Heading into the February 3 primaries, John Kerry holds impressive leads in a number of key states. According to the latest Zogby polling data, Kerry leads Missouri with 45% to his nearest competitor John Edwards' 11%. In Arizona, Kerry holds a slightly smaller lead over Wesley Clark, 38% to 17%. Winning nothing more than those two states, with their large number of delegates, should be enough to keep the front-runner's tag on the Kerry campaign.
But Kerry's strengths don't stop there. With 24% support, he's statistically tied with Edwards at 25% in South Carolina. And last night's debate was sure not to help Edwards. It's becoming rapidly clear that Edwards is very good at delivering his stock stump speech, but he's no Sharpton or Dean in terms of going off the map. If Kerry was this close to Edwards before the debate, look for him to take first place in the polling very soon.
Kerry's also got the lead in a February 3 primary the media is paying less attention to: North Dakota. A new poll conducted for the The Forum newspaper in Fargo finds that Kerry holds an impressive lead in that state, with 31% to Clark's 15%. Kerry's planning a rally on Sunday in ND, which one pollster says will cement his lead.
While Clark had been in the lead in the polling in Oklahoma, there are some new numbers that suggest Kerry might be ready to win that state as well. Zogby, in tracking polls for 1/27 - 1/29, showed a commanding lead for Clark, with 27% to 19% for Kerry. But a poll commissioned for The Oklahoman finds a much tighter race. And more important for Kerry, he leads Clark in this poll 20% to 18%. This is, of course, within the margin of error (5.6%), but it's certainly not the strong Clark lead Zogby predicts. While the Zogby numbers are the result of a three-day tracking poll, the The Oklahoman poll was conducted the day after the New Hampshire primary though. This suggests that Kerry is on the rise in that state. With even Zogby showing 23% undecided, there is plenty of room for movement here.
The real question in my mind is this: When are the other candidates (or other interested parties) going to start attacking Kerry? While I'm not advocating attack politics, there are questions about Kerry. A few have been getting out there. For example, The New Republic has been questioning whether or not Kerry is really all that electable. The RNC has been pointing to Kerry's voting record, which puts him just slightly to the left of Ted Kennedy. Over at Daily Kos, there have been a number of questions about the Kerry campaign's use of some really lowball tactics against Dean in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Again, I'm not trying to smear Kerry. I'm only concerned with whether or not the country's Democrats are playing follow the leader without asking any real questions about what they're getting.
posted by Scott |
| Wednesday, January 28, 2004
After NH, What Now?
I've had a lot of readers e-mail to ask me what happens post-New Hampshire. The game changes drastically after the first primary ends, so it's a damn good question. And seeing as how the results were so wildly unpredictable just a month ago, it easy to understand why the campaigns are scrambling to put together their schedules. So to the best of my ability, relying on a massive number of local and national news stories, The Note, and each campaign's publicly released schedule, here's how I see the coming week playing out, both for the candidates and the states.
John Kerry's the man with the momentum. He's gobbling up endorsements like Howard Dean two or three weeks ago. He's one of only three Democratic candidates to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. But there is a flipside to that. A number of candidates have won the party's nomination without Iowa and New Hampshire. So are they really all that important?
Of course they are. Look at all of the glowing attention and hype Kerry's been getting. But along with that comes media scrutiny and high expectations. That will definitely knock Kerry down a few pegs. Now Kerry is burdened with having to campaign in all seven February 3 states. He could opt out of doing this, of course, choosing instead to focus on a few key states, but his campaign has already announced that he won't. And if he did skip, say, Oklahoma, he'd be putting forth an image of doubt. That's the last thing the front-runner wants to do.
Kerry appeared at a campaign event today in St. Louis, MO--Dick Gephardt's home turf. There has been much talk of a Gephardt endorsement for Kerry, though Gephardt said he would not make any endorsement. Tomorrow, Kerry will be in South Carolina with all of the other Democratic candidates for a debate to be televised on MSNBC. After that, the campaign says that Kerry will be appearing and running television ads in each of the seven February 3 states.
