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Friday, May 09, 2003

It's the Ferocity, Stupid by Tell Rall. How can the Democrats beat George W. Bush in November 2004? Ted Rall says that they should be aggressive, ruthless, and cruel. They can't beat Bush on the economy or the wars, Rall says. They should, but voters don't seem to see it that way. Instead, Democrats should go after Bush's character, which is a weakness that they have largely failed to exploit. Rall says:

Forget ideas--voters respond to the personal stuff. Dwell on the two years Bush went AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard. "Brave Americans gave their lives in Vietnam," a 30-second spot should intone as the camera pans over names of the fallen on the black wall in Washington. "Rich kid George W. Bush deserted. This coward snorted coke and drove drunk while other kids died."

Could this strategy actually work? Maybe it could have in 2000, had the Democrats been bold enough to try it. But in 2004, the Democrats will have to use new dirt on GWB, not just stuff that we knew about him in 2000. Otherwise, the Republicans will just sneer that this is all "old news," rendered irrelevant by Bush's years in office. A lot of what Rall mentions as possible ammunition--the pretzel incident, Bush's gaffes--will almost surely backfire on the Democrats.

But I think that Rall's article is more an expression of frustration than a practical reelection strategy. The Republicans get away with so much, in Rall's view, and the Democrats meekly take it all without a trace of defiance or outrage. His words ("Use time-proven Republican methods, like name-calling") show a high degree of cynicism and anger about political discourse, and he figures that there's no harm in the Democrats responding in kind. They might go down in defeat, but at least their defeat won't be so pathetically passive.
--Posted at 5:39 PM | link

Earlier I posted a link to a transcript of the Democratic debate in South Carolina. Even better, you can download the video from C-SPAN's website.
--Posted at 3:58 PM | link

Let Sharpton be Sharpton! exclaims Rod Dreher of the National Review. Some Republicans are gleeful about Al Sharpton's hopeless bid for the Democratic nomination. Dreher says:

Democratic politicians are scared to death of offending Sharpton, because they don't want to be denounced as racist by a man who can command such media attention. Sharpton cannot be anyone other than Sharpton. He's going to say hilarious, outrageous things, to which the Stuffy White Guy candidates — Kerry, Lieberman, Gephardt — will be forced to respond.

Dreher has a point. Sharpton is going to attack the Democratic front-runners and try to make them look bad, and they have to be diplomatic when fending him off. Then again, many people see Sharpton as such a clown that a strong attack on him could benefit a candidate (just as Clinton's attack on rapper Sister Souljah--whom Jesse Jackson praised--was a boost for his candidacy.) Still, the sooner Sharpton leaves the race, the more comfortable the remaining candidates will be.
--Posted at 12:16 PM | link

Religious conservatives are complaining that the Republican Party is not sufficiently anti-homosexual. A group called Concerned Women for America is complaining because Republicans are not standing behind Senator Rick Santorum's recent anti-homosexual remarks. Meanwhile, Kenneth L. Connor of the Family Research Council has attacked Republican National Chairman Mark Racicot in an article published in the Washington Times for meeting with the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization. Connor threatened that if the Republican Party does not oppose homosexuality strongly enough, then "millions of its grassroots voter base in 'Bush country' will stay home on Election Day."

This is not a plausible threat. If the election is at all close, most religious conservative voters will go to the polls and vote for Bush, unless the Republican Party supports something that they truly despise like *shudder* gay marriage. Since even Clinton wouldn't stand behind gay marriages, and Republicans are still defending sodomy laws in defiance of all logic (political or otherwise), I don't think that the fundamentalists have to worry about this happening soon. Connor's threats are just an attempt to remind the Republican leadership that they have to remain on good terms with their "base" to maximize their chances of victory.
--Posted at 11:56 AM | link

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Why Dean is still the Democrat to watch by Howard Fineman, special to (posted May 7, 2003). Fineman argues that despite the fading enthusiasm for Howard Dean in the wake of the war, Dean "is still a man to watch, if not the man to beat." He says that Dean is aggressive and his campaign is very well-organized, and other candidates continue to attack him, suggesting that they see him as a threat. Dean's biggest problem, says Fineman, is his record of staunch opposition to the war, but things could change in a year and the public could start to view the war in Iraq as a mistake.

