Monday, November 5, 2012

The looming GOP civil war -- whether Mitt wins or not
By: Jonathan Martin
November 5, 2012 04:39 AM EST

Mitt Romney is shown here. | AP Photo
Whether or not Mitt Romney wins, his party must confront its demographic crisis. | AP Photo

WEST CHESTER, Ohio — Mitt Romney’s boisterous rally here Friday night featured both the promise of the Republican Party’s future and a sharp reminder of why the GOP may lose its second consecutive presidential race on Tuesday.

The scene in this Cincinnati suburb also set the stage for the party’s coming inner struggle to define itself no matter this cycle’s outcome.

A cadre of young and diverse Republican officials took the stage to speak before Romney. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte each made the case for their nominee and offered a reminder of the strength of the GOP’s bench.
But they did so before a crowd that was nearly all-white and their appearances were sandwiched in between slashing speeches from a familiar roster of older white males like Rudy Giuliani, who took it upon himself to demand that President Barack Obama resign over the Benghazi attacks.

Regardless of whether Romney wins or loses, Republicans must move to confront its demographic crisis. The GOP coalition is undergirded by a shrinking population of older white conservative men from the countryside, while the Democrats rely on an ascendant bloc of minorities, moderate women and culturally tolerant young voters in cities and suburbs. This is why, in every election, since 1992, Democrats have either won the White House or fallen a single state short of the presidency.
“If we lose this election there is only one explanation — demographics,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

But Republicans are divided on the way forward. Its base is growing more conservative, nominating and at times electing purists while the country is becoming more center than center-right. Practical-minded party elites want to pass a comprehensive immigration bill, de-emphasize issues like contraception and abortion and move on a major taxes-and-spending deal that includes some method of raising new revenue.

But many rank-and-file Republicans in Congress and grass-roots activists won’t sanction amnesty for undocumented immigrants, are determined to advance restrictions on abortion and have no appetite for any compromise with Democrats on fiscal issues. And that doesn’t even get at the growing cleavage on foreign policy in the GOP between the party’s hawkish wing and the rising voices who prefer a more restrained role abroad.
There’s not much of a moderate wing left in the GOP, but the pragmatism versus purity battle that looms on the horizon could be as fierce as Republicans have seen since the Goldwaterites sought to wrest control of the party in the 1960s.

Now, as then, the establishment is made up mostly of older pragmatists, such as Romney, House Speaker John Boehner and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. And it’s the younger “Red Dawn Republicans,” like Jindal and likely Texas senator to-be Ted Cruz, who are the true believers.

This split will loom over the GOP for the next few years whether Romney is in the White House or on the beaches of La Jolla. If he becomes the 45th president in January, Romney will have to tread carefully as he grapples with a conservative-dominated Republican House, a Senate GOP increasingly divided between old bulls and younger true believers and thousands of party activists who opposed him in two presidential primaries.

“He’ll have half the party watching him every morning,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, calling the House GOP “the bedrock he’ll have to maneuver around.”

A Romney loss would mean the same internal issues would come to the fore more quickly and explosively but with no clear leader at the top of the party. Consider all the voices who’d jockey for attention: the pragmatic Senate and House GOP leadership; next-generation stars like Rubio and Paul Ryan; older reformers led by Jeb Bush; conservative stalwarts like Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Rand Paul of Kentucky ; and the talent-rich ranks of current Republican governors. These forces would all assert their authority in the lead-up to what could be a sprawling 2016 presidential primary that renders a judgment on which direction the party will take.

The fault lines are already clear: True-believers will say, see, this is what happens when you nominate moderates — John McCain lost in 2008 and Romney lost in 2012 because they couldn’t or wouldn’t make the case for conservatism.

“Structurally, a Romney loss, following a McCain loss, would be a rebuke to moderates who have wanted ideological conservatives to fill the bus but not drive the bus,” said a GOP operative close to one sure-fire future presidential aspirant. “The nominee in 2016, if he is not a President Romney, will certainly be a card-carrying movement conservative with a track record to match.”

The pragmatists will howl at this and point to the underlying issues in the electorate.

“If I hear anybody say it was because Romney wasn’t conservative enough I’m going to go nuts,” said Graham. “We’re not losing 95 percent of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics and voters under 30 because we’re not being hard-ass enough.”

Of the party’s reliance on a shrinking pool of white men, one former top George W. Bush official said: “We’re in a demographic boa constrictor and it gets tighter every single election.”

The first big issue that Republicans will confront is the so-called fiscal cliff and whether to cut a major deal on entitlements and taxes with Democrats in a divided Senate. Veteran GOP officials think a President Romney would be much more likely to win support for a compromise from tea party-backed Republicans than a second-term Obama.

“They’ll want to support their president,” said former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour of congressional hard-liners. Barbour, aping the voice of a House or Senate conservative said: “’He don’t agree with me on everything, but at least he’s trying to take our country in the right direction.’”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah.), a young conservative, added of Romney’s ability to bring along more ideological elements of his party: “That’s exponentially more true because of Paul Ryan’s presence. He has the personal relationships and street cred to make that happen. That’s one of the reasons Mitt selected him.”

If Romney loses, the party will almost certainly be far more divided when it comes to a grand bargain. Potential 2016 hopefuls like Ryan and Rubio will be hesitant to support any deal that could make their right flank vulnerable in a GOP primary.

Chaffetz thinks that congressional conservatives would take their cues from Ryan.

“Win or lose, Paul is the most influential guy in the House and probably the Senate,” he said.

Some sort of fiscal agreement could be finessed with the conservative base if it’s sold as tax and entitlement reform, if individual rates do not go up and it’s exemptions and deductions that are eliminated.

“We as Republicans would be smart to tell our Democratic colleagues that we will eliminate deductions and apply the revenue to the deficit if you take on entitlements,” said Graham. “But if we become the party that can’t compromise, in the view of the average person we’ll get punished.”

Yet while there may be a way to make a grand bargain palatable to the rank-and-file conservatives, immigration reform is much more clear-cut and therefore tougher to find consensus around and may be even more illustrative of the internal civil war Republicans seem on the verge of.

After getting pounded on it in election after election, some congressional Republicans will seek to deprive Democrats of having the issue every two years. But anything that smacks of amnesty will face fierce resistance in the ranks of a GOP caucus that is even more conservative than when the issue was debated in 2007, to say nothing of the likes of talk radio and cable opponents.

To some longtime Republicans, the party faces an existential question on immigration.

“Once we deal with the issue, we’ll have a permanent majority for a generation,” said Gingrich. “But until we do, we’re permanently in danger of losing.”

Gingrich’s solution, regardless of whether Romney wins: “It’s going to require Jeb Bush coming to Washington for about six months and working directly with Marco Rubio and building a bipartisan majority. We really need Jeb to live in Washington for six months to get this done.”

Barbour, an outspoken supporter of immigration reform, said the key is to make the economic argument for why reaching an agreement on the issue makes sense.

“Let’s just say 5 million of the 12 million [undocumented immigrants] have a job, pay taxes, have a family and children here — they’re residents who contribute,” he said. “Let’s say we deport all of them — well who’s going do those 5 million jobs? Are we going to find 5 million Americans to do them? Not a chance.”

But the opposition to a bill that includes legal status for undocumented immigrants will face roadblocks from congressional Republicans, regardless of who is in the White House.

