Monday, November 06, 2006

Morning News Roundup (06 November)

The Midterm Clock Is Running Down
  • The 2006 midterm elections could go down in the books as the year that Karl Rove's strategy of energizing the Republican base reached its limits, and Iraq opened the door for Democrats to court disaffected independent voters.
    A new poll of voter intentions by the Pew Research Center released yesterday suggests Republicans are making some last-minute gains. In the poll, Democrats had a lead of 47% to 43% among likely voters in House races, down from 50% to 39% two weeks ago.

    Democrats are still hopeful of winning at least the House. Closely fought Senate races here in Missouri as well as Virginia and Montana -- all states Mr. Bush carried in 2004 -- will decide control of that chamber. [free article from WSJ]

  • While things are looking positive for change in the house, the expected tightening of polls before the election is taking its toll on Democratic Senatorial hopefuls. From Salon's War Room:
    The Times says Republicans are bracing for the defeat of Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island, but a new McClatchy Newspapers/MSNBC poll has Chafee a point ahead of Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse today. A week or so ago, Democrats were awfully confident that Jon Tester would beat Conrad Burns in Montana -- as were we -- but Burns has been closing fast, and the McClatchy/MSNBC poll shows the race as tied now. The Democrats' hopes have all but died in Tennessee, where the McClatchy/MSNBC poll has Harold Ford Jr. trailing Bob Corker by 10 points.

    That leaves Virginia and Missouri, both of which are way too close to call now. The McClatchy/MSNBC poll puts Jim Webb a point ahead of George Allen in Virginia, making it the sixth poll in a row to show the Democratic challenger either tied with or leading the Republican incumbent. The McClatchy/MSNBC poll also puts Claire McCaskill up by a point over Jim Talent in Missouri; McCaskill leads in each of the five most recent polls in the race, but mostly by numbers that are well within the margins of error.

  • Democratic congressman Harold Ford is locked in a tight, nasty race against Republican Bob Corker, a popular former mayor of Chattanooga who is white. On Thursday, a Reuters/Zogby poll showed Corker leading 53% to 43%, but other recent polls have indicated that the race is closer.

    The outcome could determine which party controls the upper house of Congress. It also could have implications for race and American politics that extend beyond Tuesday's election. Bruce Oppenheimer, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University, said voters and political shot-callers might look to the election for clues about whether Southerners — and Americans in general — were comfortable electing black politicians to higher office.

    Democrats, Oppenheimer said, will wonder about the chances of another high-profile black politician, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, if he decides to run for president in 2008. [LATimes]

  • A new dirty GOP tactic has emerged this year -- robocalls. First, from the NYTimes:

    An automated voice at the other end of the telephone line asks whether you believe that judges who “push homosexual marriage and create new rights like abortion and sodomy” should be controlled. If your reply is “yes,” the voice lets you know that the Democratic candidate in the Senate race in Montana, Jon Tester, is not your man.
    Using a telemarketing tactic that is best known for steering consumers to buy products, the organizers of the political telephone calls say they have reached hundreds of thousands of homes in five states over the last several weeks in a push to win votes for Republicans. Democrats say the calls present a distorted picture.

    Talking Points Memo has also been documenting some very nefarious robocalling in Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, and Connecticut. Here's one TPM reader account that seems fairly consistent:
    Apparently the call starts with something along the lines of "Diane Farrell has some information for you," then pauses, waiting for annoyed people to hang up, and then delivers a negative message about Farrell. The canvassers say the call has hit some people as much as 6 times, and at 5 - 6am as well. Presumably, the intent is to annoy people and stick Farrell with the negative name ID as somebody who keeps robo-calling them.

  • News that Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to death came too late for the pollsters but conveniently enough for the Republicans it arrived just as they started their infamous push to galvanise their base in the final 72 hours before the polls open.

