Gates to Congress: Repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ before new members are seated

Defense Secretary Robert Gates (REUTERS/Luong Thai Linh)

Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants a lame duck session of Congress to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military before new, more anti-gay members are sworn in.

But he isn’t holding his breath waiting for that to happen.

On a trip to Australia for a series of defense and diplomatic confabs, Gates said: “I would like to see the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” but I’m not sure what the prospects for that are.”

He, however, did not sound optimistic that the current Congress would use a brief postelection session to get rid of the law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Gates realizes that if the current Congress, with a liberal majority, doesn’t make the move, the new, more-conservative, one won’t eliminate the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban.

Removing the ban was a campaign promise by President Barack Obama but remains a broken promise and many gays feel Obama lied about his commitment to repealing the ban.

“Obama sold out the gay community, just like he sold out so many other Americans who once believed in him,” Sasha Morgan, a lesbian activist, told Capitol Hill Blue.

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Obama admits ‘mid-course corrections’ needed but remains vague on details

President Barack Obama takes questions from students at a town-hall style event with students at St. Xavier's College in Mumbai, India, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

President Barack Obama may be in India but he is haunted by rejection back home and admits he must make what he calls “mid course corrections” if he wants to see a second term to his embattled Presidency.

Speaking to college students in Mumbai, India, Obama said voters exercised their “right, obligation and duty” last Tuesday when they ousted many incumbents — mostly Democrats — and elected candidates who openly oppose his policies.

Obama may not have been on the ballot but the state of his Presidency was and it was that Presidency that voters rejected by overwhelming numbers.

With Republicans winning control of the House and eating into the Democratic majority in the Senate, Obama must face the political reality that his future at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is threatened and that he must find a way to recapture the hearts and minds of voters that put him in office in 2008.

Former President Bill Clinton managed to reverse the tide after his drift to the left cost Democrats control of Congress in 1994. It remains to be seen if Obama can do the same.

Obama didn’t offer any specifics but admitted the election “requires me to take some mid course corrections and adjustments.”

Just how he will make those corrections is unknown. He said the corrections, in large part, will depend on negotiations with Republicans who have shown little sign of wanting to help the President.

Obama knows he has to change the tone of his Presidency but he has yet to say how he will do so.

Meanwhile, Democratic insiders tell Capitol Hill Blue that party leaders are looking at ways to win back voters without Obama and some say privately that they are looking at ways to distance themselves from the increasingly unpopular President.

Obama is on his longest Presidential junket abroad — a 10 whirlwind days in  India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan.

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Obama to both sides: Time to get to work

(AFP)

President Barack Obama sought Thursday to retake the political initiative after a bruising election, inviting Republican and Democratic congressional leaders to meet with him on the economy and jobs. The White House said Obama would consider extending Bush-era tax cuts even for upper income Americans for a year or two.

The Nov. 18 meeting will be closely watched, in particular, for any signs of cooperation between Obama and his two frequent Republican antagonists, incoming House speaker-in-waiting John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. They will be joined by the top Democrats in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Four other lawmakers will attend: Republicans Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia and Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, and Democrats Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said no staff would take part in the meeting, which will include dinner. Gibbs said he expects the meeting to be the first of many.

While the White House said the date of the meeting was set, McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said the date and time were still being worked out. Stewart said McConnell is “encouraged” by the chance to meet with Obama to discuss issues including trade, reducing spending and increasing domestic energy production.

But McConnell himself threw down the gauntlet, taking a confrontational tone in a speech to the conservative-oriented Heritage Foundation. He called for Senate votes to repeal or erode Obama’s signature health care law, to cut spending and to shrink government.

“The only way to do all these things it is to put someone in the White House who won’t veto any of these things,” McConnell said. He also said that Obama would have to move toward GOP positions on critical issues if he wants to save his agenda.

Tuesday’s elections amounted to a national political reset, shifting control of the House to Republicans when the new Congress convenes early next year.

