December 12 2003
JUST SAY NO, DENNIS: Dennis Kucinich is addicted to media
coverage. It's true. This week ABC News decided to pull its producers
from the Kucinich, Braun, and Sharpton campaigns and send them
off to Iowa to start preparing ABC's coverage of the January 19
campaign responded by saying:
appears to be another instance of what Kucinich criticized at
the debate, namely the media trying to pick candidates, rather
than letting the voters do so. In a democracy, it should be
voters and not pundits or TV networks who narrow the field of
Note to Congressman
Kucinich: you need to seek help immediately. The problem isn't
that you're getting too little media attention but that you've
already gotten too much. I'll let you in on a little secret shared
by 97% of the public: you are not, nor have you ever been a legitimate
candidate for President of the United States.
not withstanding, over the past six months your candidacy has
received a tremendously disproportionate amount of attention for
someone polling at 3% nationally - including the comical and unpresidential
"date with Dennis" thing the other day. No offense,
Congressman, but my next-door neighbor could probably pull three
percent nationally if he received the same kind of exposure.
All the media
attention seems to have gone to your head and given you a grossly
inflated sense of self-importance. Don't worry, help is on the
way. ABC News was actually doing you a favor by pulling its producer,
breaking the cycle of addiction and helping to put you on the
road to recovery.
IOWA BLUES: SurveyUSA's
latest is a kick in the stomach for Gephardt. It's worth noting
that seventy-eight percent of the interviews in this poll were
taken after Gore endorsed Dean, so it's entirely possible the
bump is only temporary. Then again maybe it isn't.
with less than six weeks until judgment day it's clear the trend
line for Gephardt is not favorable. His support remains stuck
in the low 20's and despite his best efforts for the last few
months he simply has not found any issue or angle to move the
needle in his favor.
dramatic happens in the next couple of weeks to fundamentally
change the dynamic in this race (like a huge Dean gaffe or some
sort of scandal) come January Gephardt is going to have to huddle
up his team and call for the Hail Mary. - T.
Bevan 9:44 am
December 11 2003
A BIG LITTLE VICTORY: It's probably the most provincial
story I've ever posted on the site but I'm going to go ahead and
do it anyway.
is the epitome of a political hack. He has spent a lifetime suckling
the nipple of the legendary (if not legendarily corrupt) political
machine here in Chicago, plying the trades of nepotism, patronage
and payola. The result, of course, is that he has become one of
the most influential and feared Democrats in Chicago.
For the last
10 years Stroger has been President
of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. This is no small
matter. Cook is the second
most populous county in the United States and its FY
2004 budget totals $3 billion dollars. That's about $200 million
more than the GDP of Sierra
Leone last year.
only a slight exaggeration to say that over the last decade the
tiny West African nation may have done a better job of managing
its fiscal government than Stroger has done running Cook County.
tenure has been a toxic blend of the worst attributes of government:
cushy contracts and jobs doled out to friends, monumental waste,
gross mismanagement, and profligate spending. All coming, of course,
at the expense of Cook County taxpayers. Fellow Commissioner and
Claypool said last week that "Cook County government has raised
taxes on people in this county by $500 million in the last decade."
year the Cook County Board - most of whom were beholden to Stroger
- rubber-stamped his budgets without so much as a peep. Not
$100 million dollar shortfall, Stroger served up a 2004 budget
laden with new taxes, including a 4 percent lease tax and a 0.25
percentage-point sales tax increase. Here's how the Chicago Sun-Times
wrote up the outcome of the board meeting:
froze over Tuesday.
did the impossible,” Cook County Board member Anthony Peraica
beamed after Tuesday’s brief meeting. “Everyone said it could
not be done when we were sworn in a year ago — we did it.”
the first time in at least three decades the County Board said
“no” to the administration’s budget. A threatened 4 percent
tax on leased items appears dead.
President John Stroger canceled a vote on the $3 billion budget
with lease and sales tax hikes when he realized he did not have
the votes to pass it.
Commissioner said: “A non-vote today was the most important
vote we ever had.”
tax increase may still pass a vote next week along with a $1 per
pack tax increase on cigarettes. Still, the board's refusal to
go along with Stroger is a big little victory, and hopefully the
first baby step toward reviving some fiscal sanity and better
management of the Cook County government. - T.
Bevan 11:26 am
December 10 2003
SEEN ONE YOU'VE SEEN THEM ALL:
I only caught the final 10 minutes of last
night's debate, but even that tiny little bit was enough to
see that it was just more of the same pablum. It's almost as if
the networks just keep rerunning the first debate over and over
Sullivan watched the whole thing and gives a brutally frank
assessment of the field.