“ ‘Comprehensive’ seems to be code word for amnesty,” said Chaffetz, who won his seat following a primary against a Republican who was a moderate on immigration. “I don’t think that’s doable.”

But even if there is an immigration reform bill passed, some pragmatists fear a scenario in which the issue becomes relitigated in a future GOP primary. It’s easy to envision, for example, a Republican going to Iowa in 2015 and campaigning for much of the year on a pledge to repeal “Obama’s amnesty law.” The specter of that could stop future presidential hopefuls such as Ryan and Rubio from being party to any deal.

“Too many Republicans treat harsh immigration rhetoric the way a smoker treats cigarettes,” lamented GOP strategist Todd Harris. “You know it’s going to kill you, but you do it anyway.”

Barack Obama the not-so-happy warrior
By: Glenn Thrush
November 5, 2012 04:39 AM EST
Barack Obama is shown here. | AP Photo
Obama officials say their boss had no choice but to run the campaign he did. | AP Photo

Barack Obama’s enthusiasm gap began at home.

There is a surprisingly simple explanation for Obama’s up-and-down performance as a candidate during his reelection grind in 2012, for those lackluster TV appearances, for that epic flop Oct. 3 on the Denver debate stage that might yet cost him his presidency on Tuesday.

Until the final sprint, he just wasn’t that into it.

The key to understanding the Obama enigma of 2012, according to more than a dozen Obama associates interviewed by POLITICO during the campaign, is that the president enthusiastically approved the message of relentless attacks against Mitt Romney. But until the last week of the campaign — when optimism made a major comeback — Obama executed it mirthlessly and mechanically, at times reinforcing the “meh” vibe of his supportive but uninspired base.
Obama’s pollster, Joel Benenson, told him early on that hope and change couldn’t be recycled in a country enduring three years of grim recovery, and the campaign’s highly effective June and July anti-Romney blitz in battlegrounds was brutally effective. But the attack-first, hope-second strategy never quite suited Obama personally — in fact, it seemed to directly contradict his transformational, upbeat brand.

That unease with his own campaign not only drained energy from his reelection effort but could have nasty, knock-on consequences if he wins. A scorched-earth victor won’t do much to heal Washington’s divisions, with a probable GOP House and Democratic Senate set to be at loggerheads, regardless of who wins the presidency.

“I get why he had to do what he did. It was smart politically. But he’s become the embodiment of the partisanship he once decried,” said The New York Times’s David Brooks, one of the few journalists to strike up a real relationship with Obama during his first term. “The dissonance [between Obama in 2008 and 2012] is so obvious. … Can you think of a president who ran more different campaigns the first and second times? I’ve tried. I can’t.”
Obama officials say their boss had no choice but to run the campaign he did, given Romney’s fact-challenged attacks on Obama’s record. They point to key moments — from the campaign’s first ad to Obama’s convention speech to his positive closing argument at the second debate — to bolster their claim that his 2012 message isn’t quite as downcast as people think.

“Elections are always about choices, and it was our job to lay out that choice throughout the course of this campaign,” said Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter. “But now is the time to make our closing argument, when people are making their final choices, and the president is making a very compelling and persuasive case to stick with him and finish what we started. And, he’s enjoying it.”

Even Brooks, a right-leaning centrist whose critique annoys Obama’s team, acknowledges that Obama’s 2008 theme needed a makeover for 2012, given the initial lack of enthusiasm of his base and the country’s larger anxieties about the possibility of a long, slow national decline.

(Also on POLITICO: The best stories of 2012)

But the absence of such a powerful motivating message has contributed to the sense, among political professionals and regular voters, that Obama downsized his own aspirations to hold onto power, something he railed against in 2008.

Clearly that perception had an impact on Obama’s attitude, aides privately acknowledge, which in turn allowed the charisma-challenged Romney to portray himself at times as the optimistic, hopeful candidate.

“[Obama] found his voice in 2008. That voice has, for the most part, been missing in 2012,” said CNN contributor David Gergen, who counseled presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

“This isn’t the kind of politics this man likes to practice. … Another factor is that he’s a moody person. Bill Clinton, for instance, was a much sunnier person. He let things roll off him more easily. You could see that during [Clinton’s] reelection campaign. … The clothes of this campaign, the negativity, don’t really fit” Obama.

Gergen said that Obama’s attitude might not cost him the election, but “he may have cost himself a mandate, an opportunity to clear the air in Washington” by letting Romney back into the race after the lackluster first debate. Obama’s surge in September, following the conventions, would have resulted in a bigger win than he could possibly achieve now.

His failure to nail down a larger, more durable lead in the Denver debate meant Obama had to stay personally negative longer — delaying the closing pivot to positivity he had looked forward to.

“Look, he knew what he had to do to win in 2012, and that involved making the sharp contrast between himself and Romney. He never hesitated on that — operationally,” said a Democrat close to Obama attuned to the president’s variable moods.

“But he’s a guy who feels a lot more personally comfortable making an optimistic case himself. The negative stuff doesn’t come naturally, and it really shows. … It’s clear, he just wasn’t into that as much when he had to carry that [negative] message himself. … And [he’s got] no poker face. None.”

Obama hasn’t been uniformly flat. A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Tracking Poll shows him now neck and neck with Romney in terms of his voter enthusiasm, a sign that some of his ’08 magic might be back.

And his stump speech has always had its optimistic passages, always brimmed with his argument for fairness, especially on tax policy and entitlement reform, and always contained allusions to the spirit of ’08.

“If people ask you what this campaign is about, you tell them it’s still about hope, you tell them it’s still about change,” Obama shouted at the end of his kick0ff rally in Ohio six months ago — staring directly at 3,000 empty seats.

But a back-to-the-future theme has taken hold in the past 10 days, as if someone flicked the “hope” switch back on, as Obama himself shifts to a more upbeat closing argument while also throwing himself into the crisis of Hurricane Sandy.

That hasn’t stopped his campaign from churning out the negative ads, but he’s been scaling back or softening his own Romney hits. On Thursday, Obama’s first day back on the trail after the storm, he scarcely mentioned his opponent.

And he’s warmed to the idea of identifying himself as the “champion” of regular Americans, a phrase he wrote himself after struggling for months to find a way to meld his current campaign’s aggressiveness with some of the old 2008 uplift.

Obama biographer Jonathan Alter, who has been traveling with the president during the final week of barnstorming in the battleground Midwest, understands why Obama couldn’t rerun his 2008 campaign. But he thinks it was a major mistake to cede the optimistic high ground to Romney for much of the race.

“At this point, it’s a question of why he wasn’t making this argument, with this much passion, a lot earlier on. … I think he was so worried about over-promising, he wound up under-promising and under-performing,” Alter said after an Obama campaign stop in Ohio.

“I get where he was coming from. If you took a ‘Morning in America’ campaign you would have gotten hammered, but a hope-and-change message and more sober approach aren’t mutually exclusive,” he added. “They may have gone too far in the other direction. There weren’t enough aspirational ideas for a second term.”

Brooks agreed, adding, “You couldn’t do hope-and-change and Bain at the same time?”

Obama insiders think he’s finally hit on the right hybrid. The new Obama speech, with its explicit references to his promises of 2008, still contains its share of anti-Romney lines. But now they are in the context of a renewed Obama commitment to “change” — a challenge to Paul Ryan’s riff that Romney-Ryan is the new and improved “change and hope” ticket.

