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Wonkbook: 39 hours to go

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Wonkbook dashboard

RCP Obama vs. Romney: Obama +0.5%; 7-day change: Obama +1.4%.

RCP Obama approval: 49.9%; 7-day change: +1.2%.

Intrade percent chance of Obama win: 65.0%; 7-day change: +2.1%.

Wonkbook's Number of the Day: 39. That's the number of hours left between 8 a.m. EST this Monday morning and 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6, when the polls close in the lower 48 states. After months of campaigning, this is it. We are hours away from the general election -- and hours away, if all goes smoothly, from knowing whether President Barack Obama will have a second term in the Oval Office or his Republican challenger Mitt Romney will become the 45th president of the United States.

Top story: 2012 election in its final hours

Obama, Romney enter the final push to Election Day. "And now it is closing time. On Monday, in the final hours of their 17-month, nearly $3 billion marathon, the two candidates and their running mates are scheduled to hold 14 events across eight states. For Republican challenger Mitt Romney, this last full day of campaigning is aimed at achieving what he has seemingly been unable to do over the first 522 days: overcome President Obama’s razor-thin but steady leads in the states where the election will be decided...On Sunday, it appeared that Romney’s task was getting a little harder." Felicia Sonmez, David Nakamura and David A. Fahrenthold in The Washington Post.

Map: The 2012 election's battlegrounds, leaners, and safe states.

President Obama will go into the election with a slight lead in the polls. "It appears that President Obama is likely to go into Election Day with a very modest lead in the average of national polls. As of this writing, on Sunday evening, Mr. Obama led by an average of 1.3 percentage points across 12 national polls that had been published over the course of the prior 24 hours. The range was quite tight, running from a tied race in the polls issued by Rasmussen Reports, CNN and Politico, to a three-point lead in three other surveys...[T]here is enough data to conclude that Mr. Obama probably has a slight edge from national surveys, which until recently had pointed toward a tie -- or perhaps a modest advantage for Mr. Romney." Nate Silver in The New York Times.

@fivethirtyeight: Between national + battleground state polls so far today: 29 Obama leads, 3 Romney leads, 5 ties.

Mitt Romney sees an Obama reelection as 'possible, but not likely.' "'If the president were to be reelected,' Romney began to tell the audience of about 6,000 supporters gathered at the cavernous International Exposition Center halfway through his stump speech. He was interrupted by boos. 'It’s possible, but not likely,' he added." Felicia Sonmez in The Washington Post.

@DLeonhardt: Telling that Crossroads ad includes CNN banner of "Gallup Poll shows Romney up 6" in ad about Obama's failures. Trying to raise confidence.

David Axelrod disagreees. "[He] dismissed on Sunday the notion that Mitt Romney is making Pennsylvania competitive as the GOP presidential nominee heads there later in the day. 'They understand that they're in deep trouble,' Axelrod said on "Fox News Sunday.' 'They've tried to expand the map because they know in states like Ohio...they're behind and they're not catching up at this point.'" Ginger Gibson in Politico.

The Fix's Chris Cillizza explains: Election day's five important questions.

Romney campaign makes its final push in Iowa, where Obama's lead has held fast. " Mitt Romney held four events in four states on Sunday in an attempt to edge out President Obama -- who holds a slight lead in polls of several critical battleground states -- in the final 48 hours before Election Day. On the busy schedule: Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia...'I need Iowa,' Mr. Romney said. 'I need Iowa so we can win the White House and take back America, keep it strong, make sure we always remain the hope of the earth. I’m counting on you.' Iowa has bedeviled Mr. Romney since he started running for president." Ashley Parker inThe New York Times.

@mattyglesias: Now that Obama’s been endorsed by The Economist and the FT, clear that Romney will never be prime minister.

