The news has been coming faster and more furious than I've been able to keep up with, so I'm going to write it up as it stands. Wesley Clark, the latest comer to the Democratic primary race, is fast closing in on if not front-runner status, then next-to-front-runner status.
Two new polls of New Hampshire voters -- Zogby and American Research Group -- find Wes Clark in third place and rapidly catching up to the falling John Kerry. Both polls showed very similar results -- Dean at 42%/45%, Kerry at 12%/13%, and Clark at 9%/11%. Dean and Clark each gained a bit and Kerry fell.
It's also interesting to note that in the ARG poll, Clark gained exactly the number of points Kerry lost. As Kerry with undoubtedly fall further due to downward momentum, Wes Clark is poised to gain. Clark also holds an odd advantage in New Hampshire in that he has the highest "undecided" numbers as it relates to his favorable/unfavorable numbers. That means that as he spends more time face to face with New Hampshire voters, he stands to gain their support. No one expects Wesley Clark to pull out a miraculous come-from-behind win in New Hampshire, but a second place (or even a third place) finish -- which he seems to have locked up will give him a massive boost going into the February 3 primaries.
A mid-November poll of likely primary voters in Oklahoma gave a slight edge to Joe Lieberman with 10%, but Clark was running in strong second with 9%. Dean and Dick Gephardt tied for third at 8% each. I haven't been able to find more recent poll numbers than that, but the Lieberman lead seems to indicate that Oklahoma voters really are not yet following the race too closely and favor Lieberman because of name recognition. Look for strong numbers for Clark in that state as his television ad campaign begins to make inroads.
While I also wasn't able to find poll numbers for the Arizona primary, it's been heavily hyped by his campaign that Clark is already running in first place in South Carolina. John Edwards is hot on his heels, however, and is also running ads in the state. Both campaigns -- along with the Lieberman campaign -- are hoping that February 3 strategies will be their ticket to the nomination. A second place finish for Clark in New Hampshire would give him extra cache going into the convention.
Slate's Will Saletan, in a Washington Post online discussion earlier today, predicted a win (or a few wins) on February 3 coupled with high Q4 fundraising numbers and a "clear" second place finish in NH could spark a "flock-to-Clark phenomenon." He cites the fact that many of Kerry's former staff have since gone on to work for the Clark campaign and that Clark's supporters "are trying to finish [Kerry] off in the mind of the Beltway elite so that the elite will coalesce behind Clark."
I think it's also likely that something else will boost Clark among Democratic primary voters. Clark is set to testify in the coming days in the war crimes trial of Slobodon Milosevic. However, the Bush administration has decided to censor his testimony so that the court's public gallery will be off-limits to the public, all cameras broadcasting the testimony will be shut off, and public release of the transcript of the testimony will be delayed for 48 hours while it is reviewed and censored by the administration. While the administration claims they are concerned about Clark's "inadvertent disclosure of sensitive information," this claim doesn't hold up to scrutiny. The highest-ranking US official to testify before the court so far has been former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Her testimony was not censored at all.
His testimony was bound to put a huge spotlight on Clark's foreign policy expertise and experience. Such a blatantly political move will highlight the fact that Team W is quite frankly scared of General Clark and wants to eliminate him from competition. If this won't make him tremendously attractive to Democratic primary voters, I don't know what will. So far, the campaign has distanced itself from Clark's testimony, saying they have "no involvement" with it. This is probably true enough, but Clark's supporters -- if not his campaign -- are likely to make a huge deal over the White House's censoring of their candidate.
Make no mistake about it, Clark's star is definitely on the rise.
posted by Scott |
| Thursday, December 04, 2003
And now, ladies and gentlemen of the Democratic Party, the moment you've been dreading for the past few years... Ralph Nader is exploring a Presidential run in 2004. According to his committee director, Theresa Amato, Nader is merely "testing the waters" right now, but will be deciding on a run early next year.
One hopes that by announcing that he will decide early next year, Nader is waiting to see how the Democratic field shakes out and whether a conservative Democrat (I'm looking at you, Mr. Lieberman) will be the party's nominee. That way, Nader would once again make the case to the left that there is little difference between the two major parties.
