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Palin trounces Biden in poll

More Americans would cast ballots for Republican Sarah Palin than for Democrat Joe Biden if they were able to vote for a vice president independent of their presidential choice, a US poll released Tuesday found.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll of 1,022 adults taken September 5-7 found that if voters were allowed to vote just for president in November, the result would be a statistical tie between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, at 49 and 48 percent respectively. The poll’s margin of error was three percent.


In a hypothetical separate vote just for vice president, Alaska Governor Palin beat Senator Biden, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, by 53 percent to 44 percent, the survey showed.

Obama scoffed at the Republican duo’s claims they are “original mavericks” who would stand up for hard-pressed voters on the MSNBC news channel on Monday.

“They are not telling the truth,” he said. “When you have somebody who was for a project being presented as being against it, then that stretches the bounds of spin into new areas.”

Obama was responding to Palin’s boast that she had intervened to kill a controversial federally-funded “bridge to nowhere,” a project she initially supported

Obama accuses Republican rivals of dishonesty

Barack Obama broadly accused his Republican rivals of dishonesty Monday, citing former lobbyists working for John McCain, Sarah Palin’s shifting stance on the “Bridge to Nowhere” and their promise to change Washington.

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With national polls finding the Democratic presidential nominee trailing or in a dead heat with McCain, Obama began the campaign’s final eight-week push by criticizing McCain’s popular running mate as much as the Arizona senator himself.

He said Palin has an interesting biography — “Mother, governor, moose shooter. That’s cool,” he said — but the election should be about who can change people’s lives for the better. He said that won’t come from a Republican ticket that almost always supports the same positions as President Bush even though they say they will bring reform.

“I mean, you can’t just make stuff up,” Obama said of a new McCain ad that says Palin “stopped the Bridge to Nowhere.” “You can’t just recreate yourself. You can’t just reinvent yourself. The American people aren’t stupid.”

Obama wouldn’t go so far as to say McCain and Palin are lying, even when the audience tried to goad him into it, but he began showing an ad Monday that did.

“Politicians lying about their records?” an announcer asks over a shot of McCain and Palin boarding a plane. “You don’t call that maverick. You call it more of the same.”

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds responded to the charges of dishonesty by saying: “Barack Obama should familiarize himself with the honest facts: John McCain and Governor Palin have actually reformed government to root out money in politics and fought wasteful spending — Sen. Obama has not.”

Obama’s ad was a response to the new McCain commercial called “Original Mavericks” that claims Palin stopped the bridge, a $400 million proposal to connect an island off Alaska with just 50 residents and an airport.

She originally voiced support for it during her campaign for governor, although she was critical of the size, and later abandoned plans for the project. She used the federal dollars for other projects in Alaska.

Obama said McCain’s claim that lobbyists will no longer run Washington when he’s president “doesn’t seem very plausible.”

“Sounds pretty good until you discover that seven of his top campaign managers and officials are — guess what? Former corporate lobbyists. So who is he going to tell?

“What they are going to try to do is what they always do, which is attack, go on the negative, distort, mislead, assert,” Obama said, as members of his invitation-only audience of 350 began yelling “Lie! Lie!” Obama just cocked his head in response as if to say he wasn’t going to go there.

Michigan has supported Democratic presidential candidates in the most recent elections, but it is up for grabs this year and is one of the few blue states Obama could be in danger of losing. Monday’s stops in Flint and Farmington Hills marked his third visit to Michigan in nine days, a time when Palin’s addition to the ticket has resulted in a bounce in the polls for the Republican ticket.

McCain won Michigan in the 2000 Republican primary but lost it to Mitt Romney in January, partly because of his unapologetic assessment that not all of Detroit’s lost auto industry jobs would be recovered.

Obama never competed in the state during the primaries as the national party punished Michigan and Florida for holding early contests, stripping them of their delegates. The Democratic presidential candidates largely bypassed the states.

The automotive manufacturing state has been especially hard hit by the economic downturn, and Obama spoke in front of fuel efficient hybrid vehicles that he says he would help Michigan produce to create jobs. The Illinois senator stoked frustrations among residents of the Flint area where the unemployment rate is more than 12 percent — double the national average.

“You don’t have to tell the people of Flint or the people of Michigan that our economy is not in good shape,” Obama said to shouts of “Yeah!” from the audience. “You do need to tell John McCain — because just a few weeks ago he said the economy was fundamentally sound.”

Obama said McCain can’t bring change when he votes with President Bush so often.

Obama VS McCain: 7 Things To Watch

As Barack Obama and John McCain go barreling neck-and-neck into the homestretch, advisers for both men know one thing for certain: Nothing is.

