Friday, January 16, 2004

Surest Sign that Dick Gephardt is having trouble attracted the "youth vote:"

"*** Singer Michael Bolton to perform at event ***" -- from Gephardt's public schedule 1/16-1/18 (release).

In other Iowa News, Flesh colored latex on Nipples does not violate Des Moines anti-nudity laws [Polk County Judge] "Lipman, who presided over an October trial, was offered the chance to inspect usage of the latex in his court chambers. He declined, noting in a written decision that 'the court did not feel it could accurately re-create the same lighting conditions' as in Beach Girls." [the strip club in question]

Another fun quote from the article "Court papers say police then were confronted by women 'who held their breasts up to the officers and argued that they did have material covering their breasts.'" That must have been a great scene.
In defense of Iowa and New Hampshire

Blogger extraordiniare MattS argues that Iowa shouldn't have so much say. "It seems to me that Iowa is a gimmick more than anything; 3% of a state shouldn't determine the next President. Despite all the resources invested here, most people just don't care." The sad thing is, most people don't care anywhere, even in 2000 when pundits kept saying over and over how close it was. Turnout barely got above 50%.

For some reason, no other states besides Iowa and New Hampshire seem to be capable of taking their place without ruining much of what is good about those states. So here's my pro-list on both.

  1. Both are swing states: Bush barely lost Iowa and Gore barely lost New Hampshire.
  2. The Midwest is a battleground area in 2004, where Iowa, Ohio, and Missouri seem to be the biggest targets for both parties.
  3. New Hampshire hates taxes, and so do swing voters, going through New Hampshire makes democratic candidates rethink their approach to taxes (just look at Clark or Lieberman's plans tailor made for the state).
  4. Those who do vote/caucus are highly engaged for the most part and care deeply about the issues. Try to find a sizable population like that in any other state. It takes decades to cultivate this political culture.
  5. Since they are small, candidates must rely on doorknocking, visibility, calls, town halls and the like, not Television like in bigger states were you simply can't be everywhere. This helps more marginal candidates who would otherwise be drowned out with money from other insider politicians (see Bush versus McCain in New Hampshire). Also, it gives candidates a chance to learn how to speak to real people like a human being (see the marked improvement of Kerry from Iowa and Clark from New Hampshire-- and Dean from both since 2002).
  6. These states tend to eliminate excessive candidates early, so that most voters down the road won't be confused with too many varieties of vanilla [although most people expect most of the 8 democrats to remain until February 4th, about the same time of year as past years.]
  7. These states need media attention and money that comes with "political tourism" unlike a New York, Texas, Florida, or California.

Now Matt is right, there are lots of problems with the current system, most of which would be eliminated if primaries were made more accessible to more people. If all states adopted open, mail-in/internet primaries (where both Independents, Democrats, and Republicans can vote for a McCain, a Dean, a Lieberman or a Clark). This way, poorer, internet based insurgency campaigns would have more of a fighting chance against institutional types (Bush, Gephardt, Kerry, et al) by gaining free attention via the media and internet and getting everyone to vote without having to brave the cold or rain or whatever.

It may make it harder for the media to call elections, but this is an art that is dying fast, due to cell phones and caller ID and privacy oriented Americans. As hooked on politics as I am, I could wait until morning. Really I could.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Dean getting some Braun in Iowa, where he needs it

Carol Mosley Braun that is. The ex-IL Sen. is finally dropping out of the race and will endorse Dean today in Iowa. Can't say it's surprising, Carol was deeply in debt over this "presidential" run of hers. Her candidacy was really about re-establishing her credibility with the Democratic party, who sees her as damaged goods.

This also helps Dean. One less liberal drain on his vote, one more black person endorsing him. Dean is on an endorsement fix lately. I wish he would focus more on getting voters/caucus goers endorsements instead.

Meanwhile, Iowa is getting even harder to predict; the latest Zogby poll has Kerry narrowly ahead of Dean and Gephardt. The much hyped Zogby has Kerry at 21.6 percent with Dean and Gephardt both at 20.9 percent. North Carolina Sen. John Edwards gained two percentage points to 17.1 percent, well within the pollĂ‚’s margin of error, putting all four top contenders in a statistical tie.

So is Kerry's surge and Edwards' reawakening anything more than buyers remorse? Will the organization of Dean and Gephardt make this poll meaningless? (My Bet: yes) If you thought ARG tracking poll numbers were suspect, caucus polling, especially by Zogby (who called the CO race to be a blowout win in 2002 the wrong way) is dubious at best.

