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Saturday, February 28, 2004

Here's another count of the Senate votes on the gay marriage amendment--31 "yes," 56 "no," and 13 "undecided." This, like other tallies, makes some educated guesses about what certain Senators will do. But no matter what, it's looking more likely than not that this will fail with over 50% of the Senate vote. If that's the case, how effective could the amendment possibly be as a political weapon, even in swing states? A Democrat being hammered on this issue needs only to point out that 10 Senate Republicans are also against the amendment--pretty good evidence that it's not contradictory to oppose gay marriage and oppose the amendment. According to the New York Times, even some evangelicals have doubts about the amendment.

The amendment might even fail to achieve what was probably its #1 goal--energize the base. If Bush just sits on the amendment, making no effort to push it through Congress, even the hard-core amendment supporters will lose their enthusiasm. But if he pushes hard, he'll lose--and perhaps lose ground with everyone except the hard-core supporters. He has to somehow keep the issue dangling, in a way that suggests that a vote for Bush (and other conservative Republicans) in November might lead to a gay marriage amendment later on. If he's lucky, somebody will start moving a case up to the Supreme Court to test whether the "Full Faith and Credit" clause applies to gay marriage. That will allow Bush to make the argument: "Those activist judges on the Court might decide that the clause applies, in which case you need me in the White House, because a Democrat will never pass this amendment." The timing will determine whether it's Bush or the "liberals" who will seem like aggressors on the issue. If no one is actively testing Full Faith and Credit, there's a good chance that the amendment will look like a premature, probably unnecessary preemptive strike.
--Posted at 1:03 PM | link

Friday, February 27, 2004

Via Kos, here's another Maryland poll, this one showing a huge lead for Kerry in contrast to a recent ARG Maryland poll.
--Posted at 6:40 PM | link

Here's the transcript from yesterday's debate.

Pandagon has a review of the debate that seems to be pretty accurate.
--Posted at 5:51 PM | link

Thursday, February 26, 2004

This was being advertised on my blog. Apparently it's a guy in a carrot suit running for president to promote vegetarianism.
--Posted at 10:55 PM | link

I'm going to try something new (for me) this time, posting ongoing comments during the debate (or at least part of it). Following the pattern established by Pandagon.net, the most recent comments will be on top.

- Well, that's the end of the debate. I didn't see anything that's going to propel Edwards past Kerry. As usually happens with these debates, not much was changed by the end.

- Edwards says he would like an Edwards/Kerry ticket. Kerry says that he hasn't thought about having Edwards on his own ticket. I think he should have at least said that Edwards is one of his options, even if he doesn't mean it. It's not like anyone is going to hold him to what he says to a question like this.

- I have a hard time believing that Kerry and Edwards have both never thought about whether foreign-born citizens should become president. I don't know why they didn't just come out in favor of it. Maybe it's because it would require a constitutional amendment, and neither of them wants to come out in favor of an amendment at this point.

- Larry King doesn't seem interested in anything that Dennis Kucinich has to say. He just interrupted Kucinich's discussion about health care with some remark about "socialism."

- As expected, Kerry and Edwards got grilled on the Iraq issue. Kerry came off better than Edwards, in my opinion. So far, I haven't seen anything that will damage Kerry or help Edwards in Tuesday's primaries.

- "It's an old Jewish trait that you can do two things at once"? What the hell is Larry King talking about?

- Larry King asked Sharpton and Kucinich to choose between Kerry and Edwards. They both stepped around the issue, wisely. What was Larry expecting them to do?

- Now they're talking about electability. Kerry's in the strongest position on this issue, obviously, but Edwards did his best.

- Kerry and Edwards are predictably getting grilled on the gay marriage question. Their spin on the issue is that the issue should be left up to the states. Both of them are saying that the law today does not require states to recognize marriages performed in other states. This might be true--the issue hasn't been tested in courts--but it's a very useful claim for Kerry and Edwards.
--Posted at 10:17 PM | link

The New York Times has endorsed John Kerry for Tuesday's primary, citing the depth of his knowledge of foreign affairs as a factor that distinguishes him from Edwards.
--Posted at 8:47 PM | link

It seems that both Bush and Kerry have politically rebellious daughters, if you can trust the rumor mill. There's this item about Barbara Bush:

Recently, a source asked the 21-year-old Barbara if she was a Republican. "She made a funny face and rolled her eyes," reports our snitch. "She said, 'I really wouldn't label myself that.'"