More so than any presidential race in recent history, this one may be determined by forces beyond the control of either candidate.

How far will housing values fall? How far will oil prices rise? Will violence in Iraq erase the gains of the surge? Will Israel attack Iran? Will one of the Big Three automakers go bankrupt? Which neighbor will Russia attack next? Which bank will fail? Will terrorists strike the United States again?

It’s impossible to predict much about this race, but here are seven things to watch as the unknowns become knowns:

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1. Will Obama profit from pain?

Voters say the economy is their number one concern — and in nearly every poll Barack Obama enjoys a substantial, but not commanding, 10- to 15-point advantage on economic issues.

He’s doing better than John Kerry or Al Gore did on the economy, he fares best in battleground states. A Democracy Corps survey taken during the GOP convention gave Obama an 11-point edge on the economy nationwide but a 15-point lead in swing states including Ohio, Nevada, Florida and Virginia.

But Obama hasn’t been able to translate that advantage into big leads over McCain in the states hit hardest by the economic downtown. In fact, the race has tightened in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and hard-hit Michigan — despite McCain’s support of unpopular free trade agreements, his less-than enthusiastic support of the housing bailout, his own profession of ignorance on economic matters and ample connections to Big Oil.

Race and class issues are probably sapping Obama’s support. But he’s also been hurt by nagging questions about his leadership experience as the GOP tries to shift the election from a referendum on Republican economic policies to a test of whether Obama is up to the job of president.

“The two immoveable objects in this campaign are that Bush takes the blame for the economy and that the economy favors the Democrats,” says Michael Dimock, associate director of the Pew Research Center. “But it’s now coming down to the question of Obama’s leadership and capability . . . . McCain doesn’t have to win on the economy, just mitigate its impact, and reframe the issue as one about leadership.”

Added a Democratic pollster: “Don’t look at the unemployment rate. The key metric is the percentage of voters who think Obama is ready to lead. So far, that’s been around 50 to 58 percent. If that number stabilizes in the mid-50s, he’ll win.”

Then there’s the “bitter” pill. The Illinois senator spent his teen years on Food Stamps, but he’s had real trouble making white blue-collar Democrats believe that he feels their pain. And Republicans aren’t letting voters forget his claim that working-class voters are so “bitter” they cling to God and guns.

2. Has Palin Peaked?

Sarah Palin’s addition to the ticket probably exceeded her running mate’s wildest expectations: McCain has turned an eight-point deficit in the Gallup daily tracking poll into a three-point lead.

But McCain’s campaign has so far been able to protect Palin from any downside. Palin appeared before adoring crowds in the lower 48 last week, but she did so with the help of TelePrompters and under the protection of a journalist no-fly zone. On Sunday, the McCain campaign – facing increasing pressure — announced that Palin would have a sit-down with ABC’s Charlie Gibson.

How will the Alaska governor hold up under a grilling about the future of NATO, the mortgage securitization crisis or Troopergate? Joe Lieberman is reportedly giving her a rushed tutorial on foreign policy, but the potential for embarrassment remains significant despite Palin’s poise, sense of humor and innate smarts.

Some GOP analysts fret that her popularity has nowhere to go but down, as moderate women become more familiar with her staunch anti-abortion stance. And some are concerned that the conservative evangelicals who make up the party’s base — so jazzed by Palin’s selection — could sink back into a funk when they remember that Palin was just an appetizer while McCain remains the main course.

3. Can Joe Biden avoid the curse of Rick Lazio?

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Palin’s biggest test comes on Oct. 2 in St. Louis, when she faces Joe Biden in what is certain to be the most eagerly anticipated and probably the most-viewed veep debate ever.

Biden hopes to portray the Alaska governor as a neo-Dan Quayle, an out-of-depth amateur unfit to serve as president. But perils abound for the verbose, occasionally overbearing Biden, who must negotiate a gender minefield Rick Lazio blundered into during his disastrous debate against Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2000.

“I’d love to be a fly on the wall in Joe Biden’s dressing room that night,” says Michael Franc of the conservative Heritage Foundation. “They are really going to coach him to restrain himself.”

4. The presidential candidates debate, too.

Until McCain picked Palin, the trio of presidential debates — scheduled for Sept. 26 at Ole Miss, Oct. 7 in Nashville and Oct. 15 in Long Island – seemed likely to the defining moments in the fall campaign. They still are.

“The margins are so tight and voters have so many questions about both guys. The potential for a major, game-changing slip-up is huge,” says Democratic consultant Jefrey Pollack.

Adds former Clinton pollster Geoff Garin: “The debates are the story this year… Voters need to take [the candidates’] temperature.”

