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WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Lieberman will keep his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Committee despite hard feelings over his support for GOP nominee John McCain during the presidential campaign.

The Connecticut independent will lose a minor panel post as punishment for criticizing Obama this fall.

Lieberman’s colleagues in the Democratic caucus voted 42-13 Tuesday on a resolution condemning statements made by Lieberman during the campaign but allowing him to keep the Homeland Security Committee gavel. He loses an Environment and Public Works panel subcommittee chairmanship, however.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was very angry by Lieberman’s actions but that “we’re looking forward, we’re not looking back.”

Added Reid: “Is this a time when we walk out of here and say, ‘Boy, did we get even?'” said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Lieberman’s grasp on his chairmanship has gotten stronger since President-elect Barack Obama signaled to Democratic leaders that he’s not interested in punishing Lieberman for boosting McCain and criticizing Obama during the long campaign.

“This is the beginning of a new chapter, and I know that my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus were moved not only by the kind words that Senator Reid said about my longtime record, but by the appeal from President-elect Obama himself that the nation now unite to confront our very serious problems,” Lieberman said after the vote.

Anger toward Lieberman seems to have softened since Election Day, and Democrats didn’t want to drive him from the Democratic caucus by taking away his chairmanship and send the wrong signals as Obama takes office on a pledge to unite the country. Lieberman had indicated it would be unacceptable for him to lose his chairmanship.

Lieberman, who was Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore’s running mate in 2000, was re-elected in 2006 as an independent after losing his state’s Democratic primary. He remains a registered Democrat and aligns with the party inside the Senate.

“It’s time to unite our country,” said Lieberman supporter Ken Salazar, D-Colo.

On the other side were senators who feel that one requirement to be installed in a leadership position is party loyalty.

“To reward Senator Lieberman with a major committee chairmanship would be a slap in the face of millions of Americans who worked tirelessly for Barack Obama and who want to see real change in our country,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a statement Friday. “Appointing someone to a major post who led the opposition to everything we are fighting for is not ‘change we can believe in.'”

Source: AP

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Ronald A. Klain will be the VP-elect's chief of staff.

Ronald A. Klain will be the VP-elect's chief of staff.

Ronald A. Klain, former chief of staff and counselor to Vice President Al Gore, has accepted an offer to be chief of staff to Vice President-elect Joe Biden, Democratic officials said.

The position will put Klain, a seasoned political hand, at the heart of West Wing activity.

Biden, who has kept a low profile since Election Day, will head to the vice president’s official residence at the Naval Observatory at 5:15 p.m. Thursday for a private meeting with Vice President Cheney. Biden and his wife, Jill, will also receive a tour of the residence from Cheney and his wife, Lynne.

The appointment enhances the continuity between the two Democratic administrations. Veterans of the Clinton-Gore White House have been given top jobs in the Obama-Biden transition.

Biden decided some time ago to offer Klain the job, but Klain’s friends weren’t sure he would take it. But he accepted the offer Wednesday afternoon, the officials said.

Klain was part of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign policy and debate preparation staff, was Gore’s chief of staff during the 1996 reelection; and led debate preparation for Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid.

Klain, a key member of the Clinton-Gore legal team during the recount fight of 2000, was played by Kevin Spacey in the HBO movie “Recount.”

After the recount, Klain became a partner in the Washington office of the law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP.
National Journal wrote in 1997 that Klain “may have the best resume in town.”

From Klain’s official biography: “Prior to his appointment to the White House, Klain was the staff director for the Senate Democratic Leadership Committees, the chief of staff for Attorney General Janet Reno, associate counsel to President Clinton, and chief counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Judiciary. …

“Klain graduated summa cum laude from Georgetown University, and he obtained his juris doctor magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, winner of the Sears Prize, and a research assistant to Professor Laurence Tribe. For the 1987-1989 Supreme Court terms, Klain served as law clerk to Justice Byron R. White.”

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ANCHORAGE — Gov. Sarah Palin has returned to Alaska fully recast and amplified.

