Saturday Reads: Obsessive Poll-Watching Edition

Good Morning Sky Dancers!!

Just three more days before the election, and I’m starting to get excited. I’m so looking forward to seeing Mitt Romney go down in flames along with Richard Mourdock, Scott Brown, and–I hope–Todd Akin. I plan to be riveted to the news until all the races are settled. It will really help that MSNBC is going to run real programming this weekend instead of prison videos. I know this is serious business, but I’m having more fun than if the Red Sox were in the World Series.

So let’s see what’s happening out there this morning.

Rupert Murdoch was pontificating on Twitter again yesterday. He’s not happy with Chris Christie’s gratitude for President Obama’s emergency response.

@rupertmurdoch Thanks Bloomberg right decision.@Now Christie, while thanking O, must re- declare for Romney, or take blame for next four dire years.

Mitt Romney had an “all star rally” in Westchester, Ohio last night, and Politico was wowed!

On a frigid fall night — you could see your breath in the air, and organizers handed out fleece blankets and hand warmers to the press — 100 GOP all-star surrogates gathered in this key state, some throwing red meat to the sprawling crowd and stressing that Ohioans hold the fate of the election in their hands.

It was an awesome visual. Those appearing with Romney and Ryan included former GOP rivals Rick Santorum and Rick Perry, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte. They lined up in rows to Romney’s right in matching red or blue fleeces.
Organizers of tonight’s mega-event said the goal was to create the feeling of a week-long party convention in one night — complete with the the GOP’s rising stars and stalwarts, as well as a performance by Kid Rock.
The crowd loved it. Many waved small Ohio flags. Romney supporters wearing red, white and blue T-shirts positioned themselves behind Romney to create a human image of Ohio’s flag.

Quite a few of those “all stars” were holdovers from the Bush administration like Condi Rice and has beens like Rudy Giuliani, who expressed his frustration at the state of the race by bashing Obama in Ohio yesterday.

Not long after taking a few seconds of silence for those affected by Superstorm Sandy, Rudy Giuliani began ripping into President Barack Obama on Friday while speaking at major campaign event for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in Ohio.

The former New York City mayor delivered a series of blistering zingers against the president, rallying the massive crowd with line after line of reasons why Obama should “resign” and faulting him for “incompetence” over the Libya consulate attacks.

Giuliani attacked Obama on the unemployment numbers, while ignoring the 171,000 jobs added in October.

“He should resign! He told us he would resign if he did this poorly,” Giuliani said, referring to a 2009 interview in which Obama vowed to turn the economy around in three years, otherwise there would be a “one-term proposition.”

Giuliani continued to fire off: “He lied. He has been a disaster. The worst president for our economy in our lifetime. He doesn’t want a second term. He wants a second chance, because he screwed it up the first time.”

Mitt Romney himself began the wrapup of his campaign by once again twisting Obama’s words.

The Republican presidential nominee criticized President Barack Obama, who during his own visit to the Buckeye State said voting was the “best revenge.” The Democratic incumbent altered a traditional refrain from his stump speech when he receives boos from the audience.

“No, no, no – don’t boo, vote,” Obama said Friday in Springfield, Ohio. “Vote. Voting is the best revenge.”

That evening, in West Chester, Romney responded, “Our big dreams will not be satisfied by his small agenda that already failed us. Today, did you see what President Obama said today? He asked his supporters to vote for revenge – for revenge. Instead I ask the American people to vote for love of country.”

Doesn’t he ever tire of fake outrage? This is the guy who shipped thousands of jobs to China and hides his money in multiple foreign tax shelters.

In New Jersey, state officials are struggling to make sure residents hard hit by Hurricane Sandy will still be able to vote on Tuesday.

Polling places too far from people’s homes or shelters. Emergency ballots running out. Voting machines breaking down and no one to service them. Poll staffers unable to work on Election Day. Mail-in ballots stuck in a crippled postal system. Results delayed for days.

Those were the logistical nightmares county clerks, political leaders and election lawyers sorted through Friday as they scrambled to piece together a plan for Tuesday. Details, however, changed by the hour and remained sketchy by day’s end.

“Right now, it’s a lot of if’s, maybe’s, we hope, keep your fingers crossed,” said Hudson County Clerk Barbara Netchert, whose office and all others in the state will be open this weekend.

