Friday, January 30 2004
BOB SHRUM'S ONE-TRICK PONY:
Democratic uberconsultant Bob Shrum finally has John Kerry all programmed up with the "people vs. the powerful" shtick. The only problem is, well, John Kerry's record:

In his quest for the White House, Sen. John Kerry is casting himself as a Washington outsider, one committed to sweeping out the "special interests" he claims are trying to manipulate federal laws and policies.

But the Massachusetts lawmaker and Democratic presidential front-runner is among Congress' top recipients of money that many would say comes from special interests – lawyers, investment firms, real estate interests and contractors, to name a few.

Moreover, he has been criticized for intervening in a Coast Guard rulemaking process that affected a foreign cable manufacturer – then taking campaign money from the lobbying firm that represented the cable company.

Kerry spokesman Michael Meehan said the senator is only running against "the big companies that the Republicans have brought inside the White House to write legislation that directly benefits their companies."

On Wednesday, Kerry gave a speech in St. Louis, Mo., in which he accused the Bush administration of perpetuating a "creed of greed" that undermines the interests of average Americans.

"I've got news for the HMOs and the big drug companies and the big oil companies and influence peddlers," Kerry said. "We're coming, you're going and don't let the door hit you on the way out!"

But Kerry has taken plenty of money from large, wealthy and influential groups himself.

Oops. Oh well, such conflicts certainly didn't stop Al Gore in 2000 so there's no reason to think it will slow down Kerry this time around. The obvious flaw with John Kerry's "Shrummery", of course, is that it never works.

RCP MEDIA ALERT: John will be a guest on Milt Rosenberg's radio show, Extension 720, tonight from 10p-12a Eastern. He'll be discussing the Dem Presidential race along with Peri Arnold, professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, and Wayne Steger, associate professor of political science at De Paul University. Bookmark this URL to listen live tonight.

THE BURN RATE: Faster than a speeding dot com, Howard Dean is flat broke. $41 million vanished into the ether with nothing to show but a disappointing 3rd in Iowa and a distant 2nd in New Hampshire.

"Sources" say the Dean camp still has $5 million left on hand, but Steve Murphy (Gephardt's 2004 campaign manger and longtime friend of Joe Trippi) said on Special Report last night that he thinks the situation is probably much worse. I have to agree. You don't go absolutely dark and start stiffing campaign workers unless things are dire.

I can't resist a friendly parting shot at Dean supporter Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, who just a few short weeks ago was ridiculing the Bush campaign's spending habits. Granted, Bush has spent a good chunk of change and he hasn't been duking it out in primaries like Dean, but the irony is still too rich to pass up:

"Let's hope his [Bush's] people keep spending money like drunken sailors (or, like, the Bush Administration). I am ready to believe that $100 million in Democratic hands will go further than $200 million in Bush's hands."

Apparently not in Howard Dean's hands.

DO YOU BELIEVE BUSH ON IMMIGRATION?: The nation's top immigration officer, Eduardo Aguirre Jr, said yesterday in Seattle that the government is prepared to crackdown on illegal immigrants who fail to enter President Bush's proposed guest worker program.

These are promising words to those of us whose support for Bush's plan hinges on the government getting it's act together on our borders. Still, talk is cheap, and it remains to be seen whether the Bushies put any real effort or resources into strengthening the immigration system.

RUNNING FROM BUSH: Interesting piece in the Chicago Sun-Times on how the GOP Senate candidates are taking issue with some of President Bush's positions.

WHEN 0% IS GOOD: Here's a question: when is getting 0% support from somebody a good thing? In Georgia, it's when you're a Republican running for the United States Senate and you have a 0% voter rating from Planned Parenthood while your primary opponent scores 43%. Mac Collins hit Johnny Isakson in the mouth (figuratively speaking, of course) yesterday over his record on abortion.

BAY DOES THE SUPERBOWL: Here's something you don't see every day: a military/foreign policy expert writing about football.

WHAT DEBATE?: I didn't even bother to watch. From the looks of this Washington Post write up, sounds like it was a yawner.

KENTUCKY 6: We've been negligent in not mentioning the special election being held in Kentucky's 6th Congressional district on February 17. Ernie Flecther's seat is up for grabs now that he's been elected governor of Kentucky. Ironically, his foe in the gubernatorial race, Democrat Ben Chandler, is running for Fletcher's old seat and is now leading Republican Alice Forgy-Kerr by 10 points in the only poll we've seen.

