Les anglonautes

About | Search | Vocapedia | Learning | Podcasts | Videos | History | Arts | Science | Translate

 Previous Home Up Next


History > 2008 > USA > Politics (VIII)





Gary McCoy



The Suburban Journals




R: Barack Obama
















78 Percent Of U.S. Hispanics

Favor Obama Over McCain


November 4, 2008
Filed at 8:02 a.m. ET
The New York Times


PHOENIX (Reuters) - In the final stretch to the presidential election, more than three quarters of likely Hispanic voters say they support Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain, a study found.

The Univision/Reuters/Zogby poll released on Tuesday said that 78 percent of a sample of 1,016 Latino likely voters favored Sen. Obama, with 13 percent supporting McCain, an Arizona senator.

The poll, which was conducted between October 30 and November 2, found that 54 percent of respondents said the economy and jobs were the most important issue in deciding who to vote for, followed by health care and immigration, with 12 percent and 11 percent respectively.

Hispanics make up 15 percent of the U.S. population and 9 percent of the electorate, and could be a critical swing voting bloc in battleground states in the U.S. Southwest as well as Florida on Tuesday.

In 2004, President George W. Bush won about 40 percent of the Latino vote -- a Republican record -- when he beat Democrat John Kerry. But opinion polls show Republican standing among Hispanics has since been hurt by a shrill national debate over immigration reform and a worsening economy.

A survey by Zogby International last month found that 70 percent of Hispanic likely voters favored Obama, with 21 percent favoring McCain.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor, editing by Chris Wilson)

    78 Percent Of U.S. Hispanics Favor Obama Over McCain, NYT, 4.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/washington/politics-us-usa-politics-poll-hispanics.html






FACTBOX: Poll closing times


Tue Nov 4, 2008
1:26am EST


(Reuters) - Voters in 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia head to the polls on November 4 to elect the next president.

Results are expected to trickle in throughout the evening as polls close.

Following are the times at which polls close in each state. Some states that stretch across two time zones may have more than one closing time.

6:00 P.M. EST

Indiana (most of state)

Kentucky (eastern portion)

7:00 P.M. EST

Florida (most of state)


Indiana (western regions)

Kentucky (western portion)

South Carolina



7:30 P.M. EST

North Carolina


West Virginia

8:00 P.M. EST




District of Columbia

Florida (western panhandle)





Michigan (most of state)



New Hampshire

New Jersey



South Dakota (eastern region)


Texas (most of state)

8:30 P.M. EST


9:00 P.M. EST





Michigan (small portion of Upper Peninsula)



New Mexico

New York

Rhode Island

South Dakota (western region)

Texas (El Paso area)



10:00 P.M. EST

Idaho (southern region)




North Dakota (eastern region)

Oregon (eastern region)


11:00 P.M. EST



Idaho (northern panhandle)

North Dakota (western region)

Oregon (most of state)

Washington state


Alaska (most of state)


Alaska (Aleutian Islands)

(Compiled by Andy Sullivan, editing by Philip Barbara)

    FACTBOX: Poll closing times, R, 4.11.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUKTRE4A315420081104?virtualBrandChannel=10112






Networks May Call Election

Before Some Polls Close


November 4, 2008
Filed at 2:44 a.m. ET
The New York Times


NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - No matter who wins Tuesday's presidential election, you can be sure of one thing: The networks aren't going to hold back calling the election for Barack Obama or John McCain if either gathers the magic number of 270 electoral votes.

That means it's possible, if not altogether likely, that the presidential election could be called before polls close in the West. That happened once before, in 1980, when the election was famously called -- and conceded -- by 9 p.m. ET. But it'll be the Internet, cable and the speed of news that will be the driving factor this time.

The networks all promise to take the time to project the race accurately, and say they won't make any predictions before their time. But executives say it would be foolish for them to sit on a projection if they're sure, and it wouldn't be fair to viewers.

"There's no way to get around it," CBS News senior vp Paul Friedman said. "If one man gets 270 electoral votes before the West Coast polls are closed, we're not going to pretend (he doesn't)."

Phil Alongi, who runs special events programing at NBC News, agrees.

"If you project a state and (the candidate) reaches the electoral vote, what are you going to do? Lie?" Alongi said. "We will project a state when we're comfortable with the projection. If one of them hits the required 270, you have to report that, and you can't hold back."

The networks all have agreed not to call an individual state before the voting stops there. But an overall projection could come before folks in California, Nevada and Washington finish voting. Executives know it's a fine line that they'll be walking, and it goes beyond a strict up-and-down counting to 270.

"Suppose that one guy has 260 (electoral votes) and we have exit polls and other information indicating that he's going to pick up the votes he needs," Friedman said. "It becomes the delicate matter of telling the audience of what we think is going to happen without discouraging them to vote."

CNN Washington bureau chief David Bohrman, who grew up on the West Coast, is acutely aware of the issue. But he said CNN can't hold back. That doesn't mean, however, that the networks won't take pains to say that, even with an early victory, it's important to vote. Friedman said there are plenty of House and Senate races and local issues that need to be decided regardless.

"We're acutely aware of not wanting to be in the position of discouraging people from voting," Friedman said. "But we're not someone's nanny. There are reasons to vote on the West Coast (even with the presidential race decided)."

All that being said, no one knows how long the election coverage will go on before a decision is reached. Few think that it will be the blowout that some expect; nor will the magic number be reached without electoral-vote rich California except under the most extraordinary circumstances.

"I don't see anyone going over the top even before 11 p.m. (EST)," said one executive. Added another, "It's mathematically possible but extremely unlikely."

It's likely that if either McCain or Obama wins relatively early, tens of millions of TV sets will be shutting off pretty soon after. But the networks have prepared to move relatively quickly to the next story, which is control of Congress.

"People lose sight of the fact that there's a major story that clearly will not be decided early, and that will be (which party) controls Congress," Friedman said. "If Obama becomes the winner, the major story then becomes does he have a Congress that is controlled by Democrats?"

"There's going to be a fascinating story to tell on Election Night, no matter how it comes out, because it's a story the entire country has been engaged in for the long haul," ABC News political director David Chalian said.

Chastened by their experience in the 2000 election, every network was exceedingly careful in 2004. The networks each overhauled their decision desks, and only Fox News called -- correctly -- the election for President Bush in the wee hours of the next morning. The rest of the networks said they believed Bush would win but they weren't sure until New Mexico's situation became clearer.

And even though it's eight years since the drawn-out battle of 2000, the networks are painfully aware of what could happen.

"The last thing we want to do is have a repeat of 2000, where we have to take back the projections," CNN's Bohrman said. "It's more important to be right than first."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

    Networks May Call Election Before Some Polls Close, NYT, 4.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/washington/politics-us-election.html






Nominees Pack in Visits

to G.O.P.-Leaning States

as Campaign Closes


November 4, 2008
The New York Times


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A campaign waged under the specter of war and financial crisis drew to an anxious finish on Monday as Senators Barack Obama and John McCain raced across nine states and asked voters on both sides to discount polls and predictions on the closing day of a two-year pursuit of the presidency.

Mr. Obama surrendered the race to the judgment of the American people as he told a booming crowd here, “Now, it’s all about who wants it more, who believes in it more.” Mr. McCain sought to motivate Republicans who worried aloud that it could be a bleak election, declaring, “The Mac is back!”

In the final hours of his second bid for the presidency, Mr. McCain dashed through Republican-leaning states from Florida to Indiana and New Mexico to Nevada. He stopped in Tennessee, hoping to reach voters in adjacent North Carolina and Virginia, and he swung by only one normally Democratic state, Pennsylvania. He planned to return home for a rally in Arizona in the small hours of the night.

Mr. Obama, confident in his standing on Democratic terrain, devoted his final day of campaigning by trying to push Florida, North Carolina and Virginia into his column. He pressed ahead after he awoke to news that his grandmother, the woman chiefly responsible for his upbringing, had died in Hawaii.

The election eve travels of both men, as well as their running mates, offered a viewer’s guide of the states whose outcomes will play a large role in settling who will become the nation’s 44th president.

Their last-minute efforts were amplified by their muscular ground organizations and unprecedented advertising barrages in all forms. The Obama campaign tested its text-messaging program to remind voters, particularly young ones, to go to the polls. The McCain campaign activated its automated phone system to check with any voter who had shown an interest in the Republican ticket.

In their pitches to voters, each candidate struck an optimistic chord, delivering a few gracious words about his opponent and offering a vow to change Washington. Yet neither refrained from reprising the piercing criticisms that have become the soundtrack for the five-month general election fight.

“At the end of this long race, I want to congratulate him on the tough race that he has fought,” Mr. Obama said of Mr. McCain in a morning speech here at Veterans Memorial Auditorium. “He can point to a few items where he has broken with President Bush, but when it comes from the central issue of this election, the plain truth is John McCain has stood with George Bush.”

Mr. McCain delivered a truncated version of his stump speech at each stop but grew hoarser as the day progressed. His aides said he appeared to be catching the bad cold that had waylaid many others in the petri dish of his campaign plane. By late afternoon in Indiana, he was sucking on throat lozenges to try to finish the marathon.

“My friends, you know that I’ve been fighting for this country since I was 17 years old, and I have the scars to prove it,” he said at a rally in Indianapolis as he battled to prevent Mr. Obama from taking a state that has not backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.

Four hours later, Mr. McCain dropped out of the sky into the supposed home of space aliens, Roswell, N.M. “I am pleased to announce that I have received the alien endorsement,” he told the crowd, to a roar of laughter.

As the contest headed to its finish, an air of normalcy surrounded Mr. Obama. There was no rush of friends or advisers on the plane for the final flights. His demeanor, at least from his public appearances, seemed the same as it has for months. His schedule of rallies was no different than at any point in the general election.

Only a few close advisers knew that at 8 a.m. he had received word from his sister that his 86-year-old grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, had died. When he arrived at a rally, he spoke briefly about his grandmother, whom he visited last month in Honolulu.

“She has gone home,” Mr. Obama said, his voice tinged with emotion. “She died peacefully in her sleep with my sister at her side, so there’s great joy instead of tears.”

Mr. McCain, as he sprinted through seven states, warned voters at every stop of the differences between the outlooks and policies of the two tickets. He did not dally, spending 30 minutes at each stop, with his argument boiled down to fit the frenzied moment.

“Senator Obama’s running to punish the successful,” Mr. McCain said at his opening stop in Tampa, Fla. “I’m running to make everyone successful.”

The mood on the McCain campaign plane was upbeat and punchy throughout the day as Mr. McCain’s advisers continued to hammer their belief that the polls were tightening and that Mr. McCain’s chances of winning the presidency were difficult but not impossible.

“Winning 270 is right in the cards,” Rick Davis, the campaign manager, insisted around midnight Sunday, as Mr. McCain’s plane headed from New Hampshire to Florida.

Mr. McCain drew stirring applause from his crowds — as well as jeers directed at the Democratic rival — when he said Mr. Obama wanted to “spread the wealth around,” Adding,

“He’s in the far left lane of American politics.”

The barnstorming rallies, the dawn-to-dusk television commercials and the armies of volunteers flooding neighborhoods disguised how the United States now elects its president: with millions of ballots already having been cast in early voting.

In Ohio, voting lines looped in and out of doors, upstairs and around corners at the registrar’s office in Columbus, with a record number of voters adding their ballots to those that have been collected for nearly a month. Democrats outnumbered Republicans by more than two to one.

In Florida, about 37 percent of registered voters have already cast ballots, state officials said, setting the stage for potentially record-breaking turnout.

In Virginia, where more restrictions are placed on early voting, the state has processed 465,962 absentee ballots. And more than 300,000 Virginians voted in person by an absentee ballot. In 2004, a total of 222,059 absentee ballots were cast.

Worried about the outlook in Virginia, where a Democrat has not won the presidential race in more than four decades, Mr. McCain’s campaign sued the state’s election board on Monday. The campaign asserted that the absentee ballots had not been mailed on time to members of the military serving overseas.

Mr. Obama held his final rally in Virginia, a sign Democrats were waging an all-out push for the state, which is seen as a barometer for the fight with Mr. McCain. In Virginia and around the country, both sides are keeping a close eye on the weather .

“I think if it rained mud, it won’t make a difference,” said L. Douglas Wilder, the former governor of Virginia, who was the state’s first black chief executive. “They’re coming out. Trust me, they’re coming out.”




The First Results Are In

DIXVILLE NOTCH, N.H. (AP) — Mr. Obama easily won early Tuesday in Dixville Notch, N.H., where tradition of having the first Election Day ballots tallied lives on. Mr. Obama defeated Mr. McCain 15 to 6.

    Nominees Pack in Visits to G.O.P.-Leaning States as Campaign Closes, NYT, 4.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/04/us/politics/04campaign.html






The ’08 Race:

A Sea Change for Politics as We Know It


November 4, 2008
The New York Times


The 2008 race for the White House that comes to an end on Tuesday fundamentally upended the way presidential campaigns are fought in this country, a legacy that has almost been lost with all the attention being paid to the battle between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama.

It has rewritten the rules on how to reach voters, raise money, organize supporters, manage the news media, track and mold public opinion, and wage — and withstand — political attacks, including many carried by blogs that did not exist four years ago. It has challenged the consensus view of the American electoral battleground, suggesting that Democrats can at a minimum be competitive in states and regions that had long been Republican strongholds.

The size and makeup of the electorate could be changed because of efforts by Democrats to register and turn out new black, Hispanic and young voters. This shift may have long-lasting ramifications for what the parties do to build enduring coalitions, especially if intensive and technologically-driven voter turnout programs succeed in getting more people to the polls. Mr. McCain’s advisers expect a record-shattering turnout of 130 million people, many being brought into the political process for the first time.

“I think we’ll be analyzing this election for years as a seminal, transformative race,” said Mark McKinnon, a senior adviser to President Bush’s campaigns in 2000 and 2004. “The year campaigns leveraged the Internet in ways never imagined. The year we went to warp speed. The year the paradigm got turned upside down and truly became bottom up instead of top down.”

To a considerable extent, Republicans and Democrats say, this is a result of the way that the Obama campaign sought to understand and harness the Internet (and other forms of so-called new media) to organize supporters and to reach voters who no longer rely primarily on information from newspapers and television. The platforms included YouTube, which did not exist in 2004, and the cellphone text messages that the campaign was sending out to supporters on Monday to remind them to vote.

“We did some very innovative things on the data side, and we did some Internet,” said Sara Taylor, who was the White House political director during Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign. “But only 40 percent of the country had broadband back then. You now have people who don’t have home telephones anymore. And Obama has done a tremendous job of waging a campaign through the new media challenge.

“I don’t know about you, but I see an Obama Internet ad every day. And I have for six months.”

Even more crucial to the way this campaign has transformed politics has been Mr. Obama’s success at using the Internet to build a huge network of contributors that permitted him to raise enough money — after declining to participate in the public financing system — to expand the map and compete in traditionally Republican states.

No matter who wins the election, Republicans and Democrats say, Mr. Obama’s efforts in places like Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia — organizing and advertising to voters who previously had little exposure to Democratic ideas and candidates — will force future candidates to think differently.

“The great impact that this election will have for the future is that it killed public financing for all time,” said Mr. McCain’s chief campaign strategist, Steve Schmidt. “That means the next Republican presidential campaign, hopefully a re-election for John McCain, will need to be a billion-dollar affair to challenge what the Democrats have accomplished with the use of the Internet and viral marketing to communicate and raise money.”

“It was a profound leap forward technologically,” Mr. Schmidt added. “Republicans will have to figure out how to compete with this in order to become competitive again at a national level and in House and Senate races.”

This transformation did not happen this year alone. In 2000, Mr. Bush’s campaign, lead by Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman, pioneered the use of microtargeting to find and appeal to potential new supporters. In 2004, the presidential campaign of Howard Dean was widely credited with being the first to see the potential power of the Internet to raise money and sign up volunteers, a platform that Mr. Obama tremendously expanded.

“They were Apollo 11, and we were the Wright Brothers,” said Joe Trippi, the manager of Mr. Dean’s campaign.

Terry Nelson, who was the political director of the Bush campaign in 2004, said that the evolution was challenging campaign operatives who worked for every presidential campaign, and would continue in 2012 and beyond.

“We are in the midst of a fundamental transformation of how campaigns are run,” Mr. Nelson said. “And it’s not over yet.”

The changes go beyond what Mr. Obama did and reflect a cultural shift in voters, producing an audience that is at once better informed, more skeptical and, from reading blogs, sometimes trafficking in rumors or suspect information. As a result, this new electorate tends to be more questioning of what it is told by campaigns and often uses the Web to do its own fact-checking.

“You do focus groups and people say, ‘I saw that ad and I went to this Web site to check it,’ ” said David Plouffe, the Obama campaign manager. “They are policing the campaigns.”

Mr. Schmidt said the speed and diversity of the news cycle had broken down the traditional way that voters received information and had given campaigns opportunities, and challenges, in trying to manage the news.

“The news cycle is hyperaccelerated and driven by new players on the landscape, like Politico and Huffington Post, which cause competition for organizations like The A.P. where there is a high premium on being first,” he said. “This hyperaccelerates a cable-news cycle driven to conflict and drama and trivia.”

Among the biggest changes this year is the intense new interest in politics, reflected in jumps in voters registration, early voting and attendance at Mr. Obama’s rallies. To no small extent, that is a reflection on the unusual interest stirred by his campaign. Thus, it is hardly clear that a future candidate who appropriated all the innovations that Mr. Obama and his campaign tried would necessarily have the same success as Mr. Obama.

“Without the candidate who excites people,” Mr. Plouffe said, “you can have the greatest strategy and machinery and it won’t matter.”

Mr. Trippi, who worked for one of Mr. Obama’s rivals in the Democratic primary, former Senator John Edwards, said: “It has all come together for one guy, Barack Obama. But now that it’s happened, it’s a permanent change.”

    The ’08 Race: A Sea Change for Politics as We Know It, NYT, 4.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/04/us/politics/04memo.html?hp






Seeking Upset, McCain to Campaign Election Day


November 4, 2008
Filed at 4:14 a.m. ET
The New York Times


PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) -- Pushing back against predictions of defeat, Republican John McCain scheduled campaign stops in two Western battlegrounds on Election Day after a seven-state sprint that brought him home to Arizona after midnight Tuesday.

The presidential nominee was breaking tradition, heading to a rally in Grand Junction, Colo., and a volunteer site in New Mexico before returning to Phoenix to watch election night returns. McCain normally stays close to home on Election Day, often taking in a movie.

''My friends, it's been a long, long journey,'' McCain told supporters gathered at an early morning rally Tuesday in Prescott, Arizona, where he kicked off his Senate campaigns. It was the final stop in a sprint across three time zones that took him to seven states Monday.

Campaign manager Rick Davis said the stops were added after polling indicated McCain was surging in Western battlegrounds including Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. Davis said wins in those states could mitigate losses in Eastern swing states that had long been GOP stalwarts, including Virginia and North Carolina.

Monday, McCain chased the sun from east to west through battlegrounds such as Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico and Nevada. He held his final rally after midnight in Prescott, Ariz., where he kicked off his campaigns for Senate.

The 72-year-old Senate veteran vowed to fight for every vote even as national and state battleground polls found Democrat Barack Obama with a measurable headwind into Election Day.

A blizzard of late polls showed Obama leading in most competitive states, leaving McCain with only the narrowest possible path to victory Tuesday night.

    Seeking Upset, McCain to Campaign Election Day, NYT, 4.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-McCain.html






McCain Defies Age In Final 22 - Hour Sprint


November 4, 2008
Filed at 3:15 a.m. ET
The New York Times


PRESCOTT, Az. (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain may be 72 years old, but he's not ready for the rocking chair.

Working on three hours of sleep, McCain hit seven states in 22 hours on Monday and Tuesday in a final cross-country sprint before the election, a grueling schedule for a man who would be the oldest person to ever take office as president.

"He's got a lot of stamina; I don't know if I could do it. I think he's in great shape," said stay-at-home mother Christina Riley, 41, at an airport rally in Blountville, Tennessee.

Up at 5:30 a.m., McCain raced through his stump speech and confidently predicted victory at morning stops in Tampa, Florida, and Blountville. By the third stop outside Pittsburgh, he appeared positively ebullient -- or perhaps a bit punch drunk.

"Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, thank you, Joe," McCain said as he introduced independent Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, a close friend.

He sounded a little hoarse at the next stop in Indianapolis. But a three-hour flight to Roswell, New Mexico gave McCain a chance to rally. He campaigned energetically at several stops in , New Mexico and Nevada. But grammar seemed to elude him at times at the final rally in Prescott, Arizona -- the town where he has concluded his previous Senate races.

"It's great to be home. Seven states today, and the enthusiasm and the momentum we've received, we're going to win tomorrow," McCain told a cheering crowd of several thousand.

"It's been a long journey, a long, long journey 'till we get the nomination and we've got one more day," he said, more than 21 hours after he started his day in Florida.

Democrat Barack Obama had 14-hour day planned. His first event in Jacksonville, Florida, started at 11 a.m., and after two more stops in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Manassas, Virginia, he planned to reach his Chicago home shortly after midnight.

McCain has joked about his age on "Saturday Night Live," but it is a real concern for some voters, especially compared to the 47-year-old, basketball-playing Obama.

A battle with skin cancer has left a prominent scar on McCain's jaw, but medical records released in May gave him an essentially clean bill of health.

The presidency takes a visible toll on much younger men -- Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican George W. Bush both accumulated plenty of white hair in office.

But at Monday's rallies, age didn't seem to be much of a concern for McCain.

"He looks like he's in really good health, plus it gives him wisdom," said 66-year-old Jean Soergel in Tennessee.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Caren Bohan, editing by Cynthia Osterman)

    McCain Defies Age In Final 22 - Hour Sprint, NYT, 4.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/washington/politics-us-usa-politics-age.html






Obama, McCain Both Promise Change on Election Eve


November 4, 2008
Filed at 3:01 a.m. ET
The New York Times


TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Barack Obama radiated confidence and John McCain displayed the grit of an underdog Monday as the presidential rivals reached for the finish line of a two-year marathon with a burst of campaigning across battlegrounds from the Atlantic Coast to Arizona.

''We are one day away from change in America,'' said Obama, a Democrat seeking to become the first black president -- a dream not nearly as distant on election eve as it once was.

McCain, too, promised to turn the page of the era of George W. Bush and said he sensed an upset in the making.

''This momentum, this enthusiasm convinces me we're going to win tomorrow,'' McCain told a raucous evening rally in Henderson, Nev., part of a seven-state campaign sprint that was to end in Arizona early Tuesday.

Republican running mate Sarah Palin was more pointed as she campaigned in Ohio. ''Now is not the time to experiment with socialism,'' she said. ''Our opponent's plan is just for bigger government.''

Late-season attacks aside, Obama led in virtually all the pre-election polls in a race where economic concerns dominated and the war in Iraq was pushed -- however temporarily -- into the background.

While the overall number of early votes was unknown, statistics showed more than 29 million ballots cast in 30 states and suggested an advantage for Obama. Democrats voted in larger numbers than Republicans in North Carolina, Colorado, Florida and Iowa, all of which went for President Bush in 2004.

Obama came out on top in the first Tuesday votes, recorded just after midnight in two small New Hampshire towns. Obama defeated McCain by a 15-6 vote in Dixville Notch, while Hart's Location reported 17 votes for Obama, 10 for McCain and two for write-in Ron Paul.

Democrats also anticipated gains in the House and in the Senate, although Republicans battled to hold their losses to a minimum and a significant number of races were rated as tossups in the campaign's final hours.

By their near-non-stop attention to states that voted Republican in 2004, both Obama and McCain acknowledged the Democrats' advantage in the presidential race.

The two rivals both began their days in Florida, a traditionally Republican state with 27 electoral votes where polls make it close.

Obama drew 9,000 or so at a rally in Jacksonville, while across the state, a crowd estimated at roughly 1,000 turned out for McCain.

The front-runner also choked up on the campaign's final day as he told a crowd in North Carolina of the death of his grandmother from cancer. Madelyn Payne Dunham was 86.

''She died peacefully in her sleep with my sister at her side,'' he said of the woman who had played a large role in his upbringing. ''And so there is great joy as well as tears. I'm not going to talk about it too long because it is hard for me to talk about.''

McCain and his wife issued a statement of condolence.

One day before the election, no battleground state was left unattended.

But Virginia, where no Democrat has won in 40 years, and Ohio, where no Republican president has ever lost, seemed most coveted. Together, they account for 33 electoral votes that McCain can scarcely do without.

Democratic volunteers in Maryland, a state safe for Obama, called voters in next-door Virginia, where McCain trailed in the polls. The Democratic presidential candidate's visit to Virginia during the day was his 11th since he clinched the nomination.

Unwilling to concede anything, McCain's campaign filed a lawsuit in Richmond seeking to force election officials to count late-arriving ballots from members of the armed forces overseas. No hearing was immediately scheduled.

Several hundred miles away in Ohio -- the state that sealed Bush's second term in 2004 -- voters waited as long as three hours in line to cast ballots in Columbus, part of heavily contested Franklin County. Poll workers handed out bottles of water to sustain them.

Lori Huffman, 38, a supervisor at UPS Inc., took the day off to vote early for her man, McCain. ''It's exciting isn't it?'' she asked, gesturing toward the long line of waiting voters.

''This is happening all over the state, from Cleveland to Dayton,'' said Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat trying to deliver his state to Obama.

Obama hoped so, after more than a year building an elaborate get-out-the-vote operation, first for the primary campaign, now for the general election.

The Democrat flew from Florida to North Carolina to Virginia, all states that went Republican in 2004, before heading home to Chicago on Election Eve.

Twenty-one months after he launched his campaign, he allowed, ''You know. I feel pretty peaceful ... I gotta say.''

On a syndicated radio program, ''The Russ Parr Morning Show,'' he said, ''The question is going to be who wants it more. And I hope that our supporters want it bad, because I think the country needs it.''

If wanting it were all that mattered, the race would be a toss-up.

McCain, behind in the polls, set out on a grueling run through several traditionally Republican states that he has failed to secure. Florida, Virginia, Indiana, New Mexico and Nevada were on his itinerary, as was Pennsylvania, the only state that voted Democratic in 2004 where he still nursed hopes.

His last appearance of the long day, past midnight, was a home state rally in Prescott, Ariz. ''My friends, it's been a long, long journey,'' he told supporters.

The surrogate campaigners included Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democrats and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the Republicans. Both lost races for their party's presidential nomination earlier in the year, and both could be expected to try again if their ticket loses the White House.

Not so, President Bush.

Deeply unpopular, the man who won the White House twice was out of public view, an effort to help McCain.

Palin was racing through five Bush states Monday -- Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada -- in an effort to boost conservative turnout for McCain. The Alaska governor has been a popular draw for many GOP base voters, and already, there was speculation about a future national campaign should Republicans lose in 2008.

Joe Biden, Obama's running mate, campaigned in Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. ''We are on the cusp of a new brand of leadership,'' he assured supporters.

Biden didn't say so, but he was as close to guaranteed a victory as any politician in America. Whatever the fate of the Democratic presidential ticket, he was heavily favored to win a new Senate term from Delaware on Tuesday.


Eds: Espo reported from Washington. AP writers Nedra Pickler in Jacksonville, Fla., Meghan Barr in Columbus, Ohio, Joe Milica from Lakewood, Ohio, Christopher Clark in Lee's Summit, Mo., and Kristen Wyatt in Denver contributed to this report.

    Obama, McCain Both Promise Change on Election Eve, NYT, 4.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Campaign-Rdp.html






Final Sprint Is Mostly on G.O.P. Turf


November 4, 2008
The New York Times


On the last full day of a nearly two-year presidential race, the Democratic and Republican campaigns are kicking into overdrive.

Senators Barack Obama and John McCain are hurtling toward the finish line on Monday in a last-minute blitz to fire up their supporters and win over any remaining undecided voters, holding 10 rallies across four time zones and even appearing on MTV and Monday Night Football.

The candidates are fighting the final round of the campaign almost exclusively on Republican turf, in states from Florida to Missouri to Nevada. Mr. McCain alone is charging through seven states on Monday as he tries to overcome Mr. Obama’s lead in the polls and pull off an upset win on Tuesday.

“The pundits may not know it, and the Democrats may not know it, but the Mac is back,” Mr. McCain, the Republican nominee, told supporters in Tampa. “We’re going to win this election.”

Mr. McCain delivered an abbreviated version of his stump speech on Monday morning, making familiar criticisms that his Democratic rival would raise taxes, increase spending and drive the country’s struggling economy deeper into crisis.

“Senator Obama’s running to punish the successful,” he said. “I’m running to make everyone successful. This is the fundamental difference between Senator Obama and me.”

He delivered the entire pugnacious address in 13 minutes, and then set off for a rally at the airport in Blountville, Tenn. After Tennessee, he will hopscotch through Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico and Nevada before ending the day with a rally in Prescott, Ariz.

Even as the candidates make their final arguments to voters and strike themes of unity and bipartisanship, they continue to attack each other on taxes, energy issues and questions of leadership and judgment.

In Jacksonville, Fla., Mr. Obama again criticized Mr. McCain for being out of touch on the economy. It was there that Mr. McCain told supporters on Sept. 15 that he believed “the fundamentals of our economy are strong.” Democrats pounced on the statement, making it a central refrain when they attacked Mr. McCain.The crowd booed after Mr. Obama repeated the quotation, but he shushed them.

“You don’t need to boo, you just need to vote,” he told them.

Mr. Obama told the crowd that they were one day away from “changing the United States of America,” and offered a coda to his closing arguments, which call for a more conciliatory tone in Washington and policies that focus on the middle class. And he warned not to ease up in the waning hours of the campaign.

“Florida, don’t believe for a second this election’s over,” Mr. Obama said. “We’re going to have to work like our futures depend on it for the next 24 hours — because it does. At this point, I’ve made the arguments. Now it’s all about who wants it more, who believes in it more.”

After Florida, Mr. Obama plans to travel to North Carolina and Virginia, as he pursues a strategy of trying to rack up electoral votes in states that voted Republican in the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns. Mr. Obama has been outspending Mr. McCain on television advertising in states like Florida and North Carolina.

His running mate, Senator Joseph Biden, and Michelle Obama are campaigning separately on Republican turf that includes Missouri, Nevada, Colorado and Ohio. Mr. Biden is ending the day with a rally in Philadelphia, hoping to block the McCain campaign’s attempts to flip the traditionally Democratic state of Pennsylvania.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton offered an assist in a spirited speech in St. Charles, Mo., urging the crowd there to support Mr. Obama in order to undo eight years of Bush administration policies and “take back our country.”

“I think the Republicans are out of time, out of luck, and tomorrow, we will show them out of the White House,” she said.

On the Republican side, Mr. McCain’s running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, derided Mr. Obama’s tax proposals at a rally in Lakewood, Ohio. She said that events in the last weeks of the campaign, such as Mr. Obama’s conversation with “Joe the Plumber,” indicated that Mr. Obama planned to raise taxes on small businesses and regular Americans.

“You would be so surprised to find out what we found out, even in the last couple of days, 11th hour of this campaign, after two years,” Ms. Palin said. “Eleventh hour here, and more and more light though. Thank the Lord, more and more light is being shown on his plans!” She also assailed Mr. Obama for criticizing coal plants during an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board in January. Mr. Obama said then that capping greenhouse-gas emissions, an idea he supports, would make traditional coal-fired power plants prohibitively expensive to develop. But he added that the notion of abandoning coal altogether was an “illusion.”

“You’ve got to hear this tape,” Ms. Palin said. “You’re gonna hear Obama saying it, talking about bankruptcy there in the coal industry. He’s explaining all of this to The San Francisco Chronicle.”

“Liberals!” a man in the crowd shouted.

“And there must be something about San Francisco and he,” she continued, drawing laughter and cheers from the crowd. “Because it’s like I heard on Fox News today, it’s like a truth serum, where when he’s there he seems to be more candid. Remember it was there that he talking about, there you go, the bitter clingers. The cling-ons, all of us, I guess, hanging on to religion and guns.”

Like Mr. McCain, Ms. Palin is also shuttling across the country on Monday with planned stops in Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada. Just before midnight, Ms. Palin will fly to Alaska to that she can cast her vote at the Wasilla City Hall on Tuesday, then travel to Arizona spend election night in Phoenix.

Elisabeth Bumiller, Julie Bosman, Jeff Zeleny and John M. Broder contributed reporting.

    Final Sprint Is Mostly on G.O.P. Turf, NYT, 4.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/04/us/politics/04campaigncnd.html?hp






Op-Ed Columnist

Beyond Election Day


November 4, 2008
The New York Times


Conservative commentators had a lot of fun mocking Barack Obama’s use of the phrase, “the fierce urgency of now.”

Noting that it had originated with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Senator Obama made it a cornerstone of his early campaign speeches.

Conservatives kicked the phrase around like a soccer ball. “The fierce urgency of now,” they would say, giggling. What does it mean?

Well, if your house is on fire and your family is still inside, that’s an example of the fierce urgency of now.

Something like that is the case in the United States right now as Americans go to the polls in what is probably the most important presidential election since World War II. A mind-boggling series of crises is threatening not just the short-term future but the very viability of the nation.

The economy is sinking into quicksand. The financial sector, guardian of the nation’s wealth, is leaning on the crutch of a trillion-dollar taxpayer bailout. The giant auto companies — for decades the high-powered, gas-guzzling, exhaust-spewing pride of American industry — are on life support.

As the holiday shopping season approaches, the nation is hemorrhaging jobs, the value of the family home has plunged, retirement plans are shrinking like ice cubes on a hot stove and economists are telling us the recession has only just begun.

It’s in that atmosphere that voters today will be choosing between the crisis-management skills of Senator Obama, who has enlisted Joe Biden as aide-de-camp, and those of Senator John McCain, who is riding to the rescue with Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber in tow.

As important as this choice has become, the election is just a small first step. What Americans really have to decide is what kind of country they want.

Right now the United States is a country in which wealth is funneled, absurdly, from the bottom to the top. The richest 1 percent of Americans now holds close to 40 percent of all the wealth in the nation and maintains an iron grip on the levers of government power.

This is not only unfair, but self-defeating. The U.S. cannot thrive with its fabulous wealth concentrated at the top and the middle class on its knees. (No one even bothers to talk about the poor anymore.) How to correct this imbalance is one of the biggest questions facing the country.

The U.S. is also a country in which blissful ignorance is celebrated, and intellectual excellence (the key to 21st century advancement) is not just given short shrift, but is ridiculed. Paris Hilton and Britney Spears are cultural icons. The average American watches television a mind-numbing 4 1/2 hours a day.

At the same time, our public school system is plagued with some of the highest dropout rates in the industrialized world. Math and science? Forget about it. Too tough for these TV watchers, or too boring, or whatever.

“When I compare our high schools with what I see when I’m traveling abroad,” said Bill Gates, “I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow.”

The point here is that as we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the United States is in deep, deep trouble. Yet instead of looking for creative, 21st-century solutions to these enormous problems, too many of our so-called leaders are behaving like clowns, or worse — spouting garbage in the pubic sphere that hearkens back to the 1940s and ’50s.

Thoughtful, well-educated men and women are denounced as elites, and thus the enemies of ordinary Americans. Attempts to restore a semblance of fiscal sanity to a government that has been looted with an efficiency that would have been envied by the mob, are derided as subversive — the work of socialists, Marxists, Communists.

In 2008!

In North Carolina, Senator Elizabeth Dole, a conservative Republican, is in a tough fight for re-election against a Democratic state senator, Kay Hagan. So Ms. Dole ran a television ad that showed a close-up of Ms. Hagan’s face while the voice of a different woman asserts, “There is no God!”

Americans have to decide if they want a country that tolerates this kind of debased, backward behavior. Or if they want a country that aspires to true greatness — a country that stands for more than the mere rhetoric of equality, freedom, opportunity and justice.

That decision will require more than casting a vote in one presidential election. It will require a great deal of reflective thought and hard work by a committed citizenry. The great promise of America hinges on a government that works, openly and honestly, for the broad interests of the American people, as opposed to the narrow benefit of the favored, wealthy few.

By all means, vote today. But that is just the first step toward meaningful change.

    Beyond Election Day, NYT, 4.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/04/opinion/04herbert.html






California Same-Sex Couples Race to Beat Ballot


November 4, 2008
The New York Times


SAN FRANCISCO — Sharna Fey and Kim Broadbeck have married three times. In 2004, they married in a daze. In 2005, they married on an island. And on Monday, when it really counted under the law, they married in a hurry.

