The Hispanic Vote and the Threat of the "Time Tax"

NDN's long-held analysis on the significance of the Hispanic vote is now common knowledge, as further evidenced by Chuck Todd's report, but an important challenge remains in the less than 150 hours until Election Day - the only way the potential of the Hispanic vote, and all registered voters, will translate to an electoral reality is by ensuring that all precincts have the capacity to handle a 90-98% turnout based on 2008 registration numbers. Actual turnout will depend on: 1) making sure people understand how to vote, and 2) access to the polls.

During early voting, some states have already far exceeded turnout from 2004: in Georgia, early voting is already at 180 percent of its 2004 total, Louisiana (169 percent), and North Carolina (129 percent) - all states with large minority populations. Precincts should be prepared to handle twice the number of voters from 2004. We shoud be wary when precincts report that they are prepared for 90% turnout, as opposed to 80% from 2004 - they should have enough machines and/or paper ballots to accomodate the number of all registered voters in 2008, not just enough for a fraction of registered voters based on 2004 numbers.

Florida, with an estimated 12% of Hispanic voters, has already declared an emergency and extended voting hours to 12 hours a day as a result of voter turnout - this with only about 10%, or 1.2 million of registered voters statewide having voted as of Monday. In Georgia,some people waited for eight hours at the polls. By Tuesday the lines were down to "just" four hours, so the GA Democratic Party Chair, Jane Kidd, urged the Secretary of State to keep the polls open: "today, it is clear that we are in a crisis, and it is unclear even if there is enough time for the remaining four million-plus Georgia voters to cast their votes in an efficient and timely manner." By the way, GA state law doesn't provide for weekend voting and prohibits voting on the Monday before Election Day.

In Virginia, a state that's now a "tossup," we're already seeing voting problems thanks to everything from phony fliers stating the wrong date for Election Day, to alleged "gerrymandering" of voting equipment. A lawsuit has been filed against the state of VA charging that some primarily minority neighborhoods are allotted a lesser number of voting machines per person as compared to other areas, leading to longer lines and arguing that this constitutes a "time tax" on the right to vote, as some voters might give up and go home. Voting problems would disproportionately hurt the Democratic Party and Sen. Barack Obama. According to the new ABC/Washington Post poll, during early voting Sen. Obama picked up 60 percent of the vote, to John McCain's 39 percent. According to Gallup, between Oct. 17 and Oct. 27, early voters turned out 53% for Obama over 43% for McCain.

In the meantime, candidates continue to push early voting, as seen in the Obama ad below. Luckily there is also a push for instructional videos on how to vote, in English and in Spanish:


Tonight: Obama Makes His Case

Tonight, in a nearly unprecedented move, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's campaign is running a 30-minute ad on CBS, NBC, MSNBC, Fox, BET, TV One and Univision. The ad, which will air tonight at 8 p.m. ET, should help make Obama's "closing argument" to voters. The ad buy is estimated to have cost between three and five million dollars, and has been the subject of wide-spread speculation and commentary. 

Obama will also appear tonight on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. If Obama is smart (and he sure seems to be), he will realize that the majority of Daily Show viewers, who tend to be younger, better-educated and better-informed than the general population, already support him. Watch for him to use this opportunity to urge people to actually come out and vote on election day.

It promises to be an interesting night of television, so be sure to tune in!

Ad Wars: Special

Most of this new ad from the McCain camp feeds viewers the usual tropes: Obama's just a celebrity, he's inexperienced, he's not ready to lead.  The really curious thing about the ad comes at the very end.  Take a look, then let's talk about it:



You notice what I notice? Just at the very end: "Barack Obama's not ready... yet."  Isn't that weird? The implication that comes with the "... yet," is that he will be ready, which seems like a strange qualifier to grant your opponent-- especially when your central argument against him is that he's not ready. Even if the line had just been "not ready yet," the impact would have been less, but that ellipsis really drives it home.

What do you think? Maverick tactic or nothing notable? Share your thoughts in a comment below...

