Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 6, 2012

Warren Beats Brown in MA

Senator Scott Brown conceded to Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts:

Elizabeth Warren won a hard-fought race for the Senate on Tuesday, recapturing for the Democrats the seat held for almost half a century by the late Edward M. Kennedy.

Cheers filled the hotel ballroom here where Ms. Warren was holding her victory party as word of her win came out.

Nearly three-fourths of voters in Massachusetts went to the polls on Tuesday, a turnout higher than the 3.1 million who voted in the 2008 presidential race.

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Senator Scott Brown conceded to Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts:

Elizabeth Warren won a hard-fought race for the Senate on Tuesday, recapturing for the Democrats the seat held for almost half a century by the late Edward M. Kennedy.

Cheers filled the hotel ballroom here where Ms. Warren was holding her victory party as word of her win came out.

Nearly three-fourths of voters in Massachusetts went to the polls on Tuesday, a turnout higher than the 3.1 million who voted in the 2008 presidential race.

If a liberal Republican like Brown couldn’t hold onto Massachusetts, it’s hard to imagine any Republican can. There’s not much good news for the GOP tonight, at least not yet — Senate candidate Richard Mourdock lost to Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly in Indiana, gaining Democrats another seat; Todd Akin lost to Senator Claire McCaskill in a race that was expected to be an easy win for the GOP before Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape”; and AP projected Josh Mandel lost his race to Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Republicans did pick up one Senate seat. NBC and CBS have called Nebraska for Republican Deb Fischer over former Sen. Bob Kerrey.

But overall, not a good trend for Republicans. It’s important to keep these races in mind if Romney’s loss is blamed on him being too moderate on social issues. Mourdock and Akin in particular are socially far to the right, and they still lost their races.

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There Goes Romney’s Plan B

Pennsylvania and Michigan were always longer-shots for Mitt Romney, but they were potential backup paths in case he lost the more likely route through Ohio or Iowa and a handful of other swing states. Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin have all been called for Obama, and Florida and Virginia (must-wins) are still too close to call. That means there’s a good chance it’s going to be a long night, and if Romney wins it’ll be down to the wire — no landslide for Republicans tonight.

Pennsylvania and Michigan were always longer-shots for Mitt Romney, but they were potential backup paths in case he lost the more likely route through Ohio or Iowa and a handful of other swing states. Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin have all been called for Obama, and Florida and Virginia (must-wins) are still too close to call. That means there’s a good chance it’s going to be a long night, and if Romney wins it’ll be down to the wire — no landslide for Republicans tonight.

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The Last Ditch of GOP Optimism

Conservatives have spent much of the last few weeks expressing skepticism about polls that showed President Obama winning the election. Democrats claimed this was merely a case of premature sour grapes. But that disbelief, which I shared, was rooted in a reasonable argument. Most polls showing Obama ahead had samples that showed an electorate that seemed to match the 2008 turnout model, in which the Democrats had a large advantage in partisan identification. It seemed highly unlikely that the Democrats could maintain that lead after four dispiriting years of the Obama administration. Surely, they reasoned, the partisan split would be a lot more even in 2012, and polls with more balanced samples showed Romney ahead.

Yet the exit polls currently being discussed on the networks’ elections coverage are showing a turnout model remarkably similar to 2008. That makes the polls look smart and those that staked their reputations on them — like the New York Times’s Nate Silver — even smarter.

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Conservatives have spent much of the last few weeks expressing skepticism about polls that showed President Obama winning the election. Democrats claimed this was merely a case of premature sour grapes. But that disbelief, which I shared, was rooted in a reasonable argument. Most polls showing Obama ahead had samples that showed an electorate that seemed to match the 2008 turnout model, in which the Democrats had a large advantage in partisan identification. It seemed highly unlikely that the Democrats could maintain that lead after four dispiriting years of the Obama administration. Surely, they reasoned, the partisan split would be a lot more even in 2012, and polls with more balanced samples showed Romney ahead.

Yet the exit polls currently being discussed on the networks’ elections coverage are showing a turnout model remarkably similar to 2008. That makes the polls look smart and those that staked their reputations on them — like the New York Times’s Nate Silver — even smarter.

But the only problem with this is that exit polls are notoriously inaccurate. They also tend to favor Democrats. If you don’t believe that truism, just ask President John Kerry, who believed the exit polls that said he won the 2004 election before President George W. Bush was re-elected.

But the question is how inaccurate the exit polls are this year. Even if they are off by a bit, if they are somewhat close to the actual totals, that is very bad news for Mitt Romney. While the night is still young, the last ditch of Republican optimism is based on disbelief in the exit polls. Like the skepticism about the pre-election polls, this is not an unreasonable position. But the exits are going to have to be off by a lot in order for Romney to be the next president.

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Live-Tweeting the Election

Tonight, the Commentary team is watching the election coverage along with all of our readers. As every exit poll, precinct and state reports, we’ll be tweeting our observations, reactions and predictions. We invite you to join us on Twitter and we’ll also be blogging here throughout the night. Follow us on Twitter here and read our most recent tweets below.

Tonight, the Commentary team is watching the election coverage along with all of our readers. As every exit poll, precinct and state reports, we’ll be tweeting our observations, reactions and predictions. We invite you to join us on Twitter and we’ll also be blogging here throughout the night. Follow us on Twitter here and read our most recent tweets below.

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Typical Christie: Gov Blasts Romney Aides

Chris Christie reacted with characteristic venom after hearing that some Republicans are blaming him for undermining Mitt Romney’s presidential hopes. The New Jersey governor blasted anonymous Romney aides who have complained that he hasn’t taken any time to campaign with the candidate since Hurricane Sandy struck. Christie denied that he had rejected an invitation to appear with Romney at a Sunday evening rally in Bucks County, Pennsylvania just across the river from his office in Trenton. He told reporters today the report in the Huffington Post that he had turned Romney down was untrue:

I told him: ‘Listen, Mitt, if the storm hits the way they think it’s going to, I’m off the campaign trail at least through Election Day.’” “He said: ‘Chris, do what you have to do. Do your job and don’t worry.’ All this noise is coming from know-nothing, disgruntled Romney staffers who are mad at the fact I said nice things about the president. That’s too bad for them.”

No one should blame Christie for devoting himself to his state in a time of crisis, and Romney’s reaction to this was entirely appropriate. But by responding to an anonymous report in his usual extravagant blowhard style, Christie only gave a little more life to a story that he would have done better to ignore.

