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News from the Votemaster

Conservatives Working on Their Get-Out-The-Vote Campaign

Conservative groups are getting ready for a massive get-out-the-vote campaign on (and before) election day. Groups such as the National Rifle Association and College Republicans, as well as billionaire-backed superPACs are setting up a highly sophisticated operation to match or surpass what the Democrats set up in 2008. The effort has many facets. In Florida, a new law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature inhibited Democratic registration efforts. In Wisconsin, the Democrats' attempt to recall Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) allowed conservative groups to test their house-by-house voter outreach strategy. In Ohio, 10,000 churches in rural areas have been enlisted to distribute two million voter guides.

The Citizens United decision is allowing the Republican effort to be far better funded and organized than anything John McCain could have even dreamed about in 2008. Billionaire David Koch is spending $125 million in the 2012 campaign, half of it on the ground in battleground states. Spending money on the ground war is a twofer over the air war because it benefits all Republicans, also those downticket, not just Romney.

With so few undecided voters left, many observers think the presidential race will come down to which side does a better job of getting its voters to the polls, hence the importance of the ground game.

Brown Attacks Warren on Her Heritage during Debate

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) opened the first debate with his challenger, Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, by going after her heritage. She claims to be 1/32 Cherokee Indian, something very common in Oklahoma, where she was born and grew up. Brown said: "Professor Warren claimed she was a Native American, a person of color. And as you can see, she's not." Brown was implying she is a liar and also that she used her minority status to get her job at Harvard. He also constantly referred to her as "Professor Warren," hoping to remind rural white working class men in Western Massachusetts that he's a "regular guy" and she's a snooty Harvard professor. Warren stood by her claim and said that's who she is and she is proud of it.

Warren hit hard, too. She attacked Brown for voting against the confirmation of her boss, Justice Elena Kagan, but most of her time was devoted to hitting Brown for supporting tax breaks for the wealthy and big business. She also repeatedly made the point that even if Brown is not quite as bad as most other Republicans, a vote for him is a vote for Mitch McConnnell as Majority Leader. Warren also tied herself to President Obama again and again, knowing full well that he is enormously popular in Massachusetts and former governor Romney is not.

Three more debates are scheduled. This race is one of the most closely followed in the country. It is the only Senate race pitting a genuine progressive against a moderate Republican, both of which are increasingly rare in national politics. The only other one that comes close is in Wisconsin.

Boston mayor Tom Menino apparently liked Warren's performance and is expected to endorse her today. Endorsements by senators and even governors mean little in practice, but endorsements from big-city mayors are coveted. In particular, Menino controls a powerful get-out-the-vote machine in Boston and he is surely going to use it to the full advantage of anyone he endorses.

Brown almost missed the debate due to a scheduled Senate vote yesterday, but Majority Leader Harry Reid canceled the vote to avoid giving Brown an excuse to miss the debate. Warren was on the debating team in college and is still a strong debater.

Ryan Hasn't Sealed the Deal for Romney in Wisconsin

When Mitt Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate, many pundits predicted that Wisconsin, which has gone for the Democratic presidential nominee every year since 1984, would at least be in play. That does not appear to be the case. Three polls today put Obama ahead, with his lead ranging from 3% to 7%. Charles Franklin, polling director at the Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, says Romney's problem is the independents, who are rapidly moving into Obama's column. According to him, Romney's whole case is that Obama has ruined the economy, but the voters blame it on George Bush, not on Obama. Nevertheless, Romney-allied superPACs are continuing to pour money into the state in the hope of turning it around.

The battle for Wisconsin is not only for its 10 electoral votes, but also for its Senate seat. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) is in a tight battle with former four-term governor Tommy Thompson. Thompson is hitting Baldwin for being too liberal and supporting a single-payer health insurance system, like Canada's. Baldwin has been hitting back by quoting a remark Thompson made to a tea party group: "I'm the guy who did away with welfare, and I'll do the same with Medicare and Medicaid." A big Obama victory in Wisconsin could add several percentage points to Baldwin's tally and possibly pull her over the finish line first. At the moment, Baldwin has a statistically insignificant lead but the race is very volatile. If elected, Baldwin would be the first openly gay senator, but her sexual orientation has not played a major role in the campaign.

