November 3rd, 2008
11:42 AM ET

These 6 swing counties could decide the election

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/11/03/art.swingcounties.jpg caption="John McCain holds a campaign rally in Ohio on Friday, part of a two-day bus tour through the crucial swing state. "]

John P. Avlon
AC360° contributor

"All elections are about how independent voters break," attests Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. And with less than 4 days left in election '08, all eyes are on these swing voters in the swing states – they hold the key to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in their hands.

But where do they live – what are the swing counties in the swing states and how have those areas been trending? Armed with 20 years of presidential election data, I set out to nerd-ishly answer that question and found the top 6 swing counties in the top 6 swing states. Each of these states have multiple counties with close votes – I've chosen the swing county with the most votes. Think of it as an election night cheat sheet, moving from east to west, as the polls close and the next president gets elected.

Florida – Pinellas County:

With the scars of 2000 still fresh in Democrats' minds, Florida remains the biggest swing state, with 2.3 million independent voters and 27 electoral votes – equal to Virginia, New Hampshire, Nevada and New Mexico combined.

There are 3 counties in the sunshine state where Bush and Kerry split the vote 49/49 – Monroe, Orange and Pinellas. But the largest of these is Pinellas, which split the vote 225,686 to 225,460 – giving a 226 vote edge to Kerry. By comparison, across Tampa Bay, CentCom's home of Hillsborough County went 53 to 46 percent for Bush. Gore won Pinellas by 4% in 2000, and Clinton cleaned up with a 9-point lead in '96. But when Perot ran in 1992, he got 24%, leaving Bush 1 and Clinton almost tied at 37% each. It was a fall from grace for Poppy, who beat Dukakis by 14% just 4 years before. Pinellas has been represented by Republican Bill Young since 1970, making him the most senior GOP member of the House. The verdict: even with the aging population of St. Pete and its popular pragmatic conservative mayor Rick Baker, the county's been moving away from the GOP tortoise-like for the past 20 years. With Florida housing prices in free-fall and the Tampa Bay Rays losing the World Series to the Phillies, there is little patience for the status quo in St. Pete: it's advantage Obama.


Filed under: 2008 Election • 360° Radar • Barack Obama • John McCain • John P. Avlon
November 3rd, 2008
10:56 AM ET

Cheney: Over in "the blink of an eye"

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Steve Brusk
Political Desk Senior Editor

It was rare public appearance on the campaign trail for Vice President Cheney. But before an audience in his home state of Wyoming this weekend, it was also the start of a political farewell.

Cheney, with the administration’s approval ratings at near record low numbers, has kept a low profile this fall. Most of his speeches have been behind closed doors, at small private fundraisers for Congressional candidates. Even his last planned nationally-televised appearance, at the Republican National Convention in August, was canceled because Hurricane Gustav was hitting the Gulf Coast.

A White House already eclipsed by the historic and long running presidential campaign, will move further into the shadows Wednesday as the nation looks to the new President-elect. Cheney’s departure from elected office and return to private life will be a quiet one.


Filed under: Dick Cheney • Raw Politics
November 3rd, 2008
10:53 AM ET

Battleground: Pennsylvania

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/11/03/mccain.penn.jpg caption="John McCain holds a campaign rally at the University of Scranton on Sunday. "]
Dugald McConnell
CNN producer

It’s a state that hasn’t voted for a Republican in 20 years, and recent polls are showing a lead for Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama of five to ten percent. But Republican Sen. John McCain is blitzing Pennsylvania almost every day: Monday marks the 10th day out the last 15 days that either McCain or his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is campaigning there.

Republicans see their efforts to flip Pennsylvania as crucial, if McCain is to have a path to victory on Tuesday.

“Back in August or September, few people thought it would come down to one or two states,” says Republican Tom Ridge, a former governor of the Keystone State. “But it's now down to Pennsylvania and one or two others.”

With McCain mostly playing defense in an effort to hold on to states George Bush won in 2000 and 2004, Pennsylvania may be one of the only states where he is still playing offense. Republicans are looking to the state's 21 Electoral College votes as a way to make up for potential losses in red states where McCain is currently behind, such as Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, and even Virginia.


Filed under: 2008 Election • Barack Obama • Dugald McConnell • John McCain • Raw Politics • Sarah Palin
November 3rd, 2008
09:19 AM ET

The Economy: Why that queasy feeling

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Ali Velshi and Erica Fink

Measuring the economy might be a science, but what makes the economy tick isn't.

