March 13, 2010

A mid-pagey story goey likey thisy

DIETER BRADBURY

— By

Political Correspondent

Maine Democrats are voting early in much greater numbers than Republicans and unenrolled voters, according to absentee balloting records from the Secretary of State's Office.

Experts say the trend probably bodes well for Barack Obama, whose Democratic presidential campaign has teamed up with the Maine Democratic Party on a broad voter registration and early voting effort.

But it's less clear whether enthusiasm for the Illinois senator's candidacy will trickle down the ticket and buoy the campaigns of other Democrats.

And Republicans say they are not dismayed by the high Democratic turnout among early voters.

''I'm not concerned about it because our efforts have been very targeted,'' said Mark Ellis, chairman of the Maine Republican Party.

Statewide, Mainers had turned in 163,981 absentee ballots by Friday, according to records published online by the Secretary of State's Office, which oversees the distribution of ballots.

The absentee votes included 42.9 percent cast by Democrats, 28.2 percent by Republicans and 28.9 percent by unenrolled or Green Independent voters, according to an analysis by the United States Election Project, a program at George Mason University in Virginia that monitors election laws, trends and data.

Maine law allows voters to submit absentee ballots right up until the polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday. State election officials have said they expect early voting will continue to be strong, right up until Tuesday.

The early turnout is so heavy that 30 communities will be closing their in-person early voting booths on Monday, so officials in those towns can process the ballots they have already received, get them ready for tabulating and otherwise prepare for Election Day.

Maine's numbers put the state squarely within a national trend, which shows that early voting is increasing. Records also show that Democrats are casting more early ballots than Republicans in nearly every state that provides party membership data for voters.

In Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana, Nevada, West Virginia and New Mexico, Democrats are leading Republicans among early voters by anywhere from 6 to 30 percentage points.

In Colorado, Democrats and Republicans are both casting about 38 percent of early ballots.

The early votes won't be counted until Tuesday, but Michael McDonald, a political scientist who directs the election project at George Mason and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the figures should worry GOP presidential nominee John McCain.

''I liken it to a hole that Obama's digging for McCain right now,'' McDonald said. ''He's digging a very deep hole that McCain's going to have to make up on Election Day.''

McDonald notes that George Bush got 60 percent of the early vote in 2004, and that Republicans have historically turned out in greater numbers than Democrats among early voters.

''We're seeing a complete reversal of that,'' McDonald said.

He attributed the Democratic surge to enthusiasm for Obama's candidacy, as well as a strong effort by the party to register and mobilize early voters.

Democrats have opened 34 field offices in Maine and claim to have enlisted 6,000 volunteers. The party launched a telephone and canvassing operation to get out the vote well before Sept. 20, when absentee ballots were first available, said Rebecca Pollard, the party's spokeswoman.

''We've built this huge operation -- bigger than Maine has ever seen,'' she said.

Ellis, the state GOP chairman, said Republicans have been running their own phone and canvassing operations, using sophisticated databases and technology, out of five ''victory centers'' and several other county offices around the state.

He said Republican campaign workers have spent a lot of time focusing on unenrolled voters and Democrats who will be voting for Republican candidates.

''Our whole process is very targeted and we have already identified who is in our pool of voters,'' he said. ''It's just a matter of making sure they get to the polls.''

Opinions vary on whether Democratic early voters will let enthusiasm for Obama carry down the ticket.

Paul Gronke, a political science professor who studies early voting patterns at Reed College in Portland, Ore., thinks Obama's candidacy will benefit other Democrats.

He notes that in Louisiana, where Democrats account for 58 percent of early voters, Obama is trailing McCain in the polls, yet the state's incumbent Democratic U.S. senator, Mary Landrieu, is leading GOP challenger Joseph Kennedy by 19 percentage points, thanks to enormous support from African-American voters.

''So it looks to me like, yes, there's going to be down-ballot effects,'' from Obama, Gronke said.

But McDonald, the early voting expert at George Mason University, questions whether someone like Tom Allen, the Democratic congressman who hopes to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, can count on riding Obama's coattails among early voters.

''It's questionable whether some of these people will fill out the entire ballot,'' he said.

Pollard, the Maine Democratic Party spokeswoman, said a strong early voter campaign ''narrows the universe'' by getting the vote out among partisans who have already made up their minds. That allows the party to target voters on Election Day who haven't made up their minds.

Gronke said that could be an advantage on Tuesday.

''While McCain is spending his last three days getting out his base,'' he said, ''Obama is spending the last three days getting out the undecideds.''

However, he cautioned against declaring winners on the basis of early voting trends.

''There are a lot of states that are voting early, but there are a lot that are not,'' he said. ''So even though there's a lot of early voting activity, Election Day is still there.''

Political Correspondent Dieter Bradbury can be reached at 791-6329 or at:

dbradbury@pressherald.comBy William Douglas and Margaret Talev

McClatchy Newspapers

(MCT)

HANOVERTON, Ohio — John McCain bused through Ohio in search of votes Friday while Barack Obama broadened his quest to win Republican states by buying TV ads in McCain's Arizona for the first time and returning to the airwaves in Georgia and North Dakota.

