Where The Real Voter Fraud Is

While Republicans make a lot of noise about ACORN, all we have to do is follow the warrants to find out which party is the one really committing voter fraud. The most notable case in recent years, the New Hampshire phone jamming scheme, led all the way to the Bush White House. Now we have had another arrest of a Republican. The Los Angeles Times reports:

The owner of a firm that the California Republican Party hired to register tens of thousands of voters this year was arrested in Ontario over the weekend on suspicion of voter registration fraud.

State and local investigators allege that Mark Jacoby fraudulently registered himself to vote at a childhood California address where he no longer lives so he would appear to meet the legal requirement that all signature gatherers be eligible to vote in California. His firm, Young Political Majors, or YPM, collects petition signatures and registers voters in California and other states.

Jacoby’s arrest by state investigators and the Ontario Police Department late Saturday came after dozens of voters said they were duped into registering as Republicans by people employed by YPM. The voters said YPM workers tricked them by saying they were signing a petition to toughen penalties against child molesters.

The firm was paid $7 to $12 for every Californian it registered as a member of the GOP.

This practice of paying to register people to vote leads to problems on both sides. People working for ACORN have signed up Mickey Mouse, the roster of the Dallas Cowboys, and other phony names in order to easily make a few bucks. These are cases of fraud against ACORN, not cases of ACORN or any Democrats trying to steal the election as the Republicans claim. It is one thing to register Mickey Mouse to vote. It would be an entirely different thing if Mickey Mouse were to show up to vote for Obama. Nobody expects that to happen. ACORN legally is required to turn in all the names which workers register, but they have also flagged many names which they were suspicious of. That hardly suggests ACORN is trying to sign up people to taper with election results.

The Theory of the Tightening Race

One meme we are hearing from all sides this year is that the polls are closing, and will do so up until the election (with some expressing skepticism). We see this in CNN’s report that the race might be tightening as Obama’s lead over Johm McCain is down to five points. We’ve also seen Gallup’s daily tracking poll used to show a tightening of the race, with McCain coming within six points on a rare day, within two points based upon one of their voting models. But wait, today Obama is back up by eleven points with just over two weeks to go.

Projecting a tightening in the race makes sense for all sides. Obama cannot assume a victory and must continue to fight as if the race were close, even if well positioned for a landslide. While nobody has come back from this far since we have had modern polling, it would make no sense for McCain to just give up when few would totally discount the possibility that somehow the race could be shook up again in the final two weeks. The media wants to call a close race to keep viewers interested for the same reason that sportscasters are reluctant to call a game over when there is any chance for a come back.

Not only is Obama back up by eleven in Gallup’s daily tracking poll, he also has extended his lead in McCain’s best case scenario. Polls of all registered voters are not totally predictive as they don’t take into account who will actually turn out to vote. Gallup has created two models this year to adjust their polling numbers. Their more traditional model “takes into account respondents’ history of voting as well as their current interest in the campaign and self-reported likelihood of voting.” McCain has been as close as two points by this measure.

While only being down by two points sounds like the we have a close race, the problem for McCain is that this is probably his best case scenario and he is still behind. It has been clear this year that people will be voting this year who have not voted before, with the vast majority voting for Obama. Obama also has an overwhelming advantage in money, which might help him extend his lead due to more money to spend on advertising, and will give him an advantage in getting out the vote on election day. There are few news days remaining and, regardless of whether Colin Powell will directly influence many voters by his endorsement, this story will dominate the news at very least through today, making it harder for McCain to pick up any ground. If Obama led by two points by this measure last week, odds are far greater that Obama could increase this lead than McCain could even pick up even two points. Making matters even more difficult, Obama extended his lead by this model to five points today.

As it is unrealistic to believe that only those who have voted in the past will vote this year, Gallup has a second model which “shows what would happen if turnout reflects voters’ self-reported likelihood of voting and campaign interest, but is not assumed to be dependent on their voting history.” Obama has extended his lead to nine points in this model.

Pundits assume that the race will tighten based upon past years, along with considering it unlikely one party could win by very much considering how close the past two elections have been. This could be the case, and Obama should act as if the race will tighten, but the advantages for Obama I mentioned above could also result in Obama pulling out a victory of around ten points, and possibly even more.

Obama also continues to lead in the state polls. Electoral-vote.com projects 364 electoral votes for Obama and 171 for McCain, with North Dakota’s three electoral votes too close to call. If the race were to tighten it is possible that some of the red states where Obama only has a small lead could go back to McMcCain, but there would have to be many states which change back for Obma to lose in the electoral college. As Obama has the money to spend in every state where he has any chance, it is also possible that some of the races where McCain only has a slight lead, such as Indiana and West Virginia, could go to Obama.