During the campaign, Obama called for extending tax cuts for middle-income families. Gibbs said Thursday that Obama continues to believe that extending tax cuts permanently for upper income earners “is something the president does not believe is a good idea” but that he would be open to the possibility of extending the cuts for one or two years.

“It’s clear that the voters sent a message, which is that they want us to focus on the economy and jobs,” Obama told reporters, with Cabinet members at his side. The president said he instructed his Cabinet to make a “sincere and consistent” effort to change how Washington works, something he acknowledges has been a failing of his administration so far.

The president said he wants the bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders to be a substantive discussion on the economy, tax cuts and unemployment insurance. He wants to focus on the busy legislative agenda that awaits Congress when lawmakers return for a lame-duck session. Among the top front-burner issues: renewing Bush-era tax cuts due to expire at year’s end.

Aware that he’s been pegged as antibusiness, Obama said, “We’ve got to provide businesses with some certainty about what their tax landscape is going to look like.” He added that it’s critical for middle class families to have that same sense of reassurance.

Obama also said the work that needs to be done during this month’s legislative session extends to foreign policy. Specifically, he said, the Senate should ratify a new arms control treaty with Russia. Obama said the START treaty, which would cut U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals by one-fourth, is something that is essential to the country’s national security and should have bipartisan support.

McConnell responded that he didn’t think there would be enough time in the lame-duck session of Congress to address the START issue.

Obama said: “What’s going to be critically important over the coming months is going to be creating a better working relationship between this White House and the congressional leadership that’s coming in.”

The gap between the announcement of an Obama-Hill leadership meeting and the session itself — two weeks from now _is due to Obama’s foreign travels. He will be on a four-country trip to Asia from Friday through Nov. 14.

The president said one of his top priorities on the trip is to open Asian markets to U.S. companies so they can sell in the region, a development Obama said would help create jobs at home.

“My hope is that we’ve got some specific announcements to show the connection between what we’re doing overseas and what happens over here at home in terms of job growth and economic growth,” Obama said.

The president will also hold a meeting at the White House with newly elected Democratic and Republican governors on Dec. 2.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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Two faces will represent a divided America

President Barack Obama listens to a question during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

United on almost nothing, Barack Obama and John Boehner are the two faces of America’s divided government, the humbled president and the triumphant House leader. Both claim to speak for the people, yet they have had little to say to each other.

This is the relationship that will drive everything.

On first appearance, both men put on a public display Wednesday intended to emphasize what voters want: cooperation to create jobs. A reflective Obama acknowledged the drubbing his party took in Tuesday’s elections; Boehner, the speaker-in-waiting, seemed intent not to gloat.

Yet the clearer reality is that these are men of vastly different agendas, styles and backgrounds. And it was telling that just about every mention of cooperation between them was accompanied by insistence on more give by the other — essentially the same formula for bitter gridlock that existed before voters tilted power toward Republicans.

“The new majority here in Congress will be the voice of the American people,” declared Boehner, whose mission includes undoing Obama’s signature health care law. Obama offered an opposite analysis, saying any mandate to debate and vote again on the issues of the past two years would be “misreading the election.”

These are men who simply see solutions to problems differently. Likewise, their ways of going about their business.

There’s really no connection between them when they do talk.

That’s how Boehner bluntly put it before the election, and the White House does not dispute the feeling. Obama is known to poke fun at Boehner’s perpetual tan, and they both enjoy a good round of golf, but Obama surely has it right when he says the finding of common ground will not be easy.

Boehner is an amiable political animal, a happy warrior who came of age on Capitol Hill during the messy years of the so-called Republican revolution under former Speaker Newt Gingrich. In those days, he reveled in hanging out just off the House floor, smoking, chatting and collecting intelligence from almost anyone who ambled by. Boehner is a backslapper with a sarcastic wit and a penchant for getting worked up, often choking up during floor speeches or losing his temper altogether.

