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News from the Votemaster

Polls Aren't Moving, Both Sides Worried

The bounce President Obama got from the Democratic convention shows no sign of fading and both sides are worried. One reason the polls are not moving is that people have made up their minds and there are hardly any voters left to swing. A large fraction are not really strongly for either candidate but are strongly against one of them. One voter said he'd vote for Saddam Hussein before he'd vote for Barack Hussein but another called Romney the devil. Not much motion is likely there.

Romney's team can read the handwriting on the wall and the pixels on the monitor and is trying to put on a brave face, saying: "We've got a campaign which is tied with an incumbent president [of] the United States." The team knows that in the national polls, it is fairly close, but in this graph of the electoral college Romney has been behind all year and is now down 122 electoral votes. They feel that some fundamentals (such as the poor jobs situation) put them in a strong position, while at the same time ignoring other economic indicators (such as a booming stock market) that favor Obama. They say they have a plan to right their ship and will roll it out this week.

Team Obama has a different problem: fear that the Democrats will think it is in the bag already and start goofing off. It discounts the polls showing Obama ahead in key states and say Democrats have to work harder. For the Democrats, complacency is a grave threat because their real hopes are based on a massive get-out-the-vote operation that could be foiled by Democrats thinking that voting is unnecessary, as well as voter ID problems

Romney Skips Campaigning to Raise Money

Despite criticism from many Republicans that he is not spending enough time on the campaign trail, Romney is convinced the key to success is more money--probably because he spent decades running a business where that was certainly true. So he spent yesterday in Southern California attending fundraisers. The first was 12 miles from his beachfront home in La Jolla, where guests could pay up to $25,000 a head to hear him speak and be photographed standing next to him. The second was more upscale, at the Beverly Hilton, where the top ticket went for $50,000. In contrast, Obama spent most of the day campaigning in Wisconsin, a state that might be in play now on account of Paul Ryan's presence on the Republican ticket.

Romney's emphasis on fundraising at a time when he really should be out talking to the voters may be revealing another thing he would prefer to keep secret: his campaign does not have as much money as it needs. With $50 million in the bank as of Sept. 1, it is far from broke, but the reports that he has been raising $100 million a month don't tell the whole story. Those amounts have been a combination of what the campaign raised and what the RNC raised. Those funds are not interchangeable. Much of the RNC money is earmarked for the state parties and cannot be used for attack ads against Obama. Furthermore, Romney does not control RNC money--chairman Reince Priebus does--and their goals aren't necessarily aligned. All Romney cares about is winning this election; Priebus wants to build a strong Republican Party for 2014, 2016, and beyond. Obama, in contrast, gets a larger percentage of his money from small donations directly to his campaign, so he has direct control of the money. As of Sept. 1, he had $88 million in the bank. Also, raising money in small amounts via his Website means less time has to be spent currying the favor of wealthy donors, freeing up more time to spend in swing states rather than in states (like California) where the donors are.

Republicans Worried A Reelected Obama Would Have Upper Hand on Taxes

It is never helpful when your side is openly talking about what is going to happen if the other side wins. Normally, that possibility is dismissed as improbable. But Republicans in Congress are now admitting that if Obama wins, he will have a mandate to increase taxes on the wealthy and they won't be able to stop him. The problem is that the Bush tax cuts expire on Dec. 31, 2012, so if Congress does nothing, taxes go up. Then in early January, Obama could propose keeping the middle-class tax cuts but cap them at an income level of $250,000 for everyone. Republicans would be hard pressed to filibuster a proposed tax cut that benefitted 95% of the population.

Voter ID Laws Also Aimed at Disenfranchising College Students

Although the new state laws passed by Republican-controlled legislatures are mostly aimed at suppressing the minority vote, they also are aimed to some extent at making it hard for college students to vote, especially students studying somewhere other than their home state. Some states have even gone as far as to explicitly forbid the use of out-of-state drivers licenses as voter ID, knowing that for many students, this is the only form of government-issued ID they have. Many students are unaware of all the fuss and will be turned away when they try to vote, which could cause chaos at the polls. For a pessimistic view of the state of American democracy, look here. The article is a bit strident, but is fundamentally true. The thing to keep in mind is that all the new laws that restrict voting address only in-person voting fraud, of which there are virtually no proven cases. All these new laws ignore absentee ballot voting fraud, which actually occurs. They ignore it because legislators know it would reduce Republican turnout and the unspoken goal is really to reduce Democratic turnout.

Ralph Reed is Back Microtargeting Evangelicals

Ralph Reed, the Republicans' boy wonder who helped George W. Bush win in 2004, is back after 6 years in purgatory for working closely with the disgraced and imprisoned lobbyist, Jack Abramoff. What makes Reed so irresistible, despite his close ties to a convicted criminal, is his ownership of the nation's best database of reliably conservative evangelical voters. These people can be sent carefully targeted flyers making a few simple points about abortion and gay marriage, designed to get them revved up. They can also be visited by like-minded volunteers to make the case that it's Romney or Armageddon.

The database was assembled from 171 different sources. These include people who are members of conservative churches, have downloaded Sarah Palin's book, own a pickup truck, have a hunting license, and much more. They were then sent survey questionnaires to get demographic information about age, marital status, home ownership and more. Using sophisticated data mining techniques, people can be rated as to how reliably conservative they were, thus greatly increasing the yield for a given amount of outreach effort.

NRSC Launches Ad, But Not Against the Democrat

The race in Maine to replace Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who is leaving the Senate in disgust, has taken an odd twist. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has started running an ad in Maine, but not against the Democratic candidate, Cynthia Dill. Instead, it is targeted at the front runner, former governor Angus King, who is running as in independent in a state that has a history of electing independents to high office. The Republicans' strategy is to try to split the Democratic vote between Dill and King so the Republican candidate, Charlie Summers, can get a narrow plurality. The idea is not so far fetched. In 2010, there was a three-way race for governor of Maine with the Democratic vote split between Democrat Libby Mitchell and independent Eliot Cutler, allowing Gov. Paul LePage (R-ME) to win with 38% of the vote. The Republicans are trying for an encore.

Palin Urges Romney to Go Rogue

Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has urged Mitt Romney to "go rogue." She said Romney has to tell the American people the truth about the economy and national security. It is not clear what she actually means, however, since Romney has talked about nothing other than the economy all year. It is possible that she wants Romney to unleash Paul Ryan, but Romney's pollsters know very well that his plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system is very unpopular in Florida so they are trying hard to avoid the topic. It is also possible that Palin is just desperately trying to remain a force after declining to run for the Republican nomination, something she probably could have gotten, given how weak the field was. Nevertheless, she remains a colorful figure.

Today's Presidential Polls

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Florida 48% 47%   Sep 17 Sep 19 Mason Dixon
Ohio 51% 46%   Sep 13 Sep 18 U. of Cincinnati

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
California Dianne Feinstein* 57% Elizabeth Emken 31%     Sep 06 Sep 18 Field Poll
Montana Jon Tester* 45% Denny Rehberg 48%     Sep 17 Sep 19 Mason Dixon
Ohio Sherrod Brown* 52% Josh Mandel 45%     Sep 13 Sep 18 U. of Cincinnati

* Denotes incumbent