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News from the Votemaster

Ryan Became Romney Instead of Romney Becoming Ryan

Conservatives who cheered Mitt Romney's selection of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate in the hope this indicated a more aggressive, more conservative stance for Romney have been sorely disappointed. They had expected Ryan's bold style to rub off on Romney. Instead it is the other way: Ryan has become muted and vague, like Romney. The problem is certainly not Ryan. All vice-presidential candidates know who the boss is and Ryan is surely doing precisely what his boss wants: look sharp but be vague about all the details.

In the six weeks since he was tapped, Ryan hasn't given a single national press conference although he has done interviews for local media outlets--which typically don't push the interviewee very hard. His stump speech rarely mentions his plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system. Instead he attacks President Obama and plays up his bow-hunting abilities and working-class background. None of this is the red meat conservatives had expected, but one sees Team Romney's fingerprints all over it. The one time Ryan did talk about Medicare, at the annual AARP convention, he was roundly booed. To make things even worse, he was supposed to put Wisconsin in play, but our current average of six recent polls gives Obama a lead there of 51% to 45%.

In fact, his net effect on the ticket is probably negative. A new Ipsos poll shows that 44% think Ryan is not qualified to be President while 29% think he is. Given that in the absence of an evenly divided Senate, the Vice President's only job is to call the White House every morning at 8 A.M. to see if the President is still alive, this is clearly not a good sign. But there is still hope for Ryan. Only 56% of registered voters even know who he is.

While not directly related to the fact that only 56% of the voters know who Ryan is, despite massive publicity for 6 weeks, SAT reading scores are at a 40-year low. Could it be that an inability to read affects people's knowledge of the country and world? And note, the SAT is only taken by students hoping to go to college, that is, the cream of the high school crop.

Could the Money Go Downticket?

The election is 6 weeks from today and the polls are not budging. Everyone sees this, including the billionaires running the superPACs. These are people who hate throwing good money after bad and if nothing much changes after the first debate on Oct. 3 in Denver, there is a danger they may conclude the presidential race is lost and stop funding anti-Obama commercials. Instead, they may divert the moneystream into Senate and House races in order to give Republicans majorities in both chambers so they can block everything Obama wants to do. At this point, another $100 million invested in the presidential campaign doesn't mean much because both sides are awash in cash. However, $5 million in a Senate campaign is significant and $5 million in a House campaign is gigantic. If you give $5 million to a congressman, he'll vote to change the colors in the American flag to whatever you want.

However, in politics, nothing is simple. If the big superPACs abandon Romney, it will be all over the news and the headlines will all be variations of: "Republicans think Romney is toast." A sense of gloom and doom could descend on Republican voters, most of whom are more focused on the presidential races than downticket. A discouraged voter might stay home on election day. Furthermore, once the conventional wisdom has become "Obama will win," the DNC and Democratic superPACs may divert their funds to critical Senate and House races, even though they will be outspent.

Conservative SuperPACs Are Working Together

By law, political action committees of various stripes are not allowed to coordinate with the candidates they are supporting. However, new this year, they are coordinating with each other, which is legal. Also, while they may not be formally coordinating with the Romney campaign, all they have to do is turn on their televisions for 10 minutes and they will learn what Romney's three top messages are: (1) attack Obama, (2) attack Obama, and (3) attack Obama. So even without formal meetings, their ads are essentially identical to the campaigns, not only in content but also in style, visual effects, etc. The effect is to amplify the Romney campaign message without breaking the law. The onslaught will start this week. Years from now political scientists will study this campaign as an example of what happens when the incumbent defines the challenger before the challenger gets a chance to do so, but then the challenger hits back with a massive, unprecedented wave of advertising telling people that the incumbent has failed completely. In a few short weeks we will see if the needle is moving.

New Laws Could Affect 10 Million Latino Voters

A new study from a civil rights group called the Advancement Project says restrictive voting laws passed in 23 states could deter or prevent up to 10 million Latino citizens from voting in November. The laws aren't the same in all states. They do things like purging voters from the rolls (frequently including legal voters), requiring photo ID to vote, reducing early voting hours, and so on. Many of these laws are being challenged in court now, but it is doubtful that all the challenges will be resolved before the election. The intent of the laws is to suppress turnout of Democratic-leaning constituencies. If large numbers of voters who are not allowed to vote ask for provisional ballots, in close contests there could be court cases over these ballots after the election and the ensuing chaos could make the 2000 election in Florida look like a Victorian picnic.

Life in the Bubble as Seen from the Inside

Jennifer Granholm, a former two-term Democratic governor of Michigan, has written a piece telling how her 78-year-old mother didn't quite understand why they had to stand in a security line at an airport. During her 8 years as governor, Granholm didn't have to deal with security lines, shopping, cooking, cleaning, gardening, or anything else that normal people do because governors have staff to do all these things. (The staff doesn't stand in line at the airport; governors are whisked around it.) Granholm makes the point that ultrawealthy people, like Mitt Romney, live in a similar bubble and don't have a good feeling of what life is like outside it.

As an example, she relates a story about him from 1994, when Romney was running for the Senate. He visited a shelter for homeless veterans and was told they didn't have any milk. Romney joked: "Well, maybe you can teach the vets to milk cows!" The remark became big news because it showed Romney didn't understand what life is really like for the less fortunate.

Today is the Deadline for Todd Akin to Drop Out of Missouri Senate Race

Today is the last day Rep. Tod Akin (R-MO) can petition a court to remove his name from the ballot. If he does not do this today, his name will appear on the November ballot, even if he drops out later. Republicans have moved heaven and earth to get him out of the race on account of his controversial comment that women who are raped don't get pregnant so abortion laws need not make an exception for rape victims. If Akin stays in, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is favored to win, which will be an enormous help to the Democrats deperately trying to hold control of the Senate.

Today's Presidential Polls

Today's polls bring more good news for Obama and bad news for Romney. Obama has steady leads in the swing states of Florida Iowa, and Nevada.

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Florida 50% 45%   Sep 20 Sep 22 ARG
Iowa 51% 44%   Sep 20 Sep 23 ARG
Michigan 54% 42%   Sep 20 Sep 20 Rasmussen
Minnesota 48% 40%   Sep 17 Sep 19 Mason Dixon
Nevada 51% 44%   Sep 20 Sep 23 ARG
Pennsylvania 48% 40%   Sep 12 Sep 20 Mercyhurst University

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Pennsylvania Bob Casey* 31% Tom Smith 21%     Sep 12 Sep 20 Mercyhurst University

* Denotes incumbent