Friday, December 19, 2003

Nader: "I Would Like To Run"

Oh dear Lord, please no.

As I wrote earlier this month, Nader made a relatively credible case for his candidacy in 2000. However, his recent claim that "[s]ubtantively, there is a strong argument for running" in 2004 is pretty bogus.

He gives two reasons supporting a 2004 run, neither of which stands up to scrutiny. The Democratic candidates "are dialing for dollars from the same corporate interests, and they aren't willing to really challenge [Bush]."

As I'm just having a cup of coffee before I pack up boxes for a move today, I'm not going to fully research this quote to knock it down, but I really don't think I even have to. Off the top of my head, I can cite the internet movement to draft Wesley Clark and the amazing success of the Dean campaign with small donations as proof that the Democratic effort is not being funded and backed by "the same corporate interests" that are propping up the Bush administration. And there would be a bucket's worth of quotes I could dump on you here that prove that the Democratic candidates have been "willing to really challenge" the President; I just don't have the time to do so right now.

So knock it off, Ralph, and spare yourself some embarrassment. Prove that you're not just merely an ego-driven candidate. Sit this one out until you can really give an acceptable answer as to why you're running. Recycling the old lines from 2000 isn't going to cut it this time.

posted by Scott | 12/19/2003 | |

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Graham Praises Dean In Florida

Calling Howard Dean's proposals on foreign policy "visionary" at a Miami fundraiser, former Presidential candidate and soon-to-be-former Florida Senator Bob Graham has fueled some speculation that he might be getting ready to make an endorsement. While many of Graham's former campaign staffers have gone on to work for the Wesley Clark campaign, Graham's daughter is currently serving as an advisor to Dean.

Neither Dean nor Graham supported the Iraq war, but their reasons were slightly different. While Dean claimed that Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time, Graham voted against the war resolution because it was not far-reaching enough. In other words, by Graham's logic, if the US would be going after the Hussein regime, why not other terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad as well?

Graham's comments -- which fell well short of an endorsement -- certainly help Dean fend off criticism from his opponents who say he is weak on defense and inexperienced on foreign policy. Graham is well known as both a hawk and a foreign policy expert.

posted by Scott | 12/17/2003 | |

Dean, Clark Running Tight In February 3 Primary Races

Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow! This race is heating up fast! While Joe Lieberman is fighting a last minute scorched earth campaign against Dean and Dick Gephardt is struggling to hold on to a respectable finish in Iowa, it is becoming very clear that the primary race has come down to just Wesley Clark and Howard Dean.

South Carolina, Arizona, and Oklahoma are all holding their primaries in seven weeks on February 3. In South Carolina, Dean and Clark are essentially tied for the lead at 20% and 21%, respectively. Al Sharpton and John Edwards are not far behind them with 15% each, though this late in the season, 5% may be too much of a hurdle to overcome. In Arizona, there is another Dean/Clark tie, with the two men carrying 31% and 29%. With the 5% margin of error, that's a tie. The only candidate who even comes close is Lieberman, and he's barely holding on to third with 10%. Oklahoma is showing a solid lead for Clark, though, as he leads Dean 34% to 21%. Again, only Lieberman remains in double digits with 11%. All of these poll results come to us from SurveyUSA.

So what does this tell us? Well, first of all, it confirms that, realistically, it's now just Dean and Clark. It also tells us that Dean is not as unstoppable as some seem to believe. Most importantly, it tells us a bit about who is supporting whom. By and large, Clark holds slight leads among voters 55 and up, Hispanics, independents, moderates and conservatives. Dean has the advantage among voters under 55, women, whites, and registered Democrats.

But won't Dean gain in the February 3 states if he wins Iowa and New Hampshire? That is a definite possibility. As Dean's star has risen, we have seen endorsements come in from not only establishment Democrats like Al Gore and Bruce Babbitt, but also from DLC stalwarts like NJ Governor Jim McGreevey and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. So it stands to reason that Dean's forward momentum out of Iowa and New Hampshire should slingshot him right through February, right?

Not so fast.

Dick Gephardt is DOA if he loses Iowa. Will he endorse Dean? John Kerry is DOA if he loses New Hampshire. Will he endorse Dean? Both of these scenarios are pretty unlikely. Either or both men endorsing Clark is a much more believable prospect. The surprising thing to me is that, for all of the 'stop Dean' hoopla, no one is pulling out and endorsing Clark as an anti-Dean. Lieberman's plainly decided to go down with the ship, shouting to the heavens the whole way down, but Kerry or Edwards or Gephardt might want to start thinking about saving face. It's not too late for Edwards to announce that he's stepping back to secure his Senate seat. Kerry could do the same and, as many pundits have pointed out, ought to. Gephardt has been talked about as a possible candidate for Senator from Missouri, though he could decide to hold on to his House seat. Any one of these dropout endorsements could launch Clark forward.

As it stands now, without any dropouts, it's not looking good for the 'stop Dean' folks. While they continue to squabble and fight amongst themselves, Dean should have an easy time traipsing across the country winning primaries while the rest of the pack splits the difference.