The address resonates more with grander themes of his election night address to 240,000 in Chicago four years ago than with the Big Bird, Seamus-on-the-roof and Bain attacks of 2012. And it’s given the candidate new spark — along with the fact that an exhausted Obama can now see the finish line.

“I’ve known him for 20 years. … I’ve never seen him more exhilarated than he is right now,” senior adviser David Axelrod told reporters traveling with the president in Ohio late last week.

“You can see in the speech he’s delivering … that this is coming from his loins,” he said.

Obama doesn’t own the franchise on incumbent ambivalence. Anyone who’s had hands on the controls, as a sitting president or as a vice president running from Air Force Two, feels the indignity of having to campaign again.

“These guys do get pissy. That happens to all presidents running for a second term, but it’s especially true for Obama, given the kind of campaign he ran the first time,” said Richard Ben Cramer, author of “What It Takes,” a landmark chronicle of the trials of the 1988 presidential candidates, including President George H.W. Bush, a diffident politician accustomed to the trappings of power.

“It’s very hard to top the presidency. … It’s really hard to get into the mode of, ‘Well, I have to talk to these guys in Medina, Ohio,’” he added. “For 3½ years, nobody tells the president, ‘You f—ed up,’ and all of a sudden people are telling him what to do. … So, I think Obama wants to be there, wants to be president, but he doesn’t necessarily want to do all the things he had to do to be there.”

That’s not to say Obama is ambivalent about the result of the election — he’s a ferocious competitor. Behind the scenes, insiders paint a portrait of a candidate deep-diving into polling reports on Air Force One and in Roosevelt Room strategy sessions, and who does, in fact, personally approve every message.

In speech-writing meetings, he’s often the one to suggest the addition of more optimistic, aspirational passages, aides say — even though he has frequently bowed to the counter-argument that he can prevail only by defining Romney in the most negative way possible.

The tension took its toll. Obama infamously told a Nevada campaign worker that his Denver debate prep was “a drag,” and aides say he was far more engaged during his daily economic and intelligence briefings than the atmosphere of “That was great, Mr. President, but…” at the cram sessions.

Obama’s field organization, micro-targeting operation and strategic focus on eroding Romney’s reputation in a half-dozen swing states have kept him in the race even when the candidate himself has sometimes “underperformed,” in the words of one former Clinton aide.

The reaction among the party faithful, and some of Obama’s own staff and volunteers, was rage, a sense that they were slaving 15-hour days, building a billion-dollar juggernaut — all for a man who hadn’t bothered to show up when it mattered most at the first debate.

“It’s not that he didn’t care, it’s that he was confused by the competing priorities,” said a Democrat close to Obama of his confounding performance in Denver. “That got him down.”

Reporters who have been with the president were less surprised by the flop. Obama’s performance on the trail has been so variable that reporters covering him seldom know quite what to expect. Unlike his former rival Hillary Clinton, who could campaign on three hours sleep, Obama needs his rest and often delivers his worst speeches when he doesn’t get enough shut-eye. The ’08 flashes of inspiration have come, but sporadically.

The day after he bombed in Denver, he arrived at a park early in the morning and electrified the audience, one hand in his pocket, the other one gripping the podium or sweeping off to the side at a 90-degree angle from his body, head craned into the bank of microphones — a gesture that signals to his staff that “he’s really into it.”

A few days later, during an appearance at Ohio State University, he seemed to be going through the motions and struggled to get through the canned Sesame Street gags packed into his stump speech to razz Romney over his threat to cut PBS funding.

“So for all you moms and kids out there, don’t worry, somebody’s finally getting tough on Big Bird,” Obama said, stumbling over the words. “Who knew that he was driving our deficit? So he decided we’re going after Big Bird, Elmo’s making a run for the border and Oscar’s hiding out in a trash can. Gov. Romney wants to let Wall Street run wild again, but he’s going to bring down the hammer on Sesame Street. Look, that is not leadership, that’s salesmanship. We can’t afford it.”

The contrast between that kind of message and the speech he delivered on Nov. 4, 2008, couldn’t have been more stark.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” Obama said then.

His personal affection for such language explains, in part, why Obama seems so thrilled to replace Big Bird with some of the aspirational touches of 2008. But there’s something new: humility.

“It started to click after Denver, when he began asking voters for their help, rather than telling them why they shouldn’t be so disappointed,” said one former Clinton aide who backs Obama.

The irony is that the perfect pitch for 2012 ultimately has been one from 2008 — not his own, but Hillary Clinton’s claim that her political “scars” from the 1990s made her tough enough to change Washington in the future.

“You know I’m willing to make tough decisions, even when they’re not politically convenient,” Obama says in his closing pitch. “I know what real change looks like, because I fought for it.

“I’ve got the scars to prove it.”

Ryan says Obama's policies threaten 'Judeo-Christian values'
hours ago  

By NBC's Alex Moe
CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- Less than 48 hours before polls open on Election Day, Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan gave a firm warning to a group of evangelical Christians Sunday night: President Barack Obama’s policies jeopardize Judeo-Christian values. 

"And in these critical battleground states, it's going to make the big difference as to whether or not people are worried about where America's headed, worried about whether we're going to reassert our Constitution, or whether or not we're going to go down the path the president has put us on," Ryan said speaking on a Faith and Freedom Coalition tele-townhall with thousands of voters across the country.

He continued, "It's a dangerous path, it's a path that grows government, restricts freedom and liberty, and compromises those values, those Judeo-Christian, western-civilization values that made us such a great and exceptional nation in the first place."

A Ryan campaign spokesman told NBC News about Ryan’s comments: "He was talking about issues like religious liberty and ObamaCare - topics he has mentioned frequently during the campaign." 

Mitt Romney has also shared similar comments about Judeo-Christian values, such as during his commencement address at Liberty University in May 2012.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition is an influential evangelical grassroots organization headed by Ralph Reed. The tele-town hall tonight was only advised by the group and never by the Romney campaign. It was a call that had been re-scheduled at least once due to scheduling conflicts. Ryan fielded questions from several callers in between campaign rallies in Minnesota and Colorado.

Asked by a caller from Florida about how his faith has helped him as Romney’s running mate, Ryan said it “sustains” and “humbles” him.

“We [Ryan’s family] pray throughout the day. I keep a rosary in my pocket, whatever jacket I've got, and I'm given so many prayers from people,” the Wisconsin congressman said. “I'm one of those people who don't think you can separate your faith from your public life as an official from your private life. It informs you, it guides you, it makes you who you are, and it gives you great peace. First prayer I say every morning is the Serenity prayer.”

Ryan also noted he received an email from his pastor in Janesville, Wis. tonight with the words: “have no fear.” “And that's how the Lord sustains me. No fear,” Ryan added.

Paul Ryan Says Obama Threatens ‘Judeo-Christian Values’ With Health Care Plan

Yesterday at 11:22 PM

By Adam Martin

In public, Paul Ryan's attacks on the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) have been largely economic ones, from that viral video of him arguing to the president in person that the plan merely hides spending and doesn't cut it, to his speech at the Republican National Convention, in which he argued, falsely, that the plan would raid Medicare. But in a conference call with evangelical voters on Sunday he changed tack dramatically, claiming a second Obama term would compromise "those Judeo-Christian values that made us a great nation in the first place."