Frankly, I'm a little bit surprised by the margin of the poll for a couple of reasons. First, I've heard from a few people in Kentucky who say Chandler has orchestrated a fairly transparent make over that has some people laughing and others scratching their heads. Last year he blanketed the state with ads railing against Fletcher's support of the Bush tax cut and slamming the Bush economy in general. That obviously didn't work.

Now just a few short months later he's trying to present himself as a tax cutter. His web site claims:

"In Congress, Ben Chandler will work to grow our economy and create new jobs by cutting taxes for middle-class families"

So far it looks like the public's memory is pretty short.

However, Chandler is a household name and he is getting some good financial help from Congressional Democrats. And the Forgy-Kerr campaign suffered a bit of a setback this week when the White House announced neither the President nor the Vice President would be coming to Kentucky to campaign on her behalf.

Still, this is now a GOP-leaning district. Fletcher won by 46% in 2002 and 18% in 2000. President Bush carried the district by 13 points over Al Gore in 2000. Fletcher's win in November has also help energize and strengthen the GOP throughout the state.

You'll want to keep your eye on this one. The race will most likely tighten up in the final few days and could be anywhere from moderately interesting to a real barn-burner. - T. Bevan 7:15 am | Link | Email

Thursday, January 29 2004
MILITARY GAMES:
The President of the United States is a deserter. So says Michael Moore. It's a ludicrous charge, of course, and one that has been thoroughly debunked. At least I thought it had.

But it looks like Moore's slander has allowed the issue of Bush's military service to crop up once again. I don't have the time or the patience to go through it in detail, but suffice it to say those who claim the AWOL charge against Bush is "well documented" are either being intentionally deceptive or just don't know the facts. The AWOL charge against Bush has been refuted, period.

Some advice to those on the left: if you want to continue hurling accusations at Bush over his military service record then BRING US SOME PROOF. Don't just keep recycling old rumors and insisting that "questions remain" about Bush's time in the Air National Guard - because they don't.

And stop debasing yourselves with ridiculous semantic games by saying, "well, Michael Moore's accusation was over the top, but 'technically' there was some basis for it." Yeah, and "technically" there's a basis for calling John Kerry a traitor because he provided false testimony about Vietnam under oath to a Congressional Committee in 1971 and tossed medals (not even his own, by the way) back at the government in protest. But no serious person would make that charge, and I wouldn't think too highly of anyone who spent time trying to defend or justify it, either.

So, enough already with the AWOL stuff. Either prove the charge or drop it.

BILL CLINTON THEY'RE NOT: Dean does what? Appointing a lobbyist as the head of an "outsider, insurgency" campaign is one of the most idiotic moves imaginable. Whatever "movement" Dean thinks he's started, it's going to die pretty quickly Then again, maybe hiring Neel is a tacit admission that there really wasn't much of a movement to begin with........

I'm not trying to be mean here but, honestly, I haven't seen a group of candidates in a long time with less political sense than the bunch running for the Democratic nomination right now: John Kerry writes off the South a week before the South Carolina primary; Wes Clark can't come up with obvious answers about abortion, Michael Moore's statement, etc, and Dean may have set a new standard for having a political tin ear.

Obviously, some of the problems the candidates face are a direct result of just how far left the base of the Democratic party has moved recently. The answers that liberal activists are looking for from these men, and the ones their invariably given, sometimes sound to the rest of the public like they come from another planet.

Still, as is usually the case in politics, most of the gaffes and wounds these candidates suffer are self inflicted.

John Edwards seems to be the only candidate with true political skill. He's managed to craft a message that strikes a chord with liberals without coming across as radical or offensive to the larger population. He's clearly one of the most disciplined candidates out there and I can't remember the last time I've heard him put his foot in his mouth or go off half-cocked.

I don't know if this gives him a chance to upset Kerry (probably not) or makes him the ideal choice for Veep (probably). But from a standpoint of pure political skill he's head and shoulders above the rest, even if he still toils in the shadow of the master, Bill Clinton. - T. Bevan 10:50 am | Link | Email

Wednesday, January 28 2004
WHERE WE GO FROM HERE:
There is no question that Kerry's solid win last night thoroughly establishes him as the front runner. Unlike Iowa, the polls were pretty dead on with the final results. Our final RCP poll average was Kerry 35.6%, Dean 24.2%, Edwards 12.4%, Clark 10.6% and Lieberman 7.4% with 7.2% undecided. If you allocate the undecideds proportional to their final poll averages Kerry ends up at 38.2%, Dean 25.9%, Edwards 13.3%, Clark 11.4% and Lieberman 7.9%. Except for a Clark/Edward's flip-flop, that is more or less exactly how it turned out. (Final Results: Kerry 38.5%, Dean 26.3%, Clark 12.4%, Edwards 12.1%, Lieberman 8.6%.)

