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Saturday, November 08, 2003

Citing DNC rules rules against primaries before the traditional Iowa and New Hampshire races, five Democrats (Kerry, Gephardt, Lieberman, Clark, and Edwards) have removed their names from the ballot for D.C.'s nonbinding January 13 primary.

D.C. Democrats hoped that the early primary would draw attention to D.C.'s lack of representation in Congress. But the national Democratic party seems to have little interest in promoting this cause with a symbolic primary. The candidates probably see it as an annoyance--something to distract them from campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, where many of them have been focusing their efforts for months.

Howard Dean, Al Sharpton, Dennis Kucinich, and Carol Moseley Braun remain on the ballot for now. Sharpton and Dean have made significant efforts to campaign in D.C. But none of these four candidates needs to worry much about winning in D.C. with half the field gone. True, the result of the primary will get some attention from journalists (and bloggers) who need something to talk about before the binding primaries start. This could give a small boost to Kucinich, Moseley Braun, and Sharpton if one of them wins, since it is likely to be the only victory they'll get. But any news coverage will inevitably focus on the meaninglessness of the primary and the statehood issue behind it, not the momentum of whichever candidate is the winner.
--Posted at 8:48 PM | link

Howard Dean has decided not to accept public financing for his primary campaign. This marks the first time since the public financing system was created that a Democrat has opted out of the system. This means that Dean's campaign will have no spending limits before the general election, but it also means that he will have to raise about $18.9 million extra to make up for the lost government money.

Dean had suggested last March that he would take part in the public financing system as a matter of principle. But his extraordinary fundraising success in the second and third quarters no doubt helped changed his mind. Several other Democratic candidates, including Kerry, Lieberman, and Edwards, have criticized Dean for changing his position on this issue. But Kerry and Clark have both suggested that they might also abandon public funding.

Dean's decision is a gamble that relies on continuing fundraising success. If he can't make up for the lost government money, he will have suffered a double loss by giving up the moral high ground that he had claimed on the issue back in March. But Dean's campaign still looks strong despite Clark's entry into the race, so he just might be able to collect enough to offset the public funding. Whether he can come close to Bush's fundraising totals is another story.
--Posted at 3:57 PM | link

Friday, November 07, 2003

The folks over at Kos have compiled a Union Endorsement Scorecard, showing union endorsements and membership totals. It's not the most readable thing in the world (putting the information in a table would help a lot), but it's still useful if you want to keep track of organized labor's impact on the Democratic primaries.
--Posted at 4:15 PM | link

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Josh Marshall comments on how Dean bungled his response to the Confederate flag controversy:

As I listened to hullabaloo unfold, however, something else occurred to me. Dean's stubbornness and arrogance can be a big liability for him. When he got asked about the comment at the Rock The Vote debate there was a really straightforward way to answer ...

A) I stand by the point I was trying to make. B) If the way I phrased it offended you, I'm really sorry about that. C) You know, you speak a lot on the campaign trail. And sometimes you don't phrase something just the right way. But I'll try to be more careful about how I choose my words.

End of story. That would have been it, though his opponents would certainly have tried to milk it a bit longer. No big production of an apology would have been necessary.

But he couldn't bring himself to do it. And it was the headline out of the debate. And the headline yesterday with the semi-apology. And today when I brought up the CNN page the story about the full apology is practically breaking news.

One of Dean's selling points is the straight-talk thing, sorta like John McCain. So I don't think it would be a good idea for him to muzzle himself. But part of the straight-talk thing is being willing to quickly say "yeah, that was lame" when you put your foot in your mouth and then move on.

If he can't learn to do that, he'll have a lot of trouble ahead.


That pretty much sums it up. Dean could have gotten out of this without much trouble if he had just admitted his error up front.

Of course, Dean also had the option of standing by his statement, complete with the Confederate flag image. He had already said that he wants "people with Confederate flags on their trucks to put down those flags and vote Democratic." Nobody could honestly portray Dean's statements as a call to bring racists into the Democratic party. Still, the use of the Confederate flag image obscured the subtleties of Dean's point, and he was going to keep getting pounded until he apologized. He should have realized this earlier, and disavowed the image immediately. Sometimes you have to apologize even when your opponents are distorting your words.
--Posted at 5:08 PM | link

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Dean has issued an apology for his Confederate flag remark:

"Many people in the African-American community have supported what I said in the past few days because they understand what this is about," the former Vermont governor said. "But some have not, and to those I deeply regret the pain that I may have caused."

