MORNING MINDMELD: The October Surprise turns out to be a superstorm with the deceptively placid name of Sandy, raising the possibility of another asterisk election if power is out for much of the final week, or even on Election Day, in key parts of Virginia and/or Ohio. Just the frenzy around the forecast could disrupt this week's early voting, which probably hurts President Obama. But he also has an opportunity to be seen as president -- a commander-in-chief moment. So no one's sure, but it's a huge topic in Boston and Chicago. Here is the take from some of the smartest people in politics:
A top Democrat: "Anything that disrupts campaign/candidate schedules at this point in the race is significant. These events are important to the campaigns as a way of activating and energizing voters (even more important in early voting states). The earned media pieces can be made up in other ways (satellite interviews, etc.), but there is no substitute for candidate travel. ...
"Also, nothing galvanizes attention or sucks up more media bandwidth than a major weather event. The storm led all of the networks news broadcasts for the last three days and will do so for the next three, at least. I guess the net-net of that is that it helps freeze or solidify the race in place. If you believe that the President maintains a narrow but statistically important lead in the battleground states, anything that prevents Romney from getting traction or changing the dynamic is potentially important."
A Romney official: "The storm will help the Prez appear presidential but it's too late to move enough voters." An Obama official: "We remain confident in our ability to get our voters to the polls by Election Day. We had a big day on Saturday as in-person early voting started in Florida, with record turnout, and we expect that strong progress will continue ... into the week."
A Republican deeply involved in the campaign says that (literally) freezing the race may help Romney because "it diverts press attention [at a time when he has been portrayed as surging], but so much seems to be happening below radar now it might not matter."
Most clever take: 'Anyone who thinks they currently know who it helps/hurts is just making [stuff] up. This gives Chris Christie an opportunity to show leadership, and thereby help his reelect and [helps him] for 2016; unless it curtails Obama's [get-out-the-vote] operation in Virginia, in which case it helps Romney; unless it enables Obama to lead an effective federal government response, in which case it helps Obama; unless it takes Obama off the trail in Ohio, in which case it helps Romney.'
And a mischievous friend makes a devil's-advocate argument that it helps Romney: "Republicans are more motivated to vote than Dems. ... Low turnout favors Romney. The storm can do nothing but depress turnout in places like Virginia and Ohio. And even Pennsylvania. People emerging from a week of no power on Nov. 6 are going to be in a grumpy, foul mood -- not the kind of mood that screams 'vote incumbent.'
OBAMA RETAKES 1-POINT NATIONAL LEAD-With seven days to go until the election, President Obama has recaptured a narrow national lead, riding increased support from women and an edge in early voting. Our new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Tracking Poll - taken from last Monday through Thursday - shows Obama up 49-48, a 3-point swing from last week. Obama leads among women by 11 (54-43). Romney leads among men by 12 (55-43). My story: http://goo.gl/EIoMo.
Good news for Democrats: Obama enters the final full week of the campaign with a 50 percent job approval rating, 51 percent personal favorability rating and 54 percent expecting him to win regardless of who they are supporting. He's up 8 points among those who have already voted (53-45), with early voters already representing 15 percent of the electorate. Democratic analysis from Celinda Lake, Daniel Gotoff and Kristin Pondel (2 pages): http://goo.gl/2OrV0.
Good news for Republicans: Romney maintains a major intensity advantage: Among those who say they are "extremely likely" to vote, Romney's up 9 (53-44). The GOP nominee is winning independents by 10 (50-40). 54 percent disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy. Romney is favored by 5 points (51-46), both on which candidate will better grow the economy and create more jobs. GOP analysis from Ed Goes and Brian Nienaber (5 pages): http://goo.gl/Pv2v1.
