Washington Extra – The octopus is dead, long live the opinion pollster

October 26, 2010

We start this afternoon with the sad news of the demise of Paul, the psychic octopus who captivated the world this summer with his uncanny ability to predict the results of Germany’s World Cup soccer matches.

Fear not, though. There are other ways to divine the future, and especially the results of next week’s midterm elections.

GERMANY/But first of all Washington Extra would like to categorically deny that Paul, just before taking his last gulp of water, predicted that Republicans would win control of the House and Democrats would cling onto power in the Senate. It’s just not true. And if he did, he was only reading our poll data.

Talking of which (nice segue, huh?), our latest Reuters/Ipsos poll from Pennsylvania makes interesting reading today. It shows Democrat Joe Sestak drawing level with Republican Pat Toomey, with both men now tied at 46 percent.

It is quite a turnaround for Sestak, who was trailing by 10 percentage points in our last poll in late August, but seems to have struck a chord with voters after accusing his rival of wanting to export jobs to China.  Another clue, perhaps, that some of the midterm races might be a bit closer than they appeared a couple of months ago.

Here are our top stories from Washington today…

Key Pennsylvania Senate race in dead heat

A Senate race in Pennsylvania that could determine whether Democrats retain control of the chamber is deadlocked one week before the election, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed

For more of this story by Andy Sullivan, read here.

For scenarios of possible election outcomes, read here.

US Republicans poised to win House, gain in Senate

A Republican win in the House and gains in the Senate would likely slam the brakes on Obama’s agenda and spark a prolonged period of legislative gridlock. “I haven’t seen anything that makes me think there will be a drastic change in the public mood or trends in the next week,” Republican strategist Kevin Madden said. “It feels like the concrete was poured on the major issues months ago.”

For more of this story by John Whitesides, read here.

Obama to test Republicans after Nov. 2 elections

President Obama’s senior aides have accused Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of promoting political gridlock and gamesmanship by saying he wants to ensure Obama is a one-term president. “There will be more Republicans. We are ready to work together. The question is, are they ready to work with us?” senior adviser David Axelrod told MSNBC.

For more of this story by Steve Holland, read here.


Tighter derivatives rules gain headway in US, EU

The first global crackdown on the $615 trillion derivatives market gained momentum as regulators unveiled a new tool to police fraud and European officials urged tighter controls. From “quote stuffing” and “spoofing” to “banging the close,” the CFTC eyed certain trading practices closely, though it stopped short, for now, of proposing specific rules to curb high-frequency trading .– a trading strategy that may have contributed to the “flash crash.”

For more of this story by Roberta Rampton and Ayesha Rascoe, read here.

EU, US grapple with crunch in rare earth supplies

The European Union and the United States said they were pressing for solutions to concerns China may be exploiting its stranglehold on rare earth metals, crucial in the making of everything from portable phones to wind turbines. A Department of Energy official said she was not aware of any U.S. companies experiencing disruptions in rare earth metal shipments from China, but said firms were worried about shortages developing.

For more of this story by Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck and Paul Eckert, read here

Clinton: No problem with Iran Bushehr atomic plant

The United States has no problem with Iran’s Russian-built Bushehr nuclear reactor plant but with other sites where weapons work may be underway, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. Iran began loading fuel into the core of its first nuclear power plant at Bushehr earlier on Tuesday, its atomic energy chief said, the last major step to realizing its stated goal of becoming a peaceful user of nuclear energy.

For more of this story, read here.

For a Q&A on whether the West should worry about the plant, read here.

Consumer watchdog will go slow on rules-Treasury

The U.S. consumer watchdog will not inundate banks and other financial players with a host of new rules as soon as it is up and running in July. “There is a recognition that people need time to prepare,” said Eric Stein, the Treasury Department’s deputy assistant secretary for consumer protection.

For more of this story by Rachelle Younglai, read here..

China looms large over Clinton’s Asia-Pacific tour

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added a brief stop in China to her Asia-Pacific tour that begins on Wednesday, a 13-day trip that aims to bolster ties to a region increasingly under China’s shadow. The State Department described her detour to Hainan Island on Saturday as a simple courtesy to Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, a key figure in managing the strained U.S.-China relationship.

For more of this story by Arshad Mohammed, read here.

Fake chips from China sold to U.S. defense contractors

Shannon Wren ran what appeared to be a low-key computer business in Florida, but his real moneymaker was allegedly selling fake integrated circuits imported from China and Hong Kong to defense contractors and transportation firms. The case highlights the sophistication of counterfeiters. The Justice Department launched an intellectual property task force in February to focus on counterfeiting, trade secret theft and piracy.

For more of this story by Jeremy Pelofsky, read here.

What we are blogging…

Clinton sees diplomats of the future in cargo pants as well as pinstripes

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Congress to finance a major new push on overseas development aid, arguing that only by building up a global middle class will the United States increase its national security. “The American people must understand that spending taxpayer dollars on diplomacy and development is in their interest,” Clinton wrote in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine.

For Andrew Quinn’s full post, read here.

Stewart, Colbert rally gets ‘puzzling’ endorsement

Jon Stewart’s Washington “Rally to Restore Sanity” has a new, puzzling promoter: Will Shortz. He’s editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle, which today devotes no fewer than eight clues to the Daily Show host, his fellow satirist Stephen Colbert and the joint rally they’re planning on the National Mall.

For David Morgan’s full post, read here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Kirsten Neumann (Paul the octopus oracle in July)

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Who needs an octopus when the GOP has the Kochtopus?

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