And Virginia, a state Romney needs, is still intensely competitive. "No matter who wins here on Tuesday, the heavy focus on Virginia has left a mark on the state and those who live in it. Voters say they feel a closer connection to the candidates and the campaign. The stature of Virginia politicians has gotten a boost. A state filled with history got a little more when Romney announced in Norfolk that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would be his running mate. And then there’s the money -- tens of millions poured into TV ads, radio spots, rallies, mailings, campaign offices and every other little thing that comes with a modern presidential campaign...Virginia is one of the big three -- right up there with Florida and Ohio as the most fought over and valuable commodities on Election Day. The outcome is so uncertain that the two candidates, their spouses and running mates have logged more than 90 appearances in Virginia in 2012 -- nearly a dozen of those since Friday. Virginians are not used to this sort of thing." Amy Gardner in The Washington Post.

@MichaelSLinden: Is Obama pulling away in Virginia? 9 polls over the last week and weighted avg (by sample size) has him up 2.4%.

Campaigns make final push in Henrico, Va.

Paul Ryan is campaigning in Minnesota. "Expanding the campaign map into a state next to his own, Representative Paul D. Ryan held his first rally in Minnesota in the dwindling hours of the race on Sunday, dividing remarks between criticism of President Obama for failing to lead and promising that a Romney White House would reach across the partisan chasm as the president had not...It is a state where the Romney-Ryan campaign has only recently decided to invest its resources, which is either a sign that it believes that the electoral map has widened, or evidence that it feels its chances in the usual battlegrounds are diminishing."Trip Gabriel in The New York Times.

@TheStalwart: It looks like Obama is going to win.

Politico's Vandehei and Allen explain: Lessons learned from 2012.

@AlecMacGillis: Reporters who cover election process stuff have a hard time getting people's attention. Then, once every 4 years, it suddenly matters a lot.

Early voting mess in Florida moves to the courts. "In a state where legal action often goes hand in hand with presidential elections, the Florida Democratic Party filed a federal lawsuit early Sunday to force the state government to extend early voting hours in South Florida. The lawsuit was filed after a stream of complaints from voters who sometimes waited nearly seven hours to vote or who did not vote at all because they could not wait for so long to do so." Lizette Alvarez in The New York Times.

@ObsoleteDogma: Why isn't election day a national holiday?

And in Ohio. "In Ohio, Republican election officials will go to court on Monday to defend an 11th-hour directive to local election officials that critics say could invalidate thousands of provisional ballots by forcing voters to attest to the type of identification they provide. Together, the pre-election legal skirmishes were a potential preview of the clashes that could emerge in as many as a half-dozen swing states over Tuesday’s voting. The closeness of the races in those states has intensified the stakes of voter turnout, smooth operations at polling places, ballot problems and recounts." Mark Landler and Michael D. Shear in The New York Times.

@AlecMacGillis: A bit odd to see people finding Florida's election incompetence amusingly inevitable. This fumbling ain't by accident, folks.

Let The Post's David Beard keep track for you: Vote irregularities.

@bdomenench: Obama has reactivated minority base, but will slip slightly among youth and white vote. Even slight slip in latter can cost you in Midwest.

The Democrats look highly unlikely to retake the House of Reps. "Nancy Pelosi has spent much of the past two years proclaiming that Democrats had a great shot at reclaiming the House and returning the speaker’s gavel to her hands. But her drive to regain the majority for Democrats is on the verge of a complete collapse. Democrats are expected to pick up five seats at best — a fraction of the 25 they need. On the eve of the election, some party officials are privately worried that Democrats might even lose ground and drop one or two seats to the Republican majority...It would mark an epic failure for a party that has a legitimate shot at keeping the presidency and the Senate on Tuesday. The inability of House Democrats to pick off a good number of seats from one of the most unpopular House majorities in modern history will cause a lot of soul-searching in the party come Wednesday. So Democrats are already doing their postmortems on a House election cycle gone awry. What they’ll find in the political autopsy is Republican dominance in redistricting that created a GOP friendly map, a Medicare argument that didn’t totally pan out and an incumbent president who just wasn’t as popular as when he ran four years ago. They’ll also have to come to terms with the fact that they still can’t overcome the Republican advantage in campaign spending." Alex Isenstadt in Politico.

