(CNN) - Ted Steven's guilty verdict Monday afternoon could mean the end of the Alaska lawmaker's 40-year tenure in the Senate and serve to inch the already emboldened Democratic Party closer to 60 seats in the Senate, recent polls of the Alaska race suggest.
In an Ivan Moore Research poll of the Alaska Senate race conducted earlier this month, entirely before the verdict was handed down, Stevens and Democratic challenger Mark Begich were statistically tied. Several other recent surveys have also suggested the race is neck-and-neck.
But the prospect of Stevens, first elected to the Senate in 1968, facing a tough reelection race was unthinkable only a few months ago. After all, the last Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from Alaska is former presidential candidate Mike Gravel. Gravel served two terms, from 1969 to 1981, before embarking on his unsuccessful presidential bid 26 years later. Stevens is also an icon in the state, responsible (and now infamous) for securing billions of federal dollars for the state, including the ill-fated "bridge to nowhere."
But Steven's reelection hopes now appear increasingly slim in what is a boost to Democrats seeking to reach the filibuster-proof 60 seat majority. It's also too late for the GOP to replace Stevens on the ballot with a different candidate - that deadline passed more than six weeks ago and the ballots have already been printed.
“This race was a dead heat before Stevens was convicted,” said CNN Senior Political Researcher Alan Silverleib. "The Democrats are now most likely one step closer to a filibuster-proof majority of 60 Senate seats next January.”
Meanwhile, asked if there is likely to be any national political impact of the Stevens verdict, a prominent Republican strategist close to the McCain campaign said, "Just one more seat."
"It can't really impact a national environment where 12 percent say things going well," the strategist told CNN's John King.
Note: The McCain campaign says Sen. John McCain has been delivering his closing argument “every day for the past week.” The CNN Truth Squad looked at Obama’s "closing argument" speech and one McCain delivered Friday, October 23, in Sarasota, Florida. To help sort out the reality from the rhetoric, a transcript of the speech is reproduced in full below with links to related Fact Checks from the CNN Truth Squad.
. . . .
You know, my friends, we've heard a lot of words over the course of this election. After months of campaign trail eloquence we'vefinally learned what Senator Obama's economic goal is. As he told Joe the plumber up in Ohio, he wants to spread the wealth around.
He believes in redistributing in wealth, not in policies that grow our economy and create jobs and opportunities for all Americans. Senator Obama is more interested in controlling who gets your piece of pie than he is growing the pie.
Senator Obama may say he's trying to soak the rich but it's themiddle class who are going to get wet.
You know a lot of his promised tax increases miss the target. Pay for nearly a trillion dollars of new government spending, his tax increase would impact 50 percent of small business income in this America and the jobs of 16 million middle class Americans who work for those small businesses.
So I ask our small business people to raise your hands so we can thank you. Thank you, Joe the doctor, Joe the plumber, the car dealer, thank you all.
Note: On Monday, October 27, Sen. Barack Obama delivered what his campaign called a “closing argument speech” in Canton, Ohio. The CNN Truth Squad looked at Obama’s "closing argument" speech and one McCain delivered Friday, October 23, in Sarasota, Florida. To help sort out the reality from the rhetoric, a transcript of the speech is reproduced in full below with links to related Fact Checks from the CNN Truth Squad.
. . . .
After decades of broken politics in Washington, eight years of failed policies from George Bush, and twenty-one months of a campaign that has taken us from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunshine of California, we are one week away from change in America.
In one week, you can turn the page on policies that have put the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street before the hard work and sacrifice of folks on Main Street.
In one week, you can choose policies that invest in our middle-class, create new jobs, and grow this economy from the bottom-up so that everyone has a chance to succeed; from the CEO to the secretary and the janitor; from the factory owner to the men and women who work on its floor.
In one week, 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 hope.
In one week, at this defining moment in history, you can give this country the change we need.
(CNN) - Indiana's secretary of state has requested a criminal investigation into the embattled community organizing group ACORN, which is accused of submitting hundreds of bogus voter registration forms in northern Lake County.
The request is based on Secretary of State Todd Rokita's preliminary examination and analysis of 1,438 questionable voter registration applications ACORN submitted in the county, which includes the city of Gary. Rokita, a Republican, has concluded there is "significant, credible evidence" that ACORN violated Indiana and federal law.
"This is a fraud perpetrated on all of the people of Indiana, because fraudulent registrations are the first step in diluting the voice of honest voters and rendering an inaccurate tally on Election Day," Rokita wrote in his request to state and federal law enforcement officials.
In response, ACORN said, "We believe the law requires us to turn in every card."
The group, which is the target of intense GOP attacks, says it flagged questionable registration forms collected by its canvassers. The group has been criticized for submitting phony forms in several states - many of which are considered battlegrounds in next week's presidential election.
But Rokita said ACORN should have turned the documents over to law enforcement, not registrars.
"Complying with the law to submit legitimate applications does not allow ACORN officials to evade the law against knowingly submitting fraudulent applications," Rokita wrote.
ACORN said Rokita "appears to have changed his opinion on this question two weeks before the election."
The group said it detailed its quality control procedures and said that election officials in Lake County had refused the group's documentation flagging applications the group considered questionable and refused to meet with ACORN to discuss how to handle the applications ACORN had flagged. It also said it looked forward to cooperating with Indiana authorities in prosecuting employees "who have defrauded us" by filing faked forms.
