David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

Voting machine snafus have been reported during early voting in Florida's 13th Congressional District, where Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings are vying for Katherine Harris' open seat:

The voters who complained say they picked Jennings, but the 13th Congressional District had no vote registered for either Jennings or Republican Vern Buchanan when a screen reviewing their votes came up.

The voters all said the touchscreen machines allowed them to go back to the 13th District race and make a selection, and their vote was recorded properly in the end.

Similar problems cropped up in South Florida during early voting:

Broward Supervisor of Elections spokeswoman Mary Cooney said it's not uncommon for screens on heavily used machines to slip out of sync, making votes register incorrectly. Poll workers are trained to recalibrate them on the spot -- essentially, to realign the video screen with the electronics inside. The 15-step process is outlined in the poll-workers manual.

Can you imagine an ATM "slipping out of sync" after heavy usage? Billions of dollars worth of commercial transactions are successfully completed every day in this country by consumers involving far more complicated software and far more possible choices than an electronic voting ballot. There is simply no excuse for this kind of thing, and anyone who suggests it's just par for the course was either sold a bill of goods or is selling one.

More GOP dirty phone tricks in New Hampshire, scene of the 2002 phone-jamming incident that led to criminal prosecutions of Republican operatives:

For the second straight day yesterday, Democratic field offices received dozens of phone calls and e-mails from frustrated voters upset about repeated automated phone calls they thought were coming from Democratic candidate Paul Hodes - though the calls were paid for by a Republican group instead.

The National Republican Congressional Committee spent nearly $20,000 on the calls last week. Depending on the rate, that could mean more than 300,000 automated phone calls into the Second Congressional District.

Incumbent Republican Congressman Charlie Bass denounced the calls yesterday and said he tried to get the NRCC to put a stop to them. But a spokesman for the NRCC said the automated phone calls would continue indefinitely.

"The calls will continue as planned," said Alex Burgos, a spokesman for the NRCC, the national group charged with electing Republicans to the House. "They are done independently of Charlie Bass's campaign. He has nothing to do with them."

The only surprising thing here is that the NRCC has essentially admitted this is one of its tricks. We have a report that a similar effort is underway in the New York 19th Congressional District, where Democrat John Hall is trying to unseat Republican Sue Kelly.

Reports of GOP voter supression efforts are coming in from all around the country, in local, state, and federal races. Here are a few samples:

In North Carolina:

On Monday morning, when Chapel Hill lawyer Bob Epting approached the early voting center at Morehead Planetarium, he . . . was approached by a female college student who asked whether he was a registered Democrat.

"Yes I am," he said.

She replied, "Good, here's a list of our judicial candidates."

Epting thanked her, folded the piece of paper without looking at it and put it in his pocket. . . .

But after exiting the poll, he remembered the piece of paper and removed it from his pocket. Standing at the top of a dozen or so marble steps, he scanned the list in disbelief. It was a list of Republican candidates.

In California:

Senator Dianne Feinstein sounded off today over a mailer that prominently displays her picture. It's billed as a voter information guide for Democrats, despite the fact that it recommends voting no on some issues that Feinstein and the Democratic Party support, including Proposition 86, the tobacco tax, and Proposition 87, the oil tax.

We'll keep posting as we hear about them.

What happens if Republicans retain control of the Senate? Here's a sample of what's in store (emphasis added):

Across the aisle, [Sen. Bob] Bennett [R-UT] is confident Republicans will hang on to control of the Senate, just barely, and could see the body being split evenly down the middle, with Vice President Dick Cheney tipping the balance ever-so-slightly to the Republicans.

If he's right, Bennett will have the ear of the presumptive Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. There is no one in the Senate whom Bennett is closer to than the Kentucky Republican. For nearly two years, the two senators have had a deal in place where Bennett would become counsel to the majority leader, a hand-picked adviser, putting him in the inner circle of Senate leadership and in the room for every deal cut and horse trade that gets done. And McConnell has already given Bennett the green light to use his chairmanship of the Joint Economic Committee to take another swing at one of Bennett's pet projects: overhauling Social Security. Once a cornerstone of President Bush's agenda, it was quickly torn to shreds by Democrats and seniors groups. Bennett proposed raising the retirement age and indexing payments based on need. He also pitched a separate plan to create private retirement accounts. Neither plan went far, but they are still tucked away in his desk drawer, and he is prepared to dust them off.

Just another reminder of what's at stake Tuesday.

(Thanks to TPM Reader JL for the tip.)