NDN: Week in Review

There's always a lot happening here at NDN, so in case you missed anything, here's what we've been up to in the last week:

A Stimulus for the Long Run - Post-election, Congress will head back to Washington to consider another stimulus package. NDN Globalization Initiative Chair Dr. Robert Shapiro and Green Project Director Michael Moynihan have been weighing in on the need to create a package that jumpstarts the economy now and helps ensure future prosperity by working to create a low-carbon economy. In a recent essay, Shapiro argued for a “Stimulus for the Long Run” that invests in clean infrastructure, worker training, and technology. In a separate memo, Moynihan also made the case for Accelerating the Development of a 21st Century Economy: Investing in Clean Infrastructure. The bottom line: Congress has a limited amount of money to spend on a stimulus.

Election Forum with Joe Trippi and Simon Rosenberg - Yesterday, NDN hosted a special lunchtime Election Forum with NDN President Simon Rosenberg and Internet pioneer, top political strategist and New Politics Institute fellow Joe Trippi. Joe and Simon looked at this remarkable election cycle and also beyond November 4 to the next Administration. For more information and photos from the event, please click here.

NDN Countdown to Election 2008 - With less than a week to go before Election Day, the NDN team continued to weigh in on issues ranging from swinging poll numbers to donation-fueled shopping sprees to early voting. With the media reporting U.S. Sen. Barack Obama with anywhere from a double-digit to a single-digit lead over U.S. Sen. John McCain, Simon asked, "Is McCain Playing to Win?"

Simon's essay echoes what he and the NDN team have been saying for several weeks: we may see an uptick in McCain's numbers as the race enters the final days, but that's because the Arizona senator is gaining ground he already should have held. It's not a sign of McCain's strength; rather, it's a sign of his weakness and disappointing campaign that many in the GOP base are only now coming home. For more on the final days of the campaign, check out this report from yesterday's Newsday, which quotes Simon.

Simon also predicted that increasingly, we will start to hear quiet talk of realignment, blowout, rout, coattails and a new political era. If the trends continue, we are headed toward a true blowout with the top of the Democratic ticket getting its highest vote share since 1964, Democrats having more ideological control of Washington since the mid 1960s and Democrats having the makings of a new very 21st century majority coalition they could ride for the next 30-40 years of politics.

And the other big news last week? What about Gov. Sarah Palin slapping her hockey Mom image right out of the rink by spending $150,000 on designer clothes and make up? Chalk it up the Republicans’ being completely out of touch with the economic struggles of everyday people. Melissa also took a look at an interview Palin did with James Dobson, the immensley popular leader of “Focus on the Family.” While Palin has apologized for some of her more divisive rhetoric as of late, she played to Dobson’s audience in this interview, even seeming to contradict McCain's more moderate stances on several issues, including stem cell research, choice and gay marriage. Is Palin thinking conservative base in 2012?

Back to the here-and-now, Andres Ramirez, Vice President of Hispanic Programs, spent the week focusing on the subject of early voting. With one in three registered voters expected to cast their ballots before November 4, Andres wrote about the record-breaking numbers of early voters, how many of those voters are experiencing very long waits to vote and efforts to prevent people from voting or purge newly registered voters from the rolls.

Keep People in Their Homes - For more than a month, NDN has been arguing that any government response to the financial crisis must include a central provision to keep people in their homes. Momentum to do just that grew last week, as FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair testified before Congress and presented a proposal to keep people in their homes, and the New York Times editorialized on the issue. The Washington Post reported that Bair’s proposal received a warm reception from lawmakers, a welcome sign that the federal government will soon provide necessary leadership in this effort. For more on NDN’s Keep People in Their Homes effort, click here.

Other NDN Thinking - There are no lack of victims from the meltdown of the financial markets and the oncoming economic recession. Will moving toward a low-carbon future, a top priority for NDN, be one of them? Our answer is “no.” Jake Berliner argued that Energy Reform Can Be an Economic Boon. Green Project Director Moynihan further buttressed Jake’s arguments in his essay, Climate Change: Next Steps in a Troubled Economy. Zuraya Tapia-Alfaro looked at Barack Obama’s latest Spanish-language ad about restoring the “American Dream,” following other Spanish-language TV and radio ads on education, health care, taxes, and more. She also wrote about immigration in the presidential race and how the next president can discuss immigration reform using an economic narrative during this time of economic crisis.