BUT IT WILL PROBABLY COME DOWN TO OHIO-Romney spent yesterday in red and rural portions of the Buckeye State, trying to run up his margins with the base. But he also sharpened his closing argument, emphasizing his ability to work with Democrats. "I know there's good Democrats that love America just like we do," Romney said in the small town of Celina. "I want to reach across the aisle to them...We can't change course unless we change the way Washington's working." He even made an explicit play for 2008 Hillary voters. http://goo.gl/7wJqM
--WHY THE ROMNEY CAMPAIGN THINKS IT'S WINNING : "Mitt is credible as a bipartisan reformer because he is a pragmatist ... So some of the things that have worked against him, going back to 2007, are now helping with swing voters. ... Obama campaign is suddenly chasing news cycles, trying to spin process stories they used to ignore ... Gov. Scott Walker operation in Wisconsin ... Gov. Terry Branstad operation and Des Moines Register endorsement in Iowa ... polls over-weight D turnout ... bad jobs number Friday could give final lift ... When a team gets tight, they often make mistakes, particularly in the final quarter of a big game. People wrote us off a few weeks ago, and we're embracing being at this stage of the election in the position we're in. We're focused, but we're loose, unlike our friends in Chicago."
--WHY THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN THINKS IT'S WINNING : "What's remarkable about this race is how stable it has been for the past year and a half, with a small but important lead for the President in swing states that will get us beyond 270. ... The early vote numbers make clear that the right combination of diversity, female voters and young voters are showing up. In Iowa and Nevada, we're racking up 2-1 margins. ... The Romney campaign is not where they want to be a week out -- both literally, sending Romney to shore up the base in the Florida panhandle, and down in public polls [in key states] ... We're cutting their absentee margin in Florida, with big registration and early-vote numbers in North Carolina. ... Now they face a superior organization, which makes all the difference in a close election."
MORE FRESH POLLING-
WASHINGTON POST/ABC TRACKING: Romney up 1 (49-48) for the third day in a row. http://wapo.st/PBsdeR
GALLUP - ROMNEY LAUDED FOR BUSINESS ACUMEN, OBAMA FOR PERSONAL TRAITS: When voters are asked to volunteer them, Obama's perceived strengths are excellent speaking/communication skills (11%) and 'helping the less fortunate' or being 'for the people.' Romney's perceived strengths tend more toward his economic experience, including being a 'good businessman' (16%) and being 'good at handling finances/budgets' (4%). 11% cite his economic policies. http://goo.gl/BdmyT
FLORIDA: Obama up 1 (49-48). The poll also found that Romney is winning independents in the state by 7 points, 50-43. http://bit.ly/PBsyy8
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Obama up 2 (49-47). Obama holds onto an 18-point lead among women in the state, 57 percent to 39 percent. http://bit.ly/PBsBdh
PRIORITIES USA POLL IN VIRGINIA: Obama up 3 (49-46). http://politi.co/PBt4vT
FLORIDA - Lead story of Tampa Bay Times, "I-4 vote going to Romney, poll says: Given the importance of the corridor in state voting, it may be over for Obama in Florida," by Political Editor Adam C. Smith: "An exclusive Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9 poll of likely voters along the Interstate 4 corridor [Tampa to Orlando to Dayton] finds Romney leading Obama 51 percent to 45 percent, with 4 percent undecided. 'Romney has pretty much nailed down Florida,' said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, which conducted the poll for the Times and its media partners. 'Unless something dramatically changes - an October surprise, a major gaffe - Romney's going to win Florida.'" http://bit.ly/Vwy55F
TRUTH BOMB: Obama doesn't NEED Florida. Romney DOES: Boston's internal debates about an Ohio path vs. a Nevada path vs. a Wisconsin path are ALL predicated on wins in Florida and Virginia.
OHIO - The Columbus Dispatch, banner, "Romney closes Obama's lead to split Ohio," by Darrel Rowland: "Boosted by a surge among male voters who think he's the best candidate to fix the economy, Republican Mitt Romney has come back to tie President Barack Obama in battleground Ohio. They are deadlocked at 49 percent in a new Dispatch/Ohio News Organization poll. Obama was ahead by 5 points in the same poll published on Sept. 16." http://bit.ly/SqqxmF
--(Cleveland) Plain Dealer, one-third of front page: "DEAD HEAT: 49-49 - Romney closes gap with Obama; few still undecided" ... Cincinnati Enquirer banner: "Tight race now even tighter: Our ongoing polls shows the president's numbers have shrunk"
The New York Times: A troubleshooting 'wingman' plotting Romney's trajectory By Michael Barbaro and Ashley Parker Bob White, an in-house consultant for Mitt Romney’s campaign, has helped steady a wobbly candidacy and reverse its trajectory.
