Saturday, January 17, 2004
Here's something to keep in mind when looking at poll results, especially national ones:
The National Annenberg Election Survey found that only 17 percent of the likely Democratic voters polled between Jan. 1-15 said they knew enough about the candidates to make a choice. Eighty-one percent said they did not know enough.
At least a majority of New Hampshire voters have some confidence in their voting ability. The rest have a little over a week to figure things out.
The percentage of people who said they knew enough to make an informed choice has not increased in the last month, despite intense campaign coverage.
Annenberg's polling in New Hampshire found that more than half, 54 percent, of the voters in that state who want to participate in the state's primary say they know enough to make an informed choice.
Four-fifths of those nationally who had chosen a candidate said they did not know enough to make an informed choice. Half of those who had picked a candidate said there was a good chance they could change their minds.
--Posted at 5:31 PM | link
More polls in the first two states:
In Iowa, among "certain" voters, the numbers look like this in the latest SurveyUSA poll (different from the Zogby poll I cited yesterday).
Among "probable" voters:
Things are looking good for Edwards in these polls, but the numbers seem to be all over the place in the past few days. Plus, in Iowa's caucus system, a lot depends on what happens on the ground.
Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, John Kerry continues to rise:
Iowa is a four-man race, and New Hampshire is increasingly looking like a three-man race. There's a lot more drama here than I expected, and I doubt that I'm alone in this.
--Posted at 10:11 AM | link
Friday, January 16, 2004
Polls in New Hampshire and Iowa continue to yield surprises. In the ARG poll, Dean is still only 5 points away from Dean (28-23). Kerry has risen from 10 to 16 percent in five days in New Hampshire. New Hampshire isn't quite a three-man race yet, but it could become one if Kerry does well in Iowa. Or it could become a two-man race between Kerry and Dean if Kerry's votes come at Clark's expense.
And what about John Kerry's standing in Iowa? Well, the latest Zogby poll puts him at 24 percent, compared to 19 each for Gephardt and Dean, and 17 for Edwards. This must be the happiest day in months for the John Kerry campaign. He's been facing almost nothing but bad news since Dean's campaign took off. Finally, he has a path to the nomination with some poll numbers to support it. Kerry still faces an uphill battle, even if he wins Iowa, but at least he's back in the race.
--Posted at 1:05 PM | link
Conservative Christians aren't satisfied with the Bush administration's plans to spend $1.5 billion on "promoting marriage." What they really want is a constitutional ban on gay marriage, and funding to support heterosexual marriage isn't going to be enough. Bush has been less than clear about his stance on the amendment:
In his only public statement on same-sex marriage, President Bush left many evangelical leaders puzzled about his intention. In a television interview last month, Mr. Bush said he believed a marriage was "between a man and a women" and that he would support a constitutional amendment "if necessary." But he also said that "whatever legal arrangements people want to make, they're allowed to make, so long as it's embraced by the state, or does start at the state level," and he emphasized the need for tolerance. I think it's fair to say that Bush does not want to deal with the amendment issue in 2004. Or, if he does, he apparently does not want to do it yet. It's true that a solid majority of Americans claims to oppose gay marriage, but it's not clear that this support is strong enough to amend the constitution. From the same article quoted above:
Other prominent conservatives, however, argue that yes-or-no polls do not show how significant an issue might be to a voter. "Because it is a new issue, we don't know how it is going to affect votes cast for candidates," said Grover G. Norquist, a conservative strategist and the chairman of Americans for Tax Reform.
On the other hand, the loss of gay voters could be easily offset by increased turnout among Christian conservatives:
Mr. Norquist said some potential Republican voters might be turned off by raising the issue to a constitutional level, just as they were by too much talk of guns or abortions. "Obsessions turn people off," he said.
There are also gay Republicans to consider. About a million of them, or a quarter of the 4 percent of voters who identify themselves as gay, turned out for President Bush in the last election, Mr. Norquist said, citing polls of those who had cast votes.