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Chris Christie reacted with characteristic venom after hearing that some Republicans are blaming him for undermining Mitt Romney’s presidential hopes. The New Jersey governor blasted anonymous Romney aides who have complained that he hasn’t taken any time to campaign with the candidate since Hurricane Sandy struck. Christie denied that he had rejected an invitation to appear with Romney at a Sunday evening rally in Bucks County, Pennsylvania just across the river from his office in Trenton. He told reporters today the report in the Huffington Post that he had turned Romney down was untrue:

I told him: ‘Listen, Mitt, if the storm hits the way they think it’s going to, I’m off the campaign trail at least through Election Day.’” “He said: ‘Chris, do what you have to do. Do your job and don’t worry.’ All this noise is coming from know-nothing, disgruntled Romney staffers who are mad at the fact I said nice things about the president. That’s too bad for them.”

No one should blame Christie for devoting himself to his state in a time of crisis, and Romney’s reaction to this was entirely appropriate. But by responding to an anonymous report in his usual extravagant blowhard style, Christie only gave a little more life to a story that he would have done better to ignore.

This episode may be forgotten in a few minutes as the actual votes start getting counted. But if Christie is looking ahead to 2016, it is a now a given that some Republicans, whether fairly or not, are going to give him some of the blame him for Romney’s loss, if that’s what happens.

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Dems Setting Narrative to Explain Loss

Democrats have been setting their narrative for a possible Obama loss early the last several days, as reports of “conservative voting machines” circulated throughout the liberal blogosphere. I first heard about the conspiracy for Romney’s victory on Sunday night while on a panel with several New York City liberals. They assured me that because Mitt Romney’s son owns stock in companies that manufacture voting machines used in Ohio, the groundwork has been laid for a fraudulent Romney victory there. Surprisingly, one of the best sources for debunking the story comes from NPR:

This conspiracy centers on voting machines in Ohio, a key battleground in this election. A couple of Ohio counties use voting machines made by a company called Hart InterCivic. According to the rumor, Tagg Romney owns part of Hart. So, goes the story, Tagg Romney could fix the election.

It turns out there is no direct financial interest, but there’s an appearance of a tenuous connection. Tagg Romney’s private equity firm, Solamere Capital, is invested in another private equity firm called H.I.G. Capital. A little over a year ago, H.I.G. invested heavily in Hart and took over its board.

But according to a letter Hart’s CEO, Phillip Braithwaite, sent to elections officials around the country, “Solamere has absolutely no interest in the specific H.I.G. fund that has invested in Hart InterCivic.” Also according to this letter, Solamere is just one of 350 institutional investors in H.I.G. “Hart InterCivic has never had any contact of any kind with Solamere.”

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Democrats have been setting their narrative for a possible Obama loss early the last several days, as reports of “conservative voting machines” circulated throughout the liberal blogosphere. I first heard about the conspiracy for Romney’s victory on Sunday night while on a panel with several New York City liberals. They assured me that because Mitt Romney’s son owns stock in companies that manufacture voting machines used in Ohio, the groundwork has been laid for a fraudulent Romney victory there. Surprisingly, one of the best sources for debunking the story comes from NPR:

This conspiracy centers on voting machines in Ohio, a key battleground in this election. A couple of Ohio counties use voting machines made by a company called Hart InterCivic. According to the rumor, Tagg Romney owns part of Hart. So, goes the story, Tagg Romney could fix the election.

It turns out there is no direct financial interest, but there’s an appearance of a tenuous connection. Tagg Romney’s private equity firm, Solamere Capital, is invested in another private equity firm called H.I.G. Capital. A little over a year ago, H.I.G. invested heavily in Hart and took over its board.

But according to a letter Hart’s CEO, Phillip Braithwaite, sent to elections officials around the country, “Solamere has absolutely no interest in the specific H.I.G. fund that has invested in Hart InterCivic.” Also according to this letter, Solamere is just one of 350 institutional investors in H.I.G. “Hart InterCivic has never had any contact of any kind with Solamere.”

That said, several top executives at H.I.G. are what’s known as bundlers for the Romney campaign, according to a database created by USA Today using data from the Sunlight Foundation. That means they have raised tons of money for Romney. There are also three H.I.G. executives on the board of Hart InterCivic, and two of them have donated to Mitt Romney’s campaign (though one gave to both Romney and President Obama in the last election cycle).

These executives surely want their candidate to win, but could they make it happen by changing votes in Ohio?

“If somebody was doing something funny, believe me everybody would know,” says Sally Krisel, deputy director of elections in Hamilton County.

A second conspiracy comes from the aggregation site Reddit. One user posted a video of a broken voting machine. When the user selected Barack Obama and Joe Biden, the machine refused to register the choice, instead highlighting Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. The voter tried three times before contacting poll workers and the machine has since been taken offline. This has happened in other states as well, as faulty electronic machines registered the wrong selection when users chose their candidate.

There are other reports, less publicized by the mainstream media, from Ohio where voters were unable to initially cast a vote for Mitt Romney because the machines continued to register Barack Obama as their selection. Voters in North Carolina and Kansas have reported the problem as well, telling reporters that machines initially refused to allow ballots to be cast for Romney before machines were re-calibrated. The RNC’s lawyers have already sent a letter to six secretaries of state to ensure that electronic voting machines were properly calibrated in order to avoid further mix-ups. 

Democrats are already in damage-control mode, trying to convince themselves and their supporters that the only path to a Romney/Ryan victory is through fraud alone. This morning, the DNC’s former chairman and presidential candidate Howard Dean told Morning Joe, “Given the vote and the leading in the polls in Ohio, the only way [Obama] can lose is if people are prevented from casting their ballots. Either by voting machines that aren’t functioning right or other forms of harassment.”

There are serious concerns about possible voter intimidation in Philadelphia, and today Jonathan wrote about courts having to intervene in some cases to ensure GOP poll watchers would be allowed in precincts that they were denied entry to or ejected from. Democratic theories about secret right-wing conspiracies to rig voting machines, however, show just how desperately they appear to be trying to explain away a fair and legal possible Romney victory. If liberals really were as confident as Nate Silver assures them they should be, this hysterical story wouldn’t be making the rounds.

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Unions Boosting Obama in Ohio?

Politico reports on a new AFL-CIO (I know, I know) poll, which finds Obama up five percentage points with union voters compared to 2008. Alexander Burns writes: “If Obama wins reelection tonight, much of the postgame will focus on his suport (sic) among nonwhite voters, but his edge in the Electoral College has also long depended on overperforming with Ohio whites. The union vote is a big, big part of that — not only in Ohio, but also in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere.”

From the poll:

By a 41-point margin, Ohio union members are voting for President Obama (70%) over Mitt Romney (29%) in the presidential race. The early vote among Ohio union members tilts even more heavily in President Obama’s favor (79% to 21%).