@AlecMacGillis: Those who have argued all year that this is a re-run of 2004, with Obama as Bush, are getting eerie affirmation from final polls.

CROVITZ: Political hypertargeting online. "As the presidential race comes to a close, the technology world has learned that Washington wants others to do as it says, not as it does. For all the threatened regulation of the Internet in the name of protecting privacy, the presidential campaigns have gone further than commercial advertisers ever have in using online and offline data to target people...Campaigns now target voters with a three-step process. Like other online advertisers, they drop a 'cookie' on users' computers after they visit a particular website—perhaps Huffington Post on the left or Drudge Report on the right. The cookie sends information back to the campaign about the user's online activity, information that is combined with offline data from companies with massive consumer databases of the kind used by retailers, adding details such as the neighborhood where the voter lives, the car he drives, and the charities he supports, as well as income, sex and race. Political campaigns then add another level of data: information from publicly available voting records, including party registration and frequency of voting." L. Gordon Crovitz in The Washington Post.

DIONNE: Americans will choose to go 'forward.' "The 2012 campaign began on Aug. 2, 2011, when President Obama signed the deal ending the debt-ceiling fiasco. At that moment, the president relinquished his last illusions that the current, radical version of the Republican Party could be dealt with as a governing partner. From then on, Obama was determined to fight -- and to win. It was the right choice, the only alternative to capitulation. A Republican majority both inspired and intimidated by the tea party was demanding that Obama renounce every principle dear to him about the role of government in 21st-century America. And so he set out to defeat those who threatened to bring back the economic policies of the 1890s." E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post.

WESTEN: No matter who wins, this election is a win for 'rightward.' "[R]ather than a victory for pragmatism, we may well see both the winners and losers take away a very different lesson: that this election was a mandate for another shift to the right. If Mitt Romney loses, conservatives will no doubt conclude that he just wasn’t conservative enough, that they should have picked someone more appealing to their base. If President Obama loses or squeaks out a victory just four years after President George W. Bush destroyed the economy (which should have discredited conservative economics once and for all), many Democrats are likely to conclude that he tried to move too left too fast...The data, however, suggest just the opposite -- that both candidates have benefited in the general election every time they have taken a left turn." Drew Westen in The New York Times.

DOUTHAT: How big a government? "Over the 40 years preceding Barack Obama’s first term in office, under Republican and Democratic presidents alike, the federal government claimed, on average, about 18 percent of America’s gross domestic product in taxes every year and spent slightly under 21 percent. This equilibrium was always going to be threatened by the retirement of the baby boomers. But the financial crash and the Great Recession upset it sooner than anyone expected...A vote for President Obama is a vote for a future where spending stabilizes well above its 40-year average, and where tax revenue gradually rises...A vote for Romney, on the other hand, is a vote for a future in which we at least try to make the fiscal adjustments necessary to keep taxing and spending at roughly the same rate as under Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and George W. Bush." Ross Douthat in The New York Times.

Top op-eds

SUNSTEIN: The next president is sure to break the rules. "Everybody knows that Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney sharply disagree about financial regulation, health care and environmental protection. What is less obvious is that whoever is elected on Nov. 6, his administration will soon be focusing on leading issues of regulatory reform...[I]n light of the current economic situation, any president, Democratic or Republican, is going to take steps to control the flow of new rules, particularly if they are expensive...For many years, American business has contended that in the modern economy, it makes no sense to require companies to comply with frustratingly different regulations across national boundaries...When they impose different regulatory requirements, it may be because of a simple failure of coordination. Advance coordination can eliminate pointless redundancy and inconsistency." Cass R. Sunstein in Bloomberg.