So who's gonna win IA? Las Vegas odds are still in Dean's favor, although I think his win will be narrow if that. Second place is either Gephardt or Kerry's, and I don't know how Gephardt can pretend he is viable if he finishes 3rd. Ditto for Edwards: how do you take 4th place and win South Carolina?

If Edwards or Gephardt does well (2nd and 1st respectively) look for them to ditch New Hampshire and go straight to South Carolina to try to take out Clark or Dean. Personally I hope Kerry gets 3rd, so he gets no momentum into NH and most of his support melts to Clark. If Clark can stay within 10 points or less of Dean in NH, look for the media to boost him up going into South Carolina and the other 2/3 states, and for it to become a 2 man race. Then it could go down to March, where Clark will have to pull a rabbit out of his hat (hopefully that rabbit's name will be Bill Clinton) to win states like CA and NY over Dean, otherwise Dean wins it on Super Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in NH, the latest ARG poll shows Clark is within 5 points of Dean: Dean 29%, Clark 24%, Kerry 15%. As Josh Marshall says about this and the Iowa poll, "The common denominator seems pretty clear: Dean's support is falling -- not precipitously, but measurably -- and at least some Dean supporters appear to be going to his near rivals in each state." Could it become a 3 man race? Who knows.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Is New Hampshire Winnable for Clark?

CW (conventional wisdom) says "No Way!" After all, Dean has been comfortably ahead in NH for about 5 months now. The ARG tracking poll, the most respected poll out there, has Clark at 22%, Dean at 32% and Kerry at 13%, which is much better than previously (Clark started out at like 3 way back in August) but still 10 points is a lot to make up. But as ARG pollster Dick Bennett informs us, if the Clark trend continues, he could be "leading the race by the end of the weekend."

Since Clark was forced, due to poor campaign management and a late start, to skip Iowa, he will miss the bounce that Dean, Gephardt or Kerry will get from the good news.

Then again, a new Boston Herald poll of likely NH Dem primary voters found Dean with 29% support; Wesley Clark 20%; Kerry 15%; Joe Lieberman 7%; and Edwards 5%. Could Dean's support be that weak? I had said before that there was no way that Dean could melt below 35%, but two polls now show it happening. I suspect these numbers to rebound after Iowa. Unless...

What if Dean loses Iowa? Not only that, what if his second and Kerry's or Edwards' 3rd is so close that it magnifies Dean's loss (I doubt Kerry or Edwards can win Iowa but you never know, I guess).

As much as they are trying to counter spin it, if Dean doesn't win Iowa I think he is in trouble. And if Clark comes within single digits of Dean by then, he might even surpass him. Of course, that is assuming trendlines continue. I am sure once the Dean machine gets to focus on NH more, and with more candidates showing up in NH after next Monday, Clark may slip down or slow down his surge.

The press still seems poised to anoint Clark the anti-Dean. But then again, as the pasted post by Chuck Todd of The Hotline below eloquently states, "But the beauty of conventional wisdom is that it's usually created in order to be debunked down the road."I totally agree with his analysis, which is why I have it pasted below (duh).

A Stop-Clark Movement? What used to be known as the stop-Dean movement has transformed a bit into a stop-Clark campaign.

By Chuck Todd
Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2004

DES MOINES, Iowa -- With the countdown clock to Iowa about to change from days to hours, there is a growing consensus that the Democratic race will quickly become a two-person February sprint between former Gov. Howard Dean, D-Vt., and retired Gen. Wesley Clark (D).

What used to be known as the stop-Dean movement has transformed a bit into a stop-Clark campaign.

What used to be known as the stop-Dean movement has transformed a bit into a stop-Clark campaign. And where does this stop-Clark drive begin? In Iowa, of course, the one state Clark opted to avoid.

Since Dean's initial surge to the front-runner position, every campaign, including Clark's, has acknowledged that at some point this nomination fight was going to become a two-person race. All of the candidates have resigned themselves to the fact that Dean will be one of the finalists. Consequently, it is the race to be the last other candidate standing that's suddenly heating up.

The Dean camp has been nervous about Clark for weeks. In fact, when Clark first entered the race, Dean's team was the first to admit he'd be a major factor. The other campaigns were slower in acknowledging Clark's potential strength, and now it appears many are regretting it because without a stunning upset in Iowa at this point, a Dean-Clark showdown appears inevitable.

But the beauty of conventional wisdom is that it's usually created in order to be debunked down the road. So here's a look at the campaigns' various stop-Clark strategies:

• Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.: Outside of Dean, the candidate most engaged in a stop-Clark campaign is the one-time New Hampshire front-runner. Anything short of a victory in New Hampshire was supposed to sound Kerry's death knell. That said, the campaign fell so far behind Dean in the Granite State that a surge now to make Kerry's New Hampshire loss better than expected may keep the Massachusetts senator alive for another week or two.