In South Carolina, Kerry was recently endorsed by Senator Fritz Hollings and Representative Jim Clyburn, the state's highest ranking black elected official. All of the campaigns have been courting Clyburn since Gephardt, whom Clyburn had earlier endorsed, dropped out of the race. The Gephardt campaign apparently had polling data that indicated that 65% of SC voters would be more likely to vote for a candidate Clyburn endorsed. But that's not really supported by the actual poll numbers that indicated Gephardt didn't get much of a bump in SC from the endorsement. I have no doubt, however, that Clyburn's stumping for Kerry will make an impact. The Hollings endorsement will also help, but let's face facts--the candidates are really after the state's black vote.
In Missouri, Kerry's campaigning with former Senators Jean Carnahan and Thomas Eagleton as well as Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who did not want to make an endorsement during his state's caucuses.
In Arizona, Kerry has been in the lead since Iowa, but has Wesley Clark nipping right at his heels. This isn't really surprising as there are a large number of veterans and military families in the state.
The Dean campaign is apparently as yet undecided about what kind of February 3 strategy to pursue, but Dean has committed to campaigning in all seven states as well. As far as specifics go, all I've been able to pin down is that Dean will be in South Carolina for tomorrow's debate and Arizona on Saturday.
Dean has been polling very well in New Mexico, Delaware, and Missouri, but that is likely to change with his second place finish in New Hampshire. If the campaign does decide to go with the seven state strategy, I'd say they're making a big mistake. They're running out of money, they're running out of momentum, their organization is in flux, and they need a win soon in order to be seen as relevant.
If they forgo the seven state strategy for a more targeted campaign, look for them to focus on New Mexico and Missouri with their high delegate counts.
Wesley Clark's got his work cut out for him this week. This is another case where the campaign schedule is a little unclear, but it seems that Clark is aiming at the states he's strongest in: Oklahoma, Missouri, Arizona, and New Mexico. That's where he was today, and that's where I expect him to spend the most time over the next week. Oklahoma and Missouri border his home state of Arkansas, and Arizona and New Mexico border each other quite conveniently. It's worth noting that Clark has outspent every other candidate in Arizona.
In all of these states, listen for Clark's newest line, that he came in "first among non-New Englanders" in the New Hampshire primary. It makes sense on a few levels. One, Kerry and Dean came in first and second in a state that plays neighbor to their home states. Two, the subtext is that Edwards came in second among non-New Englanders. And three, Clark's playing on the fundamental mistrust Southerners and Southwesterners have for the Northeast.
In South Carolina, Clark will be taking advantage of his big name African American endorsements in order to make a big splash with that segment of primary voters. With him in SC will be former NYC Mayor David Dinkins, Congressman Charlie Rangel, former Atlanta Mayor and Dr. King aide Andrew Young, and Illinois Congressman and former Black Panther Bobby Rush. If that's not cred, I don't know what is.
Oklahoma has been Clark's strongest base of support, and right now it seems that it's his to lose. He's also coming on strong in decidedly delegate-short North Dakota, where he's had an active staff since the fall and is currently running television ads. If Clark loses everything else but wins North Dakota, he'll technically have made Terry McAuliffe's 'you need to win at least one state by 2/3 to stay in the game' dictum.
John Edwards has it really rough, pretty much having to win South Carolina in order to stay in the race. He was born in the state--something he never forgets to remind us--and keeps claiming that, with his accent, he can win in the South. Well then, he'd better win in the South. Oddly, on Edwards' campaign schedule is a breakfast with Jim Clyburn on Friday. Something tells me that's going to change...
Sticking with the southern strategy (I refuse to capitalize it and align it with Nixon's Southern Strategy), Edwards is also campaigning hard in Oklahoma (which is technically the Midwest, but whatever). He picked up endorsements from seven Oklahoma labor leaders who had been Gephardt supporters.
Edwards, like everyone else, will certainly campaign in Missouri, which is the equivalent of a political jump ball, now that Gephardt is out of the race. His wife will be campaigning in New Mexico on Sunday, but that seems to be the extent of it for the Southwest. One of his staffers told The Arizona Republic that Edwards "may not be able to get out" to Arizona to campaign.
Let me reiterate... South Carolina is as close to 'must win' as it gets for Edwards.
