Saturday, January 24, 2004

Notes from the Field: Portsmouth, near Parity

This Saturday (this morning and afternoon) I went to Portsmouth instead of Derry (in NH). The results were much different. Partly this was due to Kerry's reassurance via Iowa, and partly because of the demographics of the town. Busloads of Kerry supporters came by, as well as Dean buses. Three lonely wackos in a car came for Kucinich.

We left Alewife too late (8:30AM) for the pancake breakfast at an Auburn fire station, staffers told me that Clark drew an overflow crowd of more than 400 people.

When we came to the biggest intersection downtown, there was already a turf war going on between Dean and Clark folks. A Clark guy from Princeton told me (he bused up 45 people for the weekend) that they had gotten some good response honk-and-wave-wise in the morning before the Deanies had shown up. But I looked straight up behind him and it looked like the Dean Portsmouth office was right there.

The Dean supporters had patented Howard Dean brand warm hats, baseball hats, scarves and double sided 8x10s, as well as chants from the protest folks. "I say Howard you say Dean: [call] Howard, [response] Dean. I say Doctor and you say Dean: [call] Doctor, [response] Dean. I say Governor and you say Dean: [call] Governor, [response] Dean. I say President and you say Dean: [call] President, [response] Dean" You get the idea. One Princeton Clark guy poked fun at their chant, saying "I say Supreme Allied Commander of all Forces in Europe, and you say Clark!" OK, well he was a bit obnoxious how much he talked but it was extremely cold and it pissed the Deanies off, so I didn't mind.

There were swarms (dozens and dozens) of campaign volunteers (from Dean, Kerry, Clark, and Kucinich) on every corner, and tons of press too. I got interviewed by a kid at UNH who had a Newspaper class, filmed by two or three film crews, and saw multiple interviews going on around me. And that was all before the General showed up!

About the same time as Clark's van showed up, Doctor Dean got out and did the walk routine nearby too. Friends of mine (Gary) with Clark signs saw him get dropped off right next to them. Dean was none too pleased that the Clark folks were in his turf and crossed the street with a scowl on his face to see his supporters.

The number of volunteers was fairly equal. Dean or Kerry might have had more than another but Clark was pretty competitive. The "Arkansas Travelers" who went to NH for Clinton were there (very thick accents) plus some who knew Wes personally. Nice old ladies, who told me that the Dean folks had drawn a mustache on their "flat Wesley"-- a life-size poster cut out of Gen. Clark. I could see where they wiped off the 'stashe.

We went to a rally in an auditorium, where over 900 people showed up to hear Clark speak. About 100 people stood outside because the fire code barred more them from entering the building. [Don't believe my numbers? I saw a woman with a counter as I ascended the stairs to the balcony.] Clark met with them afterwards to say thanks.

Too bad he was introduced by Ted Dansen. But his wife, Mary Steenburgen, was a childhood friend of Clark's, so that was a neat story. "We've come a long way since Valentine Street," said the actress in Elf. Not as good as "I still believe in a place called Hope!" but it is a start.

They also were using it to film an ad for the February 3rd states, so they asked us to take off our jackets because the people in AZ wouldn't get how cold it was.

General Clark lost his much maligned sweater (ok so he's donating it to charity for homeless veterans in NH by auctioning it on EBay) and just got into a newer version of his stump speech. He still needs to learn not to step on the applause, but it was good otherwise. He said that family values are Democratic values. "Family values means valuing families!" He said, and went on to site Bush's poor record on jobs, education, and the environment. Clark then said what he would do to turn this all around. It was a pretty good speech and the crowd roared to its feet several times.

Overall, it wasn't as satisfying for me because I didn't get much time to talk to voters, save the UNH kid, but I think he was just taking notes and not necessarily being persuaded as to why I liked the General. So far, I see no need to change my projections. Kucinich is still crazy, Deanies are still mean and bitter, Kerry looks strong and they were pretty nice to us now that they are winning. In fact, the second time I stood on that corner with a 8x10, a Kerry man from Queens struck up a nice conversation with me. He liked Gert since she is from Brooklyn and said she was on the news for riding the F line. Another Kerry lady asked, "If Clark wins, who would he pick as his VP?" Which is surprising coming out of a person supporting the frontrunner who is supposedly coasting to the nomination now. To be nice, I said some one like Kerry.