Adored by many national conservatives, Ms. Palin is a prospect for a presidential run in 2012, supporters say. Caricatured by opponents, she is a candidate for political oblivion, say others.

Regardless, Ms. Palin told reporters the day after Election Day, “This has been all positive for me.”

Alaska, too, has been recast and amplified in the 10 weeks since Ms. Palin soared to national prominence as the Republican nominee for vice president, and the process has not necessarily been all positive.

Oil prices, which provide the bulk of state revenue, were well over $100 a barrel in late August when Ms. Palin left to campaign with Senator John McCain. Now they are slumming south of $60 a barrel, below the level required to balance the state budget. Increased scrutiny of Ms. Palin’s time as governor often painted an unflattering portrait of her administration. Investigative news reports have portrayed Ms. Palin as being consumed with personal matters and vindictiveness, particularly in the controversy over the firing of her public safety commissioner in what has become known as Troopergate.

Many Democrats, her allies in passing key legislation to raise taxes on oil companies and spur development of a natural gas pipeline, are outraged by her partisan attacks on now President-elect Barack Obama and on the tactics of the McCain-Palin campaign here at home.

Within the state’s Republican establishment — never Ms. Palin’s comfort zone — there is tension over the fate of Senator Ted Stevens, who was convicted last month of failing to disclose gifts and free home renovations he received. Ms. Palin called on Mr. Stevens to resign even as state Republicans urged his re-election. A preliminary vote count suggests he could win a seventh full term.

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Even if Mr. Stevens wins, he could still be forced to resign, and Ms. Palin is widely viewed as a strong candidate to win his seat in the special election that would have to be held to replace him.

Ms. Palin has largely dodged questions about her long-term political future, and as she gets back to governing full time, few people know what to expect from her in the immediate future.

“She’s coming back to a whole different world from when she left,” said State Representative John Coghill, a Republican from North Pole who is chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee. “If she comes back with a puffed up ego there’s going to be problems. But if she comes back ready to work, that will be better.”

Ms. Palin, in an interview in her office on Friday, said she was ready to work.

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“Now we kick in that fiscal conservativeness that needs to be engaged, and we progress this state with $57-a-barrel oil,” Ms. Palin said. She said the state would have to “be prudent with public dollars and provide services more efficiently than have ever been provided in the state of Alaska before.”

The price and production of oil determines state finances: taxes on oil bring in about 85 percent of state revenue. To balance the budget for the 2008-9 fiscal year, the price of oil needs to average $74 over the 12 months, said Karen J. Rehfeld, director of the state office of management and budget. If it falls below that average, the state could have to make emergency cuts or dip into a reserve account that contains several billion dollars. High prices early in the fiscal year may help keep the average up this year, but next year is another matter.

Ms. Palin, first elected governor in 2006, has governed only in times of budget surpluses, and lawmakers said they had many questions about how she would lead now.

“I just don’t know what kind of philosophy she’s going to have when she comes back,” said State Representative John Harris, a Republican and the departing House speaker.

Noting that his chief of staff, John Bitney, was once the governor’s legislative director, Mr. Harris added, “We were just trying to figure out what kind of policy things the governor may want to address and we were kind of scratching our heads, because we don’t know.”

Mr. Harris was among several lawmakers who questioned whether Ms. Palin would spend the rest of her term, which ends in 2010, positioning herself to run for national office. Would she pursue a socially conservative agenda, promoting bills to restrict abortion or gay rights, issues she largely passed on in her first two years in office because she was trying to win support from Democrats on other issues? Would she move to the center? Would she continue to rail against “the old boy network,” stoking her reformist image at the expense of her fellow Republicans, whose party has been tarnished by corruption scandals, including that of Mr. Stevens?

Ms. Palin rejected the idea that she would be playing to a larger audience.

“My actions will continue to be first and foremost in good service to the state of Alaska,” she said in the interview.

But other than suggesting that cost cuts were to come, Ms. Palin did not hint at a broader agenda.