Obama tapped his vast campaign war chest to venture into the three traditionally ''red'' states because recent polls have found him competitive in each.

Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, indicated in a conference call Friday that he thinks that the prospects of victory in Georgia, with the help of black and young voters, are more likely than a win in Arizona because of McCain's support in his home state.

However, he said, support from Hispanics and some suburban voters in Arizona, which has a Democratic governor, could make the election close there.

''It's enough in the realm of possibility that we want to put a little extra effort in the end,'' Plouffe said. ''We're just going to give it a go in the last three or four days and see how close we can get it.''

Obama's campaign is willing to venture onto McCain's turf, but it intends to tread lightly. Officials said the Arizona ad would be positive, a calculation to avoid a backlash from voters sympathetic to McCain. The Georgia and North Dakota ads, however, will be critical of McCain.

Obama won't campaign in the three states in the final days leading to Election Day on Tuesday, appearing instead in Ohio, Florida and other battleground states.

McCain campaign officials, on a conference call Friday, called the Obama television buy a waste of money.

''We encourage them to spend their campaign cash as much as they can,'' McCain political director Mike DuHaime said. ''Those aren't very expensive states, so (it) won't add a whole lot to their buy.''

With national polls showing him behind by anywhere from 3 percentage points (Fox News) to 11 points (CBS News/New York Times), McCain's campaign offered an upbeat assessment of its candidate's performance and chances.

Campaign manager Rick Davis said McCain was poised for ''probably one of the greatest comebacks that you've seen since John McCain won the primary.''

''One thing that's clear is that we've established some momentum and we've made gains in virtually every battleground state. We think we've shaken off the effects of the financial collapse that suppressed our numbers prior to the last debate.''

Davis said McCain had gained enough ground that he was forcing Obama to revisit states such as Iowa that were thought to be securely in his camp. Obama returned Thursday to Iowa, the site of his first win in January, which catapulted him past Hillary Clinton.

McCain focused on Ohio, finishing a two-day bus tour of the state with Republican star power in tow: former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in Hanoverton and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Columbus.

McCain pressed a new line against Obama, telling the Hanoverton rally that Obama ''began his campaign in the liberal left lane of politics and has never left it.''

''He's more liberal than a senator who calls himself a socialist,'' McCain said, referring to Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent.

Obama said in Des Moines that McCain had called him every name in the book, ''everything but a child of God,'' and charged that ambition has changed McCain's sense of decency since his failed 2000 campaign against President Bush for the Republican nomination.

''A couple of elections ago, there was a presidential candidate who decried this kind of politics and condemned these kinds of tactics, and I admired him for it,'' Obama told a rally that drew 25,000.

''He said, 'I will not take the low road to the highest office in this land.' Those words were spoken eight years ago by my opponent, John McCain. But the high road didn't lead him to the White House then, so this time he decided to take a different route.''

(EDITORS: STORY CAN END HERE)

In Ohio, Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, took aim at McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, as making personal attacks, and Biden hinted that the worst might be yet to come.

''You cannot lead the world with a divided country,'' he told a rally in suburban Dayton. ''We need to move past the politics of division and attack. Over the past week Republicans have gone way over the top in my view, calling Barack Obama every name in the book. It will probably get worse in the next three and a half days.''

Obama was to stop in Chicago to see his daughters in their Halloween costumes before a rally in Gary, Ind., just across the state line in another Republican state that he hopes to capture. He was to spend Saturday on a last swing through Nevada and Colorado, traditionally Republican states that he's trying to take. He planned to spend Sunday in Ohio, then make a final push Monday through Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, all three of which voted twice for Bush.

McCain was to wrap up his Ohio tour with a rally in Columbus with Schwarzenegger. He'll campaign in Virginia and Pennsylvania on Saturday and return to New Hampshire on Sunday in hopes that a state that resurrected his presidential campaigns twice can do it again.

He plans to barnstorm through seven states Monday, ending with a late-night event in Prescott, Ariz.

———WASHINGTON

Scientists may have found a fingerprint of Alzheimer's disease in the spinal fluid of patients, a step toward creating a test for people worried they may have the memory-robbing illness. A7By SETH HARKNESS

Staff Writer

The company that owns nine dams on the Saco River has tentatively agreed to install four new fish passages within the next 20 years on the only dams on the river lacking these facilities.

FPL Energy, which owns two dozen dams in Maine, also plans to build separate passages for eels on all of its dams on the Saco River.

The plans are contained in the final draft of a fisheries agreement that Florida-based FPL Energy and state and federal agencies have been negotiating for the past two years. The parties have not reached a final agreement yet or made the results of their negotiations public, but people involved in the talks say they expect to sign a deal within a month.

Negotiations on the fisheries agreement arose as part of the federal re-licensing process for the energy company's dam at Bar Mills, which is the first dam that fish migrating up the Saco River cannot pass. The dams downstream of Bar Mills, on the Dayton-Buxton line and in the vicinity of Saco Island, contain fish passages installed as part of a 1994 agreement.