The telephone town hall with the Faith and Freedom Coalition wasn't exactly a secret. Politico, NBC, and Buzzfeed have all posted stories on it, and Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel tweeted about it, not to mention the fact that it drew thousands of participants. But as Buzzfeed's Zeke Miller pointed out, the call "did not appear on his public schedule," which suggests the campaign didn't want to make it a media event.

There are a few angles to this that are worth considering. The first is that this is some pretty unhinged rhetoric for a candidate seeking national office. It's expected that Ryan would condemn President Obama's agenda, but to argue that the agenda threatens the values of "western civilization" is qualitatively different. It's the kind of extremism we might expect from a televangelist, not a vice presidential candidate two days before an election.

Second, the tele-townhall event was organized by the Faith and Freedom Coalition -- the group formed by disgraced Republican lobbyist Ralph Reed. Common sense might suggest the Romney campaign would keep its distance from such a scandal-plagued figure, but for months, the Republican ticket has done the opposite.

And finally, all of this serves as a reminder of the part of Ryan's persona that's often overlooked: the so-called budget wonk is also a fierce culture warrior.

The perceptions of Ryan in much of the media notwithstanding, Ryan has fought against contraception access; he's worked with Todd Akin to redefine rape; he believes the government should force women impregnated by rape or incest to carry their pregnancies to term; he co-sponsored a "Personhood" measure that would ban in-vitro fertilization and some forms of birth control; and twice voted for a constitutional amendment to prevent marriage equality.

It's with this record in mind that Ryan tells the religious right that the White House is at odd with "Judeo-Christian" values. The rhetoric is only surprising to those who forget what a culture warrior this guy really is. 
But calling the president a threat to people's very religious values is the kind of hyperventilating paranoia that a candidate should maybe stay away from here in the waning days of the campaign.

If Romney loses…
By: Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman
November 5, 2012 04:39 AM EST
Mitt Romney is shown here. | AP Photo
If Romney loses, the GOP will have to go through a painful process of self-examination | AP Photo

For Republicans, the only thing harder than losing to Barack Obama might be explaining it.

By any reasonable standard, Obama is a seriously vulnerable incumbent: a president overseeing a limping economy, whose party got thumped in the 2010 midterm elections and whose signature accomplishment of health care reform is highly controversial. Whatever his strengths on national security and personal likability, Obama probably began the 2012 campaign as the most beatable sitting president in 20 years.
So if Obama manages to defeat Mitt Romney on Tuesday, the Republican Party will have to go through a painful process of self-examination and internal debate in order to explain what went so badly wrong.

The debate won’t just be fodder for political obsessives: It will also determine how Republicans approach governing next year and how the party campaigns in 2014, 2016 and beyond.

Even before tomorrow’s vote, the post-election arguments about why Romney lost — if he does — are beginning.

(PHOTOS: Final countdown to Election Day)

Here’s a POLITICO preview of the top arguments Republicans would use to explain and excuse it:

Mitt Romney was a historically bad candidate

If Romney wins on Tuesday, he’ll be president of the United States. If he loses, he’ll be the fall guy for the entire Republican Party.

Republicans weren’t overjoyed about nominating Romney in the first place, partly because he was a shade too moderate for their taste, but also because he was such an inept competitor in the 2008 primaries.

Win or lose, Romney has validated many of those fears, careening from misstep to misstep throughout the 2012 race. If Romney wasn’t fumbling his response to the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act ruling, he was offending the British on the eve of the London Olympics or getting caught on tape bashing Americans who don’t pay income taxes.
On a deeper level, Romney was a problematic candidate for 2012. In a campaign still shadowed by the meltdown of the financial services industry, the GOP picked a candidate as close to Wall Street as any in history. Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said in August that Democrats had branded Romney as a “wealthy plutocrat married to a known equestrian.” He was right, and Romney may have been more vulnerable to such attacks than any other major Republican in America.

If Romney loses, who's to blame?

Relentlessly attacked by Democrats for his Bain Capital record, Romney never responded in an effective way. He stuck to his script that Obama hadn’t successfully steered the economy back to solid ground, failing to flesh out his own agenda until late in the game and even then only vaguely.

If Republicans come up short in Senate or House races, too, they’ll gripe about the lack of Romney coattails. It probably won’t be fair for the party to blame Romney for all its failings down-ballot, but it’ll happen anyway.

Oh, Sandy

Over the weekend — days before the election ends — Republicans were already pointing toHurricane Sandy to explain a Romney loss. The argument goes like this: Wall-to-wall news coverage of the superstorm, combined with the loss of life and uncertainty about how to campaign in the shadow of a tragedy, stalled Romney’s momentum.

Obama took charge of storm-relief efforts, visiting hard-hit sites, and Americans tend to rally around the president in a crisis. The glowing praise for Obama from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a top Romney surrogate, also didn’t help the Romney cause.

Karl Rove told The Washington Post that the storm allowed Obama to be a “bipartisan figure this week. His has been the comforter-in-chief and that helps.” Barbour told CNN’s Candy Crowley that the storm “broke” Romney’s momentum.

And News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch attacked Christie on Twitter, declaring that he “must re-declare for Romney, or take blame for [the] next four dire years.”

There’s no question that the storm has aided Obama in terms of media coverage, and praise from the opposing party is always useful. But Christie’s power to swing an election — one largely being fought in Midwestern states unaffected by the storm — is seriously questionable. So, too, is the idea that Romney was assured victory in a tight, 2-point race before the storm hit.

We can’t know what would have happened if the storm hadn’t hit. But there were strong indications before it landed the week before the election that Romney’s momentum was stalling, and that the Republican had failed to capitalize on his strong first debate performance with enough gusto.

What’s more, had Romney run a more effective campaign over the past year, he wouldn’t have had so much riding on the last month of campaigning — and a single blown debate by Obama — to vault him over the top.

Stuart Stevens blew it

Every time Romney has flagged in the 2012 race, a chorus of conservative critics have directed their ire at Stuart Stevens, the flamboyant Mississippi native and auteur who serves as Romney’s chief strategist. The last man standing after a messy internal fight among Romney’s 2008 advisers, Stevens was a target from the beginning.

Stevens’s basic methodology for winning races goes like this: run a center-right candidate through a Republican primary by focusing on the general election, then focus relentlessly on the incumbent while taking as few specific policy positions as possible.

This approach appears to work better in statewide races than it does in a presidential campaign, when voters seek more specificity and a genuine personal connection with their candidates. Yet Stevens never strayed from this strategy, leaving Romney largely undefined to the national electorate as Democrats tore up his record at Bain Capital and as governor of Massachusetts.

Stevens was the chief speech writer, traveling strategist, ad-maker and overseer of the campaign’s in-house ad buying strategy. Romney’s convention speech, prepped on the fly, made a rookie mistake by omitting a reference to the Afghanistan War. Romney’s ads were criticized as banal, cookie-cutter pieces that never broke through. The ad-buying strategy, reviewed at length by POLITICO, left Romney outflanked by the Obama campaign in key markets across the country.

To be sure, Stevens is not the only person in Romney high command who would (and should) take blame for a loss. But as a favorite punching bag for conservatives throughout the cycle, there’s no doubt he would be a whipping boy on Nov. 7.

Immigration was a fatal blunder

It’s been one of the most consistent — and for Republicans, alarming — features of 2012 polling: Romney is getting blown out with Latino voters. And he pretty much made his own bed with this powerful and growing demographic.

