Friday, January 30, 2004

The weekend before the final hour

Last night's debate, for the most part, was just like the New Hampshire debate about a week ago. While Dean tried to draw some blood, by pointing out that Kerry hasn't done anything in his 20 years in the Senate, Kerry snidely said that he knew how to get things done in Congress-- by letting other other Senator's take the credit for what he's done. The beauty of Dean's attack is that it reminds everyone that Kerry is a Senator, because then he can stupidly boast "I wrote the legislation that..." Who cares? Presidents are supposed to do things, and writing legislation is not one of them. That is why people pick Governors and Generals over Senators and Congressmen, they get things done. Still no knockout punches for anyone, everyone looked pretty good. I guess having more time due to Mosley Braun and Gephardt gone really raises the level. Can't wait until 2 more leave.

Who might that be? Lieberman and maybe even Edwards. MSNBC/Zogby polls shows that Kerry holds big leads in Missouri, Arizona, and is tied for 1st in South Carolina. So what happens if he wins all those? Well, amazingly enough, Clark could be sitting pretty. With Edwards gone (if he lost SC), the General could assume his place as "Washington outsider and bootstraps southerner" AND he would be the only other guy to win on 2/3 (assuming Delaware goes to Kerry or Clark and not Lieberman) besides Kerry with his win in Oklahoma (Clark is leading Kerry 27 to 19%) and second place finish in Arizona (currently Kerry's 38% to Clark's 17%). New Mexico is currently a tossup from what I have seen, but I would guess Kerry gets it based on being a 2-time winner.

Even though Dean would still be waiting for them in Michigan and Wisconsin, Clark wasn't expecting to do well on there on the 7th anyway. With Kerry and Dean duking it out, Clark has two possible approaches: either he squeeze through the middle of their tussle and wins (very unlikely) or he just focuses on Tennessee and Virginia (more likely) trying to win there to stay in the hunt. If he pulls that off and Dean loses again, it would be down Kerry and Clark essentially. I don't expect Dean to drop out until March 2nd however, since he could still win NY and CA if he is still reasonably viable.

It looks like Sharpton has sunk a lot (to 5%) in SC since Congressman Jim Clyburn endorsed Kerry, but Clark is still way back (8%), will he forget about the Palmento State? His Blues Traveler concert got canceled due to the weather and Clark's plane troubles (touched down in SC to refuel but couldn't go on due to mandatory rest for the pilots, so he had to move on to the next event in Oklahoma). Only time will tell.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

He didn't even make the Trippi to Michigan

As has widely been reported already, Campaign Manager Joe Trippi was pushed out by the Governor himself, who wanted to move him to Senior Advisor, alla Donnie Fowler and the Clark camp shake ups in September/October. Although I think Trippi won't go whine to the press, he is a loyal man, even if Dean isn't.

And there are more signs that the Dean campaign has spent itself into a big, big hole by losing Iowa badly (over $10M spent there) and New Hampshire (haven't heard any hard numbers except for $500K in the last week on TV alone), according to the Times Dean "has asked his 500 staff members to skip their paychecks for two weeks." Doesn't sound like a $41M campaign that's rolling, does it? "But this week, campaign fund-raisers said, the operation had only $4.5 million to $5 million on hand, about the amount it raised over the Internet since Jan. 1, and was scrambling to collect more money." Another $1 that they are in the process of raising this week will help, but what a waste on all those damn Dean scarves and hats!

The Dean camp also yanked off all their 2/3 state ads until further notice last week, saying it wasn't strategically smart to spend like that. Maybe so, but now rumors that they are short on money will be extremely hard to deny, about as hard as Joe "We're in a three way tie for third place" Lieberman is dropping out...ok, well not that bad.

Roy Neal, a former telecommunications lobbyist who was an aide to Mr. Gore for nearly 20 years, on Capitol Hill and in the Clinton White House, is to take Trippi's place. Look for the internet side of things to change rapidly. This guy is "the Washington ultimate insider" according to the Times and maybe a sign that of Gore's influence. Something finally came out of that endorsement. Where was Al Gore in New Hampshire? Or Bill Bradley?