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The governor is due to submit her 2009-10 budget next month, and neither she nor her aides offered specifics about what it might contain. The McCain-Palin campaign portrayed Ms. Palin as an energy expert, and one top priority Ms. Palin expressed well before she was selected to run for the vice presidency was to improve energy sources for different parts of the state. That includes finding cheaper sources of energy for rural villages, which often rely on inefficient diesel power, as well as for cities like Fairbanks, the state’s second largest, where utilities rely on oil and coal.

The state also faces questions over issues like financing Medicaid, increasing mining in environmentally sensitive areas and spending on transportation projects, as well as the complex negotiations involved in trying to develop the gas pipeline with the cooperation of the same oil companies whose taxes Ms. Palin has raised.

Ms. Palin’s partisanship on the campaign trail may be what most surprised people at home.

“She’s coming back to a divided state, where Democrats had supported her but they watched her for two months call the president-elect of the United States a terrorist sympathizer,” said State Representative Les Gara, Democratic of Anchorage. “She called him a socialist.”

Her partisanship also surprised some conservative Republicans, who were accustomed to feeling ignored while Ms. Palin nurtured alliances with Democrats and moderate Republicans. Now, some Republicans who have been at odds with Ms. Palin in the past are wondering if her partisan tone on the campaign trail might mean they will have her ear more than before.

“It appears that way,” said Mr. Coghill, the Republican from North Pole. Mr. Coghill said Ms. Palin’s emphasis on socially conservative issues on the campaign trail has helped persuade him that now is the time to ask Ms. Palin to actively support a bill that would require minors seeking abortions to notify their parents in advance.

“There are some people in our caucus who are skeptical” that Ms. Palin might ally herself more with Republicans now, Mr. Coghill said. “But they’re willing to take the chance, to step up and play.”

Ms. Palin suggested in the interview that how she ran for vice president would not shape how she governs Alaska.

“If anybody wants to try to criticize and say, ‘Oh, all of a sudden she’s an obsessive partisan,’ they’re wrong,” she said.

But she did allow that she thinks beyond her current role.

“Around every corner is something new,” Ms. Palin said, “so I look forward to seeing what happens next. But for now, it’s great to be back in the governor’s office.”

nyt-logoprinter

img-bs-bottom-sarlin-mccains-mom_145111505480Says McCain’s mom no longer cares about election, and that McCain may die, but at least he’ll be president.

A grueling and bitter campaign has taken its toll on family morale, John McCain’s aunt, Rowena Willis, told The Daily Beast today in an exclusive interview.

According to the 96 year-old Willis, her twin sister, Roberta McCain, the candidate’s mother, has become resigned to her son’s electoral fate.

“She really doesn’t care,” Willis said of her 96-year old twin sister, who has campaigned for her son and recorded TV ads with him. “‘Let these bastards get in,’ she says, ‘I don’t give a damn anymore. If these people want to buy votes and get their people in office, let them suffer for it in the way of high taxes.’”

“I’m hoping he wins, for the country’s sake,” McCain’s aunt said. “I figure it will kill him, but he’s going to die one day anyway, so he might as well do it there.”

“I’m hoping he wins, for the country’s sake,” McCain’s aunt said. “I figure it will kill him, but he’s going to die one day anyway, so he might as well do it there.”

Willis has done her part for her nephew’s campaign, donating the maximum $2,300 to the candidate in June. Today she joined two nieces at 6:30 a.m. to go vote at a precinct on Larchmont Blvd. in Los Angeles, California, where she said turnout was unusually high.

“I waited an hour at least,” she said. “I’ve lived here 65 years and I’ve never seen lines like this.”

She said she had little patience for voters who complained about long lines at early voting stations that were open throughout the week in various states.

“I sat in line more than an hour today and I’m nearly 100. We should have one day of voting and if these people are too weak to vote, too bad,” she said.

In an interview earlier this month with The Daily Beast, Willis told me that McCain was losing. McCain’s mother told supporters at the time to “pray for a miracle,” and Willis said she was still praying for a victory for her beloved nephew, whom she described as “honest” and incorruptible.

“I sat in line more than an hour today and I’m nearly 100. We should have one day of voting and if these people are too weak to vote, too bad,” she said.

