Friday, October 24 2003
Like most of the South, Kentucky has been trending Republican at the federal level for several decades. Today the states congressional delegation consists of five Republicans, one Democrat, with both Senators belonging to the GOP. In 1996, Bill Clinton beat Bob Dole by less than one percent - and that was with Ross Perot receiving 9% of the vote. In 2000 George Bush crushed Al Gore by 16 points: 57% - 41%

Even with all the recent Republican success in the state, Democrats have managed to maintain a stranglehold on the statehouse winning every election since 1971. However, term-limited Governor Paul Patton has been enduring a massive sex scandal the last two years and we suspect this may be the final catalyst that will allow the GOP to break the Democrats hold on the Governor's office in Frankfort.

Republican nominee Ernie Fletcher is a practicing physician and a relatively boring three-term congressman form Kentucky's sixth district. Democratic nominee Ben Chandler is the current state Attorney General and the grandson of the very popular former Governor and Senator "Happy" Chandler.

For a while now, we've suspected the macro factors at work in the state would provide a powerful tailwind at the back of Fletcher's campaign and - barring some major screwup - the desire for change, the increasing Republican tilt to the state and the current Governor's scandals would be enough to see him though to victory. While we still think Fletcher will win, the latest SurveyUSA poll indicates continued momentum for Chandler and is not a good sign for the GOP. Fletcher still holds a one point lead in the poll 47%-46%, but Chandler's numbers are continuing to rise.

Instead of the 55-45 or 53-47 result we anticipated earlier, this looks like more of a 51-49 or 50-50 type of nail biter. In the end Fletcher should be able to hold on for the victory, but he is letting a little too much ride on Kentucky's desire for change in the statehouse. He needs to halt Chandler's momentum, fast, or he will be heading back to Washington instead of Frankfort. J. McIntyre 6:52 am

Thursday, October 23 2003
I have to admit I was a bit shocked. A fascinating poll released yesterday by Harvard’s Institute of Politics shows President Bush's approval rating among college students at 61%, well above his most recent national average of 50.5%. Here are the money lines:

Still, students seem to admire Bush’s leadership ability.

“They like the warrior but they don’t like the war,” Glickman said.

Although college students historically have supported Democratic candidates, neither party can take the youth vote for granted, Glickman said.

“The majority of college students elect politicians based on leadership skills, experience and authenticity,” said vice-president of the IOP-SAC Betsy A. Sykes ’04, who oversaw the survey.

Looking at the internals things get even more surprising. The 1,202 students surveyed have a much different impression of which direction the country is headed in than the public at large: 46% saying we're going moving in the right direction vs. 43% saying we're not. That's a +3 spread, a significant difference versus the three most recent national polls that show negative spreads of 18, 15 and 16 points, respectively. Democrats may be inclined to dismiss the discrepancy as "youthful optimism", but it's probably something more than that.

Now compare the IOP results with the recent Democracy Corps poll (Byron York wrote about it yesterday) showing how Dem primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina feel about issues of national security and the economy. And even though it's considered a bit left of center, I've thrown in the latest CBS/NYT poll to add a national context as well:

War in Iraq
Security & Terrorism
Jobs & Economy

You might be inclined to think the war is a top priority among college students because many of them oppose it so passionately. Not true. Fifty-eight percent of respondents support the war in Iraq (including 30% who "strongly support" it) while only 37% oppose the war (with only 17% of those "strongly" opposing it).

And you may think college students have less of a concern about the economy because of their age: they've got plenty of time to make money and few pressing responsibilities. That's certainly a possibility. On the other hand, given the current "jobless recovery" we're experiencing you expect this group - especially the seniors - to be obsessed with the issue of jobs and the economy. Either way, these students are under no illusions about what it's like out there: 71% say it will be "somewhat difficult" or "very difficult" for them to find a job when they graduate.

Maybe the answer is that for this group of people, most of whom were in high school at the time, September 11 really did change everything.

It's hard to say, really. But it is interesting to see a group which has traditionally been perceived to be quite liberal (or at the very least extremely sympathetic to liberal ideals) now so completely disjointed from the base of the Democratic party and even further to the right on issues of terrorism and national security than the country as a whole.

TERMINATOR 4: I had this crazy idea the other day. Let's support Orrin Hatch's efforts to amend the Constitution and let foreign-born citizens become President, clearing the way for Arnold to run. While we're at it, let's repeal the 22nd Amendment and let Bill Clinton have another shot.

Imagine the fun we'd have in 2008: Der Gropenfurher vs. "Better Put Some Ice on That." I'm afraid it would cause NOW's entire Board of Directors to have a nervous breakdown. - T. Bevan 8:09 am

Tuesday, October 21 2003
The hits just keep on coming for Dick Gephardt. Yesterday, Wes Clark and Joe Lieberman pulled out of Iowa, leaving about 15% of the caucus vote up for grabs according to the latest SurveyUSA poll. Conventional wisdom says these votes will go primarily to Gephardt, with Edwards probably benefitting some as well. The same poll, released last Friday, showed Gephardt with a 5-point lead over Dean. Not bad.

On Friday we talked about Gephardt's support of the war in Iraq and how it should strengthen his position as the anti-Dean candidate. Today, the Washington Post offers up a feature story touting Gephardt as the "toughest rival for Bush." Jim VandeHei interviewed more than 20 GOP strategists around the country who cited Gephardt's support of the war as well as his strong union support, healthcare proposal, political experience and discipline, and his potential strength in key Midwestern states as reasons Gephardt could be the most threatening Dem in the field.

He could also end up being Bob Dole. We'll never know unless he wins Iowa, and the game is far from over there. Still, it's been a nice week for Dick.