While that is probably not the case, it would be a smart move for Nader to wait out the early primaries before making an announcement. In 2000, it remained to be seen what kind of president George W. Bush would be. He ran as a 'compassionate conservative,' championing education and a humble foreign policy. Al Gore ran as a populist, but had a fairly moderate resume. Nader made a credible case that both candidates were too much alike.
But 2004 is totally different. Progressives now see how awful the Bush presidency truly is. Even the most conservative of the bunch -- Joe Lieberman -- is to the Bush administration's left on most, if not all, issues. Nader has praised John Edwards and campaigned with Dennis Kucinich. That makes it much harder for him to make the case that the Democratic Party is somehow a corrupt institution. One of Nader's staunchest supporters, filmmaker Michael Moore, has been quite open about his support of General Wesley Clark.
Long story short, if Nader runs in 2004, he will not play spoiler. He won't even come close. The majority of the people who voted for him in 2000 will not return in 2004. It's honestly in his best interests to sit this one out and keep his dignity intact.
posted by Scott |
Oh, that wacky Joe Lieberman! What will he think of next?
It seems that Joe and the entire Lieberman family will be taking up residence in Manchester, NH for the lead-up to the New Hampshire primary on January 27th. "[B]y the time the primary rolls around," says Lieberman's NH campaign director Peter Greenberger, "Granite State residents will consider Joe their neighbor."
Those lucky Manchester residents... Not only did they have a Joe-vember to remember, it looks like they'll also be having quite a Joe-cember and Joe-uary, as well.
posted by Scott |
Anti-Dean Forces Swing Into Action
You know the scene in action movies where the SWAT team comes careening through plate glass windows, swinging on ropes, brandishing machine guns and night vision goggles? Well, a much tamer version of that is what's going on right now in the primary battle. The target? Who else? Howard Dean.
He's lost a bit of forward momentum in the past few days, from his sealed Vermont records from his term as Governor to his hit-and-miss appearance on Hardball, Dean's critics saw an opening and they are taking it. It's a bit late to seriously hurt Dean in the primaries, which seems to be why the criticism is so sharp and strong. Let's take a look at some of the strongest examples.
- Brookings Institute senior fellow Michael O'Hanlon on Dean's Iraq inconsistencies. This is something that has not really been discussed much outside of the rival campaigns. O'Hanlon writes that Dean has advocated both a strategy of winning in Iraq and a policy of withdrawing the troops from the country. He quotes Dean's comments in early September's New Mexico debate. "We need more troops," Dean said. "They're going to be foreign troops, as they should have been in the first place, not American troops. Ours need to come home." During the October debate in Phoenix, however, Dean said "we can't pull out [of Iraq] responsibly."
While Dean is long on rhetoric on Iraq, O'Hanlon points out that he seems to be short on actual strategy. In February, O'Hanlon quotes Dean as saying, "Saddam Hussein must disarm. This is not a debate, this is a given." However, Dean also called any military action against Iraq to force disarmament "the wrong war at the wrong time." O'Hanlon's right to say that Dean's rhetoric on this "does not hold water." On one hand, Dean demands the Iraqis disarm, but suggests no actual mechanism to force them to do so.
- The Boston Globe op-ed piece that says Dean is "not really a no-nonsense country doctor. He just plays one on TV." What's got Globe columnist Scot Leigh so peeved at Dr. Dean? Leigh is calling Dean on being evasive in the face of questioning of commitment to campaign finance reform on Monday's Hardball. Dean claims he opted out of the public finance system in order to be able to spend more money running against Bush in the general election. Fair enough. John Kerry did the same thing though, but when he did, he also committed to adhering to the state-by-state spending limits that come along with federal matching funds, even though he no longer had to. Dean will not commit to primary spending limits, however, which is totally unrelated to the general election. And when Dean was asked why not, he claimed that it was because "it looks very much like the other candidates are doing it anyway." That's totally untrue. Kerry's the only other candidate opting out, and as I mentioned above, he is abiding by the spending limits.
Leigh -- along with Dick Gephardt's people -- say that Dean won't limit his spending in order to beat Gephardt in Iowa. Already, Dean is spending massive amounts of money in the state and cannot possibly stick to the $2.5 million cap without seriously cutting his rate to spending. Which is, of course, extremely unlikely.