"We all have to come together in the end," he said. And I agree and think we will. If it Kerry, or Clark, or Edwards, or even Dean. One of the Dean chants that we all liked was "My fingers are frozen, my toes are cold, Bush and Cheney are gettin' old" the other was "Hey Hey, Ho Ho Bush has gotta go!" But the toes one is more clever and appropriate for temps in the teens with hard Arctic winds.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Can you do me a Favor?

In IA, the indicator that people ignored that foretold Kerry and Edwards' raise (and Dean and Gephardt's fall) was favorable/unfavorable ratings of the candidates, and how much more negative Dean was viewed towards the end.

Check out, then ARG's favorability ratings on the NH race, and see if you agree with me that Dean can't get second place: "Howard Dean's favorable is now at 31%, his unfavorable is 42%, and 27% are aware of Dean but undecided. Yesterday, Dean's favorable was 33%, his unfavorable was 30%, and 37% were undecided. Of the 31% with a favorable opinion of Dean, 28% say they will vote for Dean and 32% say they will vote for John Kerry.

Kerry's favorable is 77%, his unfavorable is 14%, and 9% are undecided. Wesley Clark's favorable is 49%, his unfavorable is 19%, and 32% are undecided. John Edward's favorable is 56%, his unfavorable is 14%, and 30% are undecided. Joe Lieberman's favorable is 49%, his unfavorable is 30%, and 21% are undecided. "
Newton's Third Law

Or, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Unfortunately for Dean, two actions (one by him--"The Speech" and one by Kerry-- "The Comeback Kerry") have the same result: him sinking fast.

In fact, Kerry is opening up a huge lead in the state as Dean continues to fall. At first I thought most of this was coming at Clark's expense, but Clark still seemed to be hovering in the high teen to low twenties. And his new neighbor in the polls is Gov. Howard Dean, MD. In fact, in the latest ARG tracking poll, Dean has fallen to third. Remember how I used to think 30 points was his lower limit of support? How he couldn't lose NH at least, oh and that Kerry couldn't win? Well all that is out the window. I bet Clark wishes he would have gotten into the race in the summer and played in Iowa, where he could have gotten a Kerry bounce and pulled off an Edwards, instead of working at Dunkin Donuts or bagging groceries in NH.

Now that he won Iowa convincingly, all of Kerry's old supporters from the spring when he was in the lead have come back to the Junior Senator from Massachusetts. So will Kerry keep his comeback label or will he sink back into the funk that got him in trouble, just like Gore did, as Marshall intones in his The Hill collumn recently.

As for the debate, this was like the ones of old, in other words, a total waste of time...Yawn. Everyone, especially Dean, was afraid of sounding too negative so they said nothing. Except Sharpton, who proved he is nothing but a race-baiter with no knowledge of government, thank goodness he has no prayer. Clark was thrown crap questions that kept him on the defensive. As Josh Marshall noted, the panelists were totally biased: "You had one questioner who is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, another who is the head political writer for a fiercely conservative newspaper, another who was a soft-soap local anchor man, and Peter Jennings. That tilt gave the questioning an unmistakable skew. Next time there’s a Republican primary debate I’m hoping they'll take the same approach and have the questioners be, maybe, Tom Oliphant, Molly Ivins, Matt Lauer and Tom Brokaw."

It almost seems like GOPers are happier that Kerry is now the man and not Dean. They can't wait to use all his liberal votes and liberal associations (Dukakias and Teddy Kennedy, Mass. SJC gay marriage ruling) to tar him with voters. So why did Clark keep getting horrible questions if he was totally out of it? Don't get me wrong, I think he was OK at best. This was his chance to show why he should win over Dean or Kerry, and he got no love. Not from the questioners nor from the audience, who barely clapped for him.

