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Saturday, February 21, 2004

Bush's popularity continues to drop, according to a Feb. 18-19 FOX News poll. (Polling Report doesn't have links, so you might have to scroll down if it's no longer on top.)

Approve: 48%
Disapprove: 41%
Don't Know: 11%

This still gives Bush a higher "approve" than "disapprove" rating, but the trend over time is not good for Bush. "Disapprove" has hit 41% before, but only in recent months (it hit 40% in September 2003 and 41% in November 2003). Unless I'm missing something, "approve" and "disapprove" have never been so close together in this poll--which goes back to January 2001. Also, his "approve" rating has not been below 50% in this particular poll since his first month in office.
--Posted at 2:01 PM | link

A recent poll of New York's likely voters shows that the race there is not even close:

Kerry - 66%
Edwards - 14%
Sharpton - 7%
Kucinich - 3%

In New York, Edwards' close second in Wisconsin hasn't helped him touch Kerry. Presumably, something more will need to happen to harm Kerry's image, or dramatically improve Edwards', before Edwards can dream of a surprise on March 2.
--Posted at 11:44 AM | link

The Blogging of the President has a graph showing how blog references to various candidates have risen and fallen over the past few months. As one would expect, there was a sudden surge in references to Kerry and Edwards around the Iowa caucuses. But Dean continued to be mentioned roughly as often as Kerry--and more often than Edwards--until around February 3. As of February 8, Dean was still being discussed much more than Edwards. It would be interesting to see some post-Wisconsin statistics. Dean is still a major topic of conversation among many bloggers (in the "what went wrong?" and "where will his supporters go?" contexts), so he's probably still beating at least Kucinich and Sharpton.
--Posted at 11:39 AM | link

Friday, February 20, 2004

Nader will be appearing on "Meet the Press" to announce his decision about running for the presidency. Although we don't know what his decision will be, I'd guess that it would be a bit anticlimactic for him to appear just to announce that he's not running. If he wanted to stay out, he probably would have announced this in a more subtle way than a television appearance. Also, there's this:

"He's going to be discussing his role in the presidential election," [spokeswoman Linda] Schade said of the man whose run for president in 2000 is blamed by many Democrats for tilting a close election in favor of George W. Bush. "He's felt there is a role for an independent candidate to play."
I find it hard to believe that he would emphasize the need for an independent candidate, and then decline to be that candidate. So he's probably jumping in. I think he's out of step with the attitude of most progressives, who seem to want Bush out at all costs, even if it means voting for Kerry or Edwards. So Nader's vote total will probably be even worse than it was in 2000, yet this won't eliminate the anger many voters will feel over the fact that he entered the race at all. If he actually does tip the election to Bush again, his reputation may never recover.
--Posted at 2:35 PM | link

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Kerry picked up the official endorsement of the AFL-CIO today. This has been in the works for a while, and apparently Edwards' close second in Wisconsin didn't change the organization's plans. This comes at a bad time for Edwards, who is trying to make the case that he has a more labor-friendly trade policy than Kerry.

If Teamsters president James P. Hoffa's views are any guide, organized labor is gravitating toward Kerry more because of his electability than his positions:

The Teamsters, which had snubbed John Kerry for his support for trade agreements, contends that the Democratic front-runner is evolving on the issue and has the best chance of beating President Bush, union President James P. Hoffa said Wednesday.

"He might not be there yet, but I think the more he campaigns, the more he realizes this entire election is going to come down to jobs," Hoffa said in an Associated Press interview. "I think he's moving towards that. Everybody evolves.

...

John Edwards, who finished a close second to Kerry on Tuesday in Wisconsin, is "very impressive," Hoffa said. But he lacks what Kerry appears to have — "an electability factor."
For Kerry, a lot depends on maintaining his image as the strongest candidate to beat Bush and the inevitable nominee. If he loses this, labor might take another look at Edwards--although a reversal will be tricky at this point.
--Posted at 2:50 PM | link

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Kerry and Edwards are both leading Bush by healthy margins in a recent poll:

Kerry, the Democratic front-runner and a Massachusetts senator, leads Bush by 55 percent to 43 percent among likely voters, according to the CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll. Edwards, the North Carolina senator who is challenging Kerry, leads Bush by 54 percent to 44 percent.

...

In early February, both Kerry and Edwards were tied with Bush in head-to-head matchups in this poll.
True, the general election campaign hasn't really started yet, and Kerry and Edwards are surely getting a boost from the amount of media attention they're getting compared to Bush. But still, those are some strong leads over a president who was once considered all but invincible. These numbers don't tell us who will win, but they tell us who is making an impression.
--Posted at 6:09 PM | link

Two Democratic party officials claim that Dean will be ending his campaign for the presidency and organizing a new effort to help elect Democrats to Congress. Dean will supposedly make an official announcement this afternoon.