There are also a few other factors to consider here. In the last few days, the capture of Saddam Hussein and his supposed mishandling of it may have hurt Dean. Also in the last few days, his testimony at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic in the Hague has put the spotlight on Clark's foreign policy strengths. Such a juxtaposition of events could put a dent in future poll results.

I feel kind of awkward that I keep writing this, but I'm sticking to it: Dean's strong and Clark's hanging in there, but this race is still anybody's game. Until there are some actual dropouts (aside from Graham, who has been saying some awfully nice things about Dean), we really can't tell who will win the nomination. With so many candidates, it's all just too close to call. And at least for the sake of democracy within the Democratic Party, that's the way I like it.

posted by Scott | 12/17/2003 | |

Clark Wins Madonna Primary

I'm not quite sure what to make of it, but Madonna has endorsed Wesley Clark for President. Somehow, between testifying at the Hague and fending off attacks from his fellow candidates, Clark had the time to sit down with Madonna and talk about his candidacy for President.

If that's weird for you to visualize, try to wrap your brain around the fact that Michael Moore is the one who set up the meeting.

So what, if anything, does a Madonna endorsement bring to the General's table? At first, I was a bit confused about the answer to this myself. Madonna, after all, is to controversy as PigPen is to dirt. The moral majority is undoubtedly going to pile on Clark for this one, whether or not he is the Democratic nominee. However, as the political scene has become so polarized, they were probably going to pile on him no matter what.

There is a simple, one-word explanation as to why Clark would want Madonna's endorsement: Schwarzenegger. The Clark campaign has apparently taken a cue from the California Governor's recent election and recognized the massive impact that the entertainment media can have on real world politics. During the California recall, Schwarzenegger had a huge advantage over Gray Davis and the rest of his opponents. He was covered not only by the mainstream political media, but also by entertainment outlets like Entertainment Tonight, Extra! and Access Hollywood. This gave him a great deal of television coverage in front of an audience that is not normally drawn to politics. But Schwarzenegger made politics hip for many voters in California and around the country. This is the same type of advantage Clark is seeking via the Madonna endorsement.

In other words, it's not a union endorsement, but the Madonna endorsement is a fairly significant step in getting Clark's message out to a whole new pool of potential voters.

posted by Scott | 12/17/2003 | |

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

NJ Governor McGreevey To Endorse Dean

New Jersey's Governor Jim McGreevey is set to endorse Howard Dean for President later this week. Only two other Democratic Governors -- Mike Easley of North Carolina and Bob Holden of Missouri -- have endorsed Presidential candidates this election cycle. It should come as no surprise that they endorsed John Edwards and Dick Gephardt, respectively.

It's an especially odd move for McGreevey for a number of reasons. Such an early endorsement was not expected considering that New Jersey's primary is among the last in the nation. Also, McGreevey is heavily aligned with the Democratic Leadership Council, which has been famously anti-Dean throughout the campaign. Dean's rise to prominence is also closely tied to his opposition to the Iraq war; McGreevey, however, supported the war.

When it came down to it, according to one anonymous advisor to the Governor, McGreevey wanted to bet on a winner. "The endorsement is not built around foreign affairs. It's built around who we think can lead the party to victory." Blunt, but understandable.

But as a New Jersey Democrat and McGreevey supporter, let me be equally blunt in explaining the endorsement as I see it. As Dean was shopping for McGreevey's support, McGreevey requested that Dean's NJ supporters be heavily e-mailed during the state's 2003 midterm elections to encourage them to get to the polls. The result? The Democrats swept the election and now control the State Assembly and Senate as well as the State House. So it's all about payback.

But there's another reason, as well. As of November, McGreevey's approval rating was at a dismal 34%. Even worse, a full 57% of likely voters said that he did not deserve a second term in 2005. However, by tying himself to a strong national candidate, McGreevey not only picks up Dean's base of hyperactive supporters, but also taps into New Jersey's dislike of President Bush, who has a disapproval rating in the state of 50%. Also, Dean is tied for first place -- with Joe Lieberman -- among the Democratic candidates for President in New Jersey with 16%. In other words, McGreevey wants to be where the action is.

Even more to the point, should Dean win the nomination and the general election, McGreevey is putting himself into the running for a cabinet appointment or the VP slot. (Though I don't think a VP-ship for Jim is likely, especially if the nominee is a fellow northeasterner.) Getting into Dean's hypothetical cabinet in 2004 allows McGreevey (and the NJ Democrats) an easy out for the 2005 gubernatorial race, giving them a better chance of holding onto the State House.

posted by Scott | 12/16/2003 | |

Monday, December 15, 2003

Kerry Blogger Withdraws Support

Boy, this has got to hurt the Kerry people. Dan, the writer behind one of the unofficial Kerry blogs, has a pretty heavy posting on his site withdrawing his support of Kerry's candidacy. His concerns mainly center on the Kerry campaign's hardball treatment of Howard Dean, which is understandable if a bit surprising. While Dan's first post on the topic says that his support will be shifting to either Clark or Gephardt, it seems from a later post that he's decided on Clark, writing that he "has a chance to win the nomination and then gives us a fighting chance against Bush."

