Tonight's Presidential debate is the second of three, hosted at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. Start time is 9pm EST, 8pm CST, 7pm MST, and 6pm PST. The format of tonight's debate is a Town Hall where candidates will take questions directly from a heavily screened audience that has questions pre-approved by the moderator, creating the illusion of Town Hall without actually having one.
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have agreed to that they will not ask each other questions, propose any pledges regarding policies or agendas, answer audience questions directly, treat you with respect or as an intelligent adult, or walk more than a few feet away from their podium at any time. A referee will be on hand to count any candidate out who dares venture from the stage to talk to an undecided voter face-to-face, although the possibility of manager interference and distraction is high.
The audience has agreed not to ask questions about controversial policies that both candidates agree on, such as drone wars in half a dozen Middle Eastern countries that the U.N. says are probably war crimes, that terrorists insist are the reason they became terrorists, including an attack by NATO that just slaughtered three innocent civilians in Afghanistan on Sunday, and previous drone attacks on civilians responding to previous drone strikes and even funerals.
Each candidate will have two minutes to respond to each question, ensuring repetition of talking points and no serious thought or explanation of policy. You will learn absolutely nothing, and that's the point.
In other words, Presidential debates have finally been boiled down into an hours worth of the interviews you see on cable news in the late evening, lacking all substance and news value and easily eaten in chicken nugget sized bites, without having to pay Chris Matthews to orgasm on national television.
Thank God for the small things.
You can make yourself dumber via every major broadcast network (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS), and cable:
FOX News (9p-10p)
FOX Business Network, CNBC
And online: YouTube, and Xbox Live. HuffPoo and Politico will have their pre-debate shows up and going... eventually. Somewhere. Who cares? It's HuffPoo and Politico. The only two places in the world where you can actually get dumber than from watching a Presidential debate.
My political wonk Twitter list is public (always public) and can be followed here. It has many non-partisan sources in there that are extremely valuable, but it does lean left, because nobody will give me any good conservative wonks to follow.
Sam Stein says "these polls matter so very little right now". I disagree. These are the last pre-debate tracking polls. No polls matter more than these for at least a week because these are the benchmark.
One thing to note here. I should have been more forthcoming about RAND but I've been kind of lazy about this. Shame on me. The lowdown is that RAND's tracker is not a random sample. It purposefully samples the same people every time in order to gauge changing sentiment amongst a fixed group of knowns. That's a really neat experiment and a potentially valuable trove of data, but it's not directly comparable to the other trackers. Useful, just different. Like "likely voter" versus "registered voter" models different.
It's interesting that RAND and Ipsos/Reuters are showing gains for Obama (RAND and Ipsos, which is random, have a lot of correlation) back to where he was before the last debate, while Rasmussen and Gallup are not.
National polling is the same deal. Some polls are showing an Obama rebound, others aren't. State polls seem to be moving back towards Obama, but it's not clear where they will land and the only states where Romney got traction were Colorado, Virginia, and Florida. Colorado is iffy, Romney leads (barely) in Virginia, and I think Florida would have shown an Obama lead by next Monday if trends continued, but that's without tonight's debate interfering. Now I have no idea.
I'm introducing a tracker of my own, if you will. Ten electoral college projections that I'll update on a daily basis, but which may not themselves be updated daily, or even at all. CNN's map hasn't changed in like three months. Others like 538, update daily.
I've included the controversial University of Colorado model for reference, but I will not use it in the average. It's not being updated regularly because the point of it was a political science experiment at creating an accurate model that retroactively predicted correct results, not a political entertainment effort to project the election outcome which is what most of these things are. It's also been criticized by Nate Silver and it sounds like a bust from the political science side of things, anyway.
That's it. Short day because of the debate. The only thing I'll add to this is that the Supreme Court denied an appeal (refused to hear it, which isn't the same as considering arguments and issuing a ruling, but practically speaking is legally identical to upholding the ruling of the lower court) from Ohio's Secretary of State over the Ohio GOP's attempts to end early voting three days before the election for basically everyone except military personnel, who very much lean to the right politically.
This is the result of a lawsuit brought directly by the Obama campaign to restore early voting for everyone. It's the same lawsuit that the Romney campaign, and Republicans generally, said was trying to take away early voting for the military. It was one of the ugliest lies that Romney and his allies have told all year, and it'd be great if that would come up during the debates. Because there's just no way to defend taking away early voting like that, and then lying about it.
Anyway, the Obama campaign won. Early voting is restored in Ohio.