Nonetheless, I will make this bold prediction on Tuesday's results (to be revised on Monday if necessary):

  1. Kerry: 30-35%
  2. Clark: 20-25%
  3. Dean:15-20%
  4. Edwards: 10-15+%
  5. Lieberman:5-10%

Margin of Error: 4 points

# Latest NH Numbers: John Kerry 31%, Wesley Clark 20%, Howard Dean 18%, John Edwards 11% (ARG, 1/20-22); Kerry 34%, Dean 19%, Clark 14%, Edwards 11% (Globe/WBZ, 1/21-22); Kerry 30%, Dean 22%, Clark 14%, Edwards 7% (MSNBC/Reuters/Zogby, 1/20-22); Kerry 26%, Dean 19%, Clark 17%, Edwards 7% (WHDH/Suffolk, 1/21-22).

# More Numbers: Kerry 30%, Dean 16%, Clark 14%, Edwards 10% (FPC, 1/20-22); Kerry 30%, Dean 25%, Clark 19%, Edwards 8% (Fox/WCVB/WMUR/UNH, 1/19-21); Kerry 30%, Dean 25%, Clark 18%, Edwards 11% (CNN/USA Today/Gallup, 1/19-21).

Top Ten Ways I, Howard Dean, Can Turn Things Around [from Letterman last night]

10. "Switch to decaf"
9. "Unveil new slogan: 'Vote for Dean and get one dollar off you next purchase at Blimpie'"
8. "Marry Rachel on final episode of 'Friends'"
7. "Don't change a thing -- it's going great"
6. "Show a little more skin"
5. "Go on 'American Idol' and give 'em a taste of these pipes"
4. "Start working out and speaking with Austrian accent"
3. "I can't give specifics yet, but it involves Ted Danson"
2. "Fire the staffer who suggested we do this lousy Top Ten list instead of actually campaigning"
1. "Oh, I don't know -- maybe fewer crazy, redfaced rants"

Thursday, January 22, 2004

On a dime

The one constant in politics is change...Oh and money. Those who have the money-- Dean and Clark-- need to change rapidly (six days) to ensure that they don't lose out big time.

Kerry finally changed his message and tone, sort of a half-Dean, half-Edwards populism with a little bit of veteran/Vietnam plugging on the side. Polls are all over the map in terms of actual numbers, but the results/trends are about the same: Kerry is close to or narrowly ahead of Dean, who is falling, and Clark is in third, with Edwards nipping ahead of Lieberman.

People who would vote for Kerry or Clark are basically the same voters, as Josh Marshall pointed out: "Those voters are moderate-ish Democrats, people for whom the electability pitch is an important one, people who warm, for various reasons, to the candidates’ military credentials. So that's the big fight." What Clark needs to do, is to argue, as Edwards has done, that Yankees can't do well in the South and therefore I am more Electable and better able to Beat Bush than Kerry or Dean.

Clark needs to alter what he is doing now that his momentum as evaporated and not soundesperatete or too liberal. Bashing Kerry's military creditentials won't get you anywhere. Bashing Kerry's "Washington Democrat" status could be a good move. You are the outsider now, do it.

As for Dean, he needs to stop the bleeding and sound like an adult, not sound bites for Techno. If he holds on to his support and gets back a few folks that were moving to Kerry or Clark, he is back. He can do it by being the outsider again, but it will be hard when he has Gore, Bradley, SEIU and AFSCME on his side. The other route is to just out organize everyone and make us believe in the magic of the internet again.

Edwards is the big mystery man. Could he sneak up on Kerry, Dean and Clark while they bleed each other dry? He doesn't need to do well here, if he gets a strong fourth even, I think he will be fine going into South Carolina, and if he beats Clark, then hprobablyly wins South Carolina. Keep on keeping on kid.

The trouble for the Iowa duo is that they spena lotot of cash (same with Dean) on the state. Kerry is trying to raise a million by Tuesday. Edwards is doing something similar. But Clark and Dean have put the troops and ads in the field in many future states. Can Kerry carry (sorry) his momentum, assuming he wins New Hampshire, into South Carolina, Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and New Mexico by February 3rd along with Tennesseese and Virginiana by February 10th?

I don't see JFK creeping into first in any of those states until Michigan or Wisconsin which come a week after that. At this point at least, Clark is looking good in SC, AZ, DE, OK, ND, TN, and VA. Dean's numbers in all those states will collapse to a degree due to his Iowa and New Hampshire showing (assuming he loses NH). Can Clark's campaign successfullyly spin a 3rd place in NH as a win? If he wins South Carolina somehow over Edwards, I think smiley is in trouble. Clark need to win several states on 2/3 to stay in it, with or without a strong NH showing. Either he or Edwards will win TN and VA but Michigan and Wisconsin will probably go to Kerry or Dean.

