Today's Papers

Dominion Domination

The Washington Post leads with a poll showing Barack Obama up eight points against John McCain in Virginia. If McCain loses the Old Dominion, he’ll have to run the table in states where he’s currently down much more than eight points. The Los Angeles Times leads with news that voting by mail will be at historic levels in California and elsewhere, transforming the relationship voters have with the trappings of democracy. The New York Times highlights the predicament McCain is in.

The Wall Street Journal’s lead space is taken up by the expansion of the global financial crisis to the Middle East. USA Today scoops Army plans to continue to use involuntary extensions of enlistment—so-called stop-loss orders—through 2009 despite its promises to curtail the practice. Above its lead story, the paper proclaims: “Yo! Phillies could win it all tonight.”

The LAT fronts reports of a dramatic U.S. raid inside Syria, which the Associated Press broke and which none of the papers lead with. (It was a lead story on the Drudge Report, though.) Details are sketchy, but the incursion is reported to have killed at least eight people. Syria claimed all those harmed were civilians, and U.S. officials aren’t saying much. The LAT does some curtain-pulling, reporting that although U.S. officials “would not confirm the attack, they used language typically employed after raids conducted by secretive Special Operations forces.”

Four helicopters apparently flew over the Iraqi border in Bukamal near the town of Deir Ezzor and may have raided a building in search of a militant network. Syria did not sanction the action and was not pleased by the raid.

The Washington Post fronts that rarest of creatures—a trend story with data to back it up. While everything else tanks, gun sales are up. Gun owners and lovers alternately cite the sinking economy and the prospect of an Obama presidency as prime motivators for the shopping spree. Most gun lovers interviewed said their primary concern was Obama’s gun-control policy, which they feared would be more restrictive than Bush’s—but some said they’d be voting for him anyway.

In a Post poll taken last month, Obama trailed among college-educated white men in Virginia by 30 points. In the latest survey, he’s now tied among that same group. Obama holds a 52-44 lead in Virginia, a state where he’s opened nearly 50 offices staffed by more than 250 paid workers and thousands more volunteers. More than half of voters said they’d been contacted personally by the campaign—far more than said the same about McCain.

Obama is winning 2-to-1 in Northern Virginia and tied in the rest of the state, which Bush carried in 2004 by eight points. Half of voters had “strongly” or “somewhat” negative views of Sarah Palin. McCain’s attempt to tag Obama as a tax hiker doesn’t appear to be working: By 15 points, Virginia voters favor Obama, over McCain, to handle tax policy.

The financial storm is now sweeping across the Middle East, the Journal reports. Kuwait’s central bank quickly guaranteed bank deposits and orchestrated a bailout of a major bank. International investors are pulling back, and oil prices have dropped some 50 percent from their July highs. Dubai real-estate brokers are expressing pessimism. Maybe that indoor ski resort in the desert wasn’t such a great idea, after all.

New York Times reporters Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny check in on the McCain campaign and find it battling on turf that President Bush carried four years ago, evidence of the plummeting political fortunes of the Republican Party. McCain and Palin will do fewer joint rallies, they report, in order to cover more ground.

Obama, meanwhile, will make his closing argument beginning on Monday, the pair reports. Obama intends to return to the uplifting rhetoric of the 2004 convention speech that catapulted his political career. McCain will make no such shift and will continue to pound away at Obama as a tax-happy liberal intent on wealth spreading, they find.

The NYT fronts a shift in Bush administration strategy—or is it a tactic?—in the Pakistani tribal region teeming with al-Qaida and Taliban militants and sympathizers. In July, reports the Times, Bush gave the approval for special-forces raids into Pakistan. Facing fierce political resistance from the Pakistani government, Bush has now reversed course and is curbing land raids.

Instead, the administration is relying on unmanned drones operated by the CIA. There have been at least 18 predator attacks since early August, compared with just five strikes in the seven months prior.

The Post runs a front-page look at the FBI’s anthrax case against scientist Bruce E. Ivins, who took his own life. The FBI desperately wants to convict Ivins in the court of public opinion. But color TP unimpressed by what the bureau leaked to the Post. Then again, what does TP know about anthrax science?

The LAT is talking kitchen-table politics of a different kind. Already, at least 40 percent of voters in California have requested that ballots be mailed to them. Many more requests are expected before the request deadline of Tuesday—and the front-page publicity won’t hurt those numbers. One Californian explains the motivation for mailing a vote in early: “Now I don’t have to pay attention to the flood of ads and last-minute attacks. I can tune the election out.” Good luck with that.

And the Philadelphia Phillies finally figured out a way to plate runs in pounding the Tampa Bay Rays to take a three-games-to-one lead: Keep runners out of scoring position and just knock the ball out of the park.