KRUGMAN: Sandy vs. Katrina. "As Sandy barreled toward New Jersey, there were hopeful mutters on the right to the effect that it might become President Obama’s Katrina, with voters blaming him for the damage, and that this might matter on Tuesday. For the response to Sandy, like the success of the auto bailout, is a demonstration that Mr. Obama’s philosophy of government -- which holds that the government can and should provide crucial aid in times of crisis -- works. And conversely, the contrast between Sandy and Katrina demonstrates that leaders who hold government in contempt cannot provide that aid when it is needed."Paul Krugman in The New York Times.

@TheStalwart: Twitter has been so in[s]anely informative on #Sandy. The gap between those on it, and those without it has got to be huge.

POPE: The Republican retrograde energy agenda. "[T]he emerging economy is built on knowledge-based innovation, and Obama and his wing of the Democratic Party are its torchbearers. The old economy, on the defensive, is centralized and reliant on banks, commodities and fossil fuels. Romney and the Republicans are its rear guard. Obama’s state strongholds exemplify the disruptive new economy, and Romney’s strength lies in the bastions of agricultural, mineral and energy extraction and distribution." Carl Pope in Bloomberg.

GREENSTEIN AND KOGAN: Are low-income programs too costly? No. "[V]irtually all of the recent growth in spending for low-income programs is due to two factors: the economic downturn and rising costs throughout the U.S. health care system, which affect costs for private-sector care as much as for Medicaid and other government health care programs. The first cause -- increased spending on safety net programs because of the recession -- is temporary. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections show that federal spending on low-income programs other than health care has already started to decline and will fall substantially as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP) as the economy recovers. By the end of the decade, it will fall below its average level as a percent of GDP over the prior 40 years" Robert Greenstein and Richard Kogan in the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

O'CONNELL: America's permanent militarization. "The military-industrial complex has not emerged in quite the way Eisenhower envisioned. The United States spends an enormous sum on defense — over $700 billion last year, about half of all military spending in the world — but in terms of our total economy, it has steadily declined to less than 5 percent of gross domestic product from 14 percent in 1953. Defense-related research has not produced an ossified garrison state; in fact, it has yielded a host of beneficial technologies, from the Internet to civilian nuclear power to GPS navigation. The United States has an enormous armaments industry, but it has not hampered employment and economic growth...But Eisenhower’s least heeded warning -- concerning the spiritual effects of permanent preparations for war -- is more important now than ever. Our culture has militarized considerably since Eisenhower’s era, and civilians, not the armed services, have been the principal cause." Aaron B. O'Connell in The New York Times.

Top long reads

Robert Lehrman explains the life of a political speechwriter: "Political speechwriters trade the pleasure of writing under our own names for the power to help achieve policies we’re passionate about and, of course, help elect people who favor them. Democratic and Republican speechwriters may differ on the content of the speeches, but we agree on the value of the writing. This is why at midnight, in any political office, you find writers adding detail to a paragraph, compressing a sentence and trying to create the runs of antithesis that bring crowds to their feet."

Hendrik Hertzberg looks at 2012 as the election shaped by Hurricane Sandy: "The largest tropical storm system in the recorded history of the Atlantic Basin was still an abstract swirl on the weather maps of American television when the flood of speculation about how it would affect the political fortunes of the Presidential contenders began to crest. It would hurt Obama, because it would interfere with early voting, which his organization was better positioned to exploit. It would hurt Romney, because power outages would limit the reach of the blitz of TV attack ads that pro-Republican Super pacs had planned for the campaign’s final week. It would hurt Obama, because its lingering aftereffects would depress Election Day turnout, especially among the poor, the frail, and the immobile. It would hurt Romney, because it would remind voters of the last Republican Administration’s catastrophic mishandling of Hurricane Katrina. It would hurt Obama, because low-information voters blame the incumbent executive for bad weather. It would help Obama, because it would enable him to 'look Presidential.' The storm came and, for one night, wiped away all such chatter."

