Editor's note: See Maria Teresa Peterson on AC360° tonight at 10p ET.
Maria Teresa Petersen
Founding Executive Director, Voto Latino
Barack Obama's campaign is disciplined and - compared to other campaigns in recent history - risk adverse. Even when Obama struggled in the polls last fall, he remained steady on his message of change and kept his core team. His consistency has served him well – and helped him secure his party's nomination against long odds. In fact, every one of his campaign moves seems strategic and intentional.
That's exactly why Senator Obama's 30-minute, $3 million commercial tonight is surprising to many and gutsy by his own standards. In airing the commercial just seven days before November 4th, Obama seems to be straying from his campaign's playbook.
Tonight, Obama opens himself up to scrutiny by media, voters and the opposition. In delivering his address, he can not seem to presume he has won the election - i.e. he can't have an Obama Presidential Seal moment like the one he had this past summer. Instead he has to appeal to voters' fundamental values.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/29/art.haganad.cnn.jpg caption="A new campaign ad from Elizabeth Dole alleges her opponent is 'Godless.'"]
CNN Ticker Producer
The already-contentious North Carolina Senate race took a brutal turn Wednesday after incumbent Sen. Elizabeth Dole released a television ad suggesting challenger Kay Hagan is "Godless."
“A leader of the Godless Americans PAC recently held a secret fundraiser for Kay Hagan,” the 30-second ad says before showing clips from members of the group declaring God and Jesus do not exist.
“Godless Americans and Kay Hagan. She hid from cameras. Took godless money,” the ad's narrator also says. “What did Kay Hagan promise in return?”
The ad ends with an unidentified female voice declaring, "There is no God."
The Dole campaign says it's basing its charge on Hagan's attendance at a fundraiser that was in the home of an advisor to the Godless Americans’ political action committee, a group that promotes rights for atheists.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Hagan said she has never heard of the Godless PAC "before Lydie Dole sent out a press release on this," and said the fundraiser in question had more than 40 hosts, including Sen. John Kerry. She also said she has contacted her lawyers to issue a cease-and-desist order on the commercial.
caption="Charlie Harris, a Western Kentucky University student, talks to Courtney Yates as the One.Org bus makes a stop at Western Kentucky University as part of its cross-country trip encouraging students and others to vote."]Rob Grabow
Author, “Voting with Our Pants Down”
With the election only six days away and 44 million 18- to 29-year-olds comprising a critical voting bloc with tremendous electoral power, many people still perceive – misperceive – that young voters are apathetic, self-absorbed hedonists who can't be counted on to vote. Recently I had an amiable but illuminating conversation with a Philadelphia Daily News writer, who echoed some of these charges. He said, "I'll believe there's a youth vote when I see it." Such sentiment is hardly a novelty. In 2004, famed author Tom Wolfe suggested in one national interview that only 6-9 percent of college students were truly politically or civically engaged. His charge went largely unchallenged.
In a way, that silence says more than Wolfe's words, since it indicates the media's role in reinforcing the misperception. Relative to the size of our voting constituency, we're disproportionately underrepresented in the national debate. It's wrong just to say we lack experience, ambition, or work ethic, as is sometimes claimed. More critically, because of the same unchallenged impression in the media, we often lack opportunity and access.
I believe that what's most disheartening is that when we are talked about, when questions of demographic identity arise, who comes on to answer them. For the most part it isn't us. Young voters are not included in the conversation; instead we are generally talked to, talked about, and told who we are.
Wall Street Journal
Barbara Aycock thought the phone call she received in July, about a meeting for supporters of Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama here, had to be a prank.
Sparsely populated Avery County, deep in the Appalachian Mountains, has voted Republican every presidential election in its 97-year history, usually with more than 75% of the vote. There's seldom a Democratic candidate running for county office.
With the help of a massive database of potential Democratic supporters, though, the Obama campaign found Ms. Aycock and a group of more than 40 volunteers in the county. "They started coming out of the woodwork," she says.
What's going on in this corner of North Carolina represents the Democrats' attempt to use technology to try to erase Republicans' long-held advantage on the ground in elections. For years, Republicans have used the party's so-called Voter Vault, a database of potential supporters fine-tuned over many elections, to target, motivate and secure the backing of voters. This year, the Republicans are matching information from the Voter Vault to Internet searches to serve up ads to potential supporters and using social-networking sites to identify potential volunteers for Arizona Sen. John McCain's campaign.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent
When I am in the operating room, I am a very good decision maker. I make the right decision, and I make it quickly. Place a burr hole here instead of there. Extend the fusion to T1 instead of C7, or use a fenestrated clip instead of a straight one. I am good at those decisions. Ask me to pick out a tie in the morning, and I am seemingly paralyzed until my sleepy wife comes over and yanks one out and hands it to me. It is always the perfect tie and no surprise; she thinks I am a terrible decision maker. She thinks I can be wishy washy.
When it comes to decision making, I am apparently not alone. And, thanks to Sam Wang, a neuroscientist from Princeton, (read study) I may have a pretty good defense. There is no question there are still a lot of people who are undecided when it comes to picking a president, and Sam has a pretty good idea why. He, along with his colleagues think peering into the brain may offer a few clues.
Generally speaking, decision-making can be broken down into two distinctive pieces. The first part is when you gather evidence, and then second part is when you commit. That can be like a switch going off. In the brain of an undecided voter, it may be that “evidence gathering” part that is simply taking longer. It’s not that these undecided are indifferent, according to Wang, but they are more willing to take their time, essentially trading off speed for accuracy. At some point though, they typically hit a tipping point and the decision is activated.
