Signs and Wonders
Hugo Chavez
Associated Press/Photo by Rodrigo Abd
Hugo Chavez

Signs and Wonders 10.03

Newsworthy

With friends like these … Hugo Chavez, the socialist dictator of Venezuela, has given President Obama his seal of approval. Last weekend Chavez said, "If I was from the United States, I'd vote for Obama." He went on to say, "Obama is a good guy. I think that if Obama was from Barlovento or some Caracas neighborhood, he'd vote for Chavez." Conservative pundits had a field day with this statement. Gary Bauer, for example, said, “It's obvious why Hugo Chavez supports Obama and thinks Obama would support him. Chavez certainly knows a fellow socialist when he sees one, and he also knows a weak-kneed American president when he sees one.”

Akin all in. Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri let last week’s deadline to withdraw from the race pass, and establishment Republicans who had abandoned him are now making noises like they might be re-engaging. Conservatives like Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Phyllis Schlafly have made it clear they will do everything they can to win this seat. Even Sen. Roy Blunt and Kit Bond, the state’s former governor and senator, are now back in the Akin camp, though they were among those saying he should get out of the race just a couple of weeks ago. One person still not on board the Akin Express is Mitt Romney. Romney advisor Kevin Madden had the chance to come to Akin’s defense on MSNBC yesterday, but he refused. "I can't speak for Gov. Bond and Sen. Blunt, but Gov. Romney has made his position very clear on that and it has not changed." That position was, essentially, to throw Akin under the bus for inelegant comments he made in defense of his pro-life position. Akin made a mistake, but Romney may be making a bigger mistake by not coming to Akin’s defense. Polls had Akin nearly 10 points down just a couple of weeks ago. Today, he has pulled even.

Secret shame. Last week, 20 plaintiffs filed suit in federal court for emotional and physical injuries they suffered in a military system they believe condones rape. “These 20 represent are just a tiny fraction of the thousands of victims whose mistreatment threatens the safety of our whole force,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who served in the Marines. Sex scandals have rocked the military in recent months. At Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, at least 43 recruits reported being sexually harassed. The fallout there resulted in the base where almost all Air Force basic training takes place getting a new commander. Perkins said he is not surprised by the scandals: “When you lower one standard of conduct—whether it's deemphasizing religion or encouraging the military's sexualization—it inevitably leads to a lowering of all such standards.”

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Debate effects. Unless you’ve been living under Maxwell Smart’s Cone of Silence, you no doubt know we’ll have a presidential debate tonight. But do they make a difference? Not much of one, according to a new poll by Rasmussen Reports. Voters are attaching less significance to the outcome of tonight’s first presidential debate compared to the kick-off debate four years ago. Eighty-seven percent of likely U.S. voters say they are likely to watch the presidential debates this year, according to Rasmussen. Of that 87 percent, 65 percent say they are “very likely” to watch. That sounds like a lot, but it’s down nine points from 74 percent in September 2008. Only 17 percent say the debate will have a significant impact on their voting decision. Though these numbers are relatively low, in a close race they could, of course, make all the difference. Current polling suggests that key swing states will be decided by just a few percentage points, so events such as tonight’s debate could be decisive.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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