As early as September 2011, when Romney was running to Rick Perry’s right on immigration — Romney’s most memorable line on the subject was that illegal immigrants should choose to “self-deport” to their native countries — Republicans privately fretted that Romney was digging himself a demographic hole.

They were right: Romney’s likely to lose Latinos by a wider gap than McCain’s 36-point margin of defeat. That could push states like Nevada, Virginia, Florida and Colorado into Obama’s column, and if Obama wins just a few of those battlegrounds, it will be exceptionally difficult for Romney to win nationally.

Should that scenario come to pass, Republican elites — who have long feared confinement to an aging and white voter base — will be ringing the alarm bells Wednesday morning. Some party leaders haven’t waited until after Election Day to raise the hue and cry.

In an interview with New York magazine, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush compared the party’s predicament with Latinos to Monty Python’s hapless Black Knight: “We’re competing with ninjas, you know, guys with big, sharp knives, and we have no weapon, and we’re playing like we’re fighting them, and we get an arm cut off — ‘Oh, it’s just a flesh wound’ — and we’re down to the trunk.

It was a mistake to nominate a moderate — again

For much of the Republican base, the past four years carry a straightforward lesson: When you nominate an ideological squish like John McCain, you lose. When you run on big, bold, conservative ideas — as the party did in 2010 — you win.

Romney has embraced many of the ideas of the 2010-vintage GOP, selecting Paul Ryan as his running mate and embracing staunchly conservative goals like defunding Planned Parenthood. But for most on the right, Romney remains the “Massachusetts moderate,” as Newt Gingrich christened him during the GOP primaries.

Back in the Republican nomination fight, Rick Santorum called Romney the “worst Republican” to put up against Obama, since he couldn’t draw a bright-line contrast on health care and other issues. Should Romney lose on Tuesday, this argument will be back in force.

There are a bunch of holes in this argument. Romney has taken serious damage with women and Latinos as a result of hewing to the conservative line on abortion and immigration. It’s a dubious proposition that Romney would be better off campaigning harder on issues like privatizing Medicare.

But in the race’s final month, old Mitt — the one who passed universal health care in Massachusetts as governor — seemed to re-emerge on the campaign trail, promising no tax cuts for the wealthy and that government can indeed do good things. It was his strongest month of the campaign.

Where Romney has clearly fallen short is offering up a compelling positive vision for the country, not necessarily a compelling, orthodox conservative vision. His longtime conservative critics will still whack him on this count with verve.

It was all the media’s fault

Claims of media bias from both sides are nothing new in presidential politics. But the Romney campaign has long lamented that the press is out to get them, with the candidate, his wife and top surrogates openly complaining that they can’t get a fair shake.

Romney and his campaign have viewed their press coverage as routinely savage, feeding into the Obama campaign’s caricature of Romney as a non-mustachioed Snidely Whiplash. Reporters, the Romney team has complained, are more interested in gaffes than in policy, even if that means taking Romney out of context.

Yet the reality is Romney also did little to make an affirmative case for his candidacy and his character until late in the game. When the Obama team attacked, Romney and his spokespeople resisted responding to the press, declining to comment on stories and then attacking them as biased and factually flawed only after they appeared in print.

For most of the 2012 cycle, Romney’s campaign invested little energy into making its case to and building relationships with the national media. Romney conducted relatively few interviews, favoring softball appearances on Fox News and interviews with radio hosts like Hugh Hewitt. His spokespeople didn’t reliably answer press requests, even benign ones. The assumption was that the press is either irrelevant or simply trying to cause trouble.

But treating the media as a hostile force can be a self-fulfilling prophecy: Denying reporters basic access and refusing to answer straightforward questions about policy and strategy are a pretty surefire way to deprive yourself of positive coverage.

Democrats have complained about the media, too, attacking the press covering the 2012 campaign for not fact-checking Romney aggressively enough and for buying in too credulously to the “narrative” of Romney’s October momentum. But few on the left have made these complaints a primary explanation for the state of the race.

New Obama book has 2nd-term plan
By: Mike Allen
October 23, 2012 08:47 AM EST

Faced with persistent calls for more detail about what a second term would look like, President Barack Obama on Tuesday released a glossy, 20-page repackaging of the plans he has announced on subjects from energy to education.

Obama planned to unveil the booklet, “The New Economic Patriotism: A PLAN FOR JOBS & MIDDLE-CLASS SECURITY,” at an event in Delray Tennis Center in Delray, Fla.

The president, Vice President Joe Biden and other campaign surrogates plan to hold up the booklet at rallies as they barnstorm swing states in the final two weeks before Election Day on Nov. 6.

(Also on POLITICO: Media: Obama in fighting mood)

The campaign says 3.5 million copies are being printed, with 1.5 million of those being sent to field offices.

“We’re launching a full-scale, multiplatform organizational effort,” a campaign official said, “that will include direct mail, advertisements and distribution at field offices to ensure every voter knows what a second term of an Obama presidency would mean for middle-class Americans.

“The president, vice president and all of our surrogates will hold up the plan at events and ask our massive grass-roots network to do everything they can to share the plan with their family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and others to reach every undecided voter in the remaining days of this election and ensure they understand the choice between continuing to move America forward and going back to the same policies that devastated our economy and punished the middle class.”
A distilled version of the plan was available previously on the Web

Here are links to Obama’s booklet:

Cover and “Economy”…

—“Manufacturing” and “Energy” —“Small Businesses” and “Education” —“Tax Plan” and “Health Care” —“Retirement” and “Moving America Forward” —Back cover

(See also: The latest presidential polls)

Obama on Tuesday released his version of “Morning in America,” a 60-second spot, called “Determination,” that will air in seven states — Colorado, Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Obama says to the camera: “There’s just no quit in America, and you’re seeing that right now. Over 5 million new jobs. Exports up 41 percent. Home values — rising. Our auto industry — back. And our heroes — are coming home. We’re not there yet — but we’ve made REAL progress, and the last thing we should do is turn back now.
“Here’s my plan for the next four years: Making education and training a national priority; building on our manufacturing boom; boosting American-made energy; reducing the deficits responsibly by cutting where we can, AND asking the wealthy to pay a little more. And ending the war in Afghanistan, so we can do some nation-building here at home. That’s the right path. So, read my plan. Compare it to Governor Romney’s, and decide which is better for you. It’s an HONOR to be your President. And I’m asking for your vote. So, together, we can keep moving America forward.”

See the ad here.

Over the next three days, the Obama advance machine will show its might, as the president hits seven states (two of them twice), starting in Florida on Tuesday morning, then meeting up with Vice President Biden in Dayton in the afternoon.

After overnighting at the White House, the president is off to Davenport on Wednesday to begin an “America Forward!” tour, which the campaign describes as “a two-day, around-the-clock campaign blitz.” He continues to Denver, then holds a late-night event in Las Vegas. He flies overnight to Tampa for a Thursday morning rally, then on to a tarmac event in Richmond.

After that, he goes home to Chicago to become the first sitting president to cast an early vote in person. Then, it’s back to Ohio for an evening event in Cleveland.

“As the President crisscrosses the nation,” the campaign said in its announcement, “he will spend time on Air Force One calling undecided voters, rallying National Team Leaders and volunteers and continuously engaging with Americans across the country about the choice in this election.”