The Failure of the Socialist Smear

The smear tactics of the Republicans are not only failing to work this year, but are often backfiring against them. It is one thing for editorial comment, such as that I quoted in the previous post, to criticize the Republicans for such tactics. It is a far more serious thing for them when one of the more popular members of their own party, Colin Powell, criticizes the party on the same grounds, and when this becomes part of the narrative from the mainstream media.

I’ve frequently cited charges of socialism as one of the more absurd charges regularly used by right wingers. Members of the mainstream media are increasingly saying the same. Cokie Roberts mentioned that endorsements from Colin Powell to Warren Buffett discredit the charges of socialism in her weekly analysis  on NPR’s Morning Edition. First Read writes:

Obama as Karl Marx? Has the McCain campaign made a fundamental mistake in attack politics — don’t charge your opponent with something that doesn’t seem to pass the smell test beyond your base? This “socialist” charge is going to be hard for many middle-of-the-road voters to believe, particularly after Powell endorsed his candidacy. Saying Obama’s a “liberal,” well there are facts to back that up. But the socialist charge feels like an over-reach, and it may be falling on deaf ears. Of course, with the government getting so involved with our financial markets right now and McCain wanting to use federal money to buy up bad mortgages, it’s hard for McCain to back up his socialist charge since he wants a similar amount of government intervention. This has been a problem with many of McCain’s attacks on Obama — they over-reach. The “terrorist” stuff was not believable to a majority of voters; “questionable judgment” would have been an easier sell. Pushing negatives is a subtle business. Sledgehammers rarely work on the presidential level; it’s something to be saved for down-ballot races.

Saying that McCain’s attacks on Obama “over-reach” is an euphemism for saying they are lies.

Scaring the Voters

Michael Tomasky of The Guardian comments on the negative tone of the race, and how it is hurting John McCain. He makes the same comment I have made about Sarah Palin considering only parts of the country to be pro-America and explains it in terms of the right wing mind set:

This was especially interesting coming from a woman whose husband, Todd Palin, was until just six years ago an enrolled member of a rightwing fringe political party that wanted the state of Alaska to secede from the US. But if you understand rightwing logic, then you’d know that Mr Palin had no choice but to join the Alaska Independence party in 1995, because by that time the America he thought he knew and loved had been brought to ruin by the liberals and socialists and America-haters. See?

Tomasky, writing for a British audience, points out that they don’t have anything like the extremism of our right wing, using Michele Bachmann as an example:

This point was proved most dramatically by a woman named Michele Bachmann, a member of Congress from Minnesota. In an interview last Friday on Hardball, a leading US cable talk show, host Chris Matthews asked Bachmann whether Obama worried her. “Absolutely. I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views,” she said. He asked her what she thought distinguished liberal from hard left from anti-American. If she maintains such distinctions in her mind, she refused to acknowledge them. Then, finally, Matthews – who deftly fed her the rope to hang herself – asked her how many members of the US Congress held, in her view, anti-American views.

It’s been almost a two-year campaign. There have been moments we’ve thought of as memorable, only to see the tide of events erase their mark from the sand. Bachmann’s answer, however, will live imperishably: “What I would say – what I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating exposé and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think people would love to see an exposé like that.”

Before we go any further – who is this Bachmann? She’s a first-term backbencher from exurban Minneapolis who says the Lord told her to run for Congress. She declared herself “a fool for Christ” in 2006 when she announced her candidacy. By all accounts she’s down with the whole rightwing Christian package: immigrants bring disease and pestilence, homosexuals want to indoctrinate straight children, and so on. Republican leadership undoubtedly pushed her out on to television because she is, as you Brits say, a looker – at least by the standards of Congress.

The call for an investigation into the beliefs of every federal lawmaker, and an exposé of those found wanting in their patriotism, certainly takes us into deeply creepy territory. I would not call Bachmann herself a fascist. Odd as it sounds, to do so would be to grant her far too much credit. For one to embrace an -ism, even a repugnant one, one needs to have read a certain amount of history and political philosophy. Bachmann is just an idiot. She wouldn’t know Edmund Burke from Billie Burke (she played the good witch in the Wizard of Oz), and she obviously has no idea that, in her rejection of the two bedrock American principles of separation of church and state and freedom of thought, she is the one who is as anti-American as they come.

