With two thirds of the day's polling in the field after Wednesday night's presidential debate, we're getting a clearer picture of where the race stands a little over two weeks from election day, and from te looks of it the race may be tightening a bit -- not a lot, but a bit. Barack Obama's average lead, which had been about 7 percentage points ahead of the debate, now stands at closer to 5.5 percentage points.
A few things to note about these overall numbers. First, Obama's lead is still significant, and John McCain is still having real difficulty climbing about 45 percent in national numbers. What's more, the electoral college actually looks worse for McCain than the popular vote spread. Second, it's been nearly a month since McCain has led in national polling. Finally, it's worth pointing out that although Gallup's likely voter numbers are tight, its polling among registered voters actually shows a larger lead for Obama than yesterday, with little movement over the last five days (Obama at 50 percent, plus or minus a point, and McCain at 42 percent or 43 percent).
One last note, along with a picture: 100,000 in St. Louis is a lot.
Having lost before the U.S. Supreme Court in a lawsuit involving the verification of new voter registrations, Republicans now are turning to the Ohio Supreme Court.
David Myhal, a Republican from New Albany, filed a lawsuit this afternoon asking the state's highest court to issue an order related to instances when new voter information doesn't match records in state or federal databases.
Specifically, the lawsuit asks the Ohio Supreme Court to require Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to order county elections boards not to count any absentee ballot from voters registered after Jan. 1 without first checking the statewide voter registration database to ensure there is no mismatch.
The lengths to which the Republicans will go in the hopes of delegitimizing the electoral process to suit their needs is remarkable, and would be surprising were it not a biennial ritual for them. Now the Obama campaign is not taking this sitting down, and has shown a determination to fight any GOP shenanigans, so although the Republican tactics are no doubt disappointing in the way that they reflect on the state of democracy in the United States, we need not excessively worry about the integrity of our elections. Nevertheless, what does it say about the Republican Party that every two years they try to cook up some cockamamie scheme to eke out a narrow electoral victory, whether it's through the creative use of Secretaries of State to make it more difficult for certain voters to make it to the polls, or through various lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions to achieve similar ends?
You have to give it up to the Obama campaign. They are not allowing themselves to be pushed around -- not by the McCain campaign, not by the Republican National Committee... not even by the Bush justice department. Here's Obama campaign counsel Bob Bauer on Countdown last night:
KEITH OLBERMANN: First, we're joined now by the general counsel to the Obama campaign, Bob Bauer, whose letter to General Mukasey we just quoted. Thank you for your time, tonight, sir.
BOB BAUER: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
OLBERMANN: Have we got this pretty much right? That youre essentially raising the possibility, asking for a prosecutor to determine whether the McCain campaign is essentially conspiring with the Republican National Committee, and in what would be a pretty crucial illegal part, with official government elements at the White House, at the Department of Justice, to create this phony experience of widespread voter fraud that wins itself to crackdowns that wind up suppressing only democratic votes?
BAUER: You have it right. You have it exactly right. I think it's important to put it in the broader context of the kind of negative, unprecedentedly vicious and negative campaign that the McCain-Palin campaign is currently running. Wherever you look, at every level you see the tactics they use. Now, this toxin entered in the justice department, not too long after the administration promised to clean up after the U.S. Attorney dismissal and scandals. What we are seeing here is Im afraid to say evidence that on another level, again, along with the robocalls and negative ads and all the negative activities, we now have legal tactics being used of a vicious nature, and they threaten to poison the Department of Justice and the impartial nature of the law. Were acting, Mukasey came to the department of justice to clean up after the attorney scandal to take the action necessary to remove this matter from frankly political hands and put them in independent hands. You pointed there's a prosecutor who could easily take this on and make it part of her expanded responsibilities.
OLBERMANN: Can you connect the dots for me. Explain how and why crackdowns on voting fraud would reduce Democratic votes disproportionately to Republican votes?