- Dean's bizarre "Soviet Union" flap on Hardball. This one is so weird that I hesitate to write about it. On Monday's Hardball, Dean told the audience that the way the US should be dealing with Iran is by leaning on... the Soviet Union. Obviously, he meant Russia, which is indeed a major trade partner of Iran. And as such, pressuring Russia to ease their assistance with Iran's nuclear programs would be a great idea. But Fox News (who I sourced above) and Rush Limbaugh have pounced on Dean's gaffe, so I feel the need to include it here. And the direct attacks on Dean from the Right are a pretty good indicator that they feel Dean would be a tough opponent in the general election.
- Is Dean being hypocritical with sealed records? This is one issue that no one less than GOP chairman Ed Gillespie brought up this week. Dean was the Governor of Vermont -- something we all know. Governors often seal their records -- something most of us know. Dean sealed his records as Vermont's Governor when he left office -- big deal.
Why is this a story, then? Well, on Monday, Dean claimed that Bush sealed his records by putting them in Bush I's presidential library. Dean said, "I'll unseal mine if he'll unseal all of his." Which is a cute thing to say. Problem is, Bush's records as Governor of Texas were unsealed and moved to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in July of last year.
- "If history is any guide, sooner or later an arrow will pierce Dean's heel." So writes Walter Shapiro in USA Today. Shapiro notes that none of the charges leveled against Dean so far have been able to stick. The problem is that "[t]he attacks are all over the ideological map... [C]ritics can't decide whether Dean is a states-rights ally of the gun lobby or a kamikaze liberal." An interesting premise, and probably true enough. Oddly, that's one of the things that's going to make Dean incredibly attractive to undecided Democrats as the primary fight continues to heat up. If the other candidates can't tackle Dean, one wonders, how is the GOP going to succeed?
posted by Scott |
| Tuesday, December 02, 2003
This is more like it. Let's get the spotlight off of Howard Dean and onto George W. Bush. There is so much information out there on the Bush administration that would turn people's stomachs if they ever found out about it. But the major media hasn't deemed much of it 'newsworthy,' so the majority of the public goes about their daily lives unaware.
And the Democratic Presidential candidates haven't been much help. In the major debates, rather than highlighting the massive failures, hypocrisies, and lies of Team W, they attack each other. Howard Dean is too liberal. Wesley Clark is not a Democrat. Dick Gephardt supported the war against Iraq. John Kerry changed his mind. Blah, blah, blah. It's as if they've been brainwashed by the research staff of Bush-Cheney '04.
But now finally, the Democrats running for President are getting serious about exposing Bush as the liar and hypocrite that he is. John Kerry, perhaps because he has very little to lose, compared the tactics of the Ashcroft Justice Department with those of the Taliban, citing some damning examples. One story he told on the campaign stump yesterday involved a man criticizing the administration in public and then being questioned by the FBI. The New York Times quoted Kerry's strong but fair diatribe. "A country where you are visited by the authorities for thinking or voicing an unpopular idea smacks more of the Taliban than Thomas Jefferson.... Trading in our basic rights for the false facade of security is not worth it."
Dick Gephardt drove home a fact that many of the candidates have mentioned, but none have made too much political hay over. Citing unfunded initiatives on security at power plants and other public industrial sites, Gephardt charged that while "[n]one of these home front security measures are expendable... this president abandoned them all for a tax cut for the wealthy."
Well put. Now if they just keep it up and make sure it gets into the nightly news, we might just win this thing.
posted by Scott |
The GOP's off-year redistricting of Colorado's legislative map has been defeated by the states' Supreme Court, who found that redistricting more than once after the census is unconstitutional. The new map was intended to render two seats safe for Republicans.
The ruling unfortunately has no bearing on any court challenge to the Tom DeLay-managed redistricting in Texas undertaken this year (despite the best efforts of the Killer Ds). This is due to the Colorado court's "heavy reliance on state law" in overturning the GOP map. Democrats are also challenging Pennsylvania's electoral map in the Supreme Court in the coming weeks.
posted by Scott |
I've written before that John Edwards seems to be one 'defining moment' away from the top tier. It's as if he only needs some hype to get him going.