UPDATE: Dean has made it official.
--Posted at 10:31 AM | link

Only four precincts out of 3,524 have still not reported, so I think it's fair to conclude that the delegate count from Wisconsin is final:

Kerry - 30
Edwards - 24
Dean - 13
Everyone else - 0

Kerry's (almost) final percentage is 39.7%, and Edwards' is 34.3%. So Edwards didn't quite make it within 5%, but he certainly came close.
--Posted at 12:47 AM | link

The Kerry/Edwards race in Wisconsin did turn out to be much closer than expected. Here are the percentages, with 95% of precincts reporting:

Kerry - 40%
Edwards - 35%
Dean - 18%
Kucinich - 3%
Sharpton - 2%

And this is interesting:

Edwards' breakout was fueled by the highest Republican turnout of the primary season and voters who made their decision in the last week. His deepest support was in the GOP suburbs of Milwaukee.

"That's been happening in other primaries, too," Edwards told The Associated Press in an interview. "Republicans who would consider voting Democratic and independents are the people we have to win over to win the general election. That's why I'm the best candidate to take on George Bush."
Of course, they could just be Republicans who want to screw over John Kerry. You never know. I wonder how a purely Democratic primary would have turned out.

Meanwhile, Dean is basically finished, with a performance that fell far short of his goal of winning the state. Dean has made no official announcement yet, but it looks like he's giving up on a serious attempt at the presidency.

Dean ignored pleas to give up the fight. "We are not done," he told his supporters, even as his own advisers were saying his campaign for the presidency was effectively over. He headed home to Vermont to regroup, in search of a way to convert his political network into a movement that helps elect Democrats.

Senior advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Dean was considering dramatically scaling back his campaign with no hope of winning the presidency. He was just as likely to cede the nomination and, with hopes of becoming a kingmaker, endorsing a rival.
And apparently, Dean and Edwards have been acting pretty friendly lately:

The former Vermont governor sought out rival John Edwards for a private meeting Sunday night in Milwaukee. After what Democratic sources described as a friendly but inconclusive conversation, Dean said the two men should talk again today. The implication was that there could be ways for Dean to help a candidate he has said he prefers over Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.).
So I would guess that big things are in the works for the next few days. We'll see Dean decide what his role in the campaign will be. We'll see if Edwards' strong second place gives him a boost in the polls. Kerry is still the favorite (he did win tonight, after all), but his eventual victory no longer seems as inevitable as before.
--Posted at 12:26 AM | link

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Yikes.

The Wisconsin primary is too close to call with Sen. John Edwards putting up a stronger than expected showing against Sen. John Kerry, according to exit polls.
Could Edwards actually win this thing? If he does, it could change the entire campaign. Even if he comes close, say within 5 points, this could be a competitive race for weeks to come.
--Posted at 9:26 PM | link

Exit polls of unclear origin and validity show Edwards doing well against Kerry, and Dean doing poorly. Kerry's still the clear winner in these polls, but his margin of victory isn't as great as it has been in the past. Anyway, we'll get some real numbers later the old-fashioned way--you know, by counting the votes, after the polls close.
--Posted at 6:07 PM | link

The last thing that Howard Dean needs now is another setback, but he got one today when a Vermont judge ruled that he did not have the authority as governor to seal his records for 10 years. The judge said that he must explain why each of the documents should be protected. Dean is expected to appeal, but if things don't go well in Wisconsin, it might not matter.
--Posted at 2:07 PM | link

Monday, February 16, 2004

Drudge is backpedaling on his claims that John Kerry had an affair with an intern. His new claim, with a link to it in big capital letters on the front page of his site, is this:

A woman at the center of John Kerry intrigue dated longtime Kerry Finance Director Peter Maroney, sources tell the DRUDGE REPORT.

When pressed by media outlets in recent week, the Kerry campaign confirmed the relationship, according to top sources.
John Kerry, John Kerry's finance director--hey, they're the same thing, right? Drudge tries to cover himself with an explanation:

She would joke that she was dating the next president of the United States, says a source.

Polier's flippant remarks and flirtatious manner, according to friends, fueled the intrigue.
Drudge is also defensive about his claim that Wesley Clark said that Kerry would "implode" over an intern scandal.

Three reporters in attendance confirm Clark made the startling comments. "This guy is going to blow up. Have you seen the NATIONAL ENQUIRER story"
But he doesn't identify the reporters, and his only link is to an op-ed that mentions the alleged comments in passing. He also doesn't have an explanation for why Clark would endorse Kerry if he knew he was doomed. (UPDATE: TNR's Ryan Lizza says that he was there at the conversation in question, and that Clark didn't make those comments.)

