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Saturday, November 22, 2003

Michigan plans to allow Internet voting in its presidential caucus, over the objections of those who say that it is not secure, and that it discriminates against poorer voters who don't own a computer. Howard Dean, who gets some of his strongest support from Internet users, is expected to benefit from the decision.
--Posted at 4:59 PM | link

The myth of a Hillary campaign suffers another setback:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The filing deadline for New Hampshire's presidential primary ballot ended on Friday -- and the name of Hillary Rodham Clinton was nowhere to be found.

Despite months of heated speculation about her presidential ambitions, the New York senator and former first lady let the first key deadline for entering the 2004 campaign pass without jumping in the race.

...

But the absence of Clinton, who has repeatedly denied any interest in running for the White House in 2004 while leaving the door open for 2008, puts at least a temporary crimp in talk radio and Internet speculation about a Clinton White House run.

"The nail should have been in that coffin a long time ago," Clinton spokesman Joe Householder said.
Why is this a surprise to anyone? For one thing, Hillary Clinton has no known plans to run in 2004. And if she does secretly plan to run, she's certainly not going to do it the conventional way, by putting her name on an early primary ballot. I thought that the prevailing theory among the Hillary-obsessed was that she would jump in at the last minute to break a deadlock at the convention. Why is it news when Hillary Clinton doesn't do what no one should have expected her to do?
--Posted at 12:58 PM | link

According to the New York Times, Dean's lack of service in Vietnam could become an issue for him, at least in the Democratic primary. Dean was not a draft dodger, but he got a medical deferment because of a back condition. In an interview, however, he said that he probably could have served if he had not mentioned the condition. He added that he "was in no hurry to get into the military."

Ordinarily, this would be no big deal for a politician. There are plenty of successful politicians who did not fight in Vietnam, including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Both of them were hit with accusations of "draft-dodging" but they managed to get elected anyway. And few people would suggest that one has a duty to conceal medical conditions in order to fight. But in the national security-obsessed climate of the 2004 primary campaign, military service is an issue. John Kerry and Wesley Clark point to their military service in Vietnam as an asset that can help them defeat George W. Bush, who served only in the Texas Air National Guard. Because they have this asset, they're going to do as much as they can to use it against Howard Dean, and any other candidate without a perfect excuse for not serving in the military. All of the Democratic candidates except Carol Moseley Braun could have been drafted during Vietnam.
--Posted at 12:51 PM | link

Because a large chunk of Bush's political base consists of conservative Christians, he has to tread very carefully when discussing religious issues. At a news conference with Tony Blair, Bush dared to suggest that Muslims and Christians have the same god. To most people, this would be an uncontroversial statement; the two religions do share common roots, after all. But this was an outrage to evangelicals, who responded with some Islam-bashing:

The Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, also issued a statement contradicting Bush.

"The Christian God encourages freedom, love, forgiveness, prosperity and health. The Muslim god appears to value the opposite. The personalities of each god are evident in the cultures, civilizations and dispositions of the peoples that serve them. Muhammad's central message was submission; Jesus' central message was love. They seem to be very different personalities," Haggard said.

But both Land and Haggard, who are frequent visitors to the White House, doubted that the remark would cost Bush votes in 2004.
What is Bush to do? To keep this group of voters happy, he would have to offend non-Christian voters, tolerant Christian voters, and most of the world. Fortunately for Bush, these voters are unlikely to abandon him in any significant numbers. They have no where else to go unless Bush is challenged by a third party from the Right, which is extremely unlikely. The most they can do is stay home, but even this probably won't happen. If gay marriage is an issue at all in the campaign, evangelical leaders will be struggling to secure as many votes for Bush as possible.
--Posted at 12:27 PM | link

Daily Kos points out that the Republican Party has gotten itself into a dilemma by scheduling its convention for September 2004. The September convention, which is the latest in memory, has a number of advantages for Bush. It gives him the ability to spend primary funds as late as possible before being subject to federal limits, and allows him to take advantage of the nearby 9/11 anniversary. But this date comes after the deadline for certifying presidential candidates in California, Alabama, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. If the states don't move their deadlines, Bush's won't appear on the ballot, so he'll be a write-in candidate. And moving the deadlines might require some tough negotiating in state legislatures, which was the case in Illinois.
--Posted at 12:08 PM | link

