Friday, January 09, 2004

Putting the Reality in Television

My favorite reality TV of late is NBC's The Apprentice a purposely campy Donald Trump chooses a new president for a company show.

The great part about it is not just that it cuts through the crap of what the show is really about (bickering and backstabbing and butt-kissing vs. "surviving" on an island) but that I know that at least one of the cartoon-like characters is really actually how they seem on TV.

If you saw the show last night after Friends, you will know whom I speak, if not, watch it next week and pay attention to Sam the guy who tried to rent us his girlfriends apartment my fiancee and I Summer 2002 in suburban (MoCo) DC. I say tried because he was extremely forceful in his sales push, and the place was crap (both in quality and price) compared to what we ended up getting about a block away.

Poor Sam, he really tries way too hard. I am still trying to figure out how he has a girlfriend, because this is the kind of guy that would try to "close the sale" on that too.

Since Trump gets to decide who to fire (and the contestants get to choose the 3 he has to choose from) the dynamics are different than a normal reality show.

Everyone hates Sam, yet his aggressiveness and "spunk" got him a second chance this week. No doubt producers will pressure "The Donald" to keep Sam as long as possible, since the kid makes great TV. And gives used car salesmen a bad name, but that's another story.

Now on to politics

Rumor has it that John Kerry is set to get IA Sen. Tom Harkin's endorsement this afternoon in a coup that not only could singlehandedly revive Kerry's campaign but doom Howard Dean and makes sense for Harkin, if you think about it.

The "Hamlet of the Heartland" is liberal and take no prisoners like Dean, but after Gore and Bradley's endorsement, he looks like small potatoes and just following the crowd if he were to support him. And even if he won, Deanies could still say, we didn't need you plusably. Gephardt has Unions behind him that Harkin will need in 2008 when he runs for reelection, but again, it is a bit late for Harkin to get in and make enough dent or news out of it. Plus, even if Dick wins IA, were does he win after that? MO certainly but SC MI and others are doubtful since he has very little staff or money elsewhere, at least compared to Clark and Dean. So if Tom bets on Dick, he may get (sorry for the horrible pun) screwed.

By backing Kerry in constrast, there will be huge stories about it "Is this Howard's End?" and "Kerry the Komeback Kid" or KtKK. And Kerry, one could argue, has enough surge in IA to actually win it (see polls below), if he got the strong orginization backing of his fellow senator. That is of course assuming that the latest Dean gaffe kills him "If you look at the caucuses system, they are dominated by the special interests in both parties" - Dean in 2000 on Canadian TV. He added, "The special interests don't represent the centrist tendencies of the American people. They represent the extremes." More fun Dean quotes, "I can't stand there and listen to everyone else's opinion for eight hours about how to fix the world," and the Iowa Caucuses are "a waste of time." Couldn't agree with you more, Governor.

In other bad press for the Doctor, The Dean campaign has fired "two low-level volunteers who went into Kerry's campaign offices pretending to be average voters." Kerry claims it is a "Paid Dean Staffer" Afterall, how do you fire two "low-level volunteers?"

If Kerry actually won IA, both Gephardt and Dean would be toast, although Dean would still be strong in NH. Perhaps Kerry's supporters would come back to him, and the anti-Dean vote would coalesse around Kerry. Even better, it becomes a Kerry-Clark race, since Dean's winabilty is a big part of his support. [Dream on -Ed.]

Survey USA has this questioned result for the Iowa Caucuses:

Dean 29 (43)
Gephardt 22 (23)
Kerry 21 (15)
Edwards 17 (10)
Other 8 (?)
Undecided 3 (?)

KCCI's Research 2000 IA Poll of Dem caucus voters found Dean had 29% support; Dick Gephardt 25%; John Kerry 18%; Undecided 13% and John Edwards 8% [ That sounds more like it -Ed]

This all means that turnout will be key for all three and that Sen. Edwards should take his VP campaign on the road.

According to the Arizona Republic, Clark "hazed" incoming West Point Plebes: "Instead of sending us on fool's errands or making us repeat useless memorized information, he asked questions about current events." Oh boy, that's rough. I do that to my fiancee too.

And now for something completely different

Mike Gibby: "Something needs to be done. Immigrants are taking all of the good jobs." Mark Goldy: "Please. Name one good job taken by an immigrant." Gibby: "Governor of California" ("Late, Late Show").

