4:40 p.m. ET: Sarah Palin -- the vice presidential candidate who keeps giving. Specifically, she keeps giving us grubby reporters and bloggers new things to write about in a race whose storylines have otherwise mostly turned stale.
Palin today boldly called for the Senate's newest convict, Ted Stevens, to give up his job. Even if re-elected next Tuesday, she says, he "should step aside to allow a special election to give Alaskans a real choice of who will serve them in Congress." Two things to note here:
1) If Stevens did win and then quit, guess who would appoint his replacement? That would be Gov. Palin (barring a McCain comeback). She could reward a political ally with the job, perhaps Sean Parnell, the Lt, Gov. whom she encouraged into an unsuccessful House primary campaign against Don Young. Or -- and yes, this is far-fetched -- she could even appoint herself to the job. Wondering how she can bolster her resume between now and 2012? How about a few years in the Senate.
2) It's worth noting that for all of Palin's bold challenging of the GOP establishment in Alaska, she mostly walked on eggshells around Stevens until he was convicted. Of course, Stevens was innocent until proven guilty, but Palin was very much willing to criticize and challenge Young, who hasn't actually been charged with any crime. With Stevens, Palin not only avoided criticizing him but even avoided answering whether she would endorse him before yesterday's verdict. Her maverick-ness appears to have some limits.
One last point on Palin and her future: It's interesting to watch how many enemies she's making within the GOP establishment (and yes, that's part of her appeal). Jake Tapper has up a scathing blog post accusing Palin of throwing faithful McCain aide Nicole Wallace under the bus for clothes-gate. He argues that this is merely the latest in a long line of examples of Palin "making friends who can help her and then screwing them over." Agree or disagree with his analysis, it's worth asking: How will Republican insiders remember Palin after this campaign? For all of her outsider appeal, she will need at least a few of those insiders on her side if she wants to run next time around.
11 a.m. ET: Lest there be a surprise in the next week (not like the bizarre suspension of a World Series game and another bungled decision by Bud Selig, but a real surprise), the media now fully expects Barack Obama to win, likely by a wide margin.
So it's perfectly natural for our thoughts to wander hence to 2012, and specifically to whether a certain Alaska governor can and will capture the next Republican nomination. Sarah Palin's behavior in recent days has plenty of commentators suggesting that she is thinking as much or more about her fate four years from now than her fate next Tuesday.
Roger Simon posits that Palin may already be looking forward to not having the "millstone" of John McCain around her neck, and that she is prepared to combat negative stories about her by complaining about a "double standard" for women. Perhaps that's why she keeps talking about the $150K shopping spree when the McCain camp would simply love for the topic to go away.
The problem for Palin is that all those negative stories seem to have done the trick. As her hometown paper noted this morning, Palin "has become a drag on the Republican presidential ticket." Her unfavorable ratings are high, and, fatally, a majority of Americans seem to think she is unqualified to serve as president. How can she get more qualified in the next four years? She'll serve two more years as governor, and perhaps she can go to policy school so she sounds more professorial and less "folksy" when the next round of debates comes. Whatever course she chooses, she'll likely have plenty of time to think about it after next Tuesday.
8 a.m. ET: By this time next week, the only polls that matter will be the kind that you actually visit to cast your ballots. No more daily tracks, no more surveys of 1,000 likely voters conducted over three days, no more squabbling over turnout models, no more debating the "Bradley effect" (unless John McCain wins) and no more Drudge Report links to whatever poll happens to show the closest race that day.
But a week is a long time, so let's survey the landscape of surveys once more. As Drudge continually reminds us, most of the daily tracking polls still do show Barack Obama with only a narrow (though very steady) lead. Five of the surveys have the margin between 3 and 5 points in their latest results. Notably, the "expanded" Gallup track -- which assumes larger turnout by new voters -- gives Obama a 10-point lead, while the Washington Post/ABC News track has the lead at 7 points.
Of course, if our ingenious system did not include an Electoral College, then national polls would matter. But it does, so they don't. And in the states, the situation for McCain looks more precarious.
Fox News and Rasmussen unveiled a batch of polls from key states yesterday, and nearly all of them looked bad for the Republican. Obama had narrow leads in five states President Bush won in 2004 -- Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado and Missouri -- while McCain clung to a one-point edge in North Carolina (though most other surveys have Obama leading there too).
Looking at the poll averages -- and, as always, do so with a grain of salt -- Obama now leads in 10 states Bush won in 2004, while McCain doesn't lead in a single John Kerry state. Adding potential insult to injury, even Arizona doesn't look totally safe for the native nominee. The Republican National Committee even felt the need to go up with ads in Montana -- as The Fix writes, "(!)" -- which Bush won by 21 points in 2004 and 25 in 2000. Is this a wise use of the GOP's cash? If McCain really is going to lose in Montana, isn't it likely he's going to lose so many other states it won't matter? Might that money be better used in a tight Senate race?
October 28, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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