Friday, November 21, 2003

Slate presents Whack-a-Pol, a flash animation that helps you pick a candidate by "process of elimination."
--Posted at 12:46 AM | link

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Slate's William Saletan suggests that Democrats can endorse gay marriage and still win in 2004. Just as abortion supporters were able to frame the issues as one of "choice" rather than abortion itself, gay marriage advocates can separate "marriage" and "homosexuality":

Homosexuality can be separated from marriage in roughly the same way. Marriage is a broadly shared American value. You don't have to support homosexuality to support marriage. A politician can say, "I'm pro-marriage. The issue isn't whether you're straight or gay. The issue is whether you support marriage."

...

Once open, the debate is surprisingly winnable. Opponents of gay marriage will say it's really about homosexuality. But opponents of legal abortion made the same argument—it's really about abortion—and lost. Some anti-gay advocates will say marriage is for procreation. But that position is politically disastrous, alienating singles, infertile couples, and any married person who uses contraception. Other critics will warn of moral chaos. But moral chaos is what marriage prevents. If you want family values, the simplest thing to do is to let people form families.
This strategy could work. The question is whether it could work by November 2004. On the one hand, Bush will find it hard to defend his opposition to gay marriage without using terms that are illogical or bigoted. He can repeat "marriage is between a man and a woman" over and over again, but going much deeper will prove risky. He might slip and make a tactless statement about homosexuals that will offend moderates if someone asks him a tough question on the issue. But on the other hand, adopting the gay marriage issue is dangerous for the Democrats, and it could backfire on them unless they frame it perfectly. Most of them don't seem to be willing to take this risk.
--Posted at 7:31 PM | link

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Earlier this week, George W. Bush granted an exclusive interview to the British tabloid the Sun, well-known for its photos of topless women and National Enquirer-style articles. Bush has never granted an exclusive interview to the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, or Boston Globe, and he has not given one this year to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Time or Newsweek.

Meanwhile, Clark gave an interview to the American girlie magazine Maxim, which doesn't feature actual nudity but comes very close.
--Posted at 12:20 AM | link

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

George W. Bush issued a statement about the Massachusetts Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage:
Marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. Today's decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court violates this important principle. I will work with congressional leaders and others to do what is legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage.
Like several of Bush's statements on the issue, this is clear on the principles and vague on what exactly Bush plans to do. Talk of a constitutional amendment is in the air, but Bush declined to push for one the last time this issue hit the headlines. I'm not sure what other options he has though (besides doing nothing).
--Posted at 5:43 PM | link

Monday, November 17, 2003

Ryan Lizza of the New Republic writes about the split in the Democratic Party between the anti-Dean "insiders" and the generally pro-Dean "reformers." Although a subscription is required to read the piece, the blog Daily Kos has a free link.
--Posted at 2:06 PM | link

For months, Republicans and skeptical Democrats have been comparing Dean's campaign to that of George McGovern in 1972--enthusiastically supported by activists, but doomed in the general election. The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne suggests that Dean is in fact Barry Goldwater--just as doomed as McGovern in the short term, but able to launch a powerful movement in the long term. Of course, neither of these is a welcome comparison to Dean supporters, who are hoping for victory in 2004. But those with more gloomy predictions about Dean's prospects can debate among themselves whether his candidacy is the start of something big, or just a temporary assertion of strength by a political minority.
--Posted at 1:58 PM | link

Former National Organization for Women president Patricia Ireland will take control of Carol Moseley Braun's campaign. NOW has been one of the few organizations to endorse the Braun campaign.
--Posted at 1:47 PM | link

The New Yorker's Peter Boyer has written an article about Wesley Clark, discussing his life and focusing in particular on the campaign in Kosovo.

Slate's Fred Kaplan says that Boyer's portrayal of Clark's role in Kosovo is misleading.

And speaking of Kosovo, Wesley Clark has agreed to testify in Slobodan Milosevic's trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Hague.
--Posted at 1:44 PM | link

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