Other undecided voters may have an even more interesting process happening. They have already made up their minds, but they haven’t committed yet. They will tell you they are undecided, even though their brain has gathered the necessary evidence and a decision has been activated. Often times, people around them already know the individual’s decision, before the individual does. When my wife picks out that tie for me, she may already know that tie is my preference, even though I haven’t decided yet. There is a third group as well. This is a group that thinks they have decided, but when it comes to actually voting, they switch their minds at the last second. They thought they were committed emotionally, but the brain had gathered evidence and pointed them in a different direction.
It gets a little confusing... Read More...
AC360 Associate Producer
It’s an emotional time to be a journalist. The only thing that’s been a bigger staple in my life than this presidential campaign is my neighbor who sits out on the curb every morning, having a smoke in his bathrobe. He reminds me of the killer from “No Country for Old Men.” Except not as friendly.
But now, the campaign is drawing to a close. Remind me again of the choices. Oh, yes, that’s right. The Socialist who is making me miss the new “Knight Rider” tonight or that old guy who wants to invade Canada on his riding lawn mower.
It’s not over, of course, until everyone votes. Some people say we should do online voting. Because that wouldn’t be a giant disaster.
But hey, if they can make it secure, I’m all for it. In fact, why don’t you just e-mail me my ballot. You can get my address from the people who like to remind me that with every Ph.D. in horticulture I earn from their online university I get a free month’s supply of Viagra.
You would think New York City would have the latest in electoral gadgetry, but no. The clunky voting machines in my precinct look like those contraptions from which my grandmother used to buy packs of Benson & Hedges during late nights of Keno and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Naturally, there is a bit of nostalgia that’s washing over me this week. Four years ago, when I was working for a station based in Boston, I was sent to Washington to produce our coverage from Bush headquarters. It was a blurry night. I remember someone telling me early in the evening that it was “Kerry in a landslide.” Next thing I knew it was morning, I was missing a shoe and playing Texas Hold ‘Em with Karen Hughes on the floor of the Dulles Airport Cinnabon.
By the way, hats off to all these politicians who have recently endorsed Barack Obama. Seriously. I mean, any opportunist can endorse a guy when he’s a long shot in the primary, but it takes real courage to squeeze your butt onto the bandwagon of the frontrunner who’s up by 30 points six days out.
I’m assuming you’ve heard that Bill Clinton is joining Obama on the campaign trail tonight. Because, don’t forget, the Clintons want him to win. Really, they do. There are no hard feelings. So stop being so cynical, people.
Also tonight, by popular demand of those of you in the comments section, I’ll be stopping by the AC360 Webcast with Erica Hill.
Erica has warned me that if I make her look bad I’ll be back to selling bootleg “Hee Haw” DVDs in Times Square.
In which case look for my table outside Cinnabon.
Over the last couple of weeks we’ve heard politicians tell us that now is not the time to point fingers and blame people for the financial crisis. I remember them saying that in the days after Hurricane Katrina as well.
The truth is that’s what politicians always say. They mean that now is the time to fix the problem, but once the world’s attention moves on, the time for hold people accountable never seems to arrive. Politicians point fingers at members of the opposite party, but no one ever seems to take real responsibility.
So who is to blame for this financial fiasco?
That’s the question we’ve begun investigating. We’ve put together a list of the Ten Most Wanted: Culprits of the Collapse. This week and next week, every night, we will be adding a name to the list and telling you what they have done, and how much it’s costing you.
It’s a rogues gallery of Wall Street executives, politicians, and government officials who did not do their jobs. It’s time you know their names, their faces, it’s time they be asked to account for their actions.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/10/28/stevens.verdict/art.stevens.courthouse.gi.jpg caption ="Sen. Ted Stevens leaves the federal courthouse in Washington after being convicted Monday." ]
John McCain and Sarah Palin on Tuesday called on Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, to resign, a day after the veteran Alaska lawmaker was convicted on federal corruption charges.
Other Republican senators followed suit, as did Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate for president.
"Stevens has broken his trust with the people and ... he should now step down," McCain said in a statement issued by his campaign Tuesday morning.
Palin said the time had come "for him to step aside."
"Even if elected on Tuesday, Sen. Stevens should step aside to allow a special election to give Alaskans a real choice of who will serve them in Congress," Palin said in a written statement.
Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, insists he is innocent and will continue to run for a seventh full term as he fights his conviction in court.
He was convicted Monday on seven counts of failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gifts and free work on his home in Alaska.
Editor's note: Join Roland S. Martin for his weekly sound-off segment on CNN.com Live at 11:10 a.m. ET Wednesday. If you're passionate about politics, he wants to hear from you. A nationally syndicated columnist, Martin has said he will vote for Barack Obama in November. He is the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith" and "Speak, Brother! A Black Man's View of America." Visit his Web site for more information.
Roland S. Martin | Bio
CNN Political Analyst
If Sen. Barack Obama is able to prevail over Sen. John McCain on Tuesday, all of those Democrats who ripped Howard Dean's 50-state strategy over the last four years should call the head of the Democratic National Committee and offer a heartfelt apology.
First in line should be New York Sen. Charles Schumer, Chicago, Illinois, Rep. Rahm Emanuel and my CNN colleague, political strategist James Carville.
When Democrats were in the final stages of winning back Congress in 2006, those three were at odds with Dean, saying he should forget about his pie-in-the-sky plan to have the Democratic Party competitive in all 50 states.
They reasoned that money spent on get-out-the vote efforts in non-congressional elections was futile, and all the effort should be on reclaiming Congress.
But Dean resisted their suggestions, weathering repeated calls for him to resign after that election.
Dean's insistence on having a Democratic Party that existed in the heartland, and not just California, New York and Massachusetts, was brilliant in that it made clear that the party recognized the rest of America.