Obama’s support among Ohio union members has increased by five percentage points since 2008. Our Election Night and post-election polling in 2008 showed Obama winning 65% of the Ohio union vote, so even accounting for each poll’s margin of error, Obama currently is performing at least as well among Ohio members, if not better, than he did in 2008.

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Politico reports on a new AFL-CIO (I know, I know) poll, which finds Obama up five percentage points with union voters compared to 2008. Alexander Burns writes: “If Obama wins reelection tonight, much of the postgame will focus on his suport (sic) among nonwhite voters, but his edge in the Electoral College has also long depended on overperforming with Ohio whites. The union vote is a big, big part of that — not only in Ohio, but also in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere.”

From the poll:

By a 41-point margin, Ohio union members are voting for President Obama (70%) over Mitt Romney (29%) in the presidential race. The early vote among Ohio union members tilts even more heavily in President Obama’s favor (79% to 21%).

Obama’s support among Ohio union members has increased by five percentage points since 2008. Our Election Night and post-election polling in 2008 showed Obama winning 65% of the Ohio union vote, so even accounting for each poll’s margin of error, Obama currently is performing at least as well among Ohio members, if not better, than he did in 2008.

What goes unmentioned is how much union membership has shrunk since Obama took office. In Ohio alone, the rolls dropped by 10 percent between 2008 and 2011 — from 716,000 members to 647,000. That doesn’t even include any drop that took place over the past year, since those numbers aren’t available yet on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

Looking at the swing states beyond Ohio, those numbers aren’t much better. As the Christian Science Monitor reported over the summer:

Since Obama took office, the numbers for union membership have shrunk. Nationally between 2008 and 2011, public and private union membership dropped by 3.3 percent. The numbers in the Midwest are more dramatic: a 14.5 percent slide in Wisconsin, 13.9 percent in Indiana, 12.9 in Michigan, 9.7 in Ohio, 8.1 in Pennsylvania, and 6.7 in Illinois, according to UnionStats.com.

So while Obama’s numbers may be up slightly with union members, there are also fewer of them out there. That means fewer feet on the ground for the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote efforts (which unions often assist with) and fewer voters forced to listen to pro-Democrat propaganda as a consequence of their union membership.

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U.S. Election Disappoints Western Europe

Much has been discussed throughout the election season about the two presidential candidates’ European preferences: Barack Obama has always been more comfortable with Western Europe, while Mitt Romney made it a priority to emphasize the oft-forgotten NATO allies to the east. But perhaps no one underscores the wisdom of Romney’s approach better than A.A. Gill–though unintentionally.

Gill, writing from London, takes to the pages of the New York Times to lecture America on Europe’s lost love for Obama. They had such high hopes for the worldly leftist. But Gill unwittingly demonstrates why Obama was leading much of the pre-election polling, despite presiding over an unpopular first term and sluggish economy: Obama was smart enough not to do what Western Europeans wanted him to do. It’s not a bad road map, ironically, for how to win a U.S. presidential election. Here’s Gill on the breaking of European hearts:

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Much has been discussed throughout the election season about the two presidential candidates’ European preferences: Barack Obama has always been more comfortable with Western Europe, while Mitt Romney made it a priority to emphasize the oft-forgotten NATO allies to the east. But perhaps no one underscores the wisdom of Romney’s approach better than A.A. Gill–though unintentionally.

Gill, writing from London, takes to the pages of the New York Times to lecture America on Europe’s lost love for Obama. They had such high hopes for the worldly leftist. But Gill unwittingly demonstrates why Obama was leading much of the pre-election polling, despite presiding over an unpopular first term and sluggish economy: Obama was smart enough not to do what Western Europeans wanted him to do. It’s not a bad road map, ironically, for how to win a U.S. presidential election. Here’s Gill on the breaking of European hearts:

Then it happened. It, meaning nothing. The first thing that didn’t happen was the closing of the prison at Guantánamo Bay. Then, the cessation of drone strikes didn’t happen. Then, any serious movement on the Palestinian question or the attempt to curb the bellicosely right-wing Israeli government didn’t happen.

I think Gill is being unfair to Obama. Let’s give the president due credit: he tried to make some of the mistakes and blunders Gill was hoping for. But you can imagine how difficult it would be for the president to run for reelection if he were fighting hard for Gill’s support. Obama has had enough trouble already because of his inexperienced bungling in the Middle East and his bizarrely belligerent treatment of Benjamin Netanyahu. But Gill wanted more, somehow. Gill–speaking for Western Europe, apparently–wanted public humiliation and suffering from the Israeli prime minister.

Obama also wanted to close Guantanamo Bay, before he learned a bit about the facility and its inmates. And the drones? They’ve been effective, and hey–Obama wants a second term.

Gill despairs at how conservative and right-wing the American Democrats are, comparable to Europe’s conservatives and Christian Democrats, he says. Where is the real left wing, he asks? He explains that “the absence of any sort of electable socialist movement in America is a constant subject of incomprehension.”

Then, he really lays on the guilt trip:

But the idea that a democratic president could want to disengage with the rest of the world and to retreat to fortress America, to pull up the drawbridge on a messy world, is the most inexplicably wounding thing of all. Meanwhile, the Republicans would want to get involved with the rest of us only to lay down the law and protect American interests and biblical Israel.

Imagine that. The American right only wants to keep some semblance of law and order, defend our allies, and–most unforgivably–protect our interests. It’s almost as if American politicians practice statecraft and behave as if they’ve been entrusted by their population with the protection and service of this great nation.

Who can Europeans trust, Gill pleads, to keep capitalism at bay and outsource American decision making to the pseudointellectuals of another country? No matter the outcome, Election Day in America must be difficult for someone like Gill, absorbing the quadrennial disappointment that, despite his great hope, the American electorate proves never to be quite foolish enough for him.

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CBS Controversy over Benghazi Interview Grows

A brief break from election news for an update on the growing controversy over CBS’s unearthed Obama interview about Benghazi. I wrote a longer post on this yesterday, but the basics are that CBS sat on footage from an Obama interview on September 12, when he declined point-blank to call Benghazi a terrorist attack shortly after his Rose Garden speech. CBS didn’t release this footage after the second debate–when it actually mattered–and instead, waited until two days before the election.

Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple rips into the network:

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A brief break from election news for an update on the growing controversy over CBS’s unearthed Obama interview about Benghazi. I wrote a longer post on this yesterday, but the basics are that CBS sat on footage from an Obama interview on September 12, when he declined point-blank to call Benghazi a terrorist attack shortly after his Rose Garden speech. CBS didn’t release this footage after the second debate–when it actually mattered–and instead, waited until two days before the election.

Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple rips into the network:

Had this clip embedded itself in the news cycle after the town-hall debate, the following would have happened:

1) CBS News would have reaped millions of page views;

2) Mitt Romney’s slip-up in the town-hall debate over this issue would no longer look like as a slip-up; it’d look like a quest for accountability;

3) Team Obama would have had to spend days responding to questions about the discrepancy between what he said in the town-hall debate and what he’d told Kroft; and

4.) After that town-hall debate, Romney pretty much dropped Libya as a talking point. In a strategic move much observed by pundits, he declined to pound away on the topic in the final presidential debate, which centered on foreign policy. Had CBS News released what it had on hand, perhaps Romney would have had charged ahead with a Libya message.

As Wemple writes, there is basically no logical reason why CBS wouldn’t release the video, other than bias or unparalleled levels of incompetence. Not only did CBS have a public responsibility to do so, it would have also benefited from the millions of page-views and the acknowledgement that it had a major scoop all the way back on September 12.

It’s not that CBS forgot about the interview, or didn’t realize it was important, either. On October 23, CBS reported on State Department emails that indicated the administration knew the attack was terrorism within hours. Obama’s “60 Minutes” interview was quoted in the article, but it was used to suggest the opposite of what the full interview shows:

The emails are just a few in what are likely a large number traded throughout the night. They are likely to become part of the ongoing political debate over whether the administration attempted to mislead in saying the assault was an outgrowth of a protest, rather than a planned attack by terrorists.

Fourteen hours after the attack, President Obama sat down with Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” for a previously scheduled interview and said he did not believe it was simply due to mob violence.

“You’re right that this is not a situation that was — exactly the same as what happened in Egypt and my suspicion is that there are folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start,” Mr. Obama said.

Yes, Obama said on September 12 that the Benghazi attack wasn’t “exactly the same” as what happened in Egypt. But he also refused to call it a terrorist attack when asked directly. Wouldn’t the second item have been a lot more relevant to the question at hand?

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The Importance of Projecting Non-Military Power

As we await election results, it is salutary to remember that, no matter who wins, the U.S. will face the same set of challenges—and we will have to address them with our existing governmental agencies and programs unless steps are taken to modify and improve what we currently have. In no area is this necessity more pressing than in our ability to project non-military power—to engage in political warfare, state-building, and related activities designed to shape the international environment in our favor without having to resort to the dispatch of large numbers of troops.

This is an especially compelling requirement in the greater Middle East, which is being reshaped by the Arab Spring. Although we tend to focus on the danger of jihadist takeovers—understandably so—in many ways the most common threat we actually face is state breakdown. In countries ranging from Mali and Libya to Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan, institutions have broken down and the U.S. and our allies are struggling to stand up some kind of bulwark against extremism. We are not doing a very good job of it, unfortunately.

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As we await election results, it is salutary to remember that, no matter who wins, the U.S. will face the same set of challenges—and we will have to address them with our existing governmental agencies and programs unless steps are taken to modify and improve what we currently have. In no area is this necessity more pressing than in our ability to project non-military power—to engage in political warfare, state-building, and related activities designed to shape the international environment in our favor without having to resort to the dispatch of large numbers of troops.

This is an especially compelling requirement in the greater Middle East, which is being reshaped by the Arab Spring. Although we tend to focus on the danger of jihadist takeovers—understandably so—in many ways the most common threat we actually face is state breakdown. In countries ranging from Mali and Libya to Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan, institutions have broken down and the U.S. and our allies are struggling to stand up some kind of bulwark against extremism. We are not doing a very good job of it, unfortunately.

A first step toward a better approach might be found in reading this thought-provoking essay by the Smith Richardson Foundation’s Nadia Schadlow. She argues for a “competitive engagement” strategy, which will mobilize civilian agencies to be more energetic and less lethargic by making them recognize that providing aid isn’t simply do-goodism—we are in a race with other states such as Iran and China and with stateless organizations such as al-Qaeda. If we don’t fill the vacuum, they will.

She argues for empowering organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy by giving them the kind of intelligence capabilities and the kind of freedom to act already enjoyed by the U.S. military. “America has tremendous, innate advantages in its political, economic and cultural instruments of power,” she writes. “But just as the military consistently hones its skills and constantly seeks to improve its instruments, so too must we improve our ability to use America’s non-military power, smartly.”

She has an excellent point that whoever controls the next administration would do well to ponder—and act upon.

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What Would an Ohio Recount Look Like?

At the New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin previews what a recount would look like in Ohio. Forget not having a clear winner tonight — if the election comes down to a dispute over a few thousand votes in Ohio, we might not have a clear winner until after Thanksgiving:

In recent elections, Ohio voters have cast about two hundred thousand provisional ballots in major statewide contests. (Voters cast provisional ballots when there is some question about whether they are entitled to vote. The provisional ballot kicks the issue of the validity of the ballot down the road.) This year, the number may well grow. …

So what happens with the provisional ballots? According to Ohio law, the eighty-eight counties in the state are not even allowed to start counting the provisional ballots for ten days. In the meantime, those who cast provisional ballots are allowed to submit evidence that their votes should count—they can, for example, show forms of identification that they might not have brought with them to the polls on November 6th. 

This scenario isn’t necessarily a long-shot, either. In 2008, Obama beat John McCain by 200,000 votes in Ohio. Based on the early voting numbers and polls that show Ohio as a statistical tie, that margin is likely to shrink this time around. According to Toobin, provisional ballots have tended to number around 200,000 in recent Ohio elections, and there’s reason to think that might be higher this year.

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At the New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin previews what a recount would look like in Ohio. Forget not having a clear winner tonight — if the election comes down to a dispute over a few thousand votes in Ohio, we might not have a clear winner until after Thanksgiving:

In recent elections, Ohio voters have cast about two hundred thousand provisional ballots in major statewide contests. (Voters cast provisional ballots when there is some question about whether they are entitled to vote. The provisional ballot kicks the issue of the validity of the ballot down the road.) This year, the number may well grow. …

So what happens with the provisional ballots? According to Ohio law, the eighty-eight counties in the state are not even allowed to start counting the provisional ballots for ten days. In the meantime, those who cast provisional ballots are allowed to submit evidence that their votes should count—they can, for example, show forms of identification that they might not have brought with them to the polls on November 6th. 

This scenario isn’t necessarily a long-shot, either. In 2008, Obama beat John McCain by 200,000 votes in Ohio. Based on the early voting numbers and polls that show Ohio as a statistical tie, that margin is likely to shrink this time around. According to Toobin, provisional ballots have tended to number around 200,000 in recent Ohio elections, and there’s reason to think that might be higher this year.