So why was Trippi fired if he got Dean SEIU, AFSCME, Gore, Bradley, Harkin, Mosley Braun, and more? "It was also Mr. Trippi who suggested that Dr. Dean give a rousing, fired-up speech after his crushing third-place finish in Iowa, a speech -- and screech -- that may have led to his undoing in New Hampshire." Trippi wasn't paid a salary but his consulting company got 15% commission on all the ad buys (which were over $9.2M), so I think he won't go pan handling just yet. Those too things, his calls the last month which made Dean dive, and his greed, might have done it.

In Clark staffing intrigue, they were on the verge of hiring McCain's campaign manager in 2000, John Weaver, days before New Hampshire. But there was infighting among the ex-Gore/ex-Graham people and who knows if he will be hired after all? Chris Lehane, the dirty tricks man for Gore and maybe for Clark (he is rumored to have found all the videos on Dean that started the tailspin in Iowa), has been yanked off the tube in place of Jaime Ruben, a deputy secretary of state for Clinton and Clark's foreign policy advisor (now that's an easy job. That's like being Dean's health care advisor or Gephardt's trade advisor) but he is much smoother (and not nearly as slimy) on TV.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Pass the crow and Kerry, Kerry, Kerry: why we need to stop the Democrats' next train wreck of an nominee

OK, I will admit it, I was wrong. Tagging along with one campaign gives you a distorted view of reality, and Clark was far from 2nd place. But the worst possible thing happened for the party tonight (save something like Kucinich or Sharpton winning): a new, almost worse presumptive nominee has been named (Sen. Kerry) and no one is going to drop out any time soon.

Gov. Dean a bottomed out nicely from the nose dive he took over the week, but what states does he go to over the course of the next week? What states can he now win? Even his staffers don't know, so they are spending today in Burlington doing interviews and debating the merits of a cherry pick (AZ NM and MO then MI and WI) or all 7 strategy. If you ask Gen. Clark, cherry picking is not such a great idea. But if you ask Sen. Kerry, it works great.

Gen. Clark can say that he got third to two New Englanders from neighboring states, but it was a distant narrow third over Edwards. Their whole strategy was based on Dean winning Iowa, and clearly, he didn't. Now they have to retool. The Supreme Allied Commander has to get at least a strong 2nd in SC, win OK, and maybe win DE and ND as well (although they might just go Kerry based on momentum) to stay in this race. If he can do that, and especially if he wins SC, he can do well the week after that in TN and VA where his organization looks the strongest.

Sen. Edwards had nothing to lose last night and it showed. He looks fine but not as good as he had hoped I am sure. He has to win SC, do well in OK and ND and place strongly in western and Midwestern states. If he can do that, look for VA and TN to go to him instead of Clark.

Sen. Lieberman needs to win DE to end the constant rumors that he will be dropping out (which he should). Even then, I don't see where he goes except out. As Ron Reagan (son of the ex-President that Clark voted for) said on Hardball last night, "As goes Delaware, so goes American Samoa." Somebody needs to take this man out of his misery.

Sen. Kerry has to raise some serious cash to stay afloat. Mary Beth Cahill (his campaign manager and former Sen. Kennedy Chief of Staff) did a marvelous job of taking over this sinking ship and getting it to port. Now they need more fuel for the next voyage. Already, they have $218K raised online since they won. Kerry literally bet the house on the "you gotta win Iowa to come back in New Hampshire" strategy, and it paid off. Now where does he go? To Missouri, where he will get most of Gephardt's unions and institutional guys to back him, and to South Carolina, to see if he can finish it up this week. If he wins South Carolina, its over for Edwards and Clark really.

Why don't I like Kerry? Well for one he is a big, fat phony. He talks in Bob Shrum populism and he went to Swiss boarding school, St. Paul's in NH, and Yale and joined the skull 'n bones. Not to mention he is the richest man in the most exclusive club in the world, the US Senate. He really just doesn't connect with people either.

Not only that, but his voting record is extremely liberal, sometimes more so than the senior Senator from Massachusetts. As Gov. Dean points out, he was wrong about Iraq in 1991 and 2002. Not such a great foreign policy debut is it? And his claim to foreign policy experience is sitting on a committee. How can you call yourself an outsider if you have been in the Senate for 20 years? Plus, he has zero conviction, and is from New England. Kerry has also dropped hints that he will skip the south, which seems to be a hip idea these days.

On the other hand, it seems like everyone's second choice is Sen. John Edwards. We will see if there enough of those to win it for him, especially if Kerry can be taken down a peg. Look for Gov. Dean to go after him hard.