COMPARING EASTERBROOK: I've been following - but haven't commented on - the whole Gregg Easterbrook thing. I don't know Easterbrook personally, but until the other day I've never seen anything published under his byline that could be considered even remotely anti-Semitic.

It's really a shame that a guy who has built a solid reputation as a writer and created an enormous body of work over the course of a lifetime is being destroyed and labeled as an anti-Semite because he wrote three sentences that conjured up a stereotype that is absolutely taboo in our society.

But it's a stereotype that's off limits for good reason. Stereotypes are almost always blunt, harmful instruments, and those applied to African-Americans and Jews even more so because of profound historical events.

There's also no denying that anti-Semitism is alive and well around the globe. We see and hear examples of it every day. It's certainly alive in America as well, and I don't want to try and gloss over that fact.

But I think it's also fair to recognize that we've reached a point where the increasing political correctness of our culture and the aggressive vigilance of groups like the ADL have produced a climate where even tepid criticisms of Jewish-Americans are sometimes tagged as anti-Semitic.

Let me be clear: Easterbrook's comments don't fall into this category. They were wrong, and he admitted as much. Still, watching the left grind into dirt a fellow liberal with no history of anti-Semitism over a single mistake that he's apologized for leaves me thinking we've all gone a little bit off the deep end.

Now let's do a thought experiment and compare and contrast the Easterbrook affair with something Howard Dean said the other day. Speaking before an Arab-American audience in Detroit, Dean pointed to the American flag and said:

"It does not belong to General Boykin, or John Ashcroft, or Rush Limbaugh or Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson."

Dean received a standing ovation. More importantly, Dean's attack on the religious faith of the men didn't even cause the slightest fuss in the press. Not a thing.

Now imagine if Dean had pointed to the American flag and said:

"It does not belong to Michael Eisner or Harvey Weinstein or Alan Dershowitz or Joe Lieberman."

I'll admit that given the way Joe Lieberman was treated at the event Dean probably still would have gotten a "standing O". But you know what would have happened next.

The outrage would have washed over Dean like a flood. The comments would almost certainly have cost him any chance at winning the Democratic nomination and may quite possibly have caused him to withdraw from the race. And rightly so. Publicly denigrating someone's faith is not the mark of a tolerant leader.

But that's where we are in America. Three sentences about two Jewish business executives by a writer with no history of anti-Semitism are all the press can talk about and threaten to ruin his career. Meanwhile, a candidate for President of the United States launches an attack on evangelical Christians and receives praise from his audience and a collective shrug of the shoulders from the press corps. And instead of threatening to ruin Dean's political career, continuing to bash evangelical Christians will probably help him win the nomination. - T. Bevan 12:00 pm

Monday, October 20 2003
Howard Dean never misses a chance to tell us that America's dependence on foreign oil is an issue of national security. In fact, Dean has even gone so far as to say that peace in the Middle East depends on our ability to break this dependency:

"And we also need, I might add, a renewable energy policy in this country, so we stop sending all our oil money to the Saudis and the Iranians and the Syrians, where they recycle it back into terror.

I'd like -- if this president wants peace in the Middle East, he ought, first of all, to have a renewable energy policy."

I would take exception with Dean's last sentence. The idea that if we just put up a few more windmills in Kansas or raised the CAFE standards by 10 miles-per-gallon the Palestinians and Israelis will stop killing each other would have Don Quixote himself rolling on the floor with laughter.

Be that as it may, you would think someone who feels as strongly as Dean apparently does about the issue would lead by example. If I felt that America's oil dependence was a matter of national security and was responsible for people dying in the Middle East and money being funneled to terrorists, I would certainly take it upon myself to do what I could to make a difference - no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential the result. Wouldn't you? And wouldn't one of the most obvious expressions of your convictions be the car you choose to drive?

So guess what Howard Dean drives. A Geo Prism? Toyota Prius? Ford Focus? Of course not. According to this article from Dawson Bell, inside the Dean garage in Vermont you'll find a pair of Ford Explorers. That's right, the darling of the environmental left owns not one but two big, gas-guzzling SUVs.

I mentioned last week in my discussion of Rush Limbaugh that most people, generally speaking, hate to be "lectured to" about morality. They also hate environmental hypocrites. You know, people like Barbra Streisand who ride around in limousines, fly on private jets, and own 50,000 square-foot mansions that use more electricity that most grocery stores and then have the nerve to go out and tell you and me to do our laundry by hand to save 1/1,000,000,000 of a megawatt.

Howard Dean is no Barbra Streisand, but he does seem to represent the same attitudes as a political leader. In this interview with Grist Magazine from June 4 (Update: The original interview with Grist was published May 21, 2003 and can be found here) Dean crows over the fact that he "was one of four governors that had a standard requiring a certain percentage of cars sold in our state to be electric vehicles" before he gets caught by the big question:

Grist: What kind of car do you drive?

Dean: Well, I drive an SUV. Naughty, naughty. But I have two children who play hockey and soccer and there was no way I could do without a seven- or eight-passenger car.

On one hand Dean is perfectly willing to mandate to businesses in Vermont what types of cars they are able to sell - with the theoretical intention of encouraging the citizens of Vermont to drive such cars to better the environment. On the other hand, he's out driving around in an SUV because he says his family needs the extra room. (Note: In the interview Dean says he will be purchasing a second SUV that will be a hybrid, though Bell doesn't mention that either of Dean's SUVs are hybrid. We'll have to check with the Dean campaign and see what we can find out).

Now that Howard Dean is running for president and he's declared that America's massive oil consumption is a national security issue, does that mean that he supports terrorism by driving an SUV? Or does that charge only apply to Republicans who drive SUVs? - T. Bevan 9:12 am

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