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Saturday, February 14, 2004

The primaries continue their trend of being not even close.

D.C.

Kerry - 47%
Sharpton - 20%
Dean - 18%
Edwards - 10%
Kucinich - 3%

Nevada

Kerry - 63%
Dean - 17%
Edwards - 10%
Kucinich - 7%
Sharpton - 1%

The Nevada total for Kerry is actually the percentage of delegates to the state convention, not the percentage of votes. But it still shows that he dominated the state.

Next up: Wisconsin this Tuesday.
--Posted at 11:40 PM | link

Bush has released his entire military record, or so he says. Democrats say that the records provide no evidence about the period in question--when Bush was transferred to Alabama. So the saga will continue, until Bush exonerates himself or Democrats get something solid they can use. Or, both sides might fight each other to a standstill and decide that it's not worth the energy to dig up the remaining records.
--Posted at 11:15 AM | link

Apparently, even the authors of the marriage amendment aren't sure what it would ban--gay marriage, or also civil unions. This is a big problem for the backers of the amendment. Democrats have an easier way to justify their opposition if they can claim that it is ambiguous. The fact that the backers of the amendment are divided on what it should ban, as well as what it does ban, is another hurdle.
--Posted at 10:59 AM | link

Friday, February 13, 2004

The AFL-CIO will endorse John Kerry next week. It looks like they've decided he's the winner--although we've seen big union endorsements reversed before.
--Posted at 7:25 PM | link

A guide to the John Kerry/Jane Fonda photographs that are floating around:

Real

Fake

Apparently, the real photo didn't show enough of a connection between Kerry and Fonda (they were just attending the same rally), so Photoshop was called in to make a more damning one.
--Posted at 4:17 PM | link

According to the latest ARG poll, Wisconsin isn't even close right now. The results of the poll are:

Kerry - 53%
Edwards - 16%
Dean - 11%
Kucinich - 2%
Sharpton - 2%

Dean also has high unfavorable ratings (19% favorable, 43% unfavorable, and 37% undecided).
--Posted at 1:50 AM | link

So now there's a story out there about alleged adultery by John Kerry. Yeah, I know, it's Drudge. Grain of salt and all that. If it's true and provable, however, the Democrats are in some deep trouble if they nominate Kerry. It's not that a candidate can't be elected if he's surrounded by infidelity allegations; Clinton certainly demonstrated that. It's just that the Democrats don't want to deal with this again. This is not going to be an easy campaign, and anything that drags down Kerry's numbers even slightly is dangerous. If this story turns out to be true, it might be in the Democrats' interest to dump Kerry and go with Dean or Edwards.

Of course, this could just be a rumor with no truth to it. There's no evidence, except a "close friend" of the woman talking to reporters. Wesley Clark allegedly stated, off the record, that "Kerry will implode over an intern issue." But Clark endorsed Kerry today--hardly the thing to do for a candidate that's about to implode. There's nothing to support this so far except the fact that it's on Drudge's website. Republicans will do everything they can to dig for more details, so we'll find out soon if there's anything to it.

UPDATE: Here's a skeptical look at the allegations.
--Posted at 1:01 AM | link

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Edwards says that he expects to get a lot of support from former Clark supporters.

But if certain anonymous sources are correct, he won't be getting support from Clark himself.
--Posted at 4:21 PM | link

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Well, it looks like Bush has finally decided to go ahead with the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. This is the text of the amendment:

"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

The supporters of this amendment claim that it only bans gay marriage, not civil unions. Gay rights groups claim that it would ban civil unions as well, with its reference to "the legal incidents thereof." Conservative Christian groups are hoping to convince Bush to ban civil unions also. This is a critical issue, because the amendment is less likely to get the support it needs if it covers civil unions.

Kerry has announced that he opposes gay marriage but will not support the amendment. Republicans will undoubtedly point out the inconsistency, insisting that if he really opposed gay marriage, he'd want to ban it. The implication will be that Kerry is just "opposing" gay marriage because it would be politically dangerous to support it, not because he's actually against it. Kerry will need to come up with a justification for opposing both the amendment and gay marriage. Perhaps he'll have the "civil unions" way out, depending on the language of the amendment.

On the other hand, if public opinion turns against the amendment, Kerry's position could be perfect. I think it's possible that there could be some backlash if the Republicans push this too hard. When people actually start debating the amendment, maybe public support won't be as strong as it seems now. There's potential for a reaction like: "Yeah, I don't like gay marriage, but do they really have to push a whole amendment through?" Republicans have had bad luck with "culture" issues in the past--recall the surge in public support for Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal. If there's a long debate over the amendment, it's possible that people will wonder whether there are more important things to think about.

At this point, I don't think that many people have made up their minds. Apparently, a lot depends on the way the question is worded:

A Feb. 5-8 poll by the National Annenberg Election Survey asked: "Would you favor or oppose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution saying that no state can allow two men to marry each other or two women to marry each other?" Of the 814 adults surveyed, 49 percent opposed an amendment, while 42 percent favored it.

