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God are these races

God, are these races gonna be close. Not too many posts today. I'm swamped working on an article about voter suppression and voter fraud. If anything truly stunning pops we'll run with it, though. This afternoon at five we'll be posting election predictions from Michael Barone, Andrew Sullivan, Robert Reich, Russ Smith, uber-Dem-insider Kenny Baer and others ...

Republican party Voter suppression

Republican party? Voter suppression? Oh c'mon ...

This clip out of the AP's reportage from McAllen, Texas ...

Two poll watchers representing Republican U.S. Senate candidate John Cornyn were removed from polling places amid accusations of voter intimidation in Hidalgo County.

The decision to eject the two GOP workers, one watching early voting in McAllen, the other in Edinburg, was made by early voting supervisors Thursday and confirmed Friday by Teresa Navarro, Hidalgo County's elections administrator.

The dismissals follow Navarro's decision Thursday to ban local Republican activist Tom Haughey from all early voting places for allegedly interfering with the work of presiding judges and their election clerks. Dave Beckwith, a spokesman for Cornyn, said there were two sides to every story.

"Inappropriate behavior at polling places is never condoned by our campaign. However, there are conflicting stories as to what happened," Beckwith told The Monitor in McAllen. "I hope that a pretext is not being made to disregard Republican poll watchers on a methodical basis because we need poll watchers from both parties to ensure confidence in the integrity of the election."

One of the poll watchers, Joseph Hopkins, declined to comment to The Associated Press.

A telephone number for the other poll watcher, Laura Mason, was not listed and she could be not be reached on Friday night.

In McAllen, a voter reported Hopkins to an early voting supervisor for making a "racist remark." Hopkins is said to have joked, "I'm just a poll watcher but I don't see many Poles. I just see a lot of Mexicans."

In Edinburg, Mason was accused of "repeatedly talking to and harassing" voters, including an elderly woman who said she was "confronted." An early voting supervisor warned Mason and later removed her. When Mason came back to the polling place Friday, Navarro asked her to leave.

"We cannot have this sort of behavior by poll watchers," Navarro said. "Poll watchers are not permitted to talk to voters, never mind harass them. I will continue to defend my early voting supervisors and the rights of all legitimate voters to cast their vote without the threat of intimidation."

Navarro said an election observer from the Secretary of State's office arrived in Hidalgo County Friday, one day ahead of schedule, after she expressed her concerns to the office.

And so it goes ...

As true aficionados of

As true aficionados of these hallowed pages know, this site is coming up on its second anniversary. Specifically, the debut of TPM came on November 13th 2000 with a post about uber-right-wing-attorney Ted Olson, now going under the label of Solicitor General of the United States. So of course a big gala celebration is going to be held on the 13th.

But, wait,wait, let's go further back into the pre-history of TPM. Don't be afraid, we'll go through it together ... TPM started during the 2000 recount when news really did change almost every hour or every day and unlike almost any other political story in more than a century the country's entire constitutional order was in uncharted territory and, in a sense, in danger. But there was a sort of pre-Talking Points Memo just before the election: a contest to see who could come closest to predicting who would win the presidency, what the percentages would be, who would win the House and the Senate, and so forth.

You can see the results of the contest here -- Check it out. It's like a serious TPM relic. Amazing stuff, I assure you.

Now needless to say the whole matter of the presidency turned out to be rather more complicated than we'd imagined. But, you know, let's just not get into that right now.

In any case, it's time for another contest. Tell us your predictions for the United States Senate.

Here's the deal.

1. First predict the final partisan split, how many GOPs, how many Dems, etc.

2. Then make your call for the fourteen Senate races in Arkansas, Minnesota, South Carolina, Colorado, Missouri, South Dakota, Georgia, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Iowa, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana and North Carolina. (In your email write each state on a line and then the party or candidate name of the winner. So like this ...

Tennessee Democrat
New Jersey Republican
Missouri Democrat

Please do it this way and not in discussion form. Otherwise it'll be impossible to go through them.

3. If you want you can then predict the actual spread in as many of the races as you choose.

The way the contest will be scored is that we'll go from one tier to the next. If you get the overall spread right you advance to the next section. If you don't get it you're out. Then if you get each Senate race right, you'll advance on to the tabulation of individual spreads in specific races. The person who gets either all the races right or who gets all the races right and the most race percentages right, wins.

Is all this clear? Frankly, I'm not even sure it is to me. But whatever... You get the idea.

All entries must be received no later than 9 PM East Coast time on Monday evening. Send them to contest@talkingpointsmemo.com. The results will be announced after they're tabulated and after the results of the various races are known -- which frankly may take a while.

As for the prize: fame, celebrity and renown among TPM readers worldwide.

If you look at

If you look at CNN or MSNBC or pretty much any of the major news sites this weekend, you see a similar picture: President Bush and President Clinton barnstorming the country. It's a very revealing picture.

If youre going to

If you're going to do a slimy and dishonest direct-mail hit, you at least want to get all your facts right. Unless apparently you're the RNC. On Thursday we noted the new RNC mailing -- now available for viewing in the TPM Document Collection -- to South Dakota voters which claimed that Senator Tim Johnson was involved in voter fraud in the state. (Headline: "Tim Johnson and the Democrats are Hiding the Truth about Voter Fraud").