“We’re doing this while we still can,” said Ms. Fey, 44, a life coach who has been with Ms. Broadbeck for 11 years and through two previous same-sex marriage ceremonies, neither recognized as legal. “I mean, trust me, we feel married. But this is a legal response.”

With polls showing the outcome of a ballot measure on Tuesday on outlawing same-sex marriage in California a tossup, couples were not taking any chances on Monday. They showed up early here at City Hall, wearing boutonnieres and blouses and holding hands — and their collective breath.

In West Hollywood, a gay-friendly city in Los Angeles County, John Duran, a city councilman, said he had performed 25 ceremonies since Friday, driving all over Los Angeles County to officiate.

“This is the modern-day version of a shotgun wedding,” he said. “We’re doing as many as we can before tomorrow.”

The rush to the altar was in anticipation of Proposition 8, which would amend the State Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman and end nearly five months of legalized same-sex marriages in the state. The ban, if approved, would take effect Wednesday.

“We’re here in case of what happens tomorrow,” said Michael Levy, who married his partner, Michael Golden, here on Monday. They wore identical tuxedo jackets, ties and beards.

“I’m scared,” Mr. Levy said. “It’s really close.”

Same-sex couples filled the hallway in front of the county clerk’s office here as weddings started at 9 a.m., with dozens of ceremonies scheduled throughout the day and dozens more already booked for Election Day.

Clerks in several other California counties reported a surge in the number of marriage licenses issued, with some offices booked to capacity. San Francisco has issued more than 800 marriage licenses to same-sex couples since Oct. 20 and nearly 5,000 since mid-June.

Elsewhere, couples held ceremonies on beachfronts and in backyards and living rooms.

“We kind of said Proposition 8 was like our version of getting knocked up,” said Benjamin Pither, 28, who married his high school sweetheart, Joseph Greaves, on Sunday at Mr. Greaves’s parents’ house in Santa Rosa. “We both liked the idea of marriage, but we wanted to do it in our own time. But when it looked like Proposition 8 might pass, we realized that we would regret it if we didn’t take the opportunity.”

Some couples traveled from afar to make Monday the big day. Allison and Rose, a lesbian couple from Tampa, Fla., said they had come to San Francisco to marry on the advice of friends who suspect that Florida will pass its own constitutional ban on Tuesday on same-sex marriage. The couple, who said they might relocate if Florida passed its ban, did not want their last names used because of fears that they would face discrimination at home.

“It isn’t like San Francisco,” Rose said.

While defeat of the California ballot measure would probably quell debate — at least for a time — over allowing same-sex unions in the state, it is expected that a victory would lead to a second round of legal wrangling over the validity of the thousands of marriages performed since June, when a State Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriages took effect.

California’s attorney general, Jerry Brown, has said he believes that the marriages will remain valid, but Geoff Kors, the executive director of Equality California, a gay rights group that opposes Proposition 8, said he expected challenges.

“It wouldn’t surprise me that people trying to eliminate constitutional rights would try to annul or divorce people that are married,” said Mr. Kors, who expressed optimism that the ballot measure would fail.

Supporters of the ban say no rights would be infringed by its passage but suggest that the California Supreme Court will “have to deal with the mess that it made” by allowing the marriages in the first place, said Sonja Eddings Brown, a spokeswoman for Protect Marriage, the leading group behind Proposition 8.

In the spring, opponents of same-sex marriage asked the court to stay its decision until the election, but the request was turned down. “They knew Proposition 8 was going to be on the ballot,” Ms. Brown said, “and they decided not to listen to the voice of the people.”

Each side has poured more than $25 million into the fight over Proposition 8, making it one of the most expensive ballot measures ever in a state known for its proclivities for direct democracy. Airwaves across the state have been blanketed in recent weeks with increasingly overheated advertisements, with opponents likening the measure to the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II and supporters suggesting that same-sex marriage would be taught to young schoolchildren.

The most recent Field Poll showed a five-point advantage for opponents of the measure, but backers of Proposition 8 say support for bans on same-sex marriage across the country has been traditionally understated in polls.

In 2000, when California voters approved a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, a Field Poll just before the election showed that 53 percent of those polled approved the measure. The final tally in favor of the law was 61 percent.

The 2000 law was overturned in May by the State Supreme Court. Hundreds of joyous couples were married on balconies and in atriums throughout San Francisco’s soaring City Hall after the court’s ruling took effect on June 16.

The mood was more subdued Monday, with bureaucracy — “Next, please!” — replacing much of the ebullience of that day. Ms. Fey and Ms. Broadbeck seemed almost to have a touch of same-sex-marriage fatigue. They were among the 4,000 couples that married in San Francisco in 2004, after Mayor Gavin Newsom suddenly ordered the city clerk to marry same-sex couples.

Those marriages were later invalidated by the courts. A year later, Ms. Fey and Ms. Broadbeck married again, in Hawaii, with friends and family in attendance, and “fully seen by those closest to us,” Ms. Fey said. But it was an unofficial ceremony in a state that does not allow same-sex marriage.

So it was that this time around, they had almost forgotten to tie the knot.

“All summer long we were like, ‘Oh yeah, we should do that,’ ” Ms. Fey said. “And then all of the sudden, it was like, ‘Uh oh.’ ”

Paul Ellis, 51, a retail manager in San Francisco, was at City Hall on Monday to witness Mr. Golden and Mr. Levy’s wedding. It was Mr. Ellis’s seventh same-sex marriage in the last five months, he said, attending most of them in the tartan kilt he wore on a muggy Monday, which he regretted.

“You wouldn’t want to wrap six yards of cloth around your hips on a day like this,” he said.

Mr. Ellis had also taken matters into his own hands, getting an online certification as a marriage officiate and presiding over two ceremonies for other gay friends — all ahead of Tuesday’s election.

“At this point,” he said of the ballot measure’s fate, “I think it’s a complete crapshoot.”

Rebecca Cathcart contributed reporting from West Hollywood.

    California Same-Sex Couples Race to Beat Ballot, NYT, 4.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/04/us/04marriage.html?hp







Nov. 4: The Day of Decision Is Here


November 4, 2008
The New York Times


To the Editor:

In “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (column, Nov. 2), Frank Rich writes that if Barack Obama wins the White House on Tuesday, “many will cheer and more than a few will cry as history moves inexorably forward.”

I will be one of those crying. I have not cried during the last eight years, even when I saw the picture of Iraqi prisoners being tortured and humiliated at Abu Ghraib prison, because I don’t cry when I’m horrified. I cry when I’m joyous.

I will cry when I vote for Barack Obama. I will be crying because I love my country so much and I treasure my right to vote. I will be crying with relief because the last eight years have been torture for me.

Celia Ballew Jones
Richmond, Va., Nov. 2, 2008

To the Editor:

Frank Rich is right when he describes Senator Barack Obama as an individual who the political world discovered was far from being an exotic household flower, but instead a pol from Chicago.

Perhaps Mr. Rich considered this to be a compliment, but instead it brings to memory a political machine in Chicago under the original Mayor Daley that brooked no opposition and systematically had voters still on the list who had died long ago, making a farce not only of the Chicago mayoralty election but also the statewide choices.

I agree that Mr. Obama has shown the political acumen of a Chicago politician, but does this qualify him for the highest office in the land?

Nelson Marans
Silver Spring, Md., Nov. 2, 2008

To the Editor:

Re “Hey Liberals, Don’t Worry” (column, Nov. 3): William Kristol seems forever frozen in ideology. The candidates in Tuesday’s election are running as Democrat and Republican, not liberal and conservative, those free-floating designations that may serve as honorific or epithet, depending on the spin.

Voters should be — with luck, will be — choosing the wiser candidate, the one we think better equipped by judgment, intellect and temperament to grow the economy, dislodge us prudently from Iraq, restore our reputation in the world, uphold our Constitution and strengthen the social safety net the Bush administration has been trying for eight years to shred.

We’ll do well on Tuesday to put liberal and conservative aside until the next round of electioneering and stay focused on who we think is best able to do the job.

David Kernis
Trumbull, Conn., Nov.
3, 2008

To the Editor:

William Kristol did not mention the real terror that lives in the hearts of those of us, not necessarily specifically liberal, who are voting for Senator Barack Obama. It may not be simply about the next four years; it is likely that our next president will replace justices on the Supreme Court.

One more Antonin Scalia, one more Clarence Thomas? Our secular tradition put in jeopardy, social progress stifled, the 50s reinstated? Perhaps for our lifetime? No wonder we’re not sleeping nights.

Marlene Shyer
New York, Nov. 3, 2008

To the Editor:

Maureen Dowd asks exactly the right questions concerning perhaps the most erratic, poorly run presidential campaign in history (“Who’s the Question Mark?,” column, Nov. 2).

The answer, I believe, is both simple and obvious: McCain the Authentic became McCain the Cynical. In his quixotic and desperate attempt to win the presidency, John McCain has been callously calculating and insincere, veering from one ill-conceived marketing plan to another.

We need only to remind ourselves of the failure of the “new” Coke several years ago to understand that people like the real thing.

Robert Ouriel
Los Angeles, Nov. 2, 2008

To the Editor:

Re “The Known Unknowns,” by Bob Herbert (column, Nov. 1):

The “twin towers” in this election are not the economy and race. The key determinant is whether you would risk major surgery with a surgeon performing his first surgery.

Howard Schwartz
Englewood, N.J., Nov. 1, 2008

To the Editor:

Re “Rejoin the World” (column, Nov. 2):

I would like to add a qualifying expectation to Nicholas D. Kristof’s call for the United States to rejoin the international community.

With humility, we must accept a role as other than leader. We should look up to nations that have led the diplomatic efforts with Iran, have been part of the International Criminal Court, and those that ratified the Kyoto Protocol years ago.

Like all runaways, we won’t be welcomed back if we knock on the door toting the same hubris that directed our departure.

Rich Moniak
Juneau, Alaska, Nov. 2, 2008

To the Editor:

In “Obama-Inspired Black Voters Find Politics Is for Them, Too” (front page, Nov. 2), a historical phenomenon is catalogued: the dawning of a new era in the psyche and spirit of the African-American voter.

One of the people interviewed is quoted as saying of Barack Obama: “I think it’s a testament to his campaign that he can inspire. At the end of the day, no matter what party you vote for, I think every once in a while there are inspirational moments that call for people to wake up from their deep sleep and become alive and get involved. And I think Barack at the very least is an inspirational figure.”

Until the current presidential campaign, a very significant number of blacks in this country didn’t bother to vote. Because of their deep cynicism about a system that they have viewed as corrupt and uninterested in the concerns of their communities, they concluded that voting was a useless act rather than an obligation.

The Obama campaign has ushered in a new day for these voters, one of hope, possibility and connection with a candidate they view as having their issues and their lives in mind and at heart.

Whether this is a new important trend in the American political system or a one-time occurrence will be answered in the coming years.

Alan Safron
Woodcliff Lake, N.J., Nov. 2, 2008

To the Editor:

For months now, each day we see two confident candidates. Too confident, maybe?

With the continuing financial crisis, with unsolved issues like Iraq, detainees, Social Security, with a negative international perception of a too arrogant America, what a superpower needs is for the new president to bring back the stability, prosperity and good image that the United States once had.

Perhaps it is just wrong to put all our hopes on one person. Electing a figure from one party or the other might show a path, but over all it is an entire system that needs changes to make things work again.

And this will be the most difficult task this new president will have: to find the right internal and international tools to reshape the country. Because, Republicans or Democrats, we all want back our America!

Mihaela Costin
Larchmont, N.Y., Nov. 3, 2008

To the Editor:

The day after the election: no robocalls, no new signs on the lawns or roads; fewer cable TV ranters; no e-mail or text messages from Barack Obama, no more chain letters asking for support of God’s candidate, no more rallies, no more debates, no more TV ads approved by ..., no more no more.

I give up. I voted.

Francis W. Rodgers
Rensselaer, N.Y., Nov.
3, 2008

    Nov. 4: The Day of Decision Is Here, NYT, 4.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/04/opinion/l04elect.html






Obama mourns loss of his grandmother


3 November 2008
USA Today
By Kathy Kiely


CHARLOTTE — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama suffered a heavy loss on the eve of the election that he hopes will win him the White House. Madelyn Dunham, the grandmother who helped raise him, died from cancer in Honolulu. She was 86.

"She was one of those quiet heroes we have all across America," Obama said at a rally here, deviating from his stump speech. "I'm not going to talk about it too long because it's hard to talk about."

Someone in the crowd called out: "We're sorry."

Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his wife, Cindy, offered their "deepest condolences to Barack Obama and his family as they grieve the loss of their beloved grandmother."

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to them as they remember and celebrate the life of someone who had such a profound impact in their lives," the McCains said in a statement.

Obama learned of his grandmother's passing around 8 a.m. ET Monday in Florida, several hours after she died in her Hawaii home, adviser Robert Gibbs said. He didn't mention it in his first speech in Jacksonville. The campaign did not release the news until afternoon, as Obama arrived here.

The news was not unexpected. Obama broke off campaigning late last month to make a 22-hour visit to his grandmother, noting her health was failing.

"She's been the rock of my family," Obama said on CBS on Oct. 8. "She worked very hard all of her life, and she made a lot of sacrifices on my behalf."

Born Madelyn Payne in 1922, Dunham grew up in Kansas and attended the University of Washington. She married Stanley Dunham in 1940 and worked as a Boeing aircraft inspector during World War II. In 1960, they moved to Hawaii with daughter, Stanley Ann. That's where the daughter would meet Obama's father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr., a Kenyan student at the University of Hawaii.

The Dunhams raised Obama while his mother and sister lived in Indonesia during the 1970s and he remained in Hawaii to finish high school. In 1970, Dunham became one of the first two female vice presidents of the Bank of Hawaii.

Contributing: Dan Nakaso with The Honolulu Advertiser

    Obama mourns loss of his grandmother, UT, 3.11.2008, http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-11-03-obama-grandmother_N.htm






Obama leads McCain in 6 of 8 key states


Mon Nov 3, 2008
9:40am EST
By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama leads Republican John McCain in six of eight key battleground states one day before the U.S. election, including the big prizes of Florida and Ohio, according to a series of Reuters/Zogby polls released on Monday.

Obama holds a 7-point edge over McCain among likely U.S. voters in a separate Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby national tracking poll, up 1 percentage point from Sunday. The telephone poll has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

Obama heads into Tuesday's voting in a comfortable position, with McCain struggling to overtake Obama's lead in every national opinion poll and to hold off his challenge in about a dozen states won by President George W. Bush in 2004.

The new state polls showed Obama with a 1-point lead in Missouri and 2-point lead in Florida, within the margin of error of 4.1 percentage points. But Obama also holds leads in Ohio, Virginia and Nevada -- all states won by Bush in 2004.

The five states where Obama is ahead have a combined 76 electoral votes. Along with states won by Democrat John Kerry in 2004, they would give Obama 328 electoral votes -- far more than the 270 needed to win the White House.

Obama also leads by 11 percentage points in Pennsylvania, which McCain has targeted as his best chance to steal a state won by Kerry in 2004.

McCain leads Obama by 5 points in Indiana and by 1 point in North Carolina -- both states won by Bush in 2004.

"Obama's lead is very steady. He could be looking at a big day on Tuesday," said pollster John Zogby. "These are all Republican states except Pennsylvania, and that does not look like it's going to turn for him."

In Florida, the biggest prize being fought over on Tuesday with 27 electoral votes, Obama leads McCain by 48 percent to 46 percent. The two were running dead even at 47 percent one week ago.


In Ohio, the state that decided the 2004 election with a narrow win for Bush, Obama has opened a 6-point edge. He also has a 6-point lead on McCain in Virginia and an 8-point advantage in fast-growing Nevada.

Obama leads McCain by a statistically insignificant 1 point, 47 percent to 46 percent, in Missouri. McCain has the same 1-point edge in traditionally Republican North Carolina.

McCain has a solid 5-point lead in Indiana, which has not supported a Democrat for president since 1964. Obama has worked to put Indiana in the Democratic column, and plans a visit there on Election Day to try to help turn out the vote.

In the national poll, Obama leads by 15 points among independents and by 13 points among women, two crucial voting blocs in Tuesday's election. He leads by 1 point among men and among all age groups except those between the ages of 55 and 69, who favor McCain by 1 point.

McCain leads among whites by 13 percentage points but is only attracting about 25 percent of Hispanics. In 2004, Bush won more than 40 percent of Hispanics.

Both independent Ralph Nader and Libertarian Bob Barr were at 1 percent in the survey, with about 2 percent of voters still undecided.

The rolling tracking poll, taken Thursday through Saturday, surveyed 1,205 likely voters in the presidential election. In a tracking poll, the most recent day's results are added, while the oldest day's results are dropped to monitor changing momentum.

The state surveys also were taken Thursday through Saturday with a sample in each state of between 600 and 605 likely voters. The margin of error in all eight states was 4.1 percentage points.

(Editing by Chris Wilson)

    Obama leads McCain in 6 of 8 key states, R, 3.11.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSN3134134020081103






Election divides civil rights battle town


Mon Nov 3, 2008
4:14am EST
By Matthew Bigg


SELMA, Alabama (Reuters) - If Democratic candidate Barack Obama wins Tuesday's presidential election, he will owe a debt to this Alabama town where one of the most significant confrontations of the civil rights era played out.

Forty-three years ago, state troopers and local police wielding clubs and firing tear gas charged peaceful civil rights protesters marching across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma and beat them senseless.

Their purpose was to stop the march and to enforce laws that prevented blacks in the South from voting.

National TV networks interrupted their evening programs to show footage of the "Bloody Sunday" attack and revulsion at the images so shocked the country it helped forge a consensus for passage of a law that enabled blacks to vote in the South.

"This presidential cycle would not be possible without the sacrifices and the courage of those people on the bridge," said Selma resident Malika Sanders-Fortier in reference to Obama, who would be the country's first black president.

"This is a monumental election for the people of Selma because it represents the direct effect from the civil rights movement," said her husband Franklin Fortier in a view shared by other African Americans in the city of 20,000.

Each year on March 7, prominent politicians march across the bridge over the Alabama River to commemorate the day in 1965 that made Selma a byword for racial intolerance. Obama joined the march in 2007.

But to many people in Selma the election has little to with race and everything to do with a clash between liberal and conservative ideologies. That sentiment matches views in much of the South where most voters say the legacy of a racial history that includes slavery will have no impact on their choices.

Alabama regularly votes Republican in presidential elections and many Selma residents said they distrusted Obama as an inexperienced liberal who would be weak on national security and had dubious friends.

"A person is known by the company he keeps and he has got a lot of clouds over the company he kept," said Allen Williams.

Williams and other white residents said that while they would not vote for Obama, they would happily have voted for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a black American.



In the most notorious example of violence on the bridge, then student leader John Lewis received a fractured skull in a beating by security forces. Lewis is now a prominent U.S. congressman from Georgia.

The night the marchers finally reached the state capital Montgomery, members of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan trailed a car carrying a black man and a white woman activist down a lonely road and shot the woman dead.

Today, the river bridge still stands as a gateway to Selma but residents old enough to remember the events of that day are divided about exactly what happened.

Some white residents said the city had been invaded by outsiders bent on causing trouble. Others said segregation was softening by the mid-1960s and the marchers stirred trouble for nothing.

Still others said people failed to understand how difficult the choices were for many young whites in the South -- torn between allegiance to the only system they knew and a pressure for change.

"It was hard to know what was right and to do what was right without hurting anybody," said Jean Martin, 85, curator of the city's Old Depot museum and a newspaper columnist.

Martin said she would vote for Obama because she disliked the way McCain had treated his first wife, whom he divorced.

Williams was in the National Guard during the protests. He said black youths provoked the attack by frightening police horses into stampeding toward them.

"People in the South were separated, black and white. It caused a lot of hard feelings (among whites) when they started forcing ... (desegregation) when they were slowly taking care of themselves," Williams said.

The city and the South have fundamentally changed since then, said Williams and several other white residents.

As one piece of evidence, he cited George Evans, who was to be sworn on Monday in as mayor of Selma and is the second African American to hold the post.

Evans was elected by a coalition of black and white voters, defeating the black incumbent.

Evans, 64, left the city in 1962 for college in Kansas and watched the violence on television. In its wake he spent hours responding to questions from white fellow students on campus about whether Selma was as bad as the pictures made out.

Selma has evolved since the 1960s but race still plays a role in its politics, he said.

"There will always be some blacks and whites who will keep race as an issue but sometimes it's not an issue, it's an agenda," said Evans.

"Selma has made progress in its relationships but .... there are still some things that some people have not let go. Some people don't want to put the past behind them and move on," he said.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

    Election divides civil rights battle town, R, 3.11.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSTRE4A20LH20081103






Clues to election result could come early


Mon Nov 3, 2008
4:11am EST
By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some of the earliest returns in Tuesday's U.S. presidential election could provide big clues about the outcome.

Trends in the race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain could become clear soon after the first polls begin to close at 6 p.m. EST in Indiana.

Obama and McCain are locked in a surprisingly tight duel in Indiana, a Midwestern state that has voted Republican in every White House race since 1964. A breakthrough win for Obama, or even a neck-and-neck struggle, would be an encouraging sign of broad strength for the senator from neighboring Illinois.

But if McCain appears to be cruising to a relatively easy win in Indiana it could signal trouble for Obama, who is challenging McCain in about a dozen states won in 2004 by Republican President George W. Bush.

The first public sign of Democrat John Kerry's loss in 2004 came from a worse-than-expected 20-point blowout in Indiana.

"If Obama wins Indiana, the election is over," Democratic consultant Doug Schoen said. "Even if it's close, within 2 or 3 points, it probably suggests a big Obama win nationally. If it's more than 4 points for McCain, it's going to be wait and see for a while."

The next round of tests is at 7 p.m. EST when voting ends in Georgia, parts of Florida and the battleground state of Virginia -- another place where Democrats have not won a presidential vote since 1964 but have made gains in recent statewide races.

"If Obama wins Virginia by a decisive margin, it's a pretty strong suggestion he's going to win the election," Schoen said. "If McCain wins by more than a few points that could suggest movement toward him."

At 7:30 p.m. EST, polls close in the states of Ohio and North Carolina.

By 8 p.m. EST, all polls in Florida will be closed. Florida's 27 electoral votes and Ohio's 20 electoral votes are two of the biggest prizes still up for grabs on Tuesday.


McCain, an Arizona senator who faces a perilous path to gaining the 270 electoral votes he needs to win, essentially has to carry all of those early battleground states to have a realistic chance.

A setback in any would increase pressure on McCain to make up for the loss with an upset of Obama in Pennsylvania, which Democrats have taken in the past four presidential elections. Voting in Pennsylvania, which has 21 electoral votes, also ends at 8 p.m. EST.

The presidential race is not the only battle with an early bellwether. The first returns could offer hints about the fight for control of the U.S. Senate as well.

Democrats are expected to dramatically boost their narrow 51-49 control on Tuesday but need to pick up nine seats to reach a 60-seat majority that would give them the muscle to defeat Republican procedural hurdles.

The first crucial Senate showdown is in Kentucky, where Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is in a tough fight for re-election and, like Indiana, polls begin to close at 6 p.m. EST.

"Indiana offers an early tip about the presidential race, and Kentucky will do the same for the Senate," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll.

"If McConnell wins Kentucky, there is no way the Democrats get to 60," Brown said. "We're going to know two things fairly early -- whether it's a presidential blowout and whether the Democrats have any shot at 60 seats. Those are two big questions."

(Editing by Bill Trott)

    Clues to election result could come early, R, 3.11.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSTRE4A20N420081103






Obama, McCain battle across campaign's closing day


3 November 2008
USA Today
By David Jackson


TAMPA — Presidential contenders Barack Obama, who is leading in national polls, and John McCain, self-described underdog, began their final cross-country sprint to Election Day by trying to pump up supporters in the critical battleground state of Florida.

The final Gallup poll of likely voters showed Obama leading McCain, 53 to 42.

Polls show the six closest states are Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada and Ohio.

The candidates are hitting the tossups states in search of enough electoral votes to hit the 270 needed to claim the presidency.

McCain, the Republican, was blitzing seven states in 17 hours — Florida, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Indiana, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada —ending after midnight with a rally in Prescott, Ariz., where he has traditionally ended his Senate campaigns.

Obama, the Democrat, was heading to Virginia and Indiana before returning home to Chicago for a huge rally in Grant Park Tuesday evening.

On Election Day, however, both planned to squeeze in one last round of campaigning close to home: McCain in Colorado and New Mexico and Obama in Indiana.

The final scramble across several time zones once again reflected the state of the race for the past month, with both contenders largely hitting traditionally Republican states.

The campaigns also are running aggressive ground games, especially in Iowa, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Colorado and Virginia.

McCain seemed to relish the underdog role as he fed off the energy of support at his morning rally in Tampa.

"With this kind of enthusiasm, and this kind of intensity, we will win Florida and we will win this race tomorrow," the Arizona senator said.

"The pundits may not know it, but the Mac is back. And we're going to win this election."

Obama was pensive as he prepared for his final campaign stops.

"I feel pretty peaceful," the Illinois senator said on the "Russ Parr Morning Show."

"The question is going to be who wants it more," he said "And I hope that our supporters want it bad, because I think the country needs it."

In other developments:

• Some 27 million votes had been cast in 30 states in early voting as of Saturday night, with Democrats outnumbered Republicans in pre-Election Day voting in key states.

•Obama told CBS' The Early Show that what most displeased him about the long contest were attacks launched by Republicans against his wife, Michelle, which he said should be "completely out of bounds."

"I would have never considered or expected my allies to do something comparable to the spouse of an opponent," he said. "They support their spouse, but generally they really should be bystanders in this process, even if they're campaigning for me. … I mean that's what you'd expect. And that doesn't make them suddenly targets."

• In New Hampshire, McCain held his last town hall meeting of the 2008 campaign — something of an exercise in nostalgia, as he conducted dozens of such freewheeling affairs in the months leading up to his victory in that state's primary.

"I come to the people of New Hampshire to ask them to let me go on one more mission," McCain said in Peterborough.

•The two vice presidential candidates were also racing across key battleground states. McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was campaigning in Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada and will return to Alaska to vote. Biden was dispatched to Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

In his morning rally before several hundreds supporters at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football stadium, McCain assailed what he described as Obama's plans to raise taxes and increase the size of government, saying both would delay the return of economic policy.

The self-described maverick Republican also said Obama has never challenged the leadership of his party, and lacks the necessary experience on foreign policy.

"I've been tested — I've passed that test," said the former Navy pilot and Vietnam POW. "Sen. Obama has not."

The crowd broke in frequently to chant: "No-Bam-A, No-Bam-A," and "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

Obama exuded confidence Sunday at events in three cities in the bellwether state of Ohio, which voted for President Bush in 2000 and 2004 but is trending Democratic this year as it struggles against an anemic economy.

"We cannot afford to slow down or sit back or let up," Obama told voters at an evening rally in Cincinnati. "We need to win an election on Tuesday."

Contributing: Douglas Stanglin, in McLean, Va.; the Associated Press

    Obama, McCain battle across campaign's closing day, UT, 3.11.2008, http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-11-03-campaign-wrap-monday_N.htm






The Caucus

Level of White Support for Obama a Surprise


November 3, 2008
The New York Times


If Tuesday’s election were confined to white America, polls show, Senator Barack Obama would lose.

And yet Mr. Obama’s strength across racial lines lies at the heart of his lead in the polls over Senator John McCain heading into Election Day. Remarkably, Mr. Obama, the first black major party presidential nominee, trails among whites by less than Democratic nominees normally do.

America’s political parties grew decisively polarized by race after 1964, the year President Lyndon Johnson signed civil rights legislation that his Republican presidential opponent, Barry Goldwater, opposed. Since then, election pollsters estimate, Democratic nominees have averaged 39 percent of the white vote. In last week’s New York Times/CBS News poll, Mr. Obama drew 44 percent support among whites — a higher proportion than Bill Clinton captured in his general election victories.

Analysts ascribe that success to changing racial attitudes, Mr. Obama’s deftness, Republican missteps and the economic crisis. Whatever the cause, when combined with his two-to-one edge among Hispanics and his 10-to-1 edge among blacks, it has given him a national election-eve lead.

The race is not over, and Election Day could bring surprises. And Mr. McCain is capturing a majority of the white vote, according to these same polls. Yet population shifts have made racial and ethnic diversity an unavoidable fact of American life. When Ronald Reagan won re-election in 1984, whites made up 86 percent of the electorate; by 2004, they had dropped to 77 percent.

With that backdrop, some observers say racial attitudes have diminished as an independent force, fading into the broader fabric of cultural concerns that shape voters’ choices like religion, abortion and gun control.

“Anybody who votes against Barack Obama because of the color of his skin, the Republicans would have gotten on another cultural issue,” said David Saunders, a consultant in Virginia who advises Democratic candidates on attracting white rural and working-class voters.

The presidential historian Michael Beschloss credits Mr. Obama with reprising the approach adopted by John F. Kennedy in his 1960 breakthrough as the first Roman Catholic to win the presidency. “He was running to be president of all the people, not president of a faction,” Mr. Beschloss said.

A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll documents Mr. Obama’s success in making that case. Asked whether an Obama presidency would favor the interests of blacks over other Americans, 8 in 10 whites said it would not.

For Democratic strategists who have spent their careers laboring to regain white voters’ allegiance, that alone is a striking achievement. In the mid-1980s, research by the pollster Stan Greenberg in Macomb County, Mich., concluded that middle-class whites resented the “raw deal” they received from a political debate in which Democrats appeared focused on racial minorities and the poor.

Like Mr. Greenberg’s client Bill Clinton in 1992, Mr. Obama has emphasized broad-gauged assistance for the middle class. “He’s managed to campaign in ways that may not have changed their world view but have allowed them to put those feelings aside,” Mr. Greenberg said. He added with a note of bemusement, “Maybe he has crossed over into Tiger Woods territory.”

Frustrated Republicans see Mr. Obama’s steady performances on the stump and in debates as only part of the explanation for his surprising level of white support. Just as responsible, some argue, is that President Bush’s unpopularity in threatening economic times has veered close to Herbert Hoover territory. “You’ve got to give Obama an awful lot of credit for his likability,” said Tom Slade, a former Florida Republican Party chairman, who abandoned his own Democratic allegiance in 1964 in the early phase of white conservatives’ political migration. More important, he said, “We have done a miserable job of managing the affairs of government.”

In the early 1990s, the political reporter Peter Brown wrote “Minority Party,” a book exploring the pitfalls of the Democrats’ identification with the interests of African-Americans. He credited Mr. Obama with providing “a comfort zone” for white voters, but pointed to the major boost he received this fall from the financial crisis on the watch of a Republican president.

“The most important color is green,” said Mr. Brown, now assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “When Lehman Brothers went under, this thing changed dramatically. People are just terrified about their financial futures.”

In the spring, some Democratic strategists feared Mr. Obama might be crippled in states where he lost working-class white primary voters decisively to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. In Ohio, carried by Mr. Bush in 2000 and 2004, polls now show Mr. Obama is competitive; in Pennsylvania, a top target for Mr. McCain, he is ahead in the polls.

With a message muting racial concerns, Mr. Obama didn’t begin his presidential bid with overwhelming strength among blacks; that came only after he defeated Mrs. Clinton in the white-dominated Iowa caucuses. “Ironically, the biggest difficulty about race for Obama was the doubts among African-Americans about his ability to succeed in the nominating process,” said Tad Devine, a top strategist for Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.

“It’s amazing to me — almost unreal,” Representative John Lewis of Georgia said. Earlier this fall Mr. Lewis, the civil rights movement veteran, accused Mr. McCain’s campaign of “sowing the seeds of hatred” in a way that was reminiscent of George Wallace during the 1960s, an attack that the Republican nominee called “brazen and baseless” and that Mr. Obama distanced himself from.

More recently, Mr. Lewis added, the campaign has made him “sort of sad” since leaders of that movement, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Johnson, cannot witness Mr. Obama’s candidacy.

    Level of White Support for Obama a Surprise, NYT, 3.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/03/us/politics/03caucus.html






Joe "O'Biden" Plays Up Working - Class, Catholic Roots


November 3, 2008
Filed at 11:02 a.m. ET
The New York Times


KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Dashing across battleground states in the final race to the polls on Tuesday, Joe Biden never fails to bring up his working-class, Roman Catholic roots and the hard times his family faced.

Biden, who grew up in a tough part of Scranton, Pennsylvania, is one of the Democratic ticket's best hopes for reaching blue-collar workers in traditionally Republican areas where President George W. Bush clinched the last election.

Over the past few days, his campaign bus crisscrossed Ohio and Indiana, a state that last voted for a Democrat in 1964, and then flew to traditionally conservative northern Florida.

Underlining the tightness of the race, Biden is being sent back to Ohio on Monday and is also campaigning in Missouri and Pennsylvania, asking undecided voters to deliver the presidency to Barack Obama.

"A lot of parents are sweating it out ...people are asking themselves more and more, am I going to have a job next month," Biden said at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, at a late night rally on Sunday.

"Imagine what it's like being a single mother or father making minimum wage," Biden said. When he was a single parent after his first wife and baby girl died in 1972, he noted, at least he had a senator's salary to care for his two sons.

At each rally, Biden recalls in hushed tones how his family fell on hard times and, when he was 10, his father walked into his bedroom to tell him they had to give up their house and move to Delaware to find work.

He then brings the story back to the present, when home foreclosures are at record levels and parents must break the same news to their children.

On the rope lines, supporters tell of losing jobs, fears over health care and how they will put food on the table.

"We need to get out of this slump that we are in," said Asen Kristoff of Dayton, Ohio. "People are really hurting here, especially blue-collar workers," he added, pointing out that General Motors had announced plant closures in the area.

"My parents are without health insurance. My dad is a small business owner and he can't afford it," said Sahrish Chaudhary of the University of Delaware.


Obama draws tens of thousands of supporters, but Biden's rallies have several thousand people at most and are often in school gyms or university fields.

Biden, 65, chides supporters when they boo his opponents, but then pokes fun at Republican candidate John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin for calling themselves "mavericks."

"You can't call yourself a maverick when all you have been the last eight years is a sidekick to President George W. Bush," is one of his favorite applause lines.

McCain himself has called Biden "the gift that keeps on giving" for his occasional gaffes.

Biden's statement that U.S. enemies would "test" a President Obama within six months of taking office has underlined McCain's argument that the Democrat is not ready to be commander-in-chief, McCain told a rally in Tampa on Monday.

Biden plays up his Irish Catholic roots and sprinkles speeches with "God love you" and "God bless you." He relishes showing Ohio crowds a T-shirt with the slogan: "O'bama, O'Biden, O'hio, O'8."

"I'm Joe O'Biden," he crows to the crowd.

Catholics have been swing voters for decades and if elected, Biden would be the first Catholic vice president. John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic president.

Biden also stirs the crowd with the historic nature of the election, which could result in Obama being the first black president in the United Sates.

"I see him (Obama) as a once-in-a-lifetime transformational leader when we need it most," Joe Nicosia of Kettering said.

(Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan in Tampa)

    Joe "O'Biden" Plays Up Working - Class, Catholic Roots, NYT, 3.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/washington/politics-us-usa-politics-biden.html






Latest Newspaper Endorsements in Presidential Race


November 3, 2008
Filed at 11:02 a.m. ET
The New York Times


Excerpts from recent newspaper endorsements of presidential candidates John McCain, a Republican, and Barack Obama, a Democrat.


The Grand Island (Neb.) Independent endorsed McCain on Nov. 2:

McCain is also the sort of independent thinker who can lead the country in the right direction. He has the experience in the military, even five years as a POW in Vietnam, that will give him the gravity and courage to change direction in foreign policy, if necessary.

Furthermore, he has stood against wasteful spending by Congress his entire career. If there's anyone who can change the spendthrift attitude in Washington, it's McCain.


The (Munster, Ind.) Times of Northwest Indiana endorsed McCain on Nov. 2:

Democrat Barack Obama is a great orator. His message of hope and change is inspirational. Republican John McCain isn't an inspiring speaker, which is one reason his running mate, Sarah Palin, seems to draw more attention than McCain himself.

But being president is about more than inspiring Americans. It's about leadership. The choice between McCain and Obama comes down to one of experience.

Where Obama is sound over substance, McCain is confident based on experience and a broad understanding of leadership. In short, he's been tested. Obama has not.


The (Merrillville, Ind.) Post-Tribune endorsed Obama on Nov. 2:

America needs a new approach to presidential politics and the policies that have brought the federal government to gridlock. Barack Obama represents the best hope for revitalizing the nation and improving its image around the world.

