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President-elect Barack Obama shakes hands with Florida Governor Charlie Crist as Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich looks on during a bipartisan meeting

President-elect Barack Obama shakes hands with Florida Governor Charlie Crist as Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich looks on during a bipartisan meeting

On the heels of more grim unemployment news, President-elect Barack Obama yesterday offered the first glimpse of what would be the largest public works program since President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the federal interstate system in the 1950s.

Obama said the massive government spending program he proposes to lift the country out of economic recession will include a renewed effort to make public buildings energy-efficient, rebuild the nation’s highways, renovate aging schools and install computers in classrooms, extend high-speed Internet to underserved areas and modernize hospitals by giving them access to electronic medical records.

“We need to act with the urgency this moment demands to save or create at least 2 1/2 million jobs so that the nearly 2 million Americans who’ve lost them know that they have a future,” Obama said in his weekly address, broadcast on the radio and the Internet.

Obama offered few details and no cost estimate for the investment in public infrastructure. But it is intended to be part of a broader effort to stimulate economic activity that will also include tax cuts for middle-class Americans and direct aid to state governments to forestall layoffs as programs shrink.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has called for spending between $400 billion and $500 billion on the overall package. Some Senate Democrats and other economists have suggested spending even more — potentially $1 trillion — in the hope of jolting the economy into shape more quickly.

Read it all…

The gun lobby has long intimidated politicians with its war chest and its trumpeted ability to deliver single-issue voters, especially in tight races. After this year’s election, those politicians should be far less afraid and far more willing to vote for sensible gun-control laws.

The National Rifle Association directed much money and bile against Barack Obama. In false, misleading and, fortunately, ineffective ads, fliers, mailers and Web postings, the group said that Mr. Obama posed a “clear and present danger” to Second Amendment rights and that his election would mean a gun ban.

Despite that harsh barrage, Mr. Obama won states with heavy gun ownership, including Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. That success should send a signal to other politicians: consistency matters.

In fact, Mr. Obama has long been a supporter of the argument, disputed by this page, that the Second Amendment bestows an individual right to bear arms unrelated to raising a militia. But Mr. Obama did not abandon his support for reasonable gun-control laws. “Don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals,” he declared at the Democratic convention.

In Congressional races, the N.R.A. endorsed candidates in 20 of the 25 races where Democrats picked up seats from Republicans. We will not miss Florida’s Tom Feeney and Ric Keller, Idaho’s Bill Sali, Michigan’s Joe Knollenberg, Ohio’s Steve Chabot, Colorado’s Marilyn Musgrave and Pennsylvania’s Phil English — willing champions of an extreme agenda.

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On the Senate side, the N.R.A. spent considerable sums to help Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Bob Schaffer, the Republican Senate candidate in Colorado. Both were defeated.

And the N.R.A.’s poor showing was not just a single isolated event. A useful election analysis prepared by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence shows that its 2006 campaign effort also was a big flop.

We hope the trend continues. To fight crime and keep Americans safe, this country needs sound gun-control laws. To pass those laws as president, Mr. Obama will need strong Congressional support.

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Sen. Barack Obama picked up two key states that Sen. John McCain was hoping to switch from blue to red.

The Democrat is projected to win Pennsylvania (21 electoral votes) and New Hampshire (4 electoral votes).

New Hampshire was the state that resuscitated McCain’s chances last year, and helped propel him to the Republican nomination. He also won the state’s primary in 2000 against President Bush.

The current electoral vote tally:

Obama: 103
McCain: 34

Source: WSJ

11-5-2008-1-48-45-am

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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So has John McCain’s big play for Pennsylvania, where he’s hoping to poach 21 electoral votes out of the Democratic column, been paying off in the opinion polls?

The answer: Not in any way to speak of — even though McCain and Palin have have each visited the state many times in the last two weeks, and Palin is herself spending all of today there.

McCain’s own level of support has recovered somewhat from a deep hole he was in weeks ago — when the economic crisis hit, he was down by as much as 15 points — but his gains haven’t significantly weakened Barack Obama’s position. McCain has simply grabbed back some of his lost support from the undecided column, but Obama hasn’t actually lost much from what he gained during the same period.