And now for something completely different:

"She usually goes on the bottom" -- James Carville, as overheard responding to a NH voter who asked about his marriage, "How do you do it?"

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Leaked Exit Polls: A fight for 1st and 3rd

According to Kos' sources at the LA Times and ABC News, Kerry is down one to in the Times 1pm results (33 to 34) and up 6 in ABC's (37 31). That's close, within the margin of error I assume. n both these polls, both Clark and Edwards are hovering around 12 percent.

The National Review's The Corner has Kerry 36, Dean 31, Edwards 12 and Clark 12. Kos thinks this source is "Probably the ABC News tracking poll with Kerry's number rounded down."

So, what to make of all this? First, the media can't help but spill the beans on an exciting multi-race race. These two battles are important because Dean will be relabeled the front runner if Kerry loses, I suspect (since Kerry has no money for down the road if he loses to Dean). And the winner of 3rd place will go on to win South Carolina, although Edwards should have an edge there regardless, since he was born there and visited there this week (oh and he has a lead there currently).

What's best for Clark? A "strong third" --15 points or so-- and a Dean win. He would rather have Dean to beat up on than Kerry, who is too similar to him. What's best for the others is pretty damn obvious so I won't waste your time.

Also keep in mind that this is the 1PM tracking poll. Everything could change by 8PM when networks say what is going on. We could have solid 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 all locked in. Or Dean/Kerry's numbers could melt.

The Financial Times says that Clark has a new way to get at Kerry, finally: elitism from a first in his class Rhodes Scholar guy. "I did not go to Yale. My parents could not afford to send me there," General Clark said, reminding people that his father died just before he was four years old and left the family with $424" Who does that sound like the 1st and 2nd place guys (and President Bush...scary ain't it?)

"For so long we had been so focused on Dean, Dean, Dean," a campaign staffer said. "If we come anywhere in the top three we will declare victory," a Clark aide said, adding that the campaign's main ambition now was to pick up one or more of the seven states that vote on February 3. "We are looking good in Oklahoma." Please, let's not hang our hat solely on Oklahoma. Let's aim to sweep the 2/3 states.

Fun time

Listen to Joe Lieberman's song and watch the video too. Those poor staffers for Joe, must be tough. No one will be calling them when he drops out tomorrow. Sorry.

Dean was interviewed by "The Daily Show"'s Jon Stewart in "The Most Exclusive Howard Dean Interview" aired 1/26, and was acutally funny.
Note: The interview featured Stewart and Dean having a conversation -- their actual words are noted with quotes -- but being played over the conservation were Dean and Stewart's thoughts. The two recorded the voice-overs, which are noted in italics.
Stewart: "I want to thank you for taking the time to sit down with us" [Image pops up over his shoulder of Stewart on the cover of Newsweek, Stewart smiles.]
Dean: "Thank you for the opportunity, unfortunately I don't have that much time." [Image pops up over his left shoulder of Dean on two covers of Newsweek, Dean smiles.]
Cuts to Stewart, where in addition to his one cover, he adds the image of himself on the cover of Cat Fancy.
Stewart: "Obviously, a difficult week in Iowa, wish you could have done better ... you did an interview with Diane Sawyer ... do you consider those damage control interviews?"
Dean: 'Good question, Cronkite.' "Well they are certainly gonna help some..."
Stewart: "How will you control the damage from this?"
Dean: 'This is going great!!''You've got five minutes, jackass.'
Stewart: "The media has tried to pigeonhole you as an angry guy."
Dean's: 'The press, those no good $#!&%.'
Stewart: "Governor, are you angry now?"
Dean: "Certainly not."
Stewart: "How bout now?"
Dean: "No."
Stewart: "Let's talk issues [long, uncomfortable silence] ... why don't you start?"
Dean: "Health insurance for every single American -- we are the only country in the world..."
Stewart: 'Da dum ... I eat buttons.'
Stewart: "Let's talk endorsements -- when you found out that Al Gore wanted to endorse you, how bad did you want to get out?"
Dean: "Actually, I thought Al Gore's endorsement was a good endorsement."'I'm on fire!'
Stewart: "Talk about your position on same sex marriage."
Dean: "We actually chose not to do gay marriage in our state. What we did was to say that every same sex couple could have the same rights as everyone else."
Stewart: 'Mrs. Jon Dean, Mr. Howard Stewart, Howard and Jon Dean, Dr. and Mr. Jon Dean Stewart...' "You're also a doctor, are you a Bill Cosby doctor or a doctor doctor?"
Dean: "I'm a doctor doctor, internal medicine."
Stewart: "If you don't mind, could you tell me what this is ... is this normal?" [Lifts up shirt.]
Dean: 'Man, this guy bruises like a grape.'
Stewart: "I know this is a bizarre way to do an interview."
Dean: "I can't wait to see it. When does it go on?"
Stewart: "On Monday..."
Dean: 'I bet this is going to air in Michigan, and Arizona and Oklahoma and New Mexico ... keep it together Howard, it's only a list of states.'
Stewart: "Our show is a perfect venue to talk to young viewers."
Dean: "I find that young viewers care about things like the environment and renewable energy..."
Stewart: "Younger."
Dean: "People care about green grass and not spending any more money than they..."
Stewart: "Younger."
Dean: "People care about cleanliness."
Stewart: "You know what, can you just jiggle your keys"
Clark Wins in New Hampshire!