Obama is the Ivy League-educated law professor who is known for keeping his composure and publicly yielding few flashes of anger. When he was in the Senate, Obama stayed above much of the political back-and-forth. And with both houses of Congress controlled by Democrats in the first half of his term, Obama didn’t need much help, if any, from Republicans to pass his signature policy initiatives.

Boehner was a prime Obama target during the lead-up to the midterm elections, with the president criticizing the Ohio congressman by name and setting him up as the embodiment of unwise Republican ideas, past and future. The White House went so far as to choose Cleveland as the site of an early September speech on the economy because Boehner had delivered an economic address in the same city two weeks prior. The president called out Boehner eight times.

And the two men have been involved in some bitter face-to-face exchanges, such as a classic White House meeting in 2008 about the financial bailout. Boehner bluntly aired the House GOP‘s growing concerns over the plan, while Obama — then a presidential candidate — said some lawmakers simply didn’t understand the urgency of the situation, something Republicans interpreted as a swipe at them.

Obama did call to congratulate Boehner Tuesday night, but he made only a vague reference to looking forward to working together and to meeting in the next few weeks. There is no expectation of a meeting between the men before Obama leaves on Friday for a 10-day trip to Asia.

Republicans regard Obama as haughty and unwilling to engage; Boehner himself accused the president earlier this year of offering “finger-wagging lectures” instead of leadership. And Obama and Boehner are not believed to have ever met one-on-one, with their dealings conducted in group meetings or through senior aides.

Obama must also deal with the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. McConnell doesn’t enjoy the majority status that House Republicans will soon have, but he will be part of a larger, emboldened minority that will take glee in working to stop Obama. “We’ll work with the administration when they agree with the people,” McConnell said at Boehner’s side on Wednesday, “and confront them when they don’t.”

Obama did offer some fresh signals that he will negotiate with Republicans, particularly on how to extend tax cuts due to expire at year’s end. He acknowledged the slog toward a health care law eroded people’s faith in government, and even conceded his relationship with the American people is a rocky one.

“You know, this is something that I think every president needs to go through,” Obama said, before adding to laughter: “Now, I’m not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like I did last night.”

It was a rare reference to what Republicans have been saying all along — that the election was a referendum on Obama.

Yet the president still firmly stood by every policy he got enacted in his first two years in office, and he served notice he won’t budge on spending cuts to education and research even as Boehner was emphatic about smaller and less costly government.

So where does this all lead?

“We agreed that we needed to listen to the American people,” Boehner said of his brief chat with Obama after the election. “We needed to work together on behalf of the American people.”

They have a small window to find any ways to do that. Obama’s re-election bid will soon begin in earnest.

___

Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Nancy Benac, Julie Pace and David Espo contributed to this story

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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Coalitions? We don’t need no stinkin’ coalitions

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio, center, accompanied by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, right, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. takes questions on the sweeping GOP victory in the 2010 midterm elections, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Barack Obama may have expressed humility over the “shellacking” he took in the midterm elections. But he and his fellow Democrats made it clear they still differ with Republicans on many key issues, and all the talk of a new spirit of compromise could prove tough to follow up on.

Leaders of the two parties seemed to draw different lessons from the elections, in which Republicans took over the House and cut deeply into the Democrats’ Senate majority.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky practically threatened Democrats with deeper losses in two years if they don’t show more willingness to embrace GOP ideas for health care, taxes and other matters.

“They may have missed the message somewhat,” McConnell told reporters. Democrats “can change now and work with us to address the issues that are important to the American people,” he said, or they can refuse and see that another round of Republican wins “can happen in 2012,” when Obama will seek re-election.

Obama, in a White House news conference Wednesday, said voters were expressing displeasure with both parties.

“I think that part of the message sent to Republicans was, ‘We want to see stronger job growth in this country,'” the president said. He tweaked Republicans for almost always pushing tax cuts, regardless of economic conditions.