That was a reversal of an Annenberg poll a few days earlier that asked, "Would you favor or oppose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would allow marriage only between a man and a woman?" With that wording, 59 percent were in favor and 33 percent were opposed.
I can't predict how this will turn out. I've talked about how there's a potential for backlash, but if I had to bet, it would be on the passage of the amendment. Thirty-eight states have gay marriage bans, and that's enough to ram through an amendment. I don't think enough people in Congress are going to fight it. It could pass easily. But if Bush wants to make a campaign issue out of it, he wants to prolong the process until November. If this drags on for a while, then we might see some negative reaction. Or it could go the other way, with the amendment becoming widely popular and sinking the Kerry campaign. The Bush administration is apparently guessing that it will be a winning issue, and we'll know soon if they're right.
--Posted at 6:15 PM | link

First, a review of the numbers:

Tennessee

Kerry - 41%
Edwards - 26%
Clark - 23%
Dean - 4%
Sharpton - 2%
Kucinich - 1%

Virginia

Kerry - 52%
Edwards - 27%
Clark - 9%
Dean - 7%
Sharpton - 3%
Kucinich - 1%

Dean's performance in both states was terrible. There seems to be a strong north-south divide in Dean's support; he got second place in the three recent northern contests, and low fourths in the two recent southern contests. Edwards' support is similarly divided along geographic lines, but at least he managed to get third in Michigan. Kerry is the only candidate who is popular everywhere, even though he's just as much a product of the north as Dean.

Exit polls continue to show that Kerry is popular because Democratic voters think that he has the best chance of beating Bush in November. I'm not sure that this belief has any logical basis. The results of the entire primary process so far can be traced to one night--the night Kerry won Iowa, and Dean screamed. If Dean had remained calm, Kerry's Iowa victory might have been seen as an aberration. Kerry would have received a boost in New Hampshire, and Dean might have been dragged down by lost momentum, but it still would have been a close race, along with the primaries that followed. But as it happened, Dean's scream knocked him out of contention with many Democrats, leaving them searching for a replacement frontrunner. They found that replacement in Kerry, and they haven't looked back since. But few people were paying attention to Kerry before Iowa, so it's hard to say how his "electability" will stand up under serious attack. If it does turn out that Kerry is highly vulnerable to Republican attacks, this probably won't become known until it is too late.

Meanwhile, Dean and Edwards are focusing on Wisconsin, but neither one intends to stop there. The Virginia/Tennessee primaries cast doubt on Edwards' ability to catch up. Sure, if you combine the Edwards/Clark vote in Tennessee (though not Virginia), it would have exceeded Kerry's. If you make the assumption--which is certainly open to attack--that Edwards would have taken most of the Clark votes, then it's possible to see how Edwards could win southern states in the future. The outlook for Dean is gloomier. He can only manage distant second place finishes in the north, and he barely registers in the south. Essentially, Dean's only hope is for a sudden change in public opinion that raises his own popularity and damages Kerry's. Edwards needs to hope for the same, but maybe he can get something extra out of being the only southern candidate. It seems unlikely though, based on yesterday's results.

Clark has fallen far since the days when he was second to Dean in fundraising and in many polls. He entered this race because many Democratic voters were unhappy with their options, and in particular they worried that Dean was unelectable. After entering the race, Clark quickly showed that he was just as flawed and vulnerable as the other candidates. He continued to be the most likely "anti-Dean" candidate until Iowa, which eliminated the need for an "anti-Dean" altogether. With voters no longer concerned about the "unelectable" Dean, and convinced that they had found someone "electable" in John Kerry, Clark lost much of his relevance. Of course, you could argue that everyone lost relevance after Kerry took off, but Clark was particularly vulnerable because he had skipped Iowa and was therefore eclipsed by Edwards. He needed to perform somewhere to survive, and barely winning Oklahoma was not enough.
--Posted at 4:00 PM | link

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Clark is out. My network connection is acting up, so I won't have any comments until tomorrow.
--Posted at 11:55 PM | link

Dean's staying in, even if he loses Wisconsin. Clark and Edwards say they're staying in, even if they lose Virginia and Tennessee. Jerome Armstrong sees this and concludes that Kerry could get less than 50% of the delegates, leading to a brokered convention. I'm not sure that Clark, Edwards, and Dean all have the resources to stay in the race despite losses to Kerry, but if they do, then this is a plausible scenario.
--Posted at 8:45 AM | link

Monday, February 09, 2004

Howard Dean said that he won't be dropping out of the race even if he loses Wisconsin. This is a big shift from his earlier position that a win in Wisconsin is necessary for his campaign to survive. His decision is probably influenced by the fact that polls (like this Feb. 6 ARG poll) still show him getting buried by Kerry in Wisconsin. Dean justified his decision this way:

"I've just been convinced that we are not going to drop out. There are too many people who have come up to me and said, 'Whatever you do, don't drop out,"' he said. "We are going to find a way to stay in, one way or the other."
This raises the question of what Dean plans to do now. By giving himself more time, he increases the chances that Kerry will screw up somehow, or that voters will take a second look at their choices. If Clark and Edwards drop out after tomorrow's primaries, then the race is reduced to a Dean-Kerry match, and Dean could start winning some of the Clark/Edwards votes. But does he have any specific goal now? Is he going to abandon Wisconsin, or keep trying to do his best there? Does he have any other must-win states? I'm sure that this will all be clarified soon.
--Posted at 5:44 PM | link

The Zogby polls show John Kerry with huge leads in Tennessee and Virginia.