If Obama loses…
By: Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman
November 5, 2012 04:39 AM EST

Barack Obama is shown here. | AP Photo
A loss for Barack Obama would be a traumatic letdown for the Democrats. | AP Photo

A defeat for Barack Obama on Tuesday would be no ordinary loss for Democrats.

It would be a traumatic experience: the death of the dream of liberal realignment embodied in Obama’s insurgent 2008 campaign. And it would be all the more distressing to Democrats because so many of them fervently believe they will win tomorrow.
Unlike Republicans, many of whom have no particular love for their nominee, Democrats admire and sympathize with the president, understanding he came into office at a difficult time. If Obama were to lose, Democrats would suddenly be leaderless for the first time in half a decade and would be forced to confront agonizing questions about the viability of their party’s agenda — health care reform, most of all.

Here’s POLITICO’s preview of how Democrats would try to explain an Obama defeat — including some of the foreseeable arguments and spin:

Obama threw it away in Denver

At the end of September, Obama led his opponent in essentially all credible national and swing-state polling, Mitt Romney’s personal favorability was stuck underwater and the former Massachusetts governor was caught in a whirlpool of controversy around the “47 percent” tape.
And then the first debate happened.

With a strangely passive debate performance, making no mention of the “47 percent” video and even suggesting he and Romney agreed on the the future of Social Security, Obama gave the Republican a massive new opening in the 2012 campaign. Romney’s swing-state numbers leaped upward, his personal favorability surged and in national Pew polling he went from a 8-point deficit to a 4-point lead over Obama.

If Obama loses, who's to blame?

If Romney emerges the victor on Tuesday night, some percentage of Democrats will say that the reason is really very simple: Obama self-immolated on a single night at the University of Denver. Had the president been the fierce competitor that night that he was in the two successive debates, he could have ended the race on Oct. 3. Instead, Obama barely showed up.

(Also on POLITICO: The best stories of 2012)

The Obama campaign doesn’t buy this read on the race. It has argued in recent weeks that the movement in polls following the first debate was just a matter of Republican-leaning swing voters coming home to Romney. Those voters, they say, would ultimately have voted for Romney anyway.

But it’s impossible to prove that hypothetical. All we know for sure is that Obama was securely in the lead before the debate and on the defensive afterwards.

The Bush economy killed him

The president has reminded the nation repeatedly during 2012 that the economic climate was horrendous when he arrived in the White House, after the 2008 housing meltdown and the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. Some Democrats will certainly call a Romney victory just one more consequence of that crisis.

And there is no question the president took charge during very difficult times, as the country entered a long and painful recession. Obama has pointed to signs of life in the economy — an incrementally dipping unemployment rate, a revived auto sector — to argue that his policies have been effective, if not as robust as some voters would like.

Former President Bill Clinton bolstered Obama’s case at the Democratic National Convention, saying that no one — not Clinton and not any previous president — could have fixed all that ailed the nation in four years. Obama adviser David Axelrod has long pointed to George W. Bush’s policies to explain the bulk of Obama’s struggles, and the Obama campaign has hung Bush around Romney’s neck for months (an anchor Romney has struggled to jettison).

But Republicans argue in response that Obama had four years of his own to change course, and they have a point. Whether Obama’s own accomplishments — the stimulus and the Affordable Care Act in particular — were ultimately helpful or hurtful, there is room for criticism of Obama’s economic agenda over the last four years.

That won’t stop Democrats from arguing, however, that the damage Bush did to the economy was so deep, so lasting and so insurmountable that perhaps nothing at all could have saved Obama politically.

It was the second-term vision thing

Obama and his allies did a splendid job of tearing down Romney throughout the spring and summer. What the president hasn’t done nearly as effectively is lay out an inspiring agenda for the next four years.

The closest Obama came to detailing his second-term plan was in an off-record conversation with the editors of the Des Moines Register — an interview the White House subsequently released to the public. In it, Obama said over the next four years, he hoped to cut a big debt-reduction deal and pass immigration and education reform.

But Obama hasn’t been so specific or assertive on the campaign trail, touting the economic progress the country has made but giving voters little in the way of specific proposals to energize a stalled job market. Part of that is because Democrats are authentically optimistic that things are already on the right track and job creation will pick up naturally in the next four years anyway.

But another part of the problem is that Obama’s team expected the country to bounce back from the 2008 meltdown far faster than this. Since the V-shaped recession they anticipated failed to materialize, Obama has often seemed at a loss for new ideas and arguments about improving the economy.

Democratic strategists James Carville and Stan Greenberg — who have authored several memos needling the Obama team in 2012 — wrote a missive to the Obama campaign urging a more forward-leaning message for the president to stump on.

“To come back strong, the president must address future policy choices in a much bolder way,” the memo said, “and he must make this election about choosing a country that stands up for and elevates the 47 percent versus a country that tells its seniors, veterans, the working poor, the disabled, and, yes, the struggling middle class: ‘You are on your own.’”

Citizens United, the super PACs and the Koch Brothers did it

Pick practically any day in calendar year 2012, and odds are you can find a prominent Democrat lamenting the flood of outside money into the presidential campaign. And into Senate campaigns. And into House campaigns.

The 2012 elections have indeed been preposterously expensive. In October alone, outside groups disclosed over half a billion dollars in independent expenditures. Republicans have led the way, with American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS and the pro-Romney group Restore Our Future spending over $170 million together last month, according to an analysis by POLITICO’s Dave Levinthal.

If the president doesn’t get reelected, one of the most predictable Democratic excuses will be that all that money simply overwhelmed him.

The trouble with that argument is that Obama and his outside-group allies haven’t been slouches, either. While Democrats came late to the super PAC game, three such groups — Priorities USA Action, Majority PAC and House Majority PAC — spent $75.5 million in October. Obama and Romney have raised over a billion dollars each for their campaigns and national party committees.

And while Democrats still bemoan outside money, Priorities USA was the chief purveyor of the one of the sharpest and most effective attacks against Romney, turning his background at Bain Capital into a negative and leaving a permanent negative mark on his poll numbers.

And for all the money Obama’s foes have raised, the Wesleyan Media Project reported last week that pro-Obama ads have actually outnumbered pro-Romney ads by nearly 50,000 nationwide.

If the avalanche of spending in 2012 has had an impact on the presidential contest, it has likely been to blunt Obama’s natural strengths as an incumbent, more than to give Romney some kind of new advantage.

He lost for a noble cause: national health care

The Affordable Care Act was an albatross for the president for much of the last two years, even as internal polling on both sides shows it has gained popularity.

It was the defining policy initiative of the president’s term, but the process of enacting it wasn’t pretty. Republicans picked apart the law in the 2010 campaigns, using Nancy Pelosi’s infamous line — that Congress had to pass the law so that voters could find out what was in it — as a symbol of a messy and backroom legislative process. Members of the president’s liberal coalition, meanwhile, resented both the secretive negotiations and the lack of a single-payer option in its final version.

On the list of reasons why Democrats lost their sizable House majority in 2010, the law known as “Obamacare” ranks high.

In 2012, Republicans have continued to pummel the health care law — even with Romney, who passed a similar law as governor of Massachusetts, running as Obama’s opponent (Romney has said he would seek to repeal the law and issue waivers to states that don’t want to implement it). Lawmakers who voted for the ACA still hold it at arm’s length and few red-state Democrats have campaigned with the president.

In other words, Obama achieved one of the Democratic Party’s longest-standing policy objectives, but he paid a dramatic price for it.

