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Saturday, January 10, 2004

I don't plan to report the New Hampshire ARG poll results every day, but Clark's steady rise over the past week (which continued today, putting him 21-10 over Kerry) is remarkable. But these number might not mean disaster for Kerry. Kerry has been focusing most of his attention on Iowa, where he is still third place but not far behind Gephardt. Beating Gephardt in a state where Gephardt once was the strong favorite could give Kerry enough momentum to erase Clark's gains in New Hampshire.
--Posted at 5:01 PM | link

Friday, January 09, 2004

In New Hampshire, Wesley Clark continues to rise two points a day, and Kerry continues to fall one point a day in the ARG poll.
--Posted at 9:12 PM | link

Four term Iowa senator Tom Harkin has decided to endorse Howard Dean in a move that should help Dean offset any damage from his negative comments about the Iowa caucus.
--Posted at 9:01 PM | link

A new videotape of Dean has emerged, speaking about the Iowa caucuses on Canadian television in 2000.

On the program, Dean said: "If you look at the caucuses system, they are dominated by the special interests, in both sides, in both parties. The special interests don't represent the centrist tendencies of the American people. They represent the extremes."
Dean quickly defended the caucus.

"I support the Iowa caucus," Dean, who is in a fierce fight to win Iowa's presidential caucuses, told The Associated Press on Thursday night.

He did not address his comments on the Canadian program, but said if elected he would press for Iowa to be the first contest of the 2008 campaign.

"I have spent nearly two years here in Iowa, talking to Iowans and campaigning in all 99 counties," Dean said. "I believe it's time to stand together, in common purpose, to take our country back and the Iowa caucus is where it all begins."
I doubt that Dean will lose many votes over this, even in Iowa, but the race is still pretty close, and even a minor loss of support could put Gephardt ahead again. Bashing the vote that you're hoping to win is rarely a good thing.
--Posted at 8:15 AM | link

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Here's the full text of the Club for Growth ad against Dean, copied from their website.




Husband: GOT IT?

The "body-piercing" thing wasn't quoted in the Washington Times article about the ad, and it just makes it even more ridiculous. What on earth does body-piercing have to do with anything? Does Howard Dean have a nipple ring that we don't know about? How can anyone except the most hard-core conservative watch this ad and not find it laughable?
--Posted at 5:55 PM | link

Today's New Hampshire tracking poll from American Research Group shows Clark at 18 percent and Kerry at 12 percent, compared to 14-12 in favor of Kerry three days ago. Dean still dominates with 35 percent.

Josh Marshall warns that ARG's polls have been wrong in the past and that it's "not the most respected poll in the business." Still, he says, there's a definite shift in favor of Clark over Kerry.
--Posted at 2:04 PM | link

Terry M. Neal of the Washington Post has some thoughts on "electability," a major argument against Dean that has been working poorly for his opponents. For one thing, the evidence that Dean is less "electable" than his opponents is not consistently supported by polls.

In [a Dec. 30-Jan. 4 CNN/Time] poll, Dean matches up better than the others, trailing the president 51 percent to 46 percent. . . . However, in late October, in a Washington Post/ABC News poll that compared five Democratic candidates in head-to-head general election contests with Bush, Dean fared the worst, trailing Bush by 15 points.
Both the pro-Dean and the anti-Dean camp seem to have some poll-based evidence for their beliefs about Dean's electability. But another poll cited by Neal suggests that "electability" doesn't even matter to most voters.

Voters who lean Democrat were asked whether it was more important to them that a candidate agree with them on their most important issue or whether the candidate could beat Bush. Seventy-three percent said it was more important to pick a candidate on the issues, compared to 25 percent who said beating Bush was more important.
It's possible that this poll's results are skewed, because not all voters want to admit that they care about a victory for their party more than the issues. But if the poll is roughly accurate, why is the interest in beating Bush so low? Perhaps, despite the frustration expressed by many Democrats about George W. Bush's policies, they aren't yet ready to bury differences on issues in favor of picking a sure winner. Neal looks at some historical trends.

It seems as though a party has to be out of office for eight years before electability becomes a major issue. George W. Bush was a prime example of that. For his party, Bush's presumed electability superseded other issues, including questions about his experience, gravitas and ideological purity. (Remember, Bush was seen as more of a moderate back then.)