Thursday, January 08, 2004

as Clark's NH gap b/w him and Kerry widdens, Dean thinks about shifting is IA supporters to Kerry to hurt Clark

WH '04 Dem Primary Matchup
1/5-7 1/4-6 1/3-5 1/2-4 1/1-3 12/31-1/2 12/30-1/1 12/31-29
Dean 35% 36% 37% 39% 39% 38% 37% 37%
Clark 18 16 14 12 12 13 13 13
Kerry 12 13 14 14 14 14 15 16
Lieberman 8 7 7 6 6 6 6 6
Gephardt 6 6 6 6 6 5 5 6
Edwards 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4
Kucinich 2 2 2 2 3 2 2 2
Braun - - - - - - - -
Sharpton - - - - - - - -
Undec. 16 17 16 17 16 18 19 16
Meeting the Press

I told you yesterday that Clark is in second place in New Hampshire, but I waited until today to tell you about the recent media re-discovery of Clark, now that his campaign is hitting its stride.

Slate's Chris Suellentrop wrote two articles about Clark, one on his tag-along tale of Clark's rhetoric and support in New Hampshire: "As a candidate, Clark has improved his skills dramatically since I watched him speak in September. He's smoother, more coherent, and more concise. He's also willing to give voters at least mildly unpopular answers."

The second is on Dean's dirty tricks flyer that attacks Clark, and the General's glee that he is being attacked.

"On one side, the flyer reads "WESLEY CLARK: PRO-WAR," followed by a list of the general's much-discussed statements in support of the congressional Iraq war resolution. It's the stuff that gave Clark grief when he entered the race in the fall: He advised Rep. Katrina Swett in October 2002 to vote for the resolution, and he told reporters this past September that "on balance, I probably would have voted for it." On the other side, the flyer reads "WESLEY CLARK: REAL DEMOCRAT?" followed by Clark's much-discussed statements in praise of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the Bush Cabinet, plus evidence of his pro-Republican voting record in presidential elections (until 1992)."

Dr. Hypocrisy strikes again. Wasn't it Dean who whined, "Terry, make them stop picking on me!" and said "We Democrats shouldn't attack each other." When he is being attacked? The good doctor is also being muzzled by his staff to ensure that he won't say any more stupid stuff and make the gap between him and Clark narrow nationally and in New Hampshire.

In response to the flyer, Clark told the Times:

"Asked about his voting history by a voter at the forum, General Clark said, 'I never was a Republican.'

He added that many in the military did not belong to a political party but chose candidates who were 'strong on national defense.' [like most Reagan Democrats]

'After the Vietnam War, the Democratic Party and some of the presidential candidates seemed to be wobbling all over the map on being strong for America,' General Clark said. 'So I voted for people who would take care of the country.'

General Clark, who repeatedly refers to himself as 'a leader, not a politician,' said of the critical flier, 'I guess that's what professional politicians do.'"

Dean can't call Clark a "Washington Democrat" this is an outsider vs. outsider race. Clark can even claim he is more of an outsider, since he has never run for an office, unlike Dean's dozen years in the Governor's chair of puny Vermont.

Tried to get a job from this last profiler, but he didn't hire me, and I am not upset, because he does a better job articulating why I like Gen. Clark:

"While many of the Democratic presidential candidates might agree with the tenor of Clark's broad [foreign] policy guidelines, it's not clear that they would be willing to back up the soft side of U.S. power with its harder edge. With Clark, on the other hand, there is little doubt. It was Clark, after all, who during the Bosnian war demanded--to the point of hectoring a furious superior officer--that bombing continue until Milosevic withdrew from Sarajevo. And it was Clark, together with a handful of Clinton officials, who pushed for military intervention in Kosovo when the Pentagon brass and many NATO leaders preferred to do nothing. Clark, unlike his rivals, has actually led wars, not just voted for them."

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Turning Point: Clark's in 2nd in NH

I know I had said with each passing day, Kerry sinks and Clark rises, but now it is offical:

WH '04 Dem Primary Matchup
1/4-6 1/3-5 1/2-4 1/1-3 12/31-1/2 12/30-1/1 12/31-29
Dean 36% 37% 39% 39% 38% 37% 37%
Clark 16 14 12 12 13 13 13
Kerry 13 14 14 14 14 15 16
Lieberman 7 7 6 6 6 6 6
Gephardt 6 6 6 6 5 5 6
Edwards 3 3 3 3 3 3 4
Kucinich 2 2 2 3 2 2 2
Braun - - - - - - -
Sharpton - - - - - - -
Undec. 17 16 17 16 18 19 16

Pollster Dick Bennett: "Clark's strength remains among men age 45 and older and he has a new television ad running in New Hampshire that gained very favorable playback from women on Monday. If the trend to Clark continues and he is able to improve among women age 45 and older, he will be alone in second place." Bennett notes "Clark was in front of Kerry" by 4 points in 1/4 polling, and by 6 points on 1/5 (release, 1/7).