Virginia

Kerry - 47
Edwards - 24
Clark - 11
Dean - 10
Sharpton - 3
Kucinich - 2

Tennessee

Kerry - 45
Edwards - 21
Clark - 19
Dean - 5
Sharpton - 2
Kucinich - 0.1

This could very well be the end of Clark and Edwards. They need to do well in southern states to stay alive, and it doesn't look like it's going to happen. If they decide to stay in the race after losing Tennessee and Virginia, they'll have to wait until March 2 for another southern primary (Georgia). March 9 features a bunch of southern states (Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas), but Clark and Edwards will never last that long unless they start winning elsewhere. Given the poll numbers, it's becoming increasingly impossible to imagine a scenario in which Kerry will not be the nominee. Perhaps if all but one candidate drops out, the remaining candidate will combine all of the anti-Kerry votes and start winning primaries. But with Kerry's support in most primary states hovering around 50 percent--and with no indication that the other half of the vote is firmly anti-Kerry--this probably wouldn't work.
--Posted at 12:14 PM | link

Oddly, the news services (e.g. CNN and AP) still show only 50% of precincts in Maine reporting. Nonetheless, the AP has assigned Maine's delegates--15 to Kerry, and 9 to Dean. Kucinich is in third place, just as he was in Washington, but this time he broke through the double-digit barrier. Clark and Edwards get nothing out of the weekend's primaries, and neither does Dean. At best, Dean has shown that he can still beat Clark and Edwards in the north, but this counts for little when Kerry's margins of victory are so big.

Coming up next are Tennessee and Virginia, which should have a major effect on the Clark and Edwards candidacies.
--Posted at 8:43 AM | link

Sunday, February 08, 2004

It looks like there won't be a Maine miracle for Dean. With 40% of precincts reporting, Kerry has 46% of the vote compared to Dean's 26%. Kucinich is in third place with 14%, and everyone else is in single digits. These numbers could change, but probably not enough to give Dean the victory.
--Posted at 10:33 PM | link

Nobody in the national media seems to be paying attention to Maine's caucuses, which happen today. But Maine's newspapers seem to think that their contest could be surprisingly important. This is from an article in the Portland Press Herald:

Maine's Democratic caucuses are drawing national attention because a large slate of candidates is still competing. While Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts is the front-runner, at least two candidates - former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio - are trying to make a horse race out of it in Maine and will campaign throughout the state today.

"Maine is in the back yard of both Howard Dean and John Kerry, and if Dean loses it's another indication that he's on his way out," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "The assumption, and it's only an assumption, is that Kerry is ahead there. But it's a caucus, and only small numbers show up, so upsets can happen."

...

Bill Schneider, a CNN political analyst, said Saturday he couldn't rule out a Dean victory in Maine because the state's politics are typically unpredictable. In 1992, for example, Maine Democrats chose Jerry Brown over Bill Clinton.
If Dean wins Maine, he can spin it as evidence that he is making his long-awaited comeback. If he loses it, he's in about the same position as before. At least he won't lose much ground from losing Maine, because no one is expecting him to win it, and nobody is paying much attention to the state anyway.
--Posted at 1:04 PM | link

Kerry got another big endorsement in a key primary state from Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia. If we assume that endorsements count for anything, this should help give Kerry an edge in Virginia over his two southern rivals.
--Posted at 12:46 PM | link

Here's the delegate distribution from Washington and Michigan, as calculated by CNN.

Michigan

Kerry - 91
Dean - 24
Edwards - 6
Sharpton - 7

Interesting...Sharpton got more than Edwards, despite getting a lower vote total. This is the same result reported by the AP, so I'm guessing it's more than just a typo. It probably has something to do with the way the delegates are selected. Sharpton probably carried more districts, while Edwards got more votes overall statewide. But I don't know the details.

Washington

Kerry - 47
Dean - 29

This makes the total delegate count, including "superdelegates," look like this:

Kerry - 402
Dean - 174
Edwards - 116
Clark - 82
Sharpton - 12
Kucinich - 2

Dean is still hanging on to second place, but he didn't earn many of these delegates from primaries. Thus, he could lose them to other candidates if his campaign remains stalled.
--Posted at 12:42 PM | link

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