    The timing is more than suspicious. Whether this was deliberately engineered to boost Republican electoral fortunes or not is an important question - to tamper with a nominally foreign judiciary (given that the US appointed the judiciary it can hardly be considered independent) for domestic political ends is serious stuff.
    Given that Saddam's capture is the sole "achievement" of Bush's war it may rally those among his base who were growing disillusioned with the war. But it is unlikely to change many minds. According to a Washington Post/ABC poll at the weekend, those who "strongly believe" the war was not worth it is the same number as the total number of those who think it was worth it.

    In other words, minds are pretty much made up. Moreover, if news of the sentence sparks a rise in violence it could cement the idea that the American presence in the area is not helping. That, frankly, is the kind of help the Democrats could do without. [The Guardian's News Blog]

  • And finally, a prescient bow at the lectern by Ted Haggard in his last sermon a week ago before everything changed (via Andrew Sullivan):
    "Heavenly Father give us grace and mercy, help us this next week and a half as we go into national elections and Lord we pray for our country. Father we pray lies would be exposed and deception exposed. Father we pray that wisdom would come upon our electorate ..."

BushCo's Wars
  • The U.S. government conducted a series of secret war games in 1999 that anticipated an invasion of Iraq would require 400,000 troops, and even then chaos might ensue. In its "Desert Crossing" games, 70 military, diplomatic and intelligence officials assumed the high troop levels would be needed to keep order, seal borders and take care of other security needs. The documents came to light Saturday through a Freedom of Information Act request by the George Washington University's National Security Archive, an independent research institute and library. [AP via WaPo]

  • Two weeks before the government shut down a Web site holding an archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war, scientists at an American weapons laboratory complained that papers on the site contained sensitive nuclear information, federal officials said yesterday. Two documents were quickly removed. Among the documents posted were roughly a dozen that nuclear weapons experts said constituted a basic guide to building an atom bomb. They were accounts of Mr. Hussein’s nuclear program, which United Nations inspectors dismantled after the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The site was shut down on Thursday night after The New York Times asked questions about the disclosure of nuclear information and complaints that experts had raised. [NYTimes]

  • For many Iraqis, the death sentence passed on their former dictator Sunday was not so much a cleansing autumnal rain as just another thunderclap — albeit a particularly loud one — in the middle of a terrible and unending storm. Once the clatter of celebratory gunfire that greeted the verdict had died down, Iraqis' thoughts returned to their own future, and the depressing realization that it is no less bleak than it was yesterday. "Whether Saddam lives or dies is not important to me," shrugs Imad Mohammed, a computer technician. "I'm not even sure whether my family and I will live or die." [Time]

Climate Crisis
  • Almost two-thirds of Australians are prepared to pay more tax and more for essentials if it helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a Herald/ACNielsen poll. It found 91 per cent of voters regarded global warming as serious, and 62 per cent were unhappy with the Federal Government's response.

    Almost half of those polled cited solar power as the best way to tackle global warming, 19 per cent backed a carbon tax on fossil fuels and 17 per cent supported nuclear power. Only 9 per cent advocated using their cars less. [Sydney Morning Herald]

Big Blue Marble
  • Early election results in Nicaragua suggest former Marxist revolutionary Daniel Ortega could return to power as president after 16 years. Results from just under 15% of polling stations show Mr Ortega with about 40% of the vote - enough to avoid a second round of voting if that support holds. [BBC]

  • In the year's biggest box office surprise, the much-talked-about film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan conquered North America grossing an estimated $26.4M in its first weekend beating out all competitors. Playing in only 837 theaters, the R-rated road trip pic averaged a jaw-dropping $31,511 per theater with sell outs from coast to coast. Based on the character created by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat was expected to open with strength in the top five, but was never seen as being powerful enough to reach the number one spot. [Box Office Guru]
And one more thing... Paul Hipp (aka, the troubadour of truth) has a new song out over at the HuffPo about Ted Haggard called "Meth and Man Ass" (warning -- the song automatically starts playing once the HuffPo page loads):




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