October 27th, 2008
01:21 PM ET

Obama's youth vote – not what you think

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caption="Students cheer as Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at Colorado State University on Sunday. " width=292 height=320]

Rob Grabow
Author, "Voting with Our Pants Down"


I beg your pardon?

I was a college student when I first read his name in an email in July 2004. I thought the sender had either accidentally scrambled his fingers across the keyboard or that Barack's name was some sort of MENSA puzzle.

Today, Barack Obama is a political leviathan. And young voters are one of his critical electoral constituencies. There are nearly 44 million of us with the power to adjudicate the outcome of the upcoming presidential election. A USA Today/MTV/Gallup poll not long ago gave Obama a 29 point lead among 18- to 29-year-olds (other more recent polls have suggested an even bigger lead). If this holds, it could be what Susan Page of USA Today called "the most lopsided contest within an age group in modern times." So, why do young people so overwhelming support Barack Obama?

Young voters tend to lean left. This doesn't mean that we all do, and doesn't mean we all have in the past, or will in the future, but for now this works in Obama's favor. However, because we tend to be less ideological than other voting blocs, so this partisan influence is limited. There's more to it than that.

While we are issue savvy, we tend to identify with campaigns that offer an overarching message such as change, hope, or reform. Why? In part because we extrapolate a character assessment from the merit and presentation of the campaign theme. To a degree, we're also skeptical about whether or not any politician will follow through on specific campaign promises. And if the specifics can't be counted on, the campaign's broader theme and ambiance become more relevant. And the perception among young voters is that Obama has been more effective in articulating a broad, themed narrative.

The themes Obama chose, "Change" and "Hope," in addition to providing a framework though which to interpret policy minutiae, appeal to our optimism. Keep in mind the relative economic prosperity and peace of our childhood, our nurturing and protective parents, and the widely held idea that "if you dream it, you can be it." That idea is so woven into our thinking that it has become instinctive to respond to it as political message.

But that's hardly the full picture, either. We are - as Stephen Colbert said of himself - colorblind, the most colorblind generation in U.S. history. Nearly 40 percent of us are minority. A full 94 percent are comfortable with interracial marriage. Fewer than 65 percent in all other age demographics felt similarly. So relative to other voting blocs, we're much less likely to be influenced negatively by the fact that Obama is half-black and half-white. FULL POST

Filed under: 2008 Election • Barack Obama • Raw Politics
October 27th, 2008
01:17 PM ET

Interviewing a killer

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/10/24/bali.executions/art.bali.ap.jpg caption="A relative looks at the Bali Bombing Memorial monument in Bali, Indonesia, on October 12."]

Dan Rivers
Bangkok correspondent

I recently had the extraordinary opportunity to sit down face to face with three of the men who bombed a nightclub in Bali, killing 202 people, including 88 Australians, and ask them anything I liked. Since our interview, the Indonesian government has announced that their execution will take place at the beginning of November. I have already had a lot of feedback - positive and negative - about the interviews.

A colleague who knew some of the 202 people killed in the attack, including 88, Australians, felt the families would have been pleased that finally someone challenged the bombers rationale and twisted logic. Some of the families of victims we interviewed also felt pleased that at least someone had asked the questions they'd never had the chance to pose.

But you can't please all of the people all of the time. One viewer emailed me describing the interviews as irresponsible and sensationalist. I thought long and hard about whether we should be giving these men any publicity and I certainly understand those who think they should not be given the opportunity to speak. But upon reflection, I honestly feel we have a duty to confront these men and counter their ideology – not least on behalf of the vast majority of Muslims who feel their religion has been hijacked by extremists.

For me, one survivor named Chusnul Chotimah summed it up: She received burns on 60 percent of her body from the bomb these men planted. She's an Indonesian Muslim and says it is the bombers, not the westerners they targeted, who are the infidels. She is incredibly grateful that we were able to show them for what they really are – they are not Islamic terrorists, they are simply criminals who have forfeited their right to call themselves Muslims.

Editor's note: Click here to watch Dan's extraordinary and exclusive interview with three terrorists convicted of killing 202 people in Bali, in which he asks them point blank, "What makes you think you have the right to kill people?" Hear their chilling answer.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Dan Rivers • Terrorism
October 27th, 2008
01:16 PM ET

Battle of the ballot

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Kai Wright

If John McCain isn't the next president, it won't be for lack of trying—he's called Barack Obama everything from a terrorist to a socialist. And yet, with a week to go, it is increasingly clear this election is Obama's to lose. Which leaves McCain with one last tried-and-true tactic: Steal the thing.

