Sunday, November 16 2003
The early take on the election is it looks like Blanco timed her attack ads against Jindal perfectly. This election for weeks had been praised as a "clean" election with little to no negative advertising by both sides. However, in the last week Blanco and the Democrats blanketed the state with ads attacking Jindal hard.

In mailers and on television, Blanco criticized Jindal’s Department of Health and Hospitals record, claiming he put money before people. One prominent ad featured the former head of a state physicians’ group saying Jindal canceled programs, such as “Needy Children.” Another ad noted that Jindal took a $24,000 raise soon after he laid off 200 Department of Health and Hospitals employees.

Had Blanco run these ads earlier Jindal's campaign would have had time to rebut the attacks and go on the offensive themselves, but by timing the broad negative attack for the last week Blanco was able to time her momentum to peak perfectly, while at the same time allowing Jindal no time to react.

We were obliviously aware that Blanco had picked up some serious momentum, but we thought the final tracking numbers from Friday showing Jindal ahead by four was an indication that he had stopped her momentum in time and had built a big enough lead to hold on. We were wrong.

Had this election been run three days earlier or a week later Jindal probably would have won. Again this is an early take, but it looks like Blanco's campaign outstrategized the Jindal campaign and that was the difference. J. McIntyre 8:13 am

Saturday, November 15 2003
The final tracking poll from MRI shows a stabilization for Jindal, which is very important to the young Republican's chances. Jindal's lead, which had grown to as high as nine in the MRI poll taken at the very beginning of the week, had fallen to only four on the survey taken 11/10 - 11/12, and the results for the tracking numbers for Wednesday and Thursday showed Blanco pulling to within one point, 45%-44%. Had Blanco's same momentum continued through the final tracking poll on Friday we were prepared to switch and call for a Blanco win, but that final survey of 400 voters showed Jindal back up with a four point lead.

Make no mistake about it, this is not Kentucky where Fletcher was a shoo-in on election day or even Mississippi where Barbour was 70%-80% likely to win even though the final margin of victory would be close. This election is a true toss up and Jindal's ethnicity provides a significant wild card that is almost impossible to calibrate. There are other factors that provide a higher degree of uncertainty than usual: today is the start of hunting season and #3 ranked LSU plays a huge football game on the road at Alabama. These are small factors that probably hurt Jindal slightly though it is difficult to know exactly how much. The biggest wild card, of course, is that we're talking about Louisiana.

We said in our initial analysis if Jindal could maintain a 2 point lead in our RCP poll average he should be able to hold on and pull out the win. Our final poll average today comes in at 45.0% - 42.8%, a 2.2 point lead for Jindal, which should be just enough to get him to the finish line ahead of Blanco. Of the four Governor's races this year this is the only one that is a true toss up on election day, but Jindal looks poised to make history and immediately become a national star in the Republican Party. Jindal 51% - Blanco 49%. J. McIntyre 8:10 am

Friday, November 14 2003
The latest tracking poll from MRI shows a significant closing of the gap for Blanco, from down over nine points to only four points with a day left. Some of the last minute attack ads accusing Jindal of slashing health-care while he was secretary for Department of Health and Hospitals may be leading to Jindal's drop from 49% to 46%. But it also appears that Blanco has benefited from the final debate, where her answer to a question on the "defining moment" in her life may be moving voters:

"The most defining moment in my life came, when I lost a child. Those are the moments when you have to really, really know that you have faith and faith can bring you where you have to go....That's what makes me what I am today, knowing that one of the worst things that could happen to a person happened to me, and we were able to protect our family, and the rest of my children are stronger because of it,"

WAFB anchorman George Sells, one of the debate panelists said "in the studio, it was a very dramatic moment."

While Blanco appears to have the last minute momentum she is still under 45% and could well have fallen too far behind to catch Jindal. The African-American vote will be a large factor in determining the final winner, as is usual, and Jindal looks poised to get almost 15%, which is close to double the normal proportion that goes to Republicans in Louisiana.

In an interview yesterday with the Washington Post Douglas Brinkley, director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans suggested:

"I think some old boy state's rights anti-black types are switching over to Blanco because they don't want to see an Indian-American as governor."