I was surprised that Dean couldn't close to within single digits and I was also surprised that Edwards didn't fare better than his 12%, fourth place finish. Of all the pundit scuttlebutt that I heard on the four cable networks (FOX, CNN, MSNBC and CNBC) the two most interesting points I thought were comments by Fred Barnes and Bill Bennett, both on FOX. Barnes suggested that a 1976 Ford-Reagan campaign might develop, where Reagan lost Iowa and New Hampshire and then went on to win in North Carolina and many of the later states only to lose at the very end at the convention.

With Dean's ability to raise money outside of the normal political system and his antagonism towards the Democratic establishment this type of scenario is not out of the question. To buttress this point, Brit Hume asked Dean about DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe's comment that if you haven't won at some stage you might want to think of dropping out. Dean rather defiantly told Terry where he could shove his drop out suggestion, reminding people that McAuliffe made a point of staying "neutral" a month ago when Dean asked him step in and tone down some of the attacks that were flying in Dean's direction. I don't know that Dean or his campaign is going to be in any mood to "unify" around a lifelong Washington pol like Senator John Kerry.

Bennett's comment, which I had read somewhere earlier in the week, was that since 1952 every candidate who has won Iowa and New Hampshire has gone on to win their parties nomination. Bennett suggested that if you were in the World Series of Poker Kerry would have a 90% chance of ending up with the nomination. On Sunday, I had rated Kerry as 60% likely to win the nomination and with last night's win I'd raise that to at least 75%, so Bennett's 90% comment is probably not that far from where we are today.

For this to turn into a real race, at some point, some one besides Kerry is going to have win somewhere. Next Tuesday, seven states hold primaries (Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Carolina) and if Kerry wins all seven, this race will be over. Our RCP poll average in South Carolina shows Kerry trailing Edwards by roughly 11 points, while he may get a decent bounce from his New Hampshire win, Kerry might not play as well down South as he did in Iowa and New Hampshire.

If the other candidates are smart - and by that I mean Dean, Edwards and Clark (Lieberman is history) - they will divvy up those seven states and make Kerry spread his resources, while they pick and choose their spots.

Kerry has had a good run and a lot of good press, and the time compression of the campaign is working as a powerful tail wind in his quest for the nomination. But there is no question that his turn in the media hot seat is fast approaching.

If Edwards can win South Carolina, Clark can win Oklahoma and Dean can pick up a win somewhere else, Michigan and Washington follow rather quickly on Feb 7, both states where Dean might have a real shot.

Kerry's in control and he can go for the knockout punch next week, but Dean's not going away, and Kerry may have a bigger problem in the South and the West than we think. Let's see how well Kerry weathers the inevitable media scrutiny fast approaching his campaign. J. McIntyre 7:16 am  Link | Email

Tuesday, January 27 2004
THE NH RESULTS: So, Zogby pulled it out after all and found safe harbor in a double-digit Kerry win. Tomorrow New Hampshire will be forgotten and nobody will ever know or even bother to ask whether this was really ever the three point, dead-heat race Zogby said it was the day before yesterday.

Anyway, you may be wondering which of the pollsters performed the best in tracking the tricky turns of New Hampshire this past week. I sure was.

So I assembled a brief (and admittedly crude) scoring system based on two criteria. First, I've tallied the overall point differential by which a pollster missed each candidate's final numbers. For example, if a pollster projected Kerry to finish at 38% and Dean at 29%, and we now know the final returns were 39% Kerry and 26% Dean, the pollster missed Kerry's number by 1 point and Dean's by 3 for a total differential of 4. The pollster with the LOWEST total point differential came closest to predicting final outcome of the race.

Second, I also tallied up how many correct final placements (1st place through 5th place) each pollster scored. For example, if a pollster predicted the following order of finish: Kerry, Dean, Edwards, Clark, and Lieberman, they would have gotten only three of the five placements right (Kerry, Dean and Lieberman). Since nearly every pollster correctly predicted the 1st, 2nd, and 5th place finishers, all we're really talking about getting additional points for accurately predicting Clark to finish ahead of Edwards. Only one tracking poll did, by the way.