Well, the early voting in two super small towns at least. I'm sorry did my title deceive you?

"Clark won Dixville's Notch with 8 votes. Sen. John Kerry had 3, Sen. John Edwards 2 and Howard Dean and Sen. Joe Lieberman 1 each. Clark received 6 votes in Hart's Location. Kerry had 5, Dean 3 and Edwards 2.," reports the AP.

Clark was the only one who bothered to go up to these tiny towns who have the historical privilege of casting the first ballots at 12:01 AM last night. [If you really care to know the history behind it, it all stems back to railroad workers who couldn't vote except for right before their shift that early, but Hart's Location was the original hamlet and then one time they canceled and Dixville's Notch got it but no one seemed to mind. ]

The General is doing a 10 county tour today in a sprint around the state as a last-minute rally. Many on his staff think the idea is a big waste of time and effort. "He's going to spend 15 hours traveling and see 300 people," said one disgusted advance team member on Sunday.

Finally, an Insider Account on the Dean Campaign in NH

This comes straight from the horse's mouth so to speak, from a volunteer with the Dean campaign that's a friend of mine (let's call her "Jaime")

"Hey Dave! Sorry the Deanies were so mean! The Deanies here in
Claremont are very nice, but sadly no Clark people are here.
The Edwards folk are, and the Kerry people are too, and there
is 1 Lieberman guy. The Kerry people are awful- they spray
paint our signs! But everyone else is pretty nice.

I went to a Dean rally last night in Laconia- supposedly
there were 1200 people! I dunno. It was really cool- there
was a HILARIOUSLY cheesy children's choir, complete with- I
kid you not- a wooden eagle on a pole. And a great speech-
Dean is so much better live than on TV. Judy Dean was there
for like .5 seconds. The crowd went WILD for her- I guess
mystique is good for popularity.

We canvassed our whole county- there was just not much to do
today! Our county, next to VT, is expected to go 70% Dean, so
I don't know how good a picture I'm getting. But definitely
I'll never trust the media again- things feel VERY different
on the ground. The volunteers are all wonderful, of course
(though some are, well, strange and slightly scary in their
zeal) and the staff, for staff, is chill. Everyone feels very
positive and confident that regardless of how things go
tomorrow, we're going to win in the end. Lots of people have
been talking about what state they're going to next. General
consensus is that, worst case scenario, we want Edwards as
the nominee, then Clark, last Kerry. Lieberman is DOA, at
least here. I've seen 1- one- Lieberman sign. Is he even
campaigning here? New Hampshire folk seem so sick of everyone- they're way more polite about canvassing than people in any
other state would be, and are really interested and willing
to listen and like Dean- but they really just want all the
candidates and pollsters to stop bothering them. I suspect
some will vote for whoever has bugged them least- so maybe
Lieberman will get some votes!

Well, that's all for now. Good luck tomorrow- though no
matter how you guys place I think Clark can spin it into
victory. We will be ok with first or second, but it would be
so great to win. Being here has been amazing. "

"p.s. my gut instinct on the numbers? It's going to be super
close. If Kerry loses, it'll be a big story, and may deflate
his team a bit, but ultimately if it's Dean or Kerry, in either
order, no impact on the race. Clark wins with a third or 4th,
and only loses if there's a Lieberman surprise. Edwards had a
lot of people here yesterday, but it turns out they were all
bused in- if he needs that, he's not doing well here (and may
not need to. I think he thinks he doesn't need to do well
here. I also think he actually DOES need to do ok and will
lose some cred if Clark trounces him.)"

