The Filter: Nov. 4, 2008... Election Day Edition

A round-up of this morning's must-read stories. NOW GO VOTE!

(Adam Nagourney, New York Times)

The 2008 race for the White House that comes to an end on Tuesday fundamentally upended the way presidential campaigns are fought in this country, a legacy that has almost been lost with all the attention being paid to the battle between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama. It has rewritten the rules on how to reach voters, raise money, organize supporters, manage the news media, track and mold public opinion, and wage — and withstand — political attacks, including many carried by blogs that did not exist four years ago. It has challenged the consensus view of the American electoral battleground, suggesting that Democrats can at a minimum be competitive in states and regions that had long been Republican strongholds. The size and makeup of the electorate could be changed because of efforts by Democrats to register and turn out new black, Hispanic and young voters. This shift may have long-lasting ramifications for what the parties do to build enduring coalitions, especially if intensive and technologically-driven voter turnout programs succeed in getting more people to the polls. Mr. McCain’s advisers expect a record-shattering turnout of 130 million people, many being brought into the political process for the first time.

(Dan Balz, Washington Post)

State and national polls released yesterday underscored the steep hill McCain must climb in the final hours to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. Burdened by President Bush's unpopularity and an economic crisis that redrew the race in September in Obama's favor, the senator from Arizona sprinted through a series of critical states yesterday -- all but one of which Bush carried four years ago -- exhorting his supporters to help him defy the odds. Obama concentrated on Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, appealing to supporters to produce a huge turnout in those battlegrounds as he sought to checkmate his rival by keeping alive as many options as possible for winning an electoral college majority. The strategy, laid down in the summer at the beginning of the general election, has proved successful in the late stages of the race and require McCain to win virtually every state where the polls are close to deny Obama a victory.

(Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin, Politico)

They should, by all rights, have entered Election Day with their moods matching the polls: Barack Obama elated by his seemingly substantial lead and large crowds, John McCain demoralized by the specter of defeat and meager turnout. But in the final hours of a campaign that has seldom gone according to script, the candidates' moods and their campaigns' demeanor – quite fittingly - didn't follow the expectations. Obama seemed almost unsteady amid the emotional barrage of the end of the campaign and his grandmother’s death, while his aides held fast to solid, positive early voting numbers with a mood one Chicago staffer described as "cautiously nauseous." A hoarse McCain and his top aides and advisers, clinging to the far weaker evidence of favored polls, evidenced an upbeat, even jaunty attitude through a grueling final day of airport hangar rallies that took them through seven states in just over 24 hours.

(Bob Davis, Jonathan Weisman and Timothy Aeppel, Wall Street Journal)

Few economists predict the world is in for a repeat of the 1930s. But the deepening problems -- rising joblessness and home foreclosures, falling consumer spending and tight credit -- are prompting calls from businesses and Congress for quick action by the next president to clarify, and begin working on, his economic agenda. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) says the president-elect should start by picking his Treasury secretary and economic team within days. With Congress planning a session this month to push through a second economic-stimulus package and discuss remaking the nation's financial system, lawmakers will look for direction from the future president. Mr. Dodd said he will bring the next White House team into the regulatory talks... Both campaigns declined to comment on any specific post-election plans. However, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama would likely come under pressure to assure investors that he won't increase income taxes on the wealthy during a recession -- as he hinted during the campaign -- or boost capital-gains taxes during a market slump. For Republican Sen. John McCain, one challenge would be explaining how he'd work with a Democratic Congress after a bitter presidential battle.

(Ross Douthat, The Atlantic)

Conservatism in the United States faces a series of extremely knotty problems at the moment. How do you restrain the welfare state at a time when the entitlements we have are broadly popular, and yet their design puts them on a glide path to insolvency? How do you respond to the socioeconomic trends--wage stagnation, social immobility, rising health care costs, family breakdown, and so forth--that are slowly undermining support for the Reaganite model of low-tax capitalism? How do you sell socially-conservative ideas to a moderate middle that often perceives social conservatism as intolerant? How do you transform an increasingly white party with a history of benefiting from racially-charged issues into a party that can win majorities in an increasingly multiracial America?  etc. Watching the McCain campaign, you'd barely even know that these problems exist, let alone that conservatives have any idea what to do about them. But there were people in the Bush Administration who did understand the situation facing the Right, and set out to wrestle with these challenges--and as a result, George W. Bush had a real chance (especially given the political capital he enjoyed after 9/11) to establish a model for center-right governance in the post-Reagan era. That he failed is by no means the greatest tragedy of the last eight years, but it is a tragedy nonetheless--for conservatives, and for the country. 

(Ezra Klein, American Prospect) 

The two-party system is relatively, if not perfectly, responsive to changes in public opinion. If Democrats do popular things in office and achieve high approval ratings, then you will see the Republican Party respond to those incentives. Protecting a popular health reform plan, for instance, will quickly become something near to orthodoxy for both parties, much as it's very rare today for Republicans to express a desire to harm either Social Security or Medicare. You saw this in the late-90s, when George W. Bush ran as the soft Republican antidote to Newt Gingrich's cruel conservatism. And, sure enough, less than a decade after Gingrich released "The Contract With America," Republicans were voting to increase federal control over the schools and attach a $500 billion drug benefit to Medicare. So I'd suggest that the question isn't what the political world looks like on the Wednesday after the election, but on the Wednesday after the first year. The Republican Party seems a stubborn and ideological beast, but that's largely bluster. Their next incarnation will largely be a response to the political terrain as shaped by Democratic achievements -- or failures. 

(Jacques Steinberg, New York Times)

or At least one broadcast network and one Web site said Monday that they could foresee signaling to viewers early Tuesday evening which candidate appeared to have won the presidency, despite the unreliability of some early exit polls in the last presidential election. A senior vice president of CBS News, Paul Friedman, said the prospects for Barack ObamaJohn McCain meeting the minimum threshold of electoral votes could be clear as soon as 8 p.m. — before polls in even New York and Rhode Island close, let alone those in Texas and California. At such a moment, determined from a combination of polling data and samples of actual votes, the network could share its preliminary projection with viewers, Mr. Friedman said. “We could know Virginia at 7,” he said. “We could know Indiana before 8. We could know Florida at 8. We could know Pennsylvania at 8. We could know the whole story of the election with those results. We can’t be in this position of hiding our heads in the sand when the story is obvious.”

(Mary Pat Flaherty, Washington Post)

More than 29 million Americans have locked in their choices during early and absentee voting, relieving some of the pressure on election officials. Still, roughly 100 million voters are predicted to show up at the polls today, in many cases facing voting machines they have never used before. Locally and elsewhere along the southeastern seaboard, voters are likely to encounter rainfall, but there were no forecasts of storms or extreme cold that could discourage some from venturing out to the polls. Campaign staffers for Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama said yesterday that they were expecting good results and a good experience for voters, but both camps also brought up complaints and accusations about voting. Republican concerns have primarily centered on fraudulent voter registrations, while the main worry for Democrats has been that eligible voters may not get to cast regular ballots. Spokesmen for both campaigns said they would not shy away from heading to court on Election Day to challenge a problem at the polls, but they also said they would be restrained in picking court battles.

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