Well, David Yepsen of The Des Moines Register thinks the Iowa caucus could be that sling shot. Edwards has been spending a lot of time in Iowa, shaking a lot of hands, and meeting Iowa caucus voters face to face. That kind of legwork could put Edwards in the top three once the votes are all counted in January.
Edwards does well with Iowa voters, Yepsen writes, in part because unlike some of the other candidates, he "actually knew what a big hog lot smelled like before he got [to Iowa]." Since he was never favored in the state, even a second-or-third-place finish would be "a connecting flight to contests in the South" for Edwards.
Yepsen could be right. And a decent placing in Iowa could be just the hype Edwards needs to propel him right back to the front of the pack.
posted by Scott |
| Sunday, November 30, 2003
Bad News Rising For GOP
A number of recent pieces in various publications are pointing to trouble ahead for the Republicans. Voices as diverse as George Will, The New York Times, John McCain, the editorial staff of The Modesto Bee, and the supply-side think tank The Club For Growth are putting the GOP on alert that, unless they change their bullying, pandering ways, they are doomed to an unavoidable, massive failure.
Allow me to run down some of the recent comments made about the Republicans:
-George Will, writing in the December 8 issue of Newsweek, warns against two major problems. The first seems to be a common theme among many recent GOP critics. In order to become a majority party, Bush and the rest of the GOP leadership have compromised their principles to such a point that "tweezers may be needed to pick up the remnants of conservatism as traditionally understood." Will also warns against Congressional Republicans against being too heavy handed in their suppression of debate and dissent from their Democratic colleagues. They are setting dangerous precedents which will come back to haunt them should the Democrats regain either or both houses of Congress. As of right now, however, he writes that they seem to "assume they will never again be in the minority and vulnerable to payback."
-An entire article in The New York Times is dedicated to the GOP bullying that is increasingly dominating the House of Representatives. Rutgers University political science professor Ross Baker comments that while relations between the two parties in the House has reached "one of the low points," that the situation will probably worsen before it improves. "Something much nastier is going to have to happen," he predicts, "and then people will come to their senses and realize that this is no way for a legislature in the most important country of the world to be acting."
As the party in power, the GOP would likely be held accountable for the bad relations in Congress. And if Professor Baker is correct that "something much nastier" will take place, then voters will make their disgust clear in the voting booth.
- While many see political benefit for the GOP from the recent Medicare bill, others are talking backlash. Another New York Times article finds seniors in Florida -- exactly the demographic Republicans were targeting with the bill -- not so thrilled about the bill's supposed benefits. Some pointed to the fact that the bill is too complicated, with one senior declaring it "not straightforward." Many complained that the bill isn't going to help them because they're either not poor enough or not sick enough.
- Though the Medicare bill was meant to attract seniors to the GOP, it may have further alienated a more important Republican constituency: fiscal conservatives. The head of the Reaganite think tank The Club For Growth, Stephen Moore, doesn't like the Medicare bill one bit. He calls it "the biggest new spending program since Lyndon Johnson was in the White House." He also cites poll numbers that say while many voters supported the bill, they did so without full understanding of what the bill actually entailed. Once they had a better understanding of the bill's provisions, only 19% supported it with 54% opposed. The bill "feeds into this fear that conservatives have that Bush is a big-government Republican."
-The editorial staff of California's Modesto Bee draws a familiar parallel between the behavior of the national GOP and the California Democrats. The Republicans, in control of both Congress and the White House, have "unchecked power" that they are "using to get virtually everything they and their contributors desire." On the Medicare and energy bills, the GOP "took a... democratically flawed route that excluded Democrats from any meaningful discussion or input." Calling the energy bill "nothing less than a looting of the federal treasury," the editorial highlights some of the pork contained in the bill, including "money for a Hooters restaurant in Louisiana and a shopping mall for a big Republican donor in Syracuse, N.Y." While the parties should be "working together" to craft policy, the Republicans are "ringing the dinner bell for its corporate masters and serving its own agenda." They conclude that, just as California recently rejected one-party dominance, "[t]he rest of the country will have the same opportunity to weigh in next November."
It seems to me that, while some see a dark immediate future for the Democrats, the Republicans are really the ones who ought to be worried.
posted by Scott |