Twitter interlude: A parody of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Spanish-speaking ability. Follow.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Still to come: the economy will be better in the next four years; the health law is pushing employers to part-time workers; how the AMT will hit the upper middle class right in the face; did low gasoline inventories pre-Sandy make the post-Sandy shortages worse?; and.


Economy set for better times regardless of presidential election. "Mitt Romney says Barack Obama’s policies will consign the U.S. to an extended period of sluggish economic growth, at best. The president says his Republican challenger’s plans will sow the seeds of another mammoth recession. Both are wrong. No matter who wins the election tomorrow, the economy is on course to enjoy faster growth in the next four years as the headwinds that have held it back turn into tailwinds. Consumers are spending more and saving less after reducing household debt to the lowest since 2003. Home prices are rebounding after falling more than 30 percent from their 2006 highs. And banks are increasing lending after boosting equity capital by more than $300 billion since 2009." Rich Miller and Steve Matthews in Bloomberg.

How will Hurricane Sandy affect the economy? "The storm that ravaged the north-east coast of the US last week will hit economic growth in the final quarter of 2012 but will boost it in the first half of next year...Barclays estimates that the storm will knock 0.2-0.3 percentage points off US economic growth in the fourth quarter...[E]conomists are already looking forward to the likely boost to GDP next year from spending on reconstruction. Goldman Sachs estimated that while the storm would reduce GDP growth by up to 0.5 percentage points in the fourth quarter, it would add “slightly more” than that to growth in the first quarter of 2013. The impact of Sandy is already showing up in economic data and in company statements. Car sales figures for October appeared to have been affected." Ed Crooks in the Financial Times.

Sciency interlude: Gene identified for nerve regeneration. This stuff is important, you know.

Health Care

Suicide rate has risen. "The rate of suicide in the United States rose sharply during the first few years since the start of the recession, a new analysis has found. In the report, which appeared Sunday on the Web site of The Lancet, a medical journal, researchers found that the rate between 2008 and 2010 increased four times faster than it did in the eight years before the recession. The rate had been increasing by an average of 0.12 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 through 2007. In 2008, the rate began increasing by an average of 0.51 deaths per 100,000 people a year...Every rise of 1 percent in unemployment was accompanied by an increase in the suicide rate of roughly 1 percent, it found." Benedict Carey in The New York Times.

Health law spurs shift to part-timers. "Some low-wage employers are moving toward hiring part-time workers instead of full-time ones to mitigate the health-care overhaul's requirement that large companies provide health insurance for full-time workers or pay a fee...[R]estaurants, hotels and retailers have started or are preparing to limit schedules of hourly workers to below 30 hours a week. That is the threshold at which large employers in 2014 would have to offer workers a minimum level of insurance or pay a penalty starting at $2,000 for each worker. The shift is one of the first significant steps by employers to avoid requirements under the health-care law." Julie Jargon, Louise Radnofsky, and Alexandra Berzon in The Wall Street Journal.

Conflict-of-interest concerns raised as Obama races to implement health reform. "The Obama administration is relying heavily on outside contractors to implement a core component of healthcare reform as it races to set up a federal health insurance marketplace before 2014. The fast-approaching deadline gives the administration little time to scrutinize private-sector partners for conflicts of interest...The quiet nature of the transaction, which was not disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), has fueled suspicion among industry insiders that UnitedHealth Group may be gaining an advantage for its subsidiary, UnitedHealthcare." Alexander Bolton in The Hill.

Domestic Policy

Fiscal cliff will hit upper middle class with Alternative Minimum Tax. "The best hope for a deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff” may lie with the alternative minimum tax, an obscure provision of the tax code that is about to become alarmingly relevant to millions of middle-class taxpayers. Unless Congress acts by the end of the year, more than 26 million households will for the first time face the AMT, which threatens to tack $3,700, on average, onto taxpayers’ bills for the current tax year. Because those people have never paid the AMT, they have no idea they are in its crosshairs...[I]f you have a couple of children and annual income over $75,000, chances are good that your taxes are on track to go up substantially for 2012." Lori Montgomery in The Washington Post.