Since his famed speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Obama has stayed the course with his message of unifying America. Given the divisiveness of the Bush administration, it is time to let Obama pursue his goal of one nation.


The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger endorsed Obama on Nov. 2:

We gauge people not only by what they have done, but what we believe they will do, based on who they are and what they have achieved. Voters look for ''it,'' an indefinable something that gives them hope, a thrill, a belief in America.

Obama offers that ''something'' -- call it charm, charisma, a positive vision for the future, a voice for empowerment, a role model for youth -- Obama has ''it.'' That seems clear to the young and those who don't regularly engage in politics.

And he has ''it,'' whatever ''it'' is, with a party machinery eager for change after eight years of corruption, division, war, greed and economic failure.


The Vicksburg (Miss.) Post endorsed McCain on Nov. 2:

His 22-year Senate record shows John McCain to be a consistent advocate of smaller government, which also translates into more freedom. He and legions of other realists know that unless and until the federal appetite is reined in, it will weigh down the economy -- making solutions to challenges such as affordable health care, energy independence and broader education opportunities far less likely. Of all 100 members of the U.S. Senate, John McCain has resisted the siren call of cash from lobbyists, of legal but stinky dealmaking.

Obama would enlarge government for one reason: He sees a greater government presence in each of our lives as helpful. He is sincere in that belief, but he is wrong. Government can't do more to solve problems until it cleans up its fiscal mess -- and Obama has no plan to do that.


On the Net:

The Grand Island Independent: http://www.theindependent.com/

The Times of Northwest Indiana: http://www.nwitimes.com/

Post-Tribune: http://www.post-trib.com/news/opinion/index.html

The Clarion-Ledger: http://www.clarionledger.com

The Vicksburg Post: http://www.vicksburgpost.com

    Latest Newspaper Endorsements in Presidential Race, NYT, 3.10.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Presidential-Endorsements.html






Op-Ed Contributors

No More Economic False Choices


November 3, 2008
The New York Times


AS economists and policy advisers try to sort out where we are, how we got here and where we must go for both the short term and the longer term, we are surrounded by polarizing dichotomies: Fiscal recklessness versus fiscal rectitude; capital versus labor; free trade versus protectionism.

The next president, the prevailing wisdom goes, will have to choose between these polarities. But how real are these differences? Our view — and we come from pretty different analytical perspectives — is that in many important ways, they are false, and serve as more of a distraction than a map.

Fiscal rectitude versus stimulus and public investment: The Bible got this right a long time ago (paraphrasing slightly): there’s a time to spend, a time to save; a time to build deficits up and a time to tear them down. Though one of us (Mr. Rubin) is often invoked as an advocate of fiscal discipline, we both agree that there are times for fiscal discipline and times for fiscal largess. With the current financial crisis, our joint view is that for the short term, our economy needs a large fiscal stimulus that generates substantial economic demand.

We also jointly believe that fiscal stimulus must be married to a commitment to re-establishing sound fiscal conditions with a multi-year program that includes room for critical public investment, once the economy is back on a healthy track.

One of us (Mr. Rubin) views long-term fiscal deficits — in combination with a low national savings rate, large current account deficits and foreign portfolios that are heavily over-weighted in dollar-dominated assets — as a serious threat to long-term interest rates and our currency and, therefore, to our economic future. The other views these economic relationships as much weaker.

At the same time, we both agree that our economic future also requires public investment in critical areas like education, health care, energy, worker training and much else. In our view, then, the next president needs to proceed on multiple tracks, with both the restoration of a sound fiscal regime and critical public investment.

First, under the $700 billion program to support the financial system, the government will buy assets, whether in the form of equity injections or the purchase of debt from banks. And the real cost to the government is not the face value of those purchases but rather the budget authorities’ estimate of the subsidy built into the price of those purchases given the risks that are involved. That number will be some relatively limited fraction of the total amount paid. Congress also included in the recent legislation an option for the next president to consider levying a fee on the financial services industry if the taxpayers’ investment is not recouped.

Second, certain public investment can help us meet our fiscal challenges. Most powerfully, the single largest factor in our projected fiscal imbalances are the health care entitlements Medicare and Medicaid, underscoring the fundamental importance of health care reform that expands coverage to more Americans yet constrains costs. While plans that would accomplish these goals have some cost, by pooling risk and stressing cost effectiveness, they could more than pay for themselves by reducing the growth trajectory of our health care spending, in both the private and public spheres.

One important policy question is what our fiscal objectives should be in terms of deficits and of the ratio of the national debt to the gross domestic product. In times like these, larger than normal budget deficits will add to the national debt. In more stable times, a budget deficit equivalent to roughly 2 percent of G.D.P. will keep the debt-to-G.D.P. ratio constant, a legitimate fiscal policy goal. In flush times, a smaller deficit would lower the debt ratio and that might be desirable.

We both agree that individual income tax rates and other taxes for those at the very top could be moved back to the rates of the Clinton era. It’s worth remembering that rates at this level helped finance deficit reduction and public investment that contributed to the longest economic expansion in our history.

In addition to restoring a sound fiscal regime, we could improve our personal savings rate and expand retirement security by establishing some kind of individualized account separate from Social Security, financed by an appropriate revenue measure. Also, we need to work with other countries toward equilibrium exchange rates, as part of redressing our current account imbalances. But the idea that we can’t be fiscally responsible while undertaking public investment at the same time is a myth.

Capital versus labor: Here again, for all their alleged friction, our dynamic and flexible capital and labor markets have combined to generate impressive productivity gains in recent years. The problem is that the benefits of this productivity growth have largely eluded working families. Though productivity grew by around 20 percent from 2000 to 2007, the real income of middle-class, working-age households has actually fallen $2,000, down 3 percent.

One factor behind this outcome is the severely diminished bargaining power of many workers, and here the decline in union membership has played a key role. A true market economy should have true labor markets in which labor and business negotiate as peers. Many years ago, the economist John Kenneth Galbraith argued that collective bargaining was necessary so workers had the countervailing force they needed to bargain for their fair share of the growth they’re helping produce. To re-establish that force, workers should be allowed to choose to be unionized or not.

Tight labor markets, the kind we saw in the 1990s, are another source of bargaining power, helping to rebalance the claims of labor and capital on growth. Sound public policy, like public investment in education, health care, energy, infrastructure and basic research, financed by progressive taxation, can also drive strong growth and business confidence to invest and hire. Moreover, the policies that are requisites for strong growth also increase wages by better equipping workers to succeed in a global marketplace and by encouraging businesses to create jobs.

Free markets versus regulation and protection: We both feel strongly that there are important lessons to be learned from the disruptions in our financial system, and that significant reforms are needed. The objective ought to be to optimize the balance between increasing consumer protection and reducing systemic risk on the one hand, and preserving the benefits of a market-based system on the other.

We know, too, that Wall Street and Main Street are intimately connected. The consequences of the financial market crisis are profound for Americans in terms of lost jobs, lower incomes and reduced retirement savings. Measures to reform and strengthen the financial system should be evaluated by this measure: Do they ultimately translate into improving the jobs, incomes and assets of working Americans?

With respect to trade, the choice is not trade liberalization versus protectionism. Instead, as trade expands, we must recognize that protecting workers is not protectionism. We must better prepare our people to compete effectively and help those who are hurt by trade — not just dislocated workers, but those who find their incomes lowered through global competition. This means investing more of the benefits of trade in offsetting these losses, through more effective safety nets, including universal health care and pension coverage.

Beyond that, while we share a commitment to helping workers deal with our new global challenges, one of us (Mr. Bernstein) would advocate provisions in trade agreements that are intended to protect workers, both here and abroad, and the other would have considerable skepticism about the likely effectiveness of those provisions for our workers.

Public policy in all these areas — and a host of others — has been seriously deficient in recent years. It has led to a great increase in federal debt, inadequate regulatory protection against systemic risk and underinvestment in our people and infrastructure. Regressive tax policies have increased market-driven inequalities that could have been offset through progressive taxation.

False choices, grounded in ideology, have kept us from effectively addressing all these issues. The next president must do his utmost to avoid being drawn into these Potemkin battles. At this critical juncture, we face both the most significant economic upheaval since the Depression and the long-term challenge of successfully competing in the global economy. We have no choice but to move beyond such false dichotomies and toward a balanced pragmatism whose goal is broadly shared prosperity and increased economic security.

Robert E. Rubin, Treasury secretary from 1995 to 1999, is a director of Citigroup. Jared Bernstein is a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and the author of “Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed?”

    No More Economic False Choices, NYT, 3.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/03/opinion/03rubin.html






Next President Will Face Test on Detainees


November 3, 2008
The New York Times


They were called the Dirty 30 — bodyguards for Osama bin Laden captured early in the Afghanistan war — and many of them are still being held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Others still at the much-criticized detention camp there include prisoners who the government says were trained in assassination and the use of poisons and disguises.

One detainee is said to have been schooled in making detonators out of Sega game cartridges. A Yemeni who has received little public attention was originally selected by Mr. bin Laden as a potential Sept. 11 hijacker, intelligence officials say.

As the Bush administration enters its final months with no apparent plan to close the Guantánamo Bay camp, an extensive review of the government’s military tribunal files suggests that dozens of the roughly 255 prisoners remaining in detention are said by military and intelligence agencies to have been captured with important terrorism suspects, to have connections to top leaders of Al Qaeda or to have other serious terrorism credentials.

Senators John McCain and Barack Obama have said they would close the detention camp, but the review of the government’s public files underscores the challenges of fulfilling that promise. The next president will have to contend with sobering intelligence claims against many of the remaining detainees.

“It would be very difficult for a new president to come in and say, ‘I don’t believe what the C.I.A. is saying about these guys,’ ” said Daniel Marcus, a Democrat who was general counsel of the 9/11 Commission and held senior positions in the Carter and Clinton administrations.

The strength of the evidence is difficult to assess, because the government has kept much of it secret and because of questions about whether some was gathered through torture.

When the administration has had to defend its accusations in court, government lawyers in several cases have retreated from the most serious claims. As a result, critics have raised doubts about the danger of Guantánamo’s prisoners beyond a handful of the camp’s most notorious ones.

But as a new administration begins to sort through the government’s dossiers on the men, the analysis shows, officials are likely to face tough choices in deciding how many of Guantánamo’s hard cases should be sent home, how many should be charged and what to do with the rest.

The Pentagon has declined to provide a list of the detainees now being held or even to specify how many there are beyond offering a figure of “about 255.” But by reviewing thousands of pages of government documents released in recent years, as well as court records and news reports from around the world, The New York Times was able to compile its own list and construct a picture of the population still held at Guantánamo Bay.

Much of the analysis is based on records of Guantánamo hearings for individual detainees, which have been made public since 2006 as a result of a lawsuit by The Associated Press. The Times has posted those documents on its Web site arranged by detainee name.

The analysis shows that about 34 of the remaining detainees were seized in raids in Pakistan that netted three men the government calls major Qaeda operatives: Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Al Hajj Abdu Ali Sharqawi. Sixteen detainees are accused of some of the most significant terrorist attacks in the last decade, including the 1998 bombings at American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the 2000 attack on the destroyer Cole in Yemen, and the Sept. 11 attacks. Twenty others were called Mr. bin Laden’s bodyguards.

The analysis also shows that 13 of the original 23 detainees who arrived at Guantánamo on Jan. 11, 2002, remain there nearly seven years later. Of the roughly 255 men now being held, more than 60 have been cleared for release or transfer, according to the Pentagon, but remain at Guantánamo because of difficulties negotiating transfer agreements between the United States and other countries.

Two of those still held, government documents show, were seen by Mr. bin Laden as potential Sept. 11 hijackers. The case of Mohammed al-Qahtani, whom the government has labeled a potential “20th hijacker,” has drawn wide notice because he was subjected to interrogation tactics that included sleep deprivation, isolation and being put on a leash and forced to perform dog tricks.

The other detainee deemed a potential hijacker, whose presence at Guantánamo has gone virtually unmentioned in public reports, is a Yemeni called Abu Bara. The 9/11 Commission said he studied flights and airport security and participated in an important planning meeting for the 2001 attack in Malaysia in January 2000.

The Guantánamo list also includes two Saudi brothers, Hassan and Walid bin Attash. The government describes them as something like Qaeda royalty. Military officials said during Guantánamo hearings that their father, imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, was a “close contact of Osama bin Laden” and that his sons were committed jihadists.

Walid bin Attash is facing a possible death sentence as a coordinator of the Sept. 11 attacks. Hassan bin Attash was accused of having been involved in planning attacks on American oil tankers and Navy ships.

Hassan bin Attash’s lawyer, David H. Remes, said the government’s claims about the detainees were not credible. He and other detainees’ lawyers say that the government’s accusations have been ever-changing and that much of the evidence was obtained using techniques he and others have described as torture.

“You look at all of this stuff, and it looks terribly scary,” Mr. Remes said. “But how do we know any of it is true?”

The extensive use of secret evidence and information derived from aggressive interrogations has led critics around the world to conclude that many detainees were wrongly held. Nearly seven years after Guantánamo opened its metal gates, only 18 of the current detainees are facing war crimes charges.

While both presidential candidates have said they would close the detention center, they have not said in detail how they would handle the remaining detainees.

Mr. McCain has said he would move the Guantánamo detainees to the United States but has indicated that he would try them in the Pentagon’s commission system established after 9/11. After the conviction at Guantánamo last summer of a former driver for Mr. bin Laden, Mr. McCain said the verdict “demonstrated that military commissions can effectively bring very dangerous terrorists to justice.”

Mr. Obama has said that the Bush administration’s system of trying detainees “has been an enormous failure” and that the existing American legal system was strong enough to handle the trials of terrorism suspects.

But in a speech on the Senate floor in 2006, Mr. Obama suggested that the charges against many of the detainees needed to be taken seriously. “Now the majority of the folks in Guantánamo, I suspect, are there for a reason,” he said. “There are a lot of dangerous people.”

Some of the remaining prisoners have appeared determined to show how dangerous they are. “I admit to you it is my honor to be an enemy of the United States,” said a Yemeni detainee, Abdul Rahman Ahmed, a hearing record shows. Officials said Mr. Ahmed had been trained at a terrorist camp “how to dress and act at an airport” and to resist interrogation.

A Saudi detainee, Muhammed Murdi Issa al Zahrani, was described by Pentagon officials as a trained assassin who helped plan the suicide-bomb killing of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Afghan rebel leader, on Sept. 9, 2001.

“The detainee said America is ruled by the Jews,” an officer said at a hearing after interviewing him, “therefore America and Israel are his enemies.”

One man caught with Abu Zubaydah insisted on his innocence but described a training camp outside Kabul, Afghanistan, where, according to information he gave to interrogators, men were given “lessons on how to make poisons that could be inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin.”

Mr. bin al Shibh was caught with a group of six Yemenis, all of whom are still held, after a two-and-a-half-hour gun battle. The records of those detainees include allegations that some were “a special terrorist team deployed to attack targets in Karachi.” One of the men, Hail Aziz Ahmad al Maythal, was trained in the use of rocket-propelled grenade launchers, machine guns and “trench digging, disguise techniques, escape methods, evasion and map reading,” according to the military’s accusations.

The records include many of the murky cases that typify the image of Guantánamo, where detainees take issue with their own supposed confessions and, sometimes, their identities. And those doubts too are to be part of a new administration’s inheritance.

“I was forced to say all these things,” an Algerian detainee, Adil Hadi al Jazairi bin Hamlili, said at his hearing when confronted with his confession to murder and knowledge of a plot to sell uranium to Al Qaeda. “I was abused mentally and psychologically, by threatening to be raped,” he said, adding, “You would say anything.”

Abdul Hafiz, an Afghan accused of killing a Red Cross worker at a Taliban roadblock in 2003, told a military officer that he had the perfect alibi. “The detainee states again that he is not Abdul Hafiz,” the officer reported to a military tribunal.

Andrei Scheinkman contributed research.

    Next President Will Face Test on Detainees, NYT, 3.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/03/us/03gitmo.html?hp






Even Keel for Obama in Final Turn to Election


November 3, 2008
The New York Times


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A cellphone was pressed to Senator Barack Obama’s ear as he slouched down in a black leather chair in the front cabin of his campaign airplane. He leaned away from the headrest, where his name is spelled out in blue stitching.

A few miles away, thousands of people streamed into JFK Stadium at Parkview High School on Saturday for a late-night rally. But Mr. Obama stayed on his chartered Boeing 757 as he spoke by conference call to thousands of his team leaders around the country, the volunteers who form the ranks of an army that he hopes will give him an edge in the waning hours of the presidential race.

As he pressed his right hand to his forehead, his sober expression seemed at odds with the confident gleam in the eyes of his advisers. While Mr. Obama smiles less than he once did, gauging his mood simply by looking at him is risky: his baseline cool temperament has seldom spiked along the rocky points of his journey.

In a campaign where he has slogged through more competitive election days than any recent nominee, only one more lies ahead. And it is the long path of the Democratic primary, which lurched from the ups of Iowa to the downs of Ohio, that his friends say provided Mr. Obama with a steady equilibrium as he enters this final turn in the race for the White House.

“As painful as the primary season was and how agitating it could be, it turned out to be a blessing for him,” said Eric Whitaker, a longtime Chicago friend who joined Mr. Obama aboard the crowded campaign plane for the past three days. “But my role now is to keep him loose. There’s a lot going on in his world.”

The lines in Mr. Obama’s face have grown a bit deeper since he started his campaign, with the notches of gray hair along his temples far more pronounced. He often carries the look of exhaustion, but flying the other night to Nevada, where he arrived after midnight, Mr. Obama passed on the chance to take much of a nap.

Instead, he walked around the cabin of his airplane, which is about the size of a bedroom, and talked about a favorite diversion, the coming basketball season, as he took care not to step on a senior foreign policy adviser, Mark Lippert, who was asleep on the floor.

In the last days on the trail, he is finishing “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the C.I.A., Afghanistan and Bin Laden,” and taking an occasional glance at US Weekly. He reads at least two newspapers a day, vigilantly checks his BlackBerry for updates on early voting tallies and browses briefing books.

“In a marathon, when you are on mile 20 you start getting tired, but when you are on mile 25 you don’t,” said Mr. Lippert, who has grown familiar with Mr. Obama’s travel rhythms while accompanying him on the four foreign trips he has taken since becoming a senator. “That’s where he’s at.”

Whatever emotions or anxiety Mr. Obama feels as his candidacy draws to a close, he displays little of it, either in public appearances or private conversations with his close advisers. The air of confidence he exudes, which some critics take as arrogance, grew in part out of the primary, when he worked to avoid perceptions that he was weak or not ready.

But now, he is described by friends as feeling as though he has been thoroughly tested and is prepared to take on the job he has spent 22 months fighting for. Still, it is hard for even those closest to Mr. Obama to fathom what these days are precisely like, even for the unflappable — often inscrutable — senator from Illinois.

His world is awash in powerful, conflicting emotions: the realization, presumably, that he may be about to become president; the huge optimism that he has unleashed, evident in the crowds he is drawing (and something he has told aides worries him a bit, given the expectations set for him); the weighty thinking he is gradually giving to how he would staff a government and deal with a transition in such a difficult time. All of this is taking place as a woman who played a large role in raising him, his grandmother, is approaching death.

“ ‘What if I disappoint people?’ ” Valerie Jarrett, a close friend and adviser, recalled Mr. Obama asking at several points throughout the campaign. “That’s what gives him the energy to keep getting up every day.”

It has been months since Mr. Obama has ventured with any regularity to the back of his plane where the journalists sit. (The one time he played the board game “Taboo” on a cross-country flight to Oregon is a distant memory.) A reporter shouted to Mr. Obama on Sunday as he climbed the steps of his airplane here, headed for Ohio, to ask why Mr. Obama had not held a news conference in weeks.

“I will,” Mr. Obama said. “On Wednesday.”

On a final weekend pass through electoral battlegrounds that spanned three time zones, the electoral climate and his campaign organization provide him the luxury of focusing on states that favored the Republican ticket four years ago. But when his Democratic crowds jeer at the mere mention of Senator John McCain, he offers a gentle scolding, “You don’t need to boo, you just need to vote.”

It is a true crowd pleaser, and he reprises it in city after city.

His crowds have rarely been larger or more enthusiastic — often, perhaps, more outwardly so than the candidate himself. These days, Mr. Obama is racing through his speeches, whittling down to a disciplined 30 minutes a message that once stretched for more than an hour. He works the rope line at every stop, but taking a closer look you realize that it is as much for a few photographs as for a lot of handshakes. At each event, though, he stays long enough to sign a stack of books for supporters.

At a rally outside Orlando, Fla., the other night, where he was joined onstage for the first time by former President Bill Clinton, Mr. Obama was visibly chilly in the 40-degree air. He had hoped to wear a coat, but Mr. Clinton did not, so Mr. Obama came to the stage without one. Not so the next night in Virginia, where a cool and damp chill also hung in the air.

“I did decide to wear a coat because you want a president who has sense,” Mr. Obama told the crowd from behind the lectern, where he was covered in a black wool overcoat.

While he may not be coasting to the finish line, he is not running as hard as he did during the down-or-out moments of his battle with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

On Sunday, he was in the gym of the Doubletree Hotel here shortly after 6 a.m., but he spent some time with his wife and daughters before boarding his plane at 9:30 a.m. He did not arrive for his first public event of the day at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus until 1 p.m.

His campaign schedule, like Mr. Obama himself, can be slow to start in the morning, but runs late into the night. After appearing with Bruce Springsteen at a rain-soaked dinnertime rally in downtown Cleveland, followed by a stop in Cincinnati for a stadium rally at 9:30 p.m., Mr. Obama did not arrive at his hotel in Jacksonville, Fla., until 1:35 a.m. on Monday.

And before bedtime on most nights, Mr. Obama needs to “circle and land,” as one of his advisers put it, by finishing a round of e-mail and calls before turning out the lights.

If there is a feeling of nostalgia surrounding the Obama campaign in these final hours before the election, it does not seem to be coming from the candidate himself. He is eager to be finished campaigning, several of his friends said, and for months has been immersing himself in the work of the presidency, well before he knows if it will ever be his.

He spends far less time on the telephone these days making political calls to local Democratic chairmen. His call list now includes officials in Washington, including Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., with whom he spoke several times a day for weeks about the government rescue plan. And he is in frequent conversations with Congressional leaders over how to proceed should he win on Tuesday.

On Saturday morning, Mr. Obama met for about 45 minutes in his hotel suite at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas with Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, the majority leader. Mr. Reid said he ticked through a list of items sketched on a note card in his breast pocket.

Mr. Obama also spoke about how his life had changed, a point that was driven home on Friday night when he went to Chicago to see his daughters for Halloween and grew agitated when he felt that a group of reporters and photographers had crowded him.

“He said he likes to go out trick-or-treating, but he can’t anymore,” Mr. Reid said in an interview, recalling the conversation he had with Mr. Obama. “He said he guessed he could have worn a Barack Obama mask.”

One of the greatest frustrations of his candidacy — being away from his wife, Michelle, and his two daughters, Malia and Sasha — will come to an end, win or lose. When his plane touched down on Saturday afternoon in Pueblo, Colo., his step carried an extra lilt. It was not because of the place that he finds himself in the closing moments of his campaign, but because his two daughters were standing on the breezy tarmac waiting to be scooped up by their father.

    Even Keel for Obama in Final Turn to Election, NYT, 3.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/03/us/politics/03obama.html?hp






For McCain, Lighter End After Years on the Trail


November 3, 2008
The New York Times


PETERBOROUGH, N.H. — Somewhere in a corner of northeastern Ohio, just five days before the presidential election that more than a few pundits have declared he will lose, Senator John McCain sat in the back of his campaign bus telling his favorite Henny Youngman jokes. No one laughed harder than he did.

“It was one after another — ‘Take my wife, please,’ ” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and one of Mr. McCain’s closest friends.

For 90 minutes, as his bus rumbled from the edge of Lake Erie to Youngstown, Mr. McCain kept up the patter with Mr. Graham and his campaign’s high command. He talked about how he once saw the old borscht belt comedian perform in New Jersey. He told stories about Morris K. Udall, the legendary Arizona congressman. And he roared with Mr. Graham about a book he was reading, “A Walk in the Woods,” a comic account of an out-of-shape writer’s 2,100-mile hike of the Appalachian Trail.

No one is suggesting that Mr. McCain is ecstatic that he is behind in the polls or that the cognoscenti, as he puts it, “have written us off.”

But in the frantic last days of his nearly two-year second quest for the presidency, Mr. McCain has liberated himself from the irritable, edgy candidate of a month ago. He has, by all appearances, decided he will get to Tuesday by having a good time.

His aides say he is relieved that the race is almost over and for the most part out of his hands. He is also buoyed — and obsessed, his staff says — with polls that show the race tightening in some battleground states and allow him hope that he might still have a shot.

He is also now in the role that he finds at least familiar, if not comfortable — the scruffy underdog barking at Washington. It was not for nothing that his first stop Thursday was in Defiance, Ohio.

“If we were 10 points up, we’d all be a little bit happier,” said Mark Salter, one of Mr. McCain’s closest aides. “But you throw a lot of stuff at the guy, and he fights all the harder.”

Mr. Graham and Mr. McCain’s other traveling buddy, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, are a frequent part of the road show and will fly home with him to Arizona in the small hours of Tuesday morning. Aides say they are essential to improving the candidate’s mood, Mr. Graham in particular. Mr. McCain’s wife, Cindy, who is now constantly at his side, introduces Mr. Graham at each stop as “my husband’s best friend.”

“He’s like campaign Prozac,” said Nicolle Wallace, a top adviser to Mr. McCain. “They just sit there and laugh.”

Mr. McCain has also been moved these last few days, his aides say, by the panorama of America that has unfolded before him. He has made appearances at high school football fields, town squares and lumberyards, and he held a nostalgic final town hall meeting on Sunday night here in Peterborough, N.H., one of the earliest stops of his first presidential campaign in 2000.

On Friday Mr. McCain marveled to aides about the beauty of the rolling Appalachian foothills on Ohio’s border with West Virginia. On Saturday his motorcade sped through a tunnel of gold leaves in Bucks County, Pa.

Two hours later, the caravan was navigating Midtown Manhattan so Mr. McCain could open “Saturday Night Live” with Tina Fey, where he good-naturedly mocked his circumstances.

Whatever happens on Tuesday, Mr. McCain’s aides say he is too much a student of history not to be astonished and humbled by his own place in it.

As a prisoner of war in Vietnam, Mr. McCain mused to his cellmates about becoming president one day. Now he is amazed that a candidate who was left for politically dead a year ago has managed to “lurch” — his own choice of verb from a recent interview — toward the finish line at all. That is not to say that he is about to ease up on his decade-long pursuit of the White House.

“He wants this very badly,” Mr. Graham said.

Mr. McCain’s days now begin earlier than they used to, around 6 a.m., for morning interviews that he races through in 5- and 10- minute bites. Afterward the drill is the same as it has been from the start. He and his aides assemble with coffee in his hotel suite, go over the plan for the day, check out the newspapers and, lately, pore over the campaign’s overnight polls.

Mr. McCain tracks every move, particularly anything from his own pollster, Bill McInturff. He avidly listens to campaign aides who say that if the unexcitable Mr. McInturff says he is gaining, it must be so. “We do not have a happy-numbers pollster,” Mr. Salter said. “We’ve got Mr. Buzz Killer.”

By the middle of the day, Mr. McCain likes to have news of the latest tracking polls. “We all kind of know when Rasmussen comes out, and Zogby,” Ms. Wallace said. “So we all watch for it.”

Mr. McCain, in the meantime, is on the phone a half-dozen times each with his campaign manager, Rick Davis, and his top strategist, Steve Schmidt, wanting to know everything they are doing and anything they have heard. “He is an information sponge,” Mr. Salter said.

His low point, his aides say, was the suspension of his campaign in September to make his way to Washington to help negotiate a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, only to have the House Republicans blow the deal up in his face. His slight edge in the polls evaporated, and he was described by friends as mad at himself, his campaign and the world.

Two and a half weeks later he was devastated, aides said, when Representative John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and civil rights leader, invoked the segregationist George Wallace to rebuke Mr. McCain for tolerating insults and threats hurled at Mr. Obama at his rallies.

Mr. McCain took the edge off some of his rhetoric and has in the last few days loosened up in his speeches, although he still lustily attacks Mr. Obama as the tax-and-spend “redistributionist in chief” who can not be trusted to lead the nation in crisis.

But the “get off my lawn” tone of the angry guy across the street has at times become a more neighborly “give me a break.”

“He’s measuring the drapes!” Mr. McCain shouted on a chilly Saturday morning at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va. The line was a well-worn one from his stump speech about what he calls Mr. Obama’s White House presumptions, but he delivered it laughing, as if he was amusing no one more than himself.

During the day he gets almost no exercise, eats the candy and junk food strewn all over his bus, and naps slumped in his seat in the curtained-off front section of his plane. The national reporters he once called his “base” remain banished in the back; aides say he is convinced that they are all rooting for Mr. Obama.

There would in any case be little time for the rolling seminars he once conducted on the bus. He has local reporters aboard for short hops, but he and Mrs. McCain spend far more time entertaining a shifting cast of Republican governors and members of Congress. Last week on the campaign plane, the group included Gov. Charlie Crist and Senator Mel Martinez of Florida.

Mr. Martinez came through the curtain long enough to spin about what might have been. If Lehman Brothers and the insurance giant A.I.G. had not foundered, he said, “we would still be up seven.”

In the evenings, Mr. Graham and Mr. McCain’s top campaign advisers — almost all are now traveling with him — walk the candidate to his hotel room, where they go over the plan for the next day and then leave him alone. Mr. McCain turns on ESPN and relaxes after rallies that blast out “Life Is a Highway” and other campaign anthems.

“It’s like being in a rock band,” Mr. Graham said. “You do your gig, and you’ve got to wind down a little bit.”

Mr. McCain takes an Ambien if he needs one, but in these last days there is scant sleep on the schedule. He planned to end Sunday with a three-hour flight from New Hampshire to a post-midnight rally in Miami, then rest briefly and head to the airport for an 8 a.m. departure for Tampa.

From there he was to embark on a seven-state, 18-hour odyssey across America: north to Tennessee, northeast to Pennsylvania, then west to Indiana, New Mexico, Nevada and finally home to Arizona, where he will hold a midnight rally on the courthouse steps of the old territorial capital of Prescott, the town where he has ended all his Senate campaigns. He was set to arrive at his condominium in Phoenix sometime after 2 a.m. on Election Day.

Before Monday’s marathon, Mr. McCain said goodbye to New Hampshire, the state that gave him two primary wins and twice resurrected his candidacy. Polls show Mr. Obama with a double-digit lead for the state’s four electoral votes, and it was an odd place to devote five hours just a day and a half before the election.

But Mr. McCain loves the state. In Peterborough’s 90-year-old town hall, he jettisoned his stump speech to answer questions on politically dangerous topics that he has avoided for months. He even had praise for Mr. Obama. “I admire and respect my opponent,” he said.

It was a message tailored to his audience of independent-minded voters, but it was also a display of the old John McCain, or perhaps the new one of the last few days.

“I come to the people of New Hampshire — Republicans, independents, Democrats, libertarians, vegetarians,” Mr. McCain said quietly, to laughter, “and ask again to let me go on one more mission.”

    For McCain, Lighter End After Years on the Trail, NYT, 3.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/03/us/politics/03mccain.html?hp






Political Memo

What Happens to Public Financing, When Obama Thrived Without It?


November 3, 2008
The New York Times


As Senator Barack Obama spends the last of hundreds of millions of dollars donated to his presidential campaign, the debate over how future campaigns will be financed is set to begin in earnest.

The outcome promises to have a profound impact on future presidential runs, either upping the fund-raising ante irrevocably or forcing sweeping changes to prevent such large amounts of cash from coursing through campaigns again. But just as it has in this election cycle, it is quite likely that politics, as much as principle, will shape the jockeying.

Democrats, in particular, who have traditionally supported limits on campaign spending, are grappling with whether they can embrace Mr. Obama’s example without being seen as hypocritical. They are keenly aware that they have developed through the Internet a commanding fund-raising advantage over Republicans, much like the direct mail money machine that conservatives used to lord over them.

“I think there is going to be tremendous reluctance on our side to yield any of that advantage,” said Tad Devine, a senior strategist for Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004.

Bob Kerrey, a Democratic former senator from Nebraska who serves as an honorary chairman of a group that fights for public financing of federal races, wrote an opinion article in The New York Post last week in which he confessed to newfound ambivalence on the issue in light of Mr. Obama’s success among small donors and the energy he had seen in the election this year.

Mr. Kerrey said in an interview that part of his change of heart might indeed be because the existing system was benefiting Democrats, and he said he believed that many others in his party were wrestling with the issue anew because of the changed calculus. But he added that Mr. Obama’s army of small donors had altered the terms of the debate, causing him to believe that he had been wrong about the need for such limitations.

“I think the reformers’ arguments have been substantially undercut by the facts on the ground,” Mr. Kerrey said.

Both candidates have campaigned as reformers and declared that repairing the public financing system for presidential campaigns would be a priority in their administration. But Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee for president, apparently did not absorb much by way of political cost when he broke a pledge to accept public financing if his opponent did as well.

Mr. Obama built a huge financial advantage over the Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, which may have written the epitaph for the current system.

A recent USA Today-Gallup poll found most Americans did not even know who was taking public financing and who was not; only Mr. McCain opted for the $84 million in public financing. But the survey also found most of those polled supported limits on campaign spending.

House and Senate leadership aides said it was highly unlikely that the issue would earn much attention next year, given other priorities like the economy and the war in Iraq. There is also the matter of the brewing debate among Democrats, who will probably control Congress, over whether such limits are even warranted.

“Democrats may decide this is working pretty well,” said Representative David E. Price, Democrat of North Carolina, who last year was the lead sponsor of a measure in the House to update the presidential public financing system. “I don’t really know what might materialize in the way of views on our side.”

Campaign finance reform has been a signature cause for Mr. McCain, though he declined in recent years to sponsor bills updating the presidential public financing system. Yet if Mr. McCain were to win on Tuesday, the resistance in Democratic circles to new financing rules would presumably only grow as they plot another assault on the Republicans’ White House grip in 2012.

The existing presidential public financing system began in the 1970s after the Watergate scandal to limit the influence of money in politics, but it has not kept pace with the escalating spending. The 2004 race marked the first time both major nominees, Mr. Kerry and President Bush, decided to bypass the federal matching funds for the primary. Mr. Obama became the first major party candidate to opt out of the system for the general election. The move allowed him to continue raising private donations while Mr. McCain could not.

But advocates for tighter restrictions on campaign finance said they were alarmed by the more than $1.5 billion that had been raised by the presidential candidates in the primary and general elections this year — the first time presidential aspirants have topped $1 billion. (The Obama campaign alone has raised more than $600 million.) The advocates said that they were poised to begin aggressively lobbying for changes to the public financing system and that they hoped the issue would be taken up quickly by the new president and Congress.

The bill they are promoting seeks to offer new incentives to participate in the public finance system by substantially increasing the amount of public money available to candidates. Its provisions include increasing the ratio of public matching funds available in the primary, eliminating state-by-state primary spending limits and increasing the size of the grant for the general election.

Advocates for the bill said they were not convinced of Mr. Obama’s argument, now being embraced by many fellow Democrats, that by raising unprecedented sums from small donors he had addressed the problem of big-money influence in politics. Skeptics note that Mr. Obama raised record amounts from large donors as well.

In addition, they said, the presidential campaign this year highlighted new issues, like megadonors to joint fund-raising committees that benefit the candidate and the party. There are also questions about whether Internet donations are being vetted adequately, which has drawn increased scrutiny in recent weeks with regard to contributions to the Obama campaign.

“Whether we get to move this meaningful campaign reform forward is going to depend largely on the leadership of either Obama or McCain,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen, a watchdog group. “If either one of them decides they don’t care, we’re going to have a hard time convincing Congress to take up the issue.”

    What Happens to Public Financing, When Obama Thrived Without It?, NYT, 3.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/03/us/politics/03donors.html?hp






McCain Camp Finds Some Hope in Philadelphia


November 3, 2008
The New York Times


PHILADELPHIA — If Senator John McCain defies the polls and wins Pennsylvania, it will be in part because of voters like Harry Klemash, 67, a Democrat who supported Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the primary but is still not comfortable with Senator Barack Obama.

“Obama has too many socialist policies, and he doesn’t have enough experience,” Mr. Klemash, a retired pressman, said Sunday as he walked his miniature poodle in Marconi Park in South Philadelphia, a largely white, Catholic, ethnic neighborhood.