Without further ado, here's how it worked out:

Pollster
Total Point Differential
Correct Placements
CNN/USAT/Gallup (1/24-25)
7
4.5
Marist University (1/23-25)
7

3

Zogby (1/24-26)
8
3
UNH/Fox News (1/23-25)
9
3
ARG (1/24-26)
11
3
SurveyUSA (1/25)
13
3
Boston Herald/RKM (1/22-24)
14
3
Boston Globe/WBZ (1/24-25)
15
3
Suffolk University (1/26)
19
3
LA Times (1/20-23)
23
5
Franklin Pierce (1/20-22)
26
5

One note: I gave CNN/USAT/Gallup half credit because they predicted an Edwards/Lieberman tie for 4th place at 10% each.

For the sake of posterity, I have to mention that our RCP Average (which is nothing more than a straight average of the latest polls - in this case those from 1/24 to 1/26) came in at a 9-point differential with three correct placements, tying with the UNH/Fox News poll for fourth place.

So there you have it. I'm exhausted and heading to bed, but John will be up early with more thoughts on what happened tonight, and where things go from here. - T. Bevan 11:42 pm | Link | Email

MORE ON ZOGBY: A couple more quick thoughts. Zogby says the movement to Kerry last night was all about electability:

"Kerry had a 19-point lead in Monday's one-day polling. In the final analysis, voters raised doubts about Howard Dean. Through the second half of 2003, New Hampshire voters indicated that they were angry but overwhelmingly felt that President Bush was a shoo-in for re-election . But as in Iowa, the closer Democrats got to actually voting, there was a renewed sense that President Bush could and must be defeated. In our final sample, just about half (49%) told us that Dean was unlikely to defeat the President (that is fifteen points worst than his worst day in Iowa). At the same time, only fifteen percent said it was unlikely that any other Democrat in the race could defeat the President. Howard Dean was the man of the year, but that was 2003. In 2004, electability has become the issue and John Kerry has benefited by developing a sharper message, by his veteran status, and - this is particularly significant- New Hampshire Democrats tell us that he looks like a president."

Now, Zogby may very well be right. We've heard extensively about the "electability factor" and New Hampshire voters may very well choose Kerry today because he has a better chance of beating Bush.

But that still doesn't explain Zogby's poll from yesterday. Electability has been a problem for Howard Dean for some time now, even before his freak out in Iowa last Monday night. It seems somewhat implausible that voters who were moving back to Dean in Zogby's own polls up to 24 hours ago are suddenly going to abandon him over "electability."

One last thing. It's not unusual for undecideds to move more or less as a bloc to a given candidate in the waning moments of an election . But usually there is something precipitating such a move.

In the example from 1988 I cited last night, George H.W. Bush ran devastating television commercials. In Iowa, the negative dogfight between Dean and Gephardt was at least partly responsible for driving voters to Kerry and Edwards in the final hours.

I haven't seen anything from yesterday that might have triggered such a massive move to Kerry. He has been assiduously avoiding making news. If anything, things were moving in the other direction: with the help of his wife Dean seemed to have repaired his image with at least some voters and seemed to be gaining a bit of traction by questioning John Kerry's judgment using his war votes as a proxy.

In the end, I can only conclude that Zogby was either right yesterday and wrong today, or vice versa. We'll know soon enough. - T. Bevan 11:23am | Link | Email

JUDGMENT DAY: Will there be a Dean comeback? Will Kerry cement his standing as the frontrunner and the prohibitive favorite to win the nomination? Will Edwards surprise again with a better than expected showing and put himself in position to make a serious challenge next week? Big questions. Big answers are just hours away.

We'll be updating the final tracking poll numbers throughout the morning, but already we've got issues. ARG's final tracking poll shows another 8-point swing in Dean's favor. Kerry still leads by 10, and that may put him just out of Dean's reach today - but ARG is saying that Dean is still moving.