But Clark's nonstop New Hampshire advertising and campaigning have made Kerry a third-place also-ran in New Hampshire. Kerry's best chance to overtake Clark at this point is a better-than-expected showing in Iowa. What would be better than expected? First or second -- and that's the flaw in the Kerry plan to stop Clark. Surpassing either Dean or Gephardt seems like a tall order because of the institutional organizational strength each Iowa co-front-runner has. Kerry doesn't have any major union infrastructure helping him, and that alone could stop him. Still, Kerry has one thing going for him -- an interest by Dean's campaign in seeing him catch a little fire in Iowa. Could some crazy Joe Trippi-Iowa-jujitsu help Kerry overtake Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt (D)? Anything is possible.

• Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.: His challenge is not dissimilar to Kerry's. He must figure out how to break through the Dean vs. Gephardt storyline in Iowa to get a bump in New Hampshire. Without a major Iowa breakthrough, it will be hard to get the press to focus on anything outside the Dean-Clark showdown.

Is a surprise second place in Iowa realistic for Edwards? At this point, it seems unlikely, and yet Edwards has to figure out how to get incredibly close. A very close third maybe, just maybe, might be enough to make the media give him a second look in New Hampshire. But with so much ground to make up on Clark in the state, Edwards might not have enough time, even with some media attention. To gain real momentum, Edwards would have to divert from his all-positive primary message, and if one is to believe the Edwards campaign, it's that message that has given him newfound traction in Iowa. Edwards could be in a box that he just can't break out of in time to stop Clark before Clark ends up beating him in South Carolina.

• Gephardt: Of the three major contenders attempting to stop Clark's rise in New Hampshire, Gephardt has the easiest plan: Win Iowa. Overtake Dean by even a single delegate in Iowa, and Gephardt gets a bounce that's far better than anything he experienced in 1988. Of course, there's another path Gephardt could follow that isn't there for the other major contenders -- he could skip New Hampshire and move straight to South Carolina. An Iowa win, coupled with his high-profile endorsement from leading South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn (D), could catapult Gephardt into the finals with Dean. One of the toughest decisions Gephardt will have to make if he wins Iowa is this New Hampshire-South Carolina decision.

• Dean: Believe it or not, the campaign that might be the most intent on developing a stop-Clark strategy is Dean's. The longer it takes for a one-on-one race to develop, the more likely Dean won't be stopped. The Dean camp would love nothing more than to see Kerry pull the upset in Iowa and edge ahead of Gephardt for second -- breathing a tiny bit of life into the Massachusetts Democrat heading into New Hampshire. The way the Dean campaign sees it, they already overtook Kerry once in a one-on-one showdown earlier in the summer -- there's no reason that if they're pitted against him again in the finals, they won't blow him away again.

These scenarios aside, it's still a good bet that a two-man race between Dean and Clark is inevitable. When examining it, we're struck by the similarities between this showdown and the one between President Bush and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in 2000. Like Bush, Dean leads the money primary. Like Bush, Dean is running a 50-state campaign, meaning cherry-picking primary states is out of the question. Like Bush, Dean is being painted as the less electable candidate for the general election. Like Bush, Dean has A-list surrogates to help him in states down the road should Clark get traction. Like Bush, Dean has a prickly relationship with the media. Like Bush, Dean is facing a media that is in the midst of propping up his potentially toughest foe.

Finally, like Bush, Dean has a potential rival in Clark who could be vulnerable to basic party loyalty, which eventually dooms the insurgency.

There are a few things Clark has going for him, though, that McCain did not. The biggest is money. Unlike McCain, Clark is already on the air in late-February states (like Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin) in order to plant the seeds for a national boomlet should New Hampshire go as planned. McCain had to wing it from primary to primary post-New Hampshire. Also, unlike McCain, Clark has some members of the party establishment actually pulling for him (i.e. the Clintons). And unlike McCain, there are enough February primaries that he can withstand a loss or two to Dean as long as he makes it up by winning another state.

The upcoming February sprint to the nomination could be an interesting roller coaster.

Chuck Todd is editor-in-chief of The Hotline, National Journal's daily briefing on politics. His e-mail address is

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

More truth about Bush's lies

Ex-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill was fired for disagreeing too many times with the president's policy on tax cuts. See, O'Neill lacked Washington smarts and refused to do the "leaving for personal reasons" crap. It got nasty. And now he helps Ron Suskind write a damaging book on the Bush Administration, and then talked to 60 Minutes.

"O'Neill says that the president did not make decisions in a methodical way: there was no free-flow of ideas or open debate.