“I’m hoping he wins, for the country’s sake. I figure it will kill him, but he’s going to die one day anyway, so he might as well do it there,” she said, “But that man is honest—he has all the money in the world, he could do whatever he wants, even without his wife’s money, which he does not have; they keep it separate. He has a good pension from the Navy and my father was very rich.”

Sarah Palin also won high praise from Willis: “I think she’s marvelous. I don’t care how inexperienced she is or anything else—she’s been through a lot. She did vote against her party and she has cancelled a lot of those pork barrel requests in Alaska.”

As a mother of five, Willis said she was most concerned about how the election would impact the younger generations in her family.

“They will be broke with the Democrats in, with the number of people they will have to pay who have never paid a dollar of income tax in their life,” she said. “Our children will suffer.”

Source: The Daily Beast

Hoping to beat the rush, voters flocked to the polls early this morning only to find parking lots already packed, turnout high and long lines already snaking around the block as scattered voting problems were reported in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

In Virginia, reported problems were widespread, according to reports gathered by the Election Protection Coalition, a cooperative effort by more than dozen voting rights groups.

Voters said they encountered broken touch-screen machines and paper jams in the scanners that are supposed to read the ballots at polling places in Richmond, Alexandria, Newport News, Chesapeake, and Vienna. Polling places in Virginia Beach were not opened at 6 a.m. when they were supposed to be.

“They harangue us to vote and then they don’t have the capacity to handle us when we show up,” said a man standing with a cane in a two-hour line in Fairfax, Va.

Virginia election officials said three polling places opened late because of what she called “human error.” In some cases, voters came in from the rain and failed to properly dry their hands before touching their ballots, fouling the optical scanning machines.

In Pittsburgh, Pa., some lines were stretching several hundred voters long by 7 a.m. In Philadelphia, lines were equally long and at one polling place on in the east side of the city several voting machines were not working because there was no extension cord available to help them reach the electrical outlet.

Despite the scattered problems, most people held on, steadfast in their passion to vote, undeterred by rain, sore feet or the long waits.

Voting experts predicted a record turnout of 130 million voters, which would be the highest percentage turnout in a century. It could shatter the previous record of 123.5 million who cast ballots four years ago. If 64 percent of registered voters make their way to the polls, as some predict, it would be the highest percentage since 1908.

Florida Secretary of State Kurt A. Browning said the 1992 record of 83 percent turnout could be surpassed in his state. Pennsylvania officials believe as many as 80 percent of the state 8.75 million votes will show up at the polls, a record.

Lines and other problems began well before Election Day.

By Monday night, Election Protection Coalition received calls about more than 700 early voters in West Creek Community Center in Kansas City, who waited more than eight hours to cast their ballots. Lines for early voters in Atlanta left people waiting for nearly ten hours.

There were also reports of underhanded tactics. Several callers from Indiana, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland reported receiving automated phone calls with incorrect polling locations. Dozens of people in Colorado and New Jersey reported not receiving confirmation of their voter registrations or absentee ballots.

Yesterday alone, the hotline received more than 30,000 calls. Most were from voters in high population and swing states, including over 2,000 calls from Florida. The most common calls by far up until Election Day have been in regard to registration problems, followed by absentee ballot issues and polling place problems, which include extremely long lines.

Note: Video the Vote is a network of citizen journalists, independent filmmakers, and media professionals documenting voter problems at the polls. We will be posting links from them throughout the day.

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CNN International

TAMPA, Fla. — 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 he warned about his opponent’s intentions. “Sen. Obama is in the far left lane” of politics, he said. “He’s more liberal than a guy who calls himself a Socialist and that’s not easy.”

Republican running mate Sarah Palin was even 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.

Early voting, more than 29 million ballots cast in 30 states, suggested an advantage for Obama as well. Official statistics showed Democrats who have already voted outnumbered Republicans in North Carolina, Colorado, Florida and Iowa, all of which went for President Bush in 2004.

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.

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

Source: AP

WASHINGTON – In the final weekend of a long race for the White House, Barack Obama promised to heal America’s political divisions while rival John McCain fought to hold on to Republican-leaning states and pledged to score an upset.

