By CNN's Jack Cafferty:
Election Day is six weeks from tomorrow, but tens of millions of Americans will actually cast their ballot before November 6.
Early voting has already started - and by the end of the month voters in 30 states will be able to cast absentee ballots or vote early in person.
This includes voters in key swing states like Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire.
It's expected that more than one-third of voters - or more than 40 million americans - will vote early this year. According to Politico, in 2008, early and absentee voters made up more than half of all voters in some states. In Colorado, 79% of people voted early.
And that's not lost on the candidates. In a tight race, early votes could make the difference in who wins the White House.
Both the Obama and Romney campaigns are working to get their voters out early. It's something the president's campaign did very well last time around..
Early voting has also changed the way candidates and their campaigns approach the elections - and us.
For starters, it's not worth saving up all those precious advertising dollars until the last days and weeks of the campaign if one in three voters will have voted by then.
Also, it increases pressure on the candidates since any gaffe or controversy that happens now could be the last thing early voters remember before they cast their ballot.
And with modern technology and all the problems that can happen at the polls on election day, it seems fair to ask why we even have an Election Day where people have to go to the polls.
Here’s my question to you: How would you change the way we hold elections?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.
Young voters are not nearly as excited about this presidential election, and that could doom Pres. Obama's chances for a second term.
A new Gallup Poll shows only 58% of registered voters between the ages of 18 and 29 say they will "definitely vote" this fall.
That's far below the national average of 78% for all registered voters.
It's also at least 20-points below the percentage of young people who planned to vote in the fall of 2004 and 2008.
Young voters were one of the key voting blocs in Obama's 2008 victory over Sen. John McCain. They overwhelmingly support the president again this time around, but they historically show up to vote in lower numbers than other groups.
There's a growing sense that the outcome of this election could come down to turnout, and if that's the case, the relative lack of interest among the youth is not a good sign for the president. Of course it's still only July, and Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have more than three months to fire up this group.
This poll also shows the percentage of blacks who say they will definitely vote is similar to the national average this year. However, Hispanic registered voters – who overwhelmingly back Obama – are another one of the groups with the lowest expected turnout. Only 64% of Hispanic voters say they will definitely vote. Again, not a good sign for the president.
But back to young people:
The outcome of this election will be enormous for our country. We're facing many critical problems, including high unemployment and a runaway national debt.
Those younger than 30 have a huge stake in all of this because whether we elect Obama or Romney could have a big impact on what kind of America they inherit.
Here’s my question to you: What will it take to get young voters excited again?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
Fresh new polls are out today in the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida - states that went for President Obama in 2008 but are expected to be toss-ups in November.
The Quinnipiac polls show Obama leading Mitt Romney by four points in Florida, 45% to 41%, which is within the poll's sampling error. The president is helped out here with strong support from Florida's Latinos.
In Pennsylvania, the president leads Romney by six points, 45% to 39%, his lead bolstered by a strong gender gap. Mr. Obama leads Romney by 12 points among women in Pennsylvania.
And in Ohio, the president is up nine points, 47% to 38%, once again with a big gender gap.
History suggests Obama will almost certainly win a second term if he can keep the lead in all three of these key swing states through Election Day.
In every presidential election since 1960, the winning candidate for president has carried at least two of the three. These three states combined have 67 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election.
But the word "battleground" has a special meaning in some cases.
Remember the hanging chads in 2000? The Supreme Court wound up deciding the election because Florida was mired in an antiquated system that kept the vote count there in question for weeks.
And then there's Ohio. Remember the voting machine fiasco in 2004?
You could make an argument that until they learn how to do it, Florida and Ohio shouldn't be allowed to vote in any more presidential elections.
But the fact is, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania hold the keys to the White House – and that's a fact, Jack.
And right now things are looking pretty good for Obama.
Here’s my question to you: Should the same three states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - be able to determine the outcome of every presidential election?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
If you go to the race track, do you bet your money on a three-legged horse? No – you bet your money on a four-legged horse that has a chance of winning the race.
So why is it when it comes to politics some people insist on betting on horses that have no chance of winning?
Several of the Republican presidential wannabes are raking in loads of campaign cash despite the fact that they have virtually no chance of being the nominee.
Rick Santorum, who came close to defeating Mitt Romney in Iowa, has raised more than $1 million since the caucuses Tuesday.