“From 2001 to 2009, we cut taxes pretty significantly,” Obama said, “and we just didn’t see the kind of expansion that is going to be necessary” to create jobs.

Obama and, to some degree, Republican leaders did signal they might reach accords on a few issues, such as energy. Obama abandoned his proposed cap-and-trade system for trying to reduce greenhouse gases, which Republicans sharply opposed. But he said the two parties might reach compromises on other fronts, such as promoting electric cars, nuclear power, energy efficiency and “energy independence.”

Obama also said there should be bipartisan agreement on a plan to give businesses a tax break by letting them accelerate the depreciation of some equipment.

But those are relatively minor issues in the federal government universe. The array of Republican and Democratic postelection news conferences Wednesday gave virtually no hint about how Obama and the next Congress might tackle major issues such as immigration or Medicare’s long-term viability.

Leaders in both parties talked about cutting spending. But there was barely a word about cutting big programs that consume so much of the federal budget, such as Social Security, Medicare and the military.

Obama hinted that he might be willing to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans for a year or two but not make them permanent, as Republicans have advocated.

Republicans, meanwhile, spoke of working with Democrats only in vague terms. Mostly, they seemed defiant.

The election “was clearly a referendum on the administration and the Democratic majority,” McConnell said. “We’re determined to stop the agenda Americans have rejected and to turn the ship around.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that in light of the election, “Republicans must take the responsibility to solve the problems of ordinary Americans,” although he added, “people expect us to work together.”

Big clashes seem inevitable.

On the Democrats’ signature health care law, House Speaker-to-be John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters, “We have to do everything we can to try to repeal this bill and replace it with common-sense reforms that’ll bring down the cost of health insurance.”

Obama, whose veto powers would seem to make repeal impossible, defended the law’s main provisions at length.

“When I talk to a woman from New Hampshire who doesn’t have to mortgage her house because she got cancer and is seeking treatment, but now is able to get health insurance; when I talk to parents who are relieved that their child with a preexisting condition can now stay on their policy” until age 26, “or the small businesses that are now taking advantage of the tax credits that are provided, then I say to myself, this was the right thing to do,” Obama said.

He also rejected claims that he spent too much money to stimulate the economy, bail out banks and shore up automakers at the recession’s height. Republicans hammered all those programs in the elections.

“We’ve stabilized the economy,” Obama said. “We’ve got job growth in the private sectors. But people all across America aren’t feeling that progress. They don’t see it.”

“I’ve got to take direct responsibility for the fact that we have not made as much progress as we need to make,” he said.

Leaders of both parties said it will take time for the House, Senate and White House to see where they might find common ground.

Meanwhile, Boehner indirectly acknowledged that taming his own Republican caucus won’t be easy. Asked how he would find the votes for an all-but-inevitable increase in the federal debt ceiling, given that tea partiers despise the idea, Boehner said, “We’ll be working that out over the next couple of months.”

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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Split Congress could mean more gridlock on Capitol Hill

(REUTERS/Rebecca Cook)

Republicans grabbed the steering wheel of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, but weren’t expected to get out of the driveway when it comes to restraining Wall Street reforms and fixing housing finance.

A political standoff lies ahead for two years on key banking and housing issues as election returns showed Democrats losing control of the House, but retaining a narrow majority in the U.S. Senate, as widely expected.

President Barack Obama’s veto and Democratic Senate power will likely block any attempts by Republicans to roll back the landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that Obama signed into law in July.

Similarly, there was little expectation of a comprehensive fix for the broken U.S. mortgage market before the 2012 presidential election. Lawmakers are expected to blame each other for the mess in numerous public hearings, however.

“I believe we are looking at legislative gridlock,” said Chris Dolan, an assistant professor of political science at Lebanon Valley College.

Gridlock will reduce regulatory uncertainty for the financial markets by preventing new legislative initiatives, but it could have a darker side, as well, analysts said.