With the presidential election a day away, the polls point to an Obama victory in Pennsylvania, with Mr. Obama holding a big lead in Philadelphia. But the polls are tightening, and Mr. McCain has shown no signs of backing off his quest to win the state, which remains central to his hope of winning the presidency.

As the Republicans try to map out ways in which Mr. McCain could pull off an upset, they see fertile ground in some enclaves in Philadelphia that are mostly white. They said that these areas would not yield a big trove of votes but that trimming Mr. Obama’s lead here might make a difference.

“I’m spending a lot of time in Philadelphia,” said Robert Gleason, the chairman of the state Republican Party.

“We’re working the Northeast,” he said, referring to a largely white part of the city. “We’ve got values voters up there, Catholics. My people up there say they can carry four to six wards this year, and four years ago, they carried none.”

While wealthier whites in Philadelphia, especially in Center City, overwhelmingly support Mr. Obama, some urban blue-collar Democrats — like their counterparts in western and northeastern Pennsylvania — never made the transition from Mrs. Clinton. In South Philadelphia, McCain signs have cropped up in the windows of the low brick houses and on the postage-stamp front yards.

“Hillary won some of those white wards by 10 to 1,” said Shanin Specter, son of Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, and a lawyer who is steeped in local politics. “Obama is likely to significantly underperform Kerry and Gore in those white row-house wards.”

The state Republican Party has begun running advertisements highlighting Mr. Obama’s ties to the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., his former pastor, which could tap into concerns among white voters.

The Obama campaign is fully aware of the challenge.

“This is a tough ward,” said Paul Rossi, 61, a data processor who lives in the neighborhood and is helping out at an Obama office that opened Saturday not far from Marconi Park. “It’s a matter of convincing people culturally that they won’t be harmed by Obama.”

It is no accident that Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Obama’s running mate, is being dispatched to speak in Marconi Park on Monday night for his final rally of the campaign. The white, blue-collar Catholics here are just the kind of voters whom Mr. Biden, also Catholic, was chosen to help win over. Mr. Biden is to be joined by members of the Philadelphia Phillies, who just won the World Series.

Susan Streicher, 59, a retired secretary and registered Democrat, acknowledged that Mr. Biden’s Catholicism was appealing to her but said she preferred Mr. McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin, Mr. McCain’s running mate, because they oppose abortion rights. Her husband, John, 63, a postal worker, dismissed Mr. McCain, saying that he was a “warmonger” and that Alaska, Ms. Palin’s home state, “is all wilderness.” Both said they thought Mr. Obama would win.

Several other people interviewed who said they preferred Mr. McCain declined to give their names.

There is no doubt that Mr. Obama, who won Philadelphia in the primary, will again sweep the city, where about 52 percent of voters are black. But while it is a major part of the statewide puzzle, it is still only a piece.

In 2004, Senator John Kerry, the Democrat, won about 80 percent of the vote in Philadelphia, beating President Bush by 412,000 votes here. But Mr. Kerry won the state by only 144,000 votes.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania said Sunday that although he still expected Mr. Obama to win the state, he was “nervous” and had been on the phone “screaming at Chicago,” meaning the Obama headquarters, to send reinforcements. Mrs. Clinton is due in Pittsburgh on Monday; former President Bill Clinton is to stump for Mr. Obama across the state the same day.

Mr. McCain continues to devote his most precious resource, his time, to Pennsylvania. He made three in-person pleas to voters in the eastern part of the state over the weekend and has planned a short rally for Monday at the Pittsburgh airport.

Although Mr. McCain has paid scant attention to Philadelphia, Mr. Gleason, the Republican state chairman, said Mr. McCain hoped to do better in the city than Mr. Bush did.

“In South Philadelphia,” Mr. Gleason said, “with the battle between the African-Americans and all the other wards, we can keep Obama under a 400,000 margin in Philadelphia.” (He added with a laugh, “I get a big salary to be positive.”)

Mr. Rendell agreed that because of the white wards, Mr. Obama might get a smaller percentage of the Philadelphia vote than Mr. Kerry did, perhaps 75 percent instead of Mr. Kerry’s 80 percent. But with additional Democratic registrations, he said, and a bigger turnout, Mr. Obama would exceed Mr. Kerry’s numbers.

In addition, Mr. Rendell said, Mr. McCain could not rely on the Republicans’ deepest well in the state, which, until 1992, had been the four suburban counties around Philadelphia. Mr. Rendell and Mr. Gleason agreed that Montgomery County, the most affluent and liberal of the four, would vote for Mr. Obama, and that Bucks and Delaware Counties were also likely to swing for him. The fourth, Chester County, is closely contested.

Elsewhere in the state, Mr. McCain needs a big turnout in Central Pennsylvania and is making an incursion into the Scranton area.

As part of the Obama campaign’s get-out-the-vote operation, scores of volunteers were hustling in and out of the new branch office here on Sunday.

Many were from out of state, including two women from New York who said they had expected to be sent to more rural environs and were surprised when they were sent to Philadelphia.

“We thought, oh, it’s an urban area, it’s done,” said Marian Masone, 57, a film curator who lives in Brooklyn.

They said they were also surprised by the negative reaction to them in South Philadelphia. Ms. Masone and her friend, Eileen Newman, 62, who works in film management and lives in Manhattan, said that some people said “no way” to them about Mr. Obama and that one told them, “Get off this block.”

As for Mr. Klemash, the South Philadelphia resident, he said he was ambivalent about Mr. McCain, too. “McCain is too close to Bush,” he said, yet he admires Mr. McCain’s military service. Then again, he said, Ms. Palin was a bad choice as Mr. McCain’s running mate because she does not have enough experience. But then again, he said, Mr. Obama does not have enough experience, either.

His conclusion: “This is a really hard election.”

    McCain Camp Finds Some Hope in Philadelphia, NYT, 3.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/03/us/politics/03penn.html






Soldiering On, Clinton Preserves Her Options


November 3, 2008
The New York Times


WINTER PARK, Fla. — Her crowds are smaller now, and most of the reporters are gone. The campaign posters say his name, not hers. And instead of championing her ideas for health insurance or tax relief, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is giving out 1-800 numbers and Internet addresses for Senator Barack Obama’s campaign.

Watching Mrs. Clinton campaign for her old rival, masking what friends say is lingering disappointment, it is easy to recall happier days. While she often said, during her 17-month race, that it took “a Clinton to clean up after a Bush,” she has now tweaked that line a bit.

“It took a Democratic president to clean up after the first President Bush,” she said to cheers at a rally here on Saturday in the political battleground of central Florida. “It will take a Democratic president to clean up after the next President Bush!”

Moments later, she made another comment that echoed a Clinton campaign advertisement that ran on the eve of the Pennsylvania primary in which Mrs. Clinton warned voters not to “take a leap of faith” with Mr. Obama to protect the country.

But for the crowd in Winter Park, Mrs. Clinton had this to say: “I’m not asking anyone to take a leap of faith, I’m just saying, look at the evidence,” arguing that Mr. Obama’s economic proposals were far better than Mr. McCain’s.

The bitterness of that long primary battle, however, is the last thing that Obama supporters brought up about Mrs. Clinton in Florida last weekend. Of 20 interviewed, all effusively praised her. All 20 said that if Mr. Obama won, they hoped that she would be his secretary of state or that she would shepherd his health care or energy bills through the Senate. All 20 said they hoped she would run for president again.

“I would have supported her this year if not for her vote for the Iraq war and the fact that she never said it was a mistake,” said Jocelyn Bartkevicius, a Democrat and writer and editor who attended the rally here. “But she has been so strong for Obama this fall, such a good sport. I wouldn’t hold a long-term grudge. I’d be with her next time.”

For the friends and allies already thinking about Mrs. Clinton’s political future, the possibility of a victory by Senator John McCain on Tuesday would upend an array of assumptions, not least of which that Mrs. Clinton — if she were to run again — would not do so until 2016, when she would be turning 69. At the same time, under a McCain presidency, Mrs. Clinton could be well positioned, given her friendship with him and good standing among Washington Republicans, to help him with a Democratic-led Congress on alternative energy, which they have both highlighted on the campaign trail.

While Mrs. Clinton’s high profile in Democratic politics has been fortified by her work for Mr. Obama, her friends say it is too soon to say what the future holds for her. For one thing, they say, she is not over her primary loss: some days it is hard for her, even a little heart-breaking, to campaign for Mr. Obama, given how much she wanted to be president.

Others say that she is being a good soldier because she wants to be a power player in Washington if Mr. Obama wins but that she is not sure what her role might be. “She is a human being,” said Jill Iscol, a good friend and former supporter of Mrs. Clinton. “She’s a real person, and so she has her feelings, but what matters to her most right now is making sure Obama wins. ”

Mrs. Clinton told Fox News last month that there was “probably zero” chance of her becoming Senate majority leader. Several Senate Democratic aides concur, noting that many of her colleagues supported Mr. Obama for president. Asked about the chances that she would run again for president, she said, “Probably close to zero.” (The question was not predicated on whether Mr. Obama would win or lose on Tuesday.) Supreme Court nominee? “Zero,” she said. “I have no interest in doing that.”

While Mrs. Clinton still has a campaign debt of several million dollars, she has been steadily raising money for her political action committee, which advisers say could become a means to champion women’s issues.

Mrs. Clinton won about 17 million votes in her presidential primary campaign, and by all accounts she will emerge on Election Day as a respected force in the eyes of not only her allies but also of people around Mr. Obama, for whom she has raised several million dollars and done more than 75 rallies, fund-raisers, conference calls and other tasks.

“It’s one of those times where she has won by losing, in a very real sense,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, her Democratic colleague from New York. “Whether people were with her, like I was, or not with her, I think everyone’s respect for her in the Senate has gone up in the way she has handled herself since the end of the race.”

Over the long term, some political allies believe that Mrs. Clinton would be a strong choice to lead the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2010, given her fund-raising contacts, her eye for political talent and her proven ability to raise money for the party. She has helped several Senate candidates this year.

Mr. Schumer also led the senatorial committee in 2006; he said he would not think until after Tuesday about doing it again. Some advisers to Mrs. Clinton said that the idea was intriguing but that they did not know how she felt about it. She declined to be interviewed for this article.

In the near term — the first year of the next presidential administration — several associates said she would like to be an ally of the White House’s next occupant, whoever that is.

For a President Obama, her favorite, Clinton advisers say she might be positioned to be a point person on his proposal for expanding access to health insurance or for his energy plan, two issues that she and Mr. Obama promoted during the primaries.

Her hand in health care depends largely, her advisers say, on Senator Edward M. Kennedy, given his experience with health care issues and his seniority. Mr. Kennedy has been in the Senate for 46 years, Mrs. Clinton for 8, and she does not hold a committee chairmanship, where real power resides.

Mr. Kennedy has been battling cancer, and many Washington Democrats believe that he will be too ill to carry a major legislative program. But Mrs. Clinton, like other Democrats, would defer to him.

For a President McCain, on the other hand, Mrs. Clinton might be an emissary between his White House and a Democratic-led Congress.

“She has done more for Obama than Dean did in 2004 for Kerry, more than Bradley did for Gore in 2000, more than Kennedy did for Carter in 1980,” said James A. Thurber, the director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University in Washington, D.C. “As much as this must hurt her, she has been the ultimate trooper this fall.”

    Soldiering On, Clinton Preserves Her Options, NYT, 3.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/03/us/politics/03clinton.html






Voting Experts Say High Turnout May Add to Problems at the Polls


November 3, 2008
The New York Times


Millions of voters will encounter an unfamiliar low-tech landscape at the polls on Tuesday. About half of all voters will vote in a way that is different from what they did in the last presidential election, and most will use paper ballots rather than the touch-screen machines that have caused concern among voting experts.

But the change does not guarantee a smooth election day, as the nation’s voting system remains untested for what is expected to be an unprecedented turnout. Six years after the largest federal overhaul in how elections are run, voting experts are still predicting machine and ballot shortages in several swing states and late tallies on election night.

Two-thirds of voters will mark their choice with a pencil on a paper ballot that is counted by an optical scanning machine, a method considered far more reliable and verifiable than touch screens. But paper ballots bring their own potential problems, voting experts say.

The scanners can break down, leading to delays and confusion for poll workers and voters. And the paper ballots of about a third of all voters will be counted not at the polling place but later at a central county location. That means that if a voter has made an error — not filling in an oval properly, for example, a mistake often made by the kind of novice voters who will be flocking to the polls — it will not be caught until it is too late. As a result, those ballots will be disqualified.

Voting rights groups have also filed lawsuits against election officials in Pennsylvania and Virginia, saying they have not stocked enough paper ballots to prepare for the expected turnout.

Most voting experts are not predicting a repeat of the Florida meltdown of 2000, but they are warning that shortages of electronic voting machines or printed ballots in swing states, along with problems verifying the identity of voters, could worsen lines and fray nerves.

“What has traditionally happened in this country is that a change in voting equipment happens once in the lifetime of an election official,” said Kimball W. Brace, president of Election Data Services, a voting research firm. “This time, nearly 60 percent of the country will vote in places that in the last eight years have changed their voting equipment.”

About a fourth of voters will still use electronic machines that offer no paper record to verify that their choice was accurately recorded, even though these machines are vulnerable to hacking and crashes that drop votes. The machines will be used by most voters in Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Eight other states, including Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey and South Carolina, will use touch-screen machines with paper trails.

In states with early voting, there have been scattered reports of touch-screen machine malfunctions, ballot misprints causing scanners to jam and vote-flipping, in which the vote cast for one candidate is recorded for another.

Florida has switched to its third ballot system in the past three election cycles, and glitches associated with the transition have caused confusion at early voting sites, election officials said. The state went back to using scanned paper ballots this year after touch-screen machines in Sarasota County failed to record any choice for 18,000 voters in a fiercely contested House race in 2006.

Voters in Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia have reported using touch-screen machines that at least initially registered their choice for the wrong candidate or party.

“I pushed the Democrat ticket, and it jumped to the Republican ticket for president of the United States,” said Calvin Thomas, 81, an Obama supporter who tried to vote early in Ripley, W.Va. “I’m a registered Republican, and I’ve voted in every presidential election since 1948. I don’t like seeing my vote do something I didn’t tell it to do. I take that real serious.”

Mr. Thomas’s daughter, Micki Clendenin, said the same thing had happened to her.

In both cases, poll workers at the site had them touch the screen a few more times, and the voting machine changed their ballot to their candidate choice. State and local officials said these were isolated cases and that poll workers had fixed the problems.

“It was corrected,” Ms. Clendenin said, “but it still made me wonder.”

It was not supposed to be this way.

After the debacle of 2000, Congress passed a federal law, the Help America Vote Act, to avoid similar mishaps. It included money for new machines to modernize the voting process. But in many ways, things have become even messier. The first machines bought with the federal money were largely touch-screens and brought new problems, decreasing public confidence in the process and doubling the number of election-related lawsuits since 2000.

In the past two years, the pendulum has swung away from electronic machines, but the change has come during one of the most dramatic presidential elections in modern history.

“Counties and states are better prepared for machine problems than they have been in the past,” said Lawrence Norden, a voting expert with the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. “Problem is that this election may not be like any other in terms of the strain on the system, and small problems can have big consequences when there are such tight margins and so many people showing up to vote.”

Most states have passed laws requiring paper records of every vote cast, which experts consider an important safeguard. But most of them do not have strong audit laws to ensure that machine totals are vigilantly checked against the paper records.

Last year, a study by the Brennan Center found that at least 17 of the 38 states with paper records did not require audits after every election. The states with audits do them inadequately, the report found.

In Ohio, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner sued the maker of the touch-screen equipment used in half of her state’s 88 counties after an investigation showed that the machines “dropped” votes in recent elections when memory cards were uploaded to computer servers.

As an extra precaution, Ms. Brunner required all counties to provide paper ballots to anyone who wanted to use them.

On Wednesday, a federal judge ordered election officials in Pennsylvania to make emergency paper ballots available to voters when 50 percent or more of voting machines at a polling location fail. Previously, these ballots would be available only if all the machines at a polling place broke down.

A report released last month by several voting rights groups found that eight of the states using touch-screen machines, including Colorado and Virginia, had no guidance or requirement to stock emergency paper ballots at the polls if the machines broke down.

    Voting Experts Say High Turnout May Add to Problems at the Polls, NYT, 3.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/03/us/politics/03voting.html






Republicans Scrambling to Save Seats in Congress


November 3, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — Outspent and under siege in a hostile political climate, Congressional Republicans scrambled this weekend to save embattled incumbents in an effort to hold down expected Democratic gains in the House and Senate on Tuesday.

With the election imminent, Senate Republicans threw their remaining resources into protecting endangered lawmakers in Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Oregon, while House Republicans were forced to put money into what should be secure Republican territory in Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia and Wyoming.

Sensing an extraordinary opportunity to expand their numbers in both the House and Senate, Democrats were spending freely on television advertising across the campaign map. Senate Democrats were active in nine states where Republicans are running for re-election; House Democrats, meanwhile, bought advertising in 63 districts, twice the number of districts where Republicans bought advertisements and helped candidates.

“We are deep in the red areas,” Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said on Sunday. “We are competing now in districts George Bush carried by large margins in 2004.”

What seems especially striking about this year’s Congressional races is that Democrats appear to have solidified their gains from the 2006 midterm elections and are pushing beyond their traditional urban turf into what once were safe Republican strongholds, creating a struggle for the suburbs.

Trying to capitalize on economic uncertainty, House Democrats are taking aim at vacant seats and incumbents in suburban and even more outlying areas — the traditional foundation of Republican power in the House. With many of the most contested House races occurring in Republican-held districts that extend beyond cities in states like Florida, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio, Democrats said expected victories would give them suburban dominance.

The same is true for Senate Democratic candidates, who are seeking to nail down swing counties outside urban centers and move the party toward a 60-vote majority. That majority could overcome a filibuster, if party leaders could hold the votes together.

Among open House seats Democrats say they have a good chance of capturing include those being vacated by Representatives Ralph Regula and Deborah Pryce in Ohio, Jim Ramstad in Minnesota, Jerry Weller in Illinois and Rick Renzi in Arizona.

On the list of incumbents Democrats believe they can defeat are Representatives John R. Kuhl Jr. in New York, Joe Knollenberg in Michigan, Tom Feeney and Ric Keller in Florida, Don Young in Alaska, Robin Hayes in North Carolina and Bill Sali in Idaho.

Democrats say they have been able to peel away suburbanites by emphasizing Republican culpability for the economic decline, a point they say House Republicans helped make themselves by initially balking at the $700 billion bailout and sending the markets into a tailspin that depleted retirement and college savings accounts.

“Suburban voters are angry that their quality of life and standard of living is under attack,” said Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and a leading advocate of Democrats trying to broaden their appeal in the suburbs.

The partisan spending gap was stark. As of last week, Senate Democrats had spent more than $67 million against Republican candidates, compared with $33.7 million in advertising by Republicans. In the House, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had spent $73 million, compared with just over $20 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to campaign finance reports.

Most of the House Republican money was spent on behalf of incumbents or in districts where a Republican is retiring, emphasizing how much the party was playing defense. By contrast, House Democrats spent most of their money in the last month going after Republican seats in Colorado, Nebraska, Washington, West Virginia and elsewhere. On Sunday, Democrats prepared one last radio advertisement to begin running Monday in an effort to claim the seat of Thomas M. Reynolds, a Republican retiring from his upstate New York district near Buffalo.

“That kind of says it all,” said Representative Thomas M. Davis III, a retiring Virginia Republican whose own suburban seat is likely to go Democratic on Tuesday. Mr. Davis said Republicans simply faced too many disadvantages heading into Election Day, including a higher number of retirements in the House and Senate, an unpopular president and an economic collapse.

“You like to see a fair fight,” said Mr. Davis, a former chairman of the Republican Congressional campaign committee, “but basically we are playing basketball in our street shoes and long pants, and the Democrats have on their uniforms and Chuck Taylors.”

Neither of the national Senate campaign arms was advertising in Colorado, New Mexico or Virginia, indicating that Republicans were virtually ceding those states, where members of their party are retiring, to the Democrats. Senate Democrats were also optimistic about the prospects of unseating Senator John E. Sununu in New Hampshire and Senator Ted Stevens in Alaska, where Mr. Stevens campaigned despite being newly convicted on felony ethics charges.

Democrats said they saw themselves with the advantage in Minnesota, North Carolina and Oregon, giving them a reasonable chance at claiming eight seats and enlarging their Senate majority to 59 if they hold their current seats.

If Democrats swept those races, it could leave the potential 60th vote to break filibusters resting on the outcome in Georgia, Mississippi or Kentucky, where Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, is in a competitive race with Bruce Lunsford, a businessman. Polls show Democrats trailing but within striking distance in all three races, with the final results potentially hinging on the presidential race and turnout among Democratically inclined black voters.

In Mississippi, which has not sent a freshman Democrat to the Senate since John C. Stennis was elected in 1947, Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican appointed last year to fill the seat left vacant by Trent Lott’s resignation, is in a tight race with former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat.

“We feel we have a lot of momentum,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, “but we are ever mindful that getting to 60 is an extremely difficult thing to do because we are in so many red states.”

Republicans privately acknowledged that there was little hope for some of their candidates, including Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina. But Republicans have not given up on the idea of unseating Senator Mary L. Landrieu in Louisiana, a state where Senator John McCain was running well against Senator Barack Obama in the presidential race. A victory over Ms. Landrieu by John Kennedy, the state treasurer, would be a significant moral victory for Republicans, and they pointed to internal polls that show a close race.

In Louisiana, North Carolina and Oregon, Republicans were trying to energize voters with the threat of Democratic dominance in Washington, running advertisements that warn voters about “complete liberal control of government.”

“We agree with Chuck Schumer that this is a tectonic election,” said Rebecca Fisher, spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “And if Democrats get their way, this country will shift so far left it will take generations to get back on track.”

Both parties were focusing substantial final energies on the Senate race in Minnesota, where Senator Norm Coleman, the Republican, was in a heated clash with his Democratic challenger, Al Franken, a former comedian and radio talk show host.

The race remained close as Mr. Coleman was named in a last-minute lawsuit in Texas alleging that a businessman had funneled $75,000 to him through his wife’s business. Mr. Coleman, who has filed an unfair campaign practices complaint accusing Mr. Franken of broadcasting falsehoods in his advertisements, denied any impropriety, but the lawsuit led to a flurry of news accounts only days before the election.

In Kentucky, Mr. McConnell enlisted hundreds of volunteers to knock on doors and to make phone calls in the remaining hours. He was to embark on a fly-around of the state’s cities Monday in his effort to repel the serious challenge from Mr. Lunsford, who brought in one of Kentucky’s favorite daughters, the actress Ashley Judd, to campaign on his behalf in the closing days.

Strategists for both parties said it seemed increasingly possible that the full Senate picture might not even be settled Tuesday, given that a third-party candidate could cause both Senator Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia, and his Democratic opponent, Jim Martin, to fall short of 50 percent of the vote, forcing a runoff on Dec. 2.

Party operatives also warned that Tuesday was likely to produce some surprises, considering the strong resentment toward Congress that has been reflected in polls for months. They predicted upsets of some House incumbents not thought to be in trouble.

Republicans said they believed some top Democratic targets, like Representative Dave Reichert of Washington and Christopher Shays of Connecticut, would be able to hang on because they, and others, had run strong campaigns built on their individual images and records.

“Republican candidates who have established their own personal brand, and have framed their respective races around creating a clear choice, will succeed on Election Day despite the turbulent political environment,” said Ken Spain, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

One problem for House Republicans was that freshmen lawmakers who gave Democrats control of the House after the 2006 elections were faring much better than party leaders had expected. Some, like Representative Kirsten Gillibrand, who represents the Hudson Valley in New York, became prime Republican targets virtually from the moment they were elected but are now favored to win second terms after raising formidable sums of money and cultivating moderate voting records that insulated them from attack.

Representative John Yarmuth of Kentucky, the president of the Democrats’ 2006 freshman class, said only two of its members were in serious trouble: Representative Nick Lampson of Texas, who represents a heavily Republican district south of Houston, and Representative Tim Mahoney of Florida, who has been entangled in a scandal over extramarital affairs.

Mr. Yarmuth credited House Democratic leaders with pursuing an agenda that gave the freshmen substantial achievements to promote back home, especially a generous new education benefit for veterans that counterbalanced the Democrats’ opposition to the war in Iraq

“I think that was a trademark of this last Congress that created a moderate image that we were pro-military, pro-troops,” Mr. Yarmuth said.

David M. Herszenhorn contributed reporting.

    Republicans Scrambling to Save Seats in Congress, NYT, 3.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/03/us/politics/03cong.html?hp






Campaigns Focus on States Their Parties Lost in 2004


November 3, 2008
The New York Times


On the last Sunday before the election, the presidential candidates and their running mates kept up a relentless pace by visiting states their respective parties had lost in 2004.

Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee who is trailing in the national polls, was scheduled to make appearances in two states that voted Democratic in 2004, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, where he will hold his final town hall. On Monday, he will visit five swing states — Florida, Virginia, Indiana, New Mexico and Nevada — along with Tennessee before flying home to Arizona for Election Day.

“Now let me give you a little straight talk about the state of the race today,” Mr. McCain said hoarsely at a morning rally at Strath Haven High School in Wallingford, Pa. “There’s just two days left. We’re a couple of points behind in Pennsylvania. The pundits have written us off, just like they’ve done before.”

Then his voice cleared: “My friends, the Mac is back!”

Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, was scheduled to visit the three largest cities in the hotly contested state of Ohio, with Bruce Springsteen joining him in Cleveland. On Monday, he will visit three states that voted Republican in 2004, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, before heading home to Chicago.

We’re spending all our time there, because we feel we have a chance to win many of them,” David Axelrod, chief strategist of the Obama campaign, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We’re campaigning in states that were so-called red states.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, also speaking on “Face the Nation,” said that Senator McCain was poised to make a final surge.

“Well, what we’ve seen in the last two weeks is very much a tightening of the race in the states that matter,” Mr. Graham said. “We see closing in Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Ohio. We have him [Mr. Obama] under 50, in the margin of error.”

Mr. McCain had spent the Saturday night in New York to appear on “Saturday Night Live.” He opened the show doing a mock QVC segment, with Tina Fey as Sarah Palin on his side.

Standing in a suit and tie, Mr. McCain hawked knives for cutting pork for the shopping network; and offered 10 blank commemorative plates celebrating the joint town-hall-style meetings that he had wanted to have with Mr. Obama. His wife, Cindy McCain, displayed shiny fine gold necklaces named after his signature campaign finance reform bill, McCain-Feingold.

At one point, the fake Sarah Palin went rogue, attempting to sell Palin 2012 T-shirts.

The skit was a wry take on Mr. Obama’s half-hour television spot on Wednesday, which cost his campaign more than $3 million. “Look, would I rather be on three major networks?” Mr. McCain said. “Of course. But I’m a true maverick — a Republican without money.”

Keeping with the joking theme, the real Sarah Palin unwittingly took a prank telephone call Saturday from a Canadian comedian posing as President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, who told her she would make a good president someday.

“Maybe in eight years," replies a laughing Palin, who spent several minutes on the call bantering with the fake president about hunting and other subjects before being told it was a prank.

The call was made by Marc-Antoine Audette, who with his comedic partner, Sebastien Trudel, is notorious for prank calls to celebrities and heads of state.

The Obama campaign worked to quickly move past a Times of London report that his half-aunt on his father’s side, Zeituni Onyango, was reported to be living in Boston public housing even though she was ordered to leave the country in 2004.

His campaign pledged on Saturday to give back her $265 in campaign contributions, which came from the 56-year-old Kenyan citizen in small increments in as small as $5. Only American citizens are allowed to donate to political campaigns. Mr. Obama said he didn’t know about his relative’s status.

On the other hand, the Obama campaign tried to make the most of Vice President Cheney’s support of Mr. McCain in a speech in Laramie, Wyo., on Saturday night. By Sunday morning, the Obama campaign had produced a television ad highlighting Mr. Cheney’s remarks as an “endorsement.” The ad ends with two photos of Mr. McCain with President Bush, emphasizing Mr. Obama’s refrain of linking the two.

Both candidates have been using their last hours on the public stage to return to the familiar themes.

“After 12 months and three debates,” Mr. Obama said in Henderson, Nev., on Saturday, “John McCain has not been able to tell the American people a single major thing that he would do different from George Bush on the economy.”

Mr. McCain warned that an Obama presidency, combined with a Democratic Congress, would lead to higher taxes.

“Presidential elections have a way of settling on a few great questions as the moment of decision arrives,” Mr. McCain said in a radio address. “And this has happened in the closing days of the election of 2008. We’ve learned that Barack Obama’s economic plan for America is to redistribute the wealth of America with higher taxes.”

John M. Broder and Julie Bosman contributed reporting.

    Campaigns Focus on States Their Parties Lost in 2004, NYT, 3.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/03/us/politics/03campaign.html?hp






Op-Ed Columnist

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner


November 2, 2008
The New York Times


AND so: just how far have we come?

As a rough gauge last week, I watched a movie I hadn’t seen since it came out when I was a teenager in 1967. Back then “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was Hollywood’s idea of a stirring call for racial justice. The premise: A young white woman falls madly in love with a black man while visiting the University of Hawaii and brings him home to San Francisco to get her parents’ blessing. Dad, a crusading newspaper publisher, and Mom, a modern art dealer, are wealthy white liberals — Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, no less — so surely there can be no problem. Complications ensue before everyone does the right thing.

Though the film was a box-office smash and received 10 Oscar nominations, even four decades ago it was widely ridiculed as dated by liberal critics. The hero, played by the first black Hollywood superstar, Sidney Poitier, was seen as too perfect and too “white” — an impossibly handsome doctor with Johns Hopkins and Yale on his résumé and a Nobel-worthy career fighting tropical diseases in Africa for the World Health Organization. What couple would not want him as a son-in-law? “He’s so calm and sure of everything,” says his fiancée. “He doesn’t have any tensions in him.” She is confident that every single one of their biracial children will grow up to “be president of the United States and they’ll all have colorful administrations.”

What a strange movie to confront in 2008. As the world knows, Barack Obama’s own white mother and African father met at the University of Hawaii. In “Dreams From My Father,” he even imagines the awkward dinner where his mother introduced her liberal-ish parents to her intended in 1959. But what’s most startling about this archaic film is the sole element in it that proves inadvertently contemporary. Faced with a black man in the mold of the Poitier character — one who appears “so calm” and without “tensions” — white liberals can make utter fools of themselves. When Joe Biden spoke of Obama being “clean” and “articulate,” he might have been recycling Spencer Tracy’s lines of 41 years ago.

Biden’s gaffe, though particularly naked, prefigured a larger pattern in the extraordinary election campaign that has brought an African-American to the brink of the presidency. Our political and news media establishments — fixated for months on tracking down every unreconstructed bigot in blue-collar America — have their own conspicuous racial myopia, with its own set of stereotypes and clichés. They consistently underestimated Obama’s candidacy because they often saw him as a stand-in for the two-dimensional character Poitier had to shoulder in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” It’s why so many got this election wrong so often.

There were countless ruminations, in print and on television, asking the same two rhetorical questions: “Is He Black Enough?” and “Is He Tough Enough?” The implied answer to both was usually, “No.” The brown-skinned child of biracial parents wasn’t really “black” and wouldn’t appeal to black voters who were overwhelmingly loyal to the wife of America’s first “black” president. And as a former constitutional law professor, Obama was undoubtedly too lofty an intellectual to be a political street fighter, too much of a wuss to land a punch in a debate, too ethereal to connect to “real” Americans. He was Adlai Stevenson, Michael Dukakis or Bill Bradley in dark face — no populist pugilist like John Edwards.

The list of mistaken prognostications that grew from these flawed premises is long. As primary season began, we were repeatedly told that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was the most battle-tested and disciplined, with an invincible organization and an unbeatable donors’ network. Poor Obama had to settle for the ineffectual passion of the starry-eyed, Internet-fixated college kids who failed to elect Howard Dean in 2004. When Clinton lost in Iowa, no matter; Obama could never breach the “firewalls” that would wrap up her nomination by Super Tuesday. Neither the Clinton campaign nor the many who bought its spin noticed the take-no-prisoners political insurgency that Obama had built throughout the caucus states and that serves him to this day.

Once Obama wrested the nomination from Clinton by surpassing her in organization, cash and black votes, he was still often seen as too wimpy to take on the Republicans. This prognosis was codified by Karl Rove, whose punditry for The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek has been second only to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert as a reliable source of laughs this year. Rove called Obama “lazy,” and over the summer he predicted that his fund-raising had peaked in February and that he’d have a “serious problem” winning over Hispanics. Well, Obama was lazy like a fox, and is leading John McCain among Hispanics by 2 to 1. Obama has also pulled ahead among white women despite the widespread predictions that he’d never bring furious Hillary supporters into the fold.

But certainly the single most revelatory moment of the campaign — about the political establishment, not Obama — arrived in June when he reversed his position on taking public financing. This was a huge flip-flop (if no bigger than McCain’s on the Bush tax cuts). But the reaction was priceless. Suddenly the political world discovered that far from being some exotic hothouse flower, Obama was a pol from Chicago. Up until then it rarely occurred to anyone that he had to be a ruthless competitor, not merely a sweet-talking orator, to reach the top of a political machine even rougher than the Clinton machine he had brought down. Whether that makes him more black or more white remains unresolved.

Early in the campaign, the black commentator Tavis Smiley took a lot of heat when he questioned all the rhetoric, much of it from white liberals, about Obama being “post-racial.” Smiley pointed out that there is “no such thing in America as race transcendence.” He is right of course. America can no sooner disown its racial legacy, starting with the original sin of slavery, than it can disown its flag; it’s built into our DNA. Obama acknowledged as much in his landmark speech on race in Philadelphia in March.

Yet much has changed for the better since the era of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” thanks to the epic battles of the civil-rights movement that have made the Obama phenomenon possible. As Mark Harris reminds us in his recent book about late 1960s Hollywood, “Pictures at a Revolution,” it was not until the year of the movie’s release that the Warren Court handed down the Loving decision overturning laws that forbade interracial marriage in 16 states; in the film’s final cut there’s still an outdated line referring to the possibility that the young couple’s nuptials could be illegal (as Obama’s parents’ marriage would have been in, say, Virginia). In that same year of 1967, L.B.J.’s secretary of state, Dean Rusk, offered his resignation when his daughter, a Stanford student, announced her engagement to a black Georgetown grad working at NASA. (Johnson didn’t accept it.)

Obama’s message and genealogy alike embody what has changed in the decades since. When he speaks of red and blue America being seamlessly woven into the United States of America, it is always shorthand for the reconciliation of black and white and brown and yellow America as well. Demographically, that’s where America is heading in the new century, and that will be its destiny no matter who wins the election this year.

Still, the country isn’t there yet, and should Obama be elected, America will not be cleansed of its racial history or conflicts. It will still have a virtually all-white party as one of its two most powerful political organizations. There will still be white liberals who look at Obama and can’t quite figure out what to make of his complex mixture of idealism and hard-knuckled political cunning, of his twin identities of international sojourner and conventional middle-class overachiever.

After some 20 months, we’re all still getting used to Obama and still, for that matter, trying to read his sometimes ambiguous takes on both economic and foreign affairs. What we have learned definitively about him so far — and what may most account for his victory, should he achieve it — is that he had both the brains and the muscle to outsmart, outmaneuver and outlast some of the smartest people in the country, starting with the Clintons. We know that he ran a brilliant campaign that remained sane and kept to its initial plan even when his Republican opponent and his own allies were panicking all around him. We know that that plan was based on the premise that Americans actually are sick of the divisive wedge issues that have defined the past couple of decades, of which race is the most divisive of all.

Obama doesn’t transcend race. He isn’t post-race. He is the latest chapter in the ever-unfurling American racial saga. It is an astonishing chapter. For most Americans, it seems as if Obama first came to dinner only yesterday. Should he win the White House on Tuesday, many will cheer and more than a few will cry as history moves inexorably forward.

But we are a people as practical as we are dreamy. We’ll soon remember that the country is in a deep ditch, and that we turned to the black guy not only because we hoped he would lift us up but because he looked like the strongest leader to dig us out.

    Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/opinion/02rich.html?ref=opinion






States grapple with voting status of felons


2 November 2008
USA Today
By Kevin Johnson


One day before the election, battles over voters' access to the polls are extending beyond the leafy neighborhoods in coveted battleground states to the concrete and steel of the vast U.S. criminal justice system.

Legal challenges are pending in at least four states — Arizona, Mississippi, Tennessee and Washington — seeking to overturn state laws that ban thousands of prisoners and former prisoners from the polls, even after they serve their sentences.