For all the talk about the "Bradley effect," the margin of error may not be the one created by whites who won't put their votes where their polling mouths will. Barack Obama's more serious hurdle may be winning big enough to make up for the votes that never actually get cast or counted.

Watchdogs have spent the fall charting a map of battleground states for the building fight over voting rights. These are the places where battles over the legalities of voting will be waged right up to Election Day—and God forbid, could go on for days and weeks thereafter. They are the places where an eight-year-long tug of war between those who want to make voting more accessible and those who want to make it still more difficult will climax.

"Some problems are unavoidable," says Daniel Seligman of the Pew Center on the States' Electiononline.org. "Somewhere in this country a machine is going to screw up. Somewhere a voter is going to be asked for an ID who doesn't have to show it. But these problems can be magnified." So last week, Seligman and his colleagues at Pew put together their own list of states where the confluence of new voters, Republican shenanigans and official negligence could blow those unavoidable problems up into this year's Florida or Ohio.


Filed under: 2008 Election • Voting issues
October 27th, 2008
01:14 PM ET

Know the rules, watch out for tricks

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/23/art.vert.votingbooth.jpg width=292 height=320]Hill Harper

Participatory democracy only works if we participate. That means knowing the rules and watching out for tricks.

Since January, excitement has been building around this historic presidential campaign. But now our nation faces a crucial test as Election Day approaches—some states now have strict identification requirements for voters, a move that could stymie the anticipated growth in political participation.

Whatever the motive for the tougher voter requirements, public officials, civic leaders, activists and media outlets must work to ensure that voters in their states understand the rules about what constitutes proper identification at the polls. It would be a serious blow to our democracy if droves of voters, perhaps excited for the first time about their participation and choices, are turned away at the polls. Given the low voter turnout rates we have witnessed over the past 30 years, our democracy cannot afford to disillusion people participating for the first time.

And given the current economic crisis, it is more important than ever that the American people participate in the voting process and feel vested in selecting the path for the nation's future. This is especially true for those who believe that change is needed in Washington and that our current public officials and representatives have not necessarily acted in the best interest of our families, our communities or our future.


Editor's Note: Hill Harper currently stars in the hit television drama CSI: N.Y. and is the best-selling author of "Letters To a Young Brother and Letters To a Young Sister."

Filed under: Raw Politics • Voting • Voting issues
October 27th, 2008
12:38 PM ET

The Shot: McCain, Obama dance

McCain and Obama challenge each other in a virtual dance-off.

Filed under: T1 • The Shot
October 27th, 2008
12:14 PM ET

Spinning the early vote

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/27/early.voting.jpg caption="Voters sit in line for early voting on Friday in Boynton Beach, Florida. "]

Paul Gronke
Director, Early Voting Information Center at Reed College

If the 2008 election looks like a 100-year-storm, then early voting  is an early warning system.  And the waves of voters are already spilling over the dikes.
As of Friday October 24th, 12 days before election day, more than seven million votes had already been cast. Georgia and North Carolina voters have been waiting in lines of up to two hours. There are scattered reports in Florida of even longer lines.

But it is the numbers that are shocking.  Early voting has smashed previous records in Texas, Florida, Illinois, Tennessee, Nevada–it's hard to find a state where records have not been broken.
Early voting in Georgia has already surpassed the total number voting early in 2004.

Records will be broken in many other states sometime next week.

Not only are a lot of citizens voting early this year, but the look of the early voter has changed.  In the past, I've described early voting like an apple pie (it's apple picking season out here in
Oregon).  Early voting doesn't make the pie any bigger–it doesn't draw new voters into the electorate–but it does take a slice out of the pie.

When you look at that early voting slice, it is usually a bit older, a bit whiter, a bit higher income, a bit better educated, and a bit more Republican.  But that means the rest of the pie–the voters who wait
until election day–are a bit more Democratic.

What did Grandma put into the pie this year?

African Americans are voting early in unprecedented numbers.  Blacks comprise 29% of the electorate in Georgia but 35% of the early electorate.  They are 24.2% of the North Carolina electorate and 28.%
of the early electorate there.   These may not seem like tremendous differences, but remember that, historically, African Americans have not opted to cast early ballots.