Neither candidate is exactly a master of the form. McCain does best when he’s cracking collegial jokes, but he’s prone to missteps and shows unattractive flashes of anger from time to time. Obama is a polished performer but sometimes comes across as condescending or professorial. He makes his own share of mistakes, including the comment — during the recent Saddleback Forum — that a question about when life begins was above his “pay grade.” Over the weekend, Obama said his response to the question had been too flip, and that what he really meant was that he doesn’t “presume to be able to answer these kinds of theological questions.”

5. Will Hillary really help?

Obama needs Hillary Clinton on the trail – less to offset Palin than to deliver working-class whites who became her base during the primaries.

Exactly how much she’ll be used is up in the air. Obama’s people have presented Clinton with a list of places and dates. She’s amenable – under two conditions. First, she refuses to be a “Sarah Palin attack dog,” according to a person close to her. Second, she wants Obama campaign events to coincide with fundraisers to retire her $20 million-plus debt.

And what role will Bill Clinton play?

6. Wright back at you.

Obama complains that he didn’t much in the way of economic solutions at the Republican Convention. There’s something else he didn’t hear much: the name of Reg. Jeremiah Wright.

That won’t last.

It’s possible that McCain himself will attack Obama over his longtime relationship with the firebrand former preacher, but it’s far more likely that independent groups will run ads and barrage white, working-class voters with Wright-Obama emails during the homestretch.

And those same groups won’t be shy about dwelling on Obama’s more tenuous link to former Weather Underground radical Bill Ayers.

7. Will Mount McCain erupt?

When Democratic operatives were gaming out a race against McCain earlier this year, one thing seemed certain to work in their favor: At some point, McCain would blow a gasket and undo months of political anger management.

A lot of Democrats still think it will happen, citing high-profile McCain blow-ups like his May 2007 tussle with Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn and noting that McCain seems to get more irascible when he’s fatigued.

“The anger issue raises questions about his age – and when you get right down to it, that’s Obama’s greatest weapon against him,” said a Democratic consultant.

McCain & Obama Joint 9/11 Plans

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama said yesterday that they would put aside partisan politics for a joint appearance at ground zero to mark the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, in a statement, said they would appear together at the World Trade Center site on Thursday “to honor the memory of each and every American who died” in the 2001 attacks.

The campaigns already had agreed to suspend television advertising critical of each other on Sept. 11. The McCain campaign has said it will air no ads that day.

Both campaigns have been running negative television ads and, at the just-concluded political conventions, pulled no punches in exploiting partisan differences.

Obama and McCain said Thursday would be different.

“All of us came together on 9/11 – not as Democrats or Republicans – but as Americans,” they said. “We were united as one American family. On Thursday, we will put aside politics and come together to renew that unity.”

A group backing community service,, wants Sept. 11 to become a national day of voluntary service and had asked that Obama and McCain perform acts of community service instead of campaigning.

Obama and McCain: 1st Job is Lowering Taxes

Job No. 1 for the next president? In the minds of an overwhelming number of Americans, it’s fixing what ails the sick economy. What the voters will have to sort out are very different approaches offered by Barack Obama and John McCain.


Both of their fix-up plans rely heavily on tax cuts, but in sharply different ways that speak to the historic differences between Democrats and Republicans.

McCain, borrowing a page from Ronald Reagan and President Bush, would keep tax rates low for higher-income taxpayers and slash rates for corporations, arguing that this is the way to jump-start a lethargic economy and create more jobs.

Obama, focusing on a theme of many past Democratic campaigns, seeks to target his help to the squeezed middle class and address the growing income inequality between rich and poor. He would retain all of the Bush tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 a year, but would do away with Bush’s cuts for people making more than that.

The money raised from tax increases on the wealthy would be redirected by Obama to tax relief for lower-income Americans.

Unlike a lot of campaign debates where the promises of neither side get enacted into law, this war of words will make a difference because all of Bush’s tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of 2010.

Since neither party wants to go back to the tax rates in effect before 2001, whoever wins will have to work with Congress to pass legislation shaping how the tax code will look beyond 2010. At stake will be billions of dollars.

Under Obama, the wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers, those making roughly $600,000 or more, would see their taxes go up on average by $93,709 in 2009, according to an analysis done by the Tax Policy Center, because Obama would begin implementing his tax changes even before the scheduled expiration of the Bush cuts.

Under McCain, those same taxpayers would see an average reduction of $48,860, reflecting in part additional cuts he is proposing.

By contrast, the bottom 20 percent of taxpayers, those with taxable income of roughly $19,000 per year or less, would see their taxes cut by an average of $567 under Obama’s program and $21 under McCain’s plan, the tax center estimates.