For Republicans eight years out of the White House in 2000, the election was about building the most invincible candidate. For Democrats in 2004, only four years out of the White House, this election is more about sending a message, not only to Republicans, but to party leaders in Washington.
Is this true? Could it be that many Democrats don't mind losing in 2004 as long as they send a "message"? Well, if you ask a Dean supporter, they'll tell you that picking Dean is actually the best way to beat Bush, because he inspires such strong support (with fundraising numbers to prove it). But I suspect that there have to be some Dean supporters for whom "electability" is a lower priority. They chose Dean because they like and agree with him, and then started insisting that he has the best chance of winning--instead of the other way around. Only if Dean wins the nomination will we know for sure whether he is electable or not. If he does go down in a landslide in the general election, as his rivals and detractors say he will, the "electability" argument will have much stronger appeal in 2008.
--Posted at 10:09 AM | link

As part of his plan to talk about religion more on the campaign trail, Dean is saying that his religion influenced his decision to legalize civil unions in Vermont:

"The overwhelming evidence is that there is very significant, substantial genetic component to it," Dean said in an interview Wednesday. "From a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people."


Dean said he does not often turn to his faith when making policy decisions but cited the civil union bill as a time he did. "My view of Christianity . . . is that the hallmark of being a Christian is to reach out to people who have been left behind," he told reporters Tuesday. "So I think there was a religious aspect to my decision to support civil unions."
I don't think that Dean has much to lose with connecting gay civil unions with religion. You never know--perhaps some people in non-conservative churches will be swayed. Christian conservatives will be outraged and will insist that Dean doesn't know what God really thinks about gays, but this might even work to Dean's advantage. When the "God hates gays" crowd starts getting loud, it makes socially moderate Republicans feel uncomfortable with their choice of party. I still have my doubts about whether Dean can pull off the religious talk without appearing phony. But when one of his positions is attacked on largely religious grounds, he might as well use religion to fight back.
--Posted at 1:40 AM | link

Edwards is emphasizing his "optimism":

Edwards is behind in most polls heading into the Jan. 19 Iowa caucuses. But he has tried to distance himself from the bickering among some of his rivals with a message about his positive vision for America.

In doing so, Edwards hopes to make gains with what many see as a large group of undecided voters most likely turned off by the infighting.

"We offer a new beginning for America based on hopes, dreams and endless optimism, not fear, greed and attack politics," said Edwards.
It's probably no coincidence that Edwards' focus on optimism comes shortly after Republicans decided to use "pessimistic" as one of their stock attacks on Dean.
--Posted at 1:23 AM | link

Dean didn't have a role in a 1980's ninja movie, according to Salon. The only reason that this is at all worth mentioning is that the movie site IMDB listed a Howard Dean as a policeman in that movie. The description of this "Howard Dean" also mentioned a guest appearance on "K Street" as "Gov. Howard Dean," making it appear to be the same person. Someone found a clip of the ninja movie, and noted that the actor in question looks a little like Dean.

Apparently, it was a goof on IMDB's part. Dean has denied being in the ninja film. Oh well.
--Posted at 1:16 AM | link

TNR's editors have officially endorsed Joe Lieberman. The choice is not unanimous among TNR writers though. Along with the official editors' endorsement of Lieberman are cases in favor of Clark, Edwards, Gephardt, and yes, even Dean. I don't see one for Kerry.
--Posted at 12:39 AM | link

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, continues to give her blunt opinions on various topics.

On her husband: "He's so gangly and thin. I sometimes wonder if he weighed another 50 pounds or 30 pounds, if he would look cozier, more accessible."

On the Bush tax cuts: "Horrific."

On Saddam Hussein: "A creep."

On Gore endorsing Dean: "Of all people, Al Gore should wait for the last vote."

On her own words: "I tell him what I think — any wife would, any husband would. But in terms of actually influencing policy, that's different. If they paid me, then they'd have to listen to me. But just cheap talk, wife talk."

Teresa Heinz Kerry certainly seems like she'd be a more colorful first lady than Judy Steinberg Dean, who has not been seen often on the campaign trail, and plans to continue practicing medicine in Washington if Dean wins the presidency. Dean had to reassure the public that they will get to see her occasionally during his campaign.
--Posted at 6:07 PM | link

Dean is now saying that he has a plan to cut taxes on the middle class while repealing the Bush tax cuts. According to the article, this is in part a response to flak he has taken from his rivals, and his advisors' concern that it would be fatal for him in the general election to be seen as a tax-raiser. They're right, of course. If middle-class voters have even the slightest fear that electing Dean will cost them money, that's a big negative for Dean. The portrayal of Dean as a "tax-hiking, government-expanding" liberal (to quote the less nonsensical part of the Club for Growth's attack on him) is already beginning, and it could get deeply ingrained in people's minds if Dean doesn't nip it in the bud now. Dean isn't getting into specifics about his plan now, and apparently he has made a "strategic" decision not to unveil it until the general election.
--Posted at 5:55 PM | link