The graph from Pollster.com illustrates the situation very clearly:

Only two polls in the last week, from Mason-Dixon and Strategic Vision (R), have put Obama below 50% support, while most others have him above that key level. For example, CNN has Obama up 55%-43%, and the local college Franklin & Marshall has him up 53%-40%.

Obama should still be expected to score a decent-sized victory here, unless the polls turn out to be drastically wrong or show a dramatic swing to McCain in the next few days.

Source: TPM

A new Politico/Insider Advantage survey finds he leads in four key counties, an advantage that could determine the winner of four vital swing states.

A new Politico/Insider Advantage survey finds he leads in four key counties, an advantage that could determine the winner of four vital swing states.

Sen. Barack Obama holds leads in four key counties that will go a long way toward determining the eventual winner in four important swing states—Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—according to a new Politico/Insider Advantage survey.

Obama is poised to expand on recent Democratic gains in three populous suburban counties—Pennsylvania’s Bucks County, Missouri’s St. Louis County and Virginia’s Prince William County. In a fourth, Ohio’s Franklin County, home to Columbus and its suburbs, the Politico/Insider Advantage survey also found Obama with the lead.

Read more here

Source: Politico

Senior members of the Republican party are in open mutiny against John McCain’s presidential campaign, after a disastrous period which has seen Barack Obama solidify his lead in the opinion polls.

And as disputes raged within the McCain camp yesterday, Democrats took another symbolic step towards healing the party after their bitter primary battles, as Bill and Hillary Clinton made their first joint appearance in support of Mr Obama.

From inside and outside his inner circle, Mr McCain is being told to settle on a coherent economic message and to tone down attacks on his rival which have sometimes whipped up a mob-like atmosphere at Republican rallies.

Two former rivals for the party nomination, Mitt Romney and Tommy Thompson, went on the record over the weekend about the disarray in the Republican camp. And a string of other senior party figures said Mr McCain’s erratic performance risks taking the party down to heavy losses not just in the presidential race but also in contests for Congressional seats. Mr Thompson, a former governor of the swing state of Wisconsin, said he thought Mr McCain, on his present trajectory, would lose the state, and he told a New York Times reporter he was not happy with the campaign. “I don’t know who is,” he added.

Mr McCain’s erratic performance risks taking the party down to heavy losses not just in the presidential race but also in contests for Congressional seats.

Some Republicans seeking election to Congress have begun distancing themselves from Mr McCain. In Nebraska, a Republican representative, Lee Terry, ran a newspaper ad featuring support from a woman who called herself an “Obama-Terry voter”.

The McCain camp was reportedly considering launching a new set of economic policies last night, on top of the plan for government purchases of mortgages which he unveiled in a surprise move at last week’s presidential debate. Possible options include temporary tax cuts on capital gains and dividends. Mr Romney said he should “stand above the tactical alternatives that are being considered and establish an economic vision that is able to convince the American people that he really knows how to strengthen the economy”.

With just over three weeks to go to election day, a new Reuters/Zogby tracking poll showed the Democratic candidate gaining momentum during the past week. From a two-point lead four days ago, the latest reading has Mr Obama up 6 points. A Gallup poll yesterday put him at plus-7 per cent.

The Clintons took to the stage yesterday in Scranton, a down-at-heel Pennsylvania town that has taken on outsize significance in the presidential election. The town, which has become symbolic of the decline of industrial America, was childhood home of Joe Biden, Mr Obama’s vice-presidential running mate, and is where Hillary Clinton’s father grew up and is buried.

“This is an all hands on deck election,” Mrs Clinton declared, adding that only a Democrat could put the interests of struggling working families at the centre of policy. John McCain sees the middle class as “not fundamental, but ornamental,” she said.

“This is an all hands on deck election,” Mrs Clinton declared, adding that only a Democrat could put the interests of struggling working families at the centre of policy. John McCain sees the middle class as “not fundamental, but ornamental,” she said.

Her husband praised Mr Obama as having the best ideas, best instincts and best team for the White House. However, he focused most of his speech on his wife and Mr Biden, and quickly disappeared for a campaign appearance in Virginia, raising eyebrows among those who worry he has still not fully reconciled himself to the Obama candidacy and is still smarting from the bitter reaction against his contributions to the primary race.

