Palin taking it easy in foray into Florida
Sarah Palin played it safe yesterday in the battleground state of Florida.
The Republican vice presidential nominee ventured there today for the first time in the campaign. And she went to what is perhaps the easiest place in the state to get a large Republican turnout: an enormous retirement community north of Orlando. And Palin was welcomed like a star. Tens of thousands crowded into a plaza at The Villages, some waiting in the Florida heat for hours to hear her 23-minute speech.
Palin stuck to her usual themes and took no questions from either reporters or the crowd. She did add a reference to the current turmoil in the financial world, saying Wall Street needs "serious reform." Declared Palin: "We don't need a dozen federal agencies doing the job badly, we need the best agencies doing the job right."
Nationwide, about a third of the electorate is expected to vote early this year, thanks to expanded early voting provisions and fewer restrictions on absentee voting, researchers project. In all, more than 30 states allow any registered voter to cast an early ballot, some in person and others by mail.
Greg Dearing, of Louisville, Ky., locked in his ballot for Barack Obama Thursday. "I'm usually a straight party voter," said Dearing, who will be vacationing on Nov. 4. "It would take something very far-fetched to make me regret my vote."
Early voting has been on the increase in recent years: In 2004, 22 percent of voters cast an early presidential ballot; in 2000, 16 percent voted early.
It's a trend that is fundamentally changing the home stretch of American political campaigns. October surprises? They'd better come in September if campaigns want to influence every vote. Get out the vote operations? They're already underway in some states.
"You can't hold your big guns right to the end," said Paul Gronke, director of the Early Voting Information Center at Reed College in Oregon. "When up to 25 or 30 percent of the electorate has already cast a ballot, it might not be wise to wait until the last minute" to make a game-changing play for votes.
Even the presidential debate series, which begins Friday and runs through Oct. 15, will come after many have voted. However, experts say the earliest voters tend to be party loyalists who wouldn't be swayed by debate performances anyway.
Across the nation, election officials are reporting high demand for absentee ballots. Ballots already are available in a few states, and they will be ready in about 20 more this week.
McCain, addressing the National Guard Association in Baltimore today, faulted Obama for not offering a plan to stabilize financial markets after the crisis in the mortgage industry that led to the Bush administration's $700 billion bailout proposal.
Obama says he wanted to give the Treasury Secretary a chance to resolve the crisis free of political intrusion. Still, Obama told an outdoor rally in Charlotte, N.C., today that the administration's effort to free up the credit markets is a "concept with a staggering price tag, not a plan," though he said the government had little option but to intervene.