An American Research Group poll shows Clark ahead of Kerry, 16-13, in New Hampshire. Two days ago, those numbers were 12-14. Is this a trend, or just randomness? Well, Kerry's decline might be; he went from 19 percent on December 28 to 13 percent today. Clark has risen from 12 percent from 16 percent, but this increase took place in the last 2 days.
--Posted at 1:52 PM | link

The Washington Post has an article about some of the lesser-known candidates on the ballot in New Hampshire. They're not talking about Dennis Kucinich or Carol Moseley Braun. They're talking about Robert H. Linnell, an 81-year-old former chemistry professor who tells people not to vote for him, Millie Howard, an Ohio Republican who wants to abolish the IRS and abortion, and other candidates. Most of them don't expect to win, but they do hope to get their messages out.
--Posted at 1:27 PM | link

Another Democratic debate took place in Iowa on Tuesday, again without Clark, Edwards, or Sharpton (Transcript, Audio). I didn't catch it, but from what I've read there were no major surprises.
--Posted at 1:18 PM | link

There's a new CNN/USA TODAY/Gallup Poll out. The usual caveats apply, of course (polls are often unreliable and inconsistent, a January poll can't predict November results, national surveys of Democrats are meaningless because there is no "national primary," etc.). But with all that in mind, let's look at the results.

Bush's approval rating is at 60 percent, and has risen steadily since its recent low of 50 percent from November 14-16. He has positive marks on Iraq, foreign affairs, taxes, education, and the economy, but he's in negative territory on health care. His favorable-unfavorable rating is 65-35. Overall, he's doing pretty well right now.

Among Democrats, the favorable-unfavorable ratings are as follows (there are a lot of "never heard of" and "no opinion" votes for each):

  • Kerry - 31-32
  • Lieberman - 38-37
  • Edwards - 24-24 ("never heard of" and "no opinion" are especially high for him)
  • Gephardt - 34-33
  • Dean - 28-39
  • Clark - 37-26

Every major Democrat is breaking even except Dean (with more "unfavorables") and Clark (with more "favorables"). Dean and Clark have roughly the same support among Democrats, but Republicans are 11-58 against Dean and only 32-38 against Clark. This is pretty lousy news for those defending Dean's "electability," and great news for Clark supporters, but Dean probably suffers among Republicans largely because he's getting most of the (negative) attention. Dean still leads among registered Democrats, but in this poll at least, his national lead over Clark is now only 4 points (24-20). Kerry, Lieberman, and Gephardt are in a virtual tie for third (11, 10, and 9 percent respectively), with Edwards at 6 percent, and everyone else at 3 or below.

In short, if these poll results are any indication, it's looking like a Dean-Clark showdown. But as usual, Iowa and New Hampshire have the privilege of being able to change everything.
--Posted at 2:21 AM | link

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Carol Moseley Braun will not be on the ballot in New York's primary, because she failed to get the 5000 signatures necessary from party members. Her campaign manager was unable to put a good spin on things:

[Campaign manager] Ireland said Braun is on primary ballot in at least 20 states and expects to get on the ballots in another six or eight states, including California.

But Ireland conceded the only real hope for Braun winning the nomination was a brokered national convention, a situation most Democratic leaders consider unlikely.

"She is certainly not going to be going into the convention with enough delegates to win the nomination," Ireland said.
She was never going to get the votes to win the nomination; this just makes it mathematically certain. Apparently, she's staying in the race for now. My guess is that she'll make a stand in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then promptly drop out. But who knows--it might be before or after then. Since her main goal is presumably not to win, but to draw attention to her issues and herself, she can keep going until the money runs out.
--Posted at 8:09 PM | link

Bradley's endorsement of Dean is now official.

"The Dean campaign is one of the best things that's happened to American democracy in decades," Bradley told supporters of the former Vermont governor at a campaign event in New Hampshire.

"His supporters are breathing fresh air into the lungs of our democracy," he said. "They're revitalizing politics, showing a way to escape the grip of big money and to confront the shame of forgetting those in need."
This is great news for Dean, but not decisive. Few voters who weren't already on Dean's side after Gore's endorement will support him because of Bradley's. At this point, the effect of endorsements for Dean will not be so much to help him, but to prevent help from reaching his adversaries. A Bradley endorsement for any other candidate could have given that candidate a small but much-needed boost. The Clintons are probably the only uncommitted Democrats whose endorsements matter more than Gore's, and it looks like they're keeping their mouths shut at this point.
--Posted at 2:38 PM | link

A group called the Club for Growth is running ads in Iowa and New Hampshire against Howard Dean. The group is obviously anti-Democrat, as a glance at their website shows:

The House and Senate Republican majority-slim as it is-must be defended. We can't afford to lose that controlling stake the GOP now enjoys in Washington.