Personally, I think that this is unlikely. Unless the war looks like an obvious blunder in retrospect, with horrific consequences that are very visible, the war issue will be a loser for Dean. He might be able to minimize the issue and survive as a candidate, but I doubt that the public will change its mind enough for the war to help him.
--Posted at 10:45 AM | link

Where's the Vision? by Doug Ireland ( Ireland comments on the debate and concludes that none of the Democrats are articulating a vision that could defeat Bush in November 2004. Only Dennis Kucinich "managed to squeeze sharply defined programmatic alternatives into his few allotted minutes," says Ireland, but he is being ignored by the mainstream media.
--Posted at 10:15 AM | link

Hollywood stars align behind Kerry by Lisa Friedman, L.A. Daily News (May 5, 2003). Friedman reports that John Kerry is winning the fight for Hollywood's money, with $159,350 for the first quarter of 2003, compared to Howard Dean's $64,710 and Gephardt's $10,250. She argues that Dean's big issue--the war in Iraq--is gone, so a lot of the early enthusiasm for his candidacy has evaporated. The article also reports specific figures for some of the candidates, as well as celebrity endorsements.

  • Kerry: $2000 from Alec Baldwin, $1000 from Thora Birch, $1000 from Sydney Pollack, $1000 from Wes Craven.
  • Dean: Backed by Rob Beiner, Michael Douglas, and "two-thirds of the group Crosby, Stills & Nash." No figures are given in the article for these people. Martin Sheen has endorsed him, but without contributing money.
  • Gephardt: Bradley Whitford ("The West Wing"), Judith Light ("Who's the Boss"), Marlo Thomas ("That Girl") contributed $2000 each.
  • Lieberman: Monty Hall ("Let's Make a Deal") gave $250. Debra Messing ("Will and Grace") gave $2000. (The author notes that Lieberman is unpopular because of his conservative views and his attacks on the media.)
  • Bush: Bo Derek, Bruce Willis, and Charlton Heston have backed him.

--Posted at 10:00 AM | link

Poll: Bush Leads Rivals Nearly 2 to 1. Remember that article that I posted a few weeks ago about a poll that indicated that Bush would lose to a Democrat? Well, this poll says differently. It could be in part just a difference in the samples of people polled, but the war almost certainly has a lot to do with it. When "Democrats and those who lean Democratic" were asked to pick a nominee, "29 percent said Lieberman, 19 percent chose Gephardt and 14 percent picked Kerry." Edwards, whose candidacy had attracted so much positive attention months ago (and who favored the war), scored a pitiful 4 percent, and "liberal" favorite Dean had only 3 percent.

Of course, the numbers for Democrats are almost meaningless at this point. Among the Democrats, things could change significantly before the first primary. But Bush's popularity at this point is not meaningless; it shows that Democrats will be facing an uphill battle in 2004. A bad economy could turn the tide, of course. The article says that "half of those polled said the economy was worse now than when the president took office," and that "half said he [Bush] doesn't understand the problems of average people." This is very important information for members of both parties.
--Posted at 10:00 AM | link

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

The Gore-ing of John Kerry by Ben Fritz for (May 7, 2003). During the 2000 presidential campaign, pundits and journalists decided that Al Gore was "boring" and a "phony." They repeated this accusation incessantly, to the point where it became a voting issue. Ben Fritz argues in an article for that the same thing is happening to John Kerry already. If this accusation sticks, and Kerry is nominated, then the coverage of the 2004 election could strongly resemble that of 2000. (To read the full article, you have to subscribe to or take a free 7 day trial.)