The mailing includes pictures of four newspaper story headlines about the supposedly burgeoning voter fraud story. One of the four, from the Rapid City Journal, screams "A Violation of Trust."

Only that story wasn't about voter fraud at all. It was about embezzlement in Pennington County, South Dakota.


At first I thought maybe they were going by the new Gingrich Rules of accuracy. As in "Hey, buddy, we just put a headline there in our mailing about voter fraud. We didn't say that headline was about voter fraud. You're assuming too much."

Today's Argus Leader reports the problem and the RNC's Mindy Tucker had to apologize: "We regret that one of the four (newspaper headlines) was included by mistake and should not have been included."

Oops ...

A few weeks ago

A few weeks ago I recommended Ken Pollack's new book The Threatening Storm to TPM readers. The book, as discussed earlier, is a history of the US relationship with Iraq over the last several decades and a case, though I think an even-handed one, for invasion. Here's a more lengthy and detailed review of the book I've written for The Washington Monthly. For TPM's own take on the Iraq question, see this earlier article, also in The Washington Monthly.

At some point over

At some point over the course of his career Rick Hertzberg managed to be granted a special dispensation from the normal journalistic obligation to lard his commentary with fatuity, cliche and above-it-all cynicism. (Dowd, Fineman, et.al., no such special dispensation.) Read his piece on the two year anniversary of the 2000 election travesty.

An interesting study in

An interesting study in contrasts.

Here's a clip from today's article ("Barnett: No illegal ballots found") in the Argus Leader, in which South Dakota's Republican Attorney General, Mark Barnett, throws a good deal of cold water on the whole 'voter fraud' story.

The investigation into allegations of voter fraud in South Dakota has not turned up any illegally cast ballots but the woman at the center of the controversy still likely will face charges, Attorney General Mark Barnett said late Wednesday.

Barnett said last week that state and federal authorities had found 15 absentee ballot applications with apparently forged signatures. The bad documents surfaced during an investigation of voter abnormalities in 25 counties including registrations for people who were dead or too young to vote.


Throughout the controversy, Barnett has smothered discussion of widespread voting irregularities, saying the investigation was focused on one woman, Becky Red Earth-Villeda of Flandreau who was working as independent contractor under a Democratic Party voter drive.

On Wednesday, the attorney general said the woman's actions, while likely criminal, have not led to fraudulent voting.

"So far I have not found that she had any ballots that have been illegally voted," he said in an interview.

Here's the Republican National Committee mailing (just added to the TPM Document Collection) South Dakotans received in their mailboxes today. The headline pretty much says it all: "Tim Johnson and the Democrats are Hiding the Truth about Voter Fraud." But if you want all the ugly details you can look for yourself.

It doesn't get any slimier.

SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt

SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt may not be the most or least ethical, or the most or least effective Bush administration appointee. But, man, if this dude ain't the most pitiful. Pitt's had a run of embarrassments over the last month or more. And this comes after a pretty mortifying year. But as you've likely already read, he outdid even himself this week.

The essence of it is this: Pitt decided to appoint former CIA Director and FBI Director William Webster to head a new accounting oversight board. But Webster headed the audit committee of a public company, U.S. Technologies, which was facing investor lawsuits alleging fraud.

You can't really blame Webster because he was calling Pitt and saying "Harvey, Harvey, you sure this is a good idea, considering the whole U.S. Technologies thing?" Pitt apparently told Webster not to worry, that he'd checked, and it was okay. (That's what Webster told the Times and the SEC doesn't dispute it.) But apparently he hadn't checked or even told anyone else at the SEC about it. Then Monday, after he'd gotten appointed, Webster caught word that the feds were opening a probe of the company. He phoned up Pitt again: "Harvey, Harvey ... " Well, you get the idea. Again Pitt didn't tell any of the other SEC Commissioners.

I mean, this isn't even really corrupt. It's just lame. The sort of stuff that eight-year-olds do.

Now the *#$%@ hit the fan. The Times has reported how Pitt kept key information from the other Commissioners at SEC. And he's had to order SEC Inspector General, Walter Stachnick, to investigate his own decision not to tell anybody else what was going on.

Would you like to be Walter Stachnick, considering there don't seem to be any facts actually in dispute? How fun will it be when this guy has to interview Pitt? All that seems left to investigate, after all, is whether Harvey Pitt could really be as big a moron as he seems to be.

What a plum assignment.

So now it seems

So now it seems the DC snipers were responsible for two shootings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. That's added to the other non-DC shootings they pulled off in Washington State and Alabama. A rather different picture starts too emerge. These guys were icing people all over the place. It was only when they got to DC that anyone realized what was going on. More specifically, it was only when they shot five people in a matter of hours on (I believe it was) October 3rd that anyone really realized there was a problem. Could that have been the reason why they hit so many people on that one day? You can almost see these guys sitting around the sniper den one evening, knocking back a beer, and saying: What does a guy gotta do in this country to get some cred as a serial killer?

In all seriousness, random gun killings may just have been too common a matter to arouse that much suspicion, until these two decided to pump up the volume one day in early October.