If there are any adultery stories at all that are damaging to Kerry, Drudge doesn't have them. Oh well. Maybe he'll have better luck next time.
--Posted at 5:07 PM | link

Dean has fired his national chairman Steve Grossman, who earlier today announced his intention to work for John Kerry after Dean lost in Wisconsin.
--Posted at 4:50 PM | link

It looks like the Kerry "intern" story is dead. The girl and question and her parents released statements. Here is the intern's statement:

For the last several days I have seen Internet and tabloid rumors relating to me and Senator John Kerry. Because these stories were false, I assumed the media would ignore them. It seems that efforts to peddle these lies continue, so I feel compelled to address them. I have never had a relationship with Senator Kerry, and the rumors in the press are completely false. Whoever is spreading these rumors and allegations does not know me, but should know the pain they have caused me and my family. I am in Kenya with my fiance visiting his family, and we ask that the press respect our privacy and leave all of us alone.
And her parents, who once were quoted as referring to Kerry as a "sleazeball," now say this:

We have spoken to our daughter and the allegations that have been made regarding her are completely false and unsubstantiated. We love and support her 100 percent and these unfounded rumors are hurtful to our entire family. We appreciate the way Senator Kerry has handled the situation, and intend on voting for him for president of the United States.
Sure, there could be other "interns" out there with stories about Kerry, but it looks like the adultery rumors can be put to rest for now.
--Posted at 2:49 PM | link

The chairman of Dean's campaign has announced that he will work for Kerry if Dean doesn't win Wisconsin. He's saying this even though Dean himself says that he does not plan to quit after Wisconsin. It seems like this is a premature announcement--shouldn't he wait until after Dean loses Wisconsin to make a public statement like this? Isn't he afraid of hurting Dean's chances of a solid performance in Wisconsin, making them worse than they already are?
--Posted at 11:40 AM | link

The latest Zogby poll in Wisconsin shows that the state essentially belongs to Kerry.

Kerry - 47%
Dean - 23%
Edwards - 20%
Kucinich - 2%
Sharpton - 1%

As Zogby points out, there's still a pretty big group of non-Kerry voters out there. Perhaps if Dean or Edwards drops out, these votes will combine to make the remaining candidate a formidable rival to Kerry. Then again, the votes could just as easily go to Kerry.
--Posted at 10:44 AM | link

Debate: Here's the transcript, the AP writeup, Washington Post writeup, the New York Times writeup, and the always entertaining Pandagon commentary. Ezra Klein of Pandagon wins the Quote of the Night award in my opinion:

Hearing Sharpton talk about plans he's proposed is like listening to your stoner, slacker friend tell you about all the things he's going to buy once he gets rich. It's cute and you want to encourage their dreaming, but it just ain't gonna happen.
Edwards and Dean didn't do much to derail Kerry during the debate. I'm not sure that there's anything they can do. Their best strategy is probably to stand back and try to be pleasant, hoping that the media destroys Kerry, or Kerry destroys himself. He's still in the early stages of media scrutiny, and he hasn't taken anything close to the half-year of pounding that Dean endured. Maybe something will come up before March 2nd to ruin Kerry. If nothing happens, I can't see how any amount of campaigning will save Edwards or Dean.
--Posted at 12:22 AM | link

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Some of Dean's advisors are saying that Wisconsin will be his last stand, and that he's preparing to support Kerry:

Steve Grossman, national chairman of Dean's campaign, said the former Vermont governor will seek to convert his grass-roots network into a movement that helps expand the party and elect the Democratic nominee — "and, obviously, that looks likely to be John Kerry."

The sentiments were echoed by other high-ranking campaign officials, though they differed on how much — if any — direct help Dean would be willing to give Kerry. Polls show the Massachusetts senator, who has won 14 of 16 contests to date, holding a wide lead in Wisconsin, site of Tuesday's contest.

The comments came as Dean struck a defiant tone hours before debating his rivals in Milwaukee. "We're going to keep going, no matter what, because I think there are a lot of people all over this country who want to rebuild the party and rebuild America in a different way," Dean said on "Fox News Sunday."

Dean had told supporters via e-mail that a defeat Tuesday would end his bid for the nomination, but he has backed away from that statement in recent days.

Several advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Dean has privately acknowledged that his prospects for the presidency will effectively end if he suffers another major defeat Tuesday. They leave open the remote possibility that he will waver again, but said it's highly unlikely given his comments in recent meetings.
The Democrats will debate tonight in Wisconsin. It's probably Dean's last chance to turn things around in that state. If it's like most Democratic debates, though, it won't change many votes.
--Posted at 4:01 PM | link

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