Saturday, November 08, 2003

Dean Declines Matching Funds

...not to mention the spending limits that come with them. The decision was widely expected, but the campaign waited to poll its supporters, some 85% of whom agreed with Dean that the campaign should forgo matching funds.

The New York Times points out that Dean has already raised $25 million, $19 million of which is eligible for federal matching funds, giving Dean almost the full $45 million that he would be limited to spending. In other words, should he have accepted the matching funds, Dean would be effectively done with his fundraising for the campaign cycle.

Team W is also sidestepping the matching funds in an effort to raise a gargantuan $170 million which, with no primary challengers, would be spent all during the general election. Any Democrats who accept federal matching funds will be limited to spending just $45 million over the course of the primaries as well as in the general election.

John Kerry and Wesley Clark are reportedly also considering opting out of the matching funds program. Should both Bush and the Democratic nominee opt out of the current campaign finance program, it seems that the final nail would be driven into the coffin of the post-Watergate campaign finance reforms and a new, hopefully stronger, though quite possibly weaker system would be born.

posted by Scott | 11/08/2003 | |

Thursday, November 06, 2003

SEIU Delays Dean Endorsement To Wait On Word From AFSCME

The SEIU has agreed to hold off on an announcement of their endorsement of Howard Dean -- previously expected today -- in deference to their once rival union AFSCME. Gerald McEntee of AFSCME reportedly requested that SEIU delay their endorsement of Dean until next week.

While Dean has had the SEIU endorsement locked up at least the last week, McEntee and AFSCME have been considering endorsing the candidacies of John Kerry and Wesley Clark as well as Howard Dean.

Coupled with recent poll numbers, this is tremendous news for Howard Dean, who could go into the primaries with the backing of at least 3.1 million politically active union members. Dick Gephardt has long been considered the labor candidate, but his campaign has just never caught the kind of momentum Howard Dean has been able to generate.

One thing to keep in mind... should, for any reason, AFSCME decide not to endorse Howard Dean after all of this hype, it will be a major blow to his momentum.

posted by Scott | 11/06/2003 | |

Dean Takes National Lead

The September tie between Howard Dean and Wesley Clark among likely Democratic primary voters has given way to a lead for Dean. Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards, and Dennis Kucinich also saw gains of 3%, 2%, 1%, and 1%, respectively. Wesley Clark and Carol Moseley Braun were the only two candidates to see drops -- both 2% -- and John Kerry and Al Sharpton remained stable at 7% and 4%, respectively.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Dean's standing is that his lead also extends to the South. Southern Democratic primary voters favor Dean by 13% to a tie at 8% for Edwards, Lieberman, and Sharpton. Dean also leads other candidates in the East, among registered Democrats, among Independents, among whites, among both men and women, and among all primary voters between the ages of 30 and 64.

It's notable that Wes Clark is not doing better among Southern Democrats and men, two demographics that he was expected to be very popular with. It's even more notable that Howard Dean is not doing very well at all with voters under 30. Sharpton and Clark are tied among that group at 16% to Dean and Edwards at 4% each. Clark and Dean are tied among seniors at 16%. Among minorities, Hispanic voters prefer Clark and African-American voters prefer Sharpton.

posted by Scott | 11/06/2003 | |

Clark Lays Out Iraq Plan

Today's Boston Globe features an op-ed piece penned by General Wesley Clark on a strategy for winning Iraq. The key feature of Clark's plan is an increased emphasis on internationalism.

Clark would convene an international summit to discuss the operation, "the military occupation into a NATO operation with US forces in charge," and work to convince Iraq's neighbors to cooperate to close the borders to foreign terrorists "[u]sing carrots and sticks." In terms of actual military policy, Clark would work on protecting US troops by reducing the number of "unarmored Humvees on patrol," patrolling Iraqi weapons depots, and recalling the Iraqi Army into service. He also sees promise in giving the Iraqis more power and control over their own governance, proving to the Iraqi people that the US has the best intentions.

This plan follows Wednesday's defense of his praise of the Bush foreign policy team two years ago. He called his comments "an introductory comment to a speech in which I condemned [the Bush administration's] isolationist foreign policy." He continued, "[t]hey were failing even then... [t]hey're failing even worse today."