For the 20 percent of taxpayers right in the middle of the income scale, making roughly between $37,600 and $66,400, the tax break would be $1,118 under the Obama plan and $325 under the McCain plan in 2009, according to the analysis done by the tax center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, two Washington think tanks.

In addition to tax cuts, both presidential candidates are out promising voters a lot of programs in the areas of health care, energy and education.

But the outlook for the federal budget is much darker now than in 2000. In that year, candidate Bush traveled the country promoting across-the-board tax cuts as a way to fix what ailed America in the wake of a sudden slowdown in growth and a bursting of the bubble in high-tech stocks.

With the Congressional Budget Office and others forecasting record-breaking surpluses totaling $5.6 trillion over the decade, it seemed like a good idea to a lot of Washington policymakers to return a part of those surpluses in the form of a $1.35 trillion tax cut passed in 2001 and a follow-up measure in 2003.

The problem was that the surplus forecast turned out to be wildly inaccurate because of an unforeseen recession that began in 2001 just as Bush was taking office and the soaring costs of fighting a global war on terror that began in the wake of terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The federal books were in the black in 2001 — for the fourth consecutive year — but since then, the U.S. has returned to running huge deficits, including the largest in history in dollar terms, a $413 billion imbalance in 2004.

Now, with the government pumping out $106.7 billion to Americans in stimulus payments to keep all the problems in housing and the credit markets from pushing the country into a deep recession, the deficits are surging again.

The CBO predicts a $400 billion imbalance this year, and the administration is forecasting that the deficit for the next budget year that begins Oct. 1 will hit an all-time high of $482 billion.

That forecast doesn’t include the cost of the government takeover announced by the administration on Sunday of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That effort, which has the potential of adding tens of billions of dollars to the deficits in the short run, won the qualified backing of both Obama and McCain.

The CBO’s current forecast for the next decade doesn’t look that bad on paper, projecting the budget will go into the black in 2012, giving the country a small surplus of $270 billion over the next 10 years.

However, that forecast comes with a warning label. The CBO has to make its estimates based on current law, which has the Bush tax cuts expiring after 2010 and makes no provisions for further outlays to keep the Alternative Minimum Tax on the wealthy from hitting millions of middle-income taxpayers, a huge expense every year.

The economic plans that McCain and Obama have put forward do include the billions needed to deal with the AMT plus extending the Bush tax cuts. McCain would extend all of them except the total elimination of the estate tax, while Obama would extend only the cuts for individual taxpayers making less than $200,000 annually or couples making less than $250,000.

With those big-ticket tax cuts plus the impact of other changes in the tax code included, McCain’s plans would slash revenues by $4.2 trillion over the next decade while Obama’s reduction would be a slightly smaller $2.9 trillion. Both would transform the CBO’s small surplus over the 10-year period into big deficits, according to the tax center.

The two campaigns argue that it is not fair to hold them to the unrealistic CBO baseline. Rather, the campaigns like to compare their proposals to a current policy baseline which assumes the Bush tax cuts are extended and the AMT is patched every year. Under that baseline, according to the tax center, McCain’s plan would cut taxes by $596 billion over the next decade; Obama’s would increase taxes by $627 billion during the same period, reflecting the fact that Obama is raising tax rates on the wealthy and boosting the taxes they pay on dividends and capital-gains earnings. Obama is also not embracing McCain’s proposal to cut the top rate on corporate taxes.

Regardless of the baseline used, the government’s debt would go up sharply — by $3.5 trillion under the Obama plan and by $5 trillion over the next decade under McCain’s plan, the tax center estimates.

While both campaigns argue they are not getting enough credit for their plans to cut spending, history shows that campaigns always pledge to pay for their tax cuts but seldom achieve that goal because spending cuts prove much more difficult to get through Congress.

And how about the overall goals — McCain’s effort to give the country a boost by cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations and Obama’s efforts to narrow income inequality?

Economists say there are things to like in both programs. They generally favor reductions in top rates as a way to spur new investment and job creation, so on that point McCain’s program gets good marks. However, there are worries that the higher deficits that are expected because of the tax cuts could drive up interest rates, raising the cost of money for businesses and result in less investment, not more.

For Obama, the concern is that all of his new and expanded tax credits, such as his “Making Work Pay” refundable credit which would provide low-income workers with a maximum of $500 per individual and $1,000 per family, will further complicate an already complex tax system and won’t make a very big dent in the problems of income inequality.

And neither candidate is talking very much about tackling what all experts see as the biggest budgetary challenge facing the next president — the explosion in the government’s big benefit programs for Social Security and Medicare as the baby boomers retire.