Mr. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, citing polling data, has often said that he believed the failure of four million conservative Christian voters to turn out in the 2000 presidential election almost kept President Bush out of the White House. Projecting another close race this year, Mr. Rove has worked hard to stay in regular contact with conservative Christian political leaders.Despite this, I think that Bush has more to lose than gain if he makes gay marriage a constitutional issue this year. He'll get more conservative votes, but he'll lose the votes of moderates who will see the amendment as a waste of energy at best, and simply wrong at worst. Also, although conservative Christians might stay home if they aren't happy with Bush, at least they won't consider switching to the Democratic candidate, as many moderates will. Furthermore, Bush will probably perform better in 2004 than in 2000 among Christian conservatives even if he doesn't endorse the amendment. They're still solidly behind him on foreign policy and most domestic issues. Back in 2000, Bush might have looked like a moderate to some, but I don't think that quite as many people have that impression today.
As I've said before, whichever candidate makes a major move on gay marriage will probably suffer because of it. Most people aren't affected by gay marriage, so they're not likely to make it the basis of their vote. Granted, abortion is a polarizing, vote-determining issue even though most people aren't affected by it directly. But bigger things are perceived to be at stake with abortion--one side sees it as the murder of millions of innocent lives, and the other side sees it as fundamental to the right of women to control their own bodies. Gay marriage isn't quite as emotionally charged. Conservatives wail about how gay marriage will destroy marriage as an institution and lead to all sorts of other horrible consequences. But such awful effects are hard to prove, and don't carry the wallop of the "abortion kills babies" argument. Besides, gay marriage would probably only become legal in the "blue states," which are already lost causes from the conservative point of view. On the pro-gay marriage side, there are emotionally powerful arguments that gay marriage is essential to avoid the demotion of gays to second-class citizenship. But the appeal of these arguments is partially diluted by "civil union" compromises, which allow the benefits of marriage but not the name. Nobody's life will be ruined by entering a "civil union" instead of a marriage, even though this does reflect discrimination against gays.
In the middle you have people who lean one way or the other on gay marriage, but really don't care about it enough to vote on it. They are the ones who would generate a backlash against anyone who takes a strong position on the issue. I don't think that average centrist Americans want to be forced to choose sides in a culture war. They profess "tolerance" toward gays, but are a little uncomfortable with going as far as gay marriage. Arguments against gay marriage will inevitably cross a line and assault their feelings of tolerance. You can only recite the mantra "Marriage is between a man and a woman" so often before you're forced to dig deeper to explain your opposition to gay marriage. The result will be arguments that focus on the sinfulness of gay people instead of the "purpose" of marriage. Earlier this week, I pointed out an entry in the National Review's blog which seemed to condone the mass murder of gay people (by citing the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah to attack Howard Dean's religious justification for civil unions). If Bush pushes for a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2004, expect more of this stuff to hit the mainstream and turn off moderates.
--Posted at 4:44 AM | link
A study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs found that the majority of nightly news coverage of Dean was negative, whereas three-quarters of the coverage of his rivals was positive. Now, you could interpret this to mean a.) Dean is the frontrunner, so of course he's going to receive most of the negative coverage, or b.) the so-called "liberal media" hates Dean, proving that it isn't so liberal after all. I suspect that it's some combination of both.
Peggy Noonan wonders if the media is attacking Dean because it wants to "save the Democratic Party from Mr. Dean," whom they supposedly consider unelectable. This is a questionable interpretation. If the media is working on behalf of the Democratic party, then we should expect to see heavy positive coverage of the eventual nominee (even if it is Dean, because at that point it will be too late to stop him). If the coverage of Al Gore in the 2000 election is any guide, this isn't likely. And speaking of Al Gore, his endorsement is one sign that at least some people in the Democratic "establishment" think that Dean should be the nominee. Shouldn't we expect to see a split in the media as well, if it's really as representative of mainstream Democrats as Noonan thinks it is?