Obama May Have Financial Edge in the Homestretch

When is a dollar not a dollar? Well, it depends on whose dollar it is. Obama's money strategy has been to raise money for his campaign in small amounts from small donors. Romney's strategy has been to let billionaires fund superPACs with unlimited donations. On the whole, the two parties are in balance on total funding, with the Republicans raising $736 million to the Democrats' $774 million. However Obama's real edge is that he has more money in his campaign treasury than Romney and the actual campaigns, by law, get the lowest advertising rate a television state gives anyone. In contrast, a station can charge a superPAC whatever it thinks it can get away with. Consequently, a campaign dollar actually buys more seconds of television time than a superPAC dollar.

The Obama campaign has been using the 7- or 8-digit checks being given by billionaires to Romney's superPACs as a way of stimulating small donors to write $20 checks. The strategy has worked reasonably well so far, as Obama--despite his massive spending all summer--had $89 million in the bank at the start of September, whereas Romney, with far less spending during the summer, had only $50 million cash on hand at the start of this month.

In an effort to raise more money quickly, Ann Romney is planning to appear at the Las Vegas home of billionaire Sheldon Adelson on Oct. 1. Adelson has already donated $36 million to Republican superPACs and is planning to give at least $100 million by November. The fundraiser is an attempt to get his wealthy friends to join in.

Obama Hit at Univision Forum on Failure to Reform Immigration

At a forum broadcast live from the University of Miami on the Spanish-language Univision television network, co-moderator Jorge Ramos, a superstar among Latino television viewers, pounded President Obama on his failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform. Ramos said that in 2008 he promised it and didn't deliver, adding: "I want you to acknowledge that you did not keep your promise." Obama said that he tried hard but was constantly blocked by the Republicans in Congress. When asked whether his decision to stop deporting Latinos who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children was politically motivated, Obama pointed out that he was leading among Latinos before the decision. Later, when asked what his greatest failure as President has been, Obama said it was his failure to get comprehensive immigration reform through Congress. By keeping this subject front and center, Obama is trying to remind Latino voters that he is at least trying and has done a little bit by executive order, whereas Mitt Romney's position is that life should be made so unpleasant for illegal aliens that they self deport. Romney's problem here is that many of these illegal aliens have friends and relatives who are U.S. citizens and can vote.

Romney was interviewed by Univision on Wednesday amidst reports that he dyed his face brown or at least wore brown makeup to appeal to the Latino audience.

DeMint May Provide Financial Support to Akin in Missouri

Sen. Todd Akin (R-MO) was left in the lurch when the entire Republican establishment dropped him like a hot potato after he said that rape victims don't get pregnant. Now Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), the informal leader of the tea party caucus in the Senate, may be stepping in to rescue him. Akin has until Sept. 25 to drop out of the race, but in practice it may be too late since the state is mailing absentee ballots to military and overseas voters today. If Akin stays in, as now seems likely, DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund could provide a needed shot in the arm for him. The fund has raised millions of dollars for Republican Senate candidates such as Jeff Flake in Arizona, Ted Cruz in Texas, Richard Mourdock in Indiana, and Josh Mandel in Ohio.

Today's Presidential Polls

With a new poll in North Carolina showing Obama ahead of Romney by a margin of 46% to 43%, our average for North Carolina becomes a tie at 47% each. As a consequence, Romney is now leading in only one swing state: Missouri. He is tied in two: North Carolina and New Hampshire. Obama leads in all the other swing states.

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Colorado 50% 45%   Sep 16 Sep 18 Marist Coll.
Connecticut 53% 32%   Sep 11 Sep 16 U. of Connecticut
Georgia 35% 56%   Sep 19 Sep 19 Insider Advantage
Iowa 44% 47%   Sep 19 Sep 19 Rasmussen
Iowa 50% 42%   Sep 16 Sep 18 Marist Coll.
Massachusetts 59% 36%   Sep 13 Sep 17 U. of Mass.
North Carolina 46% 43%   Sep 08 Sep 13 High Point University
Nevada 47% 45%   Sep 18 Sep 18 Rasmussen
Nevada 49% 46%   Sep 14 Sep 18 ORC International
Wisconsin 49% 46%   Sep 17 Sep 17 Rasmussen
Wisconsin 50% 45%   Sep 16 Sep 18 Marist Coll.
Wisconsin 52% 45%   Sep 18 Sep 19 PPP

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
New Jersey Bob Menendez* 50% Joseph Kyrillos 36%     Sep 06 Sep 12 Fairleigh Dickinson U.
Nevada Shelley Berkley 41% Dean Heller* 42%     Sep 18 Sep 18 Rasmussen
Virginia Tim Kaine 51% George Allen 44%     Sep 11 Sep 17 Quinnipiac U.
Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin 48% Tommy Thompson 46%     Sep 16 Sep 18 Marist Coll.

* Denotes incumbent