Saturday, March 15, 2003

Mr. Right vs. Mr. Uncongeniality

Not surprisingly, the top two spots in the most recent polls of likely voters in the New Hampshire Democratic primary are occupied by New Englanders. In first place, the man U.S. News & World Report has dubbed Mr. Right, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. And in second, USA Today's Mr. Uncongeniality, Former Vermont Governor, Dr. Howard Dean.

The U.S. News article on Kerry and the Democrats has the primary being a popularity contest. Who's the nicest? Who's the best looking? Who's the tallest? Who's got the best memory for local campaign officials and big time donors? All of the answers are the same: John Kerry.

The USA Today piece, however, paints a very different portrait of the Democratic primary. They contend that "Dean is emerging as a contender," largely because of his outspoken antiwar (and anti-Bush) rhetoric. Smartly, the article recognizes that should the war go well for Team W, Dean will go back to his original plan - running on his domestic record and ideas.

It's quite possible that both articles are, in a way, correct. The Kerry campaign seems to be very careful - especially in the senator's prepared remarks at this weekend's California State Democratic convention - to not attack Bush, per se, but rather to go after "the administration." It's clear who Kerry is talking about, but he's also spreading his criticism out. It's a positive strategy on two fronts. Kerry cannot be blamed for "going negative" on Bush so early in the campaign. By confronting the larger machinery of the Bush White House, Kerry is really asking voters, "are you sure you want Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz, and Cheney running America's foreign policy?" He knows Bush is a likable guy, and beating up on him (I'm looking at you, Al Gore) is not the best strategy.

However, the Dean campaign knows that before they can even think about winning the general election, they first have to win the party primary. And at this point in the game, Howard Dean really does not have much to lose. In fact, this was the crux of Martin Sheen's early endorsement of Dean. He called Dean "the best possible hope for the Democrats because he's not afraid to lose." And Dean himself acknowledges that he's not quite ready for prime time. Asked about some of the rougher comments he's made, Dean's responds, "all that stuff will be out of my system" by the primaries.

Then again, there are a number of Democrats who are hoping against hope that "all that stuff" will carry Howard Dean right into the Oval Office.

posted by Scott | 3/15/2003 | |

Crossing Rove with John Edwards

As I pointed out earlier (with a little help from the Washington Post), Team W seems to be under the (somewhat odd) impression that John Edwards (the senator, not the psychic) is their biggest threat in 2004. The New Republic issued a similar read, citing two factors. One - Bush's recently piqued attention to tort reform is oddly timed, all things considered. It wouldn't have something to do with a certain former trial lawyer now running for president, would it? Two - Bush has already endorsed Rep. Richard Burr in his bid to take Edwards' senate seat. This would effectively push Edwards to the center for North Carolina while he's being pulled to the left for the primaries. Not an easy line to walk.

But Edwards is finally starting to fight back and he's starting with Bush's Achilles' heel - domestic policy. David Broder dishes the dirt in his Washington Post column:

"Thanks to this administration's economic policies, Americans are working harder, making less and spending less time with their families," Edwards told several hundred students. "Thanks to its security policies, Americans are more frightened and less secure than they should be."

Team W was clearly looking to pick a fight with Senator Edwards. Looks like they've got one.

posted by Scott | 3/15/2003 | |

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Iowa Democratic townhall meetings just announced:

John Edwards - April 6th in DeMoines
Howard Dean - May 17th in Davenport
John Kerry - June 22nd in Mason City
Dick Gephardt - July 13th in Dubuque
Al Sharpton - August 5th in Sioux City
Joe Lieberman September 21st in Cedar Rapids

Townhall dates and locations for Bob Graham, Dennis Kucinich, and Carol Moseley Braun will be announced soon.

posted by Scott | 3/12/2003 | |


1. Gary Hart may not be officially announcing his candidacy just yet, but he's certainly making moves towards a run.

2. The serious politics may be slowing down for the war, but Dick Gephardt is still making an appearance on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" tonight. Hey, if SNL worked for Gore...