In New York, the absentee ballot deadline has been changed and it’s possible voting could be extended to two days.

New York State extended the deadline for absentee ballots to be received and counted to 13 days after Election Day, from seven days, to allow for postal delays caused by the storm. But they must be postmarked no later than Monday, said John Conklin, a spokesman for the state’s Board of Elections, which has been trying to help local boards get power restored or, failing that, get generators, fuel and extension cords.

A little-noticed New York State law allows counties to seek permission for a second day of voting if they determine that voter turnout was less than 25 percent “as the direct consequence” of a disaster, but several election lawyers said that they did not believe it had ever been invoked and that it was unlikely to be used next week.

There could also be hurricane-related problems for voters in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and even Ohio. Most of these problems won’t affect the outcome of the presidential election, since NY, NJ, and CT are all blue states and Obama has been leading in PA all year, but there is concern about downticket races and early voting in Ohio.

But even when elections officials get the polling sites up and running, many voters may stay away as they grapple with lingering damage to their homes, power failures and gas shortages. With turnout projected to be down in all these states, Mr. Obama could see his share of the national popular vote reduced.

The storm may have already affected the early vote, which could be important, given that analysts estimate that more than a third of the votes this year will be cast before Election Day. Early voting was temporarily halted in some states. In Ohio, the crucial Democratic stronghold of Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, had more people vote early every day this year than in 2008 — until Monday, the day of the storm, when the daily tally began to lag from its levels of four years ago.

Republicans are still trying to convince themselves that Romney can win on Tuesday, although the latest polls show Obama leading in just about every swing state. Even the Wall Street Journal admits that Obama is ahead in both Ohio and Florida now.

The Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist Poll surveys of likely voters released Friday show Mr. Obama maintaining a foothold little changed from four weeks ago, when the Journal surveyed voters in both states just after Mr. Romney’s strong debate performance in Denver.

The surveys found the two battling neck-and-neck in Florida, with Mr. Obama drawing 49% support among likely voters to Mr. Romney’s 47%.

Mr. Obama held a firmer lead in Ohio—51% to 45%, unchanged from mid-October—where the relatively more buoyant economy and the federal bailout of the auto industry appear to have solidified his support among a wide swath of voters.

In both states, Mr. Obama got high marks from all sides for his management of recovery efforts after the storm Sandy hit the East Coast. That tracks an array of polls taken in the past week suggesting that Mr. Romney’s rise may have flattened out just before Sandy landed, an event that sucked national attention away from the campaign trail. In the Florida and Ohio polls, even a majority of Republican voters approved of Mr. Obama’s handling of the storm’s aftermath.

But conservatives like Michael Barone are still trying to create their own reality. He predicts Romney will carry North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania!

We’ll see on Tuesday. But Jonathan Chait notes the signs that Republican “poll deniers” are beginning to face reality.

You may have noticed that the election is getting extremely close, and President Obama’s electoral college lead appears pretty solid. One lagging indicator of the state of the race is the rate at which conservative pundits begin edging slowly out of the Mitt Romney bunker and admitting that maybe the polls aren’t skewed. Dick Morris, last seen predicting a Romney landslide, still insists Romney is likely to win, but now sees “sudden danger signs.” Jennifer Rubin opens a paean to the beautiful poetry of Romney’s closing message by observing, “If Mitt Romney wins Wisconsin, it may be because of the speech. If he loses the election it might be argued it was because he didn’t give that speech at the convention.”

Sorry for my obsessive focus on the election today. I’ll end with a think piece (still election related) by Rick Perlstein, highly recommended by Paul Krugman. It’s called The Long Con: Mail Order Conservatism. It’s too long and involved to excerpt, but here’s what Krugman says about the piece:

The estimable Rick Perlstein has a fascinating essay about the seamless continuum from direct-mail marketing scams to direct-mail right-wing fundraising, and from there to the whole character of modern movement conservatism. Go read. I didn’t know, for example, that heroes of direct-mail fundraising like Richard Viguerie ended up delivering hardly any of the money to political causes; somehow it ended up swallowed by overhead, otherwise known as the fundraisers themselves….