If the economy runs into serious trouble again, a stalemate on Capitol Hill could restrict the government’s ability to intervene decisively to maintain stability.

“When you need Congress to act quickly, this kind of divide is going to complicate that,” said Jaret Seiberg, a policy analyst at the Washington Research Group, an advisory firm.

Still, Seiberg said, Republican gains in Congress are broadly good news for banks because they “frustrate those who want to see further expansions of the government’s authority … The ability of this administration to get major new programs done was already limited. This just seals the deals.”

With conservative Tea Party activists coming to power, Republicans could push for confrontation on financial reform, possibly by trying to strangle Dodd-Frank with Congress’ purse strings. Depriving regulators of funding needed to implement the law would be one way to undermine it, aides said.

But even on this front, only incremental changes will be attainable and mostly at the administrative level where Dodd-Frank is already being implemented, analysts said.

“While we would not categorize large banks as ‘losers’ we do not expect that they will benefit from a change in control of Congress as much as some investors might expect,” said Brian Gardner, analyst at investment firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.

Copyright © 2010 Reuters

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The rise and fall of Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi (REUTERS/Richard Clement)

Nancy Pelosi became the first woman to lead the U.S. House of Representatives by taking on the most powerful man on Earth — then-President George W. Bush and his unpopular Iraq war.

Now, four years later, the California Democrat is likely to lose the House speakership because of Congress‘ inability — and that of Bush’s Democratic successor, Barack Obama — to revive the ailing U.S. economy.

Polls show fewer than one in three Americans approve of Pelosi and Republicans are expected to win back control of the House from Democrats in Tuesday’s elections mostly because of anger over the lack of jobs.

That would set the stage for Pelosi — derided by critics as a free-spending liberal and praised by backers as a crusading trailblazer — to surrender the speaker’s gavel when a new Congress convenes in January.

It would close a roller-coaster reign as speaker by the former stay-at-home mother of five who did not run for Congress until her mid-40s and then rose to power as a prolific fund-raiser and tough organizer.

“Pelosi is in trouble because of the economy — the anger, fear and loathing,” said James Thurber of American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies.

“Historically, she will go down as an important speaker — one revered by the left and hated by the right.”

Last December, Pelosi, the highest-ranking woman in U.S. history, was named as a runner up in Time magazine’s annual Person of the Year competition.

POWER, SUCCESS

Congressional scholars say Pelosi “consolidated more power than any other speaker in modern history,” Time noted. She used it to help give Obama what scholars call one of the most successful legislative records of any modern U.S. president.

It includes passage of an $814 billion economic stimulus package, an overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system, a crackdown on Wall Street and the biggest change in a half century in college loans to redirect billions of dollars in savings to students.

But these triumphs — many controversial and virtually all opposed by Republicans — were overshadowed by fiscal woes.

And Republicans seeking to take back the House have tied House Democrats to the economy and their unpopular speaker.

Pelosi says Democrats did what needed to be done after years of Bush’s big-spending, tax-cutting policies, blamed for helping push the U.S. into recession in late 2007.

“Let’s continue to take America forward. We’re not going back,” Pelosi declared in a recent campaign speech.

In November 2006, with Pelosi leading the charge, Democrats won the House, ending 12 years of Republican rule. She was elected speaker by colleagues two months later.

“This is an historic moment for the Congress and for the women of this country,” Pelosi said at the time. “It is a moment for which we have waited more than 200 years.”

Having first learned politics as a child from her big-city mayor father, Baltimore’s Thomas “Big Tommy” D’Alesandro, Pelosi quickly went to work.

In the House’s first 100 hours, she won approval of bills to reduce the gap between rich and poor, including one to raise the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade.

She also cranked up the pressure on Bush to change course in the Iraq war. But Bush, over Democratic objections, ordered a troop surge in 2007.

In August, Obama, who replaced Bush in January 2009, declared an end to the seven-year U.S. combat mission in Iraq and promised to focus on the economy.

