rich guy who cares only about tax cuts for other rich guys. Although Romney is extremely risk averse, the debates are his main opportunity to break out and hit Obama hard. But that won't be so easy since he is an awkward public speaker and Obama is highly experienced.

Romney's Foreign Trip Carefully Crafted for Maximum Electoral Impact

Tomorrow Mitt Romney will attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in London. The idea here is to remind people that he was called in to run the 2002 Winter Games after they were tarnished by a corruption scandal. He will meet informally with British Prime Minister David Cameron but protocol forbids a joint news conference. It is not known whether Romney will meet with his wife's horse, which is competing there. Take-home message: "I am Mr. Fix-it."

His second stop will be Israel, where he will be photographed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he has known for 30 years. There he will state that Israel is our best friend in the region and Obama has been treating it shabbily. Traditionally, presidential candidates do not criticize the commander-in-chief on foreign soil, but Romney is likely to break with tradition and do so anyway. The stop in Israel is really aimed at evangelicals who have doubts about whether Romney is even a Christian. However, it is unlikely Romney will visit the Golden Gate, which many Christians believe will be where Jesus will enter the Old City when he returns to Jerusalem. Mormons believe he will return to earth in Jackson County, MO. Despite Missouri being a swing state, Romney doesn't want to get into a theological discussion about the Messiah's travel plans. Take-home message: "I support Israel more than Obama does."

Romney's third stop will be Poland. Having picked up some Anglo-Saxon votes in England, evangelical and Jewish votes in Israel, Poland is about impressing Polish-Americans and ethnic Catholic voters in the Midwest in general. This stop is 100% political. While England and Israel and important allies a President has to deal with a lot, Poland is a friendly nation but not one that needs a lot of attention. Take-home message: "I like ethnic Americans."

Romney Leading among Business Owners

A new Gallup poll shows that business owners overwhelmingly prefer Mitt Romney to President Obama 59% to 35%. Obama does almost as badly with farming, fishing, and forestry workers, where Romney leads 57% to 34%. On the other hand, Obama leads among professionals by 52% to 43%.

Today's Presidential Polls

The two Michigan polls today are wildly different. Obviously one or both are way off. It is hard to tell what is going on in Michigan. Some polls have shown it to be close, but Rasmussen's June 14th poll put Obama ahead by +12%. On the whole, Obama seems to be safely ahead there, if for no other reason than Romney's "Let Detroit go bankrupt" opinion piece.

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Michigan 44% 45%   Jul 23 Jul 23 Mitchell Research
Michigan 53% 39%   Jul 21 Jul 23 PPP
New York 55% 32%   Jul 17 Jul 23 Quinnipiac U.
Pennsylvania 49% 43%   Jul 21 Jul 23 PPP

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Michigan Debbie Stabenow 46% Pete Hoekstra 40%     Jul 23 Jul 23 Rasmussen
New York Kirsten Gillibrand 57% Wendy Long 24%     Jul 17 Jul 23 Quinnipiac U.