ARG President Dick Bennett explains the results of his poll:

"The most significant result from the tracking for today is that support for Kerry, Clark, and Edwards dropped along with the continuing increase in support for Dean. Women 45 and older are returning to Howard Dean, helping to give him a 4 percentage-point gain on January 25 and a 5 percentage-point gain on January 26. Verbatims among this group point to fairness/sympathy for Dean and not beating George W. Bush driving the return to Dean. If the trend to Dean continues into tomorrow, the race will be very close as it appears that Kerry will not capture the undecided." (emphasis added)

Bennett's "Best Guess" on the outcome of today's vote? Kerry 35%, Dean 29%, Edwards 16%, Clark 13%, Lieberman 6%.

This sounds about right to me, but I still think Dean has about a one-in-five or one-in-four chance of scoring the upset. We're talking about New Hampshire, after all.

On the other hand, Zogby is out with what I would call a "CYA" poll. After teasing the media yesterday with a shocker poll that had Dean within 3 points of Kerry (which was only about 10 points outside of all the other polls in the state), Zogby comes back today with a 13-point lead for Kerry.

Says Zogby:

"For Kerry the dam burst after 5PM on Monday. Kerry had a huge day as Undecideds broke his way by a factor of four to one over Dean. Dean recaptured a strong lead among 18-29 year olds, Northerners, singles and Progressives. He narrowed the gap among men, and college educated, however Kerry opened up huge leads among women, union voters, and voters over 65 years of age. These groups gave Kerry the big momentum heading into the primary." (emphasis added).

Even if the final vote today ends up right where these two polls have it (i.e. a 10 -13 point Kerry victory) one of the analyses is flat wrong.

Frankly, I think John Zogby has some explaining to do. In yesterday's poll he pushed 10% of "leaners" out of the undecided column. We don't know how these "leaners" broke down for each candidate or how they mixed with the standard sample, but we do know that the overall result was a 5-point pick up for Dean and a 1 point pick up for Kerry. You either have to conclude that 1) Dean's standard sample moved up significantly but he lost"leaners" to Kerry or 2) Dean won at least a decent portion of the "leaners."

Either way, this morning Zogby is telling us the opposite. He again pushed 9% of "leaners" out of the undecided column but now indicates - again, contrary to most of the evidence generated in other polls - that there is a tidal wave of movement toward Kerry.

We all know the New Hampshire electorate is volatile and tracking polls are a famously unscientific tool for trying to gauge that volatility, but a +4 swing for Dean yesterday followed by a +10 swing back for Kerry today just strains the boundaries of credibility.

As I said, in the end Zogby may end up hitting this race on the number, but the way he's gone about getting there over the last two days isn't going to do his reputation any favors.

THE SAFE BET: About the safest bet on the table right now is that Wes Clark is finished after today. He's dropping in most of the polls and it looks like he will limp home in 4th place.

Clark still has some money, but he's proven to be such a disaster as a candidate - such a walking contradiction, a phony opportunist, and a peddler of tin-hat conspiracies - it's hard to see him getting a coherent message together and pulling a Kerryesque turn around by next Tuesday.

By this time next week Clark will be just another notch in candidate-killer Chris Lehane's belt. John Kerry don't look so bad now, does he Chris? - T. Bevan 8:22 am | Link | Email

Monday, January 26 2004
THE CASE STUDY:
Start with the familar storyline:

"If (he) is elected President, he will look back to New Hampshire as a place where he was very nearly finished before he'd begun. For several days, (he) was trapped in a downward spin and appeared powerless to get out of it. He had finished a poor third in Iowa, and had no successful message of his own."

The "he", in this case, is George H.W. Bush and the year 1988.

The Sunday before the primary back in '88, Dole led Bush in two separate tracking polls by margins of seven and eight points. Prior to Iowa, Bush had led Dole in one of the tracking polls by more than 20 points.

But on Monday evening pollsters picked up a hint of Bush's turn around. By the time the dust settled late Tuesday night, Bush emerged with a 9.2% victory over Dole. The rest, as they say, is history.

Bush's remarkable reversal of fortune came down to strength of core support:

"Gallup President Andy Kohut subsequently told WCVB's Chet Curtis that their exit polling showed a group of regular Republicans had switched back and forth between Dole and Bush. Kohut also explained, "Our polls have consistently shown for George Bush --- here and elsewhere --- that his support is always stronger than Dole's. The weak support Dole brought into the final days, in the end, went to Bush."

This sounds eerily familiar to what we're seeing in the tightening of the race right now. I don't get the impression Kerry's support is quite as solid as he would like it to be. He still seems to be at or near the top of an Iowa victory wave, but the indications are that the voting in New Hampshire can't start soon enough for the Massachusetts Senator. Another day or two and who knows....