3. The Washington Times, quoting the Wall Street Journal, is (go figure) contradicting the widespread belief that Democrats are holding their political fire in light of the war in Iraq. HOWEVER, they are admitting that Team W's "re-election operation, led by senior adviser Karl Rove, is in full swing."

4. Why are people looking to General Wesley Clark as a presidential contender? "Because people are looking for leadership." Those are Clark's words in The Washington Post. My money says he's running. It also says he's got a serious chance.

5. In the days leading up to 9/11, the big news in New York City (and the surrounding suburbs which I call home) was the runoff election for the Democratic mayoral nomination. Mark Green, then Public Advocate, was the favorite over Sharpton-endorsed Fernando Ferrer. Of course, the election was thrown into chaos by the events of the day. Green won the eventual nomination, but was defeated by Rudy Giuliani's endorsement of Mike Bloomberg. But Green's back in business, today announcing that he is the co-chairman of John Kerry's New York State campaign, bringing Senator Kerry some much-needed cache in the Democratic powerhouse of NYC.

posted by Scott | 3/12/2003 | |

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Where have all the politics gone?

In the days leading up to the war with Iraq, presidential politics is quieting and slowing down. An AP report announces that "Dems Campaigns Cool As War Talk Heats Up." John Kerry's been quoted as saying that he "won't speak a word without measuring how it'll sound [to the soldiers in the field]." ABC News is temporarily suspending publication of The Note, citing increased attention on war as one of the reasons.

So is this the right decision? It's a tough call. Kucinich, Sharpton, and Moseley Braun are all promising to not quiet their rhetoric. But they are largely considered candidates with nothing to lose. They understand that much of their support is coming from the antiwar segment of the Democratic base. The other candidates, with their mixed views on the Iraq question, have much more to lose. None of them wants to be out in front, criticizing the commander-in-chief in the midst of battle. They will not run the risk of giving Rove & Co. any evidence to claim in 2004 that they hoped that the war would go badly. So the general consensus among the Democrats is, "Don't Politicize the War."

However, Team W accepts no such consensus. Already Tom DeLay has taken the Democrats to task, citing Howard Dean's stance against unilateral action as evidence that they have become the "appeasement party."


In the media world, Phil Donahue was perhaps the first victim of the new wartime gag order policy. Donahue himself has accused MSNBC of trying to "outfox Fox" by canceling his show and signing up right-wingers like Michael Savage. John Nichols of The Nation sees the cancellation as more than just an issue of ratings, however. He sites Rick Ellis of, who points out "that Donahue presented a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war," a charge to which NBC execs initially had no reply. NBC wound up confirming this suspicion, however, with a letter to the Donahue e-mail list. The letter reads, in part, "As a possible war becomes more of a reality, we felt it was time to bring our viewers more comprehensive and in depth coverage and analysis of the rapidly changing news landscape, which we will do with our expanded two hours of 'Countdown Iraq.' " Straight from the horse's mouth.

posted by Scott | 3/11/2003 | |

Sunday, March 09, 2003

He'll get back to us...

Gary Hart may announce his intention to run for the Democratic nomination by the end of March. UNLESS the U.S. invades Iraq. "If troops are going into combat, I don't think people want candidates announcing their intentions to run." Make of that comment what you will.

posted by Scott | 3/09/2003 | |

Washington Post:
Gen. Wesley K. Clark "definitely running for something"

Many Democrats are starting to ask WHEN - rather than IF - Wesley Clark is going to become the tenth dwarf in the 2004 race. For his part, Clark is still sticking to the line that he is "just a concerned citizen participating in the dialogue." Because, you know, all concerned citizens make prepared and rehearsed statements like that. He has admitted to thinking about running, but is playing it coy, claiming to not even have any political affiliation. (I guess all of those meetings with Democrats have just been for the free food.)

Elsewhere on the web, National Review's Jed Babbin is calling Clark "any Democrat's dream candidate," although NRO may not exactly be the best place to go for a solid read of Democratic dreams. Perhaps a better place to go for that sort or analysis would be The American Prospect, whose Michael Tamasky has dubbed the General "Mr. Credibility" for his unassailable foreign policy and national defense credibility.

posted by Scott | 3/09/2003 | |
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