Here’s Toobin’s timeline:

On November 17th, the counties would begin counting the provisional ballots and conduct a canvass of all votes cast. This is called the official canvass, and it’s supposed to take ten days or less. The counties would report their totals to Ohio’s secretary of state, Jon Husted, who is a Republican. He would then determine if the candidates were within .25 per cent of each other—that is, a quarter of one per cent. If so, state law demands that he conduct a recount.

The recount, if it’s ordered, would probably take place in about five days.

That would bring us to December 1 — and that’s if everything goes smoothly. As we saw 12 years ago in Florida, there’s a lot of potential for things to go wrong. Toobin notes two other factors that could have an impact on the recount:

Two more points about recounts. First, control of the process is crucial. Republicans controlled Florida in 2000. Remember the secretary of state Katherine Harris? (If not, refresh your memory.) A partisan Republican like Husted in charge of the process is like an extra percentage point or two in the vote count. Likewise, in Florida, Governor Rick Scott directs a team of loyal Republicans in supervising the electoral process. In short, no one in state government in either state will be cutting Obama any breaks.

Second, passion matters. In recounts, the side that wants to win the most usually does. (Jay Weiner also makes this point in his excellent book on the 2008 recount in the Minnesota Senate race, “This Is Not Florida.”)

In Florida, in 2000, James Baker III lead a coördinated political, media, and legal effort that swamped the threadbare Gore forces, who were led, timidly, by Warren Christopher.

Don’t expect either side to be caught off-guard this year. Both the Romney and Obama campaigns are already lawyered up and ready for this. And the fact that Ohio has a Republican secretary of state is sure to be included in any media and political campaign Team Obama would launch in the event of a recount. If you think the race has been nasty so far, just imagine how much worse it would get under a recount scenario.

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It’s Now Public: Editors Rejigger Polls

With the poll-obsessed talk of the past six months, those who raise questions about problems with them are often subjected to scorn and derision on the grounds that they are simply objecting to surveys whose results they don’t like.

The objection is beside the point; who else but someone who is unhappy with a poll’s result would bother to raise the hood and look at the engine and see where it might be busted?

The leading objection raised this year is to polls whose findings suggest a more Democratic turnout in states than is likely to be the case. I go into that in a column today in the New York Post. 

A stunning tale today in the Salt Lake Tribune, however, reveals the dirty little secret of polls paid for by the media. The results are, in effect, owned by the media, and the media can insist that they be rejiggered.

The Tribune published a poll done by the respected Mason-Dixon firm that showed a 10-point lead for the county’s Republican candidate for mayor. The poll was released on Thursday. Later, editors for the paper objected to the results on the grounds that the poll had an insufficient number of Democrats in its sample:

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With the poll-obsessed talk of the past six months, those who raise questions about problems with them are often subjected to scorn and derision on the grounds that they are simply objecting to surveys whose results they don’t like.

The objection is beside the point; who else but someone who is unhappy with a poll’s result would bother to raise the hood and look at the engine and see where it might be busted?

The leading objection raised this year is to polls whose findings suggest a more Democratic turnout in states than is likely to be the case. I go into that in a column today in the New York Post. 

A stunning tale today in the Salt Lake Tribune, however, reveals the dirty little secret of polls paid for by the media. The results are, in effect, owned by the media, and the media can insist that they be rejiggered.

The Tribune published a poll done by the respected Mason-Dixon firm that showed a 10-point lead for the county’s Republican candidate for mayor. The poll was released on Thursday. Later, editors for the paper objected to the results on the grounds that the poll had an insufficient number of Democrats in its sample:

Tribune editor Nancy Conway acknowledged the problem.

“We are as concerned about this as anyone,” she said Monday. “As soon as we understood there was a problem we worked to correct it.

“We had no reason to doubt the poll until we saw others conducted over the same period and could see differences in the numbers. That raised questions,” Conway said. “We contacted our pollster who did additional research on Salt Lake County demographics and found there was indeed a flaw.

“We knew right then that we needed to correct our mistake and that’s what we are doing,” Conway said.

And so it was done, as the story explains.

The Salt Lake Tribune does not appear to have endorsed a candidate in the mayoral race, but it is a liberal paper in a conservative state that earned headlines nationwide for endorsing Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. So perhaps one can presume its editors favor the Democrat.

To recap: A newspaper pays for a poll. It doesn’t like the look of the results. So it asks the pollster to reexamine them and alter them by changing his “weights.” He does so; he may agree with the call (as the Mason Dixon pollster says he does in the story) or he may be simply serving the interests of his paying client.

And it will do so based on the partisan split—the very controversy that is dismissed so cavalierly by media types.

We only know about this one because of the highly unusual circumstances of its revision. The question you have to ask yourself now is: How many times does this happen before a poll is published

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What’s Behind the GOP’s Continuing Trouble Wooing Latino Voters?

When it comes to identity politics, the Obama White House’s “war on women” has dominated the conversation. But the significance of the women’s vote, in terms of demographics, is still generally overshadowed by the minority/white vote split. As Ronald Brownstein writes, President Obama needs about an 80/40 distribution to win reelection: 80 percent of minorities and 40 percent of white voters. And as Ruy Teixeira notes here, the Hispanic share of the vote has grown since the 2008 presidential election. Which is why polls showing a massive Latino preference for the Democratic ticket have Republicans nervous about more than just this one election.

But outreach to the Latino community presents its own problems. First of all, Republicans, and especially conservatives, are comfortable with identity politics when it comes to cultural divides and religious issues, but exceedingly uncomfortable when it comes to race or ethnicity. But more importantly, the GOP’s ability to attract Latino voters on the issues is often overstated, and presents something of a mirage. Take this recent poll of Latino voters, released about a week ago. It shows Obama getting 73 percent of the Latino vote, not because of immigration (an issue in which Obama has almost no interest), but because of the economy–exactly where Republicans thought they could make gains:

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When it comes to identity politics, the Obama White House’s “war on women” has dominated the conversation. But the significance of the women’s vote, in terms of demographics, is still generally overshadowed by the minority/white vote split. As Ronald Brownstein writes, President Obama needs about an 80/40 distribution to win reelection: 80 percent of minorities and 40 percent of white voters. And as Ruy Teixeira notes here, the Hispanic share of the vote has grown since the 2008 presidential election. Which is why polls showing a massive Latino preference for the Democratic ticket have Republicans nervous about more than just this one election.

But outreach to the Latino community presents its own problems. First of all, Republicans, and especially conservatives, are comfortable with identity politics when it comes to cultural divides and religious issues, but exceedingly uncomfortable when it comes to race or ethnicity. But more importantly, the GOP’s ability to attract Latino voters on the issues is often overstated, and presents something of a mirage. Take this recent poll of Latino voters, released about a week ago. It shows Obama getting 73 percent of the Latino vote, not because of immigration (an issue in which Obama has almost no interest), but because of the economy–exactly where Republicans thought they could make gains:

On many issues, a large percentage of Latino voters feel it makes no difference whether Obama or Romney wins.  For example, regarding the prospect of immigration reform, while 52% think chances are better under an Obama presidency, 37% of Latino voters say it makes no difference if Obama wins, the prospects will not change. Regarding the degree of compromise and cooperation in the Congress, 45% of Latino voters say a second Obama term would not improve cooperation in Congress, and 43% a Romney presidency would make no difference….