I know, I know. It's not as if Joe Wilson is taking back his Kerry endorsement, but it certainly says something about Kerry's downward momentum. In fact, the comments following the post say even more. The first four comments all come from former Kerry supporters who have also jumped ship to Clark and there are many subsequent comments expressing similar thoughts.

So while I've been saying for a while that the race is going to start filtering down to Dean versus Clark, this is pretty solid backing to that argument. It's also solid evidence (as are the NH polls) that Clark has the most to gain from Kerry's downfall. Look for more of this as we get a little closer to the primaries.

posted by Scott | 12/15/2003 | |

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Saddam's Capture -- What Does It Mean?

Damned if I know...

Everyone's already analyzing this thing up and down to see what it means for the 2004 race. I think it's way to early to tell.

Here's what I do know.

It's bad for all of the people who kept pointing out that the Bush administration had not been able to find Saddam or Osama. But not too bad, obviously, as Osama's still out there.

If it means decreased violence against US troops, then it's good for the people who supported the war. But while this is a decapitation of a major group of anti-US forces in Iraq, there are other anti-US forces in that country that will fill the vacuum. This might even lead to more violence.

It's not as good for Bush as it might seem. How so? It's too far off from the general election to make an appreciable impact on Bush's support. Rove & Co. want an October surprise, not a December-the-year-before surprise.

And that's just about it. We're going to have to see how this thing plays out before we really know what the impact will be in 2004.

posted by Scott | 12/14/2003 | |

More Weird Poll Numbers, This Time From Newsweek

Surprise, surprise! Howard Dean got a bump in the polls from the Al Gore endorsement.

While 48% of likely Democratic primary voters -- nationwide -- said that the Gore endorsement "did not make much difference" in their preference, 35% said it would make them more likely to support Howard Dean. This was reflected in Dean's numbers, as he went from 16% support in November to 24% as of just a few days ago.

Oddly, the endorsement also seemed to give Lieberman a lift from 8% to 12%, tying him with Wesley Clark for third place. Clark, it should be noted, seemed to lose some support post-endorsement, dropping from 15% to 12%. Dick Gephardt and Al Sharpton also saw their support rise by 1% point each to 10% and 5% respectively. (Though Sharpton's bump may be attributable to his Saturday Night Live appearance last weekend.)

So why do I see this as being weird? Again, when one looks at the "Bush versus" numbers from the same poll, Dean and Lieberman would still trailing Bush by a greater margin than Clark in the general election. Bush leads Dean 49% to 42%. Bush leads Lieberman 51% to 42%. Bush leads Clark by 49% to 43%. It remains a mystery to me why the Clark campaign is seemingly unable to parlay these numbers into news for their candidate. Clark stands the best chance against Bush. That seems like a easy sell to me, but they don't seem to be making it.

Though his second place showing doesn't highlight it, the numbers are especially bad for Lieberman. Against Lieberman, 51% of voters would support Bush. But when asked if Bush should be reelected in 2004, 50% of voters say no. So that means, among the top three candidates, only Lieberman turns off some voters to such a degree that they'd vote for Bush even though they don't want him reelected. It should be pointed out that Gephardt, Kerry, and Edwards share this distinction with Lieberman.

So long story short, even though Lieberman's enjoying a bit of rediscovered support among primary voters, the race is quickly coming down to Howard Dean and Wesley Clark.

posted by Scott | 12/14/2003 | |

Dean, Gephardt Fight Proxy War Through Unions

In the world of union endorsements, there are really only two names in this election cycle: Gephardt and Dean.

Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt has been a stalwart supporter of labor throughout his career in government and was therefore expected to mop up union endorsements long before the primaries had begun. He did just that, winning the endorsements of the Steelworkers, Boilermakers and Longshoremen and Teamsters despite AFL-CIO head John Sweeney's request that the member unions not endorse any candidate on their own.

But Howard Dean has made his own mark on the world of labor politics, winning the first ever Wellstone Award from the AFL-CIO in January of this year for his support of a group of nurses who wanted to unionize at Vermont's Fletcher Allen Healthcare. He then went on to secure the endorsements of the massive Service Employees International Union and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

These unions have a long history of cooperating to support candidates on the ground, in their workplaces, through grassroots organization. But now the primary battle in Iowa between Gephardt and Dean has opened a rift between the two sides, pitting nurses against steelworkers and government employees against machinists. This is unfortunate, though not unexpected. Everyone in both camps fully believes that labor will come together behind whatever candidate the Democrats nominate in 2004.

But while the organizing bodies will undoubtedly come together to support the eventual nominee, what about the workers on the ground? Should Dean be the nominee, will the steelworkers be able to overlook all of the charges they've heard leveled at him? That he's anti-worker, that he's has a history of trying to privatize government jobs, etc? And what about Gephardt? Will voters who are members of Dean-supporting unions really be able to get excited about a candidate -- Gephardt -- who represents outmoded ways of thinking and coordinating?

While I'm not admonishing anyone for doing their jobs and staying loyal to their candidates, I am suggesting that a bit of caution be exercised among labor's political coordinators. After all, the Democratic Party cannot afford to have any progressive workers sitting out the general election next year.

posted by Scott | 12/14/2003 | |
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