Nov. 7 is finally upon us, and most of the papers try to squeeze what they can out of the last day on the campaign trail for their lead stories, but largely end up repeating themes that have been running through the campaign coverage over the last couple of weeks. The Washington Post’s lead says the tradition of turning positive on the last days of a campaign went out the window this year as candidates continued to attack their opponents until the last possible minute. The New York Timesgoes through more of a play-by-play of the last day on the campaign trail, as everyone seems to agree (wait for it) victory will be determined by who shows up. The Los Angeles Timesleads with a broad summary of the race and says voters are unusually excited about this midterm election, as a poll revealed 68 percent of adults were “absolutely certain” they would cast a ballot for today’s contest. The Wall Street Journal points out the latest polls have increased Republican optimism, especially since the Democrats face a decisively “uphill battle” for the Senate. The Journal says Federal Election Commission filings show the parties have focused their effort on 66 House and 10 Senate races.
USA Todayleads with the federal government increasing its efforts to prevent prisoners in the United States from becoming terrorists while they are behind bars. Prison officials are being urged to conduct more stringent background checks on employees and volunteers who may have direct contact with prisoners. In addition, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are asking prison officials to train their staff to be on the lookout for those who might be turning to extremist activity.
Everybody mentions (once again) Iraq is the defining issue of this election and most races are being decided on national issues, not local ones. On the last day of the campaign, President Bush went to Florida (as a favor to his brother, says the WP) to gather support for the state’s Republican candidate for governor. But at the last minute, the candidate, Charlie Crist, decided not to attend the event, which gives the papers one more example to, again, talk about how some GOP candidates preferred to stay far away from the president during the campaign.
The NYT’s Adam Nagourney says expectations from the Democrats are so high right now that if the party doesn’t win as much as some have predicted, it could all add up to “a demoralizing election night.”
For political junkies who will be following the election returns today, the good news seems to be most of the highly contested races are in the East and Central time zones, which means trends should be clear early in the evening. That is, of course, unless there are glitches, such as legal challenges or problems with the electronic voting machines, that could delay everything. For those who want to keep score at home, the WSJ provides a handy PDF document that lists the key House and Senate races, along with the schedule of poll closings. (Slate’s John Dickerson, Mickey Kaus, Jack Shafer, and Bruce Reed will be blogging throughout the day.)
Those who are counting on Web sites (such as Slate) to provide leaked exit-poll data, will probably have to wait a little longer than in previous elections. Before 5 p.m., only a few polling specialists from the main news organizationsthe will be allowed to see the data in a designated room, after they surrender all cellphones and BlackBerrys. The NYT says things could get complicated when the major news outlets who vowed to respect the embargo are forced to link to blogs and Internet sites that feel no qualms about releasing any information they receive.
Those worried they may face campaign withdrawal need not fear, as the papers remind us the 2008 presidential campaign begins in earnest tonight.
A day after liberal blogs chastised the mainstream media for failing to cover the way the GOP has used automated telephone calls (a.k.a. “robo-calls”) in the campaign, both the NYT and the WP publish stories on the topic. Many Americans are sick of the calls, and Democrats say the tactics violate federal communications rules. Some contend the calls are designed to make anyone who hangs up before the message is over (meaning, probably most people) to think the calls are coming from Democratic candidates. Democrats say it is all part of a strategy to get voters angry at their candidates and discourage them from voting today.
A WP editorial—simply headlined “VOTE!”—compares the differing messages received by Republican and Democratic poll watchers in Maryland. The Republican manual says, “Your most important duty as a poll watcher is to challenge people who present themselves to vote but who are not authorized to vote” while the Democrats’ message is, “Your primary job is to ensure that every eligible voter who wants to vote gets to vote.” But the Post’s editorial board emphasizes, “the Democratic allegation that the GOP approach represents a conspiracy to suppress the vote is overwrought and unsupported.”
The LAT and NYT off-lead, while everybody else fronts, word from the elections in Nicaragua, where it looks like Daniel Ortega, the former president and Sandinista leader, is headed for victory. With 62 percent of the votes counted, Ortega was leading with 39 percent, compared with his main challenger’s 31 percent. The victory is seen as a setback for the Bush administration, which tried to discourage Nicaraguans from voting for the former Marxist president.
The Post fronts news that the Interior Ministry in Iraq has charged 57 of its employees with human rights crimes, as well as corruption. Both U.N. and U.S. officials said the charges are a positive sign Iraqi officials are trying to fix problems, and bring back the rule of law and take power away from Shiite militia groups. Besides participating in the militia, officers are also often accused of abusing prisoners and taking bribes in order to release suspects.
The announcement came on the same day as five U.S. troops were reported killed in Iraq, including two soldiers who appear to have died as a result of a helicopter crash.
Also in Iraq, the WP reports local lawmakers have come up with a draft law that could result in the rehiring of thousands of former members of the Baath Party. When U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, all Baath Party members were kicked out of their government jobs, a move many now blame for much of the violence in Iraq.
The NYT reefers the release of a new report commissioned by a U.N. oversight agency that once again raises questions about how much a subsidiary of Halliburton billed for its services in Iraq. One of the main tasks under the contract was to deliver fuel, for which Kuwait charged $1.13 per gallon of gasoline, but once all the delivery costs were added up, the price skyrocketed to approximately $8 a gallon.
The LAT fronts a riveting account of attacks by Shiites last month in Balad, Iraq, that left as many as 70 Sunnis dead. Most seem to agree this wasn’t the work of militias, but rather of ordinary citizens who turned against their neighbors. While the killings were going on, U.S. and Iraqi troops did practically nothing to stop them.
The NYT fronts a plan currently being considered by New York City’s Board of Health that would allow people who were born in the city to change the sex on their birth certificate, even if they have not had a sex-change operation.