For the ten weeks the impreMedia-Latino Decisions poll has been taken the most important issue for Latinos consistently has been the economy and the latest release revealed that Romney and the Republican party have been unable to convince Latino voters that they will be better at improving the it.  Seventy-three percent of Latino voters trust Obama and the Democrats to make the right decisions to improve the economy compared to only 18% that trust Romney and the Republicans.

Those are easy numbers to interpret: 73 percent trust Obama on the economy, and 73 percent say they’re voting for Obama. Republicans are right that the economy is an important–sometimes the most important–issue to Latino voters, just as it is to most of the country, especially at a time of high unemployment.

This poses a challenge to Republican “outreach” to Hispanic voters. There is almost surely some ground to make up by taking a more welcoming stance on immigration, such as the one that hurt Rick Perry in the Republican primary debates. Perry’s position, and that of many Republicans, has the advantage of also being the stronger economic argument as well. And whatever a particular politician’s stance on immigration, much of the harsh rhetoric about immigration is gratuitous and counterproductive anyway–a nation of immigrants likes to think of itself that way, and immigrants and their descendants often want to keep the door open behind them for others as well.

But outside of immigration, the GOP has more of an uphill climb with Latino voters than many of those advocating better outreach seem willing to admit. The social conservatism of Latino immigrants, like the social conservatism of many in the black community, does not seem to motivate them to pull the lever for the Republican Party candidates. The economy, then, would seem to be the logical issue on which to conduct this outreach. After all, many immigrants came to this country for economic opportunity to begin with, and as immigrant communities become more settled and economically successful, they often vote more conservatively as well. (The Jewish community is, of course, the exception that proves the rule.)

While I imagine having conservative proponents of the right’s economic opportunity agenda, like the extraordinarily charismatic Susana Martinez, would help get that message across, right now Latino voters simply prefer the left’s economic programs. Again, one could argue that this immigrant group will, like the others, move rightward over time. And of course the outreach to Latino voters makes sense anyway. But for those who argue that the GOP’s outreach this cycle has been severely lacking, the question arises: Excluding immigration, what else could have been done to sway the vote? Polling seems to suggest an answer conservatives probably don’t want to hear.

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No Vote Fraud? Court Intervenes in Philly

We’ve spent most of the year listening to Democrats and liberals lecture the American people about how there is no such thing as vote fraud in the United States. The best response to these disingenuous arguments, which are intended to prevent the adoption of voter ID laws, could have been summed up in one word: Philadelphia. There may be other cities where electoral hijinks are far from unusual, but is there anything to match the long and not very honorable tradition of crooked elections in the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written and adopted? The city’s Democratic machine is a throwback to the Tammany Hall era of American politics that has vanished in even most of our most corrupt urban areas, but which is still going strong in the City of Brotherly Love. While liberals claimed the Pennsylvania Republican Party pushed through a voter ID law in the state legislature in order to steal the election, the real motivation for the law’s passage — and for the fact that most Pennsylvanians approved of it — was in the well known propensity of Democrats to pile up majorities in Philadelphia that were more than a little suspicious.

The latest example of this practice came today as approximately 70 Republican poll watchers were either denied entry to Philadelphia precincts to observe the proceedings or were actually tossed out of voting sites. But the GOP went to court, and has already obtained a judicial order enabling their officials to do their jobs, with the assistance of sheriff’s deputies if necessary.

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We’ve spent most of the year listening to Democrats and liberals lecture the American people about how there is no such thing as vote fraud in the United States. The best response to these disingenuous arguments, which are intended to prevent the adoption of voter ID laws, could have been summed up in one word: Philadelphia. There may be other cities where electoral hijinks are far from unusual, but is there anything to match the long and not very honorable tradition of crooked elections in the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written and adopted? The city’s Democratic machine is a throwback to the Tammany Hall era of American politics that has vanished in even most of our most corrupt urban areas, but which is still going strong in the City of Brotherly Love. While liberals claimed the Pennsylvania Republican Party pushed through a voter ID law in the state legislature in order to steal the election, the real motivation for the law’s passage — and for the fact that most Pennsylvanians approved of it — was in the well known propensity of Democrats to pile up majorities in Philadelphia that were more than a little suspicious.

The latest example of this practice came today as approximately 70 Republican poll watchers were either denied entry to Philadelphia precincts to observe the proceedings or were actually tossed out of voting sites. But the GOP went to court, and has already obtained a judicial order enabling their officials to do their jobs, with the assistance of sheriff’s deputies if necessary.

To anyone who knows anything about Philadelphia politics, this is a familiar story. I have been told by a number of former Republican poll watchers that it is common practice for local Democrats, acting with the approval of election commission officials, to make sure that nobody from the GOP is able to inspect the voting machines or monitor whether those voting are legally entitled to a ballot. Yet, as Fox News reports, it is a little unusual for this many GOP officials to be physically restrained from doing their jobs.

Of course, not all poll watchers are unwelcome. In 2008, members of the New Black Panther Party patrolled a polling site armed with billy clubs–something that, unsurprisingly, the Obama Justice Department refused to classify as an act of voter intimidation. The Black Panthers are reportedly back today in Philadelphia doing the same thing, though this time they may be smart enough to rely on glowering looks rather than clubs to make sure no one votes the wrong way.

The irony here is that after months of claiming that Republicans were seeking to suppress the vote in the name of a bogus desire to prevent fraud, Philadelphia Democrats are back to their old tricks proving why voter ID laws and other measures to prevent criminal tampering with the vote are necessary.

After all, this is the town where the person who runs the City Commission that supervises elections openly campaigned for President Obama in the final days before the vote. Such brazen flouting of the proprieties is par for the course in Philadelphia, where complacency about corruption has always allowed the dominant party to do as it liked with little fear of being held accountable. Those who claim that there is no verified proof of voter fraud are able to do so because the police and the district attorney’s office have rarely been interested in kicking a political hornet’s nest that could embarrass the officials and the network of Democratic ward leaders and activists that keep the city’s political machine running.