I hate to be mean, but I call it like I see it. Lieberman, Kucinich, and Sharpton have no chance of winning. Lieberman seems to be floating somewhere in the ethers of denial, still claiming that his fifth place finish in New Hampshire was strong. The bulk of his campaign schedule seems to be focused on Delaware, which is not very important, but again, would help him meet the 'won a race on 2/3' criteria in order to stay in the debates.
Kucinich seems to have no illusions about his performance or his chances. I think he'll probably drop out after the February 7 primaries. I have no proof, but that's my intuition.
And Sharpton... Sharpton could place second in South Carolina, giving him some delegates. Relying on the urban centers of St. Louis and Kansas City, it's feasible that he could even get some delegates out of Missouri. And that's what Sharpton is looking for. He's not aiming for the White House. He's aiming for a prime time speaking slot at the convention. He could win enough delegates on February 3 to bargain with in exchange for the platform in Boston, and that would be that for the Sharpton campaign.
posted by Scott |
Trippi Out, Roy Neel In At Dean Campaign
Anyone who's spent as much time as I have watching the Dean campaign over the last year understands what a huge presence Joe Trippi is in the Dean mythology. As Dean's campaign manager, Trippi took a centrist, soft-spoken, small state governor and turned him into a political behemoth. Trippi orchestrated Dean's new-media, internet focused campaign strategy, which led to the phenomenal success (pre-Iowa, anyway) Dean had enjoyed.
Well, the success turned into... well... less of a success, and now Joe Trippi has resigned from the Dean campaign. Trippi was not asked to resign as campaign manager, but Washington pro and former Gore Chief of Staff Roy Neel was asked to come aboard as 'Chief Executive Officer'. Apparently, Trippi saw the writing on the wall and offered his resignation. In his public statement regarding the resignation, he was careful not to betray any bitterness, urging supporters to "stay with Howard Dean's cause to change America."
While many had been questioning whether or not Dean would shake up his campaign after his double-digit loss to John Kerry in New Hampshire, there is evidence to indicate that this is one palace coup that has been in the offing for some time now. On January 7, when Dean still had the leads in both New Hampshire and Iowa with 35% and 25%, respectively, it was announced that Neel was joining the campaign as a 'senior advisor'. This was almost two weeks before the Iowa blowout.
The way I see it, the Dean campaign isn't putting itself together after falling apart. It's in the midst of falling apart.
posted by Scott |
| Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Or at least that's where it seems to be going. John Kerry won this won decisively, 39% to 26% for Howard Dean. So much for my "Dean could pull this one out yet" from this afternoon. Wesley Clark and John Edwards are technically still duking it out for third, but it seems, with 95% of precincts reporting, that Clark is in third with 13% to Edwards' 12%.
Let me revisit some of the things I wrote before the results came in. First, Zogby did a pretty good job calling this one. The only fumble is that Kerry did much better than Zogby predicted (31%) and Dean did slightly worse (28%). But you can't vote for Undecided of course, so it's really not that much of a fumble. In fact, Zogby nailed Clark and Edwards at 13% and 12%.
Pondering this result, here's what I wrote. Post-Iowa fiasco, "if Dean takes second, it will be spun as the type of comeback that hasn't been seen in New Hampshire since Clinton in '92." Well, I was kind of right. That's exactly the way the Dean campaign is spinning it. Only the media isn't buying it.
"The Clark campaign," I wrote, "did not manage expectations well in New Hampshire and they will pay for it dearly if Clark does not finish third." This is exactly what I was hearing from the talking heads on TV when Edwards and Clark were running neck and neck. Edwards didn't need third as badly as Clark since he did so well in Iowa. In other words, his ticket had already been punched; he was just looking for an upgrade to first class.
Joe Lieberman, who I did not even bother discussing, addressed his supporters making some absolutely inane statements about how he was in a dead heat with Clark and Edwards for third. That was never the case. It's becoming clear to me that Lieberman is not going to exit this race gracefully. If he's going down, mark my words, he's going to try to take some of his competitors down with him.
posted by Scott |
I have no idea what kind of accuracy these numbers have, but I figured I'd get them up anyway. They come from Kos, who has much better sources than I do. The LA Times has Dean and Kerry in a dead heat with 34% and 33%, respectively. ABC News has a Kerry lead at 37% and Dean in second with 31%. Both polls have Clark and Edwards vying for third place at 12%.