On the other hand, after the pathetic showing of Deaniacs in Iowa, I'm not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt here.

It's going to be freezing cold tomorrow, possibly with snow in the evening. Traditionally, bad weather means lower voter turnout. It also places a premium on each candidate's hardcore supporters. Of course, in about 27 hours, we'll know whose support is real and whose support is soft.

Thanks to reader Sean F. for the case study link. - T. Bevan | Link | Email

ZOGBY PART II: A few readers have asked for the skinny on Zogby's poll today. I'm a bit short on time at the moment, but Jerome Armstrong over at DKos goes over some of the internals here.

RUNNING OUT THE CLOCK: Any sports fan can tell you that when a team starts playing prevent defense or trying to run out the clock, bad things can happen. Ryan Lizza has a great first hand account of watching John Kerry try to sit on his lead. - T. Bevan 12:43 pm | Link | Email

ZOGBY STRIKES AGAIN!: Once again, John Zogby pulls a shocker. His latest tracking poll out this morning shows Dean trailing Kerry by only 3 points. Is it really possible that this is a dead heat race?

For the past week we've been fed a steady diet of polls and news stories detailing Dean's post-Iowa collapse. Indeed, since Dean's Iowa scream stopped echoing in our ears last Tuesday, nearly every tracking poll has had Kerry stretching out to a 12-15 point lead.

Everyone except Zogby, that is. Zogby has quietly but consistently had this race much closer than the rest, with Dean bottoming out late last week (1/21-23) only 9 points behind Kerry.

Dean's rebound over the last 24 to 48 hours is reflected in other tracking polls as well; this morning's ARG shows a 4-point bump for Dean to 20%, the latest Fox News poll (1/22-24) showed a 3-point rise, and he's gotten an up tick in just about every other recent tracking poll sample.

Furthermore Zogby has also allocated "leaners" in today's poll, pushing another 10 percent out of the undecided column and toward various candidates. It's noteworthy that even with the "leaner" push, Kerry only picked up 1 point while Dean picked up 5 and Edwards 3. Clark and Lieberman were static.

The trend lines of all the polls suggest Kerry has topped out, Dean and Edwards are rising, and Clark's support is waning down the stretch.

But with only 24 hours until "go time" in New Hampshire we're once again left scratching our heads and wondering whether John Zogby is registering a strength for Dean that no one else sees, or whether he's projecting a level of support for Dean that just isn't going to materialize tomorrow.
UPDATE: The Washington Post does a nice job of reminding us that when it comes to politics, especially in New Hampshire, the polls don't usually tell the whole story.

MORE NEW HAMPSHIRE THOUGHTS: The Zogby poll is going to get a ton of play in the press today and will invariably help John Kerry. How can this help Kerry, you ask? By lowering expectations at a critical moment.

Kerry's lead in the polls over the past week has now internalized expectations among the pundits and the press for a big win. Prior to Zogby's poll this morning, anything less than a double digit victory tomorrow evening would have been viewed as a sign of weakness for him. More importantly, however, it would have been viewed as a sign of strength for someone else.

Now, all of the sudden we're going to spend the next day talking about how close this race is. Thanks to the power of a single Zogby tracking poll, a victory in New Hampshire of any size is going to be spun by the Kerry camp - successfully, I would think, if they have any talent at all - into a tale of vindication and a hard fought struggle.

Unless Zogby is way off base and Kerry does in fact score a knockout blow tomorrow, it's looking as if both Dean and Edwards are going to emerge from New Hampshire with stories to tell heading into February 3.

This will be a big boost to Edwards in the short term, who will emerge as the prohibitive favorite in South Carolina when Wes Clark finishes imploding on Tuesday. And it may give Dean just enough juice to weather the storm on February 3 and stay viable on Super Tuesday in big-time states like California and New York.

THE PUPPETMASTER: Should he go on and win the nomination, John Kerry's biggest liability in November may not even be himself. Ted Kennedy's rescue of John Kerry's dismal candidacy is going to have consequences down the road. (Note to Karl Rove: save this picture.)

Kennedy's work over the past year in mainstreaming a pacifist, cut and run policy on Iraq in the Democratic party as well as promoting the most bizarre, partisan conspiracy theories about the war will be a drag on any effort by Kerry to appeal to the middle. - T. Bevan 10:12 am | Link | Email

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