--Posted at 3:20 AM | link
Tom Schaller argues that Iowa is overrated:
On one hand, an Iowa loss (or no-show) is no disqualifier. The three previous presidents all lost Iowa -- Reagan in 1980 (to Bush41), Bush41 in 1988 (to Dole and Robertson), and Clinton in 1992 (to Harkin) -- on their way to capturing the White House. To be fair, 1992 was highly unusual, because neither Clinton nor the other Democratic contenders really made an effort, given that everyone knew Senator Harkin was a lock to win his home state.
True, Iowa's results will not necessarily dictate New Hampshire's results or decide the nominee. But they could affect on the outcome by boosting, damaging, or destroying certain campaigns that are relying on the caucus. Iowans will decide whether Dick Gephardt has a shot at the nomination; if he performs poorly at the caucus, he's basically finished. Kerry desperately needs a good performance in Iowa to bump up his numbers in New Hampshire and elsewhere, so Iowans control his political future to a large degree as well. Edwards has South Carolina to fall back on if he loses Iowa, but he'd be much stronger in that race with an expectations-defying finish in the caucus. Clark and Lieberman aren't campaigning in Iowa, so even if they come in last place, they'll only feel its effects indirectly through the strength or weakness of other candidates. If Dean performs poorly in Iowa, his campaign can keep going strong as long as his numbers in New Hampshire aren't hurt. In short, Iowa can kill Gephardt's campaign, wound Kerry's and possibly Edwards', and have only minor effects on Clark's, Lieberman's, and Dean's. No, it won't determine the nominee, and yes, it's probably overrated, but it's not completely irrelevant.
On the other hand, neither is an Iowa win the first step on a clear path to the nomination. Ironically, what often erases Iowa's ability to either cancel or catapult candidates is the very next step: New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary the following week. And so Bush43 won IA in 2000, then got pummeled by McCain in NH the next week; Dole and Robertson beat Bush41 in 1988, only to watch Gov. John Sununu revive Pappy's political career in NH; Bush41 beat Reagan in Iowa in `80, but lost his "big mo" in NH only a week later.
--Posted at 2:47 AM | link
A quick postscript on the D.C. kind-of-like-a-primary: The vote was divided, to some extent, along racial lines.
Dean won Wards 1, 2, 3 and 6, which are, by percentage, the wards with the largest white populations, according census numbers.
The conclusion seems to be that Dean's victory in majority-black D.C. does not necessarily prove strength among black voters.
Sharpton won Wards 4, 5, 7 and 8, which have the city's largest black populations. Sharpton's margin was more than 20 percentage points in Wards 5 and 7, which are largely middle class.
Meanwhile, Sharpton is touting his second-place finish on his website as a major success. I'm not sure if his finish counts as beating expectations or not. On one hand, Dean is by far the stronger and better-known candidate nationally, so even coming close gives Sharpton something to brag about. On the other hand, Sharpton made more of an effort in D.C. than Dean (after all, Dean skipped the city's only debate), so perhaps his performance was at or below expectations. Either way, it makes little difference. Sharpton is in one of the bottom two slots pretty much everywhere else, and even a landslide victory over Dean in D.C. wouldn't have done much to change that. The stakes--and the turnout--were too low.
--Posted at 2:16 AM | link
Thursday, January 15, 2004
Carol Moseley Braun has a statement about her withdrawal from the race and her endorsement of Howard Dean on her website.
--Posted at 2:56 PM | link
Reuters has an article about the "expectations game" that the candidates are playing in these two first primaries.
In a phenomenon repeated every four years in the early contests of Iowa and New Hampshire, it's all about expectations -- which long shot exceeds their projected finish, even if that projection was dismally low, and which betting favorite finishes out of the winner's circle, even if by a nose.
If there's anything that Dean has not done effectively, it's keeping a lid on expectations. Endorsements, cash, media attention, and high poll numbers have all contributed to his appearance of "inevitability." High expectations are not Dean's fault, since he would be crazy to turn down endorsements, put a cap on his fundraising, or stop campaigning vigorously just to keep expectations low. But they come with a price--they must be met.
Iowa has produced some of the clearest examples of the expectations game and how it turns losers into winners. In 1976 Jimmy Carter was a largely unknown governor who finished second to "undecided," but earned enough publicity to win New Hampshire and land in the White House.