It’s not likely that the GOP poll watchers will have much luck getting in to do their jobs, no matter what the courts say. And even if they do, their ejections have enabled precinct leaders enough time to do whatever it was they were hiding from the observers. The fact that the Democrats were so open in their contempt for the law shows just how much importance they place on being able to conduct their affairs without scrutiny in Philadelphia, where a large Democratic turnout is necessary in order to offset Republican gains elsewhere in Pennsylvania. However, the episode is just one more argument not just for voter ID laws, but also for a greater emphasis on preventing voter fraud in the future.

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Obama Camp to Supporters: Don’t Panic if Exit Polls Look Bad

Via Politicker, the Obama campaign is just oozing confidence heading into the home stretch:

In a conference call this afternoon, President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign had one central message for their supporters when Election Day arrives tomorrow: They should “keep calm,” even if they hear snippets of information favoring Republican Mitt Romney. …

The fear, she explained, was early numbers leaking before voters have finished going to the polls, creating unnecessary panic and pessimism among Democrats.

“Keep calm and tweet on,” Ms. Cutter said. “So, no matter what you hear tomorrow about turnout in Republican counties or exit polls, particularly early in the day, please remember and remind your readers that, because of early votes, we’re where we need to be to win….I don’t think there’s going to be official exits until the end of the day, but if things leak out that aren’t validated or weighted, please stay calm.”

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Via Politicker, the Obama campaign is just oozing confidence heading into the home stretch:

In a conference call this afternoon, President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign had one central message for their supporters when Election Day arrives tomorrow: They should “keep calm,” even if they hear snippets of information favoring Republican Mitt Romney. …

The fear, she explained, was early numbers leaking before voters have finished going to the polls, creating unnecessary panic and pessimism among Democrats.

“Keep calm and tweet on,” Ms. Cutter said. “So, no matter what you hear tomorrow about turnout in Republican counties or exit polls, particularly early in the day, please remember and remind your readers that, because of early votes, we’re where we need to be to win….I don’t think there’s going to be official exits until the end of the day, but if things leak out that aren’t validated or weighted, please stay calm.”

Exit polling is notoriously unreliable, so Cutter is actually giving good advice here. But as Erika Johnson points out, the early votes really don’t seem to have the Obama campaign where they “need to be” — and, based on Stephanie Cutter’s apparent concern about election day turnout, she knows it. Would a campaign that believed it was cruising on early votes really be this jittery about leaked exit polls? It sounds like they think the race is more of a toss-up than they’re letting on.

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Good Signs for Romney in Ohio Early Voting?

Breitbart flags this tweet from The Hotline’s Josh Kraushaar, which suggests good news for Mitt Romney in the Ohio early voting numbers:

Obama won Ohio in 2008 thanks to his strong early vote advantage. Whatever ground he loses to Romney in early voting, he’ll need to make up for with higher Election Day turnout. According to the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman, this could be a problem for Obama, based on the turnout trends since 2008:

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Breitbart flags this tweet from The Hotline’s Josh Kraushaar, which suggests good news for Mitt Romney in the Ohio early voting numbers:

Obama won Ohio in 2008 thanks to his strong early vote advantage. Whatever ground he loses to Romney in early voting, he’ll need to make up for with higher Election Day turnout. According to the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman, this could be a problem for Obama, based on the turnout trends since 2008:

We won’t know the actual early vote results until the polls close (the Gannett numbers from this appear to be inaccurate), but the latest indications are good for Romney. Keep in mind, if the early vote breakdown is very close or favors Romney, that’s also a sign of serious flaws in the state polls. Rasmussen’s Ohio poll yesterday had Obama leading Romney in the early vote by 23 points, and PPP’s had Obama up by 21.

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The Real Bellwether May Be Virginia

For most of the presidential campaign, the focus has been on Ohio. No Republican has ever won the presidency without the Buckeye State, and Barack Obama’s victory there was a crucial factor in determining the 2008 election. The two campaigns have not only poured millions into the battle there this year, but the candidates have also spent more time there than in any other state. Ohio will be crucial, but the real key to understanding whether Obama or Mitt Romney will win tonight may come in Virginia.

It will be difficult, but still possible, for Romney to win without Ohio. He can make up for a defeat there by taking other swing states, such as Colorado or Wisconsin, or by pulling an upset in Michigan or Pennsylvania. Yet the GOP cannot take back the White House without Virginia. Indeed, if after the polls close there at 7 p.m. (EST) tonight the numbers show Obama pilling up a huge lead in the D.C. suburbs, that will be a sign that the long election night most of us are anticipating may be a lot shorter than we thought. On the other hand, if Romney posts competitive totals in northern Virginia, that will be an indication not only that he can take back a state Obama won in 2008, but that the turnout figures there — and perhaps around the country — will conform more with GOP expectations than those of the Democrats. More than anything else mentioned by the pundits, this is the key to the election.

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For most of the presidential campaign, the focus has been on Ohio. No Republican has ever won the presidency without the Buckeye State, and Barack Obama’s victory there was a crucial factor in determining the 2008 election. The two campaigns have not only poured millions into the battle there this year, but the candidates have also spent more time there than in any other state. Ohio will be crucial, but the real key to understanding whether Obama or Mitt Romney will win tonight may come in Virginia.

It will be difficult, but still possible, for Romney to win without Ohio. He can make up for a defeat there by taking other swing states, such as Colorado or Wisconsin, or by pulling an upset in Michigan or Pennsylvania. Yet the GOP cannot take back the White House without Virginia. Indeed, if after the polls close there at 7 p.m. (EST) tonight the numbers show Obama pilling up a huge lead in the D.C. suburbs, that will be a sign that the long election night most of us are anticipating may be a lot shorter than we thought. On the other hand, if Romney posts competitive totals in northern Virginia, that will be an indication not only that he can take back a state Obama won in 2008, but that the turnout figures there — and perhaps around the country — will conform more with GOP expectations than those of the Democrats. More than anything else mentioned by the pundits, this is the key to the election.

For weeks, if not months, we’ve been discussing the main point of contention about the polls. Those surveys that were based on samples with far more respondents identifying themselves as Democrats than Republicans always showed the president leading the race. Those based on samples that had only a small Democratic edge or even were much better for Romney. Republicans have argued that there is no way Democrats could duplicate the massive advantage they enjoyed in 2008 when a wave of “hope and change” fervor elected Obama. But Democrats and liberal pundits claim that changes in the demographic makeup of the electorate as it gets less white will make up for any diminution of enthusiasm for the president after four generally disappointing years in office.

Virginia is ground zero for those expectations, as there is no doubt that it has become more racially and ethnically diverse. But if Romney can prevail there anyway as a result of lower Democratic turnout and much greater enthusiasm on the part of Republicans, then that will mean more than just a win in the Old Dominion. Good numbers for Romney in Virginia’s upscale suburbs, where Democrats think they have the edge, could mean that the same lesson will apply in other places and foretell disaster for the president.