After that who knows? He who is best at rapid change while still semi-consistant always wins (see Bush's "Reformer with Results" in SC and Dean's mimic "Deliverer with Results" in NH). My bet, if Edwards wins NH, it is all over, but that won't happen. My Groundhog says it will be at least another month of campaigning. This just got interesting. :)
More good news for Kerry

# The Latest NH Numbers: John Kerry 31%, Howard Dean 21%, Wesley Clark 16%, John Edwards 11% (Globe/WBZ-TV/KRC, 1/20-21); Kerry 31%, Dean 21%, Clark 16%, Edwards 11% (Herald/RKM, 1/20-21); Kerry 27%, Dean 24%, Clark 15%, Edwards 8% (MSNBC/Reuters/Zogby, 1/19-21); Kerry 27%, Dean 19%, Clark 15%, Edwards 7% (WHDH 7News/Suffolk Univ., 1/20-21); Dean 29%, Kerry 27%, Clark 18%, Edwards 8% (Fox/WCVB-TV/WMUR-TV/UNH, 1/18-20).

# Kerry was endorsed by the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald.

And, if he is afraid of Chop Sticks, here's a formula he can use.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Now what?

Now that Kerry and Edwards pulled huge upset victories over the old labor giant Dick Gephardt and the internet-driven Howard Dean, what happens to everyone else's campaign and especially, New Hampshire?

Well, let's look at those polls. I am not one to site only favorable polls. So let's look: Latest NH tracking polls: John Kerry 27%, Howard Dean 24%, Wesley Clark 17%, John Edwards 9% (Globe/WBZ, 1/19-20); Dean 25%, Kerry 23%, Clark 16%, Edwards and Joe Lieberman 7% (MSNBC/Reuters/Zogby, 1/18-20); Dean 22%, Kerry 20%, Clark 15%, Edwards 6% (7News/Suffolk Univ., 1/19-20) and Dean 33%, Kerry 24%, Clark 18%, Edwards 8% (Fox/WCVB/WMUR, 1/17-19).

Edwards hasn't ticked up much in New Hampshire and I think it will be extremely tough for him to even get 3rd or 4th there. If he is smart, he will take his show on the road to South Carolina and hope that either Dean or Kerry wins, making Clark that much weaker in his formerly must win state (I think Iowa give him an excuse and cash to stay in longer).

Hats off to Kerry. He really pulled out all the stops and I guess it shows once again what he is capable of when his back is against the wall like it was in 1996. But the question remains, how much money and support does he have outside the Granite State. After all, he isn't taking matching funds and spend nearly $3 million on Iowa (less than Dean did but still, Dean has much more than he does).

In my boat, the internet revolution lost the battle and is seriously in doubt. Sure, it is a great way to raise money and to keep your supporters involved when they live far away from the action of the early primaries, but it didn't get caucus goers to show up in Iowa. Dean lost by 20 points! It also shows that his message was too angry, too focused on Gephardt and the war, and not what Dean would do if president (besides the exact opposite of Bush).

I would honestly be happy if Kerry or Edwards win the nomination, and feel pretty ok about their chances, assuming Kerry picks a Clark or a Graham to balance himself regionally. Dean just worried me, not because of the internet, but because he was railing against Clinton and Bush with almost equal vigior. I don't think a single one of his fans knows one of his proposals other than raising taxes (rolling back the Bush tax cut). Dean looks to be in major trouble. If he even gets second in New Hamphire, I think the media will pronouce him DOA and much of his following will evaporate. He will still have a lot of money and rapid supporters in many states, but I think losing two states they really should have won would be very demoralizing.

As for Clark, he is in trouble too. His whole campaign needs to rethink its strategy now that there isn't a Howard Dean to beat up on as much. If Clark haddn't "bobbled the question" in September on the war, he could go after Kerry on the war, but I guess he can leave Dean for that. Most of Clark's losses in New Hampshire (from 24% to 17%) have gone to Kerry and were mostly Kerry's dissolutioned supporters. Clark has the harder task of taking from both Dean and Kerry to bring himself back into second place and even contention for a win. If he does his job right in the next couple days, we could see a 3 way race for 1st place, instead of 3rd place.

