Friday, January 9 2004
It's come to our attention that the Elder at Fraters Libertas is conducting a friendly little poll asking which of Hugh Hewitt's regular radio guests "would most be missed if they didn't make their weekly appearance." As most of you are aware, RCP's own John McIntyre is one of those weekly guests.

As things stand right now, John is running comfortably ahead of Howie Kurtz, Peter Beinart, and Erwin Chemerinsky and just a few votes behind Claudia Rosett and Professor Bainbridge.

It looks like Mark Steyn is running away with the thing, though I've heard rumors that 98.99% of his votes are originating from the IP address. It's so typical of those right-wing warmongers to hijack the democratic process, you know?

Anyway, if you've got an extra second and you're so inclined, you can vote for John by clicking here.

TAKING A SECOND LOOK: Adam Nagourney and Carl Hulse suggest in today's NY Times that a number of Iowa Democrats are reevaluting their initial support of Howard Dean:

Still, in dozens of conversations with voters across central Iowa over the past three days, it became clear that some Democrats are taking a second look at the doctor from Vermont whose candidacy has transformed the Democratic presidential contest.

Such qualms could benefit Senator John Edwards of North Carolina and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. Both were often mentioned by voters as strong alternatives to Dr. Dean.

It looks like there might be the tiniest bit of support for this theory in one of the two new polls released out of Iowa yesterday. SurveyUSA has Kerry and Edwards improving a couple of ticks from their previous position and Dean sliding just a bit, but it's really hard to say.

If there is in fact a reevaluation of Dean taking place among voters it will certainly be helped along by two other items in the news this morning. The first is this story, which reports that while appearing on a Canadian television show in 2000 discussing politics, Dean described the Iowa caucuses as a "waste of time" and "dominated by the special interests." It will be interesting to see Mr. "I Just Tell It Like It Is" do damage control on this one, and it may cause a few more defections to Kerry or Edwards.

The other story of note is the new AP-Ipsos poll out this morning with the following head-to-head numbers:

Bush 54%, Dean 39%
Bush 54%, Kerry 37%
Bush 56%, Gephardt 35%
Bush 49%, Clark 42%

It's the second poll this week showing Dean getting absolutely shellacked by the President in a head-to-head match up. Clark's strength against Bush relative to the rest of the field should keep the "reevaluation process" of Dean in motion around the country.

But it also presents a special dilemma for some Iowans. If you're a Clark supporter in Iowa (the KCCI poll released yesterday showed 3% support for Clark though it could be more than that) or if you're a pragmatic undecided who is concerned first and foremost with beating George W. Bush in November and it's looking more and more like Clark might be your party's best bet, who do you cast your vote for on January 19?

I suspect the answer is you throw your lot in with Gephardt and try to knock Dean off in Iowa and hope that leads to a really strong showing for Clark in New Hampshire eight days later.

WAITING FOR KATHERINE: The entire country waits in breathless anticipation for Katherine Harris to decide if she wants to run for Senate. Looks like we'll have to wait a bit more.

BUSH'S TEMPORARY WORKER PROGRAM: I know we said we'd comment on this today, but we're going to have to punt again until Monday. Sorry. Instead I'll have to refer you to the Wall Street Journal, which tackles the issue this morning with the usual verve. - T. Bevan 8:23 am | Link | Email

Thursday, January 8 2004
I hardly ever blog at night, but I have a few minutes to spare on a couple of very spare thoughts.

First, this morning I forgot to mention John Rowland's mea culpa maximus last night. You can read it/watch it here. The speech was about 7 minutes long, which ended up being about 4 minutes too many. I'm all for public apologies, repentence, and displays of contrition but this one struck me as too much. Long after viewers had gotten the point (he's messed up, he's sorry, he wants to keep his job) Rowland just kept going and going: "Is there some good to come from all of this? Will I be a better person? Am I being tested?' Ugh. I don't know how the people of Connecticut will take Rowland's speech, but all I could think of at the end was "please, somebody make it stop."

Second, I see that Robert Tagorda and Kevin Drum (excellent bloggers both, by the way) have taken up a mini discussion of our selection of the LA Times as Op-Eddy Runner Up for the Most Overrated Editorial/Opinion Page Award - Large Market. I must confess that they're both right, we probably did mislabel or mischaracterize the award. I don't think the LAT editorial/opinion section is generally held in high esteem, so it's therefore pretty hard to label them "overrated."