As with the communities outside of the nation’s capital, a strong GOP showing in the suburbs around Philadelphia could offset the huge plurality that the Democratic machine in that city will manufacture for the president by fair means or foul. And if Romney steals blue Pennsylvania from the Democrats, there is little doubt he will be taking the oath of office in January.

In other words, the true bellwether tonight will be Virginia. Rather than waiting for Ohio, once the networks declare the outcome in Virginia (assuming, that is, that we’ll have a declared winner tonight), we’ll have a very good idea of who will be the next president.

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Romney’s Internal Polls Show Lead in OH, NH, IA

The Daily Mail‘s Toby Harnden reports on the Romney campaign’s internal poll numbers, which apparently show him with a slight edge in Ohio, New Hampshire and Iowa; tied with Obama in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania; and trailing in Nevada:

Mitt Romney is ahead by a single percentage point in Ohio – the swing state that could well decide the election – according to internal polling data provided to MailOnline by a Republican party source.

Internal campaign polling completed on Sunday night by campaign pollster Neil Newhouse has Romney three points up in New Hampshire, two points up in Iowa and dead level in Wisconsin. Most startlingly, the figures show Romney and Obama deadlocked in Pennsylvania.

If the Romney campaign’s internal numbers are correct – and nearly all independent pollsters have come up with a picture much more favourable for Obama – then the former Massachusetts governor will almost certainly be elected 45th U.S. President.

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The Daily Mail‘s Toby Harnden reports on the Romney campaign’s internal poll numbers, which apparently show him with a slight edge in Ohio, New Hampshire and Iowa; tied with Obama in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania; and trailing in Nevada:

Mitt Romney is ahead by a single percentage point in Ohio – the swing state that could well decide the election – according to internal polling data provided to MailOnline by a Republican party source.

Internal campaign polling completed on Sunday night by campaign pollster Neil Newhouse has Romney three points up in New Hampshire, two points up in Iowa and dead level in Wisconsin. Most startlingly, the figures show Romney and Obama deadlocked in Pennsylvania.

If the Romney campaign’s internal numbers are correct – and nearly all independent pollsters have come up with a picture much more favourable for Obama – then the former Massachusetts governor will almost certainly be elected 45th U.S. President.

If the campaign is really seeing internal polls like this, it would explain the Romney campaign’s recent confidence. Still, they would also be the only recent polls that show Romney with an edge in Ohio and New Hampshire. For the past week, every other poll has shown a tie or Obama with a slight lead in those states, and in the RCP polling average Obama is up 2.9 percent in Ohio and 2 percent in New Hampshire. That doesn’t mean the Romney internal polls are wrong or even that far off from what we’re seeing elsewhere, just that they’re more favorable for Romney than the other polling — not a surprise, since they’re internals.

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Will the Sandy Bounce Wear Off in Time?

For a few crucial days, the prevailing image of Hurricane Sandy in the minds of Americans was that of President Obama being embraced by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The gratitude expressed by the Republican for federal storm relief seemed to not only symbolize a new wave of bipartisanship, but also burnished the president’s image as a competent commander-in-chief. Nearly a week later, that airbrushed picture of the storm has now been replaced by a less pleasant tableau: residents of New York and New Jersey waiting in the cold for help that hasn’t come, with others standing on long lines for scarce gas. As former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani pointed out yesterday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency may have gotten some great press out of Sandy, but the brutal reality of the storm’s aftermath shows serious flaws in planning for the disaster. The shortages of drinkable water, working generators and gas has made life miserable for too many people.

There’s little doubt the first round of press coverage gave President Obama a tremendous lift last week just at the time when he needed it most. Almost all the national polls showed he gained a few points, knocking Mitt Romney out of the lead he had held since the first presidential debate. The question today as Americans vote is whether the lingering good feelings from that Christie embrace will have worn off by the time many voters step into the booth. The Sandy bounce turned out to be a genuine force in the election and probably the most potent “October surprise” in presidential politics since the last-minute revelation of George W. Bush’s drunk driving arrest as a young man on the eve of the 2000 election. But there may have been just enough time in between Christie’s embrace of Obama and Election Day for some of the sheen to fade from the picture.

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For a few crucial days, the prevailing image of Hurricane Sandy in the minds of Americans was that of President Obama being embraced by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The gratitude expressed by the Republican for federal storm relief seemed to not only symbolize a new wave of bipartisanship, but also burnished the president’s image as a competent commander-in-chief. Nearly a week later, that airbrushed picture of the storm has now been replaced by a less pleasant tableau: residents of New York and New Jersey waiting in the cold for help that hasn’t come, with others standing on long lines for scarce gas. As former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani pointed out yesterday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency may have gotten some great press out of Sandy, but the brutal reality of the storm’s aftermath shows serious flaws in planning for the disaster. The shortages of drinkable water, working generators and gas has made life miserable for too many people.

There’s little doubt the first round of press coverage gave President Obama a tremendous lift last week just at the time when he needed it most. Almost all the national polls showed he gained a few points, knocking Mitt Romney out of the lead he had held since the first presidential debate. The question today as Americans vote is whether the lingering good feelings from that Christie embrace will have worn off by the time many voters step into the booth. The Sandy bounce turned out to be a genuine force in the election and probably the most potent “October surprise” in presidential politics since the last-minute revelation of George W. Bush’s drunk driving arrest as a young man on the eve of the 2000 election. But there may have been just enough time in between Christie’s embrace of Obama and Election Day for some of the sheen to fade from the picture.

It may be that many Americans will not choose to blame the president for the post-Sandy disaster. There are other and probably better candidates for scapegoat, most principally New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The 24/7 news cycle may have moved on from the storm and back to the election this week after liberal journalists had already made their comparisons between Obama’s supposedly masterful handling of Sandy and George W. Bush’s Katrina fiasco. But the pictures of gas lines and homeless storm sufferers may have turned Obama’s advantage into a liability by the time voting began today.

As for the impact of the storm on voting in New York and New Jersey, speculation that it will depress vote totals in these blue states are neither here nor there. It should be remembered that some of the areas most heavily affected, like the borough of Staten Island in New York City, are actually GOP strongholds. Though the provisions for allowing homeless residents of both states to vote elsewhere may create chaos, the odds are it won’t have much impact on who wins the election.

Other factors will do far more to decide the result today than the storm. Turnout in the swing states for both parties will be crucial, as Democrats must recreate the partisan advantage they had in 2008 if the polls predicting an Obama victory are to be vindicated. Though the storm may have helped the president, the far less successful aftermath could have already erased that edge. The question for Romney is whether it happened quickly enough to allow him to gain back the ground he lost last week.

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