In other states, experts say laws that allow prisoners and ex-offenders to vote have created uncertainty. Rules vary wildly: In Maine and Vermont, for example, all prisoners can vote. For felons in Alaska and Washington state, only those who have completed their sentences may cast ballots.

The quilt of state laws regulating felons' voting rights is under scrutiny by party leaders, corrections officials and lawyers involved in legal challenges as voter drives sweep the country.

"It's mass confusion," says Nancy Abudu, staff counsel for the voting rights unit of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is challenging a Tennessee law that requires felons to pay any child support owed and satisfy all restitution requirements related to their sentences before they can vote.

Among the investigations and disputes:

• Alabama prison officials and local activists settled a lawsuit last month challenging a prison-based voter-registration drive. Led by a former inmate, the 3-day-old drive was halted Sept. 18 after the Alabama Republican Party raised concerns about possible fraud. More than 100 inmates signed up to vote. The settlement lets activists hold voter-education sessions but bans them from supplying registration materials.

Alabama law bars voting by offenders convicted of crimes involving "moral turpitude," yet there is little agreement over what that means. "I don't think anybody knows how many (prisoners) could be eligible," Alabama prison spokesman Brian Corbett says.

• Florida election officials have recommended removing 2,134 people from the voting rolls because of disqualifying prior convictions, including an undisclosed number of prisoners. The state plans to review the eligibility of 108,000 more people, Florida Department of State spokeswoman Jennifer Krell Davis says.

• Alaska officials scrambled to determine whether convicted felons who have not been sentenced can vote, following the conviction of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, for concealing gifts. Under current law, all convicted felons are barred from voting until they finish their sentences. Alaska Elections Division Director Gail Fenumiai says the state attorney general's office ruled that Stevens could vote.

• Texas authorities are looking into how 32 death row inmates got voter-registration applications in an apparent attempt to cast absentee ballots. Death row inmates are prohibited from voting. Polk County District Attorney William Lee Hon, a Republican, said the local registrar of voters noticed the inmates included return addresses matching the death row unit in nearby Livingston. "I've never seen anything like this before," Hon says. "Most all of them registered in their own names."

    States grapple with voting status of felons, UT, 2.11.2008, http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-11-02-prison-vote_N.htm






Poll: Voters worried but engaged


2 November 2008
USA Today
By Susan Page


WASHINGTON — Americans are going to the polls more deeply pessimistic than they have been in decades about the country's direction, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, and they are divided over whether a new president will be able to turn things around in the next four years.

Even so, the public remains avidly engaged in the election, including two-thirds who say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting. A third say they have voted already or will do so before Election Day Tuesday, a 50% increase from 2004.

"This looks to be an election characterized by a thorough and nearly unprecedented rejection of the incumbent party and president, but there's muted expectations about moving forward," says Larry Jacobs of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota.

If Democrat Barack Obama holds his current lead and wins, Jacobs says it will be more of a "negative referendum" on the past rather than a "positive mandate" for a future agenda.

In the survey, Obama beats Republican John McCain by 53%-42% among likely voters, the biggest lead since they emerged as the likely nominees in March. While presidential races typically tighten in the final days, the USA TODAY survey shows this one widening.

Democratic congressional candidates have a 15 percentage point lead among registered voters, the widest advantage for either party since 1964.

By some measures, the public is more downbeat now than it has been in the weeks before any other election in modern times. A record low 13% say they're satisfied with the way things are going in the United States. More than half say the economy is in poor shape, the highest in the five elections the question has been asked. A record high 78% predict the economy is getting worse.

President Bush's approval rating, 25%, is the lowest of any modern president just before an election.

Some of the keys to Obama's lead:

• Asked to predict the state of their personal finances four years from now, 48% say they'd be better off under a President Obama; just 27% say that of a President McCain.

• Asked about the nation's security in four years, an equal 37% say the country would be safer under a President Obama or a President McCain.

• Asked about federal income taxes, 48% say their taxes would be higher in four years under Obama; 50% under McCain.

• Asked about health care costs, 42% say they would rise under Obama; 61% say that of McCain.

That means Obama has neutralized the advantage McCain once held on national security and taxes while maintaining a significant advantage on handling the economy and health care.

The poll of 3,050 adults, taken Friday through Sunday, has a margin of error of +/—2 percentage points. Obama's lead among likely voters is identical using the traditional Gallup screen and an alternative screen that includes more new voters.

On Sunday, McCain held his final town hall in New Hampshire, the state that launched his comeback in the primaries this year. "I come to the people of New Hampshire to ask them to let me go on one more mission," he told them.

Obama appeared in Cleveland with legendary rock star Bruce Springsteen. "The last couple of days, I've been just feeling good," he told a crowd estimated at 80,000. "You start thinking that maybe we might be able to win an election on Nov. 4th."

    Poll: Voters worried but engaged, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-11-02-poll_N.htm






McCain Jokes About Strategy on ‘SNL’


November 2, 2008
Filed at 3:33 p.m. ET
The New York Times


NEW YORK (AP) -- Republican John McCain poked fun at his presidential campaign's financial shortcomings and his reputation as a political maverick in an appearance on NBC's ''Saturday Night Live.''

The presidential hopeful made a cameo appearance at the beginning of the show, with Tina Fey reprising her memorable impersonation of McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

McCain, who is trailing Democrat Barack Obama in most battleground state polls, also appeared during the show's ''Weekend Update'' newscast to announce he would pursue a new campaign strategy in the closing days of the campaign.

''I thought I might try a strategy called the reverse maverick. That's where I'd do whatever anybody tells me,'' McCain said.

And if that didn't work, ''I'd go to the double maverick. I'd just go totally berserk and freak everybody out,'' the Arizona senator quipped.

Earlier in the show, McCain and Fey's Palin, said they couldn't afford a half-hour campaign commercial on network television like the one Obama aired earlier this week. They said they'd sell campaign products on the QVC shopping channel instead.

Among other things, McCain advertised a set of knives to cut through pork in Washington. His wife, Cindy McCain, briefly appeared to advertise ''McCain Fine-Gold'' jewelry, a play on the campaign finance law McCain authored with Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold.

Fey's Palin advertised a set of ''Joe'' dolls commemorating ''Joe the Plumber,'' ''Joe Six Pack'' and her Democratic rival, Joe Biden. She also pulled out T-shirts saying ''Palin 2012'' and announced she wouldn't be returning to Alaska after the election.

''I'm either running in four years or I'm going to be a white Oprah,'' she said.

Obama said Sunday that McCain was funny. Addressing supporters in Ohio, he said the performance was an example of how politicians can fight on the issues but bring civility to politics by having a sense of humor.

Obama said he missed seeing ''Saturday Night Live'' -- he was in a motorcade in Missouri -- but caught up by watching it on YouTube.


Associated Press writer Nedra Pickler in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

    McCain Jokes About Strategy on ‘SNL’, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-McCain-Saturday-Night-Live.html






Latest Newspaper Endorsements in Presidential Race


November 2, 2008
Filed at 3:06 p.m. ET
The New York Times


Excerpts from recent newspaper endorsements of presidential candidates John McCain, a Republican, and Barack Obama, a Democrat.


The Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette, for Republican John McCain:

The United States and the world are on the brink of a major economic recession. Our nation also is troubled by unending war against terrorism, immigration laws in desperate need of reform and spiraling health care costs.

But at the top of this mountain of challenges is the economy -- the engine that drives so much of our daily lives and determines so much of our future. At a time like this, we cannot succumb to panic. We must not throw wrenches in our path to economic recovery. And as the Great Depression taught us, the worst remedy for this country's problems would be higher taxes for individuals and businesses.

Comparing the two major presidential candidates, Sen. John McCain's approach is best aligned to spur economic recovery. This is the overriding reason The Gazette Editorial Board endorses the Republican Arizona senator over Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.


The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette endorsed Obama:

While mostly an enabler of the Bush world view, Mr. McCain has been a sometime maverick in the past. That happy warrior, however, was missing in this campaign. Laboring under the long shadow of the White House record, his campaign has gone further into the shadows, reduced to peddling fear and guilt by association. The ticket has not put country first, but lust for power.

The campaign of Barack Obama has been like day and night compared to this torrent of smears. Sen. Obama has counter-punched, but he has kept his dignity and focus. His eloquent grace and his commitment to speak directly to issues that matter to Americans -- ending the war in Iraq, bringing tax relief to the middle class -- have stamped him as presidential in both judgment and temperament.

His very presence on the campaign trail has refuted all the desperate slanders about him. He is what you thought he was: A decent, reasonable and intelligent American who is the only hope to bring real change.


The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review endorsed McCain:

The only truly experienced leader in this race -- the gentleman whose resume actually is worthy of the phrase -- is John McCain, 72, war hero, former congressman and longtime U.S. senator of Arizona.

John McCain is fiercely independent. And he makes no apologies for the principles he holds dear, even if they be at odds with the traditional party base. But he has never wavered in his core belief of what Republicanism (with a capital ''R'') and republicanism (with a lowercase ''r'') are all about: Small government. Fiscal discipline. Low taxes. A strong defense. And a judiciary that does not legislate from the bench.


The (Springfield, Ill.) State Journal-Register endorsed Obama:

We believe this country needs healing internally to end the class and cultural warfare that has reached levels today we never thought we'd see again after 9/11. The United States' current international image as the world's bully must be reformed if we hope to effect stability in regions that are now hotbeds of terrorism and nuclear adventurism. Economic recovery, as we see it, is dependent on those goals.

For those critical efforts, we believe Barack Obama is the best choice as our next president.

Throughout a grueling primary campaign that began here at the Old State Capitol, Obama went from extreme underdog to the confident, self-assured candidate of the Democratic Party. His poise on the campaign trail since then is no surprise to us. We saw it in person four years ago when he was a candidate for the U.S. Senate and, later, when he met with The State Journal-Register editorial board again after winning his Senate seat. Thoughtful, engaging and intellectually nimble, Obama exuded a sense of quiet self-confidence rare among politicians.


The (Manchester) New Hampshire Union Leader endorsed McCain:

McCain has been tested as few men ever have, and he has never been found wanting. Barack Obama has no experience -- none. He may be the most unprepared major-party candidate ever. His own vice presidential pick says our enemies will test him quickly and severely. There is no good reason to take that chance.

Those who believe Obama's claims that he will reduce 95 percent of Americans' taxes, while he pays for near-universal health care, subsidizes clean energy, expands our military commitment in Afghanistan, adds to mass transit and highway infrastructure, etc., etc., are living in a dream world.


The Sheboygan (Wis.) Press endorsed Obama:

On the four most urgent issues facing this country -- the economy, Iraq, health care, and energy -- Obama's plans simply seem more beneficial to all concerned, namely, the American people.

Both Obama and McCain want to cut taxes. But more of Obama's cuts would go to the middle class and more of McCain's to the wealthy. Trickle-down economic growth doesn't work. It is time to move more of the tax burden onto the wealthiest Americans, those who can most afford to shoulder it.

--And it's time to regulate more of this economy. We need to prevent the greed that got us into this mess, from getting us into it again. McCain seems too reluctant to put in place more aggressive checks and balances.


The Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal endorsed McCain:

We encourage those who are still uncommitted and those who vote on the basis of a candidate's qualifications instead of party label to give McCain's experience a closer look and to consider the consequences of concentrating too much political and economic power in the hands of one party.

A McCain veto in the White House would provide a check on Congress likely to take a leftward swing in this election. Where principles are on the line, McCain has a history of standing firm.''


On the Net:

The Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette: http://www.gazetteonline.com/

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: http://www.post-gazette.com/

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/tribunereview/

The (Springfield, Ill.) State Journal-Register: http://www.sj-r.com/

The (Manchester) New Hampshire Union Leader: http://www.unionleader.com/

The Sheboygan (Wis.) Press: http://www.sheboyganpress.com/

The Albuquerque Journal: http://www.abqjournal.com

    Latest Newspaper Endorsements in Presidential Race, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Presidential-Endorsements.html






The Nation

The Mindset in the Middle of the Storm


November 2, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — Leave it to Jon Stewart to cut to the chase. Interviewing Senator Barack Obama last week as the campaign rolled toward its conclusion, the host of “The Daily Show” observed that being president today looks considerably less appealing than when Mr. Obama launched his candidacy two years ago.

“Is there a sense that you don’t want this?” Mr. Stewart asked. “That you may look at the country and think, ‘You know, when I thought I was going to get this, it was a relatively new car. Now look at it!’ ”

Mr. Obama laughed and gave an earnest answer about having an impact, but did not really address the larger question. Just why would anyone want this job, anyway? What is it about the psyche of would-be presidents that makes them wake up in the morning and think it would be gratifying to take on the troubles of the world, to assume responsibility for the lives of 300 million Americans at a time when their lives are so precarious?

And particularly now, in this moment of maximum crisis. Millions are in danger of losing their homes. Hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs. The national debt is skyrocketing. The Taliban is rampaging through Afghanistan. Pakistan is a nuclear-armed shambles. The country is still at war in Iraq and trying to avoid it with Iran and North Korea. Russia has invaded a neighbor. And much of the world hates us.

“This is an unprecedented mess,” said Ted Sorensen, the former counselor to President John F. Kennedy. By many measures, no incoming president will have inherited quite such a sack of trouble in decades. Yet neither Mr. Obama nor Senator John McCain has expressed second thoughts.

“You have to not only have a sense of confidence but a pretty big ego — you have to almost be a fanatic,” Mr. Sorensen said. “You have to look at yourself and everybody else running for the office and think not only are you as good as they are but you and your ideas are better.”

And that you can fix what nobody else can fix. The ambition and drive that propel politicians to high office at a time of tribulations may convince them that the country’s deep problems are simply successes waiting to happen.

“Part of self-confidence is believing you have special gifts and how selfish of you not to use them to full capacity,” said Alvin S. Felzenberg, a University of Pennsylvania scholar and author of “The Leaders We Deserved (and a Few We Didn’t).” “It’s not a job for ordinary mortals. It may have been fairer in the Middle Ages to have them walk over hot coals than what we put them through now.”

Of course, this is not yet the hot-coals part of the program. For two more days, Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain can still enjoy the affirmation of the crowds. To see either on the campaign trail last week surrounded by fans proclaiming everlasting love was to taste the elixir of adulation that attracts politicians to the presidency even now.

“That’s a pretty heavy trip,” said Dr. Jerrold M. Post, a professor of political psychology at George Washington University. “The nature of the relationship between leaders and the people around them is very important. It’s a very heady experience and something happens when you become president.”

Yet even in the best of times, the presidency can be an enormous burden. Every American soldier killed abroad, every house foreclosed on at home, every monster storm from the Gulf of Mexico to the Indian Ocean ultimately becomes his responsibility.

Increasingly, that burden has come to define the job as much as the glamour. Parents get that. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll in 2006 found that only 41 percent of mothers and fathers would want their child to grow up to be president, compared with 58 percent who would not. And that was before things got as crazy as they are now.

Think about those before-and-after pictures of presidents leaving office. Let’s look back at how the vast majority in the modern era have left the White House. President Kennedy was assassinated. Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon were driven from power. Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush were repudiated by the voters. Bill Clinton departed after his most intimate personal failings were excavated for public examination. George W. Bush is leaving as the most unpopular commander in chief in the history of polling.

Perhaps the only president lately who left office reasonably intact was Ronald Reagan, who recovered from the Iran-contra scandal and found himself revered as time passed. “The thing about Reagan is he was not stuck on himself,” said David M. Abshire, a special counselor to Mr. Reagan and now the president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency. “He was not an ideologue. And his sense of humor was always on himself. In dealing with him, I was never dealing with a big ego.”

Those who think the office does not wear down presidents do not see them with their guard down. Critics consider President Bush immune to the devastation of the war he launched, but he has met privately with hundreds of relatives of slain soldiers, many of whom later described him weeping and genuinely anguished by their pain.

For all that, Mr. Bush still has that gene that makes presidents want to be president even in dark moments. He told aides and business people this fall that if the financial crisis was going to happen, he was glad it happened on his watch so he could put the country on a path to improvement by the time his successor takes office.

In some ways, Mr. Obama has expressed similar sentiments. His advisers said they warn him every day that he may be winning a pile of manure if he beats Mr. McCain on Tuesday. But they also hope that things are so bad, they can only get better.

Mr. Obama’s answer to Mr. Stewart suggested that he sees an opportunity for an ambitious program, that when people are struggling for answers they are less resistant to change. “I actually think this is the time to want to be president,” he said. “You know, if you went into public service thinking that you could have an impact, now is the time where you can have an impact.”

Ultimately, Mr. Felzenberg said, the motivation may come down to posterity. Every president sees himself on Mount Rushmore. “Maybe you have enough gumption to think you can defy the gods and come out intact,” he said. “I guess you have an opportunity for immortality. People like me still talk about Lincoln and Jefferson as if they were still living now and in a way they are. Every time we talk about them, we bring them back to life.”

    The Mindset in the Middle of the Storm, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/weekinreview/02baker.html?hp






Dialing for Obama or McCain


November 2, 2008
The New York Times


Between phone calls and sips of coffee, Maggie McComas enjoyed the crisp, sunny Sunday on Beatrice Sibblies’s front stoop on West 121st Street. The battleground states of Pennsylvania and New Hampshire seemed far away as she sat back in her folding chair with sheets of voters’ names and numbers.

Ms. McComas, 63, of the Upper West Side, picked up one of two cellphones from the chair in front of her. One was hers, the other borrowed from a friend, and with the minutes from both, she was ready to make “hours” of calls for Barack Obama. And soon, she said, she would be knocking on doors in Pennsylvania. “I haven’t done that since I sold Girl Scout cookies,” she said.

Inside the house, a dozen callers spread out on the stairs, on the sofa and chairs, at the dining room table and in the kitchen. It was the third weekend cellphone bank held by Ms. Sibblies, 39, a real estate developer and ardent supporter of Mr. Obama.

“A lot of people here have never done this before, and they’re a little nervous,” she said.

But it was not just the fear of making cold calls that was making her guests unsure. Many spoke of being anxious as Election Day drew closer, feeling that as New Yorkers, their votes “would not count.” Most had come out on a beautiful Sunday to try to do something to swing the vote in the states that “matter.”

From the Sputnik Bar in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, to the Bowery Hotel in the East Village, to Ms. Sibblies’s pink-brick town house in Harlem, supporters of Senator Obama gathered across the city. They made in-kind donations of their cellphone minutes to reach out to voters in the more mottled states that are likely to decide this presidential election.

Supporters of Senator John McCain held a similar drive at the campaign’s regional headquarters in Woodbridge, N.J., a 40-minute drive from Midtown.

About a dozen New Yorkers, most of them from Staten Island, made the trip last weekend, according to Stephanie Fila, the volunteer coordinator. On Monday night, supporters of Senator McCain filled the phone room in Woodbridge, pounding out Pennsylvania and New Jersey area codes on 18 black office phones. They sat close together at folding tables. Photographs of the senator, snapshots of volunteers and a large banner — “Small Business Leaders for McCain” — decorated the walls.

“On Tuesday nights, it’s Veterans Calling Veterans, and I come to that, too,” said Jim Bellina, 55, of Skillman, N.J., who served in the Navy. He said he was confident despite polls showing his candidate trailing. “Let me put it this way: This is the fourth quarter in a football game, and we’re having a tough time. But if you know Senator McCain, you know he ain’t got no quit.”

If history, voting registration and polls are any indication, New York City will vote Democratic in Tuesday’s presidential election, as it has every time since 1924, when Calvin Coolidge, a Republican, pulled out a victory in a three-way race that saw Democratic voters siphoned off by the Progressive Party.

As of March 1, there were 2.8 million registered Democrats in the city, compared with a little more than half a million Republicans, according to the most recent numbers from the Board of Elections. The goal for strategists of both parties is to marshal strong supporters here to change minds and get out the vote in swing states.

“We’re seeking to harness the enthusiasm in New York to help out in other states,” said Blake Zeff, the director of communications for the Obama campaign in New York. More than 3,000 volunteers made roughly 180,000 calls last weekend, according to statistics provided by the campaign.

For this final weekend, the Obama campaign said it would be ramping up its “Last Call for Change” effort, creating a handful of supersize phone banks to accommodate hundreds of callers, in addition to more than 20 smaller sites.

In Woodbridge, where more than 200,000 calls have been made for Senator McCain, they will be hammering away until Election Day, according to the campaign. New York supporters of Senator McCain, however, will not find any official phone banks in the city, though they might happen upon the candidate himself on his way from Rockefeller Center to New Hampshire on Sunday morning after his scheduled appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”

The campaign is likewise encouraging supporters to head to the battleground state of Pennsylvania to knock on doors.

With the end nearing, the emotions of voters on both sides seemed to be gathering strength. Some described having troubled sleep and even more troubling dreams.

“I had a dream the other night that Obama won, and I woke up so happy,” said Melissa Gluck, 30, of Forest Hills, Queens, who came with a friend to Ms. Sibblies’s house to make calls. “But then, I felt a sense of panic.”

At a much larger phone event for Senator Obama, at the Bowery Hotel, Ralph Stern, 83, also said he had lost sleep over the impending election.

“I get a little shaky,” he said, making calls with his wife, Arlene, at a wicker table in the lobby. “I get panicky.”

Jamie Lynn, 27, a waitress and college student who lives in Woodbridge, was making calls on behalf of Senator McCain. She said that for three nights she had been “having trouble sleeping, nightmares” about what would happen if Senator Obama was elected. In her dream, there were riots, she said. She had been making calls every weekday for two weeks and would continue until the election.

No one seemed nervous about making dozens of cold calls to strangers in faraway towns. “What’s the worst that could happen?” said Edward Bishop, 63, of Monroe Township, N.J. “They hang up on you.”

“Or,” he added, “I guess they could say they’re voting for Obama.”

    Dialing for Obama or McCain, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/nyregion/02phonebank.html?hp






Poll: Obama Up 5 Points in Colorado


November 2, 2008
Filed at 12:32 p.m. ET
The New York Times


THE POLL: Denver Post poll, the presidential race among likely voters in Colorado (9 electoral votes).

THE NUMBERS: Barack Obama 49 percent, John McCain 44 percent.

OF INTEREST: Unaffiliated voters -- who make up more than one-third of the electorate -- back Obama 57 percent to 32 percent in a state that has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate only once in 40 years. Four percent of all polled were still undecided; 3 percent favored another candidate.

THE DETAILS: Conducted by telephone Oct. 28-29 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. among 625 voters plus an additional 200 unaffiliated voters. Margin of sampling error plus or minus 4 percentage points.

MORE: http://www.denverpost.com/

    Poll: Obama Up 5 Points in Colorado, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Poll-2008-Colorado.html






Amid Gloom, Young See Vote as Act of Hope


November 2, 2008
Filed at 12:31 p.m. ET
The New York Times


Getting ready to cast her first vote, 19-year-old Elizabeth Jimenez considers all that's at stake in her choice of president: the tanking economy in which she'll start her career. The dwindling medical benefits that support her bedridden sister. The failed promise of immigration reform to help her Mexican-born father.

''It's so much bigger than myself,'' said the sophomore at College of the Sequoias, in Visalia, Calif.

Newspaper headlines promise layoffs and record the death toll in wars where Jimenez has friends and a cousin. The pressure of keeping her 10-person household afloat threatens her goal of becoming a doctor. The din in the living room where she sleeps and studies makes it hard to do homework.

But in spite of the deep uncertainty facing those just starting out in life, young, first-time voters interviewed around the country are eager to participate. Yes, times are tough, they say, but casting a ballot is an act of hope, a bet on a better future.

''America's always been the place where dreams come true,'' says Jimenez, who will become the first in her immigrant family to hang hopes on a ballot. ''Our votes can add up, make sure it stays that way.''

Halfway across the country, 21-year-old Sahar Meghani is also upbeat and pragmatic despite the country's gloomy outlook.

''You just have to go after your own opportunities. They won't come to you,'' said the University of Houston finance major, whose dark pantsuit and pearls telegraphed her drive to find a job.

Saying students should ''study the candidates just like we study for a test,'' she notes that soon ''we'll be the ones in control of the economy.''

The political debut Tuesday for young voters like these comes in an election already marked by historical firsts.

Young voters broke turnout records. They doubled and in some cases tripled their presence in caucuses like Iowa, energized by the heated contest deciding whether, for the first time, a woman or a black candidate became the Democratic nominee. They responded to intensive youth outreach from Republican and Democratic campaigns by volunteering, and used social networks to amplify their own opinions.

In cafes, dorm rooms and at work, they dissected candidates' positions on the economy, the wars, and everything else. In 2008, building on trends in the last two election cycles, the potent mix of personally relevant issues and charismatic candidates could mark the under-25 crowd's breakthrough as political players with clout, experts said.

''We have factors that will likely result in the highest youth vote on record,'' said John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard University's Institute of Politics. Its survey of political attitudes among 18- to 24-year-olds found nearly seven in 10 saw political engagement as an effective way of solving the country's problems.

To Sean Barry, a political science major preparing to graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, and start looking for a job come May, sitting on the sidelines was not an option.

''All of us are thinking about jobs after we graduate, what we're going to do about health care,'' said the 21-year-old, pushing aside the notes he was studying for a midterm exam. ''I'm definitely concerned -- about the economy, about the war.''

He'll cast his first vote for president for Sen. Barack Obama, but he's already done a lot more. He went to New Hampshire for the primary contest, worked the phones from California to reach voters in states where Obama needed a boost, and drove to Nevada to get out the vote before that state's January caucus.

The drive to be a part of politics has peaked this year among students, Barry said, noting it's not just about voting but ''stepping up, volunteering.''

Christian Osmena, who is graduating from UC Berkeley in December, noticed students' engagement in everything from the long lines streaming from voter registration booths to political discussions that flared up in unexpected places.

''There's something cool about getting involved this year,'' said Osmena.

A strong supporter of Sen. John McCain -- his first vote for president was an absentee ballot cast for the Republican candidate -- Osmena still credits Obama's charisma and his campaign's outreach to young voters with fueling much of that drive to participate.

Osmena noted the grass-roots energy around Obama, and acknowledged of his candidate, ''It is harder to be hip and to be cool when you're 72.''

Like many of his generation, Osmena skips over newspapers and television and gets most of his information about politics online.

''We've done a huge amount of organizing using the Internet, and we've used new technology in ways that really captured young voters' attention,'' said Kirsten Searer, spokeswoman for Obama.

The candidate's face is ubiquitous on social networking sites like Facebook.com and in YouTube videos. The campaign has relied on text messages to communicate with voters. They stumbled over the initial plan to announce the vice-presidential pick directly to supporters' cell phones and e-mails, but found the short blurbs are an effective way to advertise early voting locations.

Eric Hysen, 19, a Harvard sophomore, developed a Facebook application that provided voters, many of them young, with similar reminders. ''It's just a lot easier to get involved in politics,'' he said. ''The stakes are higher than they've been before. This will probably be one of the most important elections of our lifetime, and it's our first.''

While Internet tools and texting have made it simple and cheap to reach young voters, what holds their attention is the reality waiting for graduates as soon as they're handed their diplomas -- or already facing young voters who moved straight into the job market.

Nineteen-year-old Daniel Lipps works full time at a restaurant in Portland, Maine. It's not a dream job, but it pays the bills. He's frustrated watching Congress bail out investment banks. ''They're just kind of throwing money away,'' he said.

''I really want to see some changes,'' said Lipps, who in his first vote is leaning toward Obama.

Emerging from an Army recruiting center in a Raleigh, N.C., strip mall, Lee Watson, 20, wore a broad smile. He'd made his decision and looked forward to taking his oath as a soldier. He's long planned to follow his father into the Army, and even two ongoing wars weren't enough to change his mind.

The economic crisis only reinforced his decision. A KFC restaurant where he'd recently worked in Alabama closed down. On the drive up to North Carolina, Watson was struck by the number of homeless and panhandlers he saw along the road.

''The military is something that'll never go out of business. So I'm never worried about being unemployed now,'' he said, standing beside a window festooned with posters offering ''Great Educational Benefits'' and cash bonuses.

Watson cast an absentee ballot for McCain. As a black man, he knows some might expect him to vote for Obama, but he wanted his first vote to go to ''someone who's at least served in a military branch.''

Having a job already lined up at their family farms didn't completely ease the worries of two first-time Iowa voters who remain undecided, unsure which candidate has the interests of agriculture in mind.

Correy Rahn, an Iowa State University senior, will return to his family's Illinois farm to raise cattle and grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa.

''The main issue I would be concerned about is acquiring financial support at a low interest rate,'' Rahn said. With credit tight, he may well have to look to older generations for help getting started.

Chet Hollingshead, also an ISU senior, is heading back to his family's 1,500-acre farm in Ogden, Iowa, to raise hogs, cattle, soybeans and corn when he graduates. McCain, he says, didn't make many friends in Iowa with his pledge to cut food prices by eliminating ethanol subsidies and tariffs on imported ethanol.

''Without those important tax credits, the ethanol industry wouldn't have gotten off the ground,'' Hollingshead said.

Stumbling stock markets, shrinking credit, a monster bailout for the financial sector -- young voters know the outlook is grim as they start careers and families.

But buddies Nathaniel Jones and Alex Hurst, both 20, chatting after class near the intersection of Success Way and Ability Drive at the Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, weren't daunted.

''Obviously, the economy's doing terribly right now,'' said Jones, who is voting for McCain. ''I have several friends who've lost jobs because of it. But I think the only way the economy can go is up right now.''

Hurst, who is going for Obama, took the long view.

''Historically, this was bound to happen,'' he said of the economic crisis. ''And, historically, we always work it out. It will work out.''


Contributing to this story were Allen G. Breed in Raleigh, Monica Rhor in Houston, Clarke Canfield in Portland, Maine, and Nigel Duara in Iowa City.

    Amid Gloom, Young See Vote as Act of Hope, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Election-Pulse-First-Vote.html






Statistically, Does Your Presidential Vote Matter?


November 2, 2008
Filed at 12:09 p.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Voting for president and having your ballot be the deciding one cast -- statistically, that is like trying to hit the lottery. The odds for the average person are 60 million to 1 against it, a study shows.

In some states, the odds of being the vote that tips the election to your candidate are much better. In others they are astronomically worse.

The study by three prominent statisticians used millions of computer runs of polling data to examine the likelihood that a single vote will carry a state and that that particular state will tip the balance in the Electoral College. The statisticians were trying to answer the question: ''What is the probability your vote will make a difference?''

The answer is very low. You are far more likely to be hit twice by lightning.

Trying to figure out what the odds would be if the polls are wrong and the race is tighter than expected, the statisticians made some more calculations after boosting John McCain's numbers across the board and figured the average person would then have a 1 in 12 million chance of their vote deciding the election.

Either way, ''it's still a chance, it's like buying a Powerball ticket,'' said study lead author Andrew Gelman, a professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University.

For some people, though, the odds approach fathomable numbers. Residents of swing states have the best odds of swinging the election. That's based not on the size of the state but the likelihood that the race will be close and that their state will make the difference in the Electoral College.

In New Mexico, the odds are 1 in 6.1 million of a voter casting the ultimate deciding vote.

''If you're in New Mexico, you have a better chance of having your vote matter than winning the New York Lottery,'' said study co-author Aaron Edlin, a professor of economics and law at the University of California, Berkeley.

In Virginia, the odds are 1 in 7.9 million. New Hampshire residents have 1 in 8 million chance of being the key vote. In Colorado, the odds are 1 in 9.9 million. In those states, voters are more likely to decide the election than die by dog bite this year.

For everyone else after those four states, fat chance. The next lowest odds -- for Nevada -- are 1 in 28.2 million, worse than death-by-dog bite odds of 1 in 10.9 million in one year.

Thirty-four states have odds greater than 1 in 100 million; 20 states have odds worse than 1 in 1 billion. Alabama's odds are 1 in 12.2 billion. Oklahoma's odds are 1 in 20.5 billion. But the nation's capital has it the worst. The odds of a District of Columbia resident casting the vote that decides the election are 1 in 490 billion.

That's essentially zero, but Gelman said: ''We never like to say zero in statistics.''

The third author is prominent baseball statistician Nate Silver, who also runs the political polling Web site www.fivethirtyeight.com. (There are 538 electoral votes nationwide.) The polling used for their study is from Silver's Web site and aggregates numerous polls of varying standards.

Even though the odds are against their own votes making a difference, the authors plan to vote, mostly out of altruism and civic duty. And they urge everyone to do so, no matter what the odds of their vote being the deciding factor.

Gelman lives in New York, where the odds are 1.9 billion to 1 that his vote will make the difference. ''I always vote,'' he said. ''I do think that it's a privilege that we have.''


On the Net:

Election odds study: http://tinyurl.com/6y3toe

Electoral College: http://tinyurl.com/yryxbx

    Statistically, Does Your Presidential Vote Matter?, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Vote-Matters.html






McCain campaigns for a comeback in Pennsylvania


Sunday November 2 2008
AP foreign
The Guardian
Associated Press Writer= WALLINGFORD, Pa.


Republican John McCain is telling voters in Pennsylvania he knows momentum for his campaign is there.

Polls show Democratic rival Barack Obama comfortably ahead in the state, but McCain isn't giving up on trying to win its 21 electoral votes.

Campaigning Sunday in Wallingford, Pa., near Philadelphia, McCain said he's been in a lot of campaigns and knows the momentum is there. He says he's a few points down but he's coming back.

The Arizona senator was introduced by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who called McCain "John the President," a nod to "Joe the Plumber," the Ohio man McCain has incorporated into his campaign.

McCain also was campaigning in Scranton, Pa., before heading for events in New Hampshire and Florida.

    McCain campaigns for a comeback in Pennsylvania, G, 2.11.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/7976220






Money Makes the Political World Go Around


November 2, 2008
Filed at 11:49 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- What's your vote worth? Because Barack Obama and John McCain can spend about $8 to get it.

Together, the two presidential candidates have amassed nearly $1 billion -- a stratospheric number in a campaign of record-shattering money numbers. Depending on turnout, $1 billion means nearly $8 for every presidential vote, compared with $5.50 in 2004.

And that's just McCain and Obama. All the presidential candidates in the 2007-2008 contest took in $1.55 billion, nearly twice the amount collected by candidates in 2004 and three times the amount from 2000. The total includes fundraising for the primaries as well as the general election.

Using all that cash, the candidates have traveled more miles, employed more workers and advertised more than ever.

But it has been Obama, with his $641 million and 3.2 million donors, who has rewritten the rules for financing campaigns.

He abandoned the public financing system -- after pledging to participate if McCain did -- and became the first major party candidate to raise private funds to pay for a general election since the campaign money reforms of the Watergate era. McCain did take public funds, but Obama's success left little doubt that taxpayer-supported presidential campaigns, as currently configured, are 20th century relics.

Neither Obama nor McCain participated in public financing during the primaries. McCain's acceptance of $84 million in general election public financing also came with limitations on spending. He continued to raise money for the Republican Party, though, which so far has spent about $100 million on his behalf to supplement his public funds.

Obama mastered new technology, turning the Internet into an incredible political networking tool and attracting record numbers of donors giving less than $200. While that flood of money raised new questions about the safeguards of Internet fundraising, it also helped dilute the role of big money donors and fundraisers.

''When you have that many contributors, I think it does, in a weird way, cleanse the system even though it seems like that much more money,'' the Federal Election Commission chairman, Republican Donald F. McGahn II, said recently. ''That many more contributors disperse the influence of any one contributor.''

Some of the financial highlights from the presidential campaign:

The total is almost the same as what the Federal Trade Commission says food and beverage companies spend in a year marketing their products to children.

--Selling politics like burgers: With all that money, Obama has blanketed the country with his message. As of mid-October, he had spent $240 million on broadcast ads to penetrate old battlegrounds and to help create new ones. He spent $77 million in the first two weeks of October, more than McDonald's spends on ads in a month. He pinpointed audiences with ads on such video games as ''Guitar Hero'' and ''Madden NFL 09.''

He also went global, with national network advertising that culminated with a $4 million-plus half hour buy on prime time six days before the election. His spending stretched McCain's resources; the Republican had spent about $116 million as of mid-October.

--Bad apple, bad money: Some fundraisers put campaigns in awkward situations. Barack Obama donated to charity tens of thousands of dollars in donations to his past campaigns that were linked to convicted Chicago developer Antoin ''Tony'' Rezko. Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton returned more than $800,000 to donors whose contributions were linked to Norman Hsu, a fundraiser who was wanted in California on charges of bilking investors. Hsu was subsequently indicted in New York on federal charges of fraud and violating campaign finance laws.