But the U.S. jobless rate has remained stubbornly high, at 9.6 percent, keeping his party in political peril.

While Democrats may lose the House, Pelosi seems certain to be elected to a 13th term from California. If she is no longer speaker, however, she may resign from Congress.

Copyright © 2010 Reuters

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Out of control polls: Curse of the Internet age

Ohio Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich talks to supporters at a rally at the Strongsville Community Center, in Strongsville, Ohio. When a widely publicized poll showed Kasich with a commanding, 10-point advantage in Ohio's governor's race, Gov. Ted Strickland's aides fought back hard. _ Against the poll. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

When a widely publicized poll showed Republican John Kasich with a commanding, 10-point advantage in Ohio’s governor’s race, aides to Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland fought back hard. Against the poll.

“With just two weeks until Election Day, it is our opinion that the Quinnipiac polls are irresponsible, inaccurate and completely removed from the reality of the Ohio governor’s race,” the campaign said in a statement that noted other private and public surveys were showing a much closer contest.

The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, an organization with an unchallenged reputation for nonpartisanship, responded mildly. “We stand by our numbers and our overall record for reliability,” said Doug Schwartz, the organization’s polling director.

The flare-up underscored a widely held view among both politicians and pollsters that polls, once used largely to help a candidate shape strategy, increasingly can affect the outcome of political campaigns in the Internet Age. Candidates and their allies instantly disseminate bare-bones results, seizing on those that reflect well on their own prospects, ignoring the rest and generally skipping over details that might caution people about reading too much into them.

“They can affect contributions. They do affect news coverage in a substantial way. They can affect volunteers. They can affect (voter) interest, and through all those things can affect the outcome” of a race said Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster not involved in the Ohio governor’s contest.

Democratic complaints this year are sometimes dismissed as sour grapes in a campaign trending against them. But Republicans, too, express unease about the proliferation of polls.

“There’s a great deal of frustration with media polls, which I don’t think spend the kind of money to do this the proper way,” said Rob Jesmer, the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

According to HuffPost Pollster, 26 polls have been released on the Strickland-Kasich race since Labor Day by 13 organizations. An additional 22 surveys cover the Illinois Senate race, 21 a three-way Florida Senate contest and 20 the contest in Nevada.

As in Ohio, many produce startlingly different results within the space of a few days for reasons that go unexplained in the daily communications battle of modern-day campaigns.

“The public has an absolute right to be skeptical about any polling information” that doesn’t include detailed material, said Richard Czuba, whose Detroit-based firm, Glengariff Group, Inc., does survey work for The Detroit News and WDIV Local 4.

Jesmer’s statement, suggesting that not all polls are equal, hints at the complexities involved.

Demographics — making sure a survey reflects the views of a proper mix of men, women, older and younger voters, Republicans and Democrats — are critical to producing a poll that is reliable. A pollster’s decisions on which respondents are likely to vote is key.

Professional pollsters also differ on another big issue.

Most if not all firms that work for candidates and the major political parties, as well as Quinnipiac and some other organizations, use live phone operators to ask questions.

Other well-known pollsters such as Rasmussen, Public Policy Polling and SurveyUSA Research rely on automated calls, in which an individual who answers the phone responds to a series of recorded questions by touching the appropriate number on the keypad.

Automated calls are cheaper, but a debate flourishes about their relative reliability.

“I am a firm advocate of live operator telephone calls,” said Czuba. “For one thing, you know who is on the other end of the call. If you are doing operator calls, you can screen out the 13-year-old who thinks it would be fun to go along and say, sure, they are eligible to vote.”

“We were formed to give people a lower-cost polling option,” said Tom Jensen, the head of Public Policy Polling, and he and others defend surveys done by recording.

“Generally speaking, the automated survey process is identical to that of traditional, operator-assisted research firms such as Gallup, Harris, and Roper,” Rasmussen says on its website.