Texas records show that Barbara and her twin, Jenna, voted as Republicans in the 2000 presidential primary. But one source contends the good-time gals "don't buy into the conservative movement. They don't agree with their father's position on environment and other issues."
And this about Kerry's daughter Alexandra:

[John Kerry] acknowledged that he and Alex had had "some fights" but refused to say what about. Those in the know say it was probably involving politics. Alex has declared herself more liberal than her father.
Just throwing some semi-political gossip out there...
--Posted at 8:45 PM | link

There's something going on between former candidate Bob Graham and John Kerry. Graham plans to endorse Kerry for president next week. Kerry says that Graham should be sent as an envoy to Haiti. And, of course, Graham has repeatedly expressed his interest in the vice-presidential spot on a Democratic ticket. I have no idea if Kerry has made up his mind about his running mate yet, but he's certainly doing nothing to dispel speculation that Graham will be the choice.
--Posted at 8:33 PM | link

An effort to amend Georgia's constitution to abolish same-sex marriage has failed, at least for now. The racial breakdown of the votes is interesting:

The defeat came largely because black Democrats resisted. For much of the debate, black members compared the struggle for black voting rights to the current national debate over gay rights.

"I was raised the way most people were raised, to look down on gay people," said Rep. Douglas Dean, D Atlanta. "But I thought we had changed, I thought we had become tolerant of people who are different."

Rural white Democrats went the other way, most of them joining all but one Republican in supporting it.
Oddly, the recent Annenberg poll on gay marriage did not report results by race, although it looked at many other categories. So it's hard to say whether Georgia's State House reflects national trends. Given the inevitable frequent comparisons to mixed-race marriages, it's possible that the amendment will rub black voters the wrong way. Of course, Bush has surely written off black voters in November, but this could be a factor if it appears that there's any real chance of the amendment's passage.
--Posted at 7:24 PM | link

Democratic Underground did a count of Senators and found 34 opposed to a gay marriage amendment--enough to defeat it. This is nearly consistent with the updated count from Oxblog, which shows 33 opposed. Among Republicans, Lincoln Chaffee (Rhode Island), Susan Collins (Maine), Chuck Hagel (Nebraka), John McCain (Arizona), and Lamar Alexander (Tennessee) are apparently against it (according to the latter tally), with other Republicans undecided or unwilling to make a definite statement.

It seems that the question for now is not "will it pass?" but rather "What does Bush hope to get out of it, given that he can't pass it immediately?" It's possible that some of those opposed will change their minds if the debate drags on for a while, but so far the Democrats seem to be sticking to their guns. (The only Democrat in favor of the amendment so far is Zell Miller, who is regarded as a Democrat in name only, given his intention to vote for George W. Bush.) If these trends continue, the amendment might not even get a majority, let alone the required supermajority. If it is put to a vote and fails, the power of the amendment as a political weapon will be greatly reduced, at least for Bush. But if it lingers, Bush might be able to energize his base and win over moderates who are skeptical of gay marriage.
--Posted at 3:33 PM | link

According to an ARG poll, Kerry is leading in Maryland, but not by a lot.

Kerry - 42%
Edwards - 35%
Sharpton - 2%
Kucinich - 1%

That puts Kerry and Edwards in roughly the same position as they are in yesterday's ARG Georgia poll. Maybe I underestimated Edwards' appeal in Maryland. But part of this poll took place before Maryland's Democratic establishment lined up behind Kerry, with only a few holdouts.
--Posted at 3:12 PM | link

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Here's a partial list of senators and their positions on a gay marriage amendment. So far, things aren't looking promising for the Bush administration:

Democrats against: 22
Republicans against: 5
Independent against: 1
Total against: 28

Republicans for: 27
Democrats for: 1
Total for: 28

Only a third of the Senate has to oppose this amendment for it to fail. It looks like we're pretty close to the failure point already.
--Posted at 9:06 PM | link

Atrios has a link to an example of the kind of gay marriage rhetoric that will be dangerous--and possibly devastating--for the Republicans in November:

The Israelites were commanded as part of the law given to Moses and Aaron: "If a man lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them." Leviticus 20:13. In the beginning, those who were found guilty of such a sin were simply executed. God's opinion of the act of homosexuality was that it was a sin worthy of death.

...

"Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." Romans 1:32.

That also seems crystal clear. Those who do such things, and those who think they are amusing - or innocent - are worthy of death.

Doesn't seem as if the Lord is accepting of the sin of homosexuality at all.