Clark may still suffer some criticism for these comments, but this is certainly a solid foundation for the campaign to base their defense upon.

posted by Scott | 11/06/2003 | |

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Dean Apologizes, Announces Internet Vote To Decide On Public Campaign Funding

Howard Dean finally decided today to apologize for his Confederate flag comments. He must have decided today, because just last night he was as unapologetic as ever. Speaking in New York, he admitted that he "started this discussion in a clumsy way." However, he stuck to his guns on the basics of his rhetoric, emphasizing the need for the Democratic candidates to appeal to blue collar, Southern white voters.

Dean seems to still insist that these voters are likely to drive around with Confederate flag stickers on the backs of their pickup trucks. So his apology may mend fences with potential African American voters, but will not help him in appealing to moderate Southern whites who would find the notion terribly offensive (read: the John Edwards crowd.)

And elsewhere in Deanville, the New York Times has the scoop on the campaign backing out of the public campaign finance system in order to free itself of spending limits. It may be a good thing for the Dean campaign in terms of practicality. Dean's raised more money than any other Democrat and has proven his success in that area. While Kerry is also considering the same option, forgoing public money will free up Dean to spend all of his competitors into the ground in the primaries and still have money left over to take on Team W in the general election. Dean will make his decision based on the results of internet voting at his website, Dean for America.

However, one wonders if the real winner here would not be George W. Bush, who may have effectively killed campaign finance reform by trading fat cat tax cuts for fat cat campaign contributions.

posted by Scott | 11/05/2003 | |

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Rock The Vote! Forum Wrap-Up

Well, no matter what Teresa Heinz Kerry thinks of the importance of the Democratic debates, I've got to say this one showed some promise. Not that it was really a debate, however. More like a forum. Come to think of it, it was kind of like the old joke -- those in attendance went to a forum and a debate broke out.

The main debate that broke out involved Al Sharpton, Howard Dean, and John Edwards over (surprise, surprise!) the Confederate flag. Inexplicably, Howard Dean refuses to apologize for this one. As Chris Suellentrop at Slate points out, it seems that Dean's got trouble apologizing for anything.

But that's perhaps not even Dean's biggest problem. Again, I've got to go with Suellentrop on this one. Dean didn't even answer the audience member's question about what Dean was going to do to prove that he's "sensitive to needs and issues regarding slavery and African-Americans." Rather, he launched into a defensive-sounding rant about there being more white people in South Carolina whose essential needs are not being met by the federal government than black people! It was an absolutely offensive answer to a softball question that Dean easily could have used to dig himself out of the hole he's been in.

Credit Al Sharpton for not letting Dean's answer stand in an intelligent, coherent manner (unlike his earlier insistence that Dean has an "anti-black agenda"). "You can't bring a Confederate flag," Sharpton admonished, "to the table of brotherhood." He also (wisely) added, "you are not a bigot, but you appear to be too arrogant to say 'I'm wrong' and go on."

This allowed a huge opening for John Edwards, who seemed to be waiting for the moment. Should Edwards see a comeback in the polls over the coming weeks, remember this as the moment it began. "The last thing we need in the South," Edwards charged, "is somebody like you coming down and telling us what we need to do." Dean lost, Edwards won, and Al Sharpton made it all possible.

The most unique aspect of the debate was the 30-second spots prepared by each campaign targeted to young audiences. While most of them were corny montages of candidates and young supporters with quick soundbites and techno or hip hop soundtracks, Wesley Clark's spot surprisingly showed that he (or at least his campaign staff) actually gets young people.

The spot featured Clark having an informal coffee house chat with a handful of young voters, explaining his positions, and then ended with Clark explaining, "I don't care what the other candidates say," seeming to set up a major policy difference between him and the rest of the slate, "I don't think that Outkast is really breaking up. Andre 3000 and Big Boi just cut solo records, that's all."

Absolute genius. I am an Outkast fan though, so I may be a bit biased.

The other surprising thing to come out of Clark's corner tonight was his announcement that he does not support the embargo on Cuba. He explained his position with the thoughtful explanation that "when you isolate a country, you strengthen the dictators in it." This is, of course, common knowledge, though it will not win Clark any fans in Florida. Still, it was good to see someone stand up against such a silly political taboo.