Kerry hopes that second place in IA will resurrect him in NH. Fat chance. At best, he would get 2nd place. Dean's 35-40% is pretty solid, but the question is, what part of Kerry's 13 points is solid? Could JFK come up with only 10%? Although Dean's lead is still huge (20 points) I think Clark can chip into that lead. The media are chomping at the bit for another guy to write about.

Boston Globe's Lehigh writes, A "sense of skittishness" about Howard Dean is "beginning to stir" in NH. Whether that "doubt freshens" to a "gaffe-driven gust" or is "merely an evanescent breeze of unease" remains to be seen, but "creeping disquiet" Dean came up "often" in conversations with more than "three-dozen voters" on 1/2 and 1/5.
The "misgivings don't appear strong enough" to "deprive" Dean of a NH win. But they do "raise the prospect" of a "strong second place" finish for another candidate. The two candidates voters are "looking most closely at" as "Dean alternatives" -- John Kerry and Wesley Clark -- have "very different ideas" about how to "contest" NH.
Clark has a "clearer sense" of NH "momentum," drawing "large crowds" at events. His campaign thinks he can "win" by "focusing like a laser" on NH. He's now in the "midst" of an "11-day stay," and he plans to come back in "midmonth" and "remain" through the 1/27 primary (1/7).
now there's proof

The secret is out, I am a Clark supporter. Here's the picture on the Clark event finder. I am the tool not looking straight into the General's eyes. But at least I figured out where the camera was.

After you are done with that, see how much you would save under Clark's tax plan. It is a pretty clear, simple but powerful plan, offering tax cuts for most and eleminating taxes for 34 million Americans.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Dean's boo-boo

Just a week ago, Howard Dean was complaining that Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe wasn't doing enough to protect him from the critisim of his rivals. Well one rival who has stayed above the fray and has been very diplomatic when talking about his fellow Democratic Party candidates is now entering Dean's crosshairs apparently.

The Arizona Republic has a story where some reporters by mistake were allowed to listen in on an internal Dean campaign conference call about the next strategy the Dean campaign should use. A quote from the article:

"Another staffer indicated that in a survey of voters Monday by telephone, people expressed concern that "this guy (Dean) is indecisive" and Bradley, a former Hall of Fame player in the National Basketball Association and a three-term senator from New Jersey, could help counter that.

"The Bradley message could be, like, (Dean) knew where he stood on the war, is still a Democrat, takes . . . positions, blah, blah, blah," the staffer said.

The next day, the speaker said, "surrogates" for Dean, both local and national, could "then hit Clark on the flip side of the argument: that he's indecisive, didn't know what party he's with, doesn't know his position on the war," she said.

The Clark campaign has decided to respond with the following:

Yesterday, the Dean campaign inadvertently revealed to reporters its secret strategy to discredit General Clark. The strategy was reported in today's Arizona Republic.

As the Republic reports, the Dean camp plans to use Bill Bradley's endorsement to counter the perception among New Hampshire voters - apparently evident in the Dean polling - that Governor Dean is "indecisive," and they plan to use both former Senator Bradley and other surrogates to attack General Clark.

Clark Campaign Communications Director Matt Bennett responded to this report:

"The Dean camp's secret back-room plotting to have Bill Bradley and others attack Wes Clark isn't a bit surprising. Governor Dean seems to like others to do his heavy lifting - just last week Howard Dean asked Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe to protect him from the criticisms of his rivals. The fundamental difference between Governor Dean and General Clark is that Howard Dean is a politician, and Wes Clark is a leader."

"Wes Clark has run a war, making life and death decisions every day. If the Dean Campaign wants to have a debate about decisiveness, we're ready."
Taking the flag back

Clark, when asked if his plan allows low-income Americans to benefit from gov't without paying taxes: "No, because I don't think that's the correct syllogism. I will tell you that people from poorer families are paying for the cost of the war because if you look at who's fighting it, our armed forces is made up disproportionately of people from the least advantaged families in America. They're paying for it with their sons and daughters, with their relatives, their brothers and sisters who are over there fighting, while by and large, the wealthiest families do not have their own sons and daughters engaged in this fight. So, don't ever make the argument that the poorer people in America aren't contributing to this country when they don't pay these income taxes" ("Big Story," FNC, 1/5).
Letting air out of the balloon

Last night on Hardball General Clark wasn't asked about his groundbreaking Tax Plan, of course, but about the Clinton Impeachment.

That's so 1998 Chris. I guess the point was to test Clark's Clinton loyalty because Mathews is a Clinton-Love-Hater and thinks this is Clark's only true weakness-- his reliance on Bubba. Sure enough, Clark sort of said Clinton should have been censured instead of impeached and raised the larger point of our allies saying this is bad for America and we lost a year that we could have focused on more important stuff-- like the African Embassy Bombings by Al Queda, our failed attempt to bomb his camps, or domestic issues like health care, taxes, social security, you name it.