And Christians had better put on the breastplate of righteousness and the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The battle for souls has begun.
If Americans get the impression that the alternative to gay marriage is this, gay marriage will win easily. The Republicans have to keep their crazies quiet, and that's not going to be an easy task.
--Posted at 8:44 PM | link

Pretty much every significant Democrat in Maryland has declared his or her support for John Kerry. Maryland isn't exactly a "southern" state, despite its location below the Mason-Dixon line, so Edwards probably wasn't going to get his usual southern boost there. But if he had any chance before, it's much diminished as a result of this wave of Kerry endorsements.
--Posted at 2:50 PM | link

Kos has some analysis about what it will take for Edwards to win. As long as he can grab a state or two on March 2, and not get crushed too badly in New York and California, he might be able to pick up some of the primaries in the next few weeks, many of which are in Southern states. Delegates currently committed to other candidates, and uncommitted "superdelegates," might have to make some tough decisions. To be safe, Kerry has to win everything on March 2, including Georgia, where his lead is slim.
--Posted at 2:29 PM | link

Jerry Springer's site reports that Nader tried to get the VP slot on the Dean ticket. (Via Kos, who tells us that the source is reliable, despite Springer's reputation.)
--Posted at 8:44 AM | link

Here are the final results from yesterday's primaries:

Utah

Kerry - 55%
Edwards - 30%
Kucinich - 7%

Idaho

Kerry - 54%
Edwards - 22%
Dean - 11%
Kucinich - 6%

Hawaii

Kerry - 46%
Kucinich - 30%
Edwards - 13%
Dean - 9%

Kucinich managed to come closer to Kerry in Hawaii than Edwards did in any state. Hawaii is hardly a reflection of national trends, but it's still the best news that the Kucinich campaign has had yet.
--Posted at 8:42 AM | link

Kerry is winning the Utah and Idaho primaries easily. Along with Hawaii, which will be reporting later tonight, these are the last primaries until the March 2 contests which could determine the nomination.
--Posted at 12:09 AM | link

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Here are some exit poll numbers from the 2000 election. Four percent of voters identified themselves as gay or lesbian. Of those, 70% voted for Gore, 25% voted for Bush, and 4% voted for Nader. Bush will probably lose a chunk of that 25%, which could make the difference in a close election. Then again, what really matters is not the national percentage of gays and lesbians, but the percentage in swing states.

Also, consider those numbers in light of the fact that 14% of voters identified themselves as "White Religious Right." Eighteen percent of these voters chose Gore, and 80% chose Bush. I assume that Bush looked at these or similar numbers, and decided that the gay Republicans simply weren't worth keeping.
--Posted at 10:50 PM | link

Kos argues that the gay marriage amendment is unlikely to get past the House and Senate. The Democratic leadership plans to oppose it. And without mass defections by Democrats, the amendment won't come close to the required number of votes:

Problem is, it's a battle that Bush cannot win. Passage would require the votes of 2/3rds of both the House and the Senate, and 3/4th of the state legislatures.

The state legislatures seems easy, given that even states like Massachusetts are this close to voting the dark side.

But Congress is a whole different matter. The House, that bastion of hard-core conservatism, is a poor bet for the amendment. Why? Because of gerrymandering. Most incumbents are so safe that there is little electoral blowback to voting against such an amendment. In fact, with 205 Democrats (and Bernie Sanders), the Dems could suffer 60 defections and still defeat the amendment. And that doesn't include the handful of Republicans that would also vote "no" (like libertarian Ron Paul).

...

Meanwhile, the Senate is even a bigger doubt, where Republicans would have to pick up 15 Dems and suffer no defections to pass the amendment. And again, that wouldn't take into account "moderate" Republicans who would likely oppose the amendment (like Chaffee).
Bush must have thought about the likelihood of passage when he decided to back the amendment. So what's he trying to get out of this? Is he hoping that Democrats will be intimidated into voting for the amendment? Or is he just hoping that the Democrats' opposition will make them unpopular--without any real concern for whether it passes or not? To what degree is the amendment a political ploy designed to turn people against Democrats, and to what degree is it a concession to the pressure applied by the Christian Right? It's possible that Bush is aware that the amendment might not pass, that it might backfire against the Republicans, yet he feels that he has no choice but to support it or lose his base. In Bush's perfect world, the amendment will pass, the majority of the public will support it, the Democrats will be ruined by their opposition to it, and the Christian Right will turn out in droves to reelect him. But there are big risks--the amendment could fail, the majority of the public could oppose it, the Republicans could be ruined by their support of it, or the Christian Right might be upset by the amendment's failure to ban civil unions more clearly. We'll see soon enough where this roll of the dice will lead.
--Posted at 10:11 PM | link