Yes, Santorum placed a very close second in Iowa, but that was largely due to his appeal among social conservatives and evangelicals. And that's not something that will translate in many of the upcoming races. He stands to lose badly in New Hampshire.
Meanwhile, Ron Paul raised an impressive $13 million in the last three months. That tops the $8 million he raised in the previous quarter. Paul has a passionate group of supporters. He, too, ran well in Iowa, but again, chances are he won't be the Republican nominee.
Newt Gingrich also raised $10 million in the last quarter, but some of that came when he was spiking in the polls. And that is now history.
Of course, none of these compare to Romney's expected haul of $20 million in the last three months.
But that's the thing, you can understand why people might plunk their money down on Romney to win.
Romney is looking more and more like the party's nominee every day. He is expected to win by a landslide in New Hampshire, and it seems unlikely at this point that there is anyone – or anything – that can stop him.
Here’s my question to you: Why do people give money to candidates who have no chance of winning?
Michele Bachmann's dreams of being president are history. And so too is the possibility of the U.S. electing its first woman president - at least for another four years.
This was the second election in a row where a woman tried and failed to become president.
Hillary Clinton made a great run at it in 2008, but in the end lost the Democratic Party's nomination to Barack Obama.
When Clinton bowed out, she acknowledged she wasn't able to "shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling" but noted that her supporters put about 18 million cracks in it. At the time, polls suggested Americans were more ready for a black president than a woman president.
Fast forward four years, and there were high expectations for Bachmann, at least in her birth state of Iowa.
Bachmann entered the race as a tea party favorite and became the first woman to win the Ames Straw Poll in August. Unfortunately for Bachmann, that was the high point of her campaign.
Here’s my question to you: What will it take for this country to elect a woman president?
The morning after his TV show "Celebrity Apprentice" was interrupted by the breaking news that Osama bin Laden had been killed, Donald Trump released a statement congratulating President Obama and calling for an end to party politics for "the next several days."
He has been uncharacteristically quiet since, especially for a guy who spent weeks adding fuel to the “birther” controversy, badgering the president on a number of issues and tiptoeing around talk of his own presidential run in 2012.
Chances are Trump has been quiet, in part, because he is still smarting from the White House Correspondents' dinner two Saturdays ago. President Obama and the evening's emcee, "Saturday Night Live's" Seth Myers, separately skewered Trump at the gala event with a series of jokes on everything from his lack of political experience to his hair. It was a world class beatdown, and by the look on his face - Trump was there– he didn't take the jokes very well. But luckily for him, the news on bin Laden limited that embarrassment quickly.
Last week Trump announced he was pulling out of an appearance to drive the Indianapolis 500 pace car at the upcoming race on May 29th. Trump said it wouldn't be appropriate for the spotlight to be on him during the race's 100th anniversary if he had a possible presidential run on his mind. It may be the first time in recorded history that Donald Trump declined the spotlight.
Then there's this: According to a CNN Opinion Research poll, 57 percent of Americans say Trump is tough enough to handle a crisis in this country and 51 percent say he can get the economy back on its feet. But only 37 percent say Trump can manage the government. And only about one-third says he's honest and trustworthy. These poll numbers are as dismal as his chances of being elected.
Here’s my question to you: Is a presidential run already over for Donald Trump?
(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)
After hovering around all-time lows in the polls, President Barack Obama is getting a boost in his approval ratings following the killing of Osama bin Laden.
A new Gallup poll finds the president's approval rating jumped from 46% to 52% after Sunday's successful raid of the bin Laden compound.
Issues such as the deficit and the economy have been weighing on Obama's approval and putting his 2012 bid for re-election in jeopardy. His indecision over acting in the recent Middle East uprisings didn't help his cause either. But getting bin Laden - that was big. And somehow people suddenly forget how inexperienced and ineffective he seemed on foreign policy as recently as a few weeks ago.
You can be sure that the economy, things such as jobs and the skyrocketing national debt and deficits will still likely dominate the 2012 race. But for now - for this week– foreign policy and the war on terror have taken center stage. And President Obama is looking pretty good all of a sudden.
But that's also in part because of his lack of competition. The potential field of Republican candidates is pretty awful, consisting of mostly current or former governors and a few current or former House members. Plus a lot of people who have already run for president and lost.