So it seems a little odd that they would be getting involved in the Democratic primaries with an attack on a specific candidate. The ad that is currently on their website blasts Dean, saying that he wants to raise taxes, and displaying pictures of McGovern, Mondale, and Dukakis with the word "Rejected" under them.

This ad is mild compared to what they're planning:

In the ad, a farmer says he thinks that "Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading ..." before the farmer's wife then finishes the sentence: "... Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs."
This ad has some Republicans confused.

The anti-Dean ads puzzled some of Mr. Bush's strategists and supporters, who see Mr. Dean as the most beatable of the major Democratic hopefuls.

"The prevailing wisdom is that Bush can beat Dean hands down," said longtime Republican consultant Rod Smith. "So why would the Club for Growth or anyone else on our side be attacking him now? That doesn't make any sense to me at all."

Republican strategist Alan Hoffenblum said the Club for Growth should heed the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater's admonition: "Never interfere with your opponents when they are in the middle of destroying themselves."
Club for Growth President Stephen Moore defends the ads this way:

Mr. Moore defended the ad campaign by saying that the "left-wing takeover of the Democratic party by Dean and his supporters is not a good thing for sound policy-making, even though it is a good thing for Republicans, because it makes it easier for them to win elections," he said.
That doesn't explain much though. Moore makes it sound like his group's ads are being aired on principle, instead of as part of a strategy. But I find it hard to believe that they would sink their money into ads without having a goal in mind. Perhaps they figure that Dean is the inevitable nominee, and they think that they can start the general election attack campaign now. If that's the case, why attack him in Iowa, a state that has voted Democratic in every general election since 1984? Wouldn't an assault in the usual swing states be more effective? Perhaps they really fear that Dean would be a stronger opponent against Bush than some of his rivals, even though they're denying this.

In any case, I suspect that the Club's ad has Republicans worried for other reasons besides its early date. The ad is way over the top, and the terms it uses to attack Dean could alienate moderates who might otherwise support Bush. Dean's campaign is tagged as a "tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show." How many of these things would provoke an unambiguously negative reaction among potential Republican voters? Certainly, many Republicans consider "left-wing," "tax-hiking," and "government-expanding" to be bad. Maybe they wouldn't think too much of "Hollywood-loving" either. But "New York Times-reading"? Despite the conservative assertion that the NYT is a left-wing rag, it's still one of the most influential papers in the country, and surely some of the people who read it are conservatives and moderates. And "latte-drinking," "sushi-eating," and "Volvo-driving" are not going to be seen as negatives to any Republicans who drink latte, eat sushi, or drive Volvos. Finally, the ad's statement that Dean should take this "back to Vermont, where it belongs" could be seen as a Republican dismissal of a single state (which they'll probably lose anyway), but combined with the rest of the sentence, it seems like an attack on the American Northeast. Essentially, this ad portrays not a stereotype of a typical Democrat, but a stereotype of a typical Northeastern, upper-middle class Democrat.

Such attacks on region and social class are nothing new in conservative rhetoric (remember Barry Goldwater's comment that we would all be better off if we could saw off the Eastern Seaboard), but they're usually more subtle. You rarely see them displayed this openly in a medium not targeted specifically to other conservatives. When Dean said that he wanted to bring guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks into the Democratic party, many people attacked him for mentioning the Confederate flag, but others attacked him for the condescending stereotype of Southerners that seemed to be implied in his comment. And Dean was trying to welcome such people into the Democratic party. Here, we have a conservative group basically telling the Northeast to go to hell. Moderate northeastern Republicans would like to believe that they still have something in common with the forces that control the party, and rhetoric like this isn't going to help.
--Posted at 2:29 PM | link

Monday, January 05, 2004

Bill Bradley, Gore's rival for the Democratic nomination in 2000, is expected to endorse Howard Dean. Dean wouldn't confirm or deny the endorsement. Although this isn't nearly as big a story as Gore's endorsement, it does contribute to Dean's appearance of "inevitability" that the other candidates are furiously trying to combat.
--Posted at 4:23 PM | link

Seven Democratic candidates (missing were Clark and Sharpton) debated in Iowa on Sunday. C-SPAN has the video and the Washington Post has a transcript. Dean took the bulk of the criticism, as expected, but suffered no fatal wounds from it. William Saletan takes a break from criticizing Dean to offer some "best" and "worst" moments from the debates. The bottom line seems to be that things are largely as they were before the debate, with Dean cruising toward the nomination and his rivals trying to think of ways to stop him. And no one has emerged as the "anti-Dean" yet (although Clark, who skipped the debate, is still in my opinion the most likely candidate for that role).
--Posted at 4:16 PM | link

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