Dean could pull this one out yet. Even if he doesn't, to pull up to second after the time he's spent in the New Hampshire polling wilderness is an impressive accomplishment. If Edwards finishes fourth, he'll survive on left-over Iowa momentum. After all, he will have beaten one of New England's own in Joe Lieberman. If Clark finishes fourth, people will start writing political obituaries. That said, any post-mortem being written right now is premature. If his fourth is close to Edwards' third, then he cannot be counted out.
MSNBC has been teasing their exit poll numbers for hours now. They just started releasing them. They're all about voter attitude. Color me extremely disappointed.
posted by Scott |
The final Zogby tracking poll, ending yesterday, shows John Kerry with a commanding lead going into the actual New Hampshire voting. Dean's still in an equally safe second place with 24% to Kerry's 37%. John Edwards moved into third with 12%, pushing Wesley Clark down to 9%.
As John Zogby himself explains it, "the dam burst after 5PM on Monday" for Kerry, when "Undecideds broke his way by a factor of four to one over Dean." He also explains that Clark's downward momentum has been hurting him, but that he and Lieberman is "not out of the running for third place."
New Hampshire is historically just as volatile as Iowa (if not more so), so it's hard to predict the results based on this polling. Zogby almost got the order right in Iowa, but the numbers were very skewed. He had Dean and Edwards backwards, underestimated Kerry's win by 13% and Edwards performance by 11% The poll came close on Dean, only overshooting by 3% and misjudged Gephardt by 7%.
Now, Iowa's a different story, with caucus goers making and listening to arguments for and against the various candidates. But New Hampshire is also a state that likes bucking the polls. As Richard Morin and Claudia Deane pointed out in The Washington Post, past polling in NH has been wildly off the mark, predicting a tight race in 2000 between Bush and McCain (McCain won in a romp) and a Dole win over Buchanan in 1996 (when, in fact, just the opposite happened).
posted by Scott |
It worries me a bit that these results are coming from a newspaper and not the party or the state, but The Concord Monitor's Primary Monitor website has got the results. So all of us politinerds can breathe easy--we can indeed check the running tally, which will start to get serious around 8PM EST.
posted by Scott |
New Hampshire Primaries: Last Minute Thoughts
A week ago, I posted some last minute thoughts about the Iowa caucuses. I wrote about the expectations, the polls, the possible outcomes and what it all meant for the slate of Democratic candidates. In the aftermath of Iowa, it became clear that I got a few things right. One was that "a fourth place finish for Gephardt should spell the end of his campaign." It should have and it did. Another was that a first place Kerry finish would be a nightmare for the Clark campaign in New Hampshire.
Other than that, I was pretty much wrong on all counts. I referred to the only poll that accurately predicted the outcome "almost useless." And along with nearly every other pundit, I warned Iowa-watchers to not underestimate the strength of Dean's and Gephardt's organizational muscle.
But being the brave little blogger I am, I'm forging ahead, ready to offer some last minute wisdom on tomorrow's New Hampshire primary. Perhaps stupidly, I am going to do so using the same framework I did last time, focusing on the pollsters' predictions. Here goes nothing...
Possibility One: Kerry, Dean, Clark, Edwards
Again, I'm starting with the Zogby tracking poll. These numbers are very tight, with Kerry and Dean at 31% and 28% respectively--a statistical dead heat. And competing for third place are Clark and Edwards, running neck and neck at 13% and 12%. By all accounts, Dean's the one with the most momentum right now.
A few weeks ago, if you told me that Dean would finish third in Iowa behind Kerry and Edwards, and then was only in strong second in New Hampshire, I'd laugh and call you crazy. But then I would say that if Dean lost NH after placing third in Iowa, it would be the end of his candidacy. That's no longer the case. Dean was hurt tremendously by 'the scream' in Iowa and the punditocracy began sounding the death knells and writing the political obituaries. But Dean came back, showing candor and humility in numerous interviews and humor, doing Letterman's Top Ten. Now, if Dean takes second, it will be spun as the type of comeback that hasn't been seen in New Hampshire since Clinton in '92.