The U.S. economy, more so than other worldwide economies, is largely based on how investors and, ultimately, consumers, feel. Typically, we measure economic strength or weakness using the GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, which is historically thought of as the broadest measure of economic activity.

But, while GDP may be a good measure of the whole economy (and it may not be, but that's another story), we wanted to take the temperature of the things that matter to you, and how you feel. How you feel affects how you spend, and that's what really matters in this economy.


Filed under: Ali Velshi • Economy
November 3rd, 2008
09:10 AM ET

A candidate like me?

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Jill Dougherty | Bio
U.S. Affairs Correspondent
Ten-year-old Gabriel Kane thinks Barack Obama is “really cool.” “Because he looks kinda like me,” Gabriel tells me. “And if he's elected, I feel like I could be elected too.”

Gabriel isn’t running for president, at least not yet, but he has some other things in common with this year’s Democratic candidate: like Obama’s father, Gabriel’s mother is from Kenya. Both of Gabriel’s parents went to Harvard Law School, just like Barack and Michelle Obama.

Gabriel and his parents, along with his two sisters, live in Arlington, Virginia and they are watching this election carefully. His father, Bill Kane, a government lawyer from Rochester, New York, says “it's just blowing me away, actually.”

Veronica, 13, knows, win or lose, Obama’s candidacy is historic. “Through the whole thing I just keep getting this image of me telling my grandchildren or someone – I was there!” But, she adds, “I don't really relate to him solely on the fact that he's, like, half-black, half-white like me. I'm very impressed with everything that he does, you know? He’s a very smart person and you hear him speak and you get really inspired.”

Filed under: 2008 Election • Barack Obama • Jill Dougherty • Raw Politics
November 3rd, 2008
09:03 AM ET

For McCain, the numbers aren't adding up

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/11/03/mccain.numbers.jpg caption="John McCain holds a town hall meeting in Peterborough, New Hampshire on Sunday. "]

Mark Halperin
Editor-at-large & Senior analyst, TIME Magazine
The Page, TIME.com

Barring an extraordinary shock, Barack Obama will win more than 270 electoral votes on Tuesday, giving him the White House. Hours before voting starts, John McCain has no clear path to reaching that same goal.

In fact, based on interviews with political strategists in both parties, election analysts and advisers to both presidential campaigns — including a detailed look at public and private polling data — an Obama victory with well over 300 electoral votes is a more likely outcome than a McCain victory.

Under the Electoral College system, a candidate wins all of a state's electoral votes as long as he or she achieves a popular vote victory of any margin. Obama's commanding position results from the fact that he holds seemingly impregnable popular vote leads in twenty-four states, plus the District of Columbia, with 291 electoral votes, more than he needs to win. Obama's geographic anchors are the northeast, the mid-Atlantic, the upper industrial Midwest and the west coast, all areas that Democratic presidential candidates have dominated for several election cycles. But he is encroaching on other states as well that have recently gone dependably Republican, including Nevada, Virginia and Colorado.

With his superior spending, better organization on the ground, and poll standing, in fact, Obama actually seems poised to win the majority of the remaining toss-up states. If there is a pro-Democratic/anti-Bush wave cresting, as some top strategists in both parties believe, Obama could take all of the still contested battlegrounds, giving him nearly 400 electoral votes, and a significant multi-regional mandate. The remaining toss-up states are all large ones — Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri — with a total of 84 electoral votes, and were all won by Bush in 2000 and 2004. And some additional western and southern states that are currently leaning towards McCain (such as North Dakota and Georgia) could end up in the Democratic column, lifting Obama over 400.

McCain's challenge — and only hope — is to find a way to get just over 270 votes, starting with pulling back into the Republican column some states that appear to be titling clearly towards Obama. Then he needs to sweep the toss-ups, where in almost every case polling shows him behind. Right now, McCain leads solidly or more narrowly in 21 states with 163 electoral votes.


Filed under: 2008 Election • Barack Obama • John McCain • Mark Halperin • Raw Politics
November 3rd, 2008
09:01 AM ET

Underground anticipation

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/11/03/art.underground.jpg caption="Supporters of Barack Obama rally on Westminster bridge in London on Saturday. "]

Jonathan Wald
CNN London Producer

“You know Obama’s the equivalent of Gordon Brown?” a young voice behind me asked.

“Well, he sort of is,” a younger voice replied.

As the London Underground train jiggled about on its way to Heathrow airport on my way back to the U.S., I turned to find two boys in hooded tops. They looked about 14 years old.

“He must have been off his head picking Palin,” one of the boys sniggered about McCain a couple of minutes later.