Moderator Anderson Cooper was phenomenal. He was both funny and tough, playing devil's advocate to each candidate when circumstances called for it, but it never felt like he was arguing just for the sake of arguments.

So for future debates, my vote is more Anderson Cooper, less Fox News.

posted by Scott | 11/04/2003 | |

New Jersey: All Dems, All The Time

I wasn't really going to talk about the off-year election results, but my fellow New Jerseyans just have me too happy not to talk about 'em.

Governor McGreevey isn't doing too well in the polls. Some of you may have heard. The GOP ran hard against all Democratic candidates, painting them with the broad brush of big bad Governor Jim. And boy, did it fail! As it turns out, people don't like McGreevey, but they certainly don't hate him. And New Jersey voters are smart enough (as I've said before) not to vote for Senate and Assembly candidates as proxies. And so not only did the NJ Democrats untie the Senate, they also gained a whopping FIVE seats in the General Assembly!

Democrats were not so lucky in Kentucky, where they lost the Governor's seat for the first time in 32 years. And the gubernatorial race in Mississippi is still too close to call, with the Klan-backed former national GOP head Haley Barbour barely leading sitting Democratic Governor Ronnie Musgrove. May karma be with us on that one...

posted by Scott | 11/04/2003 | |

Hey Howard! What's Up With Thursday?

Oh, you gotta love that Joe Trippi. The minute it becomes public that Wes Clark's website stats are beating Howard Dean's website stats, here comes the Dean campaign, telling all of us to check our inboxes on Thursday. Calling it "the most important email of this campaign" and insisting that "future of this campaign — and this country — is in your hands," everyone seems to be wondering what the Dean camp is cooking up.

Some are speculating that it's the announcement of the SEIU endorsement, but I have my doubts. After all, most campaign watchers already expect that one's coming. What could it be? I guess we'll have to wait and see...

PS - No, I am not seriously suggesting that Dean's announcement is timed to counter the news that Clark's site is beating Dean's site. I'm merely pointing out that we now live in an age when candidates' website statistics and urgent campaign e-mail teasers have become news.

posted by Scott | 11/04/2003 | |

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Dems Attack Dean On Confederate Flag Comment

His opponents for the Democratic nomination have begun to go after Howard Dean for repeatedly saying that he wants to be the candidate that appeals to Southern whites who sport Confederate flags on the backs of their pickup trucks. Dean's rhetoric serves a few purposes for the candidate. First, it underscores his claim (which no one really disputes) that the Democrats need to win back Southern blue-collar white male voters. Second, it's an attempt to justify his position on gun control, claiming that different states (New Jersey and Vermont is one example he frequently cites) ought to have different gun laws to reflect each state's unique position. Third, it insulates Dean from the charge that he is the candidate of uppercrust white liberals.

That said, the use of the Confederate flag imagery in his rhetoric ignores what that flag means to many voters, especially African Americans, as it relates to slavery and oppression. In other words, Dean's heart seems to be in the right place, but not his sensitivity. Dean is absolutely right about winning votes from white Southern males. However he ought to swap out "Confederate flags" for a less loaded image like "shotgun racks."

Let's take a look at some of what was said. John Kerry charges that Dean is attempting to "pander to lovers of the Confederate flag." The director of the Lieberman campaign called Dean's reference to the flag "irresponsible and reckless." Clark pointed out the need for Democrats "to condemn the divisiveness the Confederate flag represents." Edwards took a different approach, saying that "[t]o assume that Southerners who drive trucks would embrace this symbol is offensive."

But the question is really why Dean's opponents are attacking now after he's been making similar comments for the better part of a year. The answer, oddly enough, seems to be that the Democrats are actually following Al Sharpton's lead. A few days ago, Sharpton flew off the handle upon learning of Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s endorsement of Dean, claiming that Dean promotes an "anti-black agenda."

As ridiculous as the charge is, Sharpton's fellow candidates seem eager to promote that meme, citing Dean's Confederate flag comments as evidence. Dean had been given a free pass on the line for quite a while, giving him plenty of time to repeat it over and over, at quite a few campaign stops all around the country. Expect this issue to be a thorn in Dean's side in the coming months as the other candidates will be exploiting any chink they can find in the front-runner's armor.

posted by Scott | 11/02/2003 | |
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