The Washington Post: Obama, Romney aiming full arsenals at Ohio By Dan Balz and Felicia Sonmez As if the entire presidential campaign is being waged in this complex and sprawling state, the president and his Republican rival are engaged in a high-stakes battle for its 18 electoral votes.
Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker on the right to vote There's no constitutional right to vote—only lines about not restricting votes from certain people. So Republicans used the flexible language to install laws limiting the right to vote. But the Justice Department has been effective about challenging limitations. While the right to vote is not inherent, "once a state sets up rules, those rules have to treat everyone the same way." Limiting voting for some becomes unconstitutional.
LA TIMES-VP HAS TAKEN A BACK SEAT AS MITT MOVED TO THE CENTER: "Ryan became less prominent as Romney's message shifted from conservatism to bipartisanship," Alana Samuels writes. http://lat.ms/QPAecZ
BATTLEGROUND BRIEFING-THE PATH TO 270:
AP SAYS OBAMA HAS ELECTORAL COLLEGE ADVANTAGE: "Obama is poised to eke out a victory in the race for the 270 electoral votes needed to win re-election, having beaten back Romney's attempts to convert momentum from the debates into support in all-important Ohio, according to an Associated Press analysis a week before Election Day," writes Tom Beaumont. "While the Democratic incumbent has the upper hand in the electoral vote hunt, Romney has pulled even, or is slightly ahead, in polling in a few pivotal states, including Florida and Virginia. The Republican challenger also appears to have the advantage in North Carolina, the most conservative of the hotly contested nine states that will determine the winner. While in a tight race with Obama for the popular vote, Romney continues to have fewer state-by-state paths than Obama to reach 270. Without Ohio's 18 electoral votes, Romney would need last-minute victories in nearly all the remaining up-for-grabs states and manage to pick off key states now leaning Obama's way, such as Iowa or Wisconsin." http://goo.gl/kxY6g
TIPPING POINTS-FIVE SMALL THINGS THAT COULD BE GAME-CHANGERS: "Lurking below the surface is an array of smaller, hidden factors - assets, liabilities, quirks, last-minute surprises - that could break the stalemate," Glenn Thrush writes. Here are his five: Latino enthusiasm in Colorado. The impact of the Des Moines Register Romney endorsement. Mitt's pitch to white ethnics in Cuyahoga County in Ohio. Same-day registration in Wisconsin allows Obama to push low-propensity voters to the polls. Does Minnesota attract Romney resources? Good read: http://goo.gl/bRc4S.
Could America ever delay a presidential election due to a natural event or other catastrophe?
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/...ection/264254/The short answer is yes. The long answer is, well, long. In 2004, lawyer and Fordham and University of Pennslyvania law professor Jerry H. Goldfeder wrote an influential law review article in the Fordham Urban Law Journal titled "Could Terrorists Derail a Presidential Election?" Goldfeder's rationale and legal reasoning about such a doomsday scenario applies to natural disasters as well. I caught up with him via email on Monday afternoon, as he hunkered down in Manhattan to wait out Hurricane Sandy, to ask him to walk me through how it might all play out.
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/...sident/264201/On August 31st, one day after the Republican National Convention ended in Tampa, a federal judge in Ohio issued a ruling that stymied an effort by Republican officials there to limit early voting dates for hundreds of thousands of registered voters. Citing the United States Supreme Court's Bush v. Gore ruling, the 5-4 decision which ended the 2000 Florida recount, U.S. District Judge Peter Economus wrote that Ohio lawmakers and bureaucrats couldn't, by "arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person's vote over that of another."
Upon receiving word of the federal court order, the man responsible for implementing Ohio's election laws at first decided not to enforce it. Secretary of State Jon Husted, the Republican who had fought for years against voting rights advocates in and out of the courts as a lawmaker and, later, member of the executive branch, initially disregarded Judge Economus' order. Not just that. He defied it. He specifically ordered his county election boards not to restore the early voting hours the judge had endorsed.