Remember how Rove and others were supposed to raise vast sums from billionaires and corporations, then totally saturate the country with GOP messaging, drowning out Obama’s message? Well, they certainly raised a lot of money, and ran a lot of ads. But in terms of actual number of ads the battle has been, if anything, an Obama advantage. And while we don’t know what will happen on Tuesday, state-level polls suggest both that Obama is a strong favorite and, much more surprising, that Democrats are overwhelmingly favored to hold the Senate in a year when the number of seats at risk was supposed to spell doom….

Well, what if we’ve been misunderstanding Rove? We’ve been seeing him as a man dedicated to helping angry right-wing billionaires take over America. But maybe he’s best thought of instead as an entrepreneur in the business of selling his services to angry right-wing billionaires, who believe that he can help them take over America. It’s not the same thing.

So was it all just about making money for Rove? What did Romney expect to get out of all this?

Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Monday Reads

Good Morning!!

I’m filling in for Dakinikat today, while she wends her way back down to New Orleans after her daughter’s great big Bollywood wedding. It’s another very slow news day today, but I’ve tried to dig up some interesting reads for you anyway.

The U.N. Security Council has condemned Syria’s government for the Houla massacre.

An emergency council meeting in New York on Sunday accused President Bashar al-Assad’s forces of unleashing havoc in the town, calling the bombardment of residential areas “an outrageous use of force” which violated international law.

“The security council condemned in the strongest possible terms the killings, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more … in attacks that involved a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighbourhood,” the non-binding statement said.

Russia, which has resisted previous western-led condemnations of its Damascus ally, signed up to the declaration, signalling the extent of revulsion over images of infant corpses lined side by side after Friday’s slaughter, one of the worst incidents in the 14-month conflict.

You probably heard that John McCain, who for mysterious reasons is a permanent fixture on the Sunday talk shows even though he’s wrong about everything, has called Obama’s foreign policy and especially his caution on Syria “feckless.” The Villagers really love that word for some reason….why not just say “irresponsible” or “lazy”? Those are some of the definitions of the word.

On the other hand, outgoing Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, who is a lot more thoughtful than McCain, thinks Obama is right to be cautious on Syria. From TPM:

“I think that he has been very cautions. And I think that he’s cautions because he’s in the process of withdrawing our troops along with NATO from Afghanistan, pivoting our policy toward China and the east, more toward a situation of using robots – the ability to not to have to send in troops. It’s a difficult situation. So when you talk about Syria, and you talk about troops or intervention, the president has been very cautious. I think properly so.”

Also on the Sunday shows, Bob Shieffer asked Romney adviser Ed Gillespie why Mitt won’t appear anywhere except Fox News. Gillespie responded that Romney meet with “some schoolchildren last week.” Shieffer said, “I know schoolchildren are happy to see him.”

Good one, Bob!

On Candy Crowley’s show Rudy Giuliani was supposed to be playing surrogate for Romney and pulled a Cory Booker. Giuliani began by announcing that Romney is “the perfect choice” and then proceeded to “trash” Romney’s Massachusetts record while “explaining” his trashing of Romney back in 2008.

“Well, I mean, there’s a certain amount of personal ego in that — at that point, I was probably comparing his record to my record,” he said about his dings at Romney. “And maybe it was circumstances or whatever, but I had massive reductions in unemployment. He had a reduction in unemployment of about 8,10 percent — I think it was 15 percent. I had a reduction of unemployment of 50 percent. He had a growth of jobs of about 40,000; we had a growth of jobs of about 500,000. So I was comparing what I thought was my far superior record to his otherwise decent record. … That’s all part of campaigning.”

But, he added, Romney is much better than President Barack Obama.

I guess it’s still not quite as bad as the “endorsement” Romney got from Mitch Daniels.

Politico has a somewhat long piece for them on why Republicans are afraid that Romney “lacks the ‘vision thing'” For example:

“At the end of the day, you can’t just be all, you know, anti-Obama,” said former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, whose state is key to Romney’s chances. “It has to be, I think, two parts that and one part here’s the antidote, here’s the vision, here’s the path that I would like to lead America down.”

And GOP strategist Mark McKinnon — who advised former two-term Republican president George W. Bush — said it’s time for Romney to outline his agenda.