BAUER: Well, there's an attempt here at all phases of this campaign to smear. And this is a smear on voters. Its an attempt to discourage people from voting, to drive them away from the polls. And theres a variety of ways voters are discouraged and subject to these smears. You have to see it as part of the piece. Whether its the robocalls that even today, by the way, that Republican senator Susan Collins asked the McCain campaign to take down in the state of Maine, or the sleazy legal tactics repudiated today by an unanimous Ohio Supreme Court, or the senior justice department officials now engage apparently in colluding for partisan political purposes in violation of department policy. At every single one of these levels you see this behavior taking place. So, I think, now, with the report of these officials who you point out knew what they were doing was wrong, told the reporters what they were doing violated departmental policy. Its time for Attorney General Mukasey to do what other Republicans of good conscience and independents have done, which is to repudiate this negativity and start to entrust government to responsible people and politics, quite frankly, kept out of it.
OLBERMANN: What would the smoking gun be here, sir?
BAUER: Well, what you have is the newspaper article. By the way, less than 24 hours after John McCain thundered about vote fraud threatening the very fabric of our democracy, right there after, almost precisely as you would expect, the Republican National Committee and the McCain-Palin campaign to plot it, lo and behold, senior department officials admitting they were violating departmental policy announced an investigation of fraud was underway. This is an astonishing repeat of the kind of toxic intrusion of politics into the lawful administration of justice that we saw during the U.S. attorney scandal. We are seeing a repeat of that. As I said, Mukasey came to clean the department of justice out. He has a chance to purge this toxic from the system. The way to do that is take it to a special prosecutor. She would be in a position to investigate the coordination of the campaign, this illegal campaign, this disreputably negative campaign that the administration of justice. She would be in a position to collect information about who the officials were and we would begin hopefully to have government entrusted to people who would do their responsibility.
OLBERMANN: Bob Bauer, great thanks for explaining it to us tonight.
The Politico has a copy of Bauer's letter to the Bush Justice Department, for those interested in reading through it.
To reiterate the point I made above, the Obama campaign isn't going to let this election be stolen or delegitimized. They have put together a great organization of attorneys around the country who are going to be vigilant about ensuring that voters aren't turned away from the polls, and the campaign leadership is very committed to fighting the broader strategic battles over allowing voters to have their voices heard. Everything above is a testament to this. And speaking from personal experience, Bauer, with whom I worked this summer, understands the stakes and knows as much as anyone in politics today -- on either side of the aisle -- about combating any attempts to use the justice system to subvert the will of the voters.
The overall average from yesterday didn't move much at all to today (Barack Obama is up a quarter of a percentage point), so the first indications are that John McCain didn't get any of his much needed bounce from the third and final general election presidential debate. This, of course, is preliminary, and it remains to see if there is future movement.
In other polling, the Battleground tracker (.pdf) shows Obama up 49 percent to 45 percent.
Feel free to consider this a an open thread as well as a thread on the state of the race... What's on your mind?
Watching some of the cable news coverage following the final presidential debate, one might come away with the impression that choice is not an issue that voters care about this year. Why, they asked, would so much of the debate have been wasted discussing abortion? No matter that the fate of Roe v. Wade, and perhaps even privacy decisions before that, is on the line, and that more broadly that a win by John McCain could open the door to a return to 19th century jurisprudence (I'm not exaggerating here) -- choice, these pundits say, is not important to voters' decisions.
Yet there is reason to believe that these pundits are simply wrong. First, the assumption that all swing voters are like "Joe the plumber" is wholly spurious. Undecideds don't tend to be far right-wingers who vote in Republican primaries and don't think Social Security is a "joke." In fact, contrary to what you might infer from the focus on "Joe the plumber," not all swing voters are white men. Some are actually women who care about issues other than raising taxes on the very well-to-do, issues that include choice. Indeed, as Marc Ambinder reports, the issue during the debate that drew the most interest and investigation, according to Google searches, was not taxes and -- I know this is a shock -- not even "Joe the plumber," but rather Roe.
Google's Top Debate Spikes
Well, spike: it was Roe v Wade, according to Google.
Check out the magnitude of Roe searches as compared to the searches for, say, "Joe The Plumber."
Earlier this year, polling (.pdf) indicated that about half of the women supporting McCain held pro-choice positions, and a not insignificant portion of them -- about a quarter, in fact -- believed that McCain agreed with them. That's right, a good chunk of women supporters of McCain believed that he, like them, was pro-choice.
Of course McCain isn't, and were these voters to find that out, it might be difficult for McCain to bamboozle them into voting for an end to Roe. At the least, the confusion over McCain's position on the issue was likely one of the reasons why Roe was the top search term during the debate -- which undermines the notion that choice doesn't matter in this election.