While Mathews was rehashing 6 year old hits, his panel noted that not only is Clark emerging as Dean's number one opponnet, but that Dean is already trying to do something about it.

Dean-lover Howard Fineman, who knows so much about the West that in 2000 he got Las Vegas confused with Salt Lake City, said that Dean's folks told him their internal New Hampshire polling has Clark already in second place, even better than the ARG poll I talked about yesterday (Clark doesn't pay for polls because enough people are doing them for free).

Why did they give Newsweek columnist Fineman that tidbit? Why to lessen the media bounce that Clark will get when he "comes out of nowhere" to place a strong second and beats out Kerry.

Assuming Dean out organizes Gephardt (especially if there is a snow storm, Dick is in trouble since his folks aren't as diehard as Dean's) in Iowa and Clark gets 2nd in New Hampshire, we have a two man race. After January 27th there could be no Gephardt, no Kerry (and assuming Kerry gets 3rd in IA and NH, possibly no Edwards either). Soon, we have a race with the first tier of Dean and Clark, second tier of Edwards and Lieberman, 3rd of the rest (look for Carol to give it up soon, no money is left and her goal of respectability has been achieved).

I don't see how Edwards can win South Carolina with two 4th place finishes in the first two, nor do I see Lieberman doing well anywhere but Delaware on February 3rd. Again, Clark is already second in every state save Iowa. Once his ads and staff get in there, he could narrow the gap as more "Washington Democrats" drop out and the "stop-Dean" vote coalesces around Clark.

At most, Dean has about 30-40% of the Democratic party. With 9 people running, that's a landslide. But with two people (plus liberal tokens like Sharpton and Kucinich), 30 or 40% doesn't sound all that good.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Notes from the field

I was New Hampshire on Saturday, (Derry, Salem, and Londonderry to be exact) and while the weather wasn't that nice, I was able to get a feel for what is going on over there: Clark is gaining ground everyday.

At the Salem "Transfer Station" which sounds like a bus or train stop but is really the local recycling/trash center, 5 intrepid souls camped outside with small Clark posters. Across the street were 3 sad looking Kerry supporters with a 8x10 "New Hampshire for Kerry" sign. They had the superior position, directly facing those leaving the station, while we had a side that faced the main road at a 45 degree angle. One of the staffers with us volunteers and a friend of mine from the Draft movement days called in for a 8x10 of our own, which didn't come for at least 30 minutes. After getting out "honk and waved" by the locals 5-to-1 the Kerry folks trugged back to their car, and even gave us a honk.

In a city like Derry, the local dump is actually the best place to meet people on a Saturday. It is a fairly rural place for Southern New Hampshire right off the Interstate. It is also an area that Clark needs to win to do well in the state, given that independents and republicans live there mostly and all the college towns are locked up by Dean.

We did phone banking too. People were mostly out (or had used caller ID to not answer our calls) but for every negative call "I am republican," or "Stop calling me," we got a Kerry or Dean supporter who was giving Clark another look, or leaning towards Clark.

Then the head of the Derry office, who is also a friend from the Draft days, gave me the latest poll numbers: on the last day of polling, Clark and Kerry were TIED for second place, not just statistically but at 15 points a piece. Every day of the tracking poll, Kerry had gone down at least a point (the two point difference in the published results are due to averaging the results of several days). Dean too, had melted down to 35%.

A realistic goal, I think, is to narrow the gap with Dean to 15 points and come in second. If you think I am giving a overly optimistic and biased view of the scene on the ground, don't take my word for it. Look at the polls, the fundraising and the turnout at events.

"General Clark has begun to fill some rooms. In Nashua it was standing room only in the city hall. While all the other viable candidates attended a debate forum in Iowa, Clark stayed in New Hampshire. Clark looks like a candidate, now. He looks more comfortable, makes jokes easier, and generally looks much smoother than when he signed up in the Secretary of State's office to run in New Hampshire's primary. When he signed up it was hard to see him becoming very formidable. But the guy has been a quick study, and his operation has begun to look viable.

Don't be surprised if it quickly becomes a Dean/Clark race. "

The standing room only event referred there was a town hall meeting in Portsmouth while I was in Derry. About 200 people were expected, the event was supposed to be in a church basement. More than 800 showed up. Organizers moved the event to the main sanctuary to accommodate the crowd.

The same day, more than 130 people showed up to a town hall in North Hampton. When the fire marshal closed the doors, 30 supporters were lined up outside and two more buses full of people were on the way. Another Clark staffer summed it up to me, "Something good is happening in New Hampshire."