Initially, the idea for the Op-Eddys started as a quest to rank editorial page and the commentary/opinion sections of the the top 50 online newspapers. Though this proved to be too difficult and time consuming, we still wanted to recognize a few papers (like the SA Express-News, Seattle Times, etc) that we felt were among the better ones around and that were, in our opinion, somewhat underrated. This led us to create the converse category of "overrated" editorial/opinion pages, which in our minds meant editorial/opinion pages that either lack the influence they should have by virtue of their size (like the Detroit Free-Press) or those that possess an influence that's out of balance with the quality of the content appearing in them (like the LA Times). We also didn't conceive of the idea of the Op-Eddys as a vehicle to slam papers and we felt that "best" and "worst" came off a bit harsh. (You'll notice we dropped that inhibition when it came to dishing out awards to columnists, in part because it the underrated/overrated labels didn't fit as well. Mark Steyn underrated? Impossible!)

All of this may or may not make any sense. Then again, it doesn't necessarily have to, now does it? Next year we plan on making the selection process even more convoluted and mysterious by creating a complex formula modeled after the BCS to caluclate strength of editorial schedule, circulation rankings, and God only knows what else. See you tomorrow. - T. Bevan 11:15pm | Link | Email

THE GRAND OP-EDDYS: Of course we saved the best for last. Here are our final Op-Eddy selections for 2003. Congratulations to all the winners.

THE POISON IN THE WELL: Question # 15 from the CNN/USAT/Gallup Poll released yesterday:

Which comes closest to your view of the way George W. Bush won the 2000 presidential election?
Won Fair and Square: 49%
Won on Technicality: 31%
Stole the Election: 18%
No Opinion: 2%

Hmmm. Nearly 20% of the voting public - and I'll go out on a limb here and say they're all Democrats - still believe George W. Bush "stole" the 2000 election. That's a pretty serious number of people who remain heavily invested in a fantasy - and it's proving to be quite a destructive one at that.

Let's quickly recap the three core elements constituting the "stolen election" myth many Dems still cling to. You can get a full refresher course by reading this lengthy but thorough piece by Richard Baehr and this one by John Berlau, but I'll go ahead and recap them anyway:

Myth: Gore won Florida
Fact: Under any counting method used - even the most liberal which included pregnant, dimpled, and hanging chads - Bush NEVER trailed Gore in Florida. Not once, and not even for a single vote. Even the exhaustive studies done after the election by media groups failed to produce any evidence that Gore tallied more votes than Bush in Florida.

Myth: The Supreme Court "Appointed" Bush
Fact: Even the general public has come to accept the idea that Bush v. Gore was simply a 5-4 decision. Among many Democrats, the decision is seen as a coup d'etat by the conservative block of the court. In fact, the Bush v. Gore case contained two decisions, one of which ruled by a 7-2 margin against the Florida Supreme Court's ambiguous, extralegal mandate to count undervotes.

Myth: African-American Voters in Florida Were Systematically Disenfranchised
Fact: Despite the best efforts of some Democrats, including Mary Frances Berry's gratuitous grandstanding as head of the US Civil Rights Commission, not a single shred of evidence has been produced demonstrating that African-American voters were harassed, intimidated, or otherwise prevented from voting. Even the infamous "voter roll purge" that Dems cite as proof is nonsense: Berlau reports the mandate for purging felons from Florida's voting rolls "was passed into law in 1998, sponsored by two Democratic legislators and signed by Democratic governor Lawton Chiles, Jeb Bush's predecessor. The law was passed in response to the 1997 Miami mayoral election that was overturned by a court due to widespread fraud, with votes from disqualified felons and dead people."

Notwithstanding any of these facts, the stolen election myth remains at the root of the Bush-hating psychosis gripping the Dem base. The President's response to 9/11 and the War in Iraq remain the current, conscious objects of their apoplexy, of course, but right beneath the surface is the conviction that "this warmonger isn't even the legitimate leader of the country."

The irony is that a few of the people most responsible for wiring the Dem base with this toxic, bloody-shirt mentality over the last three years, Terry McAuliffe, Dick Gephardt, and Joe Lieberman among them, now find themselves pushed to the verge of obsolescence by it. In many ways Howard Dean is a monster of their own making, and it remains to be seen whether Dean ends up harnessing this mentality to save the Democratic party, or to kill it.