If the Annenberg Center's polls are accurate, Bush is starting off at a disadvantage with the amendment. Asked whether they would favor a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, 41% of those polled said yes, and 48% said no. This is despite the fact that in response to the next question, only 30% favored a law in their own states permitting gay marriage, whereas 64% opposed. Bush will have no trouble convincing people not to favor gay marriage in their own states, but convincing them to impose their will on other states via an amendment will be an uphill battle.
--Posted at 5:11 PM | link

Nick Confessore has a good post on the politics of the gay marriage amendment. He views it as a political mistake for several reasons. Here's an excerpt:

Finally, right-wing antigay activists are scarier than left-wing pro-gay-marriage activists. Fox News will, no doubt, scour the campuses of Wesleyan and Berkeley for loopy queer studies professors who believe gay marriage doesn't go far enough. But it's hard to imagine that having a couple of thousand Fred Phelps clones running around the country agitating for a constitutional amendment against gay marriage is going to win Bush a lot of swing voters. Give your average American a guy screaming "God Hates Fags" versus a gay couple in business suits hoping to get married and grow old together, and I think the gay couple wins most of the time. Not all, or even most, social conservatives who oppose gay marriage are as virulent as Phelps. But Bush would obviously rather not have the Phelpses of the world coming out of the woodwork, and now they will.
That's the big risk for Bush--that this thing will satisfy his base and alienate everybody else. Perhaps I'm not talking to the right people, but I don't know many who regard gay marriage as the nation's #1 priority, even if they oppose it. The people who care the most are the people who are going to do the most damage to Bush's position if they get too vocal. It might be accurate to say that Americans aren't "ready" for gay marriage, but they also aren't ready to embrace anti-gay bigotry. If this becomes a choice between tolerance and intolerance, as opposed to gay marriage versus no gay marriage, the amendment is doomed, along with the Bush administration if it tries to push it too hard. Bush might be able to get the amendment ratified easily--and do some damage to the Democrats in the process--but he has to keep the bigots quiet, which is no easy task.
--Posted at 5:01 PM | link

Bush openly endorsed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage today--a move that has been expected for a while.

"Today I call upon the Congress to promptly pass and to send to the states for ratification an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as the union of a man and woman as husband and wife," Bush said.

"The amendment should fully protect marriage while leaving state legislatures free to make their own choices in defining legal arrangements other than marriage," Bush said.

"America is a free society, which limits the role of government in the lives of our citizens," he said. "This commitment of freedom, however, does not require the redefining of one of our most basic social institutions."

"Our government should respect every person and respect the institution of marriage," he said. "There is no contradiction between these responsibilities."
Now everything depends on the pace. Bush wants the amendment to be passed "promptly." This could mean that it is submitted for ratification right in the middle of the general election. The Democrats are opposing gay marriage and opposing the amendment. This contradictory position doesn't go far enough for dedicated gay marriage opponents, and won't satisfy those in the Democratic party who support gay marriage. It's a squishy middle ground that is vulnerable to attack from both sides. As I've written before, this could be a winning position--if Americans feel that the amendment is part of a "culture war" being forced upon them by the Right. Republicans haven't had much luck making people care about "moral" issues in the past. For example, the Lewinsky investigation produced a huge backlash, even though most Americans presumably disapproved of Clinton's behavior. If the public feels that Republicans are pushing too hard with something that isn't a big deal, the "oppose gay marriage and an amendment" position could be the right one. But this is a big "if." I think that many people still haven't made up their minds about gay marriage and the amendment, so we don't know exactly how the amendment will be received.
--Posted at 11:39 AM | link

Kerry has a very strong lead in California:

Kerry - 56%
Edwards - 24%
Kucinich - 4%
Sharpton - 1%
Don't know - 14%

It looks like the Kerry opposition is not rallying behind any particular candidate. Edwards has a nice chunk of it, but not nearly enough to give him an excuse to stay in the race. In New York, Kerry is even more dominant. I'm not sure what the polls look like in other states, but Kerry seems poised to win the two biggest easily.
--Posted at 11:18 AM | link

Monday, February 23, 2004

Nader might not be a factor in many states, because he's having trouble getting on the ballot. He has picked an odd place to start the battle.

The first target is Texas, where Nader needs 65,000 signatures in a 60-day period from voters who are not participating in the Democratic or Republican primaries.
Texas is, of course, solidly in Bush's corner. If this state is competitive for Democrats in 2004, they probably won't be in a position to be hurt by Nader. Anyway, Nader's struggle to get on the ballot will be the first test of whether he has the support to make a difference in the general election.