@justinwolfers: There's one real path to recession: If Congress decides to push us over the fiscal cliff, we're screwed. That's a choice, not a risk, though

Baucus says Obama has a 'cliff' plan. "An emboldened President Barack Obama would quickly unveil a sweeping proposal aimed at preventing the country from falling off the fiscal cliff if he wins reelection Tuesday. At least, that’s what one top Senate Democrat expects him to do. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), a central player in the fiscal talks, said in a weekend interview here that he expects a victorious Obama to lay out a 'balanced' plan that will drive the lame-duck talks over taxes and spending looming over Washington once Election Day passes." Manu Raju in Politico.

Washington area contractors plan for sequestration delay. "As mandatory federal spending cuts of nearly $1 trillion loom larger, many Washington area government contractors are making bets the cuts will be delayed, and they are holding back on lowering their financial guidance to Wall Street. With limited information from the government about how the spending reduction known as sequestration would be implemented, contractors say they are sticking with their current projections for next year." Marjorie Censer in The Washington Post.

Sandy puts flood insurance reform back on agenda. "Groups on the left and right are looking to use super-storm Sandy to advance federal flood insurance reform, groups involved in that debate told The Hill. Changes to Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program included in a $105 billion bipartisan transportation bill signed this past summer already addressed many flood insurance concerns...Under the law passed over the summer, FEMA must update its floodplain mapping, which will likely incorporate area now considered at risk because of climate change effects like rising sea levels. That will raise federal flood insurance premiums to reflect risk realities, in turn stunting migration to vulnerable regions." Zack Colman in The Hill.

Infographics interlude: 512 paths to the White House.


Low stocks of gasoline left mid-Atlantic vulnerable to Sandy. "Petrol stocks in the New York region were the lowest on record before hurricane Sandy curtailed fuel supplies, reflecting refinery closures and a shift in the structure of futures markets. Inventories in the US mid-Atlantic states hit hardest by Sandy were at an all-time low of 20.4m barrels in late September, rebounding slightly in the week before last week’s storm but still the 12th lowest weekly reading since government data began." Gregory Meyer in the Financial Times.

Sandy turns spotlight to climate change. "Hurricane Sandy accomplished what pleas and protests from environmentalists couldn’t: it put climate change front and center in the presidential campaign...Climate change, in short, is having its moment after being shut out of all three presidential debates last month...Environmentalists don’t want to let the moment slip away and are using the storm to renew their push for curbs on carbon emissions." Ben German in The Hill.

@esoltas: Something people don't understand is that the economics of climate change are the economics of tail risk.

Hyundai, Kia have been overstating gas milage. " The South Korean carmakers Hyundai and Kia built their brands around the idea that their cars got better gas mileage than competitors, promoting that fact in ads that often took swipes at less efficient rivals. But on Friday, the companies admitted that they had overstated the fuel economy of 900,000 vehicles sold in the United States over the last two years -- about one-third of the vehicles they sold during that period...The admission followed an investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency into consumer complaints that their cars were underperforming the official mileage estimates on the window stickers of new Hyundai and Kia vehicles." Bill Vlasic in The New York Times.

Big Coal in big trouble as coal production costs rise. "What is driving the decline of the U.S. coal industry? Most of the blame has gone either to Obama’s 'war on coal' (EPA regulations) or to cheap natural gas. But there’s a third factor at work, which has gotten much less press: Coal is getting more expensive to produce. Why? First, the easiest-to-reach coal has been mined, which means coal companies have to dig deeper and go after thinner seams and smaller deposits." David Roberts in Grist.

Wonkbook is produced with help from Michelle Williams.



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