Saturday, October 04, 2003

New Gephardt Line: "The Vanishing President"

Many of us were surprised when Dick Gephardt's "Miserable Failure" tag of George W. Bush proved potent. It was a simple sound bite the media really seemed to run with. Well, even though Gephardt can hardly be pointed to as one of the Democratic party's most powerful orators, he's back with another one.

"The Vanishing President"

Today's DNC conference had many in the media looking for some sort of announcement by Bob Graham, but the speech that many of them came away writing about the most was Gephardt's. According to the AP report (since the full transcript is not yet available): "He said many things have vanished since Bush took office 3.3. million jobs, civil liberties, the contract bidding process in Iraq, a $5 trillion federal surplus, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and U.S. allies."

It's a smart move for Gephardt to focus his sharpest attacks on Bush rather than his Democratic rivals. Instead of sounding like just another candidate, he presents himself as the candidate.

posted by Scott | 10/04/2003 | |

Graham Dropout Watch

The lead article above is the stock Nedra Pickler AP piece spiced up by some absolutely awful writing on the part of Florida's WPTV staff writers. I chose to give you the poorly written article on the basis of its inclusion of the news that Bob Graham was a no-show at his own fundraiser Friday night in West Palm Beach. In other words, I take no responsibility for their use of the word "drasidering." It was obviously a typo, but I'm not even sure how a typo that bad happens...

And this article from Saturday's Orlando Sentinel includes the information that not only is Graham losing communications director Steve Jarding, but advisor Dave "Mudcat" Saunders is leaving the campaign as well. Campaign manager Paul Johnson is also said to be splitsville.

As rumors of a dropout flew fast and furious Friday, an expected announcement from Graham never materialized. Graham will still be in Washington DC today to speak to the DNC conference. While some are expecting Graham to stay in the race to vie for the VP spot, others are assuming he'll end his run altogether to return to his Florida Senate seat. While I tend to agree with the latter, Sun-Sentinel columnist Buddy Nevins thinks it may be too late for Graham to run for re-election at home, citing his liberal stances on universal health care and affirmative action. Seeing as how Graham's got a long-standing relationship with the Florida electorate, I don't really see that being an issue.

But then again, I don't live in Florida.

posted by Scott | 10/04/2003 | |

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Clark Up, Bush Down in New York State Poll

Quick poll news... Wesley Clark has taken the lead among New York Democrats, with 18% support. He's barely beating Howard Dean at 17%, but it's still an extremely impressive showing for such a new candidate.

The real news here is Bush's poor performance in New York. He lost the state handily in 2000 to Al Gore, but with a Republican Governor in Albany and a Republican Mayor in NYC--the site of the 2004 GOP convention--some GOP strategists had been suggesting that New York would be in play for 2004.

Not likely anymore.

Almost 70% of New York voters think that the Democratic candidate will win the state's electoral votes in the 2004 general election. Clark, Dean, Lieberman, Kerry, and Gephardt (and non-candidate Hillary Clinton) would all defeat President Bush were the election held today. Worst of all for Team W, Bush's approval rating in the state is down to 42%.

As we get closer to the general election, if these numbers stay relatively stable, it will not look good for Bush to have such low numbers in the state that is playing host to his nominating convention.

posted by Scott | 10/02/2003 | |

Is Bob Graham Getting Ready to Drop?

The other night, I almost posted a piece about the possibility that Graham could be the first to drop out of the Democratic primary. My computer crashed and I gave up. Boy, am I kicking myself now.

Third-quarter fundraising was not good for Graham, who only raised about $2 million. Graham set a $15 million goal for 2003 and nothing short of a miracle will get him there. The polling numbers have never been kind to Graham, either, who peaked in early summer with his high-profile criticism of the Bush administration, never breaking single digits. Now comes the news that his campaign spokesman, Jamal Simmons, is quitting the campaign.

Graham's appeal as a Presidential candidate seems to have been based on a few key factors. He's a popular former Governor--a very important resume point for Presidential candidates; he's tough on foreign policy; he's a free-trader; he's focused his Senatorial career on intelligence; he's a Southerner; he's a moderate.

Graham's thunder, based on these key factors, has been stolen by almost all of the other candidates. Kerry's got Graham on intelligence, Dean's got him on being a former Governor, Lieberman's got him on being a free-trader, and Clark's got him on being a moderate Southerner who's tough on foreign policy.

