TPM News

Voter turnout is on track to be heavy in Maine today, where a referendum on gay marriage has spurred intense political activism on both sides.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap told TPM that turnout had originally been predicted to be about 35%, on the assumption that the heavy absentee and early voting -- about 150,000 ballots went out -- would take away from turnout on Election Day. "But apparently that's not been the case," said Dunlap, who has rethought his turnout predictions, saying it could reach 50% or even higher.

By contrast, typical off-year referendum turnout in Maine is 15%-25%, with the 35% number having been an estimate of how the increased interest in the gay marriage vote could affect things. Dunlap said that 50% turnout does have a precedent, as a vote on casinos reached 51% turnout six years ago.

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White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters President Obama is still "weeks away" from making his decision on whether to send up to 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

When Obama does decide, he wants to help Americans understand how he came to the conclusion, Gibbs said.

"The president has told us ... that it is important for the American people to understand why he made the decision that he's made," Gibbs said today in his briefing. "And I anticipate that the president will spend some time walking the American people through the process that we've undertaken and the decision points that he's made along the way to come to the ultimate conclusion that he's come to."

White House officials say they haven't discussed if that will be in the form of a speech or if it will come in an Oval Office address. Obama has held seven meetings with his war council in the Situation Room and last week attended a pre-dawn ceremony for troops that had been killed in Afghanistan.

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As you may have heard, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee kicked off an amendment process on a climate change bill sponsored by Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today over the howls of the committee's Republican minority.

The back story's pretty simple, and not at all surprising. The committee minority, led by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), don't want a climate change bill to move forward. The most moderate among them--Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH)--isn't pleased that official EPA reports don't paint a sufficiently gloomy picture of a post-cap and trade future and together, the GOP is boycotting committee proceedings at least until such time as they get their hands on such a study.

But then there's Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

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The Christie campaign is complaining to the state about a tactic from the New Jersey Democrats -- who have admitted to making robocalls to promote independent candidate Chris Daggett.

The calls happened in Somerset County, an area where Christie should likely do very well, and where any addition in vote for Daggett would likely come more from Christie's column than Corzine's.

The Christie campaign has sent a letter to ELEC (the state equivalent of the Federal Election Commission), demanding an investigation into the calls and an immediate directive that the Dems stop it, on the grounds that the calls would constitute an illegal in-kind contribution from the Dems to Daggett.

Keep in mind that these calls have been done in the final two days of a campaign -- meaning there's really no way to feasibly stop them, or to undo any potential damage that they might inflict.

No matter what the final outcome, the NY-23 race has changed the game for Republican primaries. Conservatives across the country are now in a search for the next Dede Scozzafava, the establishment GOP nominee Conservative party candidate Doug Hoffman was able to defeat by convincing rank-and-file Republicans to leave the candidate their party's leaders had chosen.

In Florida, Marco Rubio's campaign says conservatives have found their new Dede in Gov. Charlie Crist.

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In our post from earlier today about the conservative efforts to gin up bogus voter fraud fears, one point we didn't go into -- but Adam Serwer at the American Prospect now has -- is the silliness of the notion that provisional ballots are particularly vulnerable to voter fraud.

A central component of the current right-wing freakout is the fact that there are likely to be a higher number of provisional ballots cast in New Jersey this year. That, so the thinking goes, makes fraud more likely.

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Independent New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Chris Daggett voted this morning -- in a process that involved some jokes about his obscure location on many county ballots, mixed in among numerous minor candidates.

As the Star-Ledger reports:

After taking a few minutes to fill out his ballot a poll worker said, "he can't find his name!"

When Daggett emerged he responded, "I found my name. I practiced on the sample ballot."

On my own absentee ballot, issued by Essex County, Daggett's name was ninth out of 12 choices. Corzine was first, and Christie was second, with a whole lot of lesser-known independent and third-party candidates between Daggett and the two major nominees.

Are Senate centrists trying to broker a comeback for the so-called trigger option?

Two key conservative Democrats say they, along with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) haven't given up hope.

"There's a possibility that [triggers could make a comeback]," said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE). "Right now, we don't know what the actual version of the plan is, because it hasn't come back from I think when we get that back, we'll take a look and see what the scoring is, and maybe figure out what chance that plan has to get enough votes. My expectation is that it probably doesn't have enough to get 60 votes to get off the floor if it gets on the floor."

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