In 1984, former Vice President Walter Mondale trounced Gary Hart, 49 percent to 17 percent, but Hart's second-place finish propelled him to win New Hampshire and put a scare into Mondale, the prohibitive favorite and ultimate nominee.
Having seen the game in action, politicians work hard to keep a lid on expectations. "Part of their job is to keep expectations low," said Peverill Squire of the University of Iowa.
The article also points out how other candidates will be playing the game.
But one of the top contenders, Rep. Richard Gephardt, has largely abandoned the game this year and admitted the obvious -- he has to win Iowa to attract more donors to his campaign and have a shot at the nomination.
This could change in the next few days. If Kerry continues to tie for the lead in Iowa, perhaps even third-place would be a letdown unless it's very close.
For Gephardt, a congressman from the neighboring state of Missouri who won Iowa during his first presidential bid in 1988, a close second place finish will not do.
Expectations had dropped so low for Edwards that a strong fourth-place finish would not be damaging, while anything better would be a huge boost. But a fourth-place finish would be disastrous for Kerry, who also has risen in polls and could reap huge dividends from a surprise second-place finish.
--Posted at 2:54 PM | link
Dean has never looked as strong in Iowa as in New Hampshire, but the latest Zogby poll suggests that third or even fourth place is not out of the question.
Kerry's apparent one point lead over Dean and Gephardt is statistically meaningless, but it must be satisfying for Kerry supporters to finally see him in the lead again. Zogby tells us that with a 4.5% margin of error, "this race is actually a four-way statistical dead heat." Kerry and Edwards--candidates whose campaigns seemed to be dying not long ago--could win this thing. Iowa's results could shuffle around the New Hampshire numbers and make all the current polls there nearly meaningless.
--Posted at 2:17 PM | link
This is the four-day trend for the daily ARG poll in New Hampshire:
Dean: 36% 34% 32% 29%
Clark: 19% 20% 22% 24%
Kerry: 10% 11% 13% 15%
Yes, Dean is now ahead of Clark by only 5 percent. The usual caveats about polls, margins of error, and randomness apply, of course. ARG adds these comments:
There are three important points to be aware of when reviewing today's tracking. First, Howard Dean's core support remains around 30%. His strongest supporters have not wavered while soft supporters have left him. Second, when the 15% undecided in the ballot is included, about 45% of likely Democratic primary voters are not firmly committed to any candidate. And third, Wesley Clark has not been the only beneficiary of the shift from Howard Dean that began over the weekend. John Kerry and John Edwards have also benefited as some women continue to have concerns about Clark. Both Clark and Kerry have picked up 5 percentage points since Sunday, with Clark going from 19% to 24% in the ballot preference and Kerry going from 10% to 15% in the ballot preference. Edwards is up 2 percentage points from Sunday, going from 3% to 5%.
Dean is still stronger than any other candidate in New Hampshire. The problem, as I suggested yesterday, is that expectations for him are so high that a 5 point victory over his nearest rival could look like a blow to his momentum. He once looked invincible in New Hampshire, twenty points ahead of his nearest rivals, and the only question was who would get second place. Now, a sudden burst of support for Clark could put Dean himself in second place. I'm still betting that Dean will win, but he'll need to fight for it.
Clark has not jumped in front of Dean because Clark, Kerry, and Edwards have split the vote that has moved away from Dean. If the race remains competitive below Dean and Dean is able to maintain his core level of support, it becomes difficult for any of the other candidates to pass Dean.
--Posted at 1:56 PM | link
Carol Moseley Braun is out of the race, and she plans to endorse Howard Dean. We all knew that this day was coming soon, at least since she failed to get on the ballot in about half of the states due to lack of signatures. It's unclear whether the National Organization for Women--the most well-known group to support her--will also transfer its support to Dean.
