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Saturday, November 15, 2003

John Kerry has decided to follow Howard Dean's lead and opt out of the public financing system. This will allow him to avoid spending limits in the crucial primary states, especially New Hampshire, where a loss to Dean could deeply wound his campaign. Although Kerry's decision won't necessarily lead to increased fundraising, it does allow him to take partial advantage of his own wealth.

There was some confusion again Friday as the Kerry campaign said the candidate would take out a personal loan, but Kerry said in Iowa that he had not made a decision. In a telephone interview with the AP, Kerry sought to clarify, saying he would use his personal money, in the millions of dollars, and would do so through a loan. Declining to provide a figure, he said he will spend "as appropriate."

Kerry's decision to skip the $18.7 million in public money comes despite a slowdown in his fund raising after a promising start, and the acknowledgment by his campaign that he cannot tap wife Teresa Heinz Kerry's multimillion-dollar Heinz food fortune for the race.

Under campaign laws, Kerry can take out loans on the full value of property he owns, and on half the value of property he co-owns. His wife can co-sign loans if the bank requires, but she cannot pay them back. She is limited to the same $2,000 limit all individual donors face.

Kerry has reported investments valued at about $700,000 to $2.4 million, plus up to $600,000 worth with his wife. Kerry advisers have said he has several million dollars of his own money he could tap for his race; if any resulted from gifts or asset transfers from his wife, Kerry would have to show he received them before starting his presidential campaign.

Kerry is not the first presidential hopeful to invest substantial personal resources in his bid. Republican Steve Forbes and Reform Party choice Ross Perot each spent millions on their candidacies.
Dean framed his decision to opt out as a way of challenging George W. Bush more effectively in the general election. With Dean standing in his way, Kerry is not looking that far ahead yet. Instead, he is framing the issue as a way to keep up with Dean, stating that Dean "changed the rules of this race and anybody with a real shot at the nomination is going to have to play by those rules." Unfortunately for Kerry, this only solidifies the impression that Dean is the presumptive nominee, and that everyone else is struggling to catch up. Kerry might want to start spinning his decision as evidence that he too can challenge George W. Bush, rather than as a reluctant attempt to keep up with Dean. In any case, the opting out trend makes things difficult for the rest of the field. They have, more or less, been told that they can either opt out and be serious candidates, or stick with the system and be in a fundraising tier below Kerry and Dean.
--Posted at 11:36 AM | link

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Howard Dean formally received today the endorsements of the two largest unions in the AFL-CIO. Together, the unions have 3 million members--1.4 million in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and 1.6 million in the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). This is terrible news for Dick Gephardt, who had previously been seen as organized labor's favorite candidate, with 20 union endorsements so far.

The Washington Post tells the story of how Dean managed to get the endorsements.
--Posted at 6:59 PM | link

John Kerry's press secretary and deputy finance director quit his campaign on Tuesday, in response to the firing of campaign manager Jim Jordan.
--Posted at 1:03 AM | link

Wesley Clark favors an amendment to the constitution banning flag burning.

Kerry, Lieberman, and Edwards have opposed the amendment. Gephardt and Kucinich support it.
--Posted at 12:59 AM | link

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

George Soros--one of the richest men in the world--is prepared to give as much money as it takes to ensure George W. Bush's defeat in 2004.

"It is the central focus of my life," Soros said, his blue eyes settled on an unseen target. The 2004 presidential race, he said in an interview, is "a matter of life and death."

Soros, who has financed efforts to promote open societies in more than 50 countries around the world, is bringing the fight home, he said. On Monday, he and a partner committed up to $5 million to MoveOn.org, a liberal activist group, bringing to $15.5 million the total of his personal contributions to oust Bush.

Republicans are expressing outrage, although they have plenty of wealthy and dedicated donors in their camp as well.
--Posted at 1:05 AM | link

John Kerry is using footage of Bush on the aircraft carrier in an ad against him, just as one of Kerry's admakers said he might.
--Posted at 12:52 AM | link

Monday, November 10, 2003

Kerry has shaken up his campaign again:

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts fired his campaign manager today as he struggled to deal with continuing turmoil in his campaign and the perception among many Democrats that he had fallen from a once-dominant position in the Democratic presidential contest.