That slice also looks a lot more Democratic than it does in the past. In Franklin County, OH, a battleground county in a battleground state,the numbers are eye-opening: Democratic votes exceed Republican votes by a 12:1 margin.In other states, the numbers are not so lopsided,
but still trend toward the Democrats.  In six of the eight states that report early voting data by party, Democrats are outpacing Republicans.

I have tried my best to spin these numbers for John McCain, but it's getting difficult.  Let's look at some of the explanations.

Explanation 1: This is just a big wave of Democratic enthusiasm

Many Democrats are excited to finally cast a vote for Barack Obama and express their unhappiness with the Bush administration.  As one early voter told me: "getting my ballot this year was like getting my Christmas present two weeks early.  And I was not going to wait until Christmas day to open it!"

It's possible that this tide of Democratic voters will recede by Election Day, but there are two problems with this account.  First,the past has shown that early voting enthusiasm almost always
translates into election day enthusiasm.  This tide of voters will continue to rise.  Second, as Obama is able to mark names off his list, he is going to be able to redeploy resources to target
undecided voters, while McCain still has to focus on his base.  This cannot be good news.

Explanation 2: This is just a big wave of African American enthusiasm

This explanation has a lot more merit.  There is no denying the historic nature of this election, both for African Americans and for women.  I can certainly believe that the surprisingly high levels of
turnout are a combination of pent up excitement for the Democratic ticket, and the chance to vote for the first time for a Black candidate for President.  In this case, I think there is a very real chance that the election day electorate will look whiter than normal.

Explanation 3: Republicans are just biding their time until Election Day

Finally, it's possible that Republicans have changed their stripes, and unlike the past three or four presidential contests, have transformed into election day voters.  What I would worry about if I
were a GOP strategist, however, is that the voters hold their ballots for two reasons: uncertainty and unhappiness.  If GOP voters are either uncertain about John McCain or unhappy with the election, it
cannot bode well for Republican turnout.

It's possible that all these Democrats are voting early and won't be around on Election Day.  It's possible that Blacks are turning out early in unprecedented numbers to cast a Republican ballot.  And it's possible that Republicans are simply biding their time, lulling the Democrats into another Presidential failure.

It's possible, but really improbable.

Filed under: 2008 Election • Early Voting • Paul Gronke • Raw Politics
October 27th, 2008
11:41 AM ET

You'll never bark in this town again

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Jack Gray
AC360 Associate Producer

There’s nothing like a late evening stroll with your dog to relax and unwind. Except if your dog is my dog. Last night I was walking my Black Lab, Sammy, who – believe it or not – barks less often than Sarah “The Rogue” Palin travels overseas. So, when does Sammy decide to test her pipes? How about as we’re walking past one of Manhattan’s swankiest restaurants, scaring a lovely couple that was exiting. I’m so sorry, I told Steven Spielberg and his wife, Kate Capshaw. “That’s OK,” said the iconic director, “I’m used to being barked at.” I don’t know if he was referring to his own dogs, or maybe his family or perhaps the actors with whom he works. All I know is that I got the hell out of there.

I’ve come to realize that there are two kinds of people in this world: Those who need a haircut so badly that they are mistaken for Jon Bon Jovi circa 1986 and those who don’t. Today a group of Russian tourists stopped me on the street and asked me to sing “You Give Love a Bad Name.”

Bon Jovi, like Steven Spielberg, is a big supporter of Barack Obama, who – if the polls are accurate – will likely be President-elect of the United States one week from tomorrow night.

Of course, polls – much like the guy who advised me not to invest in “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” - can be wrong. In which case, John McCain would be the President-elect.

There’s a slim chance there could be an Electoral College tie. You’ll know if that happens because you’ll hear the sound of my head exploding.

And yes, I agree, Obama would certainly have a higher wattage Hollywood contingent at his inaugural festivities. But I don’t think he can top the McCain campaign’s promise to have Chuck Norris tow the presidential limousine down Pennsylvania Avenue with a rope in his teeth.

I’m not sure what Obama will do if he loses, but I have a feeling Joe Biden could make a fortune being the spokesman for those Crest teeth whitening strips.

And if McCain loses, well…Hillary and Bill will quietly sob.