New Tools Feature: Go Mobile - In last week's New Tools Feature, TXT 2 GOTV, I highlighted a new study that shows the great bang-for-the-buck efficacy of text-based get-out-the-vote campaigns, which, on average, cost only $1.56 per vote. To learn more about using SMS messaging effectively, be sure to read our New Politics Institute's New Tools paper, Go Mobile Now. While texting has already had a real, measurable effect in this election cycle, and will be critical to getting out key voting blocs next Tuesday, the true potential of mobile-powered politics has yet to be tapped.

NDN Breaking Through - The new VIBE Magazine hit shelves last week. For the first time in its 15-year history, VIBE endorsed a candidate this month. Simon is quoted in the cover story, "The Tipping Point," about race in American politics and the historic implications of the rise of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama.

Simon also provided analysis of the election in the Independent, Reuters (and subsequently on Michael Moore's blog), and in two featured posts on the Huffington Post (here and here). His election commentary also aired on radio stations across the country, and he was featured on WAMU's "Power Breakfast": you can listen to the segment here:

Finally, Rob was quoted in a big story in the New York Times and the International Herald-Tribune about the Treasury backing the consolidation of banks, and Michael had a featured post about dealing with climate change in a troubled economy in the Huffington Post's Green section.

Ad Wars: "His Choice"

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama has a new TV ad out today, entitled "His Choice." The ad manages to combine two of U.S. Sen. John McCain's greatest perceived weaknesses in opinion polling of voters, the economy and Gov. Sarah Palin. It's quite good, and even a little cheeky. Check it out:

The Polls 6 Days Out

Reviewing the excellent daily poll analysis from DemFromCT, we see the Obama-McCain average now at 6, coming in at about 50-44. For the past few days, the race had been at 50-43. 

The trend is the one we've been anticipating here for some time - McCain appears to be in the process of reclaiming ground he should have long occupied but lost due to his terribly disappointing campaign this fall.  Which is why we've been arguing that this slight uptick for McCain is more a sign of his weakness than his strength. The key number to watch now is Obama's - and there is no real evidence of slippage. If he can stay at 49-50-51, he will win, particularly given his continued strength in the key states, a strength that is likely to be very resilient in these last few days due to the deep message penetration of Obama's superior ground effort and paid media advantage. 

In my post yesterday I also speculated that McCain's team at this point may be playing more to prevent a realigning blowout  - in both reality and in the spin game - than to win. That the RNC has now bought ads in Montana and West Virginia provides further grist for this mill: at this point, how can these states really factor one way or the other into McCain's win? 

And speaking of the narrative, will the Obama campaign just step up and buy time in Arizona and try to beat McCain in his own backyard?  As our readers know, we've long been arguing that Arizona would be a competitive state if Obama played there. They have the resources. Will they do it?  It will be interesting to see what kind of ratings Obama's 30-minute ad gets in Arizona tonight and whether that might have any impact there.

So where do we stand six days out?  There is evidence McCain's wavering base is coming home, but with Obama holding steady at 50 percent and showing unyielding Electoral College strength, it is too early to say that McCain is in the process of making the race competitive.

A 21st Century Electoral Map, Courting the Hispanic Vote, and Latinos '08

Both presidential candidates spent this past weekend courting voters in the Southwest. That the candidates are spending these precious last days before the election in this region demonstrates its increasing importance on the emerging 21st century electoral map. Simon is quoted in two new articles on the importance of the southwest and the Latino vote. In Bloomberg, Simon points out that Hispanics will account for more than 40% of the vote in New Mexico. He was also quoted in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Simon Rosenberg, who heads NDN, a moderate Washington, D.C.-based Democratic advocacy group, said the shift reflects how "the Republican brand with Latinos has been severely degraded" by President Bush's leadership on the economy and the war. "And John McCain has not been able to distance himself from it."

But, he added, Democrats carefully laid the groundwork for gains when party leaders like Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader from Nevada, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker from San Francisco, "added Nevada to the early caucus states and put their national convention in Colorado."

