Saturday, March 08, 2003

A Win-Win Issue for Democrats:
Improving America's Image Around the World

An interesting article in today's Washington Post paints the clearest picture to date of what the 2004 presidential debates could look like. The top Democratic criticism of President Bush is expected to be his botched handling of foreign policy and diplomacy. Both hawks and doves within the Democratic Party have been making the case that no matter what one thinks of war in Iraq, Bush is not effectively making the case to the world community for support, and that his antagonism of America's allies is dangerously irresponsible.

This suggests that the more hawkish of the Democratic candidates are eager to put distance between themselves and the president, if not with their votes, then with their rhetoric. As the first serious candidate to officially announce he was running, Howard Dean has been out front on this criticism of the president. Sensing the strong antiwar sentiment within the party ranks, other candidates have fallen in line, possibly giving the Democrats their first agreed-upon issue for 2004. Poll numbers already suggest that Democrats are favored by voters concerned most about domestic concerns and the economy. Now the party is seemingly making a play for the voters concerned by foreign policy as well.

posted by Scott | 3/08/2003 | |

Friday, March 07, 2003

Gephardt Appoints DLC Trustee To Campaign Post

Expect Dick Gephardt's new addition to his campaign team to provoke a big "I told you so" from Al Sharpton. Many liberal Democrats have been attracted by Sharpton's outspoken criticism of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Well, DLC trustee Gregg S. Hymowitz has just been named co-chair of the Gephardt campaign.

Considering Gephardt's early popularity, Sharpton's vocal criticism of the appointment could be the "nightmare" moment many anti-Sharpton Democrats have been fearing.

posted by Scott | 3/07/2003 | |

Let's here it for the As Yet Unnamed Democrat!

The results of a new Qunnipiac University poll, released yesterday, give "the as yet unnamed Democratic party candidate for President" a 48% to 44% edge over President Bush in the 2004 election.

The voters concerned about the economy and jobs over all other issues lean hard toward the Democratic candidate, 61% to 32%. When attention on the war with Iraq (hopefully) starts to fade in the media, the substantive differences between the candidates will become clearer and debates will highlight their actual policy proposals. No longer will it be a field of pro-war candidates versus antiwar candidates. This should shake up the field greatly, probably in favor of Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean, who are already outlining specific domestic policy proposals.

Some other information gleaned from the poll proves just as interesting. Here's how those polled ranked the current Democratic candidates for 2004:

Joe Lieberman - 21%
Dick Gephardt - 17%
John Kerry - 12%
John Edwards - 8%
Carol Moseley Braun - 7%
Bob Graham - 6%
Al Sharpton - 5%
Howard Dean - 4%
Dennis Kucinich - 2%

With Hillary Clinton in the race, however, the numbers shift greatly:

Hillary Clinton - 37%
Dick Gephardt - 13%
Joe Lieberman - 12%
John Kerry - 8%
John Edwards - 4%
Bob Graham - 4%
Carol Moseley Braun - 3%
Howard Dean - 3%
Dennis Kucinich - 3%
Al Sharpton - 2%

My personal read of this is that support for Hillary '04 is coming most significantly from supporters of Joe Lieberman (the "angry about 2000" vote), Carol Moseley Braun (the "woman president at all costs" vote), and Al Sharpton (the "New York liberal" vote). However, Senator Clinton has repeatedly denied interest in the 2004 nomination. A recent Washington Post piece speculates that the Senator is looking ahead to 2008, instead.

posted by Scott | 3/07/2003 | |

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Run, Ralph, Run?

DemWatch would be remiss, in a discussion of the 2004 election, to leave out Ralph Nader. One of the most polarizing figures left of the American center, Nader is all but worshipped by his supporters and threatened with nothing short of death by his detractors.

In the lead up to the 2000 General Election, disaffected Democrats and liberal independents were warned that a vote for Nader would be a vote for Bush, that a vote for Nader was a wasted vote, and - perhaps most laughably - that Ralph Nader was gay. Hell of a way to scare off liberals, eh?

By the time the tumultuous 2000 election finally came to an, ahem, close, Ralph Nader had clearly made an impact. In Florida, where Nader had garnered 97,488 votes, Gore lost by 537 votes to Bush. This led many angry Democrats to blame Nader for the loss of the entire election. Without replaying the whole vicious incident, it must be noted that other left of center candidates "stole" votes from Al Gore in Florida. A brief rundown: Socialist Party, David McReynolds - 622 votes; Workers World Party, Monica Moorehead - 1,804; Natural Law Party, John Hagelin - 2,281. The numbers aside, it's obvious that with Nader out of the picture, Gore wins Florida (and New Hampshire, incidentally).

So the question in the back of every Democrat's mind is, "will Ralph run?" Nader's mantra, claiming that there is no difference between the two major parties, has been exposed as a falsehood - for the most part. There's nothing quite like a major international crisis to expose fairly fundamental differences among political actors. (i.e., Gore's AG would not likely be John Ashcroft.) However, the Democrats' approval of Bush's tax cuts, the USA Patriot Act, war in Iraq, etc., allows room for Ralph Nader to once again slip into the General Election on the Democrats' left.