This remains the wild card or hidden factor in the election, and Blanco would be hard pressed to pull out a victory without these votes. But because these voters are traditionally Republican voters, and given the ninth-inning tightening toward Blanco, this could very well be the difference in a Democratic win.

However, at the end of the day, we suspect this type of voting will be small, and will be offset by crossover votes from blacks and non-traditional Republican voters. Several days ago Jindal was poised for a 54% - 46% type of win, it now looks like this race is going right down to the wire. Jindal holds on, barely, 51% - 49%. - J. McIntyre 7:59 am

Thursday, November 13 2003
That's the verdict on last night's final debate between Kathleen Blanco and Bobby Jindal, according to a political science major from LSU quoted in the Lafayette Advertiser. Here's the full quote:

“Jindal smoked her,” said Darrell Kropog of Hammond, summing up the feelings of many of his classmates. “You can tell he thinks even faster than he talks because he never paused” in his answers.

A few paragraphs later there's this:

Amber Williams of Opelousas said Jindal “answered the questions better. She [Blanco] was babbling a lot, and I kind of felt sorry for her when the guy moderating the debate kept telling her to answer the questions.”

“It’s funny how she claims not to be asking people to vote for her because she’s woman, yet she said that four times,” said Carter LeBlanc, a female student from Houma.

Let me throw in my two anecdotal cents. I spoke to one of my best friends yesterday who lives in New Orleans to get his take on the race. My friend, we'll call him JB, doesn't really follow politics too closely. He does stay up on current events, however, and he's one of the smartest, most level-headed people you could ever hope to meet. He's also young (34), African-American, and traditionally inclined to vote Democratic.

Not this time. His impressions of the candidates (told to me before last night's debate) are very similar to the ones expressed above. Jindal comes off as extremely smart and well prepared with specific plans to deal with specific issues. JB said that Blanco, on the other hand, responds to questions about issues by proposing panels and commissions to "study" the problems.

But here's where I think the real difference in the race is: JB acknowledged that Jindal was more conservative than he liked or wanted. Yet he's still inclined to vote for Jindal anyway, primarily because Blanco represents, at least to him, the old guard of Louisiana politics. She's part of the machine, part of the good 'ol boy network (even though she's a woman) that is business as usual and that takes votes and voters in Louisiana (to use JB's words) "for granted."

Jindal, in both his appearance and his rhetoric, represents something new, different, and fresh. The symbolism is cliche but seems to be true: to many voters Jindal is the future and Blanco the past.

Now, as we noted yesterday, just how many of these younger, potential Jindal voters turn out is a different story. But absentee voting is already at a record high, which strongly favors Jindal. Also, the most recent tracking poll shows a 9-point lead for Jindal, but it did show an up-tick for Blanco yesterday. Stay tuned, we'll be making our final call tomorrow.

POP QUIZ: Which of the following is the silliest and most ridiculous thing you could do:

1) Ride a motorcycle onto the stage of a late night talk show.

2) Propose a joint US-Saudi task force to hunt for Osama bin-Laden along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

I'm going to have to go with number two. Number one was an obvious, lame PR stunt by a failing candidate. Number two is a serious policy proposal from one of the Dem frontrunners and someone who tells us his military and foreign policy experience is the primary reason he should be president.

There is certainly room for improvement in finding ways to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, but it's very tough to see how Clark's proposal offers a more practical or effective solution in any way. - T. Bevan 8:07 am

Wednesday, November 12 2003
Having won California, Kentucky and Mississippi, Republicans are poised to go 4 for 4 this Saturday if 32 year-old Bobby Jindal can defeat Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Piyush "Bobby" Jindal led the 17-candidate open primary on Oct 4, capturing 33% of the vote compared to second place Blanco's 18%. (Like much in Louisiana, their elections are different from the rest of the country, all the candidates run in a single election or primary and if no one captures over 50% of the vote the two top vote winners advance to a head-to-head runoff. This is what's taking place this Saturday, Nov. 15.)

The first set of polls following the Oct 4th primary showed Blanco with a 4-7 point lead on average, but since the third week in October Jindal has moved out to a small, yet solid lead in most polls. Of particular concern for Blanco is her inability to poll over 45% in any survey since mid-October, while Jindal has received 48%-49% in five different polls over the same period.