Obama’s aides argue this was a worthwhile goal for the country, and wave off questions about the price tag, politics and legislative mechanics. Over the long run, they say, the country will embrace the law and appreciate what Obama achieved by signing it. But the cost of passing the law may look different if a President Romney guts it upon taking office.

It all comes back to race

Race has been a surprisingly little-discussed topic — at least among politicians, in public — during the term of the first African-American president in American history. But Obama’s race has hovered over the politics of the last four years, in ways many on the left might point to in explaining his defeat.

Over the summer, Democrats were livid over a series of Romney campaign commercials attacking an Obama administrative decision related to work requirements in the 1996 Clinton welfare reforms. Romney’s ads accused Obama of “gutting” welfare reform — a charge that wasn’t accurate, and which many Democrats argued played into lingering anxiety about Obama among working-class white voters. Few party leaders said so publicly, but in private they worried it would have an impact.

It’s with those voters that Obama has struggled most in the polls. He trails among whites nationwide and is losing by titanic margins in the South. Ohio, where Obama’s auto bailout is popular, is a notable exception as far as white support for Obama is concerned.

Obama’s race may not have hobbled him in the 2008 campaign, but if he cannot win another term, some in his party may at least partially blame it on once-dormant white resistance to the idea of a black president.

The president’s advisers believe race was a subtle issue throughout Obama’s term in office, despite his relatively strong performance with whites in 2008. But Obama and his team have mainly sought to avoid discussions of race since the 2008 campaign, believing it’s a losing proposition for them.

Obama has only engaged in race-related conversations on rare occasions. After criticizing Cambridge, Mass., police officers for having arrested Henry Louis Gates Jr., the prominent black professor, in his own home, Obama has typically steered clear of such controversies. Earlier this year, he spoke out on the shooting of a black teen, Trayvon Martin, in Florida. But he has also emphasized that he isn’t — as he told an African-American media outlet this year — “the president of black America.”

Monday's campaign round-up


Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:

* It's obviously late in the game for new ads, but the National Jewish Democratic Council released a video the other day featuring Barbra Streisand urging Jewish voters to support President Obama. It comes on the heels of an endorsement from Israel's Haaretz newspaper, who calls Obama "good for Israel."

* PPP's final Ohio poll shows Obama leading Mitt Romney by five, 52% to 47%.

* PPP's final Florida poll shows Obama up by one, 50% to 49%.

* PPP's final Iowa and New Hampshire polls show the president ahead by identical margins, 50% to 48%, though the final WMUR poll shows Obama up by four, 50% to 46%.

* PPP's final Colorado poll shows Obama ahead by six, 52% to 46%.

* PPP's final North Carolina poll shows the candidates tied at 49% each.

* In Connecticut, Republican Senate hopeful Linda McMahon is using materials that make it appear she and the president are on the same side, hoping voters forget which party's she's in.

* In Missouri, PPP's final poll shows Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) ahead of Todd Akin (R), 48% to 44%.

* In Massachusetts, a Western New England University poll shows Elizabeth Warren (D)leading Sen. Scott Brown (R) by four, 50% to 46%, while PPP finds Warren ahead by six, 52% to 46%.

* In Montana, PPP shows Sen. Jon Tester (D) with a two-point edge, while Mason-Dixon shows Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) ahead by four.
First polls open in 15 hours. 

  This is my opinion and it is with an open mind and palpitating heart whether Obama gets re-elected, or Romney gets to be the next president.  I will grit my teeth and dive into my blog with all the focus and love for my country that I have.

  I have been covering the Chronicling of Mitt's Mendacity, since the beginning. It has been eye opening. It has been awe inspiring.  I still find it hard to imagine that people would want an habitual liar as their President.  Tomorrow will tell that tail.  I am scared, I am constantly sick, there are times I can not eat, without barfing everything up. This man as our President, is frightening, I do not want this liar, this provocateur of the wealthy, the man, the republicans, who would take away women's rights and hand them to big government and the companies we work for to give us our health care.

  I worry about the debt and what Romney's plan will do to what we owe, I wish Obama had given more facts, more cohesiveness to his plan. The idea that Romney would, take Obamacare away from Americans, when it has not been totally implemented, and leave millions without health care, and he has no plans to do health care. Medicaid, medicare, Social Security, Food stamps, He plans to dismantle, block grant back to the states, voucherize, make market accounts tied to Wall Street, where people could lose everything. 

  I know that these have to be changed, streamlined, so that they will be available for future generations, I get that. I know that President Obama has tried to take these on and Democrats and Republicans have stepped in the way, and they all know they will have to compromise, a give and take, so lean across the aisle and shake hands and listen to each other and your constituents, because they are the ones that voted you in and they can vote your ass out. 

  Open your minds, open your hearts, turn up your hearing aides, and listen to what people have to say, their ideas, because somewhere there is an answer for both parties and the American people.      

  I sit here and think about what our world will be like if things go the Republicans way tomorrow, I am only one person, my daughter and son in law have several times threatened to cut me off from my political news, and that is because I get so fired up and do not take care of myself, they worry about me and keep telling me it is what it is and to stop killing myself.  I keep hoping I make a difference, even to one other person. I have been doing this blog since 2009, I missed the first several months, cause I hadn't really thought of following politics, news, current events.

   I will keep on following even if tomorrow at least for me turns out so very wrong, because I love this country, I still have high hopes for the people of this country, I will be following tomorrow very carefully, because I know there will be people trying to stop the vote, scaring people enough to get them not to vote.  New York and New Jersey, Connecticut, who will be voting in the most despicable conditions, they will be emailing votes, faxing votes, provisional ballots, and absentee ballots. They have had to move voting places around because of Sandy. Some of those votes, ballots may take up to ten days to be counted.  

   I am hoping that everything will turn out good, no problems, no hassles,  that all Americans will be able to vote tomorrow, no matter how late voting places might be open. I will be voting tomorrow, in Pennsylvania, where there is no early voting, and where there has been republicans who have tried to make voting harder for latino's, poor, blacks, and single women. 

  They say that conservatives are strongly saying Romney will win tomorrow, that the polls are 'biased' that they should show double digits for Romney, what some are worried about is if Romney loses, what is going to happen with conservatives, voting rigged, voting fraud, to court! -  to stop this skullduggery. Will it look like 2000 all over again.   Will the republicans yell foul! will the democrats yell foul! It will be an interesting next couple of days, or maybe weeks.  

A voting debacle in Doral causes chaos and confusion

By Patricia Mazzei, Amy Sherman and Kathleen McGrory

Posted on Sun, Nov. 04, 2012

El Nuevo Herald Staff / Hector Gabino

Miami-Dade voters wait in line Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, at the elections office in Doral to pick up absentee ballots.
What began Sunday morning as an attempt by the Miami-Dade elections department to let more people early vote devolved into chaos and confusion only days before the nation decides its next president.Call it the debacle in Doral.

Elections officials, overwhelmed with voters, locked the doors to their Doral headquarters and temporarily shut down the operation, angering nearly 200 voters standing in line outside — only to resume the proceedings an hour later.

On the surface, officials blamed technical equipment and a lack of staff for the shutdown. But behind the scenes, there was another issue: Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

The Republican had never signed off on the additional in-person absentee voting hours in the first place.