--Posted at 3:51 AM | link
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
The three-day trend in the American Research Group daily New Hampshire poll shows an interesting trend. Clark and Kerry have each gained three percent, and Dean has lost four, putting Clark within 10 points of Dean (32-22). Another poll has Dean at 29 percent and Clark at 20. Dean still has a strong lead, and perhaps some deflation of his numbers in NH was inevitable, especially with Clark campaigning there full time. But Dean is tied up in the "meeting expectations" game now, and a close victory over Clark could be almost as bad as a loss. Anything much below a 10-point victory will make his campaign look like it's running out of steam.
--Posted at 5:05 PM | link
With 96 percent of precincts reporting, it looks like Howard Dean is the winner of D.C.'s not-quite-a-primary. He has 43 percent of the vote, compared to 34 percent for Al Sharpton, 12 percent for Carol Moseley Braun, and 8 percent for Dennis Kucinich. Sharpton was behind Dean by about 3500 votes (more than Kucinich's entire total). Turnout was about 15 percent, a fairly disappointing number, but at least it reached double digits.
This probably means nothing for the upcoming primaries. Sharpton could get a tiny boost for a strong showing, but not enough to make any difference. Dean avoids having his momentum slowed by a loss to Sharpton, which could have maybe given some hope to his rivals in other states.
--Posted at 8:13 AM | link
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
The Washington Post reports low turnout in the D.C. primary. There aren't any real numbers yet, just anecdotes from poll workers, which don't tell us much. The polls close at 8 PM, so the real vote totals and turnout numbers will be available after then.
--Posted at 4:49 PM | link
Jimmy Carter is planning to stay officially neutral in the primaries, but he's acting pretty chummy with Howard Dean.
BURLINGTON, Vt. - Former President Carter will offer words of praise — but no endorsement — when he joins Democrat Howard Dean in Georgia on the eve of the Iowa caucuses, campaign aides said Tuesday.
The South is one of Dean's weak spots, so if Jimmy Carter can help throw a few Democratic votes his way, it could make a difference.
The two men plan to have a private meeting and then make a joint public appearance in Carter's home town of Plains, Ga., on Sunday, according to Dean advisers speaking on a condition of anonymity.
Dean has sought Carter's advice throughout the campaign. During an appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live" in September, Carter said he sees a little of himself in Dean.
Carter said Dean visited his home in 2002 "when nobody was paying any attention to me at all" to ask the former president about his campaign 28 years ago.
Like Dean, Carter entered the presidential race as an ex-governor considered a long shot for the nomination. Carter said Dean asked him and his wife what they did to get a victory in New Hampshire, among other things.
--Posted at 4:44 PM | link
January 13 is the day of the first Democratic "primary," sort of. Washington D.C. will hold its nonbinding primary, created mainly to draw attention to D.C.'s lack of congressional representation. Only four familiar names are on the ballot--Howard Dean, Al Sharpton, Dennis Kucinich, and Carol Moseley Braun. I haven't been able to find any polls, but my guess is that Dean will win due to name recognition and overall popularity. That's not exactly a bold guess, but hey, you've got the most successful Democratic campaign pitted against the three least successful. Even though this is D.C., I don't think the others will be giving Dean a run for his money.
--Posted at 12:06 AM | link
Monday, January 12, 2004
Minority leaders in Vermont are defending Howard Dean against Al Sharpton's attack on him for failing to appoint any black or Latino cabinet members as governor.
Contending that recruiting minorities for high-level posts in state government is difficult in a state that is nearly 98 percent white, one black leader who met regularly with Dean praised his efforts as governor. He recalled turning down Dean's requests to serve in the administration.
If Howard Dean has anything to fear on racial issues, it's not that he failed to appoint any minority cabinet members in a state that's 98 percent white. It's that he's associated with a state that's 98 percent white in the first place. He doesn't have the experience dealing with racial issues that, say, a governor of Arkansas might have. Dean will probably have little trouble winning the majority of black and Latino voters if he makes it to the general election, but the whiteness of his state could work to his detriment in the primaries.
"He asked if I had an interest or if I knew of anyone who had an interest," said Vaughn Carney, a lawyer and executive with a financial services company. "I myself was constrained by other commitments. I wasn't aware of anyone who would be qualified or would be available."