For Obama, buoyed by record campaign donations and encouraging poll numbers, it was a time for soaring rhetoric and forays into Republican territory. “We have a righteous wind at our back,” the Democrat said Saturday.

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.

Obama campaigned Saturday in Nevada, Colorado and Missouri, all states that voted for President Bush four years ago, while McCain struggled to keep Virginia from voting for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1964.

McCain also made a quick sidetrip to New York City and an appearance on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” where he joked about his campaign and 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 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, campaigning in Colorado, pounced on the remark, saying McCain had earned the endorsement through supporting the Bush administration’s failed social and economic policies.

“Bush and Cheney have dug a deep hole,” Obama said. “Now they’re trying to hand the shovel to McCain.”

An Associated Press-Yahoo News national poll of likely voters showed Obama ahead, 51 to 43, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. McCain’s campaign says its internal polling shows the gap closing.

A lot is going wrong in this election, from malfunctioning electronic voting machines to voters being purged mistakenly from the rolls. But one thing is going very right: early voting. In the more than 30 states that allow early or no-excuse absentee voting, voters have been casting ballots in record numbers. Early voting has many advantages. The main one is that it makes it likely that more eligible voters will participate in democracy.

Election Day has traditionally been held on a single day — a Tuesday. Congress scheduled federal elections on Tuesdays because they worked well for farmers and Sabbath observers. But in the 21st century, having one day to vote is an antiquated relic. Voters have to fit in a visit to the polls with their work, family and other responsibilities. Many cannot find the time, particularly when lines are as long as they have been in recent times.

The answer, as many states have discovered, is to move away from a single day of voting and allow voters to cast ballots over a period of days or weeks. Voters across the country have responded enthusiastically. In Florida, more than one million people have already cast ballots at early voting centers, some waiting on lines for hours to do so. In Georgia, too, more than one million people already have voted, a big jump from the less than 500,000 people who voted early four years ago.

Some people are wary of early voting. As Susan Saulny reported in The Times on Wednesday, there are rumors in the African-American community in Jacksonville, Fla., that early voting is a scam and that the votes cast early would be discarded. Given Florida’s history with electoral mischief, some skepticism about election procedures is not only understandable, but necessary.

But the truth is that early voting actually makes it harder for the forces of disenfranchisement to stop eligible voters from casting ballots. If election officials try to require voters to present ID when it is not required by law, early voting gives voters a chance to simply return the next day. Dirty tricks are also harder to pull off. If political operatives want to jam get-out-the-vote telephone lines, as they did on Election Day in New Hampshire in 2002, it would be harder to do if people voted over two weeks.

Early voting also reduces the burden on election systems that are often stretched near to the breaking point. In 2004, voters waited in lines as long as 10 hours. And there is every indication that lines on Tuesday, in some places and at some times, will again be extraordinarily long. The more people who vote early, the fewer who will be lined up at the polls on Election Day.

Now that it is clear how successful the early-voting process has been, the states that have not adopted it — including New York — should do so. Congress should also mandate early voting for federal elections — ideally as part of a larger federal bill that would fix the wide array of problems with the electoral system. Today, the idea that all voting must occur in a 15-hour window, or less, on a single day is as outdated as a punch-card voting machine.

Still more ugliness and hostility on the campaign trail, courtesy of North Carolina’s Fayetville Observer:

    Someone slashed the tires of at least 30 vehicles parked outside the Crown Coliseum on Sunday during a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, authorities said.
    Sheriff’s deputies are investigating. The tires were cut while people were inside the Crown Coliseum listening to speeches, said Maj. E. Wright of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office…

    Sarah Revis, who lives on Wilkes Road, said the slashed tires left several women, including a single mother and a toddler, stranded and upset. At least four tow trucks were sent to move the vehicles from the Crown, Revis said.

    “This is an embarrassment to this city and to me as a citizen,” Revis said. “I’ve seen women out here crying and men cussing. This is a crying shame.”

It would require a pretty extensive effort to slash the tires of more than 30 vehicles.

Source: TPM