WITH MEXICO: Were you aware we
are currently negotiating a "totalization" agreement
with Mexico that would "allow millions of Mexicans to
return home and still collect U.S. Social Security benefits?"
blush this sounds like another monumentally bad policy; a multimillion
dollar giveaway that would actually encourage Social Security
fraud and illegal immigration. It may end up being just that.
your blood boils, read the article all the way through. Anytime
you see an expert at the Heritage Foundation saying "he's
disappointed the proposed agreement with Mexico has been twisted
into an emotional debate over U.S. immigration policy" and
that immigration "shouldn't be part of the discussion in
putting together a boring technical agreement between two countries"
you can bet there's more to the argument than meets the eye.
ONE WORTH READING: Though I didn't put it up on the front
page this morning, Byron
York's weekly column in The Hill explains how the Republicans
on the Senate Judiciary Committee gained access to the Dem memos
and wonders why the NY Times and Washington Post were so "incurious"
about their contents. - T.
Bevan 7:10 am
December 9 2003
COOK'S TAKE: Another tidbit from Charlie Cook's weekly
the role of New Hampshire looks as if it may be eclipsed by
South Carolina (45 delegates) and the five other Feb. 3 states:
Arizona (55 delegates), Delaware (15 delegates), Missouri (74
delegates), New Mexico (26 delegates), North Dakota (14 delegates),
and Oklahoma (40 delegates). Increased importance also will
be given the primaries in the three states the following week
-- Michigan (128 delegates) and Washington (76 delegates) Feb.
7 and Maine (24 delegates) Feb. 8. What happens in New Hampshire
is unlikely to materially affect what happens just a week later
in states with so many delegates.
happens during that Feb. 3-8 period? If the anti-Dean vote is
split and not solidified behind one candidate, one could easily
see several candidates surviving these primaries, but ultimately
never getting the momentum they need to up-end Dean.
key then, is whether the opposition to Dean unifies behind one
alternative before the Vermonter wraps up the nomination. Or
does the opposition to Dean remain spread out while Dean cobbles
together wins and second place finishes, continually accruing
delegates while the others simply run out of money and are forced
from the race?
Let me add
a few more questions: Will Al
Gore's endorsement of Dean impede the ability and/or dilute
the potential impact of anti-Dean forces finding their guy? Will
it be Gephardt,
a look at the latest Pew poll out of South Carolina before
you laugh in my face...John
Edwards? Finally, what sort of endorsements will be needed,
if any, to legitimate one of these men as the anti-Dean standard
bearer? Lots of questions left to be answered. - T.
WHO IS HOWARD DEAN? PART II: Much has been made over the Dean
campaign's use of the Internet. It's true that no campaign
to date has done a better job of integrating the Internet into
its national effort and using it as a tool for both fundraising
and grassroots mobilization. That being said, however, Samantha
Shapiro's fawning essay in the NY Times Magazine this past weekend
leaves me with the impression that the Dean camp is vastly overestimating
what they're doing and, more importantly, the effect it will have
on next year's outcome should Dean win the nomination.
Part of this
is Shapiro's angle, of course. She's out to show the messianic
quality of the Dean campaign, to play up the power of "true
believerism" among Dean's supporters. As Hugh
Hewitt noted recently, this sort of thing exists in every
campaign and while Dean may have tapped into a deeper well of
true believers than his rivals, claims of a "Dean revolution"
remain completely overblown.
me most about Shapiro's piece was how much her description of
Dean's campaign reminded me of an Internet startup circa 1997,
complete with the unwaveringly
optimistic C.E.O. and the 22 year old computer jockeys working
120 hours a week writing the code. It's the same mix of ebullience,
arrogance, and excessive idealism that characterized so many of
the now defunct dot coms of the 1990's:
at all levels of the Dean campaign will tell you that its purpose
is not just to elect Howard Dean president. Just as significant,
they say, the point is to give people something to believe in,
and to connect those people to one another. The point is to
get them out of their houses and bring them together at barbecues,
rallies and voting booths... "
[the Dean campaign's director of Internet organizing], sitting
at the very edge of her seat, tells me that ''the revolution,''
as she calls it, has three phases; the first is Howard Dean
himself, the second is Meetup.com and the third is the software
that Rosen, Johnson and Brooks work with: Get Local, DeanLink,
DeanSpace. ''DeanSpace,'' Teachout says, ''is the revolution.''
effect that Teachout says she hopes the software will create
sounds like the experience of being in a tight-knit community:
seeing people you know, responding to them, being acknowledged.
Teachout speaks about these ideas as if she is reinventing the
concept. She says that Meetup.com, is emerging as the ''ritual''
element of the new Dean community. ''It's like church, the central
place where people go to get inspired.''
admirable goals, to be sure. But aside from helping raise money
- which is a vital part of running a competitive campaign - how
much is any of this going to help Howard Dean collect 270 electoral
votes next year?
some facts. As of last month, there were an estimated 150
million people connected to the Internet. That's a little
over half the total U.S. population. As you would expect, however,
a great deal of Internet usage occurs in urban areas that already
vote heavily Democratic (this
list of the "most wired" cities in America, though
a bit dated, demonstrates the point).
chart from a more recent Pew
Center survey puts the problem in a larger geographical context:
does Internet usage lag among important geographic boundaries
like the South and the industrial Midwest, it also lags among
vital demographic lines as well, especially among African-Americans.
words, the virtual community - excuse me, the "revolution"
- Dean is creating exists only among the most affluent, most urban,
most active Democrat voters. This is an accomplishment of some
importance, but I'm skeptical of a revolution that leaves out
huge chunks of the traditional Democrat-voting population.