Monday, January 26, 2004

I am not getting that sinking feeling in Nashua

While polls show Clark sinking fast-- to third or fourth place while Dean gets back up to 20%, on the ground, it still looks like this race is not sewn up yet.

Notes from the field; Nashua to Clark: its not over until we say so

Sunday I ventured back up to New Hampshire and while not as many people came to take the carpool up as last time, there was plenty already there. Several of us were sent to Daniel Webster college for a rally/town hall in their gym at 1 with 900 people. The Nashua staff was worried because they only had a hard count of 350. Meanwhile other volunteers went canvassing with NH channel 8 in tow.

By the time we were done setting up and plastering the region with signs, however, well over 1,000 were crammed into the gym, with at least 100 or so waiting to come in. Many were undecideds. We yanked out hardworking volunteers who were bodies in the stadium from Maryland, and Princeton, and all over the country to make room. As they left, many took stickers and lawn signs and the DVD's. Unfortunately, we couldn't get an alternate site set up and some undecideds left without getting in, but I guess the crowd size helps the mentality that he is still a contender.

Afterwards, I talked with people from Clark's advance team and was amazed by how non-plussed they were about the polls. "We will do fine" one said over the phone to the national HQ. "I hope it f*cking snows," said another. This legendary Clinton advance man told us that we will get our base out ("it's Mobilized" he said) and Kerry's lead will melt as the snow piles up since his support is "lemming based" Many said there are lots of soft supporters and people are still shopping voters, as the high numbers for Kerry, Edwards and Dean events all indicate. I wonder how much "conversion" they are getting (or Clark was for that matter).

After we had broken down the rally, my friends from Massachusetts and I went to lunch. The coordinator for the whole state said we had a hard count of 300 people coming up for election day. He was annoyed with the national office who wanted him to get 500, a number he said was seemingly plucked out of thin air. I was also warned not to try to get to the election party, as it will be filled to gills and then some. I was also told of Brokaw and Jennings sightings at the campaign offices and at rallies. There were tons of foreign press at all these events as well.

We had similar stories come out Clark's next rally at 4PM which was also over capacity in a small facility with a good vibe at the end. Next, my friend and I traveled to the Manchester office and head of the NH operations, which was very hard to find.

Inside, I saw a busy beehive of hundreds of volunteers sitting on anything possible using their cell phones to call voters and staffers flying about the corridors. I even bumped into my old friend from the Draft movement, John Hlinko who told another national staffer how it was us and 4 other people in a cafe in Dupont circle back in May. How far we have come!

Although I was extremely tired from all the time I had spent in the cold, checking the parking lot for Deanies flyering or Edwards ops or Kerry folks (they came and left after our glare) and honk and waving out by the main entrance to the college (very positive results once again), I was so energized by what I saw on the ground and how tyrannically different it is from the coverage I hear from the Boston media which has talked up Kerry non stop for a week.

I am also curious if Dean's uptick is real or not either. Another sighting of Dr. Judith Steinberg, now re-named Judy S. Dean, makes me think backfire, but maybe it will work. Even if it does, it represents a major backstep and flipflop about using her as a prop and the standing of women in general. I guess Dean didn't have time to fight back for his wife's independence.

All the mysteries will be revealed on Tuesday night. Either my predictions and hopes will be dashed, or something special will happen. Either way, Clark is staying on until February 3rd and looks strong in those states, I will all be predicated on momentum, but he will at least win Oklahoma even if he falls to 4th in NH.

Why? Look at these polls, taken since Kerry has won Iowa and is crusing in NH: Arizona Kerry's up but Clark is a close second, Oklahoma even with Edwards' bounce Clark's still ahead, South Carolina where Clark is in a tight 3rd/ 4th with an Edwards lead and Kerry bounce to second within the margin of error. So far, I haven't seen Missouri, Delaware or North Dokota poll numbers.

Also of note, VA Gov. Mark Warner's staff is on paid leave working for Clark up in NH, could it be that the Governor is tacitly endorsing the General? The Clark ground staff in Missouri says they are the only campaign out there, no real presence of anyone else. Of course, I hear rumors of a Gephardt endorsement of Kerry on Friday. Why then? So that in case something else happens Gephardt can change his mind. Oh and please oh please let Liberman drop out on Wednesday.