Speaking at New York's Cooper Union, Dean stopped short of apologizing and vowed not to shirk from "difficult and painful" discussions about race relations. "Feelings will be hurt," Dean said.

Later, he called the AP to clarify the comments in his speech.

"That was an apology. You heard it from me," Dean said. "It was a remark that inflicted a lot of pain on people for whom the flag of the Confederacy is a painful symbol of racism and slavery."

Still defensive, Dean said he stood by his broader point that Democrats must court Southern whites who have voted for Republicans and received nothing in return. "My remarks were misunderstood, of course, with the help of my colleagues" in the race, he told the AP.

This comes the day after Dean stood by his comments in the "America Rocks the Vote" forum.

--Posted at 9:12 PM | link

Eight of the nine Democratic candidates (Gephardt was campaigning in Iowa) appeared on CNN's "America Rocks the Vote" on Tuesday evening. The forum was held in a town-hall format and aimed at a younger audience. Among the issues that came up was Dean's comment about people who wave the Confederate flag, which he insists was an endorsement of "big tent" politics, not racism.
--Posted at 12:02 AM | link

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, told the Boston Herald that she thinks that the Democratic debates are "silly."

In a Herald interview while campaigning for her husband, U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry in New Hampshire, Heinz Kerry said none of the candidates is served by 60- or 90-second sound bites on crowded stages.

``I don't think it really helps the American people, I don't think it helps the candidates,'' Heinz Kerry said. ``It's a superficial sparring game.''

The outspoken would-be first lady said debates have become only about scoring a punch.

``It's like comic things, you know Punch and Judy. If it doesn't Punch and Judy, then who's going to read it?'' she asked. ``Its just silly. I think those debates are really unproductive and they made it hard for all of them to (get their message across).''
She said that it might be a better idea to have small debates with three or four of the leading candidates in a particular state, although she conceded that this would not be fair to all candidates.
--Posted at 8:39 PM | link

Monday, November 03, 2003

No one is taking credit for the "Mission Accomplished" banner that has been coming back to haunt Bush in recent weeks. That speech and all the faux military heroics associated with it may end up being better propaganda for Democrats than Republicans:

Meanwhile, Republicans said that it was increasingly unlikely that Mr. Bush would use the film of his "Top Gun" landing on the carrier in a campaign commercial.

But would the Democrats consider using it in an attack ad?

"Yes," said Jim Margolis of GMMB, who is making television commercials for the presidential campaign of Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.

--Posted at 10:02 PM | link

The Washington Post and the Concord Monitor are hosting live web discussions with each of the Democratic candidates this week. Transcripts for Gephardt and Lieberman are already online, and the discussions with the rest will take place later this week.
--Posted at 9:48 PM | link

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Dean is taking some heat from his fellow Democrats for saying the following:

I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks. We can't beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats.
Other Democrats have attacked Dean for appearing to embrace the "wrong" kind of voter. Gephardt accused Dean of trying to win the votes of people who don't share the Democratic view on civil rights, and added:

I don't want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks. I will win the Democratic nomination because I will be the candidate for guys with American flags in their pickup trucks.
Kerry said that Dean was trying to "pander to lovers of the Confederate flag."

Sharpton:

If I said I wanted to be the candidate for people that ride around with helmets and swastikas, I would be asked to leave.
Edwards:

Some of the greatest civil rights leaders, white and black, have come from the South. To assume that southerners who drive trucks would embrace this symbol is offensive.
Clark:
Every Democratic candidate for president needs to condemn the divisiveness the Confederate flag represents.
Lieberman (through his campaign director):
Governor Dean ought to be more careful about what he says. It is irresponsible and reckless to loosely talk about one of the most divisive, hurtful symbols in American history.

Dean released a statement in response to the criticism:

I want people with Confederate flags on their trucks to put down those flags and vote Democratic — because the need for quality health care, jobs and a good education knows no racial boundaries. . . . We have working white families in the south voting for tax cuts for the richest 1 percent while their children remain with no health care. The dividing of working people by race has been a cornerstone of Republican politics for the last three decades — starting with Richard Nixon. ... The only way we're going to beat George Bush is if southern white working families and African-American working families come together under the Democratic tent, as they did under FDR.
Dean may have chosen an unfortunate image to make his point, but implying that he wants to sell out on civil rights issues seems a little overboard. But the other Democrats probably figure that they have nothing to lose. They aren't likely to win many votes from Confederate flag-wavers in the first place, so they might as well bolster their credentials with civil rights activists and black voters.
--Posted at 1:09 PM | link

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