The Associated Press has an editorial policy not to report polls that rely on automated calls.

Advocates of automated calling also point to examples in which automated polls appeared to detect the mood of an electorate sooner than operator-assisted calls. They cite last spring’s Republican Senate primary in Kentucky, where automated polls showed tea party-backed Rand Paul well ahead of Trey Grayson at a time private surveys by veteran Republican pollsters showed the race tight.

Either way, the difficulties in producing a reliable survey are considerable.

“Women answer the phone more than men, older people are home more and answer more than younger people, and rural residents typically answer the phone more frequently than urban residents,” the Rasmussen website adds.

Pollsters must make decisions about which people are likely to vote.

Jensen said that for this fall’s campaigns, Public Policy Polling makes calls from lists of voters known to have cast ballots in at least one of the 2004, 2006 and 2008 elections.

Many firms have their own techniques for separating the “likely voters” from the rest of the electorate, often ranking individuals on a scale of 1-10 to gauge the probability they will cast ballots. Some pollsters also adjust the demographic blend that results from phone calls to make it more reflective of the known makeup of the voting age population, a process known as weighting.

The differing approaches account for at least some of the variances in poll results, but some users of surveys consider the potential political bias of the source, as well.

Among Democrats, Rasmussen is widely viewed as partial to Republicans. PPP calls itself a Democratic polling firm. Both organizations say their polling is statistically sound.

Whatever the process, the results vary widely.

In recent months, Democrats attacked a SurveyUSA poll in a House race in Virginia and sought to cushion the results of a Quinnipiac survey in Connecticut’s Senate race by issuing one of their own in advance.

“The frustrating thing is that various levels of credibility are given to various polls, and you just don’t know the demographics of some of these things,” said Aaron Pickrell, Strickland’s campaign manager.

A mid-September Quinnipiac poll showed Kasich with a 17-point lead that was larger than any other survey before or since.

The group of likely voters was 54 percent male and 46 percent female, even though women have outnumbered men in nearly all statewide elections in the United States over the past few decades. Independents accounted for 34 percent of all likely voters, Republicans for 32 percent and Democrats 29.

A few days earlier, PPP had released an Ohio survey in which women outnumbered men among likely voters, 53-47, a breakdown more in line with private surveys. Republicans and Democrats each accounted for 40 percent of likely voters, and independents for 20. That poll showed Strickland trailing by 10 points.

A string of surveys followed, most showing a single-digit race favoring Kasich.

Strickland’s campaign, evidently concerned that voter attitudes were being shaped by the drumbeat of polls, released a survey of it’s own in early October that gave him a four-point edge.

On Oct. 17, Quinnipiac showed Kasich ahead by 10 points, and the Strickland campaign attacked.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

Early voting report – Illinois

Wow, what a pleasant surprise. In my town of 19,000 (with its 2,187 churches and 2 bars) the voting has been fast and furious. I voted yesterday, expecting to pop in city hall, and get back to work.  Nope.  There were 25-30 people ahead of me, waiting for one of four booths. The pleasant voting clerk was advising people after me that the wait was more than an hour.  (it turned out to be 1.5 hours)  Yet, every time she mentioned the wait, PEOPLE STAYED AND VOTED.

The idea that there was some enthusiasm gap is clearly a media concoction, and bears no relationship to reality. People were not only excited to vote, they were determined to vote.

What was even more surprising was the discussions I overheard. This is the reddest part of Cook County, the largest county in Illinois. People supported McCain almost 2-1 here in 2008. Yet, it seemed that people were voting Democratic at the same pace as Republican, a major shift to the left. Reports from the South Side of Chicago also show extremely strong turnouts from Chicago’s black wards.