“It’s important to establish the problem when you are a challenger because you are asking voters to fire the incumbent. So, Romney has to file his grievances,” McKinnon said. “But at some point he has to show that he has a vision of a better way. He can’t just say ‘The future is bleak, follow me.’ Because no one will.”

That sounds a little bit like the “advice” Mitch Daniels gave to Mitt. Sadly, Mitt has no vision for a better way. He just wants to be King so he can order everyone around and fire people when he feels like it.

I’ve been so focused on politics for the past several years that I’ve somewhat lost touch with popular culture. So it came as a shock to me today when reading an article about the Cannes Film Festival that one of the movies being shown there is an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. I knew instantly it would be horrible. Every Kerouac adaptation has been.

I used to be fascinated by Kerouac. I was on the Lowell, MA, Kerouac Festival Board for a few years, I’ve done two major research projects on Kerouac’s life and work, one of which I presented at at academic conference. I’ve read everything Kerouac has written, including his letters. I will never see this film, because I don’t want the book ruined for me. Trust me on this, just read the book if you haven’t already, and skip the movie.

The Washington Post has a piece on the Wisconsin recall election which is coming up on June 5: Scott Walker’s fate will have November implications.

Walker made national headlines last year when he eliminated most collective-bargaining rights for public employee unions, triggering huge protests. The fight put friends, neighbors and family members on opposite sides and left the state as polarized as any in the nation. It will culminate in next month’s recall election, only the third for a sitting governor in U.S. history.

The Democrats need to get off their butts and into Wisconsin soon or Walker is going to win. That would be disastrous, and would likely put the state in play for Romney in November. Wisconsin Democrats have been begging for help from the DNC, and it has been slow in coming.

I recently heard an interesting interview on NPR about Lulu DeCarrone, a coffee shop owner who decided to pull the plug on WiFi in her shop. She suddenly realized that her customers were sitting alone at tables for hours just staring at their computers and not talking. No one was having fun anymore and Lulu wasn’t making much money either. Quoting her:

It happened around three or four years ago. One afternoon, I was standing behind the counter and I allowed laptops for a while. And there were four tables, and four people sitting with laptops there. And I remember thinking, “This is like a crypt. I don’t like the feel of it.” Well, two ladies came in a little bit later and they were having such a good time. They were old friends, they haven’t seen each other in a long time and they were laughing and just carrying on. And the people who were sitting on the laptops kept glaring at them. And I made the decision right then and there. I thought I would rather lose my business and sell pencils out of a hat in front of the British Art Museum, than have this atmosphere in my store….

I thought, “Oh my God, maybe no one will come. Maybe I’ll lose it.” And I swear to you, that I was willing to do that. But it worked in reverse. I am the absolute opposite of what Starbucks does, and I’m very happy about it.

It’s become like Mecca for people who are disgusted. I never expected this. This has blown my mind; I never thought that would happen. I get compliments every single day. So I think that’s what it’s given me: Not a big bank account, certainly not driving a fancy car — but it has given me something that’s much harder to get, joy.

I’m no Luddite, but I have to admit, I do get disgusted sometimes the way gadgets have taken over and replaced socializing in public. When I was teaching at a large university, it was rare to see a student who wasn’t either listening to music on headphones, talking on the phone, or texting. They were completely out of touch with whatever was happening in their surroundings in the present moment. And so I also enjoyed this piece at the WaPo on people who ruin things for everyone around them by talking loudly on their cell phones. Here’s a sample:

I love taking the train and typically enjoy the ride. It can be so peaceful, and you don’t have the stress that comes with flying. But if I don’t get a seat in the “quiet car” that Amtrak has designated for those us who want peace, I’m privy to some conversations that should only be conducted in private.

I understand the occasional short conversation to let someone know when to pick you up or that the train is running late, but people are holding long and involved conversations, often about inane stuff. Businessmen are barking orders or, in one case I overheard, holding a conference call. I really don’t want to know your business.

On a recent Amtrak trip, a woman sat next to me and made a call to her friend who, I learned, was afraid she had a sexually transmitted disease. Thankfully, another seat opened up and the woman moved. But I could still hear her describing the test for the disease.

And have you noticed that many people seem to have no compunction about making you wait while they take calls? Why not just call the person back later and talk to the person you’re with?

OK, that’s all I’ve got. What are your recommended links for today?