Lieberman, is just like Dick Gephardt, a Dead Man Walking, but he still is refusing to leave saying he won't quit even if he can't get 3rd in NH which clearly is going to happen (he might not get 4th). When will Joe call it a show? please let the farce end soon. Al From, (and Bill Clinton) please give him a call, tell him enough is enough.

Speaking of Dick Gephardt, I would like to wish him happy trails. A man who spent nearly 3 decades in the congress as a tribune for the working man and woman, to the union laborers. He was classy the whole way, and gracious in defeat. I might have disagreed with him on the war or trade, but we can all still respect him. Please make him the next Secretary of Labor or head of a union lobbying group (like SEIU AFL-CIO or something). Gephardt said goodbye on Monday night that didn't leave a dry eye in the house.

Dean's curtain call, in contrast was horrible on Monday night. The former frontrunner was anything but gracious or calm and gave more fodder for the opposition with his scream routine. My father, who donated to the Dean campaign (don't ask me how much-- makes me sad just thinking about it), said "I want my money back!"

Kerry, as usual, droaned on way to much. There were some really good points in that speech and it was right for him to take a victory lap. But if I hear one more "And I say to you" I am going to scream myself. Just Say It should be their motto. No more "Frankly" or "And I say to you" or "In the words of" ....just say what you mean in plain English, thank you.

Edwards gave the best speech overall. Crisp happy and bullet pointing his message, which is a good one. The "two Americas" routine is excellent. The more he talks about what he will do to make it One America again, the better. Three cheers for Johnny.

Clark got too fiesty with Bob Dole on Larry King. He made me look bad in front of my family after I had talked him up so much. There is still time for him to get back second or even first, but he has to focus like a lazer beam on his domestic issues and foreign affairs, and not quibble with how many years Kerry spent in the services. Also, February 3rd and 10th seem like the days he can mount a comeback on the emmerging Kerry/Edwards threat with big wins, let alone Dean.

I didn't see Bush's State of the Union last night, but it sound like his greatest hits: The War on Terror Continues; Keep the Tax Cuts Perminant; Reaching out to the Swing Voters; and Tough Talk, Weak Action. When will he get it? Never, that is why we need a new president. One who cares about exploding health costs and the uninsured, about diplomatic relations, global treaties, the environment, homeland security, poverty, education, balancing budgets.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

How'd it happen?

TNR's Ryan Lizza followed the Kerry Camp but decided to watch a Caucus, this one was in Urbandale, IA and sounds like a good sample of what happened on Monday night. "After the attendees broke into their presidential preference groups, the numbers looked like this: 40 people for Kerry, 44 for Edwards, 26 for Dean, and 9 for Gephardt. When the caucus chair announced that the forlorn Gephardt supporters standing against a wall were no longer viable, the Kerry and Edwards precinct captains descended upon them like wild dogs on road-kill carcasses. A Kerry candidacy, said Corey Goerdt, the 18-year-old Edwards captain who signed up with Edwards four days before, "is not going to work in the South." And in case he needed to make the case against Dean, he was also prepared. A thick caucus field manual issued by the Edwards campaign contained detailed persuasion scripts. On the outside was the Edwards campaign logo and the words "privileged and confidential." Goerdt let me flip through it. The way to contrast Edwards with Dean, it said, is to compare Dean's biography with Edwards' son-of-a-mill-worker upbringing. "Howard Dean is a Park Avenue elitist," it advised Edwards supporters to say. But Goerdt didn't need to use the line. By the time the Dean captain figured out he was supposed to be strengthening his numbers by picking off the undecideds and the Gephardt people, the Edwards and Kerry teams had already divvied them up between themselves. Final score: Kerry 53, Edwards 51, Dean 26."

Joe Trippi, Dean campaign manager before Monday night to reporters: "Undecideds don't break here. Every year. Does anybody go back and look at results before they cover the state? They never break! Never! There's like no year in which they ever broke. They walk in, they vote undecided." Wrong!