But friends, all is not darkness. Bachmann’s appearance caused a national uproar. Colin Powell, in endorsing Obama yesterday, said of Bachmann’s comments that “we have got to stop this kind of nonsense and pull ourselves together”. Her Democratic opponent raised nearly half a million dollars from around the country in just 24 hours, and he now has a chance of beating her.

That would be nice. But let’s go back to the big contest. With Bachmann, the lid came off the rightwing id. It will happen many more times over these next two weeks. McCain, now openly using the word “socialist” to describe Obama’s proposals (the week after his friend George W Bush took federal control of nine major banks!), and especially Palin have shown every sign of encouraging it. Their goal is to scare Americans about Obama, but moderate, independent voters might well decide that Obama looks a lot less scary than they do.

As I have been pointing out recently, the current right wing mind set is a resurrection of McCarthyism. The good news is that, after being scared into voting Republican by such tactics since Richard Nixon won in 1968, American voters are rejecting such right wing smears this year. Finally they are realizing that it is the right wing that they should have been scared of all along.

John McCain’s Speech At the Al Smith Dinner


Following is the transcript of John McCain’s comedy routine at the Al Smith Dinner in New York, October 16, 2008:

Thank you very much.

Thank you. Thank you very much, Your Excellency and Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Paterson, Senators Schumer and Clinton, Senator Obama, Al and Nan Smith, thank you all for the warm welcome.

It’s a privilege to be with all of you for the 63rd anniversary dinner of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation.

And this is a very distinguished and influential audience and as good a place as any to make a major announcement.

Events are moving fast in my campaign. And, yes, it’s true that this morning I dismissed my entire team of senior advisers. All of their positions will now be held by a man named “Joe the Plumber.”

Already — and already, my friends, my opponents have been subjecting Joe to their vicious attack machines. His veracity has been questioned by Barack Obama’s running mate Joe the six term senator.

He claims that this honest, hardworking small businessman could not possibly have enough income to face a tax increase under the Obama plan. What they don’t know — what they don’t know is “Joe the Plumber” recently signed a very lucrative contract with a wealthy couple to handle all the work on all seven of their houses.


Obama Roasts McCain at Al Smith Dinner


Following is the full transcript of Barack Obama roasting John McCain at the Al Smith Dinner in New York, October 16, 2008:

Thank you so much.

Thank you to Al and to Ann, to Your Eminence, to Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg, to Senator and Mrs. McCain, to my wonderful colleagues, Senators Clinton and Schumer, to all the distinguished guests. There is no other crowd in America that I’d rather be palling around with right now.

I’m sorry he couldn’t be here. I do send regards to my running mate, Joe Biden, or as Senator McCain noted, he now actually likes to be called Joe the Senator. I was thrilled to get this invitation and I feel right at home here because it’s often been said that I share the politics of Alfred E. Smith and the ears of Alfred E. Neumann.

But I have to say tonight’s venue isn’t really what I’m used to. I was originally told we’d be able to move this outdoors to Yankee Stadium, and — can somebody tell me what happened to the Greek Columns that I requested?

I do love the Waldorf-Astoria, though. You know, I hear that from the doorstep you can see all the way to the Russian tea room. It is an honor to be here with Al Smith. I obviously never knew your great grandfather, but from everything that Senator McCain has told me, the two of them had a great time together before Prohibition. So — wonderful stories.

The mayor of this great city, Michael Bloomberg, is here. The mayor recently announced some news — made some news by announcing he’s going to be rewriting the rules and running for a third term, which caused Bill Clinton to say, you can do that?

The president’s better half, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, is here. Glad to see you made it, Hillary. I’m glad to see that you made it because I heard Chuck Schumer actually tried to tell you that we really did move this event to Yankee Stadium.

But I’ll tell you all from personal experience, Hillary Clinton is one of the toughest and most formidable presidential candidates in history. She’s broken barriers. She’s inspired millions. She is the — she is the primary reason I have all this gray in my hair now. I am also glad to see that Senator Schumer is here, and I see that he’s brought some of his loved ones. Those would be the folks with the cameras and the notebooks in the back of the room.

Of course, I am especially honored to be here tonight with my distinguished opponent, Senator John McCain. I think it is a tribute to American democracy that with two weeks left in a hard-fought election, the two of us could come together and sit down at the same dinner table without preconditions.

Recently, one of John’s top advisers told the “Daily News” that if we keep talking about the economy, McCain’s going to lose. So, tonight I’d like to talk about the economy.