News story suggests the Dean campaign is succeeding in creating
community among its supporters, especially serving as a social
club and a dating service for the 18-40 year old crowd. Again,
predominantly white, predominantly urban. Very little help in
winning West Virginia or Arkansas.
article in today's Washington Post shows that the Dean campaign's
success in building a huge lead in New Hampshire has had very
little to do with its Internet operation but instead has been
based on a good old-fashioned ground game.
this type of effort in battleground states is what it's all about.
As Mike Allen and Dan Balz reported recently, all the hoopla surrounding
the Dean campaign has obscured the fact that whoever wins the
nomination will be facing
a Goliath next year.
In the end,
it looks to me like the Dean Internet campaign is just a political
mutation of the Internet bubble that burst a few years back. They
harnessed the power of the Internet to shake the foundations of
the traditional campaign model in America. Dean could not and
would not be where he is today without the Internet.
so many companies who thought they had changed forever the way
business was done, Trippi and Co. think they've created a new
campaign structure that will revolutionize the way people interact,
organize and support Howard Dean. Is the Dean campaign showing
us a glimpse of the future of politics in America? Probably at
some point, but that point isn't now.
is that the Dean team may succeed in using the Internet to plant
the seeds of a new, politically active progressive community,
but right now smart money still says they are going to get their
asses handed to them next November. It's the modern day, liberal
version of a favorite conservative fable - with a twist. It's
Goldwater.com. - T.
Bevan 11:15 am
December 8 2003
WHO IS HOWARD DEAN? PART ONE: There's been a lot of ink spilled
already trying to answer this question, including a couple of
pieces this weekend that are worth talking about.
is Jonathan Rauch's article suggesting Dean
may be more like Bill Clinton than George McGovern. It's an
interesting argument, but one that ultimately doesn't hold water.
Dean campaign may be set to the music of firebrand liberalism,
but its words belie the notion that Dean has painted himself
into a far-left corner. Even on Iraq -- his signature issue
-- Dean has planted himself subtly but distinctly to the right
of his supporters.
that Dean's support of an alternate war resolution (Biden-Lugar)
gives him a centrist credibility for the general election. Rauch
also claims that Dean is to the right of where Clinton was on
fiscal matters and is "solidly" in the center of the
Democrat party on healthcare.
All of these
things may very well be true, but they hardly matter. Rauch's
analysis ignores two of the immutable laws of politics. The first
is that in political campaigns perception becomes reality. The
details of a candidate's record are ultimately less important
than the overall perception of the candidate with the public and
who (either the candidate or his/her opponent) is better able
to control the definition of that perception.
Kristof pointed out this weekend, Dean faces three inherent
obstacles to his candidacy: geography, style, and biography. The
Bush team will use all of these elements to control people's perception
of Dean and paint him as an angry, Northeastern liberal elite.
two in politics is that if you're explaining, you're losing. Nuances
are the deathknell of campaigns, especially at the national level.
It's all big picture, big ideas, and small sound bytes.
On the big
issues, Dean has staked out basic positions: against the war,
for higher taxes, for gay marriage, against Medicare. At its core,
this is what his candidacy stands for, the rest is nothing but
noise. These positions aren't problematic with Democrat primary
voters, but when it comes time to compete in the general election,
Dean is going to have to spend a great deal of time explaining
them to the rest of America.
Dean tries to walk voters in Michigan through the nuances of the
Biden-Lugar amendment or explain to middle-class voters in Pennsylvania
the complex argument that the tax rebate check they received in
the mail last year is actually a tax increase on them, President
Bush will be hammering the airwaves with some very simple messages:
my administration hunts down and kills terrorists, lowers taxes
and provides prescription drug benefits for seniors.
may not be George McGovern, but he certainly isn't Bill Clinton.
Clinton was a master at controlling public perception and carefully
packaged himself as a centrist (aka New Democrat) even though
he was, in fact, much more of a progressive liberal.
started the race by doing the opposite, obscuring his moderate/conservative
credentials in favor of hard-core liberal positions. The irony
is that he's been so wildly successful in tapping into anger in
the Dem base he's virtually locked up the nomination already and
now wants to begin the process of walking back the cat and reemphasizing
the more conservative points of his record.
is whether it's already too late. Whether the image he's created
over the past year that everyone in America has seen literally
hundreds of times (sleeves rolled up, face sometimes contorted
with anger, etc) is the one that sticks in the public's mind or
whether he can reshape and resell a softer, more moderate image
to voters next year.
we'll talk about the internet portion of Dean's campaign and its
implications on the race. -T.
Bevan 8:47 am