Jindal's extremely young age and his Indian ancestry have contributed to a higher than normal level of uncertainty in this race, as there were questions whether a 32-year old son of immigrants from India could win in Louisiana. In what may be a reflection of how far the South and the country have moved with regard to race, it appears that Jindal's Indian ancestry is having little effect in this contest. Of course, polls and votes can be two different things.

Like all Democrats in the South, Blanco is going to need massive support from the African-American community to win. However, in a stunning move the black mayor of New Orleans has endorsed Jindal and it appears to be helping him draw more support from the African-American community than is typical for Republicans.

While Blanco does have the support of the very well liked Senator Breaux, it is more than countered by the enthusiastic endorsement of Jindal by popular Gov. Mike Foster.

Last December, Senator Mary Landrieu was able to win 52% - 48%, because she got that huge African-American vote and a very respectable percent of the the white vote.

In that race Landrieu was the more likable and better candidate. In this year's race, Jindal seems to the better and more attractive candidate. "Jindal is being perceived as a progressive, revolutionary Republican figure in the state," says Douglas Brinkley, director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans.

Landrieu held a 1.5 point lead in our final poll average last year and she went on to a four point win. Jindal currently holds a 4.2 point lead in our latest average and if that can stay over 2% he should be able to pull out the win on Saturday.

We think Jindal will win almost 15% of the black vote and will hold on to enough of the traditional Republican vote to squeeze out a victory and make history. - J. McIntyre 7:52am

Tuesday, November 11 2003
JFK'S ANTIWAR WISH: Charlie Cook writes that if John Kerry had voted against the war, he'd be the frontrunner today:

When I first heard Monday that Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts had just fired his presidential campaign manager, Jim Jordan, I immediately thought back to a conversation I had a month ago at a reception on Capitol Hill. Several people were discussing the race for the Democratic nomination, and I opined that the Kerry campaign's organizational problems were vastly overblown. In fact, I believed -- and still do -- that they were virtually irrelevant to his slippage from the race's front-runner position.

Instead, I suggested that the problem for Kerry, Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and others in the race was that they were in a race with another candidate -- former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean -- whose campaign was on fire. Dean's candidacy had taken on a life of its own and this, as opposed to any intrinsic weaknesses on the part of his rivals, was what was holding them back. I equated it to a handful of guys in a poker game: Some were accomplished players, but the guy from Vermont sitting across the table from them was drawing the hot cards every hand. I suggested that all the rest of the field could do was to either to drop out of the race or hope that Dean's luck would turn and they would still be alive to capitalize on it.

An older and much wiser journalist, a Washington bureau chief who was covering politics while I was still in Boy Scouts, turned to me and asked, "Where do you think Kerry and Dean would be if Kerry had voted against the war?" Like a thunderbolt from the sky, I instantly knew he was right. If Kerry had voted against the Iraq war, it is very likely that he would still be the front-runner and Dean would probably be an asterisk rather than the front-runner.

I'm not so sure. Even if Kerry had voted against the war he would still have two intrinsic obstacles to overcome in competing against Dean. First, he's an beltway insider and an establishment politician, and we all know the record of Senators trying to win the Presidency. Second, he's got Al Gore syndrome, which is to say there is something about him (let's be frank) that's just not very likeable and that no amount of Harley riding or pheasant hunting can fix.

I disagree with Dean on nearly every single issue, but I still like to watch the guy. But I'd rather eat glass while sitting on hot coals than listen to John Kerry talk for more than two minutes.

If Kerry had voted against the war things might look a bit different in Iowa and New Hampshire, but I doubt Dean would be "an asterisk." - T. Bevan 10:28 am

GEPHARDT GETS IT: He's got a 7-point lead in Iowa that even the Des Moines Register calls "a little wobbly." The union endorsements Dean picked up this week didn't help matters, either. Still, with John Kerry looking like a man without a plan and Joe Lieberman doing his best imitation of a skydiver without a parachute, Gephardt continues to emerge as the only real anti-Dean option around.

And as we all know, aside from Lieberman, Gephardt is the only other candidate in the Dem field who shows that he gets it:

CAVUTO: True. You stuck by him [President Bush], you stuck to stay there, and also to support the $87.5 billion that he wanted which -- in which you part company with those who are challenging the president for the presidency. Do you think that hurts you, that you are so aligned with the president, by and large, on Iraq right now?