No one knows for sure what will happen, but here's some food for thought:
1. Another Ralph Nader bid for the presidency?
2. An Open Letter to the Democratic Party - 10/30/02
3. Nader Undecided on 2004 Run
4. Zogby - If Ralph Nader were to run as a presidential candidate in 2004, how likely are you to vote for him again? (Answers: 58% Very Likely, 30% Somewhat Likely)
5. Already, the Democrats' anti-Nader defenses are falling into place.
6. But is it possible that Nader plans to endorse John Edwards?

posted by Scott | 3/06/2003 | |

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Preemptive Action - The Democratic Variety

A handful of the Democratic candidates are starting to mount preemptive strikes of their own against expected GOP slings and arrows.

Florida Sen. Bob Graham, who's already running hard to the right on Iraq, is said to be undecided on the Estrada filibuster. A piece on cites an internal GOP poll which suggests he might be making a wise decision to sit this one out.

The still-recovering John Kerry is going to go after Bush - not on Iraq - but on the Moscow Treaty between the US and Russia. The language of the treaty lays the groundwork for reducing both countries' nuclear weaponry. Kerry's charge? The treaty shows that "a better and stronger kind of leadership" is lacking in the current administration. A hawkish stance to counter the dovish image. However, expect the message to be drowned out by the rumbling of tanks in the streets of Baghdad.

On the other hand, the inimitable Howard Dean is taking an entirely different tack. His response to the ultraliberal tag pinned on him by GOP operatives? "Call me what you want." It seems that this is part of Dean's own, more nuanced preemptive strike. Possibly sensing the inevitability of war in Iraq, he's shifting the focus away from his antiwar message and back onto his support of universal healthcare. He defies the critics, asking if being liberal means "joining Canada and Britain and France and Germany and Japan and Italy and Israel" by providing healthcare for all. Undoubtedly, the GOP will argue that it does.

posted by Scott | 3/05/2003 | |

Bush plans war abroad and at home.

The Washington Post ran an interesting overview of the Bushies' war plans for 2004 on March 3 in which the GOP take on the Democratic candidates is revealed. Without quoting extensively, here's their breakdown:

John Kerry - significant threat; the "Massachusetts liberal" tag is already being warmed up
Dick Gephardt - significant threat; he's been preparing for this for years
Joe Lieberman - could win the general election, but too conservative to win the nomination
John Edwards - significant threat; they don't really seem to have a reason
Howard Dean - could win the nomination, too liberal to win the general election
Bob Graham - significant threat; very popular in swing-state Florida
Al Sharpton - not a threat
Carol Moseley Braun - not a threat
Dennis Kucinich - not a threat

The White House is under the impression that Senator Edwards is their biggest threat. I had a bit of trouble figuring this out. I am fairly certain that it comes down to the "well, if our guy won..." factor. Edwards is the only young, attractive, Southern, white male in the race. This implies that the American electorate is extremely shallow, but this is Karl Rove we're talking about. The same Karl Rove who once said, "As people do better, they start voting like Republicans - unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing."

The report leaves one with the impression that, even though he isn't mentioned, the biggest nightmare for the Bush campaign would be young, attractive, Southern, media savvy, former high-ranking military official and white male Wesley Clark...

posted by Scott | 3/05/2003 | |

Monday, March 03, 2003

And then there was, well, still quite a few.

Senator Chris Dodd has decided not to join his Connecticut compatriot Joe Lieberman in seeking the Democratic nomination for president. Really not too much more for me to say here since he's not running. Dodd was a vocal critic of the Reagan administration's 'policies' in Central America - experience that is especially valuable in the U.S. Senate at present.

posted by Scott | 3/03/2003 | |

Howard Dean has left the building!

Business Week Online is calling Dr. Dean "the rock star of 2003" in a current piece on the top Democratic contenders. The subsequent sentences go on to name drop Paul Wellstone and George McGovern, which will undoubtedly please Dean and his staff to no end.

However, the writer parrots the GOP Machine canard that he is "far to the left on foreign policy issues," which the campaign has had a hard time shaking. His appearance on CBS's "Face the Nation" this morning is proof positive that the Dean camp is working hard to shed this image. I have the good folks over at the Dean Blog to thank for the transcript.

SCHIEFFER: So--so I would take it that if you were president, you would increase funding for the CIA?

Gov. DEAN: I would.

SCHIEFFER: You think we need to do more, rather than less...

Gov. DEAN: Yeah. I think we really do.

I think that just about says it all. It's awfully hard to label someone a dove when they're calling for an increase in the CIA budget. Check out the Dean Blog for the rest of his comments.

The Business Week article also points out that support for Joe Lieberman's candidacy is dropping like a rock. But you already knew that, because BW is citing the the same poll I was a few days back.

posted by Scott | 3/03/2003 | |
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