Senator Kerry informed the campaign manager, Jim Jordan, of his decision in a telephone conversation on Sunday night. He replaced Mr. Jordan with Mary Beth Cahill, a former chief of staff to Mr. Kerry's fellow senator in Massachusetts, Edward M. Kennedy. Ms. Cahill also worked with Emily's List, a political action committee that raises money on behalf of female candidates who support abortion rights.

...

The move by Mr. Kerry marks the second upheaval in a campaign that just six months ago was viewed by many Democrats as a well-organized organization that was rolling toward the nomination. A week after Mr. Kerry announced, Chris Lehane, a senior adviser who had worked for Al Gore, quit, and later joined the campaign of Wesley K. Clark, the retired general.

--Posted at 1:14 PM | link

Sunday, November 09, 2003

John Kerry says that he will decide in a few days whether he will follow Dean's lead and reject public financing.

Kerry's position on this issue has been pretty consistent. Although he has spoken of his support for the public financing system and criticized Dean for abandoning it, he has also said that he would consider opting out of it if Dean did first. Kerry's problem is that he is not in as strong a position as Dean to reject public financing. His Q3 numbers were lackluster compared to Dean's, and it doesn't look like he's picked up much momentum since then.

Still, you could argue that Kerry has little choice in the matter, if he wants to keep his image as a strong candidate. By rejecting financing, Dean is not only making a strategy decision but also showing off his strength--he doesn't need to rely on the crutch of public funding, whereas his rivals do. Whether or not Kerry can actually make more money this way, he can at least distinguish himself from the rest of the Democratic field and position himself as a sort of co-frontrunner. If Kerry stays with the system now, he will have conceded that Dean is the undisputed leader in the Democratic field. He can't argue that he's holding on to public financing as a matter of principle, because of his past statements that he would consider following Dean's lead.
--Posted at 5:59 PM | link

The AP reports that other Democrats are not very happy with Dean's decision to reject public financing:
"I'm a strong believer in the campaign finance system. I think it brings integrity to the process. I'm disappointed Governor Dean has reversed his position." — Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

"It's a shame that Howard Dean has broken his word and abandoned his earlier pledge never to bypass the public financing system. America needs a leader who will stick to the promises he makes. We call on Governor Dean to comply with the spirit of the law — and his own previous statements — and pledge to spend no more than $45 million in the Democratic primaries and to limit his spending to the specific spending caps in the states." — Statement from the campaign of Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.

"It's disappointing that Howard Dean so conveniently abandoned a long-held position of principle out of mere political expediency. After Howard Dean so passionately and ardently announced that if any candidate left the public system it would be an issue, then sought a political fig leaf in an Internet poll slyly worded to predetermine its results, it's clear an alleged straight talk candidacy has turned out to represent politics as usual." — Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

"Forget all of the gimmicks and rationalizations, the plain truth is that Howard Dean wants to outspend his opponents in the early states and has therefore violated his pledge to stay within the public financing system. Just like President Bush, Howard Dean has effectively undermined campaign finance laws for his own personal, opportunistic political advantage." — Statement from the campaign of Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri.

"I think it's important for people to look at what he said earlier and the pledge that he made. I think we'll leave it up to the people to decide whether this is a good or a bad thing." — Wesley Clark's spokesman, Kym Spell.
The question is, how many of the Democrats would have done the same thing as Dean if they had the same fundraising success. My guess is that most of them would have. The Democrats walk a fine line between righteous indignation and jealousy when responding to this issue.
--Posted at 3:10 AM | link

The American Prospect on the Confederate flag controversy surrounding Dean: "But, if he can reframe our nation's obsession with its race into a shared economic agenda, he stands a chance of making progress."

TNR takes a more skeptical view: "What's alarming here is not that Dean wants to win votes from guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks. It's that he thinks he actually can."
--Posted at 2:48 AM | link

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