GEPHARDT: I try to do what I think this is right thing to do.

CAVUTO: Well, Howard Dean seems to give the impression he'd pull all our troops out.

GEPHARDT: I think that is a big mistake. I mean, you can disagree on why we went there and what the information was and all of that. I understand all that.I still believe it was the right thing to do because I`m worried about weapons of mass destruction in the United States. And I didn`t just listen to George Bush. I went to the CIA myself, listened to all of their information. I talked to former Clinton officials, and they all felt there was a real danger, that either he had weapons or the components of weapons.

CAVUTO: Where do you think those weapons are now?

GEPHARDT: I don`t know. Hopefully, we`ll find what was there and what wasn't there. I also think we need a blue ribbon commission from the outside, not just Congress, looking at the intelligence.

CAVUTO: But some of your colleagues, sir, have said that the president misled the people. Do you think that this president misled either you or your colleagues about the presence of weapons of mass destruction, or the threat of Iraq, period?

GEPHARDT: I didn't just take his word for it. It may be that, in the end, we find out that the intelligence was not what the CIA thought it was, or even former Clinton administration officials thought it was. That is why we need an outside commission. You are getting into partisan fights now in the intelligence committee. You are never going to solve this that way. We need outside sources.

But let me go further. Put all of that aside. Once we`re there, we cannot fail. We cannot just cut and run and leave the place, as we did Afghanistan in 1989, in chaos. It will be the mother of all terrorist training camps. It will be a continuing source of turmoil and problems not only for the region, but for the United States as well. So we've got to see this through but we need help. The president is failing us by not getting the help we need.

This is reasonable criticism. It's rational debate. In my opinion it's also a much more effective general election strategy for defeating George W. Bush. The question is whether the Dems will choose the reason of Gephardt over the rage of Dean. - T. Bevan 12:01 am

Monday, November 10 2003
Thirty months. Sixteen point two million dollars. That's more than half a million dollars per month. Details of a Halliburton contract in Iraq, you say? Nope. It's the amount of money Rahm Emanuel made working as an investment banker in the scant two and a half years between leaving the Clinton White House and going to Congress last year as the representative from Illinois' 5th district.

According to a recruiting executive quoted in the article, that salary figure puts Emanuel in the top 3-5% of all investment bankers in the country during that period of time. Not bad for a guy with zero investment banking experience:

"According to congressional disclosure statements, Emanuel received $16.2 million from Wasserstein, based on fees that the bank earned from eight clients. In each case, he worked to land the business either through a key executive he had come to know during his political career or was provided an introduction by a contact he developed through his political work.

Three of those clients were corporations controlled by major Democratic donors who developed relationships with Emanuel through their involvement in national party politics: Loral Space and Communications Ltd., headed by Schwartz, who celebrated his 71st birthday at the White House; Slim-Fast, headed by Abraham; and GenTek Inc., a telecommunications manufacturer headed by Paul Montrone."

For the record, I don't have a problem with Emanuel's salary. From top to bottom, business in America is conducted primarily on relationships and contacts, and Rahm Emanuel is a guy with a golden Rolodex. That's just the way it works.

Still, this is an eye-popping amount of money. And there is no doubt that if Emanuel were an alumnus of the Bush administration the story would have Josh Marshall, Paul Krugman, and the 9 Democrats running for President awash in full-throated, vein-bulging righteousness, decrying the deleterious effects of "Bush crony capitalism."

PARTISAN DEATH WISH: Gertrude M. Jones' obituary on October 2 contained this little gem:

"Memorial gifts may be made to any organization that seeks the removal of President George Bush from office."

REPLAYING GLASS: We posted Diane Glass's most recent column to the front-page on Saturday. If you missed it, you can read it here. It's a remarkably shoddy argument in favor of secularism (or atheism, take your pick) that compares Oprah to Jesus and also contains nonsequiturs like this one:

"And I don't think we risk a slippery slope without a sovereign god. There are a lot of Chinese but they haven't resorted to eating their young."

I should have figured it out myself, but a reader emailed to point out why we all should have expected such nonsense from Glass: she's a graduate of Harvard's Divinity School. - T. Bevan 8:56 am

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