Wesley Clark needs to finish in at least third place tomorrow to show some muscle going into February 3. He never had a serious shot at winning this one, which he could have used to his advantage. But by skipping Iowa and stumping hard in NH, he used his status as the only show in town to vault from the back of the heap to within striking distance of the lead. The Clark campaign did not manage expectations well in New Hampshire and they will pay for it dearly if Clark does not finish third.
Possibility Two: Kerry, Dean, Edwards, Clark
This is what the final ARG tracking poll indicates might happen in NH tomorrow. Should John Edwards finish third rather than fourth, he will again gain that same I-didn't-win-but-I-did-way-better-than-I-was-supposed-to momentum he got coming out of Iowa in second. And this time, it will be more important, as the primary battle heads into his backyard, where he has been expected to perform well.
Heading back up to the top of the fight card, ARG is predicting a much more decisive win for Kerry than Zogby--35% to Dean's 25%. Here's where the margin of the win over Dean will really impact Kerry's performance moving into round 3 of primary season. If it's close, Dean can stay in the game. If it's not, I'm not so sure how long he can last without a first place win. Dean does have an awful lot of campaign money, though, and the oppo research on Kerry is quickly starting to work its way into the media bloodstream.
And that's all she wrote...
I'm happy to report that those are the only two possibilities being presented to us by the pollsters. It seems to be a done deal that Kerry will win and Dean will be the runner-up. The only real questions are how big Kerry's win is and whether it's Clark or Edwards who pulls up third.
But both are important questions. If Clark finishes a distant fourth, how will that effect his standing heading into February 3? ARG currently has him in fourth place in South Carolina, behind Edwards, Kerry, and Sharpton. This was a state that Clark led decisively in October and November. But the Edwards surge kicked in and media scrutiny of Clark picked up. And December's leader, Howard Dean, dropped precipitously post-Iowa, but he may come back in SC, just as he has done in NH.
Look for Clark's SC numbers to improve when prominent African Americans like David Dinkins, Andrew Young, and Charlie Rangel start stumping for the General in a few days. The same can be said of Dean, whom Jesse Jackson, Jr. will be campaigning for. A third place NH showing for Edwards should give him enough momentum to hang on to his SC lead no matter what Kerry does. But if Edwards finishes fourth and Kerry wins NH, it's possible that Kerry could leapfrog Edwards and move into first.
The important thing to remember is that February 3 is a day with seven states in play. It's not as if all of the candidates can be everywhere at once, as they have been in Iowa and NH. Wesley Clark is strongly in the lead in Oklahoma and within striking distance of first in Arizona. Look for him to focus on winning those states. Dean still looks strong in Delaware and New Mexico, so he will be active in both of those states. Dean also needs to put his money where his mouth has been by performing well in the South, so he may be spread the thinnest of all the candidates. Kerry will be looking to eliminate Clark by winning Arizona and Edwards by winning South Carolina. Edwards wants his birth-state of South Carolina, so I expect that to be his focus.
I predict Sharpton and Lieberman will both withdraw after the votes are counted on February 3. Sharpton will be happy to have pulled some delegates (and some official party clout) out of SC and Lieberman will face the fact that he always planned on performing strongly in those seven states.
Long story short (or is it short story long?), there are no easy answers heading into the New Hampshire primary. The only thing we know for sure is that the primary season is going to be long and exciting, and that Lieberman, Kucinich, and Sharpton are down for the count. (For proof of Lieberman's political demise, check out the LA Times piece that quotes his mother and sister wondering "why he didn't catch on." Ouch!)
Now it's time to sit back and watch the results roll in. Enjoy!
posted by Scott |
| Monday, January 26, 2004
Mass Media Mess In New Hampshire
I wasn't going to really get into each and every little bit of silliness the mainstream (and even not so mainstream) media had been reporting on in the lead up to the New Hampshire primary, but I've finally decided that I've had enough. The networks, the newspapers, the cable news outlets, and internet news sites are the gatekeepers of modern politics. And as such, they serve a vital purpose--deciding who and what the American public pays attention to.
Mind you, I didn't say "who and what the American public likes." That's an argument that some have made, but I don't quite buy it. But the media, for better or worse, does determine which stories are relevant, which stories are interesting, and which stories 'have legs'.