But like I said, we have a tendency to forget pretty quickly, and once conversation switches back to the $14 trillion debt ceiling we're fast approaching and how we're going to cut next year's budget, the bin Laden "get" will likely hit the rear view mirror in a hurry.
Here’s my question to you: Should the killing of Osama bin Laden be an issue in the 2012 presidential race?
Violence rages on in the Middle East. Fighting continues in Libya. In Syria, a human rights group reports that more than 400 people have been killed over the past few weeks.
We're still engaged in Iraq, still fighting in Afghanistan. Now everybody is wondering what to do about Syria. At last word President Obama was "considering sanctions." Whatever that means. His strategy and leadership skills are increasingly being called into question, and the chorus of critics is getting louder.
While the problems continue to multiply in the Middle East, many Americans are just trying to figure out how they're going to pay for their daily commute to work. Gas prices are off the charts with predictions now that they could hit $6 a gallon this summer. We're already about 25 cents away from the record high reached in July of 2008. Rising oil prices and the falling value of the dollar don't offer much hope for relief anytime soon.
The president's been talking a lot about gas prices lately, working the topic into speeches in Virginia, Nevada and California last week. He also announced a task force led by Attorney General Eric Holder to seek out fraud and manipulation of gas prices. That's what the politicians do every time gas prices spike. They start looking for an imaginary boogey man.
Today the President wrote a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to repeal preferential tax laws for the oil companies. That'll happen.
House Republicans have announced they are planning to hold hearings and will introduce legislation in response to high gas prices. In an interview with ABC News yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner said high gas prices could cost President Obama re-election.
He might be right. The president's approval ratings are near an all time low.
Here’s my question to you: If the election was held today, which would be the bigger issue for you, gas prices or the Middle East?
As things in Washington go from bad to worse, here's an idea that could really shake up the way politics is done in this country: Let children vote.
It may not be as crazy an idea as it first sounds.
Politico.com has a piece about a recent report in the Economist on the problem of Japan's aging population.
The median age of the voting population in Japan will soon be 65. This gives older voters a huge amount of political power - and means it's highly unlikely they'll support cuts in entitlement programs. Sound familiar?
The United States is facing a similar problem: As baby boomers age, entitlement spending is taking up a larger and larger portion of our budget - and growing our deficit exponentially.
Well, one expert who wrote to the Economist suggests an answer to this dilemma is to let kids vote. In practical terms, this would mean giving parents an extra vote for every child.
This would take away some of the voting power from seniors in the United States, who traditionally vote in large numbers. It also could give the future generation, which will have to pay off our massive debt, a say in the decisions being made today.
However, it would also put the responsibility on parents to use those votes in the best interest of their kids.
During the Vietnam War, when young Americans were fighting and dying for their country, the voting age was lowered to 18.
Now that the country is starting to die under the weight of its debt, maybe it's time to lower the voting age again.
Here’s my question to you: Should children have the right to vote?
Want to know why we're in trouble?
Political candidates with good hair have a much better chance of being elected than candidates with bad hair, whether either of them knows anything about the issues.
That should scare all of us - but it's true.
A new study by MIT researchers published in the journal "World Politics" shows that people vote for politicians just because they "look the part." That's right: They'll cast a ballot for someone simply because they look smart, competent or attractive.
The research also shows that this phenomenon isn't just unique to the United States, but exists across cultures. In their study, more than 600 participants in the United States and India were shown pictures of candidates in 120 Mexican and Brazilian races. Then they were asked who would do a better job in office.
The Americans and Indians accurately predicted the outcomes of these political races to a surprising degree - based on nothing more than the candidates' faces.
According to the study, just by knowing which candidate looked better, researchers could accurately predict the winner in 68 percent of Mexican elections and 75 percent of some Brazilian elections.
Voting for the good-looking candidate is not a new idea. One of the researchers says, "Ever since Aristotle, people have written about the concern that charismatic leaders who speak well and look good can sway votes even if they do not share the people's views."
But the fact that voters across the world in the 21st century, with all the problems we face, could be exercising their democratic right based on nothing more than good hair or a nice smile is downright frightening.
Here’s my question to you: What does it mean if voters choose candidates based on their looks?
Jack Cafferty sounds off hourly on the Situation Room on the stories crossing his radar. Now, you can check in with Jack online to see what he's thinking and weigh in with your own comments online and on TV.
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