"In 2004, John Kerry didn't know the Southwest existed on the map," he said. "They spent no time and no money there."


Speaking of the importance of the Latino vote in this year's election: a new documentary, entitled "Latinos '08," will air on DC-area public television (WETA) tonight at 10 p.m. ET (check your local listings). The film was made by award-winning Los Angeles filmaker Phillip Rodriguez, whom we collaborated with in the making of his latest work.

The Washington Post gave the documentary a very positive review, saying that,

"Director Phillip Rodriguez knows his way around this territory of ironies and pieties layered upon an undeniably real demographic bedrock."

According to Rodriguez, the program explores the increasing presence of Latinos on the American political scene through the wider lens of ethnic politics across U.S. history. “This is just the latest chapter of the American immigrant assimilation story,” Henry Cisneros points out in the film. Cisneros, the former mayor of San Antonio and Clinton Administration cabinet member, is joined in the documentary by a lineup of astute political commentators and scholars.

In addition to Cisneros, the documentary also features Federico Pena, National Co-Chair, Obama Campaign, and Mickey Ibarra, Mickey Ibarra & Associates, all members of NDN's Hispanic Advisory Board. You can also catch NDN President Simon Rosenberg in the documentary.

To learn more about NDN's work in analyzing Hispanic voting and demographic trends, please read our report, Hispanics Rising II and look at our recent polls on the issue of immigration reform in key battleground states.

We hope you'll tune in tonight or if you can't, program your TiVo.

Ad Wars: "Better Off"

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama today rolled out a new TV ad on the economy, entitled "Better Off." Watch it here:

Senator Obama's emphasis on helping the middle class prosper and alleviating the struggle of every day people seems to be resonating with voters. E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post notes that, despite persistent assertions from U.S. Sen John McCain's campaign that Obama's tax plan is "socialist" and that he wants to "spread wealth around," a recent Pew poll found that "50 percent of registered voters questioned in mid-October thought Obama would do the best job in 'dealing with taxes,' compared with only 35 percent who said that of McCain. Back in September, Obama also led, but more modestly, 44 percent to 39 percent." 

Furthermore, a new Pew poll today finds that almost 40% of voters believe McCain would do "too much for the wealthy" if elected president. It seems that, Republican base voters aside, most Americans are simply not buying the argument that anything more progressive than Bush's economic policies constitutes "socialism" (heck, just ask real socialists). 


Is McCain Playing to Win?

Reviewing DemFromCT's morning poll roundup, we see some evidence of one scenario we have been anticipating in my posts of recent weeks: that McCain is in the process of reclaiming ground he should have occupied for some time, ground that he had given up with his dismal performance these last few months. While McCain has gained a point or two in many national polls these last few days (remaining at a still anemic 43-45 percent), Obama is not showing any sign of slippage. And as we wrote the other day, the only way this race becomes competitive now is for both McCain to gain and Obama to begin losing ground.  

One point very much worth considering is something DemFromCT looks at this morning, which is where McCain's gains are coming from. There is a very real chance he could pick up national points by gaining ground in non-competitive Southern states with wavering base Republican voters. And while those gains will give him some national points, they will in no way affect the current dynamic of the race, which is why it is possible to see Arizona coming into play and McCain picking up a point or two on the same day. The national poll numbers are not evenly distributed across this vast and complicated country.

So, today, one week out, Obama's lead looks solid and unaltered. And while McCain's slight uptick does not look like it will affect the outcome of the Presidential, it could impact close races down ballot, particularly in more conservative districts and states. It has been my sense for some time now that the McCain strategy has been focusing on bringing wavering base voters home, hence Baby Killer! Socialist! Communist! Terrorist! Muslim! Liberal! - all messages seemingly more attuned to the GOP base than traditional undecided voters in battleground states. It almost seems as if what the McCain camp decided a few weeks ago was to give up getting to 50 percent and winning the election, and rather has been focusing on turning out its base, settling for a 45-47 percent showing, saving some folks down ballot, particularly in the Senate and House and preventing a big-time realigning election.

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