The campaign is apparently in discussions about the future of Bob Graham's Presidential run. My guess is that Graham will drop out of the race, citing his failure to catch on nationally and the importance of keeping his Senate seat in Democratic hands.

posted by Scott | 10/02/2003 | |

Why Clark's Gaffes Won't Hurt Him Like Deans Will

It's been noticed by many political watchers that General Wesley Clark and Dr. Howard Dean share a similar habit: shooting from the lip. Both men have a tendency to say what they think as soon as they think it. But there are some important differences.

Dean's been saying things he's come to regret for the better part of the last decade. And he's been saying them in some very public forums--Crossfire, Dallas Morning News, Face the Nation, etc.

Clark's past has certainly come back to haunt him as well. Most notable was Clark's speech to a Republican group in 2001 praising the Bush foreign policy team. But to hear this praise is to understand that it was incredibly vague and didn't touch on key policy issues. Clark has admitted to voting for Nixon and Reagan, but also talks about voting for Clinton and Gore.

Here's where the differences begin. When Dean is asked about his past statements on issues like Medicare and Social Security, he disowns them. When Clark is asked about his praise for Reagan, he talks about how important communication is for a President and how Reagan's contributions to American foreign policy during the Cold War enhanced the platforms of Truman and FDR. When Clark is asked why he ever said anything positive about George W. Bush, he points out that Bush sold the nation a bill of goods and that he has governed neither compassionately nor conservatively. Not only is Clark not running from the question, but he's confronting it head-on and laying the groundwork for a Presidential run at the national level. Dean, on the other hand, either explains that he's changed his mind or that he's been misunderstood.

Perhaps a more serious problem for Clark is the fact that he has begun to answer too many questions off the cuff and without enough forethought. The most obvious example of this is Clark's early slip, admitting that he would have voted for the Iraq war resolution, despite his very public criticism of the war over the last year. That's really not all that bad, however, and Clark bounced back rather quickly, explaining that he would have voted for the resolution to give the President diplomatic leverage in demanding Iraq allow weapons inspectors back in country. He also claims he would have demanded that the White House return to Congress for final authorization for war.

A less obvious example of Clark's shooting from the lip is his comment on the death penalty in the Miami Herald. Discussing issues like the relatively new availability of DNA evidence and discrimination in sentencing, Clark endorsed a moratorium before backtracking, saying, "I promised I wasn't going to take a strong position." First of all, it seems that one of Clark's biggest obstacles in seeking the Democratic nomination is his credentials as a liberal. A comment like that--even if he doesn't stick with it as a policy--will go a long way in convincing liberals that he is indeed one of them. Second of all, he made the comment on September 17--the second day of his Presidential campaign. It's hard, therefore, to take it as a serious pronouncement of policy.

Howard Dean's fundraising prowess and appeal to grass-roots Democrats has his fellow candidates extremely worried. The Washington Post this morning ran an article detailing the pile-on that Dean's become a victim of. Joe Lieberman has gone after Dean for selling out Israel. John Kerry has charged that Dean is on "the wrong side of seniors and working families." Dick Gephardt's campaign has taken the criticism to new heights, starting a website called Dean Facts to highlight Dean's gaffes.

And while the rest of the Democratic pack tries to tear down Dean, Clark stands to benefit the most. Dean's misstatements completely outweigh Clark's, Dean doesn't deal with them as well as Clark, and no candidate other than Clark shares Dean's appeal to outsiders. The rest of the candidate pool will probably step up their criticism of Clark in the coming debates, but Dean's still their main target. It may not be the smartest idea for them, but it's great news for Wesley Clark.

posted by Scott | 10/02/2003 | |

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Hart Endorses Kerry

Ah, Gary Hart we have missed you so. DemWatch eagerly covered Hart's almost-campaign earlier this year and it seems he dropped out of the public spotlight after announcing he would not seek the Presidency.

But he's back! And this time it's personal! No, no, no. Sorry about that--my love of bad action sequels got the best of me. Let's try that again...

But he's back! And this time, he's lending a great deal of extra foreign policy gravitas to the Kerry campaign. Hart's endorsement as a former candidate may not be all that weighty on its own, but when it's considered that Kerry now has the endorsements of both the co-author of the Hart-Rudman Report and former Bush administration anti-terrorism official Rand Beers.

Here's what Hart had to say:

"John Kerry’s understanding of both the national economy and foreign policy sets him above and apart from the rest of the field, including George W. Bush." "In this time of uncertainty, our leader should not need on the job training anymore.  John Kerry has the experience to rebuild our economy and the courage to secure our homeland.  He is best qualified to be our next president."

posted by Scott | 9/30/2003 | |
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