This could be very bad for Kerry. After each debate in 2000, we heard commentators talk about whether Gore appeared "boring" and whether Bush mispronounced any words. Television coverage of the actual issues of the campaign was often terrible. And if this approach hurt Gore more than Bush in 2000, it will be even worse for Kerry if he wins the primaries in 2004. Bush's ignorance and verbal slips were an issue in 2000, but they won't be in 2004. The claim that Bush is "ignorant" of foreign affairs (as opposed to "misguided") will not sound very credible, especially since he can plausibly claim to have more foreign policy experience than any of his challengers. As a completely new candidate, however, Kerry will be vulnerable to any kind of attack, including the mostly hollow ones that he is "dull" or "lacks personality." If we have another campaign where personality matters more than issues, Bush will probably benefit, unless he starts making some horrible gaffes, or his opponent turns out to be a perfect candidate.
--Posted at 4:15 PM | link

Republicans Confident Gay Rights Issue Will Hurt Dean. This is an article from Fox News' web site that says that Republicans will use the gay rights issue against Howard Dean. Many of the Democrats have taken stances in favor of "gay rights." For example, Lieberman, Kerry, Gepahrdt and Kucinich support the extension of benefits to partners of gay federal employees. But as the governor of Vermont, Dean passed a law giving gay couples the same legal rights as married couples--the only such law in the nation. He also advocates making civil unions legal at the federal level. The article says:

"Richard White, a Republican state senator from Mississippi, said any candidate talking about gay rights might as well not even visit his state. 'The people down here, they are not going to put up with that kind of stuff,' White said. 'We're not prepared for all that in Mississippi or anywhere else in the southern states.'"

Luckily for Dean, many people in the "southern states" aren't likely to vote for a Democrat anyway, so his stance on gay rights would probably not affect his standing in the electoral college there. But it could hurt him in some states that could go either Democratic or Republican. If Dean becomes the Democratic nominee, it will be interesting to see how the Republicans use his position against him. If they do it the wrong way, it could blow up in their faces like the Rick Santorum remarks. But they don't need to be blatant about it. The "official" Republican stance has to be, "We're all for equality for gays, but Dean's liberal approach goes too far." They don't have to explain exactly what they mean. They can let right-wing talk shows and Christian fundamentalists say the rest, while claiming to disavow the worst anti-gay rhetoric that comes out against Dean. Conservative voters will get the message.
--Posted at 3:32 PM | link

Cheney will run with Bush in 2004. It's not like anyone was really expecting otherwise, but his health was always a possible barrier.
--Posted at 2:49 PM | link

If you want to see a transcript of the South Carolina Democratic debate, you can go here. This is posted on Presidential Campaign Rhetoric 2004, a site dedicated to analyzing the rhetoric of the candidates. There is some interesting stuff there, and also a weblog that appears to be updated pretty frequently.
--Posted at 2:17 PM | link

Want to learn a lot about Howard Dean? Go to the official Howard Dean 2004 Call to Action Weblog, which says that it is paid for and maintained by Dean for America.

Also, you can check out the DeanBlog, which is not official, but it is explicitly pro-Dean. Or go to Howard Dean in 2004: A Weblog by Rick Klau. Or Orange County Dean News, another Howard Dean weblog. Dean seems to be doing very well on the internet, given the proliferation of blogs that are devoted to him (and updated regularly) and the prominence of his website on Google (see my earlier entry from today).

I also found an unofficial blog for John Edwards.

Know of a blog for any of the other candidates? Send it to me, and I'll post it.
--Posted at 1:54 PM | link

So I decided to change the color scheme of the site. I think that the old colors made the page hard to read. These seem to be better.

Oh, and by the way, the "contact" link actually works now. If you want to send me a message, send it to I can't promise that I will respond to all messages, and it is not a goal of mine to do so. But if I'm not busy and you send me something worthwhile, I might send you a response. Also, note that if you send something really interesting, I reserve the right to quote you on the blog unless you explicitly tell me not to. I doubt that most people would object to this if they are sending interesting commentary or links. But if, for some reason, you decide to send hate mail, be aware that I might post it.
--Posted at 1:31 PM | link

For fun, I tried typing "2004 presidential campaign" into Google to see what came up. Three candidate sites made the top ten: John Edwards (2nd), Howard Dean (3rd), and Lyndon LaRouche (8th). The rest are sites devoted to coverage of the campaign, or news articles. The other Democratic candidates might want to think about this; all but two of them are below LaRouche and not on the top ten list. Where are they? Gephardt is 16th, right above a "Mark Twain for President - Campaign 2004" site. My own campaign blog is 39th. Kucinich's official site is 50th, and Libertarian Gary Nolan is 108th. I found no more official sites in the top 200, although there are plenty of articles about candidates. Just for fun, here are some other search results (all from Google):

