Friday, April 25, 2003

Calling the race... part II

Here are two pieces that show Bush's potential vulnerabilities in 2004. A little support for my earlier claim that we can all calm down even though Bush is up in the polls.

1. Pollster Mark Mellman. I know, I know. It's a little old (two days). But the man's a professional and when he says, "while war and terrorism may result in this President Bush spending more time in the political stratosphere than have other presidents, none of that may be of much avail when he faces the voters again in 2004," I listen.

2. Bush Defends Santorum. President Bush has supported Rick "Incest? Polygamy? Same Difference..." Santorum, calling Santorum an "inclusive" senator. Inclusive. Say it again, folks. It gets funnier every time you say it out loud.

posted by Scott | 4/25/2003 | |

Dick Gephardt has ignited quite a debate since he put forth his "Matt's Plan" proposal for universal healthcare two days ago. Here's a brief roundup of some of the chatter:

Jonathan Cohn (TNR): "Could be a winner"

Paul Krugman (NYT): "Nothing like Mr. Gephardt's plan is going to become law anytime soon. ... But we have the right to ask why."

Dan Balz (Wash. Post): Health Care Plan Could Help Redefine Gephardt

Matt Miller ( Gephardt's goal is the right goal, but is his plan the right one?

Thomas Oliphant (Boston Globe): Gephardt's bold health care plan

posted by Scott | 4/25/2003 | |

Calling the race before it's begun

Much is being made of this story. Bush wins New York in a new poll. Big deal. It's April 2003. The war was just won. Most people don't even know the candidates' names, much less what they stand for. And they questioned less than 1,000 people, for pete's sake!

Relax, kiddies. We have time...

posted by Scott | 4/25/2003 | |

Howard, we hardly knew ye...

Appearing on April 23rd's Wolf Blitzer Reports on CNN, Howard Dean announced he's dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination. Okay, so that's not really what happened. But it's pretty damned close. Blitzer asked Dean if Iraq was better off without Saddam Hussein.

"We don't know that yet, Wolf."

Wow. Now I don't begrudge the man his opinions. And in a certain sense, he's right. Things are pretty bad in Iraq's urban centers. No water, no electricity, no government. We do not know who will lead Iraq's future government. The country could turn into a Shia theocracy. The list goes on. But no matter what, it's a little strange to claim that Iraq didn't improve - at least in the short run - by even the smallest margin when the Ba'ath regime fell. And that's essentially - even if his answer was more nuanced - what it sounds like Dean is saying.

And soundbites like that do not an election make.

(To check out the street level chatter among Dean supporters, click here.)

posted by Scott | 4/25/2003 | |

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Wow, Bob Graham must be really serious about this whole 'President' thing...

He's telling potential Democratic candidates in Florida to get ready to run for his seat. He's stopped wearing his Florida ties and started wearing the stars and stripes. If that doesn't tell you the man's serious, I don't know what does.

Now if we could only get something this firm from Hart or Clark...

posted by Scott | 4/23/2003 | |

Dick Gephardt throws the healthcare Hail Mary with Matt's Plan

Congressman and candidate Gephardt has come forth with a bold and comprehensive proposal to provide healthcare to all Americans. Here's the AP by way of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the program:

Gephardt said the first bill he would send to Congress as president would require every company to provide health insurance for its employees, with 60 percent of the cost paid by a refundable tax credit. The bill also would repeal Bush's tax cuts to pay the more than $200 billion annual cost to the federal government.

Currently, employers can get tax deductions that cover about 30 percent of their health care costs. Gephardt said by doubling the government's share of the cost, companies would have more money to invest and could increase wages, providing a jump-start to the economy.

``This is the right way to stimulate the economy -- not knee-jerk tax cuts that do nothing but pay off George Bush's wealthy campaign contributors while killing economic growth,'' the Missouri congressman said in a speech to the Service Employees International Union, which represents 1.5 million health care workers.

The tax credit would cover health care costs of part-time employees, retirees and the self-employed. It also would refund 60 percent of health care costs paid by state and local governments.

Workers still would have to pay their portion of premiums to help cover health care costs, but companies that increased employee contributions would not qualify for the tax credit. Gephardt would subsidize the employee contribution for workers below or near the poverty line.

Gephardt also wants to subsidize two-thirds of the cost of COBRA health insurance for unemployed workers and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program for uninsured low income children to their parents.

The former House Minority Leader called his proposal ``Matt's plan'' in honor of his son, who survived childhood cancer. He estimated the total cost of his proposal at $214 billion in 2005, $231 billion in 2006 and $247 billion in 2007.

Gephardt said he would repeal all the tax cut that President Bush signed into law two years ago. The law cut income tax rates, provided tax relief for married couples, increased the child credit and reduced the inheritance tax. Gephardt spokesman Erik Smith said the lawmaker is open to revisiting the marriage provision, the child credit and the inheritance portion.