Obama has proposed levying a 2 percent to 4 percent tax on payroll earnings above $250,000 a decade from now to deal with Social Security, but experts say that would fix only a small part of the problem with the pension program. And neither campaign has put forward any proposals that experts say would make a meaningful dent in fixing Medicare, the far bigger entitlement problem because of soaring health care costs.

Some experts see tax increases, not cuts, in the country’s future regardless of who wins the presidency.

“We are starting out with very big deficits, and the demographics are turning more unfavorable with all the baby boomer retirements,” said Nigel Gault, senior economist at Global Insight, a Lexington, Mass., forecasting firm. “The deeper you get into the next presidency, the more likelihood that taxes will have to be raised.”

Obama on Palin’s Speech

Barack Obama responded personally to Sarah Palin’s speech, saying, “You’re hearing an awful lot about me, most of which is not true. What you’re not hearing is a lot about you.”

Barack Obama’s camp issued a statement in response to Sarah Palin’s speech:

“The speech that Governor Palin gave was well delivered, but it was written by George Bush’s speechwriter and sounds exactly like the same divisive, partisan attacks we’ve heard from George Bush for the last eight years. If Governor Palin and John McCain want to define ‘change’ as voting with George Bush 90% of the time, that’s their choice, but we don’t think the American people are ready to take a 10% chance on change.”

On Obama’s campaign plane, top strategist David Axelrod responded:

“There wasn’t one thing that she said about Obama or what he’s proposing that is true. She tried to attack Senator Obama by saying he had no significant legislative achievements. Maybe that’s what she was told.”
On Wednesday, Republicans sought to define Obama as untested and inexperienced, making light of his past work as a community organizer in Chicago.

“For everyday people, … that seems like real work,” said Axelrod.

Ultimately, Axelrod said, the Republicans squandered an opportunity to promote their candidate. He also questioned the emphasis on McCain’s years as a prisoner of war, saying the Arizona senator’s history already was well known.

“They’re shedding an awfully lot of heat but no light,” he said. “It almost defies the laws of physics.”

As for Palin’s claim to be an outsider, Axelrod said that given her pointed criticism of Obama, “for someone who makes the point that she’s not from Washington, she looked very much like she would fit in very well there.”


On Obama’s campaign plane, top strategist David Axelrod 

“There wasn’t one thing that she said about Obama or what he’s proposing that is true. She tried to attack Senator Obama by saying he had no significant legislative achievements. Maybe that’s what she was told.”
On Wednesday, Republicans sought to define Obama as untested and inexperienced, making light of his past work as a community organizer in Chicago.

“For everyday people, … that seems like real work,” said Axelrod.

Ultimately, Axelrod said, the Republicans squandered an opportunity to promote their candidate. He also questioned the emphasis on McCain’s years as a prisoner of war, saying the Arizona senator’s history already was well known.

“They’re shedding an awfully lot of heat but no light,” he said. “It almost defies the laws of physics.”

As for Palin’s claim to be an outsider, Axelrod said that given her pointed criticism of Obama, “for someone who makes the point that she’s not from Washington, she looked very much like she would fit in very well there.”

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe also sent an email to supporters:

I wasn’t planning on sending you something tonight. But if you saw what I saw from the Republican convention, you know that it demands a response.
I saw John McCain’s attack squad of negative, cynical politicians. They lied about Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and they attacked you for being a part of this campaign.

But worst of all — and this deserves to be noted — they insulted the very idea that ordinary people have a role to play in our political process.

You know that despite what John McCain and his attack squad say, everyday people have the power to build something extraordinary when we come together. Make a donation of $5 or more right now to remind them.

Both Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin specifically mocked Barack’s experience as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago more than two decades ago, where he worked with people who had lost jobs and been left behind when the local steel plants closed.

Let’s clarify something for them right now.

Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.

And it’s no surprise that, after eight years of George Bush, millions of people have found that by coming together in their local communities they can change the course of history. That promise is what our campaign has been about from the beginning.

Throughout our history, ordinary people have made good on America’s promise by organizing for change from the bottom up. Community organizing is the foundation of the civil rights movement, the women’s suffrage movement, labor rights, and the 40-hour workweek. And it’s happening today in church basements and community centers and living rooms across America.

Meanwhile, we still haven’t gotten a single idea during the entire Republican convention about the economy and how to lift a middle class so harmed by the Bush-McCain policies.

It’s now clear that John McCain’s campaign has decided that desperate lies and personal attacks — on Barack Obama and on you — are the only way they can earn a third term for the Bush policies that McCain has supported more than 90 percent of the time.