  • "2004 campaign"--four official sites: Edwards 1st, Kerry 3rd, Lieberman 4th, Dean 7th
  • "presidential campaign 2004"--three official sites: Dean 3rd, Edwards 4th, Gephardt 7th
  • "campaign president"--two official sites: Edwards 5th, Dean 7th
  • "campaign for president"--In first place is the Republican national committee site ( Edwards' official site is 8th and Dean's is 9th. Libertarian Harry Browne still has his 2000 campaign site in 6th, and a New York Times article about Kucinich is 10th.
  • "2004 Democrat"--a site to draft Wesley Clark (who is not officially running) is 7th
  • "2004 candidate"--no official sites, but there are three sites promoting Howard Dean
  • "official campaign site 2004"--1.) Dean, 2.) Kucinich, 3.) Edwards, 4.) Lieberman, 5.) Gephardt, 6.) Sharpton, 7.) an anti-Bush parody site, 8.) Kerry, 9&10.) general sites
  • "campaign site 2004"--1.) Dean, 2.) Edwards, 3.) Kucinich, 4.) Gephardt, 5.) Sharpton, 6.) Lieberman, 7.) Kerry, 8.) Larouche, 9.) Wally Herger (for Congress), 10.) a pro-Kucinich site

Of course, this does not cover all possible search terms that people might enter, but it does hint at a few trends. Edwards and Dean are very good at getting their official sites to appear high on Google's results pages. The rest are not doing very well, and the official site of Moseley Braun didn't pop up on any of my search results. (Graham popped up repeatedly as a news story result, but this is because he just entered the race.)

If you try the searches long after I posted this, you will probably get different results. Google results change frequently as certain sites become more or less popular.
--Posted at 11:40 AM | link

Tony Blair for President. Yep, that's President of the United States. Obviously, it's not a serious site, but they do sell coffee mugs and they have a spokesman who is supposedly available for interviews. They say that this is an "expression of gratitude to Tony Blair for the stand he has taken with the United States against the vicious, dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein (with or without WMD)." But they don't like "the babbling of George W. Bush on the right."

--Posted at 11:17 AM | link

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Hart walks away from 2004 race. He had no chance anyway.
--Posted at 9:31 PM | link

Monday, May 05, 2003

No Dems Break Out in the First 2004 Debate by David Corn, Washington editor of The Nation (posted May 05, 2003). The title pretty much sums up Corn's assessment of the first Democratic presidential debate. Nobody won; nobody lost; the campaign remains more or less as it was before.
--Posted at 4:37 PM | link

Yellow Streak by Michael Tomasky, writing for The American Prospect (posted April 30, 2003). The Democrats need to get tougher on the Republicans if they want to have a shot in 2004, says Michael Tomasky. When Senator Rick Santorum make his anti-gay comments, the Democrats merely demanded an apology. Tomasky says that this was an ineffective approach; Democrats should have mobilized their constituency. Also, Tomasky says that the Democrats have not yet come up with an effective response to the Republican decision to hold their convention three miles from Ground Zero near the anniversary of the attack (breaking a longstanding gentleman's agreement that the conventions happen before Labor Day). So far, the Democrats have merely issued statements condemning this cynical exploitation of tragedy for political advantage. Tomasky says that more drastic measures are required, and he offers a few suggestions for the Democrats, such as rescheduling their convention for late August and hosting "dignified" counter-events during the Republican convention.
--Posted at 4:27 PM | link

Field Test by Ryan Lizza, associate editor at The New Republic (posted April 25, 2003). Lizza comments on the position of the Democrats after the war in Iraq, and looks ahead to the South Carolina debate (which had not happened yet).
--Posted at 4:08 PM | link

Carolina Panthers by William Saletan (posted May 3, 2003). Saletan looks at the recent debate in South Carolina and concludes that the race is beginning to get nasty. In an earlier article, Saletan blasts John Kerry for pouncing on Howard Dean's remark that America will not always be the strongest military power in the world.
--Posted at 4:02 PM | link

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