--Bundle up some cold hard cash: Perfecting a fundraising practice initially mastered by George W. Bush, presidential candidates enlisted fundraisers to raise thousands upon thousands of dollars for them. These are the well-connected money people to whom a campaign is ultimately indebted. Both McCain and Obama list their fundraisers -- or bundlers, as they are known -- on their Web sites. McCain's are easier to find than Obama's. But unlike McCain, Obama lists the fundraisers' home towns.

--Who are those small donors, anyway: Obama has raised about half of his money in increments of $200 or less. The average contribution is $86, the campaign says. But the success of the Internet fundraising effort has also led to some puzzling donors. Individuals have been credited with giving tens of thousands of dollars to the Obama campaign, far more than the $2,300 limit. Obama has reported more than $17,000 in contributions from a donor identified as ''Doodad Pro'' and more than $11,000 from one identified as ''Good Will.''

''I wouldn't be surprised if the FEC doesn't address this in the next couple of years -- what you have to put on your Web site for soliciting contributions,'' said Bradley A. Smith, a former FEC chairman and a law professor at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio.

--I show mine, you don't show yours: Federal law requires candidates to identify only those donors who contribute, in the aggregate, more than $200. But McCain has made his entire donor database available through his Web site. Obama has not, drawing criticism.


On the Net:

Federal campaign finance law: http://www.fec.gov/law/feca/feca.shtml

    Money Makes the Political World Go Around, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-What-It-Takes.html






Obama Takes Battle to Republican Territory


November 2, 2008
Filed at 11:26 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two days before Election Day, John McCain and Barack Obama are playing on each other's turf, with McCain dashing through Democratic states where he trails and Obama showing his strength in one that voted Republican in the last two presidential elections.

McCain's advisers predicted a come-from-behind win Tuesday.

''John's a closer. He always has been,'' former Sen. Fred Thompson said on NBC's ''Meet the Press.'' ''He often is given up for dead -- literally and politically. People have been wrong about him before.''

''I think the election has yet to be decided,'' Thompson added.

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said Pennsylvania, which Democrat John Kerry won in 2004, will be the most important state to watch Tuesday. Polls show the state leaning toward Obama, as were New Hampshire and Florida. McCain was campaigning Sunday in all three states.

McCain and running mate Sarah Palin have focused on Pennsylvania in the final days of the campaign, hoping to flip it into their column.

Obama was spending Sunday in Ohio, a traditional battleground that went for the Republican presidential candidate in 2004 and 2000. His events included an appearance in Cleveland with rocker Bruce Springsteen.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Sunday that the Democrat has expanded the electoral map by aggressively campaigning in traditional Republican states like Virginia, Colorado and Nevada.

''We did not want to wake up on the morning of Nov. 4 waiting for one state. We wanted a lot of different ways to win this election,'' Plouffe said on ''Fox News Sunday.''

''Here we find ourselves two days out from the election with a lot of different ways to get to 270 electoral votes,'' Plouffe said. ''We do not have to pull an inside straight.''

To be elected, candidates must win 50 percent plus one of the 538 electoral votes awarded to states based on population.

McCain saw the weekend as a final opportunity to persuade voters to prove the polls and pundits wrong and sweep him into office.

''We're a few points down but we're coming back,'' he told supporters in Virginia on Saturday.

McCain also made a quick trip to New York City to appear on NBC's ''Saturday Night Live,'' where he joked about his latest plan to win over voters.

''I thought I might try a strategy called the reverse maverick. That's where I'd do whatever anybody tells me,'' McCain said. If that failed, he quipped, ''I'd go to the double maverick. I'd just go totally berserk and freak everybody out.''

Both men appealed to supporters to turn out on Election Day, saying the stakes could scarcely be higher.

''If you give me your vote on Tuesday, we won't just win this election -- together, we will change this country and change the world,'' Obama said Saturday in a nationwide Democratic radio address.

Vice President Dick Cheney endorsed McCain, saying Americans ''cannot afford the high tax liberalism of Barack Obama and Joe Biden.''

Obama, in Colorado, pounced, saying McCain had earned the endorsement by supporting the Bush administration's failed social and economic policies.

Early Sunday, Obama's campaign released a new, 30-second television ad with that message. An announcer says McCain earned Cheney's support by voting with the White House 90 percent of the time. ''That's not the change we need,'' he says.

McCain's campaign responded by highlighting the issues on which McCain disagreed with the administration.

An Associated Press-Yahoo News poll of likely voters showed Obama ahead nationally, 51 percent to 43 percent, outside the margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. McCain's campaign faults the public surveys, and says its internal polls show the race tightening.


On the Net:

McCain: http://www.johnmccain.com

Obama: http://www.barackobama.com

    Obama Takes Battle to Republican Territory, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Campaign-Rdp.html






Cheney Stars in New Obama Campaign Ad


November 2, 2008
Filed at 11:16 a.m. ET
The New York Times


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama highlights Vice President Dick Cheney's support for Republican nominee John McCain in a new ad out Sunday.

The ad opens by touting Obama's recent endorsements from investor Warren Buffett and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, then cuts to video of Cheney from an event Saturday in Wyoming.

''I'm delighted to support John McCain,'' Cheney says. ''I'm pleased that he's chosen a running mate with executive talent, toughness and common sense, our next vice president Sarah Palin.''

An announcer says McCain earned Cheney's support by voting with the White House 90 percent of the time. ''That's not the change we need,'' he says.

The praise from Cheney, who routinely has some of the lowest approval ratings of any national political figure, came as Obama argues that McCain is too closely tied to the policies of the Bush administration.

Obama's campaign said the 30-second spot would run nationally on cable channels.

McCain's campaign responded by noting the issues on which McCain disagreed with the administration.

''It was John McCain who fought Vice President Cheney on Big Oil's energy bill, the administration's wasteful spending and argued for a different, successful course in Iraq, not Barack Obama,'' said McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds.


On the Net:


    Cheney Stars in New Obama Campaign Ad, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Obama-Cheney-Ad.html






G.O.P. Forced to Defend State Senate After 70 Years of Dominance


November 2, 2008
The New York Times


ALBANY — They have sent microfilm clerks and security guards from their desks in the Capitol to the hustings of eastern Long Island and the Buffalo suburbs. They have brought in a dozen outside consultants, including a firm that produced the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry, to cut advertisements and raise money. They have spent millions of dollars to fight for seats that were once safely Republican.

No effort is being spared by New York Republicans in the final days of this election season, which will determine whether they continue to control the State Senate, their only outpost of power in an increasingly Democratic state. Even veterans like Senator Caesar Trunzo — 82 years old and running against the son of a candidate he beat a quarter-century ago — are making eight appearances a day to shake hands and ask for votes.

“We just keep going along, doing what we have to do, and then hope for the best,” Mr. Trunzo said recently as he rushed off to a campaign rally in Patchogue, on Long Island. “It’s so important that we control the New York State Senate.”

Republicans have held a majority in the Senate for all but one of the last 70 years, outlasting governors and presidents, Watergate and Jack Abramoff, seemingly immune to the ebb and flow of national politics. The Senate majority has helped Republicans garner millions of dollars for their campaigns and 10 times that in state aid for their mostly suburban or rural districts. It has been the party’s storehouse of institutional knowledge, the career springboard for generations of politicians and operatives, and the lifeblood of some of Albany’s most powerful lobbyists.

But now the Republican majority is down to a single seat, provoking the most intense, expensive and sweeping campaign in years. Eight Republican seats are being seriously contested, double the number in most recent election years.

“It’s different, because they’re fighting for their survival,” said Michael D. Dawidziak, a Republican consultant. “They haven’t fought for survival in any of their lifetimes.”

The potential loss of the Senate majority is usually mentioned only glancingly on the campaign trail, in veiled references to the need for “balanced government.” But it is the urgent undercurrent to conversations in campaign offices, in the hallways of the Capitol and among Republican activists.

“Our troops, the committeemen, the volunteers — they are very aware of the Albany piece, where they usually are not,” said James P. Domagalski, the Republican chairman of Erie County. “They understand what would happen if we lose the Senate.”

The long tenures of many Republican senators fighting to survive — some came into office in 1972 during President Richard Nixon’s landslide re-election — is a testament to the Senate Republicans’ endurance and agility. But facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, a party name damaged by an unpopular administration in Washington, and the chance that Senator Barack Obama’s presidential bid will bring a surge of Democratic voters to the polls, the challenge has never seemed so great.

“This is a national tide,” said Alfonse M. D’Amato, a lobbyist and a former United States senator, who has been a major fund-raiser and booster for State Senate Republicans. “Sometimes the tide comes in.”

Mr. D’Amato said he was convinced that Senate Republicans would hold on this year. And publicly and privately, Republican senators and aides scoff at the suggestion that this will be the year the majority cracks.

“I’m confident we’re going to be victorious, and I’m not thinking about ‘what if,’ ” said Senator Charles J. Fuschillo Jr., of Long Island. “Because we’re not going to have to deal with the ‘what if.’ ”

On the trail, Republicans have used their fund-raising advantage to expand the playing field, devoting hundreds of thousands of dollars to races in which Democrats have shown unexpected weakness, to offset possible Republican losses. On Friday, they sent Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a key ally, to campaign with Senator Serphin R. Maltese of Queens, who is the Democrats’ top target.

In recent weeks, Republicans have aggressively stoked fears that communities upstate and on Long Island would suffer from a Democratic takeover of the Senate, which would leave the governor’s office and both legislative leadership posts in the hands of Democrats from the five boroughs. They are blunt about what is at stake.

“The biggest fear is that if we lose the majority, all funding goes to New York City,” said Mr. Fuschillo.

After a surprising loss in February in an upstate special election, Republicans revamped their campaign committee, bringing on new senior staff members, several with experience on presidential campaigns. Since that race — where much of the television advertising was handled by a firm linked to a former party chairman — the committee has broadly expanded its roster of campaign and advertising consultants, bringing in highly regarded talent from the Beltway.

“We learned from the special that the TV in particular has to be top-notch. It can’t be the same old, same old. You can’t use the same old political tactics,” said Senator Thomas W. Libous, an upstate Republican and a leader of the party’s campaign effort.

Facing an unprecedented number of races, Senate Republicans have devised a buddy system, as it is known internally, to send senators from safe districts to campaign for and advise incumbents in tight races. Party officials say they have also gotten safe incumbents to contribute more money than in the past to their more vulnerable colleagues.

“They now say, ‘Instead of trying to drive up my margins in my district, I should spend that time trying to help one of the weaker guys win his race,’ ” Mr. D’Amato said.

Republicans are also preparing to unveil the kind of technology more familiar from presidential campaigns that have hundred-million-dollar budgets. In several key races on Tuesday — party officials would not say which ones — workers will use BlackBerrys to check off Republican voters as they arrive at polling places and send the lists to a central database, making the party’s turnout operation far more efficient.

In some races, the Republicans have resorted to methods that are lower-tech but no less intensive. In Westchester County, where Republicans are hoping for an upset victory, the Republican candidate, Liz Feld, has been sending handwritten notes to voters to ask for their support.

The loss of the majority, Republicans say, would not only put their districts at a disadvantage in Albany. It could also cripple the party itself. The majority, after all, comes with roughly $85 million in earmark spending and hundreds of extra staff jobs in Albany and in district offices. In most areas of the state, Republican senators sit atop a well-established political food chain, providing patronage jobs, smoothing disputes and running local party organizations.

Vincent F. Liguori, who is active with the Republican committee in Islip, on Long Island, said that having Mr. Trunzo as his senator was “like having my father looking out for me.”

“It’s like they say: To the victor belong the spoils,” he added. “There’s going to be a lot of people looking for work if he loses.”

    G.O.P. Forced to Defend State Senate After 70 Years of Dominance, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/nyregion/02senate.html






Excitement and Anxiety Swirl as Chicago Prepares to Host Obama Event


November 2, 2008
The New York Times


CHICAGO — Chicago is bracing for a gigantic crowd this week in Grant Park, the city’s iconic front yard, where Senator Barack Obama has chosen to spend election night.

As many as 70,000 people are expected to attend an event for local supporters. All available tickets were swept up days ago, and thousands of people have applied to be on a waiting list. Thousands more — maybe as many as a million people, Mayor Richard M. Daley has proudly suggested — are expected to pile into the downtown parkland and sidewalks and streets surrounding Mr. Obama’s official celebration.

“This could be a moment of history right here, and it’s high time for it,” said Patricia Cadagin, who stood last week peering through a new fence around the south end of Grant Park, one of blocks and blocks of fences erected as part of the elaborate security efforts. Ms. Cadagin, 82, who said she had voted early for Mr. Obama, will probably not be here on Tuesday night. “It’s going to be a big crowd and at night, and I’m a small woman,” she said. “Will I be here in spirit? You bet you.”

Chicago, it seems, is of two minds about this party. Many supporters in Mr. Obama’s hometown speak with pride of the potential of seeing the first African-American claim victory in a presidential campaign here on the edge of Lake Michigan, in view of their beloved skyline. Still, in hushed tones, some say they are worried about his safety in the public park and about how a huge crowd in this city, which has seen violence after events like basketball championships, might respond, win, lose or draw.

Even city leaders have sent mixed messages. On Thursday, Mr. Daley, a fierce Obama supporter, seemed to suggest the more the merrier. “You think I’m not going to invite people down?” he told reporters, according to The Chicago Tribune. “This is a celebration.”

A day later, city leaders cautioned Chicagoans to behave properly, warned them that people might be turned away if Grant Park became too crowded and stood at a city-run news conference beside ministers who suggested that those without tickets use “common sense” and stay in their own neighborhoods.

“We can’t have foolishness,” said the police superintendent, Jody P. Weis. “We can’t have mischief.”

Grant Park, known as Lake Park until it was renamed for Ulysses S. Grant in 1901, lies not far from the route of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession, was the home of at least four political conventions in the late 1800s, was visited by Queen Elizabeth II in 1959, was the site of a clash between the police and antiwar protesters during the Democratic convention in 1968, and was the place where Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass with thousands in 1979. The park is home to the annual Taste of Chicago, as well as games of 16-inch softball played by generations of Chicagoans.

“You couldn’t have a place more infused with Chicago and more infused with everything that Chicago has experienced,” said the city’s cultural historian, Tim Samuelson, who noted that parts of the park were probably built on debris left behind from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

As Obama supporters searched for tickets on Craigslist and in other places (though it is unclear whether the free tickets are transferable and campaign officials say identification will be checked), federal and local law enforcement officials revealed little about their security plans but made it clear that they were extensive.

The city has kept on a special security chief it had hired in case the White Sox or the Cubs made it to the World Series. No sworn Chicago police officers will have Tuesday night off. Firefighters were told to take their gear home so they could respond quickly if called. Some of the city’s largest thoroughfares and some boat harbors will close. And parking will be banned through large swaths of downtown.

Last week, officials could be seen touring rooftops in downtown high-rises as helicopters flew over Hutchinson Field, the section of Grant Park where the Obama event will be held. Some downtown offices have been asked to send employees home early on Tuesday.

Fence companies, meanwhile, appeared to be certain winners, as fences and barricades rose all around.

Local and federal law enforcement officials said repeatedly that they were confident they could keep the event safe, even outside, even with uncertain crowd numbers. “We’re concerned about every venue,” said Ed Donovan, a spokesman for the Secret Service. “We do this for a living.”

The Obama campaign declined to discuss the cost of the event, but city officials have suggested that the campaign might spend $2 million on extra city services for the evening. In discouraging those without tickets from going downtown, city officials and ministers described somewhat stark conditions at the official party: no chairs, no alcohol (though hot chocolate is expected), no bags allowed, and uncertain weather given the month and the town.

“It’s taken us a long time to get to where we are,” said the Rev. Albert Tyson, one of several ministers who called for calm. “We are on the precipice of the most historic event that this United States has ever seen. We certainly want to counsel folks all over the city not to do anything to mar this event.”

Susan O’Halloran, 58, who has volunteered for the Obama campaign, is among those who will have a ticket on Tuesday night. She was also in Grant Park 40 years ago, as a high school senior who had joined others to oppose the Vietnam War during the Democratic convention. She said she had been eating, relaxing and talking during the protest when police officers grew tense, pulling billy clubs from their belts. One chased her, apparently because she had a Super 8 movie camera, she said, and she fled; other demonstrators were later beaten, an event Ms. O’Halloran considers a scar on the city.

“I will be back on that field,” Ms. O’Halloran said. “And I don’t care how cold it is or how long I have to wait. It feels too historic.”

She said the possibility that Mr. Obama would be elected was “all part of the same thing” she was fighting for in the 1960s. “My reason for being there as a young woman was because there was something I wanted to see this country become. That’ll be the same reason I’m down there Tuesday night,” she said, her voice breaking. “The full circle is pretty luscious.”

    Excitement and Anxiety Swirl as Chicago Prepares to Host Obama Event, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/us/politics/02grant.html






Election to Benefit Some Industries, Harm Others


November 2, 2008
Filed at 10:39 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Battered by the financial meltdown, America's business community is anxiously calculating how Tuesday's presidential election will affect it.

Energy, pharmaceutical and telecommunications companies could face tax and other policy changes no matter who wins the White House. The outcome also could determine how well alternative energy developers, generic biotechnology companies, stem cell researchers and others fare.

Labor unions put major resources behind Democrat Barack Obama and could wind up a big winner if he takes the White House. Nuclear power and the coal industry would get a boost if Republican John McCain prevails. Obama promises to raise corporate tax rates and income taxes on families making over $250,000; McCain promises to cut corporate taxes and extend all of President Bush's tax cuts.

A look at how some could fare:


With Obama in office and an expected stronger Democratic majority on Capitol Hill, unions could achieve their top goal of making it easier for workers to organize. Labor wants to winning passage of a measure that would require companies to recognize unions once a majority of employees sign cards expressing support.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill. Steven Law, the group's general counsel, said the elimination of secret ballot votes ''creates tremendous incentives for intimidation and harassment.'' But Bill Samuel, director of government affairs at the AFL-CIO, says, ''We see (it) as a way to strengthen the middle class'' by enabling more workers to push for higher wages and benefits.

Obama has endorsed the measure; McCain opposes it.



Both candidates back expanded use of alternative energy such as solar and wind power -- through greater spending in Obama' case and tax credits in McCain's.

Obama proposes spending $150 billion over 10 years to speed the development of plug-in hybrid cars and ''commercial-scale'' renewable energy, among other goals.

McCain favors the construction of 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030 and spending $2 billion annually in support of ''clean coal.''

While McCain has been a critic of government support for ethanol, most analysts think congressional support for the alternative fuel would enable it to survive under a McCain administration.



Few sectors have more to gain on Election Day than the nation's fledgling stem cell companies, which long have bemoaned the administration's policy limiting federal money for embryonic stem cell research. Bush believes the research is immoral because the process of culling the stem cells kills the embryo.

Both Obama and McCain support federal spending on stem cell research and could move to overturn current restrictions.

Industry executives say the policy change would shore up investor confidence in stem cell developers.

''It will relieve a lot of uncertainty among the investment community that we are going to become an outlaw industry,'' said Richard Garr, chief executive of Neuralstem.



Both candidates have endorsed creating a pathway for generic biotech drugs, a long-sought goal for generic drug companies such as Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and Mylan Inc.

Unlike traditional chemical drugs, biotech companies such as Amgen Inc. and Genentech Inc. face no generic competition in the U.S. because the Food and Drug Administration lacks authority to approve copies of biotech medicines. That is because biotech drugs, which are made from living cells or bacteria, are more complicated to manufacture than chemical drugs.

Both campaigns have praised generic drugs as a tool to lower health care costs.

''We know that expanding the use of generics and eliminating barriers to that goal must be a centerpoint of any health reform effort,'' said Dora Hughes, a health care adviser for Obama, at a recent industry conference.

In politics, of course, not everyone is a winner. Some possible losers include:


Companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. are likely to face higher taxes under a President Obama, who supports a windfall profits tax.

The two companies did not help their cause by reporting record profits in late October. Still, as oil prices fall, profits are likely to follow suit.

Even if a windfall profit tax is not imposed, at least eight different taxes and fees could be slapped on the cash-rich industry by a Democratic Congress looking for extra revenue, said Kevin Book, an energy analyst at FBR Capital Markets.

They include adopting a surtax on oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico and eliminating a 2 percent tax cut included in recent legislation, Book said.

On the other hand, oil companies could profit if McCain wins since he is a big champion of offshore drilling.



No matter which candidate wins the White House, the largest drugmakers, such as Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co. Inc., will struggle to defend lucrative government programs. That includes the Medicare drug benefit, which pays for medications taken by 47 million older people and which provided much-needed revenue to the drug industry last year.

Dozens of insurers now separately negotiate prices with pharmaceutical makers; the government reimburses insurers for the final cost. Though the program has come in under budget, most Democrats say greater savings could be had by letting the government directly negotiate prices with drugmakers.

Obama has pledged to take up the effort, arguing that savings could total up to $30 billion. McCain also supports giving the government power to negotiate prices, but only at the request of individual insurers.



Big telecommunications carriers have forged many deals in the past eight years, such as Verizon Wireless' $28 billion purchase of Alltel Corp., approved with conditions by the Justice Department Thursday.

Such deals will likely face tougher antitrust scrutiny under either an Obama or McCain administration, analysts say.

In fact, some of the more contentious industry deals in recent years -- including the merger of Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio, and Google Inc.'s acquisition of DoubleClick -- might not have been approved under either candidate, says Paul Gallant, a telecom analyst at Stanford Washington Research Group.



After years of record Pentagon budgets, defense companies such as Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. face the prospect of slowing military spending.

Big budget deficits are projected to worsen due in part to the financial bailout package approved by Congress. Defense spending will become a prime target for cuts. That could mean trouble for over-budget programs such as the Army's $200 billion Future Combat Systems, which aims to outfit units with high-tech weapons and communications tools.

Both candidates also want to overhaul the contracting process, especially after some high-profile flops such as the Air Force's attempt to award a $35 billion contract for new aerial refueling planes over the past seven years.

McCain has promoted his role in spiking an earlier Boeing Co. contract for the planes. Obama, meanwhile, has suggested that the Pentagon's effort to build a missile defense shield for the United States and its allies could be scaled back.


Associated Press writers Matthew Perrone, John Porretto, Joelle Tessler and Stephen Manning contributed to this report.

    Election to Benefit Some Industries, Harm Others, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Candidates-Business.html






Election, Jobs to Set Tone For Stocks


November 2, 2008
Filed at 10:51 a.m. ET
The New York Times


NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street hopes to turn a new page as it heads into November, but this week is littered with hurdles ranging from the U.S. presidential election to a likely gloomy jobs report.

Traders were more than happy to see the back of October, one of the worst months in history for the broader market, and took heart from the fact that it ended with one of the best weeks on record.

Last week's strength came as the host of efforts by central banks and governments to ease credit strains began to bear fruit, and volatility abated slightly. Bargain hunting and funds buying stocks to rebalance their portfolios also helped boost stocks.

For the first part of this week, Wall Street -- like the rest of America -- will turn its attention to Tuesday's presidential election.

Democrat Barack Obama's lead over Republican rival John McCain held steady at seven points as the race for the White House entered its final four days, according to a Reuters/C-Span/Zogby tracking poll released on Friday.

Investors will likely assess the possibility of quick fiscal stimulus after the election and the risk of protectionist measures or more regulation.

Paul Nolte, director of investments at Hinsdale Associates in Hinsdale, Illinois, said as long as the election was decisive, stock markets will likely react positively, regardless who wins.

Thomson Reuters data shows that on average the 60 days preceding a new presidential term yield positive returns, suggesting that the lack of uncertainty after elections usually gives the market a boost.

"Once we know what the balance of power will look like, investors can factor that into the equation. The market may not like who wins, but it will like knowing," said Christopher Zook, chairman and chief investment officer of CAZ Investments in Houston.

But a raft of economic data will be vying for investors' attention, as will earnings reports in the last heavy week of the autumn results season.

Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at Davidson Companies in Lake Oswego, Oregon, said he expects the economic data "won't make very good reading as the news coming from companies who have already reported third-quarter earnings continues to point to an economy that has come to an abrupt stop, primarily as a result of the credit crisis."


The main event on this week's economic calendar is the October U.S. employment report. That data, due on Friday, is expected to show that U.S. nonfarm payrolls shed 200,000 jobs in October, according to a Reuters poll, while the unemployment rate is forecast to rise 6.3 percent.

Other key economic reports include the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reports on manufacturing on Monday and non-manufacturing, or service-sector, activity on Wednesday. Both are expected to produce readings showing that the economy contracted in October.

Among the major companies set to report earnings this week are Anadarko Petroleum, MasterCard, Cisco Systems and Sprint Nextel. With 59 percent of S&P 500 companies having reported earnings in the third quarter, on average earnings for companies in the index are expected to fall 23.8 percent for the quarter.

Any further easing in credit strains, however, could help the market look past weak economic and earnings data, analysts said.

"Volatility will likely continue, though maybe not to the extremes we have seen," said John Praveen, chief investment strategist at Prudential International Investments Advisers LLC in Newark, New Jersey.

"You have some stabilization in the credit markets, but there is also still a lot of ugly economic news that is washing up on to the shore, so there is still that to and fro," he added.

On Friday, short-term credit markets showed more signs of emerging from a deep freeze as banks again lowered the rates they charge each other for borrowing dollars overnight and central banks across the world made the currency more easily available.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve's efforts to shore up short-term lending for companies and banks continued to build momentum in the critical commercial paper market with a program the U.S. central bank launched this week.

"I think we probably have passed the worst as far as credit market lock-up and the ending of the world as we know it," Hinsdale Associates' Nolte said.

That said, "I don't think we're completely out of the woods yet," he added.


October was a nightmare for U.S. stock investors, with the Dow Jones industrial average ending the month down 14.06 percent -- its worst monthly percentage drop since August 1998. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 16.83 percent this month for its worst one-month percentage slide since October 1987. The Nasdaq lost 17.73 percent in October, its worst one-month percentage loss since February 2001.

For the week, though, Wall Street wrapped up a rotten month with a Halloween treat. Stocks ended Friday's session higher, following Thursday's advance a day after the Fed's half-percentage-point rate cut. This performance gave the U.S. stock market its first back-to-back gains in over a month.

The Dow finished the week up 11.3 percent, its best weekly percentage gain since October 1974, while the S&P 500 climbed 10.5 percent, its best weekly percentage gain since at least January 1980. The Nasdaq rose 10.9 percent, its best weekly percentage gain since April 2001.

A big bright spot: U.S. oil futures prices dropped a record 32.62 percent in October. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, U.S. front-month crude settled at $67.81 a barrel -- down $32.83 from its close on September 30.

(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica and Leah Schnurr; Editing by Jan Paschal)

    Election, Jobs to Set Tone For Stocks, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/business/business-us-column-stocks-outlook.html






The Nation

Extraordinary Election Season Nears Its Conclusion

November 2, 2008
The New York Times


On Tuesday the nation’s fretful, hopeful voters will finally have their say, and none of the rigorously calibrated polls or demographically incisive analysts out there can tell us with any certainty what will happen.

Will one candidate win by millions, or lose by thousands? If there is a clear victor, will he be the first black American ever elected to the presidency, or the oldest American ever to win a first term?

We don’t need to know the answers to be certain of this much: no matter the outcome, it will be the climax of one of the most extraordinary presidential elections in this nation’s 232-year history, and “the first” and “the oldest” capture only some of what has made it so remarkable.

Whether judged by the milestones reached, the paradigms challenged, the passions stirred or simply the numbers — the 85 percent of Americans who believe the country is on the wrong track, or the record-demolishing $640 million fund-raising mark that Barack Obama passed by mid-October — the election of 2008 actually warrants the sorts of adjectives and phrases that are often just journalistic tics: epochal, pivotal, historic, once-in-a-lifetime.

It’s been so rich with precedent and incident — and so very, very long — that we have, if anything, undervalued and even lost sight of its significance at times. In these final hours there’s some sense in pausing, pulling back and taking the broad measure of a contest that’s sure to affect not only this country’s civic life but also its emotional and psychological landscape for some time to come.

Much of its impact boils down, yes, to race and gender, Mr. Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sarah Palin, who could become the nation’s first female vice president.

In this fiercely waged election, longstanding barriers were challenged and toppled, at times to the seeming surprise of the person doing the toppling.

Think back. When Mr. Obama took the stage in Iowa after his victory in the state’s caucuses last January, he was not yet the favorite for the Democratic nomination, and he was a long way from becoming the general-election frontrunner.

In videotape from that night, you can see and sense an astonishment and exhilaration — in him, around him — that seem almost quaint just 10 months later.

“They said this day would never come,” he tells a euphoric Iowa crowd, and not just his eyes but the whole of him twinkles, gleams. “They said our sights were set too high.”

While he’s talking specifically about himself and his campaign troops, it’s impossible not to hear in his words a statement about all minorities in America, for whom the week-by-week, month-by-month advance of his candidacy would hold an especially powerful message.

The writer Ta-Nehisi Coates observed that as Mr. Obama’s quest for the presidency caught fire, “I knew, for the first time in my life, that it would be a good year to be black.”

“Consider this fact: the most famous black man in America isn’t dribbling a ball or clutching a microphone,” Mr. Coates continued, in a recent essay for Time magazine. “He has no prison record. He has not built a career on four-letter words.”

“Words like hope, change and progress might seem like naïve campaign sloganeering in a dark age,” Mr. Coates further wrote. “But think of the way those words ring for a people whose forebears marched into billy clubs and dogs, whose ancestors fled north by starlight, feeling the moss on the backs of trees.”

Over the course of a campaign that was part therapy session, part consciousness-raising seminar, a few of the principal players took on meanings much, much larger than themselves. Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton became vessels for the aspirations and frustrations of entire classes of aggrieved Americans. Their journeys encouraged the airing of hurts and the discussion of difficult issues.

In Philadelphia in March, Mr. Obama delivered a set-piece speech that sought to do nothing less than explain centuries of racial enmity and move Americans past it. In New Hampshire in January, Mrs. Clinton welled with tears that became catalysts for a charged examination of the treatment of women in American life.

Was sexism more potent than racism? This was the sort of impossible question raised on television shows and in newspapers, at restaurant counters and kitchen tables, revolving around Senator Clinton in winter and spring, Governor Palin in summer and fall.

For many of Mrs. Clinton’s supporters she was Everywoman, called on to prove her toughness without wholly abandoning her softness, asked in the end to yield once more to an ambitious, impatient man. Come Tuesday, will these supporters be haunted anew by what might have been? And will they be haunted more by an Obama victory or an Obama defeat?

How will some younger voters react if Mr. McCain prevails? Or some older ones if Mr. Obama does? In recent weeks, the ire and ugly catcalls of some supporters of the McCain-Palin ticket have suggested a division in this election that goes well beyond tax policy or Iraq strategy.

There’s more generational, cultural and stylistic difference between Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama, ages 72 and 47, than between rivals in most presidential contests over the last half-century.

Bill Clinton and the first President Bush were three years closer in age, and while Mr. Clinton’s victory marked the ascension of baby boomers, Mr. Obama’s election would be emblematic of something more profound: that the multicultural, postracial society so often discussed in the news media but so seldom affirmed in public life was now, literally, the face of our nation. Mr. Clinton was Fleetwood Mac. Mr. Obama is India.Arie.

Candidates in many past presidential contests lacked life stories as compelling as those of Mr. Obama, the son of a man from Kenya and a woman from Kansas, and Mr. McCain, who endured years of imprisonment and torture in Vietnam.

But these two weren’t the only vivid characters in a campaign that, purely as narrative, proved sensational.

Who would have believed, at its start, that Mike Huckabee was going to outlast Rudy Giuliani? That John Edwards’s pledges of support for his seriously ill wife were going to give way to a public apology for infidelity?

That Mr. Obama would choose a running mate who once described him, in terms of plausible aspirants to the White House, as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean?” That Mr. McCain would choose a running mate who could field-dress a moose and would take the stage at the Republican convention with a pregnant, unwed teenage daughter in tow?

Perhaps that’s one reason voters paid such close attention. In any case, the 2008 election contradicted any and all claims that Americans were alienated from politics.

Although cable news was supposed to be moribund, programs devoted to politics got some of their best ratings in years. “Saturday Night Live” sailed temporarily into prime time on the winds of political parody. An average of about 34.5 million viewers a night tuned into the Republican convention, versus 22.6 million in 2004. For the Democratic convention, viewership rose to an average of 30.2 million from 20.4 million four years ago.

“We’re seeing record levels of interest in the campaign,” said Michael P. McDonald, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an associate professor at George Mason University who studies voting patterns. Mr. McDonald cited evidence like new voter registration and responses in polls that asked how interested in the election voters were.

And he extrapolated from that to predict turnout of 64 percent, which would be the highest since 1908, when, he said, 65.7 percent of those Americans eligible to vote did. He said that just under 64 percent voted in the Kennedy-Nixon election of 1960, adding that 2008 turnout could top that.

One of the most striking measures of voters’ engagement has been Mr. Obama’s fund-raising, built in large measure on small donations made over the Internet. The final total may well exceed $700 million. In the 2004 election, the presidential candidates combined raised $684 million before their conventions, after which President Bush and Senator John F. Kerry took public financing.

Only Mr. McCain did that this time, and as a condition has had to limit his spending between the convention and Election Day to $84 million. Mr. Obama broke an early promise to take public financing and thus evaded such limits. He spent $21 million on television advertising alone during one week in October.

If Mr. Obama wins by a wide margin on Tuesday, that victory will reflect more than strides in race relations, thirst for change and the strength of his appeal. It will also reflect the power of money, and it could usher in the end of general-election candidates participating in the public financing system.

An Obama victory could redraw the political map, patches of red becoming blue or at least purple, swaths of the South no longer conceded to Republicans from the start.

So many other assumptions have been upended already. A black man with an exotic-sounding name wasn’t supposed to flourish in an overwhelmingly white state like Iowa, but Mr. Obama beat Mr. Edwards and Mrs. Clinton there by 8 percentage points.

Someone who failed to win Democratic primaries in New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, New York and New Jersey wouldn’t seem to be on a successful path to the Democratic nomination, but Mr. Obama was.

He hasn’t fit neatly into the usual paradigms, and that could manifest itself in some way in Tuesday’s voting — if this election, like the 1980 race between President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, will reveal some new political dynamics and yield some new political alignments.

Are we still the center-right country we’ve heard so much about over the last decade? Mr. Obama’s success even to this point calls that into question, just as Mr. McCain’s triumph in the Republican primaries raises doubts about the putative sway of religious conservatives within — and beyond — his party. The 2008 election suggests an evolving body politic, not a palsied one.

Then again it’s hard to tell, because what may ultimately be most extraordinary about this election is its context. The country is facing what is widely regarded as the greatest financial crisis since the Depression, and that’s not just election-season hyperbole. America is fighting wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And its claim to global leadership is being undercut by Russia, which defied the will of the West in invading Georgia last summer, and China, which staged an Olympics that was the envy of the world.

The 2008 presidential election stands out from so many before it, and will have repercussions for so many after it, because it’s a decision about who can guide us through the worst of times. We’re in trouble if we get it wrong. And maybe even if we get it right.

    Extraordinary Election Season Nears Its Conclusion, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/weekinreview/02bruni.html?hp






Candidates Zigzag Across Country as Vote Looms


November 2, 2008
The New York Times


PERKASIE, Pa. — In a countdown to Election Day that was being measured in hours instead of days, the final Saturday of the campaign passed with a frenzy of campaign stops, a flurry of ads and, more charges and counter-charges.

Senator John McCain chastised his Democratic rival, Senator Barack Obama, for saying earlier this week in Iowa that his faith in the American people had been vindicated on the day of the Iowa caucus, which he won, putting him on the map.

“You know, this has been a long campaign, but recently we learned more and more about Senator Obama — he said that other day that his primary victory vindicated his faith in America,” Mr. McCain said at a rally in Springfield, Va., to a chorus of boos. “My country has never had to prove anything to me, my friends. I’ve always had faith in it, and I’ve been humbled and honored to serve it.”

Mr. Obama — whose campaign said it was “pathetic that John McCain would take a statement Barack Obama has been making for a year about his faith in the American people and distort it to attack his patriotism” — answered with a zinger of his own, noting that Vice President Dick Cheney had just been praising Mr. McCain.

In Pueblo, Colo., Mr. Obama planned to mention that Mr. Cheney had just said that he was “delighted to support John McCain,” according to a prepared text.

“I’d like to congratulate Senator McCain on this endorsement because he really earned it,” Mr. Obama planned to say. “That endorsement didn’t come easy. Senator McCain had to vote 90 percent of the time with George Bush and Dick Cheney to get it. He served as Washington’s biggest cheerleader for going to war in Iraq, and supports economic policies that are no different from the last eight years.”