Carney accepted posts on three low-profile commissions. "Those who have assumed the mantle of leadership in Vermont's very small black community are fully aware of Dr. Dean's commitment to inclusion, to diversity, and to fairness," he said.
--Posted at 11:48 PM | link
Howard Dean had some comments about the current President Bush and his father in an interview with Rolling Stone.
WASHINGTON - Howard Dean expresses admiration for President Bush's father in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, but says the current president's "obsession with re-election is hurting the country."
Dean's focus on Bush's "obsession" that is hurting the country is similar to Republican attacks on him for being too "angry" or "pessimistic." He's pointing out what he believes to be a personality flaw in his opponent, and arguing that this makes him unfit for the presidency. It's not an easily deniable charge. Bush could hardly claim that he isn't trying his hardest to get reelected, but calling it an "obsession" puts every fundraiser and every proposal that looks like an election year ploy in a negative light. If Dean makes this attack often enough, it could stick, and any action that Bush takes to improve his chances of reelection will seem to prove the allegation. Of course, I'm getting way ahead of things here; the "obsession" with reelection thing is a single comment from Dean, not a Democratic talking point. But I wonder if Dean has plans to make it into the latter.
"I admire George Bush's father," Dean told the magazine during the course of two question-and-answer sessions last month. "There were some things I strongly disagreed with him on, but he tried to be a good president."
He said President Bush is the opposite of his father.
"This president is not interested in being a good president." "He's interested in some complicated psychological situation that he has with his father," the Democratic presidential front-runner said. "He is obsessed with being re-elected, and his obsession with re-election is hurting the country."
--Posted at 11:34 PM | link
Wesley Clark's rise in New Hampshire has finally stopped, but he still is doing well enough there to make other candidates worry. John Kerry is again questioning whether Clark is a "real" Democrat, and Joe Lieberman is attacking Clark on the Iraq issue. There's still no clear "anti-Dean" candidate, but this attention might indicate that his rivals see him as an emerging "anti-Dean."
--Posted at 5:47 PM | link
Sunday, January 11, 2004
The Democratic candidates, with the exception of Clark, debated at the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum. Sharpton made a big deal out of the fact that Dean had never named a black or Latino to his cabinet while he was governor of Vermont.
"You keep talking about race," the former street activist chided Dean when he had a turn to ask a question. He said that not one "black or brown held a senior position, not one...It seems as though you've discovered blacks and browns in this campaign," he said.
I don't know how many cabinet members Dean had during his 12 years as governor. But I would guess that in a state that is 98 percent white, the number of possible black or Latino candidates for Dean's cabinet is very small. Dean is a victim of the demographic makeup of his state.
Dean bristled at that and said it was untrue. He said he had had "senior members" of his staff who were minorities, but Sharpton cut him off and said he was asking about his Cabinet, which has fewer members.
"No, we did not," conceded Dean, whose state has a population that is nearly 98 percent white.
Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, who is African-American as it Sharpton, defended Dean. "Rev. Sharpton, the fact of the matter is we can always blow up a racial debate and make people mad at each other."
--Posted at 10:00 PM | link
Here is a useful description of how the Iowa caucuses work, and how the unusual process could lead to a Gephardt victory even though he's trailing Dean in the polls.
--Posted at 10:59 AM | link
Blogger Roger Ailes argues that the New Republic is planning to endorse George W. Bush in the general election if Dean wins the Democratic nomination. Based on what I've seen in TNR lately, this might be a good prediction. If they give Dean their endorsement, it will probably be a very grudging one that portrays him as the lesser of two evils.
--Posted at 12:59 AM | link
A few days ago, I suggested that Howard Dean could benefit from his statement that religion influenced his decision to legalize civil unions, because of the inevitable "God hates gays" response that would come from Christian conservatives. It looks like this is already happening. Tim Graham from the National Review attacks Dean's statement by referring to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The implication, I suppose, is that not only does God disapprove of civil unions, but He also believes in killing gay people for their "sins." Although Republicans rely heavily on the Christian Right for support, this kind of rhetoric will hurt them more than it helps.
--Posted at 12:32 AM | link