Note to Democrats: Don't Panic! But Stop Voter Purges, Too

Without a successful voter registration and turn-out effort, backed with aggressive efforts to promote fair elections, Obama faces some serious challenges in a tight election in the fall.
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While many progressive bloggers are worrying that Obama and the convention haven't been hitting McCain hard enough, The American Prospect offers some grounds for hope for Democrats. (And the Bill Clinton and Joe Biden speeches doubtless helped too. )

Tim Fernholz pulled together yesterday some reasons for liberal optimism:

* Polling. Yes, Obama is tied with McCain in some averages, but he's also up in most individual polls. Mike Crowley points out he still is leading in these polls, especially in key states, even if he has slipped over the summer. Nate Silver also notes that we shouldn't expect a convention bounce to begin until tomorrow.

* David Plouffe. Ambinder reports that Plouffe remains confident -- admittedly, he's paid to do so -- but his reasoning is sound, and his focus on key states is reminiscent of the primary campaign's focus on delegates. Remember the criticism of the Obama campaign then? Plouffe notes that "Obama is underperforming only among working class whites over 70 and pointed to a poll showing that Obama is over performing John Kerry with working class white voters under 50" and that Montana, Virginia and Colorado all look good.

* Clintons. Hillary's speech was solid, and it will hopefully move more Clinton voters into the Obama fold. Bill's speech tonight promises to be more of the same, and Noam Scheiber notes the intelligence of giving each one a night -- Bill is going to be feeling a lot better about supporting Obama now. They should both realize that Hillary hasn't yet done enough to escape the blame of a potential Obama loss.

* Biden. For all the attention over the weekend, tonight is Biden's real introduction. If he nails his speech -- and more importantly, nails McCain -- not only will that be a good psychological boost for worried lefties but also a good indicator that in the weeks to come the campaign will get on the offensive, especially on economic issues.

* Obama. He's a closer. His speech Thursday will be huge, and I don't think there's any way he can live up to the expectations setting that has gotten increasingly out of control (explain your policy without explaining your policy!). But he will deliver a good speech that will continue the convention mission of introducing Obama to voters as a positive, trustworthy figure. He had best go after John McCain as well. Whether Obama can seize the anger of white-working class voters without being seen as too angry, as Harold Meyerson asks, is a different story.

* Field. Watching the convention last night, another liberal writer responded to this argument by saying that "Field is what people point at while they're losing -- the election isn't decided in caucuses." Maybe. But if things are getting tight, and it looks like they are, a solid field operation that brings in two or three percentage points is what it takes to win.

Perhaps this will be a post I'll regret in two weeks, but I think confidence might be rewarded.

There is still a "smear gap" between the Democrats' ability to attack -- and the Republicans' ability to undermine and negatively define Obama in recent weeks. But as Bill Scher, the author and blogger for the Campaign for America's Future and Liberal Oasis noted on the "D'Antoni and Levine" radio show last week, there's still a ceiling of support that McCain can't get above and new toughness in the Obama campaign.

But without a successful voter registration and turn-out effort, backed with aggressive efforts to promote fair elections, Obama faces some serious challenges in a tight election in the fall. For instance, as many as 600,000 Ohio voters in that key swing state risk getting purged from voter rolls. As Project Vote and the Advancement Project reported:

UPDATE: Nearly 600,000 Ohio Voters May Be Disenfranchised
August 13, 2008

Columbus, Ohio --Nearly 600,000 eligible Ohio voters may be dropped from the voter rolls if Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner doesn't act to protect these voters, according to findings based on publicly available information discovered by Advancement Project and Project Vote. These voters - disproportionately voters of color and young voters - are subject to being removed from Ohio's voter registration rolls without notice or a hearing because of the state's vague regulations on vote caging. Advancement Project and Project Vote call upon Secretary Brunner to ensure that every eligible voter can vote on Election Day and have their votes counted.

In 2005, Ohio's General Assembly introduced a law, House Bill 3 (HB3) that overhauled Ohio's election system. The new election law requires boards of election to send voter information mailings and amends Ohio's challenge statutes. It enables a practice called voter caging, wherein voters can be purged from the rolls if they have problems with their mail. In particular, the new law requires that 88 county boards of election mail every single registered voter in their purview a non-forwardable notice letter 60 days before the election. Each board must make a list of any bounced letters that are returned as undeliverable. These lists, in turn, are made available as public records to individuals and groups seeking to use the list as a caging list to challenge voters.

The amended challenge law no longer requires the county boards to give all Ohio voters notice that their right to vote is being challenged or to permit a hearing for them to defend their right. Rather, the new election law permits the boards to review their own records and make a determination on the validity of the challenge.

"A single returned piece of mail is not a reliable basis for challenging the right to vote," said Donita Judge, Ohio staff attorney, Advancement Project. "Mail may be returned for many reasons, including errors in the database from which the mailing is derived, errors in the mailing labels, failure to include an apartment number or poor matching criteria."

Will the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party be tough enough to effectively attack McCain and the Bush legacy -- and still have the resources and determination to protect voting rights critical to Democratic success? And will they be willing to challenge suspicious election results, or fold as they did in Ohio 2004?

The answer to those questions could determine the outcome of the election.
You can learn more about one of the key challenges Obama faces: making the case for being the commander-in-chief , on today's "D'Antoni and Levine" Show. You can learn more about Obama's national security policy from one of his top military advisors, Gen. Tony McPeak, and hear directly from the convention from the editor of the Center for American Progress's essential blog, Think Progress, Amanda Terkel.

For more Huffington Post coverage of the Democratic National Convention, visit our Politics @ the DNC page, our Democratic Convention Big News Page, and our HuffPost bloggers' Twitter feed, live from Denver.

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