(CNN) - The Virginia branch of the NAACP sued Gov. Tim Kaine and state election officials on Monday, claiming that the state is "inadequately prepared" for the record number of voters expected to turn out in next week's presidential election.
The complaint, filed Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Richmond, says state officials have not set up enough polling sites to keep up with the turnout.
"The allocation of polling place resources is plainly irrational, non-uniform and likely discriminatory," the suit states.
It cites the 2004 presidential election, arguing that too few polling places in Virginia at the time led to long lines and forced some voters to turn away.
"To adhere stubbornly to inadequate levels of resources in the face of the increased registration and increased turnout will result in a meltdown on Election Day," the suit says. "Voters will face even longer lines than existed in 2004, and many more voters will lose their right to vote in this Presidential election than in the last."
Kaine's office confirmed receiving the lawsuit Monday, saying Virginia's Board of Elections will respond to it in court.
Kaine is "confident that the Board of elections is taking the appropriate steps to mitigate lines on Election Day," said Delacey Skinner, a spokeswoman for the governor.
(CNN) - Georgia must allow thousands of people whose citizenship was questioned by the state's new voter verification system to vote in the upcoming election, a panel of federal judges ruled Monday.
The court ruling will affect about 4,500 people in Georgia who had been "flagged" by the new voter verification system and faced being denied a chance to vote Nov. 4 because their citizenship was questioned.
It could also affect more than 50,000 other registered Georgia voters also flagged by the new system because of mismatches in their personal identification information, such as discrepancies in addresses.
The three-judge panel also ordered Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel to inform all the flagged voters that they can vote.
"We are very pleased that the court agreed with our legal position that the state violated the Voting Rights Act," said Elise Shore, a lawyer with one of the civil right groups who brought the lawsuit.
Shore said the ruling applies to the 4,500 Georgians that were flagged for citizenship reasons and she was uncertain whether it applied to the some 50,000 others that were flagged for other reasons.
The issue was raised in a lawsuit filed on behalf of a Georgia college student who claimed that the secretary of state's voter verification system violated the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act and caused an illegal purge of voters in the weeks before the election.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens vowed to fight his Monday conviction on federal corruption charges, a verdict he attributed to "repeated instances of prosecutorial misconduct."
"I will fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have," the 84-year-old Stevens, the Senate's longest-serving Republican, said in a written statement after the jury came back Monday afternoon. "I am innocent."
Stevens was convicted of seven counts of making false statements on Senate ethics forms to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and work on his Alaska home from an oilfield contractor at the center of a corruption probe in the state.
The verdict came days before he is to face voters in a neck-and-neck re-election bid back home. He vowed to get the results overturned and added, "I remain a candidate for the United States Senate."
RICHMOND, Virginia (CNN) - Sarah Palin said Monday Sen. Ted Stevens' guilty verdict "is a sad day for Alaska."
"This is a sad day for Alaska and a sad day for Senator Stevens and his family," she said on the tarmac at Richmond International Airport. "The verdict shines a light on the corrupting influence of the big oil service company up there in Alaska that was allowed to control too much of our state. And that control was part of the culture of corruption that I was elected to fight, and that fight must always move forward regardless of party affiliation or seniority or even past service.
"As Governor of the State of Alaska, I will carefully now monitor the situation and I'll take any appropriate action as needed. In the meantime, I ask the people of Alaska to join me in respecting the workings of our judicial system and I'm confident that Senator Stevens from this point on will do the right thing for the people of Alaska," she said.
Palin did not respond when asked if she will vote for Sen. Stevens next week and promptly boarded her campaign plane.
(CNN) - Federal prosecutors in Tennessee have charged two men with plotting a "killing spree" against African-Americans that would have been capped with an attempt to kill Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
The U.S. attorney's office in Jackson, Tennessee, said Daniel Cowart, 20, and Paul Schlesselman, 18, were self-described white supremacists who met online through a mutual friend. They have been charged with illegal possession of a sawed-off shotgun, conspiracy to rob a federally licensed gun dealer and making threats against a presidential candidate.
Cowart and Schlesselman were arrested after an aborted robbery attempt last week, prosecutors said in a statement announcing the charges. They made their initial appearances before a federal judge Monday and are scheduled for a bond hearing Thursday in Memphis.
(CNN) - In the final days before the election, the strategy in battleground Virginia has shifted from getting people registered to making sure they show up to vote.
"The war's being waged in Virginia," said Michael McDonald, associate professor of government and politics at George Mason University and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. "You're seeing both campaigns out in force with their lieutenants and grunts on the ground trying to get people to vote."
With 310,530 new voters registered in Virginia, a whole new group of voters could decide the election in the commonwealth.
Virginia has voted Republican in every presidential race since 1968, but the latest CNN poll of polls calculated Monday shows Barack Obama with a 7-point advantage over John McCain, 51-44 percent, with 5 percent saying they're undecided.
The McCain and Obama campaigns, along with the help of third-party organizations like the AFL-CIO, and women's groups for McCain-Palin have been going door-to-door, making phone calls, handing out literature, and sending text messages to ensure voters know where to go and vote next Tuesday.