By PAUL GULLIXSON
The spider webs, tombstones and ubiquitous bloody adornments of Halloween are gone. But there are a few frights that linger out there, and most of them revolve around what is going to happen on Tuesday.
Here are five:
Revenge of the Hanging Chad:
Believe it or not, we could be heading for a repeat of the 2000 election with all the horrors of butterfly ballots and poorly punctured punch cards. This time, however, it’s very possible the Democrat, President Barack Obama, could end up losing the popular vote but win re-election through the Electoral College.
We’re not talking recounts in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties this time, however. It may be in counties with names like Hamilton, Montgomery, and, yes, even Sandusky. All in Ohio.
The latest Gallup Poll shows Romney and Obama in a virtual tie at 48 percent. RealClearPolitics’ average of numerous polls on Saturday had Obama at 47.4 percent and Romney at 47.3 percent.
But given how states are likely to go, Obama has a presumed edge in electoral votes, leading 247 to 206. Given that, the president may only need to win two swing states — Ohio (18 electoral votes) and Nevada (6 electoral votes) — to pass the coveted 270.
If Obama doesn’t take Ohio — the state that’s gone with every winning president since 1964 — it’s anybody’s guess. A tie in the Electoral College is a possibility, even with Obama carrying Ohio. If he carries New Hampshire and Wisconsin as well and Romney takes the other swing states of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada and Iowa, it ends locked 269 each. That’s when things get interesting.
The Superstorm that Ate our Brains:
Before high winds and surging waters had even started to make kindling of homes from Virginia to Connecticut, pundits were already arguing about who would benefit more from superstorm Sandy, Romney or Obama.
It helps Obama because it makes him look presidential, it reminds people that Romney wanted to privatize FEMA, and it stops Romney’s momentum from the debates.
No, it helps Romney because it puts Obama on the hot seat, it suppresses voting and it forced the president off the campaign trail.
Answer: Who cares? At last count, there were more than 90 people dead and tens of thousands without homes, businesses or electricity. Damages are expected to be $30 billion to $50 billion.
As Dana Milbank of the Washington Post noted in his column last week, “It may be heresy to say so (days) before a presidential election, but some things are bigger than politics.” Hear, hear.
The Return of the Do-Nothing Congress:
Despite all the clatter and money spent on Congressional races, it looks in the end that the likely outcome of this election will be … no change.
Although roughly 30 seats in the House are considered toss-ups, Democrats would have to win 26 of them to swing the balance of power. Not likely.
In the Senate, where Democrats hold a 53-47 lead, there are nine seats that are up in the air. Republicans will likely pick up seats in Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana. But Democrats are likely to pick up Massachusetts, and, in the end, the balance of power is likely to remain unchanged.
What does this mean? One won’t confuse the 112th Congress with one of the most efficient in our nation’s history. In fact, due largely to deep partisan divisions on Capitol Hill, this was the least productive legislative body in a generation, passing a mere 173 public laws. By comparison, the “do nothing” Congress if 1947-1948 — so named by President Harry S Truman — passed 906 laws.
Overall, the Senate had 84 days in session in 2012 compared to 149 in 2002. The House had 85 days in session compared to 123 in 2002.
If you consider the average baseball game is three hours long, House members spent 34 fewer hours on the floor than the Giants spent on the playing field this season — excluding the playoffs.
And the Giants had a lot more to show for their efforts.
The Budget Ax Menace:
Certainly many people are not inclined to give government any more money these days. But, let’s get serious. If Proposition 30 doesn’t pass on Tuesday, it’s the state’s school children who will pay a hefty price.
K-12 schools stand to lose a combined $5.3 billion, the equivalent to three weeks of instructional days. CSU and UC colleges will each lose $250 million. Santa Rosa Junior College alone stands to lose $6.3 million, equal to about 8 percent of its general fund budget. This is on top of cuts already taken. For example, SRJC has been forced to cut its class schedule by 25 percent over the past three years — in addition to making it more expensive and difficult for older adults to take classes.
Public schools today have far fewer resources than they did when most of us older adults had when we were in school. And children of today will be left with far more burdens to bear than those of yesteryear. Let’s at least give them a decent education.
Don’t answer that phone!
And, finally, there’s the frightening prospect of receiving more of those robocalls between now and the time polls close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. They’ve been pretty annoying this year, particularly for a number of the local races here in Sonoma County.
Given the volume of election material sent out, particularly the hit pieces, checking the mail has been equally annoying. I thought political donations were down?
Santa Rosa City Council members Susan Gorin and John Sawyer are going to end up spending nearly half a million dollars combined in their race for the 1st District supervisorial seat.
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Michael Allen is on target to spend nearly $1 million in his bid for the 10th Assembly District seat, outspending his opponent San Rafael City Councilman Marc Levine nearly 3-1. In addition, two independent expenditure committees have poured in nearly $500,000 to help Allen win. Levine also received a boost of $250,0000 from two independent expenditure committees.
Then there’s all the money being spent on the state propositions. Molly Munger, the chief proponent of Proposition 38, has so far doled out $44 million for her cause. Meanwhile, her brother, Charles Munger Jr., has spent $36.5 million in getting Proposition 32 passed and defeating Proposition 30.
My advice: Between now and Tuesday, expect more tricks than treats in the mail — and on the phone. And don’t go to bed too early on Tuesday.
Paul Gullixson is editorial director for The Press Democrat. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Call him at (707) 521-5282.