McCain campaign staffers lashed out at the media for focusing on a minority of supporters at some rallies in the past week who have gone beyond booing and hissing at Mr Obama’s name, and begun calling out “terrorist” and “kill him”.

Senior Republicans have sharply conflicting views about the direction the McCain campaign should take, with some arguing that their candidate has not hit Mr Obama hard enough on the shady associates from his past. The issue of the Rev Jeremiah Wright, Mr Obama’s former pastor, whose incendiary speeches about white racism almost derailed the Democrat’s primary race, should be brought back on to the table by Mr McCain, many are counselling. Mr McCain, however, has ruled that issue off-limits, for fear of being accused of playing a race card.

The Republican candidate appeared keen to cool the temperature at rallies over the weekend, at one point snatching the microphone from a woman in Minnesota who declared Mr Obama was an “Arab”. He chided her, and another man who said he was “scared” of an Obama presidency, and told a booing crowd to be respectful. “He is a decent family man, a citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues,” said Mr McCain.

McCain campaign staffers lashed out at the media for focusing on a minority of supporters at some rallies in the past week who have gone beyond booing and hissing at Mr Obama’s name, and begun calling out “terrorist” and “kill him”.

Reining in the party’s supporters may be harder. A minister delivering the invocation at a rally on Saturday asked Christians to pray for a McCain win. “There are millions of people around this world praying to their god – whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah – that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons,” said Arnold Conrad, the former pastor of Grace Evangelical Free Church in Davenport. Those comments earned a rebuke from a McCain spokesman, and both sides this weekend had to slap down supporters for stirring issues of religion and race.

The Obama campaign disassociated itself from comments by Democratic congressman John Lewis who compared Mr McCain to the late Alabama segregationist George Wallace. “Senator McCain and Governor Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division,” he said. “George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights.”

Source: Independent London

On the eve of the penultimate presidential debate, a new TIME/CNN poll shows John McCain still struggling in states won by George W. Bush in 2004, a sign that last week’s vice presidential debate had little effect on voter opinion.

In North Carolina, which Bush won by more than 12 percentage points in both 2000 and 2004, McCain and Obama are locked in a dead heat, with each candidate garnering the support of 49% of likely voters. In Indiana, which Bush won by 21 points in 2004 and 16 points in 2000, McCain maintains a slight 5 point lead over Obama, with 51% of likely voters, compared to Obama’s 46%.

In the crucial swing state of Ohio, which Bush won by slight margins in both 2000 and 2004, McCain trails Obama by 3 points, with the support of 47% of voters, compared to Obama’s 50%. Obama also holds a statistically significant 8 point lead over McCain in New Hampshire and a 5 point lead in Wisconsin, two states that Democrat John Kerry was able to win in 2004.

As a result of the new survey, CNN now considers New Hampshire and Wisconsin to be Obama-leaning states, after previously being considered tossups. North Carolina is now considered a tossup, after previously being categorized as a McCain-leaning state.

The polls were conducted between October 3 and 6, after last Thursday’s debate. They have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 to 4 percentage points.

Last week, the McCain campaign reacted to a polling downturn by shuttering its operation in the state of Michigan and redistributing staff to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Maine, where electoral votes are distributed by congressional district. In a conference call last week, Mike DuHaime, the McCain campaign’s political director, acknowledged that the national mood and Obama’s deep pockets had put previously solid Republican states like Indiana in play.

“I do think just the overall environment right now that we face is one of the worst environments for any Republican in probably 35 years,” DuHaime said. “Any time you have that, you have states move within that margin.”

After two grueling years, only two major events remain in the 2008 presidential campaign, a candidate town hall forum Tuesday in Tennessee, and a debate on October 15 in New York. In a nod to the dwindling window of opportunity, McCain again sharpened his attacks on Obama during a stump speech Monday in New Mexico, charging that Obama harbors a “back story” on every issue that needs to be explored.

“All people want to know is: What has this man ever actually accomplished in government? What does he plan for America?” McCain said. “In short: Who is the real Barack Obama? But ask such questions and all you get in response is another barrage of angry insults.”

Campaigning in North Carolina, Obama countered by charging that McCain and his aides were “gambling that they can distract you with smears rather than talk to you about substance.”

Source: TIME

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