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Saturday, October 25, 2003

There's a movement among conservatives to make gay marriage the main issue of the 2004 campaign. Some administration officials say that they are worried that this will damage Bush's appeal to moderates. But conservative activists believe that it will be an effective way to get out the vote among religious conservatives.

What will hurt Bush's campaign the most among moderates is not mere opposition to gay marriage. (His position on this issue is pretty well-known anyway, and supported by a majority of Americans.) Rather, the biggest risk comes from the kind of anti-gay rhetoric used by those who are most strongly against gay marriage. If Bush becomes associated with those who believe that homosexuality itself should be outlawed, he could lose moderate support. Also, the more Bush talks about his opposition to gay marriage, the more likely it is that he'll make some excessively anti-gay statement that can be used against him. It's in Bush's best interest to keep his campaign focused on other things. Conservative activists can certainly use the gay marriage issue to drum up support for Bush, but Bush shouldn't bring the issue into the heart of his campaign.

Of course, if Republicans in Congress start pushing again for an amendment banning gay marriage, Bush might not have a choice. He can take comfort, however, in the fact that the Democrats--most of whom oppose gay marriage but support civil unions--will be in an even more difficult situation.
--Posted at 1:12 PM | link

Friday, October 24, 2003

Dean will be picking up the endorsement of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades--the first union to endorse him. He's way behind Gephardt, who has 20 union endorsements at this point.
--Posted at 12:24 AM | link

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Bill Clinton has urged the Democratic candidates not to attack each other, echoing a common theme heard from sympathetic observers of the campaign. He also offered another piece of what might be called conventional wisdom:

"We can't win if people think we're too liberal. But we can't get our own folks out if people think we have no convictions. So the trick is to get them both."
Clinton's comments were part of an interview (which is not online) with American Prospect magazine. Michael Tomasky, the Prospect's editor, clarified that the Washington Times' spin on the interview is inaccurate. According to Tomasky, the Washington Times focused only on Clinton's warning that the party should not go too far to the left, and downplayed his concerns that being centrist would alienate the party's base.
--Posted at 10:29 PM | link

Clark says that he will repeal some of the Bush tax cuts, but he is limiting the repeal to wealthier Americans, defined as those making $200,000 or more. Dean and Gephardt still want to repeal all of the tax cuts, which of course makes them targets for accusations that they want to "raise taxes on the middle class."
--Posted at 8:15 PM | link

Joseph Wilson, the former ambassador who accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence (and the husband of Valerie Plame, who we now all know was an undercover CIA officer), has endorsed John Kerry for president.
--Posted at 8:09 PM | link

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Having decided to forego Iowa, Clark is focusing more intensely on New Hampshire. Several polls in that state still show him trailing Dean and Kerry, although he is creeping up on Kerry.
--Posted at 5:03 PM | link

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Joe Lieberman and Wesley Clark have both declared that they will not focus on winning in Iowa. Lieberman's withdrawal is an admission that his efforts in Iowa so far have been fruitless, but he hasn't been campaigning as hard as his rivals there. Clark has an easy excuse: he entered late and can't compete with candidates who have been campaigning in Iowa for months. Gephardt and Dean are still dominant in Iowa polls.

The strategy of skipping Iowa has a mixed record. According to an article in the L.A. Times:

There is a long history of candidates trying to pick and choose their fights, a record mostly studded with defeat.

Those who tried it and saw their candidacies falter include then-Sen. Al Gore (D-Tenn.) in his first run for president in 1988, and Pete Wilson, then California's governor, in his bid for the 1996 GOP nomination.

The Iowa caucuses became a key political event after 1976, when Jimmy Carter used his surprisingly strong showing as a springboard to the Democratic nomination. Other candidates made similar breakthroughs in the state, including Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, who made a strong but unsuccessful run for the Democratic nod against Walter Mondale in 1984.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona tried to compete selectively, skipping Iowa in 2000 and devoting his attention to New Hampshire. He beat George W. Bush there in a 19-point landslide, but lost the GOP nomination in good part because Bush enjoyed a much broader national base of support.

Slate points out that because the candidates are quitting Iowa at roughly the same time, neither of them looks especially weak for doing so. Instead, Iowa's caucus itself looks weak, because its results will come without the participation of two major candidates. A Gephardt or Dean victory in Iowa will mean less in a field without the participation of Clark and Lieberman.
--Posted at 1:50 PM | link

Several figures from the recent past have commented on the Democratic field. Bill Clinton said that "five or six" of the Democratic candidates would make good presidents, and that there hasn't been a field this strong since 1960. Barbara Bush, former first lady and mother of the current president, expressed a different opinion, referring to the Democratic candidates as a "sorry group." Former president George H. W. Bush criticized the Democrats for their "vicious rhetoric."
--Posted at 1:29 PM | link

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