The McClatchy-MSNBC poll that I mentioned last night is now out. Mason-Dixon is the pollster. Here's a handy chart.

The takeaway from this polling is that Montana and Rhode Island are surprising dead heats, Missouri and Virginia are too close to call, and Harold Ford is struggling in Tennessee.

As for the role of race in the Tennessee contest:

The poll suggests that a Republican ad mentioning that Ford attended a Super Bowl party attended by Playboy playmates and featuring a white woman telling Ford to "call me," hurt Ford. A whopping 81 percent of likely voters saw the ad.

While 67 percent said it would have no effect on their vote, 23 percent said it made them more likely to vote for Corker and 10 percent said it made them more likely to vote for Ford.

Let me emphasize, those polled who admitted that the ad affected their vote broke to Corker by a ratio of more than 2-to-1. That's no acccident.

As expected, Saddam Hussein sentenced to hang.

Update: The widely held view has been that Saddam's sentencing was timed to boost Republican prospects in the midterm elections. But a number of readers have suggested that any intended boost is likely to be offset by a spike in violence in Iraq and a possible spike in U.S. casualties. That bears watching. Early reports this morning from Iraq suggest as much, with Shiites celebrating in the streets and gun battles breaking out in Sunni neighborhoods.

The latest from Charlie Cook, who thinks the House goes to the Democrats, the only question being by how many seats:

The Senate is a very different situation and there are some very strange things going on.

In Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum is gone. While the margin in Ohio is not nearly as wide, it's very hard to see how Mike DeWine makes it back either.

The strange ones are Conrad Burns and Lincoln Chafee in Montana and Rhode Island, respectively. Both races are basically even, pretty remarkable considering how dismal their prospects looked just a couple weeks ago. While even is a bad place for a Republican to be going into Election Day in this kind of environment, both have some momentum at this point.

Conversely, George Allen and Jim Talent, are dead even as well, but with no momentum, and that is very, very dangerous under these circumstances. Talent/Republicans have a fabulous field organization in Missouri, if Talent pulls it out, it might be the ground game that does it, but this is very tough for both.

In Tennessee, while Democrats are boasting of a very strong African-American early voting program, this race really does appear to have slipped away from Democrats. Ijd be surprised to see Corker lose to Ford now.

An awful lot of people (including reasonable people) have questioned whether the RNC's bimbo ad against Harold Ford in Tennessee was actually racist. Fine. Then take a look at this anti-Ford mailer being distributed in Tennessee by Common Sense Ohio, the same folks doing pushpolls for the GOP in numerous states. The headline reads: "Bob Corker and Harold Ford are separated by more than their school colors . . ."


Down to the wire for the Senate:

Two days before a bitterly fought midterm election, Democrats have moved into position to recapture the House and have laid siege to the Senate, setting the stage for a dramatic recasting of the power structure in Washington for President Bush's final two years in office, according to a Washington Post analysis of competitive races across the country.

In the battle for the House, Democrats appear almost certain to pick up more than the 15 seats needed to regain the majority. Republicans virtually concede 10 seats, and a split of the 30 tossup races would add an additional 15 to the Democratic column. The Senate poses a tougher challenge for Democrats, who need to gain six seats to take control of that chamber. A three-seat gain is almost assured, but they would have to find the other three seats from four states considered tossup races -- Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri and Montana.

No one ever thought the Senate would be a gimme for the Democrats, but so close.

A couple of comments on reader comments.

First, thanks to all of the readers who have sent in tips/reports on the campaign goings-on in their parts of the country. Some of what you report will be obviously newsworthy and may generate a post here at TPM or at our other sites. Other reports, standing alone, may not be worth a post, but when combined with other reader reports may reveal a particular tactic or highlight a new strategy in a particular district. My point is even if we don't post about your report or tip doesn't mean we aren't using it to inform our understanding of the electoral battlefield. In military jargon, you might say it improves our situational awareness. So keep them coming. We read everything you send.

Second, since I started my guest-hosting gig here at TPM a few months ago, I haven't gotten a chance to thank you for all your comments, tips, corrections, and general feedback. The TPM audience is an amazing thing to behold. As corny as that may sound, it's true. Writing for this audience is more intellectually challenging and rewarding than just about anything else I have ever undertaken. You are astoundingly well-informed, thoughtful, passionate, and appropriately skeptical, which has renewed my faith in my fellow citizens. The wonderful dynamic that Josh has created and nurtured here would not work without your contributions. So my sincere thanks for all your feedback. It gives us at least a shot at keeping the ball rolling here when Josh is away.

OK, back to the elections . . .