* * *

Now, as many of you know, in addition to writing DemWatch, I also write a bit for the Dean blog. I'm a pretty serious Dean supporter, but it's early, and I like to keep my options opened. Besides, I refuse to seriously bash candidates (exceptions have been and will continue to be made for Sharpton, Edwards, Graham, Kucinich, and anyone else I feel is being phony) who may become the Democratic nominee for the presidency. This isn't because I'm scared of retribution or because I'm lobbying for a staffer position, mind you, but instead because Team W cannot be allowed to maintain control of the White House. It's just that simple. They're bad for the nation and even worse for the rest of the world. Period, point blank.

I've taken a wee bit of flak from some folks (meaning readers) over there, most recently for talking about Dean in the context of the talk about Gephardt's healthcare proposals. Well, perish the thought I should even give anyone besides Howard Dean any credit for proposing universal healthcare! The way I see it, I will go to the ends of the earth for any mainstream candidate (read: member of one of the two major parties) who is serious about bringing America into the 20th century by enacting universal healthcare. Howard Dean was the first one - this election cycle - to champion the cause. That got my attention, I started following Dean, and I loved what I saw.

Will Howard Dean be the Democratic nominee for president? Only time will tell. I hope so, but if not, there are a few really great alternatives in the field. And right now I am very excited that healthcare has entered the primary debate. I am very excited that Gephardt has taken up the challenge. I will be even more excited when all of the candidates are calling for universal healthcare, each with their own individual plan. My hope is that the best aspects of these plans all get whittled down into what finally becomes America's healthcare system.

For me, this is not about politics. This is not about elections. This is not about candidates. It's about shifting access to healthcare from the "privileges" to the "rights" column in this country. It's about knowing that "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" cannot be achieved by every person in this country unless they have access to affordable, quality healthcare.

So to sum up, score one for Gephardt. And to the rest of the Democratic candidates? I'll be waiting patiently for your plans.

posted by Scott | 4/23/2003 | |

Give 'em hell, Howard!

Howard Dean has demanded that Rick Santorum - number three on the GOP senatorial totem poll - step down from his leadership role in light of his recent comments equating homosexuality with incest, polygamy, and adultery.

"Gay-bashing is not a legitimate public policy discussion; it is immoral. Rick Santorum's failure to recognize that attacking people because of who they are is morally wrong makes him unfit for a leadership position in the United States Senate," Dean said in a statement.

posted by Scott | 4/23/2003 | |

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

News Roundup

In a sure sign that the war in Iraq is now ended and war at home is about to begin, stories have flooded the media about Election 2004. Here's an overview of what's out there.

Bob Graham: If I can make it here, I'll make it anywhere...

He's not talking about New York City, folks, but Florida. "I can tell you -- having won that state statewide five times -- I can carry Florida, and I won't have to have the U.S. Supreme Court count the last ballot." Not a bad rile-up-the-base line. But can it drown out the recent criticism from much of the party faithful for his "let's bomb Syria next" comments?

In the long-term, sure. But with the first televised debates beginning in May, Graham should keep talking about Florida and nix the Syria chit-chat if he wants to win the primary.

More importantly in the real long-term, should Graham win the primary, Democrats should pray that he turns down the foreign policy bellicosity lest it spark independent runs from Nader and Sharpton.

Dennis Kucinich: "Still Looking For Endorsements"

This is quite possibly the saddest political headline I've ever read. While it pretty much speaks for itself, I will tell you that the first congressional representative from Ohio to give an official endorsement of a Democratic candidate has not given said endorsement to Dennis. Rather, Rep. Sherrod Brown has endorsed Dick Gephardt.

But hasn't Kucinich endorsed himself? Doesn't that count for anything? Maybe?

Gary Hart: Mad as hell, but still not running an official candidacy

Speaking at a University of New Mexico Law School forum, Hart - the un-candidate - called for outrage at the mass detentions of suspected terror detainees as well as responsible participation in politics and an increased sense of civic duty.

Dick Gephardt: It's too expensive NOT to provide universal health care

It's a new approach, but in today's climate, it might just work. Thomas Oliphant has a detailed analysis of Gephardt's plan in today's The Boston Globe. Rather than rehash the whole thing here, I'd suggest you go and check out Oliphant's stellar piece. I will share this insightful little bit with you now, though:

In the short term, he will gladly allow the rest of the field to make his ideas the topic of conversation. Longer term he believes he offers a priorities-based choice that most Americans will resolve in his favor.

Dick Gephardt (again!): If traditional donors can translate to traditional primary voters...

This piece is a bit old, but it fits, so cut me some slack. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has broken down Gephardt's fundraising efforts and found that he is garnering a lot of support from traditional party sources (read: labor). So if the traditional party donors are flocking to Gephardt, doesn't that mean the traditional Democratic primary voters can't be too far behind?

Al Sharpton: I don't care if I don't win as long as I'm getting attention!

Campaigning in Augusta, Georgia, Al Sharpton once again confirmed my worst fear. "We got more out of Jesse [Jackson] losing than what we got out of Bill Clinton winning." Sharpton cites increased attention to apartheid and increased voter registration leading to the election of Douglas Wilder in Virginia as two examples of how Jesse Jackson's campaign for the presidency was well worth it even though the candidate lost.