“Yeah, but she helps him and she hurts him, doesn’t she?” the other said.

An elderly Indian woman, who was eavesdropping alongside me, nodded her head in agreement.

I hadn’t even boarded the plane to New York and anticipation of the U.S. Presidential election was already thick in the air, an ocean away from the States.

Never before have I experienced such interest and awareness in a U.S. election - neither in the U.S. in 2004, nor in the U.K. during previous American elections.

In 2000, some parts of the media found both candidates uninspiring, renaming them Gush and Bore.

In 2004, the Iraq war helped to increase turnout and revive interest overseas.

Now, even more people around the globe — young and old, all creeds and colour, in America and outside it – know the candidates and care about the result.

And some of the unlikeliest characters, including two teenagers on the London Underground, are following every step and misstep along the way to the November 4th vote.

If this was the mood in the UK, what must it be like in the U.S.?

Filed under: 2008 Election • Barack Obama • John McCain • Jonathan Wald
November 3rd, 2008
08:23 AM ET

Morning Buzz: The Final Countdown

Penny Manis
AC360 Senior Producer

Happy Monday peeps.

In just 24 hours, y’all will be casting your votes. That is, if you aren’t part of the roughly 23 million voters who have already made their choice in the 31 states that allow early voting.

The candidates’ schedules are dizzying today as they barnstorm across the country in a last ditch effort to sway voters. John McCain hits no less than 7 states, and Barack Obama will end up in 3 states that voted for Bush before returning home to Chicago.

Both Veeps are also making great use of planes, trains and automobiles today. Sarah Palin makes stops in 7 states, including her home state of Alaska where she will end up overnight and cast her own vote before meeting up with McCain again tomorrow on The Big Day. Joe Biden will campaign in 3 states today.

New poll numbers offer a small glimpse of where both candidates stand in the race for the WH. Our latest poll of polls shows Obama up 51% to McCain’s 44%. McCain told folks over the weekend that he’d give them a little straight talk about the state of the race today “the pundits have written us off just like they’ve done before, my friends, The Mac is back”.

Meanwhile Obama tells folks “We can prove that we are not as divided as our politics would suggest-that we are more than a collection of Red States and Blue States-we are the United States.”

New poll numbers tell us what voters’ perceived weaknesses and strengths are of each candidate. More people believe McCain stands for Experience, while folks give Obama the upper edge when it comes to standing for Change.

Here’s a trivia fact for you: no democrat since Jimmy Carter has gotten more than 50.1% of the vote, and you have to go back to 1964 to find the last democratic presidential landslide. Barack Obama has the chance to make history in more than one way if he is elected President tomorrow.

That said, given the sour environment for Republicans right now because of the economy and wars in Iraq/Afghanistan, Obama doesn’t have a commanding lead over John McCain as some analysts believe he could/should… so these last 24 hours could produce surprises.

Our reporters have their hands full today. The best political team in television is going to be on everyone’s tail and they’ll be ready for you tonight. Gary Tuchman is going to Alaska to be in place ahead of Sarah Palin’s arrival, and Randi Kaye is heading to Pennsylvania this morning to talk to some undecided voters in this key state. Joe Johns will talk to us about voting preparedness, and John King will be in front of the Magic Wall.

We are on air 2 hours tonight 10p-midnight et, but our coverage doesn’t move into taped programming as per normal after that-Larry King picks up at midnight after us so for those insomniacs who just can’t get enough, our network will be live live live from now until this race is done and dusted. (it’s hard to contemplate the end of this campaign season is near, right?!?) Tune in! This is THE place to watch Election Day 2008!

Filed under: The Buzz
November 3rd, 2008
08:01 AM ET

McEnroe Vindicated?

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

Remember how John McEnroe used to go ballistic over what he thought were bad calls by referees? Youtube has a beautiful selection. (click here, and here, and here.) Perhaps a new study in the journal Current Biology will provide McEnroe some vindication. The study examines wrong calls by tennis referees as a way to illustrate the way our brain sometimes plays tricks on us – all of us.

You’ve got to love the name of the study. “Perceptual Mislocalization Of Bouncing Balls By Professional Tennis Referees.” In other words, ‘Refs Make Mistakes.’ The news though is what kind of mistakes they make. Would you think they’re more likely to call an in ball out, or an out ball in? The answer is below. First, a short lesson on the amazing computing power of the brain from the study’s author. His name is David Whitney of The Center for Mind and Brain at The University of California, Davis.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Michael Schulder
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