"At cabinet meetings, he says the president was 'like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people. There is no discernible connection,' forcing top officials to act 'on little more than hunches about what the president might think.'

"He also says that President Bush was disengaged, at least on domestic issues, and that disturbed him. And he says that wasn't his experience when he worked as a top official under Presidents Nixon and Ford, or the way he ran things when he was chairman of Alcoa.

"'From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,' says O'’Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11.

“'From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime,' says Suskind. 'Day one, these things were laid and sealed.'

"As treasury secretary, O'Neill was a permanent member of the National Security Council. He says in the book he was surprised at the meeting that questions such as 'Why Saddam?' and 'Why now?' were never asked."

So what was BushCo's reply? To discredit him with unnamed sources saying he was ineffective and gaffe prone, they sent in life-long Dubya pal and chief fundraiser in 2000 (now Commerce Secretary) Don Evans to say Bush is a strong leader in cabinet meetings. As Paul Krugman points out they failed to discredit or disprove what O'Neill said about the war or tax cuts, because it is the truth.

"How can Howard Dean's assertion that the capture of Saddam hasn't made us safer be dismissed as bizarre, when a report published by the Army War College says that the war in Iraq was a "detour" that undermined the fight against terror? How can charges by Wesley Clark and others that the administration was looking for an excuse to invade Iraq be dismissed as paranoid in the light of Mr. O'Neill's revelations?"

My personal favorite is that they are already investigating O'Neill for a potential securty breach given that the word "Secret" appeared stamped on the illegible documents shown on a 60 minutes graphic. Yet at the same time, they sure took their sweet time with a real security breach when ex-Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife was outed as an undercover CIA operative when he spilled the beans on Cheney's trumped up "evidence" of Saddam's ambitions.

In other maddening news about how BushCo is taking this country down the tube, the International Monetary Fund, who often chides 3rd world countries or poorer countries like Mexico, Argentina, or Bukino Faso for its budgeting to get loans, wrote a scathing report about its concerns about the US budget under George W. Bush.

The IMF is largely controlled by the US and EU because those who put in the most $ get the most say on how to spend it. But, unfortunately for Bush, they also happen to be staffed with Economists. In their report that warned of the dangers to the global economy posed by the United States' lack of spending discipline, its reliance on foreign creditors, and its failure to plan adequately for future government liabilities.

Meanwhile, the new Treasury Secretary, John Snow, seems to have no trouble lying. Saying we can go to the Moon, Mars, give Prescription Drugs to the elderly, occupy Iraq and Kabul, keep massive tax cuts for the rich, oh and halve the decifit in Bush's second term.

"In the 2000 campaign," notes Slate's Daniel Gross, "Vice President Al Gore said we should sequester the Social Security surpluses in a 'lockbox' to prevent appropriators from spending them. Bush agreed in principle. But that commitment went out the window soon after the inauguration. In his first three budgets, Bush (who had the good fortune to take office at a time when the surpluses were growing rapidly) and Congress used $480 billion in excess Social Security payroll taxes to fund basic government operationsĂ‚—about $160 billion per year!

"By so doing, Washington spenders have masked the size of the deficit. For Fiscal 2004—which began in October 2003—if you factor out the $164 billion Social Security surplus, the on-budget deficit will be at least $639 billion, rather close to the modern peak of 6 percent of GDP. And according to its own projections (the bottom line of Table 8 represents the Social Security surplus), the administration plans to spend an additional $990 billion in such funds between now and 2008." And we know that those numbers are low. Which means were in even worse shape than we think, for now and the future."

OK this is too depressing, let's talk about the (hopefully) 44th president of the US.

SUSA says: Clark coming on strong. Plus: more proof that Clark is more electable than Dean

Arizona (PDF) (12/16 results in parenthesis) MoE 4.7%

Clark 39 (29)
Dean 32 (31)
Lieberman 8 (10)
Kerry 5 (7)
Gephardt 4 (9)
Other 7
Undecided 4

New Hampshire (PDF) (12/14-16 results in parenthesis) MoE 4.7%

Dean 35 (45)
Clark 26 (11)
Kerry 13 (15)
Lieberman 9 (11)
Edwards 6 (6)
Gephardt 3 (4)
Other 5
Undecided 2

Missouri (PDF) MoE 4.7%

Gephardt 37
Dean 19
Clark 15
Kerry 6
Other 6
Undecided 6
Lieberman 5
Edwards 5

Rasmussen's national poll Notes that "In the "Red States," those carried by George W. Bush in the last election, Clark is the favorite of 21%, Dean is the choice of 15% and Edwards attracts support from 12%. In the Blue States (carried by Gore), Dean leads Clark 27% to 13%."