And I'm more than a little bit upset with the blatant disregard for reality that the media has displayed in two instances in particular since the Iowa caucuses.
The Dean Scream...
I saw it live on MSNBC. I though it was a little silly. I thought Dean sounded like a professional wrestler. However, there was no point during which I thought Dean sounded angry, and I absolutely did not think that Dean came off as unstable, as so many have painted him.
Howard Dean was in a room full of 'Dean for America' supporters who were very disappointed, but very charged up. These people had worked their asses off for 18% of the vote, when they were expected to take much, much more. Dean came to the stage and delivered them a message of hope. They didn't win Iowa, but he reassured them they'd be winning plenty of other states soon.
The crowd was riled up, the staff was riled up, Dean was riled up, and the man let out an extremely awkward war whoop. Yeah, it was a bit odd. But to be questioning the man's sanity? To be questioning whether or not he can be trusted with a nuclear arsenal? Please!!!
It's one thing for Letterman and Leno and Stewart and O'Brien to have their fun with this one. Dean had it coming. It was worth a few laughs. But for every 24 hour news channel and every political talk show to air the video of the speech every chance they get is not fair journalism. It's character assassination.
Michael Moore's 'Deserter' Comment...
When Moore endorsed Wesley Clark, I wondered if it was the greatest idea for the Clark campaign. After all, Michael Moore is a controversial, polarizing figure. But Moore brought to the table some real liberal, progressive credentials and an energetic, independent activist spirit that made Ralph Nader's 'Super-Rallies' an event to behold.
In the last few weeks, Moore has been stumping for Clark in New Hampshire. At one of these campaign events, Moore--now famously--referred to President Bush as a "deserter". The remark passed through the media sieve without much of a problem. Until...
During the last debate in New Hampshire, moderator Peter Jennings of ABC News hit Clark with a demand to repudiate Moore's use of the word deserter, calling it "a reckless charge not supported by the facts." Since Jennings brought up the Moore comment, every pundit and talk show host has denounced Clark for not being willing to decry Moore and his calling Bush a deserter.
Jonathan Chait has written a fantastic web-only piece at The New Republic website that takes Jennings to task for his bashing of Clark on Moore's deserter comments. Calling it "the most hostile and slanted debate question I've seen in a long time," Chait points out that " the charge that Bush is a deserter is 'not supported by the facts' is, at the very least, an overprotective interpretation." He then provides a link to a Boston Globe article that posits that Bush did in fact go AWOL from his Texas Air National Guard duty in the early seventies.
Both USA Today and The New York Times are running articles that detail Clark's recent missteps and misstatements. The Moore 'deserter' flap is discussed at length in both pieces. While I'm not going to say that Clark hasn't made any mistakes on the campaign trail, I am going to go on record as saying that this is not one of them. Clark didn't say it. Clark didn't endorse it. And most glaringly, it's not even an unfair accusation.
Again, I smell character assassination.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The Iowa voters have handed the media two golden boys in Kerry and Edwards. In addition to being the finalists out of Iowa, they also provide the media an interesting narrative for the primary states to come. It goes a little something like this...
The Democrats are at a crossroads. They've lost control of the White House, the Senate, and the House. Will they choose as their savior Massachusetts Senator John Kerry? Kerry is a Yankee Liberal; a son of privilege and Yale alumni who, encouraged by the rhetoric of John F. Kennedy, enlisted during Vietnam, went on to become a decorated war hero and then turned against the war as a leader of the antiwar movement, eventually finding a career as a consummate Washington insider. Or will they perhaps choose North Carolina Senator John Edwards? Edwards is a Southern Populist; the son of a mill worker who picked himself up by the bootstraps and, through hard work and determination, found success as a trial lawyer before going on to winning a seat in the US Senate.
Dean and Clark don't fit into this neat little post-Iowa narrative. The story isn't quite so easy to write when it's got more than two antagonists. Neither do (or did) Lieberman, Kucinich, Sharpton, Moseley Braun, or Graham fit into the story. It's clear that, from the start, some of them never did. But yet they still raise money and garner considerable support. So they've got to be eliminated from the picture somehow. And if the voters won't do it on their own, it seems to me that the media is more than happy to give them a little push...
posted by Scott |