Because the licensing period for a dam can last as long as 50 years, the agreement with FPL Energy is likely to establish for decades how far fish can travel as they migrate up the Saco River from the sea, said Mark Woodruff of the Saco River Salmon Club.

''It sets the groundwork for many years to come,'' he said.

Woodruff, who is taking part in the negotiations, said he couldn't discuss the specifics of the talks. As a representative of a local salmon club with 200 members, he said his main interest in the negotiations has been to ensure safe passage for these fish along the river.

Unlike salmon, which have been stable in numbers, populations of shad and alewives are

Negotiations on the fisheries agreement arose as part of the federal re-licensing process for the energy company's dam at Bar Mills, which is the first dam that fish migrating up the Saco River cannot pass. The dams downstream of Bar Mills, on the Dayton-Buxton line and in the vicinity of Saco Island, contain fish passages installed as part of a 1994 agreement.

Because the licensing period for a dam can last as long as 50 years, the agreement with FPL Energy is likely to establish for decades how far fish can travel as they migrate up the Saco River from the sea, said Mark Woodruff of the Saco River Salmon Club.

''It sets the groundwork for many years to come,'' he said.

Woodruff, who is taking part in the negotiations, said he couldn't discuss the specifics of the talks. As a representative of a local salmon club with 200 members, he said his main interest in the negotiations has been to ensure safe passage for these fish along the river.

Unlike salmon, which have been stable in numbers, populations of shad and alewives are Negotiations on the fisheries agreement arose as part of the federal re-licensing process for the energy company's dam at Bar Mills, which is the first dam that fish migrating up the Saco River cannot pass. The dams downstream of Bar Mills, on the Dayton-Buxton line and in the vicinity of Saco Island, contain fish passages installed as part of a 1994 agreement.

Because the licensing period for a dam can last as long as 50 years, the agreement with FPL Energy is likely to establish for decades how far fish can travel as they migrate up the Saco River from the sea, said Mark Woodruff of the Saco River Salmon Club.

''It sets the groundwork for many years to come,'' he said.

Woodruff, who is taking part in the negotiations, said he couldn't discuss the specifics of the talks. As a representative of a local salmon club with 200 members, he said his main interest in the negotiations has been to ensure safe passage for these fish along the river.

Unlike salmon, which have been stable in numbers, populations of shad and alewives are

Because the licensing period for a dam can last as long as 50 years, the agreement with FPL Energy is likely to establish for decades how far fish can travel as they migrate up the Saco River from the sea, said Mark Woodruff of the Saco River Salmon Club.

''It sets the groundwork for many years to come,'' he said.

Woodruff, who is taking part in the negotiations, said he couldn't discuss the specifics of the talks. As a representative of a local salmon club with 200 members, he said his main interest in the negotiations has been to ensure safe passage for these fish along the river.

Unlike salmon, which have been stable in numbers, populations of shad and alewives are Negotiations on the fisheries agreement arose as part of the federal re-licensing process for the energy company's dam at Bar Mills, which is the first dam that fish migrating up the Saco River cannot pass. The dams downstream of Bar Mills, on the Dayton-Buxton line and in the vicinity of Saco Island, contain fish passages installed as part of a 1994 agreement.

Because the licensing period for a dam can last as long as 50 years, the agreement with FPL Energy is likely to establish for decades how far fish can travel as they migrate up the Saco River from the sea, said Mark Woodruff of the Saco River Salmon Club.

''It sets the groundwork for many years to come,'' he said.

Woodruff, who is taking part in the negotiations, said he couldn't discuss the specifics of the talks. As a representative of a local salmon club with 200 members, he said his main interest in the negotiations has been to ensure safe passage for these fish along the river.

Unlike salmon, which have been stable in numbers, populations of shad and alewives are Because the licensing period for a dam can last as long as 50 years, the agreement with FPL Energy is likely to establish for decades how far fish can travel as they migrate up the Saco River from the sea, said Mark Woodruff of the Saco River Salmon Club.

''It sets the groundwork for many years to come,'' he said.

Woodruff, who is taking part in the negotiations, said he couldn't discuss the specifics of the talks. As a representative of a local salmon club with 200 members, he said his main interest in the negotiations has been to ensure safe passage for these fish along the river.

Unlike salmon, which have been stable in numbers, populations of shad and alewives are Negotiations on the fisheries agreement arose as part of the federal re-licensing process for the energy company's dam at Bar Mills, which is the first dam that fish migrating up the Saco River cannot pass. The dams downstream of Bar Mills, on the Dayton-Buxton line and in the vicinity of Saco Island, contain fish passages installed as part of a 1994 agreement.

Because the licensing period for a dam can last as long as 50 years, the agreement with FPL Energy is likely to establish for decades how far fish can travel as they migrate up the Saco River from the sea, said Mark Woodruff of the Saco River Salmon Club.

''It sets the groundwork for many years to come,'' he said.

Woodruff, who is taking part in the negotiations, said he couldn't discuss the specifics of the talks. As a representative of a local salmon club with 200 members, he said his main interest in the negotiations has been to ensure safe passage for these fish along the river.

Unlike salmon, which have been stable in numbers, populations of shad and alewives are

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