“That was counter to what I said on Friday, which was we were not going to change the game mid-stream,” he said. “I said, ‘No, there’s no way we did this.’”

But Gimenez, who is in a nonpartisan post, quickly realized it was better to let the voting go on, and the voting resumed.

The mayor said he found out early Sunday afternoon — from his daughter-in-law — about the extra voting hours.

The move had been approved by Deputy Mayor Alina Hudak at the request of Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley. The plan was simple: Allow voters to request, fill out and return absentee ballots in person for four hours Sunday afternoon.

Early voting the Sunday before Election Day used to be allowed. But it was eliminated by the GOP-controlled state Legislature and Republican Gov. Rick Scott last year after Barack Obama used early voting to help him win Florida in 2008 — and therefore the presidency.

Gimenez said his initial reaction was to stop the last-minute Sunday voting.

But by then, around 180 people stood in line outside the elections office at 2700 NW 87th Ave. They shouted “Let us vote!” and banged on the locked glass doors.

“This is America, not a third-world country,” said Myrna Peralta, who waited in line with her 4-year-old grandson for nearly two hours before the doors closed. “They should have been prepared.”

“My beautiful Sunshine State,” she lamented. “They’re not letting people vote.”

Minutes earlier, a department spokeswoman had said the office did not have enough resources — only one ballot printer, five voting booths and two staffers — to handle the throng of voters and would begin turning new voters away.

“We had the best of intentions to provide this service today,” spokeswoman Christina White had said. “We just can’t accommodate it to the degree that we would like to.”

Calvin Sweeting, a 59-year-old from Opa-locka, was told he would be the last person to vote.

“They said I was the lucky one,” he said, shrugging. “It didn’t seem fair to me.”

Or to Jean Marcellus, 52, who stood behind him.

“This is ridiculous,” Marcellus shouted, holding up the ticket he was given to secure his place in the queue. “I’m the next one!”

So many voters showed up at the Miami-Dade elections headquarters in Doral to cast absentee ballots in person Sunday afternoon that the department shut down the operation less than two hours in, saying it did not have enough resources to help everyone.

Read more here:
Nearly all the voters stayed in line until a campaign worker reported her car had been towed from a private parking lot across the street. Scores of people ducked out of the line to check on their own cars. A second car had been towed.

Behind closed doors were back-and-forth phone calls among the department, the county attorney’s office and the mayor, who eventually decided to let the people outside the elections department vote. Democrats also unleashed a torrent of phone calls to reporters and the county.

“I’m upset at this change, but at the end, when you have 200, 300 voters out there ready to go, you really can’t disenfranchise them,” Gimenez said. Of the whole situation, he added: “I’m certainly embarrassed.”

The elections office reopened its doors at 3 p.m., after being closed for about an hour, apologizing and announcing that it had added a ballot-printing machine and more poll workers and would remain open until all voters in line at 5 p.m. had cast their in-person absentee ballots.

The crowd cheered. Around 400 people stood in line at 5 p.m. Campaign workers passed out bottled water and granola bars.

Despite lines up to seven hours long at times during eight days of early voting, Gimenez had decided late last week not to ask Gov. Scott to extend early-voting hours in Miami-Dade. The last early-voting polls officially closed at 7 p.m. Saturday, but they remained open until the last voter in line checked in with a poll worker — about 1 a.m. Sunday.

Gimenez defended his decision Sunday to refrain from asking the governor for more early-voting hours.

“We all knew what the rules were. When you start doing things like that, you’re opening to criticism of favoring one side or the other,” he said. “All of us knew it was going to be eight days of early voting. It was going to end on Saturday. There is going to be hundred of polling places [open] on Tuesday.”

The county did add poll workers, machines and voting booths to early-voting sites to alleviate some wait times.

On Sunday, Gimenez said he was angrier at Hudak, his deputy, than at Townsley, the elections supervisor.

“I’m going to have to deal with this internally,” he said. “I’m not saying somebody’s going to be lose their job, but somebody made a poor error in judgment that’s not really helping the community.”

Hudak told Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4 that she approved the decision, which at the time she did not see as a major policy shift.

“I apologized to the mayor,” she said. “I should have told him. I made a bad call.”

Gimenez said the elections department wanted to offer more hours of in-person absentee voting in part because some voters had yet to receive ballots the county had mailed them due to a post-office glitch.

Opening the elections office from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. was a work-around to a provision in the state law that eliminated early voting the Sunday before Election Day. The Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit in the wee hours of Sunday morning seeking to somehow extend voting in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties before Tuesday.

The law allows elections supervisors to accept in-person absentee ballots through 7 p.m. Tuesday — including Sunday, at the elections supervisor’s discretion. As of Friday, Miami-Dade and Broward had planned to open Sunday only for voters to drop off absentee ballots.

Miami-Dade switched gears to also let voters ask for a ballot and fill it out on the spot. Palm Beach and two Tampa Bay-area counties, Hillsborough and Pinellas, did the same.

Broward did not initially follow suit but then a spokeswoman said it would try to accommodate voters — after assisting people who had made appointments to cast their ballots Sunday.

But there were no lines Sunday afternoon at the Lauderhill satellite office located at 1501 NW 40th Ave. Poll workers said they had assisted voters who had appointments as well as voters who had dropped by without an appointment to fill out a ballot.

Voters across the state can request and cast absentee ballots in person Monday. They can also drop them off at elections supervisor’s offices — but not at their precincts — on Election Day.

The Democrats’ lawsuit, filed in Miami federal court, argued that an emergency judge’s order was necessary to “extend voting opportunities” before Tuesday in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, including allowing voters to cast absentee ballots in person.

It’s unclear exactly what more a court could have done, two days before Election Day. The lawsuit did not ask U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz to reopen all early-voting sites.

“The extraordinarily long lines deterred or prevented voters from waiting to vote. Some voters left the polling sites upon learning of the expected wait, and others refused to line up altogether,” the lawsuit said. “These long lines and extreme delays unduly and unjustifiably burdened the right to vote.”

An attorney for the Miami-Dade elections supervisor filed a motion Sunday morning saying the lawsuit was moot because the county would allow for in-person absentee voting Sunday afternoon.

Democrats and Democratic-leaning groups had asked the governor late last week to extend early-voting hours by executive authority. Scott declined Thursday night.

On Friday, Monroe County Elections Supervisor Harry Sawyer Jr., a Republican, sent the governor a letter asking for more hours. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner responded that the early-voting reports he was receiving from elections supervisors across the state were positive.

Scott signed a law last year reducing the number of early-voting days to eight from 14 and eliminating voting on the Sunday before Election Day, which Democrats used to turn out supporters in 2008. The new law guarantees one Sunday of early voting.

The number of maximum hours offered stayed the same on the books, but four years ago, then-Gov. Charlie Crist effectively extended early voting by another 24 hours.

Separately, the party sued in Orlando circuit court asking to extend early-voting hours in Orange County after a bomb scare temporarily closed a polling place. On Sunday morning, a judge ruled that the Winter Park early-voting site should open for four hours.

Excluding that site and the counties that allowed in-person absentee voting, more than 4.4 million Floridians had voted early or absentee by Sunday morning. More than 2.4 million people had voted early — most of them Democrats. More than 2 million had voted absentee — most of them Republicans.

In 2008, more people voted early, and fewer voted absentee.

Miami Herald staff writers Marc Caputo, Diana Moskovitz and Charles Rabin contributed to this report.