Record turnout is expected today as voters across the country head to the polls. In the presidential race, Democrat Barack Obama is leading Republican John McCain in every major national poll. If elected, Senator Barack Obama will become the nation’s first African American president. If the Republicans pull off an upset, John McCain would become the oldest first-time president, and Sarah Palin will become the nation’s first female vice president. Voters will also be casting ballots to elect the entire House of Representatives and one third of the seats in the US Senate. The Democrats are expected to gain seats in both the House and Senate. Eleven states are also electing governors today. The Associated Press reports voter registration numbers are up 7.3 percent from the last presidential election. Democrats saw their registration numbers increase by over 12 percent, while Republicans saw their ranks grow by less than two percent. The first votes on Election Day were cast just after midnight in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire. Obama won the town by a vote of fifteen-to-six. He became the first Democrat since 1968 to win the town. On Monday, Barack Obama’s campaign stops included Jacksonville, Florida.
Sen. Obama: "Tomorrow you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation just to win an election, that tries to pit region against region, city against town, Republican against Democrat, that asks us to fear at a time when we need to hope. Tomorrow, at this defining moment in history, you, each and everyone of you, can give this country the change that we need."
John McCain traveled to seven states on Monday as part of his last full day of campaigning. He spoke in Blountville, Tennessee.
Sen. McCain: "Now, let me give you some straight talk about the election. America faces a big choice, and there’s one day left. The pundits have written us off, just like they’ve done before and been wrong before, and my opponent is measuring the drapes in the White House. You know, they may not know it, but the Mac is back!"
Today’s vote ends the most expensive presidential campaign in US history. Candidates raised more than $1.5 billion during the primary and general election. This marks the first time a presidential race has topped $1 billion. Barack Obama alone raised more than $600 million as he dropped out of the public financing system.
Sheila Krumholz, of the Center For Responsive Politics: "The Obama campaign, in particular, has had incredible success. To give some perspective, Obama raised in just one month $150 million. That’s about half of what John Kerry raised in the last presidential election throughout his entire campaign. So there’s really no comparison between this cycle’s spending and funds dedicated to previous presidential elections. We’re on a different plane entirely."
With the fundraising edge, Barack Obama has been able to vastly outspend John McCain on campaign ads. A new study by Neilsen reveals that Obama ran 77 percent more TV ads last weekend in the key swing states of Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Both campaigns advertised most heavily in Florida. Over the past month, Obama ran nearly 25,000 ads in the state, nearly three times as many as McCain.
On Monday, the Obama campaign announced that Barack Obama’s maternal grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, had died at the age of eighty-six. Dunham lived in Hawaii, where she helped raise Obama during his teenage years. In a statement, Obama and his sister described their grandmother as the cornerstone of the family and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength and humility. Last night, Senator Obama briefly spoke about her at a rally in Charlottesville, North Carolina.
Sen. Obama: "She was one of those quiet heroes that we have all across America, who they’re not famous, their names aren’t in the newspapers, but each and every day they work hard, they look after their families."
Much of the world’s attention is also focused today on the US presidential election. The headline in today’s Guardian newspaper in London reads: “America’s moment of truth.” The headline in The Times of Johannesburg, South Africa simply reads: “Yes, He Can” under a large photo of Barack Obama. While world opinion heavily favors Obama, many residents in Iraq say they see little different between the two major candidates.
Qahtan Abdul Jabbar: "As for us, we do not care much about the coming (US) president. We do not really care about who will come, because their policy is known for us. We do not know who will win, and actually we do not care, but what we really care about is their policy towards Iraq as an occupied country."
At the White House, Press Secretary Dana Perino was asked Monday about how President Bush has been taking this political season, where even members of his own party ran away from him. While many prominent Republicans have been busy on the campaign trail, President Bush has been spending his time at the White House and Camp David.
Dana Perino: “And this president was tested by a lot of different issues, and I think he’s taken those issues head on, and we can be proud of how we’ve addressed them. Everybody would like to be popular. You can all remember that back in high school. Everyone really wanted to be popular, and some of us just weren’t. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have principles and values that you stay true to. And that’s what this president has done, and it’s what he’s taught a lot of us, including me.”
In other campaign news, a new report from the Alaskan State Personnel Board has cleared Gov. Sarah Palin of any ethics violations in her firing of her public safety commissioner in a scandal known as “Troopergate.” The report directly contradicts earlier findings of an investigator for the legislature.
The Financial Times reports members of the Afghan government, European diplomats and NATO military officials are pushing to delay, or even scrap, next year’s presidential election in Afghanistan. They argue that the poll could dangerously aggravate political tensions. Analysts said it may now be impossible to hold a contest in which all Afghans can vote, because large parts of the south and east are essentially under Taliban control.
In news from Pakistan, Pakistan’s defense minister is urging the United States to halt missile strikes inside Pakistan because it is fuming anti-American sentiments. Pakistani Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar issued the blunt warning to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new head of US Central Command. At least 100 people have been killed in seventeen US air strikes in Pakistan over the past two months.
The United States has become one of only two countries to vote against drafting a new United Nations treaty establishing international standards for the arms trade. Zimbabwe was the only other nation to vote against the proposed Arms Trade Treaty.
In South Africa, dissident members of the African National Congress have announced plans to set up a rival party called the South African Democratic Congress. The new party plans to challenge the ANC, which has dominated South African politics since the end of the apartheid in 1994. The split comes less than two months after the ANC party leadership forced President Thabo Mbeki to resign. One of the most prominent dissident members is Mosiuoa Lekota, South Africa’s former defense minister.
Mosiuoa Lekota: "We have decided that regardless of the cost to ourselves as individuals and true our conscience as patriots, we are ready and we will stand up and fight as messengers and representatives of the period of hope and for a deeper democracy, as well as for a sustained betterment of the lives of our people, the people of South Africa.”
ANC president Jacob Zuma has condemned ANC members who were joining the dissident party.
Jacob Zuma: "Members of the ANC who had hopes and wishes that other leaders should be elected, and they never succeeded, are not genuine members. Genuine members are the ones that are still here, and they never went anywhere. There is no problem. We have people with different views. That is why I am saying that this new marriage means we need to be cautious, because they were with us and differing with the opposition Democratic Alliance, and now, today, they are in agreement with the DA 100 percent."
In business news, the US auto industry has received more bad news. Sales of new cars and trucks plummeted last month to the lowest levels in twenty-five years. Sales at General Motors fell 45 percent in September. Sales at both Ford and Chrysler fell over 30 percent.
And the electronics retailer Circuit City has announced plans to lay off nearly 17 percent of its domestic workforce, roughly 7,000 workers. The retailer also plans to close 155 of its stores.