I can't argue with this. What I can argue with is the idea that visibility is more important than winning. Only one candidate is going to win the nomination. But all of the issues brought up in the campaign will make their mark on the 2004 election. Whether it's Kerry's attention to energy independence, Dean's commitment to universal health care, or Gephardt's unwavering support of American labor, all of these topics will help shape the debate and be publicly highlighted by even a losing campaign. But that doesn't mean that these candidates should shrug off the general election just because one of the Democratic party's planks doesn't prominently feature his name embossed in gold.

John Edwards: What can I say? I love controversy!

In a landslide, the Edwards campaign wins this month's award for most ridiculous political missteps. What has Johnny done now? "The word 'Contribute' is superimposed on the American Flag on the John Edwards for President Web site, in violation of United States Code Title 4, Chapter 1."

And he's a lawyer?

Joe Lieberman: The Good Ship Lieberman

To hear News 12 Connecticut tell it, there's an iceberg ahead and it's got Joe Lieberman's name written all over it. "If he can't raise considerably more in three or four months, I'd assume he'd drop out of race."

Fairfield University political science professor Don Greenberg sees a catch-22 for Joe in which his views are too conservative to really win the nomination, so he'd better focus on amplifying the message that he stands the best chance to beat Bush. (Say, where have I heard that before?)

And finally...

Team W: The tortoise beats the hare

What's that I hear? Dubya ain't a Dem? I know that, but we should be paying much more attention to what he's got cooking politically than we currently are. And Adam Nagourney and Richard W. Stevenson at the New York Times agree. With this in mind, they dropped an article on the political world today that's being combed through like it's the second coming of the Starr Report.

Are you a bit squeemish about the politicization of 9/11? Then you'd better stop reading. The campaigning will not really begin in earnest until Bush's acceptance speech as the GOP nominee on September 2, 2004. Sounds late? Sure does. It's the latest GOP convention ever. Since it's being held in New York City, it's specifically planned to flow right into events commemorating the third anniversary of the terrorist attacks. (I don't know about you, but I suddenly feel the need to take a shower as I write this. [For my slightly slower readers, that means I'm really skeeved out by this.])

Certainly, Team W has done some pretty simple math to come to this conclusion. The GOP nominating convention will produce big electoral bump no matter when or where it's held. Holding it in New York City on the eve of 9/11 will jack up fear over national security issues and allow the GOP talking heads a soapbox upon which to spout their "Democrats hate America" invective. All of the flag waving and fear mongering will attract attention away from the broken domestic, economic, and diplomatic policies of 2001-present. Add it all up and it spells good things for Team W.

However, it's very likely this whole thing could backfire greatly; especially if liberal New Yorkers reject such a naked manipulation of their tragedy. The real question here is which way the media is going to spin it. Is Bush taking advantage? Or should we all rally behind Fearless Leader? However it's perceived could very likely decide the election.

posted by Scott | 4/22/2003 | |

Monday, April 21, 2003

Let the Games Begin...

As the guy whose entire website is dedicated to the 2004 Democratic presidential primary, I'm the last person on earth who should be surprised by this. But, so help me, I'm still a bit surprised. Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post reported today that the first televised Democratic debate is set for May 3 in South Carolina. Hosted by This Week's George Stephanopoulos, it will be be carried by ABC affiliates in the early primary states, excerpted on This Week, and shown in its entirety on C-Span the day after it goes live.

Not yet on the invite list are Gary Hart and Wesley Clark, two who are still holding out on announcements. This leaves the nine official candidates, including Al Sharpton, who's apparently not sure whether or not he's official. No formal debate ground rules have been announced yet, leading one to wonder how this is going to be any different from the Florida, California, NARAL, and Children's Defense Fund cattle calls. One difference is that the debate will only last 90 minutes. That either gives each candidate 10 minutes to rant or all of them are going to go steel cage. I'm hoping for the latter.

posted by Scott | 4/21/2003 | |

Main Street vs. Wall Street

It's nothing new to hear a Democrat decry the GOP as the party of big business. It's something the Republicans seldom even bother to deny. But one Democrat seems to be charting a new course, claiming to be the candidate for small business. Elizabeth Wasserman at writes that John Kerry is taking on Bush over changes to the Small Business Administration's budget.

First, President Bush made small-business tax relief a priority. Then, the White House proposed boosting the SBA's budget to $797.9 million next year -- up 8.1% over 2003. But Democrats like John Kerry charge Bush is no true ally of small business. The Massachusetts senator points out that Bush would fund the SBA's most widely used financing program -- guaranteeing section 7(a) business loans -- at $9.3 billion -- $3 billion lower than in 2002.
Kerry also criticizes Bush's plans to raise borrower fees for Small Business Investment Corp. (SBIC) venture capital funding, and to eliminate a microlending program.

It's an interesting little hypocrisy that Kerry is sure to point out not just as an opposition senator, but also as a candidate. And he's got the soundbite all cued up: "The President says small businesses are the engine of economic growth, but he won't put any gas in the tank."

posted by Scott | 4/21/2003 | |
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