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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

State of the Race

There have been long stretches in this interminable presidential election cycle in which the “newspapers of record,” the New York Times and Washington Post, have offered analysis that is gratuitously irrelevant, negligently sloppy, or just plain wrong. But this has been one weekend when turning off the TV and reading the grainy print was profitable.
The Times kicked off its Saturday coverage with a timely and chilling report on the GOP’s plans for challenging–i.e., intimidating–minority voters in Ohio and elsewhere. This devilish scheme was enabled by a weekend federal appeal court ruling that in OH, as in FL, the “provisional” ballots required by the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) for voters who do not appear on precinct registration lists will be ultimately thrown out if they are cast in the wrong location. This is a clear violation of the spirit, if not the vague letter, of HAVA.
Appropriately, the Sunday Times includes a lead editorial offering sensible reforms to make voting and vote-counting procedures uniform in the future, with the central presumption being that eligible voters should have their intentions respected, even if incompetent or malicious state or local officials make that difficult.
The Times’ Nagourney and Seelye supply a useful front-page report on the eleven remaining battleground states, noting that internal BC04 and KE04 polls show nine of them (all but Colorado and Nevada) even or close to even. This is a timely (no pun intended) rebuttal to the raft of Mason-Dixon polls released last week that predictably showed Bush doing better than expected everywhere.
The Sunday Times also offers interesting Nagourney and Busmiller takes on what will happen to each party if its candidate loses the presidency on November 2. Busmiller’s piece focuses on demolishing the fatuous idea (popular among the chattering classes during the Republican Convention in New York) that party “moderates” like John McCain, Rudy Guiliani and Arnold Schwarzenneger will take charge if Bush loses. But she underplays the “succession” crisis that will afflict the GOP’s conservative wing, which is deeply divided over the future leadership of the Party.
Over at WaPo, Mike Allen and Lois Romano sum up the race, and detect a bit of panic among the president’s people. “One Republican official described the mood at the top of the campaign as apprehensive. ‘Grim’ is too strong,’ the official said. ‘If we feel this way a week from now, that will be grim.'”
Dan Balz does a fine job on Sunday of discussing the widely varying assumptions about the composition of the electorate that undergird each candidate’s strategy, and that have created such wildly disparate poll findings. (He would have benefitted from a careful reading of the DLC’s recent analysis of “peripheral voters,” but you can’t have everything). And WaPo’s editors consume the left-hand side of the op-ed page with their endorsement of Kerry, which, like The New Republic’s endorsement last week, shows that centrists most sypathetic to Bush’s foreign policy interventionism and occasional willingness to consider entitlement reform still think his administration has been a rolling disaster, and that Kerry offers a better agenda for toughness at home and abroad.
For dessert, Dana Milbank takes a look at polls showing that Bush loyalists believe all the unbelievable things their candidate is saying, while believing unbelievable things about Bush’s own positions.
All in all, it’s a fine weekend to supplement college football with some eye-straining good gray matter.

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