Monday, January 12, 2004

Notes from the field: Derry redux

This Saturday, like last Saturday, I went to the Derry field office of the Wesley Clark campaign to volunteer, even with the frigid temps. In short, you can still feel the movement, even if the press has started their nitpick routine on the General.

The only major difference this time, I was at a different transfer station. Last time, I translated transfer station as dump or rubbish pile, now I think recycling center might be more apt. Anyway, I went to the Derry one this time (last time was nearby Salem) with a fellow draftee and staffer. I held up the "Braving the Cold for Wes Clark" poster which had a hunck taken out of it, presumably from the large gusts of wind that come when cars whip past you in this weather. Two-thirds of all cars gave us wave, many of which were the fingers-just-off-the steering-wheel-I-see-you-there type, but there was also lots of thumbs up and hearty waves with a smile and a full 90 degree turn of the head to say hello. most of the last third were actual honks, which always got us in a good mood and a handful of thumbs-down at most. (out of dozens to hundreds of cars/trucks)

We were positioned a few hundred feet outside the station, on the only road going in and out of the station, next to the communal sandpile. The staffer with me's unofficial duty was to see if a particular guy was working the booth of the transfer station whom the female Derry staffer had taken a liking too. Unfortunately, it was a crusty old man instead.

A bit later, a volunteer from Yale came by with his own handmade sign "Honk for Wes" and we got more honks out his hop and beg routine. Again, this was a good honk and wave result given it was three guys on the side of the road. (girls tend get many more honks as a response, partly due to their dances and cheers)

Some real characters showed up to showel sand near us. One said, "If you showel sand for me, I'll vote for Clark." and our Yalee hapily oblidged. The man used the opportunity to ask how Clark stands on various issues and we pointed him to the website for more details. Another old man, asked us where we were from. Upon hearing that we were from MA and CT, he promptly called us "fur-in-ers" or Foriegners for those of you who don't speak wannabe hick (I say wannabe because this old man turned out to be originally from OH, Cincinati I think). This Bush supporter said he was sick and tired of all these people calling him and mailing him stuff and knocking on his door. "I can't even turn on the TV any more without watching one of those damn commercials," he said.

The man went on questioning the democratic candidates "business sense." When we pointed out that Bush failed two companies, couldn't find oil in TX, whereas Clark has a masters in Economics from Oxford, taught it at West Point, was an Investment Banker for about 1.5-2 years, he muttered something but couldn't be dissuaded.

After he left, we decided to head back to the office. "That made my whole time in NH," chirped my friend and staffer. There we met up with the other 10-15 folks who came up to volunteer in Derry (there was at least 70 volunteers in Manchester that day to drop off DVD copies of the Clark bio film "American Son"). Another group had gone out to the Salem transfer station and managed to hand out Clark bars to lots and lots of poeple wanting in line. "The Clark bars really work," a classmate of mine said, "too bad they're such crappy candies." However, I noted, I am glad we aren't working for "General Snickers"

This classmate is a very intense, smart person (in a Brown University sort fo way) whom I took an education policy class with. He is taking off the semester or year to work for Clark, and I had no idea he was into the General. In the Union-Leader gpt 3 letters to the editor in to 2 Howard Dean 3 Bush 1 Kerry and 1 Kucinich.

In summary it was a very good day and turn out considering the weather. Clark is now up 9 points on Kerry and within the margin of my 15 point spread of Dean. If Kerry keeps going down, Clark could narrow the Dean gap to maybe 10 points or so, and Lieberman might get 3rd.

But at what a cost! Lieberman's campaign can't afford to pay the phone bills in any state besides NH, which is also why his whole staff is up there. Even if he does get third in NH (which I don't think will last, Kerry will tick up after 2nd or 3rd in IA), he has no money to do anything in the February 3rd states. I can't wait until him and Edwards get out, becuase it is really getting annoying these days. Almost as annoying Clark is getting to Dean.

At the same time, Dean is trying to beat back alot of attacks against him, including new information that Dean took money from special interests for speeches when governor of Vermont and complaints that he had no minorities in his cambinet during this nearly dozen years as governor of one of the whitest states-- 98%-- in the country. Instead of doing the brave political thing and note this difficulty of finding qualified minority Vermonsters, Dean, the son of a milieu worker, noted that he has the endorsements of more members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus than any other presidential hopeful.

Rev. Al Sharpton ridiculed that, saying in last night's debate, "I don't think that answers the questions ... I think you only need co-signers if your credit is bad." Thanks Al, for reminding me why you are around. What a great line.