That prompted Tucker Bounds, a McCain campaign spokesman, to note that Mr. Cheney is a distant relation of Mr. Obama. “Barack Obama and Dick Cheney aren’t just cousins,” he said. “They’ve shared support for the Bush energy policy and the out-of-control spending that John McCain has fought to oppose.”

The thrust and counter-thrust came on a day when both candidates began to ask their supporters for help with even a greater sense of urgency.

“My friends, I need your help in the next three days,” Mr. McCain said at a morning rally in Newport News, Va. “Volunteer! Knock on doors! With your help, we can and will win.”

Mr. McCain, who began his day in Virginia, trying to shore up a state that has voted Republican for decades but which is hotly contested this year, then flew to Pennsylvania, a state that has voted Democratic in the past and where he is trailing in the polls. Indeed, the state has become central to his hopes on Tuesday.

He sounded a defiant note of optimism at an afternoon rally here at an airplane hangar. “There’s just three days left, as you know, the pundits have written us off, again, like they have done before,” he said. “My friends, when I see this kind of support, when I see this momentum, when I see this great support I know — I know — we’re going win. I know we’re going to win Pennsylvania. ‘’

Across the country in Henderson, Nev., Mr. Obama was telling his supporters, “Nevada, I have just two words for you: three days.”

“We have a righteous wind at our back,” Mr. Obama said, urging thousands of supporters who gathered on a high school football field in Henderson, Nev., to believe in the possibility of change. “We have the chance to do more than just beat back this kind of politics in the short-term. We can end it once and for all.”

With early voting in Nevada concluded, Mr. Obama’s visit was intended to recruit more volunteers for get-out-the-vote efforts on Tuesday. As he has done along the way, he warned his supporters to fight against feelings of complacency.

“We have to work like our future depends on it in these last few days,” he said, “because it does.”

As the two men made a final push to turn out votes, the appeals underscored how extensively the financial crisis and the dismal economy had reshaped a race that both campaigns had once expected to be dominated by the Iraq war.

Mr. McCain, who once spent a large part of his speeches talking about the reduction of violence in Anbar Province and the strategies on the ground in Iraq, instead spoke about mortgage defaults and tax deductions, spending freezes and flex-fuel vehicles, before coming to the war near the end of his speeches to criticize Mr. Obama.

“He opposed the surge strategy in Iraq,” Mr. McCain said in Newport News, before adding, almost as an aside, “And by the way, I will bring our troops home with honor and victory and with honor and not in defeat.”

For his part, Mr. Obama — who was propelled to the Democratic nomination in part because of his early opposition to the war, and which a majority of voters now say should not have been waged — tailored his message in Nevada to economic concerns.

He talked extensively of the job losses in America and his economic proposals before saying, also near the end of his speech: “As president, I will end this war. I will ask the Iraqi government to step p for their future, and I will finally finish the fight against bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorists who attacked us on 9/11.”

For months, pocketbook issues have been eclipsing the war and national security issues as the top concerns of voters, and the transformation accelerated with the financial crisis that has rippled through the economy this fall. Mr. McCain now uses nearly every rally to mention “Joe the Plumber,” an Ohio man who said that he was afraid that Mr. Obama would raise his taxes if he ever earned enough to buy his own business (although most analysts say he would get a bigger tax cut under Mr. Obama’s plan than that of Mr. McCain). At his rally here on Saturday afternoon, many in the crowd wore “Joe” stickers .

Although Iraq has receded in Mr. McCain’s stump speech, he did talk about national security in his final weekly radio address of the campaign season (after getting in a reference to Joe the Plumber).

“Victory must still be secured, in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said in the radio address. “Senator Obama opposed removing the dictator in Iraq, and now obstinately opposes the need to defend the young democracy in that country — even with victory so clearly in sight.”

And his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, has been talking about national security more in recent days. Some supporters have taken to chanting “John McCain! Not Hussein!” as they did in a rally at New Port Rickey, Fla., emphasizing Mr. Obama’s middle name. Mr. Obama’s opponents sometimes dwell on his middle name to put people in mind of Saddam Hussein, or to suggest falsely that he is a Muslim.

Mr. Obama’s running mate, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, said Friday night at an impromptu news conference at a Kewpee hamburger stand in Lima, Ohio, that the war in Iraq was “an underlying, unspoken issue” in the presidential race.

“People are worried about putting food on their tables, keeping their jobs, keeping their homes,” he said. “I mean, that is the overarching issue in this campaign. But I do think, if you notice, whenever I talk about Iraq, I never to fail to mention it, it is the most guttural response that you get. People want this war over.”

Julie Bosman contributed reporting from New Port Richey, Fla., John Broder from Evansville, Ind., and Jeff Zeleny from Henderson, Nev.

    Candidates Zigzag Across Country as Vote Looms, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/us/politics/02campaign-web.html






Candidates Make Their Final Push on Reshaped Map


November 2, 2008
The New York Times


Senators John McCain and Barack Obama began their final push for the White House on Saturday across an electoral map markedly different from four years ago, evidence of Mr. Obama’s success at putting new states into contention and limiting Mr. McCain’s options in the final hours.

Mr. Obama was using the last days of the contest to make incursions into Republican territory, campaigning Saturday in three states — Colorado, Missouri and Nevada — that President Bush won relatively comfortably in 2004. In what seemed as much a symbolic tweak as a real challenge, Mr. Obama bought advertising time in Arizona, Mr. McCain’s home state.

Mr. McCain started the day in Virginia, a once-solidly Republican state that Democrats now feel is within their grasp. But he then turned his attention to two states that voted Democratic in 2004 — Pennsylvania and New Hampshire — reflecting what his aides said was polling in both states that suggested the race was tightening.

Still, his decision to spend some of his time in the final hours on Democratic turf signaled that Mr. McCain had concluded that his chances of winning with the same lineup of states that put Mr. Bush into the White House was diminishing. Mr. McCain’s hopes appear to rest in large part on his ability to pick up electoral votes from states that Senator John Kerry won for the Democrats four years ago.

Across the country, there was abundant evidence of just how much excitement the contest had stirred: In Colorado, 46 percent of the electorate has already voted in that state’s early voting program. Voters in states like Missouri, Montana, North Carolina and Virginia were getting knocks on their doors, telephone calls and leaflets slipped under their windshield wipers.

And Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain used their last hours on the public stage to return to the themes that have marked their candidacies.

“After 12 months and three debates,” Mr. Obama said in Henderson, Nev., “John McCain has not been able to tell the American people a single major thing that he would do different from George Bush on the economy.”

Mr. McCain warned that an Obama presidency, combined with a Democratic Congress, would lead to higher taxes.

“Presidential elections have a way of settling on a few great questions as the moment of decision arrives,” Mr. McCain said in a radio address. “And this has happened in the closing days of the election of 2008. We’ve learned that Barack Obama’s economic plan for America is to redistribute the wealth of America with higher taxes.”

At a rally in central Florida for Mr. McCain’s running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, supporters chanted “John McCain! Not Hussein!” Mr. Obama’s middle name is Hussein, and some of his opponents use it to falsely suggest that he is Muslim.

The campaign’s final days brought a reminder of how Mr. Obama’s financial might had allowed him to redraw the political map. In addition to the states he visited on Saturday, Mr. Obama was planning stops Sunday in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, which went Republican four years ago.

His campaign manager, David Plouffe, said the campaign was confident of holding onto New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. “All the Kerry states right now are in good shape for us,” he said.

Mr. McCain and his advisers said they saw evidence they were gaining on Mr. Obama as Mr. McCain hammered away at his message that Mr. Obama would raise taxes.

“We have never been as convinced as others by some of the discouraging numbers,” said Nicolle Wallace, a senior McCain adviser, adding, “We are certainly encouraged by the tightening of the polls.”

But the bulk of his last-minute campaign spending and appearances by Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin were in places like Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. “If the race were closer, the states he’d be going to would be blue states,” said Matthew Dowd, chief strategist to Mr. Bush in 2004. “He’s campaigning as if he knows he’s significantly behind.”

Tad Devine, who was senior adviser to Mr. Kerry, said Mr. Obama was in a substantially stronger position than Mr. Kerry was.

Michael Cooper and Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting.

    Candidates Make Their Final Push on Reshaped Map, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/us/politics/02states.html?hp






A Surge on One Channel, a Tight Race on Another


November 2, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — It was a lousy day to be Senator John McCain, Keith Olbermann informed his viewers on MSNBC on Thursday.

Senator Barack Obama’s surge in the polls was so strong he was competitive in Mr. McCain’s home state, Arizona. The everyman hero of Mr. McCain’s campaign, “Joe the Plumber,” failed to make an expected appearance at a morning rally in Defiance, Ohio, and the senator’s efforts to highlight Mr. Obama’s association with a professor tied to the P.L.O. were amounting to nothing.

Wait a minute ... not so fast. Click.

Things were looking up for Mr. McCain, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren told their viewers on Fox News Channel on Thursday. He got a boost at an afternoon rally in Sandusky, Ohio, from none other than Joe the Plumber, who announced his intention to vote for “a real American, John McCain”; he was gaining new ground in ever-tightening polls, despite the overwhelming bias against him in the mainstream news media; and Mr. Obama’s association with a professor sympathetic to the P.L.O. was now at “the center of the election.”

On any given night, there are two distinctly, even extremely, different views of the presidential campaign offered on two of the three big cable news networks, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, a dual reality that is reflected on the Internet as well.

On one, polls that are “tightening” are emphasized over those that are not, and the rest of the news media is portrayed as papering over questions about Mr. Obama’s past associations with people who have purportedly anti-American tendencies that he has not answered. (“I feel like we are talking to the Germans after Hitler comes to power, saying, ‘Oh, well, I didn’t know,’ ” Ann Coulter, the conservative commentator, told Mr. Hannity on Thursday.)

On the other, polls that show tightening are largely ignored, and the race is cast as one between an angry and erratic Mr. McCain, whose desperate, misleading campaign has as low as a 4 percent chance of beating a cool, confident and deserving Democratic nominee in Mr. Obama. (“He’s been a good father, a good citizen, he’s paid attention to his country,” Chris Matthews, the MSNBC host, said Wednesday night in addressing those who might be leaning against Mr. Obama based on race. “Give the guy a break and think about voting for him.”)

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, each campaign is often at war against its television antagonist, just as the networks are at war with each other.

It is a political division of news that harks back to the way American journalism was through the first half of the 20th century, when newspapers had more open political affiliations. But it has never been so apparent in such a clear-cut way on television, a result of market forces and partisan sensibilities that are further chipping away at the post-Watergate pre-eminence of a more dispassionate approach.

The more objective approach came as the corporate owners of the networks pushed for higher profits and the newspaper industry consolidated and sought broader audiences. “To sell as many copies as you could to as many people as you could, you became what we considered objective,” said Richard Wald, a professor of media and society at Columbia University School of Journalism and a former senior vice president at ABC News.

Fox News Channel was founded 12 years ago with an argument that the mainstream news media were biased toward liberals and that nonliberals were starved for a “Fair and Balanced” television antidote by day and openly conservative-leaning opinion by night. But it was only in the last couple of years that MSNBC, long struggling for an identity and lagging, established itself as a liberal alternative to Fox News Channel in prime time, finding improved ratings in the mistrust of the mainstream media that had grown among on the left during the Bush years and the Iraq war.

The presidential campaign, and the partisan and ideological intensity surrounding it, has been the perfect subject for both sides, providing endless fodder to play to the persuasions of their audience and mock the views expressed on the rival network.

The result is a return to a “great tradition of American journalism,” Mr. Wald said. “Basically you chose your news outlet if it made you happy, if it reinforced all your views.”

Indeed, voters who primarily get their news from Web sites like The Huffington Post by day and MSNBC by night, and those who primarily get theirs from The Drudge Report by day and Fox News Channel by night would have entirely different views of the candidates and the news driving the campaign year. (At second place in the ratings, behind Fox News Channel, CNN is maintaining a far more traditional approach to news this year.)

When Politico.com reported on Oct. 21 that the Republican National Committee had spent $150,000 on clothing for Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, Mr. Olbermann interrupted his 8 p.m. program on MSNBC to promote the story and discuss it, as did Rachel Maddow, whose program follows.

Fox News Channel reported it first the next morning, on “Fox & Friends,” in a segment in which the report was described as sexist and unfair, and Bill O’Reilly and Ms. Van Susteren later criticized the news media on their programs for giving it as much attention as they had.

“It was ridiculous,” said Mr. O’Reilly, singling out The New York Times in particular for covering the purchase.

That was a role reversal from spring 2007, when news broke that former Senator John Edwards had paid $400 for a haircut out of his Democratic presidential campaign account.

Mr. Olbermann named Mr. Hannity the “Worst Person in the World,” a running feature on his program, for making fun of Mr. Edwards’s haircut and showing video of him styling his hair before an interview.

Mr. O’Reilly had said of Mr. Edwards at the time: “He runs around telling Americans the system is rigged, while paying $400 for a haircut. This guy is a one-man sitcom.”

Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism at the Pew Research Center, said, “To some extent, they are reverse images of each other.”

The group has studied the tone and content of the election-year coverage and found that Mr. McCain has been the subject of more negative reports in general than has Mr. Obama on issues that include assessments of their performances in polls, the debates and running their campaigns.

But within that universe, the study found, the share of positive reports on Mr. McCain at Fox News was above the average of the news media at large, and the share of negative reports about Mr. Obama was higher, too. (The study found that the mix of positive and negative was roughly equal for them on Fox.)

And the study found that MSNBC featured a higher percentage of negative reports about Mr. McCain than the rest of the news media and a higher share of positive reports about Mr. Obama. CNN was more generally in line with the average.

Mr. Rosenstiel said Fox News Channel and MSNBC showed ideological differences, “obviously more so at night.” And executives at those networks said that opinion was kept to their prime-time lineups and away from their news reporting.

Officials at the Obama and McCain campaigns said in interviews last week that they believed they were treated fairly by the reporters assigned to them at the two networks, including Major Garrett and Carl Cameron at Fox News Channel and Kelly O’Donnell and Lee Cowan at NBC News. (NBC pools some political newsgathering efforts with The New York Times.) And advisers to both campaigns show up for interviews on both networks.

Mr. Obama’s campaign aides said they were pleased when Shepard Smith, the Fox News Channel anchor, this week dressed down Joe the Plumber, a k a Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, for agreeing with a voter who called a vote for Mr. Obama “a vote for the death of Israel.”

Reporting that Mr. Obama supported Israel, Mr. Smith added with exasperation, “It just gets frightening sometimes.”

And Ms. Maddow has expressed skepticism about Mr. Obama’s call for more troops in Afghanistan.

But officials at both campaigns also said there had been plenty of instances when they have perceived bias in regular news coverage. On Fox News Channel, for instance, Gregg Jarrett, referring to Mr. Obama, asked a guest, “Do economists say that in fact his policies could drive a recession into a depression?” (The guest, Donald Lambro of The Washington Times, responded, “Well, I haven’t read that, no.”)

Raising a report about Obama campaign suspicions that Mr. McCain got an unfair peek at questions to be asked of him at a joint forum at the Saddleback Church, Mr. McCain’s campaign wrote to NBC News in August, “We are concerned that your news division is following MSNBC’s lead in abandoning nonpartisan coverage of the presidential race.”

And sometimes the approaches have been noticeable simply through what the networks cover. After NPR reported late last week that a McCain supporter, former Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger, questioned whether Ms. Palin was “prepared to take the reins of the presidency,” MSNBC repeated it roughly 20 times over the course of the day, CNN mentioned it four times, a review of programming on the monitoring service ShadowTV found. And Fox News Channel did one segment, in which it interviewed Mr. Eagleburger, who apologized and said Ms. Palin was “a quick study.”

Fox News Channel executives would not comment for this article. Phil Griffin, president of MSNBC, agreed that at night his network gave a decidedly opinionated viewpoint.

“All of our material is based on fact — our guys work really hard on it, and the point-of-view shows make their conclusions,” Mr. Griffin said. “In this modern era, you’ve got a variety of places that look at the day’s events. Some you respect more than others, others you recognize as having a point of view, some you see as factual in a different way, and it all blends together into how you make your decision for what’s going on.

“The burden is a little more on the individual.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the Fox News Channel anchor Gregg Jarrett as Greg Palkot. Another version misspelled Mr. Jarrett’s given name as Greg.

    A Surge on One Channel, a Tight Race on Another, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/us/politics/02tube.html?hp






Obama Unaware of Status of Aunt, Campaign Says


November 2, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — Responding to a report that a Kenyan relative of Senator Barack Obama was living in the United States illegally, his campaign said Saturday that he had no knowledge of her immigration status and that “any and all appropriate laws” should be followed.

The woman, Zeituni Onyango, referred to as Auntie Zeituni in a passage in Mr. Obama’s memoir, applied for political asylum in the United States in 2004, but a federal immigration judge rejected her request and instructed her to leave the country, said a government official with knowledge of the case who asked not to be identified because of its delicate nature. Ms. Onyango’s legal status was first reported by The Associated Press on Friday.

The disclosure came as the presidential campaign hurtled toward Election Day, and it left Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee for president, answering questions about what he knew of Ms. Onyango’s situation.

Some Democrats suggested that the timing of the disclosure could have been politically motivated, and some immigration lawyers said that for government officials to disclose information about an asylum applicant was unethical or perhaps illegal.

“People are suspicious about stories that surface in the last 72 hours of a national campaign, and I think they’re going to put it in that context,” Mr. Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, told reporters on Saturday.

Senator John McCain’s campaign declined to comment, and neither Mr. McCain, the Republican nominee, nor his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, raised the issue on the campaign trail.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman, Kelly A. Nantel, said the agency’s inspector general and office of professional responsibility were looking into whether there was a violation of confidentiality policy.

Ms. Onyango, 56, is the half-sister of Mr. Obama’s father and is part of an extensive network of paternal relatives with whom Mr. Obama has had limited contact, his aides said. Mr. Obama, who was largely raised by his maternal grandparents in Honolulu, first met Ms. Onyango when he traveled to Africa as an adult.

Mr. Axelrod said that Mr. Obama and Ms. Onyango did not have “a real close relationship.”

Ms. Onyango attended the ceremony in January 2005 when Mr. Obama was sworn in as a senator from Illinois, but campaign officials said he had provided no assistance in getting her a tourist visa and did not know the details of her stay. At the time of the ceremony, Ms. Onyango and another relative said in interviews that they had flown to the United States from Kenya to witness the event.

Mr. Obama last heard from Ms. Onyango about two years ago when she called to say she was in Boston, but he did not see her there, the campaign said.

Federal Election Commission records list a Zeituni Onyango in South Boston as making a series of contributions, totaling $265, to the Obama campaign, with the most recent contribution, $5, made on Sept. 19.

Mr. Obama’s campaign said the money was being refunded. It is illegal for foreign citizens and immigrants without green cards to make political donations. Aides said that the donations came through the normal channels and that no one at the campaign knew of Ms. Onyango’s immigration status or that she was related to Mr. Obama.

The Times of London reported on Thursday that Ms. Onyango lived in public housing in Boston. On Friday, The A.P. reported that she was in the country illegally and that her case had led to an unusual nationwide directive from Immigration and Customs Enforcement requiring that any deportations before the election on Tuesday be approved at least at the level of regional directors.

Ms. Nantel, the agency spokeswoman, said she could not comment on the matter. A White House spokesman, Scott Stanzel, said the White House had no involvement in the matter.

Ms. Onyango lives in an apartment that is handicapped accessible and volunteered as a resident health advocate for the Boston Housing Authority before stopping recently because of back surgery that required physical therapy, said William McGonagle, the authority’s deputy director.

On Saturday, a police officer was stationed outside the low, brick public housing complex where Ms. Onyango lives. The officer said she was not at home and told reporters not to enter the building.

Gardiner Harris reported from Washington, and Abby Goodnough from Boston. Reporting was contributed by Eric Lipton from Washington; Michael Luo from New York; Julia Preston from Tennessee; Jeff Zeleny from Henderson, Nev.; and Katie Zezima from Boston.

    Obama Unaware of Status of Aunt, Campaign Says, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/us/politics/02campaign.html?hp






The Undecided: Sheepish, Proud or Set to Flip Coin


November 2, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — Senators Barack Obama and John McCain have stood (or sat) for 36 debates, endured thousands of interviews, and spent hundreds of millions of dollars on advertisements and the better part of two years trying to convince voters that they are worthy of the presidency, or at least a vote.

But with only days left until Election Day, a small cluster of holdouts — 4 percent, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll — are still wrestling with the “Who are you voting for?” question.

Which raises a follow-up: What is up with these people?

“I do not like being an ‘undecided,’ ” said a sheepish Doug Finke, a 66-year-old executive at an international relocation service in Louisville, Ky. “Last time at this point, I definitely was decided. Not this time. I find it unnerving.”

Mr. Finke, a Republican, voted twice for George W. Bush. He describes himself as an economic conservative and said he had been “very impressed” with Senator John McCain. It sure sounds as if Mr. Finke is leaning toward Mr. McCain, the Arizona Republican, right?

Not so fast.

“I’m socially more liberal,” Mr. Finke said. “I think Obama is bright and has been very steady in this campaign.” He added that it would be “very exciting for the United States to elect a black president.” Besides, he does not think Mr. McCain’s running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, would be ready to step into the top job if something happened to Mr. McCain (who, Mr. Finke pointed out, “is pretty old”).

Where does this leave Mr. Finke? “I plan on doing a lot of reading this weekend,” he said.

If the country is divided between red and blue, Mr. Finke resides in a gray state, along with a proud — or embarrassed — corps of undecideds. They are a shrinking cohort of confused, procrastinating, indifferent or just plain indecisive consumers of democracy.

Mr. Finke lives in a red state, Kentucky, with his wife, Shelley, who is also a gray state citizen. She works out of their home, where she helps manage her husband’s second career as a jazz trombonist.

“I tend to be a procrastinator,” said Ms. Finke, 44, who said she operated best with deadlines.

She voted for Mr. Bush twice and describes herself as “a conservative person at heart.” At the beginning of the campaign, she was suspicious of Mr. Obama “because of the whole Hollywood thing,” but she has since warmed to him.

“My opinion of Obama has definitely risen during this campaign,” Ms. Finke said. “And my opinion of McCain has fallen.”

So it sure sounds as if Ms. Finke is moving toward Mr. Obama, the Illinois Democrat, right?

Not so fast.

“I’d say I’m leaning towards McCain,” she said. “For as awful as things are with this Republican administration, there’s something about the whole conservative thing that appeals to me.” Put her down as “leaning McCain” then.

“But maybe I’ll vote for Obama,” she said. “How many days are left?”

Two, as of Sunday. While many people in this campaign-saturated country are relieved that the election will soon be over, some of the undecideds figure, What’s the rush?

“I might flip a coin,” said Vasilios Gerovasiliou, 64, of Concordville, Pa. His two grown sons — like him, veterinarians — are split along party lines. His wife, Helen, said she was “disgusted with both sides.”

Mr. Gerovasiliou, who emigrated from Greece 35 years ago, said there were things he liked about both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama. But he also believes that “neither of the candidates always speaks the truth” and that “none of them will be able to do all of the things they are promising.”

Mr. Gerovasiliou supported Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, loved Bill Clinton and pretty much vowed to support anyone not named Barack Obama after he defeated Mrs. Clinton in the Democratic primaries.

But the Clintons’ endorsement of Mr. Obama went a long way. “Time healed things,” Mr. Gerovasiliou said. Plus, he likes Mr. Obama’s running mate, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of neighboring Delaware, who is “friends with a lot of the Greeks around here” and patronizes the local Greek diners. He likes Mr. McCain, too, however. He admires his service, patriotism, and grit, and also likes that Ms. Palin comes from a small town, just as he did from one in Greece.

Would he really flip a coin? No, he would not. “I will just have to make a decision,” Mr. Gerovasiliou said. By the end of a 15-minute phone interview, he sounded a little closer to making one. “I think I am leaning a little bit to someone now,” he said.

And that would be?


Talking does not necessarily bring undecideds closer to deciding. “The more I chat, the more confused I get,” said Laura Wolpo, a Brooklyn native who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She was fresh from a golf outing that was filled with political conversation and left her head spinning. “People get so wacky about this stuff,” she said.

Ms. Wolpo, 76, has usually picked a candidate by the end of the conventions. That was the Democrats Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.

Mr. Obama? “I have great misgivings,” she said.

“We are of the Jewish faith,” she said, “and I don’t really know his stance on the Middle East and Israel.” She also worries about his “share the wealth ideas” and says that Michelle Obama comes on a little too strong. (“And someone should teach her how to dress, too.”)

Mr. McCain? “I like the man,” she said. “I have a great deal of respect for him.”

But she has problems with him, too, some big ones. First, she is a strong believer in abortion rights (which Mr. McCain is not.) “The government does not belong in our bedroom,” she said. And then there is Ms. Palin.

“Oh, my God,” Ms. Wolpo said. “Some of what she says is very stupid.”

Ms. Wolpo vows to vote Tuesday. She raises the possibility of a “toss of the coin,” but then rejects the notion.

When pressed, Ms. Wolpo said there was probably a 60 percent chance she would support Mr. McCain. She does not buy the Obama campaign argument that Mr. McCain is just like Mr. Bush. “McCain knows in his heart that Bush is a loser,” she said.

Either way, Ms. Wolpo said her decision did not keep her awake at night. “I have enough to worry about,” she said, explaining that her youngest son, who is in his 40s, suffered a stroke last spring. He has good days and bad days, she said, and that puts everything else in perspective.

“This other thing is just an election,” she said.

    The Undecided: Sheepish, Proud or Set to Flip Coin, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/us/politics/02undecided.html?hp






Running a Volunteer Operation With a Do-It-Yourself Attitude


November 2, 2008
The New York Times


WINTER PARK, Fla. — By midsummer, Susan Skolfield, a freckled former actress, had grown a little frustrated with the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama. Despite her pleas, it had no plans to open an office here in her hometown, a traditionally Republican city west of Orlando.

So Ms. Skolfield opened one herself. She dug into her own pocket for the initial $1,350 in rent, hooked up telephones and computers, hauled in furniture and printed up fliers for an early September opening party that drew nearly a thousand people.

Eight weeks later, Ms. Skolfield, 51, who has strawberry-blonde hair and a habit of shutting her eyes when she makes a solemn point, spends most of her days hovering at the doorway of her bustling, still-unofficial Obama operation, serving as cheerleader and concierge to the stream of arrivals.

When a middle-age woman bursts in, distraught by a news report that 18- to 24-year-olds are not turning out for early voting — “Should we go to their homes?” she asked — Ms. Skolfield reassures her. An out-of-work roofer appears, explaining he has just walked three miles to cast the first vote of his life. Ms. Skolfield and friends garb him in Obama paraphernalia, the clean, bright cottons contrasting with his tattered clothing. For anyone who completes a round of leafleting, she whoops in appreciation.

For Tuesday’s election, the Obama campaign has created a vast, technologically sophisticated get-out-the-vote machine in Florida, with nearly 500 paid staff members and mountains of finely sifted voter data. The work of Ms. Skolfield and her hundreds of troops would not be possible without this infrastructure. Many met on the campaign’s social-networking site, and they coordinate with a paid Obama field organizer, who provides literature and tells them where to drop it.

But what is most striking is just how much Ms. Skolfield and her office of volunteers are doing, even beyond the crucial campaign-dictated tasks of door knocking and cold calling.

Brent Constantinides, 24, and Jennise Belizaire, 26, built their own Obama booth, which they set up every day at a dog run near the office. (Over a few weeks, they registered 400 new voters there). Milly Dawson, 53, distributes leaflets to her neighbors and includes a personal note in every packet, along with an invitation to an election-night potluck party. Marie Ciaravino, a 66-year-old water aerobics instructor, spends her afternoons at bus stops, handing out little cards on which she has scrawled a number to call for a ride to the polls.

On Wednesday, several Obama-Biden signs the height and length of small cars mysteriously appeared, stacked outside the office. They were professionally printed, but campaign officials did not send them. So who had?

“I think Santa Claus brought them,” Ms. Skolfield said.

Back in June, she attended a three-day session run by the campaign — “ me and 199 college students,” she says — during which she was trained, the instructor told her, in the same community organizing techniques Mr. Obama once used on the streets of Chicago. The first key to success, she was taught, was to polish her own story. She developed a quick spiel: a former flight attendant and actress, she was raised Republican, opposed the Iraq war from the start and became enamored of Mr. Obama after his 2004 Democratic convention speech.

Ms. Skolfield grew up in Winter Park, which sprouted up a century ago as a destination for vacationing Northerners. Like many other girls from white, wealthy families, she was cared for by black servants. Now some domestic workers, along with their children, make up a chunk of her volunteers. But the roles almost seem reversed: Ms. Skolfield waits on the older black women, offering them bottled water, driving them to the polls or finding others who will.

A member of the local historical society, Ms. Skolfield has been putting together video slideshows about some of their stories: how Rose Bynum, 83, was not allowed on the white children’s playground as a child, how she was refused service at the counter of an Orlando drugstore.

Now Mrs. Bynum’s neighborhood, once called Colored Town, features an Obama sign in nearly every yard. When a gaggle of middle schoolers crossed the street one day this week, they spotted her lawn sign and whooped in approval. “GoBama, that’s how we roll!” one cried.

Though strays have floated in from as far away as Massachusetts, the Winter Park volunteers are mostly homegrown, which suits the Obama campaign’s preference for local versus imported volunteers, for turning its activists first and foremost toward their own friends, relatives and church members. Across Florida and the nation, the campaign is running programs with names like Neighbor to Neighbor and Adopt Five, which means see to it that five sporadic voters get to the polls.

Though most polls show a close Florida race, and there are still plenty of McCain-Palin signs around town, the Winter Park volunteers bask in their seeming success. According to Ms. Skolfield’s contacts at the campaign, her office regularly leads the state in the daily tallies of doors knocked on, phone calls made and data entered. On the final day of voter registration last month, the office registered 1,400 people.

Though the canvassers hear stray racial epithets, they also hear cheers, even in Latino neighborhoods with uncertain levels of Obama enthusiasm. And every day, a few more longtime Republicans tell the canvassers they will be voting for Obama.

Things are so upbeat, in fact, that their two-room office can feel like an idealized refuge from the real world: it is an integrated setting in a still-segregated-feeling town, and while the Orlando economy staggers, resources and donations at 200 North Denning Drive flow freely. Even the snacks have a labor-of-love feel. Most campaign offices run on store-bought junk food, but the Winter Park volunteers sampled homemade banana-walnut bread and fudge, dropped off by supporters who wanted to help.

For many of the 40 or so core supporters, the place has become something of a personal haven. At night, Ms. Skolfield, who is not married, returns home to her mother, an 84-year-old Alzheimer’s patient, and recounts the latest happenings at the office as her mother looks back uncomprehendingly. Recently her mother had been making “B” sounds, Ms. Skolfield said. She knew it couldn’t quite be, but she was hopeful that she was somehow trying to say “Barack.”

Mr. Constantinides and Ms. Belizaire, the couple who keep an Obama vigil at the dog run, are out of work, out of money and unsure of how they will provide for Ms. Belizaire’s 5-year old daughter, Ayana. “All we know for sure right now is this office and this little booth,” said Mr. Constantinides, an electrician, his eyes welling. Lately some of the motherly types in the office have been hiring him for little jobs around their homes. But after the election, the couple is thinking of heading north to look for work.

Ms. Dawson, the volunteer who writes little notes with her leaflets, lives in a prosperous subdivision, lush with lakes and tropical foliage, but she seems just as lost as to what she will do after Tuesday. Like the others, she has been living full-time in Obamaland for months now.

“We are so worried about what we’re going to do after the election,” she said, heading off in the sunshine to deposit more packets on her neighbors’ doorsteps.

    Running a Volunteer Operation With a Do-It-Yourself Attitude, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/us/politics/02DEM.html?hp






Florida Republican Leader Sees a Tougher Challenge This Year


November 2, 2008
The New York Times


ORLANDO, Fla. — Lew Oliver’s McCain-Palin T-shirt advertised his intentions, and the woman in the S.U.V. gave him an opening. “I’m undecided,” said Nicole Ellington, 31, a paralegal with two young children. “You have two minutes. Go.”

Mr. Oliver knew that her family leaned Republican because she was on his get-out-the-vote list, and he rapidly delivered a pitch honed over 22 years of volunteering for local campaigns. “Wow, you’re good,” she said. And as she drove away, Mr. Oliver smiled with satisfaction.

But did he really win her over? Ms. Ellington had pointed to the “Palin” on his T-shirt and said, “I’m worried about this one.”

“I don’t know,” Mr. Oliver said after giving it some thought. “She may have been being polite.”

Mr. Oliver, 47, a real estate lawyer who walks and talks in bursts, is the kind of party regular who is not usually one to doubt. He has been the Orange County Republican Party chairman since 1999, and with his encyclopedic knowledge of the neighborhoods and demographics of Orlando, he built the grass-roots effort that pushed George W. Bush to victory here and statewide in 2000 and 2004.

But this year, Mr. Oliver said, the challenge is tougher. Part of it is the “collapse of the economy of the Western world,” he said. Part is the competition, a campaign by Senator Barack Obama that has poured more money and people into the state than Senator John McCain. Even the most seasoned Republicans now acknowledge that they face an uphill fight.

“This is as difficult an environment for Republicans as there’s been since Watergate,” said George LeMieux, the former campaign manager for Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican.

Mr. Oliver agrees. And like many Republicans trying in the final days to push their party to victory, he says he has found inspiration in Mr. McCain, the perseverant prisoner of war who came from behind to seize the Republican nomination. The current call to arms is simple: “If anyone can pull it off, it’s John McCain.”

The same could be said for Mr. Oliver. Even his counterparts in the local Democratic Party describe him as one of the best organizers in Florida, a tireless terrier of campaigns who has missed only four of the county party’s meetings in 22 years.

Mr. Oliver claims to dislike politics, seeing it as a way to fulfill the civic duty that led his father and two brothers to the military. But he is single and admits that the Republican Party consumes much of his free time.

On Thursday, his day began at 9 a.m., calling his Orlando neighbors from a phone bank list he carries everywhere so he can reach voters during down times. By 10 a.m., he was inside a local TV news studio, where he debated the race with the local Democratic Party chairman.

On camera, Mr. Oliver emphasized that “no one is giving up.” He said that the polls were close in Florida and that slight movement could bring victory.

During a commercial break, though, he quoted Bill Clinton (“It’s the economy, stupid”) and said, “If I had a videotape of Barack Obama shooting someone, he’d still be up in the polls.”

What really frustrated him, he said, was that voters did not seem to be recognizing what he admired about John McCain: his pragmatism, his toughness, his proven willingness to buck his party and reach across the aisle on tough issues like immigration.

But lately, Mr. Oliver’s task has become complicated as he finds himself competing with a burning fear voiced by some McCain supporters. It can be seen in the anti-Obama book at the McCain office in Altamonte Springs; or in Maitland, where someone posted a letter on the wall that said: “This is the scariest election we as Christians have ever faced, and from the looks of the polls, the Christians aren’t voting Christian values.”

Just a few feet away, a larger poster near an American flag stated: “Obama — too dangerous for our America.”

Mr. Oliver, when told about the messages, said they did not reflect the party’s official position and would be taken down. At the Orlando headquarters, where he usually spends his time, no such language was visible.

But in an unscientific show of hands among 30 volunteers, more people said they were motivated by a fear of Mr. Obama than by a love of Mr. McCain or Gov. Sarah Palin. Such passions are double-edged: some party officials worry that the negative tone alienates independent voters; on the other hand, it has pushed volunteers to great lengths.

About half of the volunteers at the headquarters had come from outside Florida, representing at least eight states, including Alaska, Georgia and Texas. Many said they were volunteering for the first time, spending as much as $2,000 of their own money to try to keep the Democrats from winning.

Krista Parrett, 37, said she came from Syracuse to volunteer because she feared that an Obama victory would make the United States like Uzbekistan, a former Soviet state ruled with an iron fist, where she once lived. Marlene Heineman, 58, a flight attendant who had come to the office during a long layover, said she worried about who might be behind Mr. Obama’s rapid rise to prominence.

“He has a lot of shady connections,” Ms. Heineman said. “He hasn’t been forthcoming.”

Other interviews brought similar sentiments, though one volunteer, Michael Walzak, 46, a member of the county’s Republican Executive Committee, said he was “disappointed that so many people are that fearful.”