Meanwhile, Dean is trying to keep his supporters from defecting:

Former presidential candidate Howard Dean, who rode a wave of progressive support before exiting the Democratic contest last week, urged his constituents to stay with the Democrats rather than be "tempted" by a Nader candidacy.

"If George W. Bush is re-elected, the health, safety, consumer, environmental and open government provisions Ralph Nader has fought for will be undermined," Dean said Monday.
This is a point that we'll probably see Dean making often. Of all the "major" candidates, his supporters are probably the most likely to consider voting for Nader. Dean knows this, and will want to do everything possible to keep his movement solidly within the Democratic Party.

UPDATE: Dean's full statement on Nader's candidacy is on his blog.
--Posted at 3:08 PM | link

Sunday, February 22, 2004

The Bush campaign is going to start advertising heavily on March 4, regardless of whether the Democrats have settled on a nominee. The strategy is to be positive at first, and then turn negative later on:

He said the first phase of the ad campaign, starting March 4, will begin by focusing on the Republican incumbent's leadership. Spanish-language advertising also will be included in the initial ad runs as the campaign works to court Hispanic voters from the start.

At some point, Bush advisers say, ads will turn sharply critical, focusing on Kerry's 19-year Senate career, as well as his time as a House candidate and years as Massachusetts' lieutenant governor. Advisers say the ads likely will compare Kerry's votes and quotes then with his recent statements.

The campaign and the Republican National Committee have been testing a line of attack against Kerry over the past few weeks that portrays the four-term Massachusetts senator as a liberal whose rhetoric often conflicts with his record or statements in the past.
Right now, Bush seems to be in trouble, with falling approval ratings and polls showing that Kerry and Edwards would beat him if the election were held today. But Kerry and Edwards have benefitted from extensive media coverage because of the primaries, so their popularity might not be as strong as the numbers suggest. When Bush starts campaigning hard and the primaries come to an end, we'll see whether these numbers hold up, or Bush becomes dominant again.
--Posted at 5:58 PM | link

John Kerry has written an open letter to George W. Bush:

Over the last week, you and your campaign have initiated a widespread attack on my service in Vietnam, my decision to speak out to end that war, and my commitment to the defense of this nation. Just today, Saxby Chambliss-- a man elected to the US Senate on the back of one of the most despicable campaigns ever conducted against Max Cleland, a true American Hero-- was carrying this attack for you.

As you well know, Vietnam was a very difficult and painful period in our nation's history, and the struggle for our veterans continues. So, it has been hard to believe that you would choose to re-open these wounds for your personal political gain. But, that is what you have chosen to do.

I am fighting to become the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. Even before Democrats make their choice, you’ve launched a campaign of attacks against me. I am determined to run a campaign on the great challenges facing this country-- from creating jobs, to solving our health care crisis to getting our nation's ballooning deficit under control. But I will not sit back and allow my patriotism to be challenged.

America deserves a better debate. If you want to debate the Vietnam era, and the impact of our experiences on our approaches to presidential leadership, I am prepared to do so.

This is not a debate to be distorted through your $100 million dollar campaign fund. This is a debate that should be conducted face to face.

Mr. President, I hope you will conduct a campaign worthy of this nation’s future.
Bush's campaign chairman Marc Racicot responded that he "does not condone" attacks on Kerry's patriotism, but that his voting record is fair game. Of course, the worst attacks on Kerry's patriotism won't be made by the Bush campaign itself, but by Bush supporters who can claim that they're acting independently. But the exchange suggests that Kerry is going to be aggressive in responding to these attacks, if and when they are made in the future by the Bush campaign.
--Posted at 5:46 PM | link

Nader is in.

Aside from the damage that it will do to Nader's reputation, I don't think that his entry will have much of an impact. It seems like potential Democratic voters are determined to get Bush out of office, and they're well aware of the possible consequences of voting for Nader. Most of his supporters this time around will probably be people who wouldn't have voted for a Democrat anyway--they would have voted for a third-party or a write-in, or would have just stayed home. There is a risk that some of Dean's supporters, disgusted with Kerry or Edwards, will look at Nader as the most palatable alternative. Most of them seem to be "anybody but Bush" types, but I have heard some of them talk about their deep reluctance to support Kerry. We'll get a better sense of the political mood when the first polls including Nader start to appear.
--Posted at 12:55 PM | link

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