Don't worry. We get it. Excitement over the Giants and concern for family and friends on the storm-ravaged East Coast have diverted your attention from the election in recent days. Gov. Jerry Brown, campaigning like crazy for Proposition 30, failed to grab you when he enlisted his dog, Sutter, in the battle to pass the tax measure.
But now that the Giants' victory parade is over and the cleanup in the Northeast is in full swing, it's time to get back to business.
With Election Day just 48 hours away, here are six things every California voter should know before Nov. 6 -- and as the returns roll in.
Electoral College madness
You've probably heard about the myriad "paths" that President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney can take to capture the 270 votes necessary to win the election. The math gets messy, but it comes down to this: If Obama wins both Florida (29 electoral votes) and Ohio (18 electoral votes), you can assume he has won the election. If Romney wins those two states, he'll most likely be the next president -- but the incumbent could still pull it out by winning a string of smaller states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado and Nevada. Then there's the tiny possibility that there will be a 269-269 tie. That means the lame-duck House would pick the winner, while the lame-duck Senate picks the veep. Hello, President Romney and Vice President Joe Biden! But look on the bright side:
Fighting for their lives in the House
At the beginning of the election season, the Democrats announced they were determined to retake the House of Representatives that they lost in 2010. But the so-called Drive to 25 -- that's the number of House seats they need -- seems to have run out of gas. (Conversely, despite high hopes a few months ago, the Republicans seem to have little chance of capturing the Senate.) Still, there are lots of hot House races in California, largely because of the maps drawn by the state's new citizens redistricting panel. Several Republican incumbents -- Dan Lungren, of Gold River; Jeff Denham, of Modesto; Brian Bilbray, of Solana Beach; and Mary Bono Mack, of Palm Desert -- are fighting for their political lives. So is Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton. And though it won't affect the House's balance of power, Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, faces the toughest challenge of his 40-year House career from Democratic insurgent Eric Swalwell -- a result of California's new "top two" primary, which allows members of the same party to face each other in general elections. The new primary system also means there won't be any minor-party or write-in candidates in any of these races. Think of it as political Thunderdome: "Two candidates enter, one candidate leaves."
Forget the Golden State; how about the Silver?
This year Obama visited the ultra-blue state of California 11 times; Romney stopped by nine times. But all they really wanted was our money, and they've collected more than $94 million of it -- the most from any state by far. Electoral College math, on the other hand, elevated our neighbor to the east to rock-star status. Both presidential campaigns and their super PACs as of Tuesday had sunk $48 million into advertising in Nevada, buying enough 30-second ads to run for 29 days, 11 hours, 34 minutes and 30 seconds. And if you're sick of TV and dying for some real on-the-ground election thrills, there's still time to book a flight to Las Vegas for an intense two days of presidential politicking. The Romney and Obama command centers in Sin City would love to have you.
Money can't buy you love
As you cast your ballot, keep in mind that candidates and causes this year spent more money than ever -- often from sources you'll never know -- to try to buy your vote. Campaign finance reports crunched by the Center for Responsive Politics show the Obama and Romney campaigns, the major parties' national committees and super PACs had spent $1.85 billion on the presidential race as of Oct. 17. In California, more than $350 million has been raised to support or oppose the 11 measures on the statewide ballot, perhaps a state record. Most of the money is traceable, but some of it isn't, as the Fair Political Practices Commission found out when it was forced to sue to find out who donated $11 million to a shadowy Arizona group fighting Proposition 30 and backing Proposition 32, an anti-union measure. Still, ultimately, money doesn't win elections. Just ask "Governor" Meg Whitman.
We don't wanna, and you can't make us
All that money being spent on California's ballot measures might end up preserving the status quo, because most of the initiatives that would have the most impact are either clearly headed for defeat or could lose by thin margins, if the polls are any guide. Among those measures are Proposition 30, the governor's tax increase for schools; Proposition 32, which would prevent unions from using dues to raise money for political activity; Proposition 34, to eliminate California's death penalty; and Proposition 37, to require labeling of genetically modified foods. If they fail, the results would be, respectively, $6 billion in automatic "trigger" cuts to K-12 and higher education; a continued policy of "mutually assured destruction" between unions and business interests as far as political spending; 726 inmates staying on death row, with tens of millions of dollars still flowing to their court appeals; and no more information than we already have about what we eat and drink.
Getting out the vote
California goes into this election with record-high voter registration: 18.2 million people, compared with the previous high of 17.3 million in February 2009. Some of that can be attributed to a new, easy-to-use online voter registration system, some to presidential-year enthusiasm. But registering to vote is worthless if you don't turn out. So here's your reminder:
Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. If you haven't already mailed your ballot, don't -- it won't be counted if it doesn't arrive at the elections office before 8 p.m. Tuesday. Just drop it off at any polling place in your county before the polls close.