Mr. Oliver, for his part, has stayed focused on what he knows: how to win. At 3:30 p.m., he returned from his law office, speeding into the campaign headquarters in Nike running sneakers and jeans, with not just a McCain-Palin shirt but also a hat.

The operation had just shifted from asking voters whether they had received and sent in their absentee ballots to the get-out-the-vote effort.

This two-pronged emphasis, on absentee ballots and getting voters to the polls, has been the party’s focus in Florida for decades. Mr. Oliver says that it works in part because Republicans tend to be less transient than Democrats, making them easier to reach, and because they have historically been more loyal to their party.

As an example, he said that 81 percent of registered Republicans in Orange County voted in 2004 compared with about 75 percent of Democrats.

To try to continue that tradition, Mr. Oliver grabbed a list of 181 addresses in Baldwin Park, an area of working professionals.

The first house he visited took him to James Sims, 50, who said he was happy to see fellow McCain supporters in the neighborhood. The second voter he encountered also promised to vote Republican. “No matter how sick you are?” Mr. Oliver said. “Even if you have to drag yourself there on a wagon?”

“Yes,” the woman said.

It was a well-honed pitch. In his 22 years, he said he had learned a few things about voter contact. First, knock and ring the doorbell. Second, step a few feet back to avoid looking threatening. And third, use humor. Introductions like “Hi” — big smile — “we’re not selling anything” are usually effective.

Or at least they get the conversation going. What happens next, this year at least, seems more unpredictable. Just after Mr. Oliver said he had not yet found a house with Republicans who said they would vote for Barack Obama, he encountered two of them in a row.

Beth Moriarty said that her 62-year-old husband, for the first time in his life, was going to vote for a Democrat.

Patricia Millar, 50, a registered independent, also said that she and her husband, Jeffery Bergenthal, a Republican, were not voting for Mr. McCain. A blue Obama sign fluttered in her lawn. She seemed unsure of how to break the news.

“We think he’s a great guy,” she said of Mr. McCain. “We’re just a little disappointed with the ticket this year.”

    Florida Republican Leader Sees a Tougher Challenge This Year, NYT, 2.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/us/politics/02repub.html?hp






In Crucial South, Democrats Edge Closer to Republican Incumbents


NOVEMBER 1, 2008
The Wall Street Journal


ATLANTA -- Across the south, Democratic challengers for the U.S. Senate are making inroads against Republican incumbents, raising the chances that the party can take a filibuster-proof, 60-seat supermajority. Not long ago, most of these incumbents appeared almost certain to hold their seats.

Some polls showed Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who led by 17 points in September, in a virtual dead heat with Democratic challenger Jim Martin going into the final weekend. In North Carolina, Democratic state Sen. Kay Hagan is now running ahead of Republican incumbent Sen. Elizabeth Dole by 9 points, according to an Oct. 31 CNN poll.

Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell leads Democrat Bruce Lunsford, a health-care entrepreneur, by single digits in Kentucky, according to polls this week. And in Mississippi, polls in recent weeks showed former Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove within a few points of Republican Sen. Roger Wicker, though more recent surveys now show Sen. Wicker edging further ahead.

To win a supermajority in the Senate, Democratic candidates need to take 10 of 11 closely contested races. The party's candidates have strong leads in at least a half dozen of those races. But without victories in at least three of the four key southern races, a supermajority isn't likely to be obtained.

"It's very hard to predict," says Alan Abramowitz, a professor of political science at Emory University and an expert on elections and voting behavior. "There are probably going to be five or six Senate races decided by very close margins."

A Senate supermajority has major ramifications, regardless of which candidate wins the White House. With control of 60 votes in the Senate for the first time since the late 1970s, Democrats could aggressively push through the agenda of Sen. Barack Obama, should he win the presidency. If Republican Sen. John McCain wins, a supermajority could use procedural rules to trip up the administration's legislative agenda.

Republicans have tried to make the prospect of a Democratic supermajority a hot issue in races around the country. The Republican Senatorial Committee released a Halloween-themed online ad on Friday with the heading: "60 Seats: Now that's Scary."

Advertising Angst

The North Carolina race took a nasty turn this week when Sen. Dole's campaign began airing a television ad accusing state Sen. Hagan of having ties to an atheist lobbying group. The advertisement says that "a leader of the Godless Americans PAC recently held a secret fundraiser" in honor of her Democratic opponent. It goes on to assert that she "took Godless money. What did Hagan promise in return?" The piece closes with an unidentified woman's voice declaring, "There is no God."

State Sen. Hagan, who describes herself as a devout Presbyterian and is a Sunday school teacher, filed a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court on Thursday demanding the ad's removal from the air. A Hagan spokeswoman called the ad "unconscionable"

The campaign said the candidate attended a Boston fundraiser for Senate Democrats in which the 35 guests included Sen. John Kerry. The fundraiser was at the home of an adviser to the Godless Americans PAC, a group that wants to remove references to God from U.S. currency and the Pledge of Allegiance. State Sen. Hagan said she opposes the group's ideology, and the host of the fundraiser said the PAC wasn't involved in the event.

Sen. Dole is counting on North Carolina's rural and religious right voters to counter her opponent's strength among moderates in the urban Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte areas. Sen. Dole held a rally in Hickory, a small town roughly 40 miles from Charlotte, on Thursday that drew an enthusiastic crowd. But some people in the town who generally support her expressed frustration at the atheism ad and the overall tone of the campaign.

"Those ads are a smokescreen and take us away from the issues," said Carol Adams, 54 years old, who owns Dad's Place diner and says she will vote for Sen. Dole anyway, primarily because she disagrees with state Sen. Hagan's position on abortion rights. But she laments that "I'm not happy with the Republicans, really. They have not done what they are supposed to do with the spending."

Potential Runoff

Not far away in Georgia, some political observers say Sen. Chambliss, a conservative Republican seeking a second term in the Senate, is unlikely to win more than 50% of the vote -- which could trigger a general election runoff required under Georgia law. That vote, which would take place in early December, could be the deciding factor in a Democrat supermajority.

The tightening contests offer a stark illustration of the political headwinds facing Republicans at the polls this fall, even in what were considered reliably conservative states like Georgia and North Carolina. Democratic groups are plowing millions of dollars into support for candidates across the country in the hope of unseating Republican incumbents.

In Georgia, challenger Mr. Martin, a 63-year-old defense lawyer who formerly headed the state's Department of Human Resources and served in the state legislature, has been hammering Sen. Chambliss for weeks on the financial crisis and his support for the $700 billion bank bailout. That support cost Sen. Chambliss the backing of some right-wing conservatives.

Democratic candidates in North Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi also stand to benefit powerfully from the coat tails of Sen. Obama. In early voting in Georgia, for instance, African Americans, especially, have been flocking to the polls in disproportionate numbers. African Americans make up 30% of the state's registered voters but have cast 35% of the state's early votes so far, according to Georgia Secretary of State figures.

The ground began moving under Sen. Chambliss and some other Republicans with the onset of the financial crisis, which voters across the country appear to blame more on Republicans than Democrats. Complicating matters for Sen. Chambliss is the third-party candidacy of Allen Buckley, a Libertarian who has slammed Sen. Chambliss on the bailout and for "excessive" federal spending by Republicans. Mr. Buckley's views may be getting a broader hearing in Georgia than they would elsewhere. The Libertarian presidential nominee is Bob Barr, a former Georgia congressman with a large following in the state.

In Kentucky, another Republican symbol, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, could succumb to Mr. Lunsford, the health-care entrepreneur. After losing a party primary for Kentucky governor in 2007, Mr. Lunsford set his sights on taking down Sen. McConnell, the state's best-known politician and a senator who has represented the state for the past 24 years.

Though Sen. McConnell retains a slight edge over Mr. Lunsford in most recent polls, the lead has been small enough for the Democrats to believe they can capture those voters that are still declaring themselves undecided. In a statewide Louisville Courier-Journal Bluegrass poll released on Thursday, Sen. McConnell was leading Mr. Lunsford by 5 percentage points, with nine percent still undecided.

In his effort to convince those undecided voters, Mr. Lunsford will campaign with Sen. Hillary Clinton at two appearances on Sunday. Like most Democratic races at the moment, the Lunsford campaign aims to tie Sen. McConnell, as minority leader, to the Bush administration and the current economic turmoil.

Sen. McConnell's long run in the Senate has been aided by support from centrist Democrats. Mr. Lunsford's campaign spokesman Cary Stemle says this year "they'll return to the Democratic fold...We hope they'll be motivated by a rejection of the status quo."

—Brody Mullins and Paulo Prada contributed to this article.

    In Crucial South, Democrats Edge Closer to Republican Incumbents, WSJ, 1.11.2008, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122550003143590001.html?mod=article-outset-box






Election Battle Shifts to Republican Turf


NOVEMBER 1, 2008
The Wall Street Journal


The campaign's final days are playing out largely on territory won by President George W. Bush in 2004, as his unpopularity, combined with a struggling economy and shifting demographics, have helped Democrats gain traction in what have been reliably Republican states.

Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama will pass through Nevada, Colorado and Missouri Saturday, after appearances in Iowa and Indiana Friday -- all states that voted Republican four years ago. He will be in Ohio Sunday, another Bush state, and Virginia Monday, where a Democrat has not won since 1964.

From Oct. 21 to Oct. 28, the Obama campaign spent nearly $21.5 million on advertising, compared with $7.5 million by the campaign of his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, according to the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project. More than 70% of that combined spending was in Republican states. The Obama campaign Friday launched new advertising buys in long-Republican North Dakota, Georgia and in Sen. McCain's home state of Arizona.

Sen. McCain, meanwhile, spent Friday in Ohio and heads to Virginia Saturday, both states won by Mr. Bush in 2004. Sen. McCain is also going to Pennsylvania, the one big 2004 Democratic state that the McCain campaign now believes it can win to offset losses in Republican territory.

After the 2004 presidential race, the Republican geographic formula for keeping a lock on the White House seemed simple enough: hold the states that Mr. Bush won in the Republican column and eke out a third straight, narrow Electoral College victory.

Sen. McCain, though playing defense, can still find a path to victory Tuesday. His emphasis in the final days on Ohio and Pennsylvania point to a demographic pattern that could work in his favor: rust-belt regions where an aging, working-class population has been reluctant to embrace the first African-American leading a major party. Gains among non-college-educated men, abortion opponents, rural voters and "soft" Democrats are fueling Sen. McCain's advance in some polls, says Bill McInturff, Mr. McCain's pollster.

But in the past four years, the electoral map has steadily shifted in ways that have made the Democrats' strategizing easier.

The war in Iraq, the Bush administration's unpopularity and scandals when Republicans controlled Congress scarred the party brand nationally. Scandal-plagued governors in two Republican-friendly swing states, Ohio and Nevada, spread that taint to the state level.

The weak economy, concentrated heavily in large battleground states, is probably the biggest factor reordering the 2008 map. States like Ohio, used to economic hard times, have suffered wage stagnation and falling incomes. In states unused to hard times, such as Florida and Nevada, a housing and construction bust has spread gloom.

In 2004, building booms in Florida and Nevada made Democratic messages on the economy fall flat. This year is different. Last month, the Sunshine State recorded a 1.4% drop in employment over September 2007, the fifth-largest drop among the states. Nevada's unemployment rate, at 7.3%, is the fifth highest in the country.

Demographics also shifted in the right places to give Democrats a lift. In Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina, the influx of a younger, more-educated populace brought voters more receptive to the Democrats' message. A concerted Republican campaign to curb illegal immigration turned a wave of new foreign-born voters against the GOP in Florida, Nevada and Colorado, just as the Latino vote in those states was growing.

Between 2000 and this year, the Hispanic electorate will have doubled, to 12% of voters, according to Census data and NDN, a Democratic group that studies the electorate. That growth has been concentrated in once-Republican states, not only in the Mountain West but in the South. By 2006, Hispanics represented 31% of voters in New Mexico, 13% in Nevada, 11% in Florida and 8% in Colorado.

President Bush and his political team were able to ride that wave, nearly doubling the GOP's share of the Latino vote from 21% in 1996 to 40% in 2004, according to exit polls. Then came 2006 and the Republican Party embrace of get-tough legislation on illegal immigration, followed by Republican efforts to kill bipartisan bills to stiffen border enforcement and provide illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship.

In 2006, Republican support among Hispanics fell to 30%. Even Sen. McCain, who co-authored the bipartisan immigration legislation, does not appear able to reverse the trend. An NDN poll in August, when Sens. Obama and McCain were virtually tied in the polls, found Sen. Obama leading among Colorado Hispanics 56% to 26% and Nevada Hispanics 62% to 20%.

In Colorado alone, more than 70,000 new Latino voters have registered since 2004. An Associated Press-GFK poll released Wednesday found that 16% of Colorado's likely voters identify themselves as Hispanic -- and 70% of them back Sen. Obama.

The growth of professional havens in Northern Virginia, the Research Triangle of Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and the Boulder-Denver corridor of Colorado may also be contributing to the changing electoral landscape. Voters in such places tend to be younger, more ethnically and racially diverse and less interested in social-conservative issues, such as abortion and gay marriage. And there are a lot of them: 83 million so-called millennials between ages 19 and 37, compared with 74 million Baby Boomers between 51 and 69.

If Sen. McCain had done more to chart his own electoral map-through states like New Hampshire and Wisconsin, with traditions of maverick independence-his final push may have looked different, Republican strategists say.

Instead, he focused more on reassembling the Bush map, through conservative policy shifts, and his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a favorite of the religious right, as a running mate, over moderates who might have had more appeal to independents in swing states.

An expected last swing by Sen. McCain through New Hampshire before Tuesday may not be enough to overcome an "almost Shakespearian" tragedy -- the loss of a state that propelled his candidacy in 2000 and saved it in 2008, said Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist and long-time McCain confidante.

"I don't think anyone would argue this isn't a great environment for Democrats," says Michael DuHaime, Sen. McCain's political director. "We've got the worst financial crisis in 80 years, which rightly or wrongly is being blamed on Republicans," he added. "Barack Obama, who has high personal-popularity ratings, is outspending us three or four to one, basically buying the election, and we have states like Pennsylvania and Ohio in reach. That's a testament to John McCain and his brand."

—Stephanie Simon, Douglas Belkin and Brad Haynes contributed to this article.

    Election Battle Shifts to Republican Turf, WSJ, 1.11.2008, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122549772947189811.html






McCain Vows Comeback as Obama Aims at Arizona

In Battleground Ohio, Republican Declares 'I'm Ready for a Fight,'
As Democrats Claim to See His Home State as Vulnerable


NOVEMBER 1, 2008
The Wall Street Journal


Four days before the presidential election, Republican John McCain put an optimistic spin on the race as Barack Obama's campaign said it sees a new opportunity in the Arizona senator's home state.

"I'm not afraid of the fight," Sen. McCain said at an Ohio rally Friday, part of the second day of a swing-state bus tour. "I'm ready for the fight. We're a few points down but we're coming back and we're coming back strong."

As Sen. McCain focuses on longstanding battleground states, the Obama campaign boosted efforts in states that have leaned Republican previously, including Arizona, a state that should be an easy victory for Sen. McCain.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said internal polls showed the race tightening in Arizona, driven largely by support among Hispanics, suburban voters and independents. "We've got an opportunity to maybe pull one out," he said.

An NBC News/Mason Dixon Polling & Research Inc. survey of 625 likely voters conducted in Arizona Oct. 27-28 showed Sen. McCain leading Sen. Obama by 48% to 44%. Other polls give Sen. McCain a wider lead.

This past week, the McCain campaign began using robocalls attacking Sen. Obama in Arizona. "I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC because Barack Obama is so dangerously inexperienced, his running mate Joe Biden just said, he invites a major international crisis," the script read.

Sen. McCain has represented Arizona in Washington since 1982, first as a congressman and then as a senator.

The last time a presidential candidate lost his home state was 2000, when Vice President Al Gore lost Tennessee, which he had represented in the Senate. In Ronald Reagan's 1984 landslide, Vice President Walter Mondale carried only his home state of Minnesota, along with the District of Columbia. In Richard Nixon's 1972 landslide, South Dakota Sen. George McGovern lost his home state.

On Friday in Ohio, Sen. McCain tagged his opponent as a liberal, using the term at least five times in a single speech. He said Sen. Obama is "more liberal than a senator who called himself a Socialist," a reference to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.).

McCain friend and supporter Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina warned the Ohio crowd of one-party rule in Washington, saying Sen. Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid make up a "tax trifecta from hell."

Sen. Obama struck back at a Des Moines rally on Friday. "We've tried it John McCain's way. We've tried it George Bush's way," Sen. Obama told a crowd of roughly 25,000. "That's why he's spending these last weeks calling me every name in the book. Because that's how you play the game in Washington."

Also Friday, Sen. McCain released a new ad in which he speaks to voters of his wartime service. "I've served my country since I was 17 years old. And spent five years longing for her shores," he says, a reference to his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. It was one of his few recent ads in which he didn't take aim at Sen. Obama.

Sen. Obama plans to hold rallies Saturday in Nevada and Colorado. A senior Obama advisor did not rule out a last-minute visit to Arizona, though he did point to an already hectic travel schedule with at least three events a day.

A McCain aide said Arizona voters are loyal to Sen. McCain and that the Obama campaign's increased spending in the state won't change that.

"Voters in Arizona won't accept job-killing tax increases, won't accept a trillion dollars in new federal spending and won't accept Barack Obama," McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said in an email.

Democratic strategist Mark Mellman said the status of Arizona speaks to larger trends in the region. "The religious right is not appealing to independents and the growing Latino populations in these states" the way it has in previous elections, Mr. Mellman said.

John Baick, a history professor at Western New England College in Springfield, Mass., said he sees the Obama campaign's efforts in Arizona as gimmicky. "This is about guaranteed attention -- it would be like McCain having a rally in Chicago," he said.

    McCain Vows Comeback as Obama Aims at Arizona, WSJ, 1.11.2008, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122546403899088083.html?mod=article-outset-box






AP: Obama Aunt From Kenya Living in US Illegally


November 1, 2008
Filed at 7:30 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Barack Obama's aunt, a Kenyan woman who has been quietly living in public housing in Boston, is in the United States illegally after an immigration judge rejected her request for asylum four years ago, The Associated Press has learned.

Zeituni Onyango, 56, referred to as ''Aunti Zeituni'' in Obama's memoir, was instructed to leave the United States by a U.S. immigration judge who denied her asylum request, a person familiar with the matter told the AP late Friday. This person spoke on condition of anonymity because no one was authorized to discuss Onyango's case.

Information about the deportation case was disclosed and confirmed by two separate sources, one of them a federal law enforcement official. The information they made available is known to officials in the federal government, but the AP could not establish whether anyone at a political level in the Bush administration or in the McCain campaign had been involved in its release.

Onyango's refusal to leave the country would represent an administrative, non-criminal violation of U.S. immigration law, meaning such cases are handled outside the criminal court system. Estimates vary, but many experts believe there are more than 10 million such immigrants in the United States.

The AP could not reach Onyango immediately for comment. No one answered the telephone number listed in her name late Friday. It was unclear why her request for asylum was rejected in 2004. The Obama campaign declined to comment late Friday night.

Onyango is not a relative whom Obama has discussed in campaign appearances and, unlike Obama's father and grandmother, is not someone who has been part of the public discussion about his personal life.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Kelly Nantel, said the government does not comment on an individual's citizenship status or immigration case.

Onyango's case -- coming to light just days before the presidential election -- led to an unusual nationwide directive within Immigrations and Customs Enforcement requiring any deportations prior to Tuesday's election to be approved at least at the level of ICE regional directors, the U.S. law enforcement official told the AP.

The unusual directive suggests that the Bush administration is sensitive to the political implications of Onyango's case coming to light so close to the election.

Kenya is in eastern Africa between Somalia and Tanzania. The country has been fractured in violence in recent years, including a period of two months of bloodshed after December 2007 that killed 1,500 people.

The disclosure about Onyango came just one day after Obama's presidential campaign confirmed to the Times of London that Onyango, who has lived quietly in public housing in South Boston for five years, was Obama's half aunt on his father's side.

It was not immediately clear how Onyango might have qualified for public housing with a standing deportation order.


AP writer Elliott Spagat reported from New York.

    AP: Obama Aunt From Kenya Living in US Illegally, NYT, 1.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Obama-Aunt.html






Obama Is Up, and Fans Fear That Jinxes It


November 1, 2008
The New York Times


In the den of his home in New Hope, Pa., a liberal Democrat sits tap-tapping at his computer.

Jon Downs works the electoral vote maps on Yahoo like a spiritualist shaking his Ouija board. He calibrates and recalibrates: Give Senator John McCain Ohio, Missouri, even Florida. But Virginia and Pennsylvania, those go to Senator Barack Obama. And Vermont, Democrats can count on Vermont, right?


Almost always, Mr. Downs, 53, ends with Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, ahead, which should please this confirmed liberal and profound Obama fan. But just as often he feels worried.

“Look, I have this sense of impending doom; we’ve had a couple of elections stolen already,” Mr. Downs said. “The only thing worse than losing is to think that you’re going to win and then lose.”

He considers that prospect and mutters, almost involuntarily, “Oh, God.”

To talk with left-leaning Democrats in New Hope, San Francisco or Miami Beach, to drill deep into their id, is to stand at the intersection of Liberal and High Anxiety.

Right now, more than a few are having a these-polls-are-too-good-to-be-true, we-still-could-lose-this-election moment. Their consuming and possibly over-caffeinated worry is that their prayers and nightly phone calls to undecided voters in Toledo, Ohio, notwithstanding, Mr. Obama might fall short on Election Day.

To walk on Broadway, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is to feel their pain. “Oh, God, I’m optimistic, but I can’t look at the polls,” said Patricia Kuhlman, 54, nervously tapping her Obama/Biden ’08 button. “I’m a PBS/NPR kind of person, and, O.K., I do look at some polls.”

Ms. Kuhlman shakes her head and says, “If he doesn’t get this, I’ll be crying so hard.”

A young woman, Shana Rosen, walks by. She is from Denver and said she had told her boyfriend that their love life was on hold while she sweated out Mr. Obama’s performance in Colorado. Ask Lucy Slurzberg, an Upper West Side psychotherapist, how many of her liberal patients speak of their electoral fears during their sessions, and she answers: “Oh, only about 90 percent of them.”

Certainly, national and swing state polls suggest that Democrats might allow themselves a deep breath or two. But liberals are not inclined to relax, given the circumstances of their last two defeats. Hanging chad, the Supreme Court decisions, and Florida and Ohio’s electoral problems: it is a lifetime of agita to staunch Democrats. The prospect of success now comes scented with dread.

Conservatives, it must be said, are not immune from the worry vapors. Therapists report that Republicans are hyperventilating too. “Wealthy Republicans are very anxious about taxes,” Jamie Wasserman, a psychotherapist with a practice on the Upper West Side and in Montclair, N.J., said of her patients. “They are not pretending to vote for the black man.”

And in Ohio, evangelical radio stations feature pastors praying for God to help voters ignore these “awful” polls and vote his will.

Many liberal Democrats watch MSNBC, but some say it sounds too much like comfort food. CNN serves its election coverage with a stiff little chaser of doubt for Democrats, and many liberals say CNN and NPR are their regular evening companions. If they really want to rub the sore tooth of worry, they dial over to the “Obama’s radical friend Bill Ayers” channel, otherwise known as Fox News.

“Mostly I flip between CNN and MSNBC, but I go to Fox if I want to get enraged,” Mr. Downs said.

Richard Schrader, a senior staff member for a national environmental organization, lives in Amherst, Mass., where politics start liberal and traipse left. He is fairly liberal, but his neighbors worry that he does not worry nearly enough. “They wake up, drink that pot of coffee and hit the polling Web sites,” Mr. Schrader said. “Too much good news has to be a lie.”

Recently he sat down with a friend who was sweating about Minnesota.

“Minnesota?” Mr. Schrader told his friend. “What, are you kidding me? Obama’s up 14 points there.”

The friend shook his head sadly. Take off seven points for hidden racial animus. Subtract another five for polling error. It is down to two points, and that is within the margin of error in sampling, and that could mean Mr. Obama might be behind.

“It was perversely impressive,” Mr. Schrader said.

Another friend worries that every undecided voter will break for Mr. McCain, the Republican nominee. Mr. Schrader said, “I told him: ‘O.K., that will be the first time that has ever happened in American history, but sure.’ ”

Pre-election rituals are much the same, from Oberlin, Ohio, to San Francisco. Many liberals describe waking up in the predawn, padding to the kitchen, firing up the coffeemaker and logging on before the children wake up. Lisa Serizawa, 44, of San Francisco leaps from site to site, from national newspapers to one in Ohio to another in Pennsylvania, then a blur of CNN, polling sites, and whatever.

“I just want reassurance; or is it a heads-up?” Ms. Serizawa said. “I’m cautiously, cautiously optimistic. Though I worry: Am I going to be hurt again?”

Liberals are found in almost every corner of the United States, as are their conservative counterparts. But the tribe’s denser concentrations are along the ideological Interstate that runs from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina, to the Adams Morgan section of Washington, to Montclair, to Park Slope in Brooklyn, to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, to Cambridge, Mass., Burlington, Vt., and Ann Arbor, Mich., and so on until it reaches the Pacific.

And from those redoubts, how can one gauge what is going on in the fairly broad expanses of this nation that are not 94.3 percent liberal Democrat? Unfamiliarity spikes the anxiety.

“We live in a bubble,” Ms. Serizawa said. “I drove to Monterey recently, and I saw my first McCain placard ever.”

Some East Coast liberals deal with the uncertainty by volunteering to call undecided voters, in hopes that a half-hour talk with a voter in Missouri will stop the mind from yapping.

“It makes them less worried to phone the middle of the country,” said Ms. Wasserman, the psychotherapist. “Those who are anxious are becoming more so; some spend an entire session going on about what they heard on CNN.”

Still, it is not as though election is a psychiatric condition. Recent years have offered a bad run for many Democrats. The United States is fighting wars on two fronts. The global economy has pitched into recession, and many say the economic elevator has yet to reach the basement.

For many liberals, the chance to elect Mr. Obama, who would be the nation’s first black president, gives the United States a second chance to walk across the stage of world history. (Which also makes the possibility of his loss unspeakably more depressing; given his present lead in every poll, many liberals fear that race will explain any defeat.)

“The last two elections have been so disappointing, so disturbing,” said Paula Guarnaccia, an assistant dean at the University of Vermont. “The idea that we could now elect this impressive man as president, I guess it heightens the anxiety.”

And yet, sometimes, a poll, or five, can tease out a smile.

Ellen Beth Bellet, a tax lawyer in Miami and an ardent liberal, confesses to being electorally obsessed. (She recently vacationed with a friend who threatened to machine gun the hotel television if Ms. Bellet did not shut off CNN.)

But of late a curious calm has descended. “I wrote an e-mail to a friend and said, ‘I’m afraid to put this in writing, but I’m really excited about the way this is going,’ ” Ms. Bellet said.

Within minutes, the phone rang; her friend was very worried about Mr. Obama’s prospects. “Don’t say that!” the friend said. “No, no, no. What were you thinking? We can’t go there yet!”

    Obama Is Up, and Fans Fear That Jinxes It, NYT, 1.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/01/us/politics/01angst.html?hp






Presidential Candidates Enlist Marquee Names


November 1, 2008
The New York Times


“Celebrity” may have been a dirty word in the presidential race this summer, but as the campaign steams into its final four days, Democrats and Republicans are rolling out their boldface political names.

Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, has enlisted the help of former President Bill Clinton, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore. And on the Republican side, Senator John McCain will spice up a rally with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California.

At a rally Friday morning in Hanoverton, Ohio, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York, who has traveled with the Republican candidates from time to time this fall, mocked Mr. Obama’s tax proposals as a “flimflam” and praised Mr. McCain’s record of military service, saying the Republican nominee had fought for Americans “all his life.”

The appearances by party juggernauts come as both presidential campaigns race across battleground states, trying to rev their supporters and sway any lingering undecided voters before Election Day on Tuesday.

On Friday, the presidential candidates focused on the Midwest, appearing in Iowa, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania. Campaigning for Mr. Obama, Mr. Gore returned to Florida, the state that cost him the 2000 presidential election and which polls say in leaning toward Mr. Obama.

Mr. Gore and his wife, Tipper, were recruited to appear at rallies in West Palm Beach and nearby Pompano Beach on Friday. Mr. Clinton made his first joint campaign appearance with Mr. Obama at a rally outside Orlando on Wednesday night.

In West Palm Beach, Mr. Gore told a crowd that America’s problems with the economy, environment and foreign policy were all connected to its dependence on burning fossil fuels. He said Mr. Obama would invest in renewable energy, adding that “change is needed now more than it has ever been needed in the past.”

“We’re coming back,” he said. “The United States of America is coming back — not as Democrats and Republicans, not as red and blue, but we the people of the United States of American are coming back.”

In the meantime, Senator Barack Obama returned to Iowa, where a victory in the state’s caucuses nine months ago jump-started his candidacy, and warned voters to brace for a bruising final weekend of a long campaign.

“What you started here in Iowa has swept the nation,” Mr. Obama said as he opened a 96-hour push to the finish line. “A whole new way of doing democracy started right here in Iowa and it’s all across the country now.”

For his part, Mr. McCain was barreling through Ohio on Friday, with four scheduled stops across a state whose 20 electoral votes are considered crucial for a Republican victory. He ends the day in Columbus, where he is to appear with Mr. Schwarzenegger before flying to Williamsburg, Va. He plans to campaign in Virginia and Pennsylvania on Saturday, appear on “Saturday Night Live” that evening and make a final trip to New Hampshire on Sunday.

Mr. McCain also plans to appear at a rally in Miami on Sunday night before heading for a final seven-state sprint on Monday that will end late that evening in Prescott, Ariz.

At the rally in eastern Ohio on Friday where he appeared with Mr. Giuliani, Mr. McCain reprised his criticism of Mr. Obama’s tax plans and railed against corruption in Washington, alluding to Senator Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican who was found guilty on Monday of violating federal ethics laws. Mr. McCain has called on Mr. Stevens to step down.

“I will clean up this mess and make you proud again of the people who serve you,” Mr. McCain said at a rally.

His running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, is holding rallies in Pennsylvania, where Republicans are aggressively campaigning despite polls showing Mr. Obama ahead there as well as Ohio.

With four days left on the campaign trail, Ms. Palin has scheduled 10 campaign events in two days, a frenetic schedule reminiscent of the presidential (and vice-presidential) hopeful Mitt Romney.

Twice on Friday morning, at a rally in an airplane hangar, Ms. Palin was mid-sentence when a plane buzzed overheard, drowning out her words. She kept going.

“He’s known as not just the patriot in the Senate, he’s always been the maverick, willing to confront the problems and do something about them! That’s why he — ” Ms. Palin said, drawing hearty applause a few seconds later, even though it was not clear how the sentence ended.

It may be the final push in Pennsylvania for the Palin campaign, which in the next three days will visit Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada and Iowa. Late Monday night, Ms. Palin will fly to her hometown of Wasilla to cast her vote, and then join Mr. McCain in Phoenix on Election Night.

In conference calls Friday morning, each campaign offered a glimpse of their strategies in the closing days of the election.

“It’s going to be a ferocious four days,” David Plouffe, the campaign manager for Mr. Obama, told reporters as he announced the strategy to open a new advertising front against Senator McCain in three Republican-leaning states.

Mr. Plouffe said it was the rush of early voting — not hubris — that led the campaign to buy television advertising time in Georgia, North Dakota and Arizona. It is the Democratic ticket’s first foray into Arizona, the home state of Mr. McCain, but a return to Georgia and North Dakota, which initially were included in Mr. Obama’s list of 18 battleground states.

“If someone else had been the Republican nominee, I think Arizona would have been a core battleground,” Mr. Plouffe said, adding that new polling indicates the contest there could be “a very, very close race.”

As for Mr. McCain, his campaign pressed forward Friday morning with its argument that their own polls showed the race far closer than the public polls. Mr. McCain’s final theme, that Mr. Obama would raise taxes, was having an effect, the campaign said.

"We’re pretty jazzed up about what were seeing as movement in this election,” Mr. McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, told reporters in a morning conference call. He added that "we are witnessing, I believe, probably one of the greatest comebacks that you’ve seen since John McCain won the primary.”

Mr. McCain has been echoing that sentiment in rallies, saying he relishes being a campaign underdog. He told supporters on Friday morning, “We’re a few points down, but we’re coming back and we’re coming back strong my friends.”

Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting from Des Moines, Iowa, Julie Bosman from Latrobe, Pa., and Elisabeth Bumiller from Hanoverton, Ohio.

    Presidential Candidates Enlist Marquee Names, NYT, 1.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/01/us/politics/01campaignCND.html?hp






About New York

For U.S. Couple, Traveling 9,300 Miles to Vote Is Worth It


November 1, 2008
The New York Times


Before she left for the Bangalore airport on Tuesday, Susan Scott-Ker checked the mail one final time.


For nearly a month, she and her husband had been waiting for their New York State absentee ballots to arrive in India, where she has been working since the summer. A week ago, they realized that even if the ballots arrived before the election — a proposition that was growing more dubious by the minute — they had almost no chance of getting them back in time to be counted.

They had already called the American Consulate, to no avail, and had looked into hiring a round-trip courier service.

“We had a long talk about it,” Ms. Scott-Ker said. “We could go on holiday to a beach somewhere. Or we could come back here and vote. It was a long talk. We decided it was important to stand up and be counted.

“We bought the tickets that Friday, the 24th.”

On Tuesday evening, she and her husband caught a flight from Bangalore to New Delhi, about 1,100 miles. The next leg of the journey, 7,500 miles, took them to Chicago. By 5:30 on Wednesday morning, they had cleared immigration and customs at O’Hare International Airport, and flew the last 700 miles to La Guardia. Their journey of 9,300 miles had taken 22 hours.

It is possible for a traveler to go farther in one direction on earth — but not much. When all their expenses are counted, their trip will have cost them about $5,000, Ms. Scott-Ker said.

Experts say Americans are showing more interest and passion about this election than they have in nearly 50 years. But it is still likely that one-third of the eligible voters will not take part — much less spend two full days traveling around the world to do so.

For Ms. Scott-Ker, 45, a native of New Zealand, and her husband, who was born in Morocco, the votes they intend to cast on Tuesday in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan will be their first, ever. They became American citizens on Nov. 30, 2007.

“We became citizens so we could vote,” Ms. Scott-Ker said. “We’d lived here 13 years on green cards, paid lots of tax money, but you have no voice within the system.”

A few months after they were sworn in as citizens, Ms. Scott-Ker was transferred to Bangalore by her employer, Accenture, a management consulting, technology and outsourcing company, as its marketing director for India. She kept her eye on the election, filing the voter registration forms in August and getting the confirmation in early October. Then she discovered that an absentee ballot would require a separate application to the city Board of Elections.

“In this highly technological age and city, do we need to be mailing applications halfway around the world, just so you can get a piece of mail sent back to the same place?” Ms. Scott-Ker wondered aloud.

In a word, yes. So, she said, she followed the requirements “to the letter. I even provided an addressed envelope for the ballot to be sent back to us so it would be absolutely perfect, as it would have to have been for the India postal service.”

Still, no ballots came. The Board of Elections in Manhattan — its funding cut this year in a dispute with the mayor — has been laggard in sending out absentee ballots, officials say. Ms. Scott-Ker and her husband, a university instructor, knew nothing of that squabble.

“We realized we’re not going to get to vote, and we were all geared up to do this,” she said. “We thought, maybe a friend could get the ballots for us in Manhattan and have them couriered to India, and we could courier them back. There were so many ifs and buts. I didn’t want a bureaucratic process to get in the way of casting a ballot.”

Her determination is clear. Even so, was it really necessary to go to all that trouble to cast votes in New York State, where most polls give the Democratic ticket a lead of 30 percent or more?

“Then you’re relying on other people to do your job,” she said. “Apathy doesn’t work in a democracy.”

Soon after she got home, she heard on the news that people in some states said an incorrect vote was registered when they used a touch screen in early voting. She fretted that they might lose their votes in one final foul-up.

Not to worry, she was told, the voting machines in New York have been around since at least the early 1960s, and are in no immediate danger of being transformed into digital touch screens.

“I was looking online,” she said, “and as far as I could see, there’s no information about the actual mechanics of voting.”

She thought for a minute. She and her husband were determined to vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. “Is there a test we can take beforehand?” she asked. “We don’t want to squander our vote.”

For U.S. Couple, Traveling 9,300 Miles to Vote Is Worth It, NYT, 1.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/01/nyregion/01about.html




home Up