In a year where a deluded, misinformed and certifiably crazy Sharron Angle seems to be winning in Nevada, where a raving lunatic like Rand Paul can survive his gestapo beating up and stomping on Move.On members, and where Eric Canter (R-Va)  gets the local police to arrest Democrats at open house meetings – for the crime of being Democrats, it was easy to predict that Democrats and liberals would be demoralized. Add to that, every MSM was proclaiming a blowout by the GOP, and repeatedly claimed that the Democrats had no interest in this election. Perhaps, if only they had  stayed on that message longer and louder, they could have turned off people from this election.   Then again, the presence of Tea Baggery  has had several impacts on this year’s election.

First, it mobilized  a group of functionally illiterate, unread, misinformed, and willfully ignorant christian conservatives.

Second, Tea Baggers forced an already rabid GOP even further to the reich. Right. Whatever.

Next, The noise and constant free coverage that MSM provided the Tea Baggery movement also shook up someone else. Like the undecideds, the liberals, the progressives. Seeing just how insane, ludicrous, and ignorant the Tea Buggery movement is was one hell of an incentive for voting this year. We owe them all a vote of thanks.

Voting is important, even when, no, make that especially when the US Supremes foolishly lifted the cap on corporate interference in our political system. Citizens United will go down as being one the worst decisions made by any Supreme Court, following closely on the heels of Dred Scott.

Not only does the Citizens United decision make a screwed up system even worse, not only does it invite the wholesale purchase of desperate politicians, and not only does this decision allow one large corporation to have a voice a million times stronger than any individual, CU also shows that corruption in our political system does not stop in congress, but exists just as much in our Supreme Court.

Get out the Vote, folks. It is important. Vitally important.

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Obama still looking for ways to recapture his old magic

Obama preaches to the faithful in Ohio (AFP)

President Barack Obama sought to recapture the magic of his 2008 campaign, holding a large open-air rally in Ohio to help struggling Democratic candidates in the Midwestern state.

Amid voter anger over the sluggish economy and 9.6 percent unemployment, Obama’s Democrats are fighting to avoid steep losses in the Congress and in state governors’ races in the November 2 elections.

“Everybody said ‘No, you can’t’ and in 2008 you showed them, ‘Yes, we can,'” Obama told a cheering crowd of 35,000 people at Ohio State University in Columbus.

In a hoarse voice, he accused Republicans of siding with “special interests” like insurance companies and Wall Street banks.

But he acknowledged Democrats faced a tough fight.

“Let’s be honest: This is a difficult election,” he said.

Nationally, Democrats are at risk of losing one or both houses of the U.S. Congress, which would make it much harder for Obama to pursue priorities such as passing legislation to fight climate change and boost infrastructure spending.

In Ohio, Democratic Senate candidate Lee Fisher is trailing Republican hopeful Rob Portman by double digits. Incumbent Governor Ted Strickland is facing a difficult re-election bid against Republican John Kasich, who holds a lead of about 6 points over Strickland.

In addition to being important for Democrats in congressional races and the campaign for governor this year, Ohio will be a crucial swing state for Obama when he runs for re-election in 2012. He carried the state in 2008 against Republican John McCain.

Joining Obama on the campaign trail for the first time since his presidential race two years ago was his wife, Michelle.

Obama told the Ohio rally that voters faced a choice in the upcoming election between moving forward or returning to Republican policies that he said caused the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Obama did not mention his predecessor, President George W. Bush by name, but he reminded voters of the dire economy he inherited when he took office in January 2009.

Obama said the Republicans didn’t decide to go off “into the desert” to meditate and rethink their ideas.

Republicans, he said, would loosen regulations for “insurance companies that want to drop your coverage when you get sick, or credit card companies that want to jack up your rates or Wall Street banks that are dealing in all kinds of derivatives that end up crashing the market.”

The joint appearance by both Obamas and the large size of the crowd, which included many young people, recalled the energy of Obama’s presidential campaign.

“Can we do this?” Michelle Obama asked the crowd. “Are you fired up and ready to go?”

“Yes we can,” the crowded chanted.

Copyright © 2010 Reuters

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