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News from the Votemaster

First Debate Is Tonight

It is do-or-die time for Mitt Romney tonight. With another batch of swing state polls showing Obama ahead everywhere, tonight's debate is his first--and maybe only--chance to turn the race around. He's promised zingers and provided a few in the speech he gave in Colorado Monday:

The Republican base will lap it up and cheer each one. But crude putdowns of the President are not likely to convince many undecided voters to vote for Romney and are even less likely to make potential Obama voters switch sides.

Probably the most clever remark of any debate was the one Lloyd Bentsen made to Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice-presidential debate: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." Quayle was stopped in his tracks. But it didn't change the election results. In January 1989, Quayle was inaugurated as Vice President, not Bentsen. In other words, even a very clever remark or two is not likely to affect the election and ham-handed ones may do more damage than good.

A lot also depends on moderator Jim Lehrer and how hard he pushes the candidates. If he asks Romney, for example, to name one tax loophole he would close as President and Romney refuses, Lehrer could point out that he didn't answer the question. In one of the primary debates, Newt Gingrich got into a fight with moderator John King. But in a debate where Romney has to act presidential, he has to avoid that at all costs.

In addition to listening to the candidates' words, television viewers also react to their gestures and body languages. Here is a guide.

Politico has a list of things to watch for in the debate.

Pennsylvania Judge Blocks Voter ID Law

A Pennsylvania judge blocked the state's new law requiring voters to show government-issued photo ID before being allowed to vote. The case reached the state Supreme Court, which sent it back to the judge for the final decision. Now he had made it: ID will not be required. This decision is a major victory for Obama and a major loss for Romney since up to 10% of the state's voters--nearly all Democrats--might have been prevented from voting by this law. Now it is virtually certain that Obama will carry Pennsylvania.

In other states, similar laws have been enjoined, blocked, or weakened. They have been removed entirely in Wisconsin and Texas. In addition, early voting has been restored in Florida. All in all, the hopes Republicans had of suppressing Democratic turnout are likely to be dashed.

Romney Hints at Limiting Deductions to $17,000

Yesterday, Mitt Romney gave a hint of one thing he might do to recapture some revenue after lowering tax rates. Romney suggested allowing taxpayers to have total deductions for mortgage interest, charitable contributions, state and local taxes, and other items be limited to $17,000. This proposal is sure to generate howls of protests from bankers, charities, and state governments and would be hard to get through Congress. Nevertheless, it is Romney's first attempt at filling in the details of his tax plan.

Obama Getting 70% of Latino Voters

A new CNN poll of likely Latino voters shows that 70% of them will vote for Obama and only 26% for Romney. This is even better for Obama than 2008, when he won 67% of the Latino vote. In 2004, 53% of Latinos voted for John Kerry.

Early Voting Has Started in Ohio

Early in-person voting has now started in Ohio, one of the three most important swing states (along with Florida and Virginia). Currently, Obama leads there, with different polls giving numbers in the 5-10% range. Obama hopes to bank as many votes as possible now while he has such a large lead. To kick off his "vote early" campaign, Obama sent his wife, Michelle, to address a rally in Cincinnati.

Today's Presidential Polls

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Arizona 42% 46%   Sep 25 Sep 26 Moore Consulting
Florida 46% 43%   Sep 27 Sep 30 Suffolk U.
North Carolina 49% 47%   Sep 29 Oct 01 SurveyUSA
New Hampshire 54% 39%   Sep 27 Sep 30 U. of New Hampshire
New Mexico 51% 40%   Sep 27 Sep 27 Rasmussen
Rhode Island 57% 33%   Sep 26 Sep 29 Fleming and Assocs.
Virginia 47% 39%   Sep 19 Sep 28 Roanoke Coll.

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Arizona Richard Carmona 40% Jeff Flake 43%     Sep 25 Sep 26 Moore Consulting
Florida Bill Nelson* 40% Connie McGillicuddy 34%     Sep 27 Sep 30 Suffolk U.
Ohio Sherrod Brown* 49% Josh Mandel 41%     Sep 27 Sep 30 PPP
Rhode Island Sheldon Whitehouse* 56% Barry Hinckley 30%     Sep 26 Sep 29 Fleming and Assocs.
Virginia Tim Kaine 47% George Allen 37%     Sep 19 Sep 28 Roanoke Coll.

* Denotes incumbent