One quick economic note - there’s word gas prices are down to a mere $2.79 per gallon. Great, I’ll take two gallons.

Some of you have asked that I get a permanent link to my posts under the “contributors” list. I’m flattered – baffled, but flattered – and the web team is working on it. In the meantime, you can click here to see all of them. And for those of you who have been asking about my appearance on the AC360 web cast with Erica Hill – that looks like it’ll be Wednesday night. Then Thursday I’ll be appearing at the opening of a new car wash in Hoboken, New Jersey. And by Friday I will officially be a has-been.

But for now, I’ve got to distract Sammy so she doesn’t see Martin Scorsese walking down the street.

Filed under: Jack Gray • Raw Politics
October 27th, 2008
11:22 AM ET

Want to vote, can't read

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Lolly Bowean

On a recent morning, a normally hidden employee of the "Steve Harvey Morning Show" stepped into the spotlight and made a bold confession. The security guard, whose nickname is Big Boom, had not voted in all of his 53 years.

He explained that he had never registered or voted because he could not read. He couldn't fill out the paperwork.

This may seem like an unusual reason for not voting, but it may be more common than you think. Big Boom's story is a poignant reminder that even in this historic year of African Americans breaking down barriers, basic literacy is still a challenge in many of our communities. Nine out of 10 African-American students have not mastered reading by the fourth grade, according to the National Institute for Literacy. And the most recent National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that African Americans scored well below white adults in an assessment of reading comprehension.

I've had my own up-close encounters with illiteracy. I've had neighbors and relatives ask me to read documents to them or fill out paperwork. Not all of them admit to struggling with reading, but I suspect that's why they sought my help.

Still, a couple years ago, when I decided to volunteer at an adult literacy center, I was surprised to see there was such a need. Working with the members of the all-male group, I could see the extreme social and economic consequences of African-American boys that don't learn to read. Some of the men spent years trying to distract others from noticing their handicap. Some struggle to gain employment and have difficulty navigating everyday life.

Read more

Filed under: Raw Politics
October 27th, 2008
08:28 AM ET

Morning Buzz: Robin Getting Mad at Batman

Penny Manis
AC360 Senior Producer

The candidates are throwing muscle into the last full week of campaigning in this highly charged Election period. They didn’t let up on each other this weekend-McCain saying Obama “started out in the left hand lane of American politics and has remained there”. McPalin both warned that electing Obama would give the Democratic Congress unchecked power and warned folks to grab hold of your wallets. Palin went on to say that he is practically measuring the drapes at the WH, but that her side is not taking any votes for granted, but respectfully asking for them.

Meanwhile Obama jumped on McCain’s words that he shares a common philosophy with the Republicans. Obama told his rally that finally McCain was offering some straight talk and owning up to the fact that he and Prez Bush have a lot in common. He went on to say that McCain criticizing Bush is like “Robin getting mad at Batman”.

Reportedly, more than 100 thousand folks gathered to see Obama in Denver, (that's a lot of people). His campaign is spending big money on new TV ads attacking McCain’s economic plans this week. They certainly seem to have lots of dough to throw around, our own Tom Foreman will look at Obama’s fundraising methods and how both candidates’ piggybanks compare.

Our latest polls show Obama holding a 51-43% lead, and the candidates are hitting similar states in the Final Days. Today they both start in Ohio, and then move onto Pennsylvania, w/the economy squarely at the center of their msg. No wonder, as we woke once again to markets tumbling globally and Dow Futures down. Fears of worldwide recession and concerns over US econ reports expected later this week could mean another rough ride on Wall Street!

McCain’s camp received unnecessary distractions this wknd w/reports emerging of finger pointing going on in the GOP camp and some senior advisors indicating Palin is going rogue, acting like a diva, and going off msg. Apparently this push and pull was triggered by the tension stokes partly by the wardrobe controversy. People close to Palin apparently say she has been ill served by McCain aides and trying to bust free. Her spokeswoman says she is only focused on winning with McCain next week, dismissing the idea that she is setting herself up a party leader in 2009. We’ll try to get to the bottom of this tonight and find out what's real/what's not. Today she campaigns in Va. Joe Biden is in North Carolina and Florida.

Candy Crowley, Ed Henry and our fab political panel will have all these stories for you later, and more.

See you at 10pet!

Filed under: The Buzz
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