THE BUSH PLAN: We've received a few emails asking for our thoughts on Bush's temporary worker program, but we've run out of time this morning. Here's the President's address from yesterday. We'll have some comments on the matter tomorrow. - T. Bevan 8:08 am | Link | Email

Wednesday, January 7 2004
KRISTOF'S ERROR: From his column today:

Meanwhile, Howard Dean is grasping for faith in a way that is just as tasteless as Mr. Cheney's Christmas card. Dr. Dean bragged to reporters that he knows much about the Bible and proceeded to say that his favorite New Testament book is Job. Anyone who cites Job as a New Testament book should be scolded not just for religious phoniness but also for appalling ignorance of Western civilization on a par with Mr. Bush's calling Greeks "Grecians." (emphasis added)

I guess word hasn't filtered up to the People's Republic of Manhattan that "Grecians" is, in fact, a perfectly proper term and synonym for "Greek." Bush may or may not have known this at the time and the fact he didn't use the most common word available to describe people who live in Greece may or may not demonstrate an "appalling ignorance of Western civilization."

Kristof has obviously drawn this conclusion, but in this instance he's done it for the wrong reason. Even if Bush got it right by accident, that's not quite the same as getting something demonstrably an unequivocally wrong like putting Job in the New Testament. Note to Kristof: fact checking before slamming people for being stupid is usually a good policy. - T. Bevan 1:15pm | Link | Email

THE CLARK BOOMLET: Looks like Wes Clark has got himself some mojo. The latest ARG tracking poll out of New Hampshire showed Clark pulling into a dead-on tie with 3-point lead over John Kerry, and this morning we see he's pulled to within 4 points of Dean in the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup national poll.

Before the Clark bandwagon gets too loaded down, let's remember a few facts about Clark: 1) he isn't competing in Iowa, 2) he is still probably going to lose to Dean in New Hampshire on the order of at least 10 points or more and 3) national polls mean nothing.

Now with all those caveats out of the way, let's do some serious Clark building. He's the only guy with enough resources ($10 million last quarter) to come close to competing with Dean right now. That could change quickly, of course, but at this point it seems unlikely.

Second, if you look ahead at the state polls, Clark is well within striking distance of Dean in some critical post-New Hampshire states with plenty of voters still undecided:

State - Primary Date
South Carolina - February 3
Arizona - February 3
Oklahoma - February 3

Lastly, the "drop-out factor" will be working in Clark's favor and against Dean. If any of the other major candidates - with the possible exception of John Kerry - decide to call it quits anytime before February 3, their support will most likely migrate disproportionately to Clark.

One scenario, which isn't completely far fetched, is that Dick Gephardt stumbles to a third place finish in Iowa, his money and enthusiasm evaporate and he decides to pull the plug. This would give Clark an additional boost (though perhaps not a decisive one) in the states listed above.

If Clark can ride a strong second place showing out of New Hampshire to victories in SC, AZ, and OK on February 3, we're going to have ourselves one heck of a race.

ON THE OTHER SIDE: For what it's worth (which isn't much this far from election day) Bush's numbers in the aforementioned USA Today poll look good: 60% approval rating and he thumps Dean 59-37 in a head-to-head match up. The story about the Bush campaign you don't want to miss is this one from Wayne Slater in today's Dallas Morning News (reg req'd).

MORE OP-EDDYS: Click here to see our selections for the best and worst large market editorial/opinion pages of 2003. Tomorrow we'll unveil the coveted Op-Eddys for Editorial/Opinion page of the year and the best and worst columnists of 2003.

ROWLAND IS TOAST: Yesterday Republican Governor of Connecticut John Rowland was hit with a federal subpoena for all records related to the growing scandal over gifts he apparently received (improvements at his summer cottage, etc) and then lied about. This happened just hours after Rowland met with a group of state legislators and told them he isn't going to resign.

Looks like the voters beg to differ. A new Q Poll out this morning shows 56% of Connecticut voters say the Governor should step down. Sixty-two percent now disapprove of the way he's handling his job and an astonishing 8 out of 10 voters say he's not "honest and trustworthy." The numbers can't get much worse than that.

The good news for Rowland is that he may not have to resign, since there's a move inside the statehouse to impeach him. The bad news, of course, is that he may be going to jail. Rowland has asked for five minutes of television time this evening to plead his case to the public, but don't be surprised if he changes his mind and uses the opportunity to step down. - T. Bevan 8:51 am | Link | Email

Tuesday, January 6 2004
THE 1st ANNUAL RCP OP-EDDY AWARDS: I would say that you've been breathlessly awaiting the announcement of the RCP Op-Eddys, but since you didn't know they were coming that can't really be the case, can it? Nevertheless, here they are. Over the next few days we'll roll out our choices for the most underrated and overrated editorial/opinion pages in the country, as well as awards for the best and worst columnists of 2003.

But first some ground rules. For the op-ed page awards we limited ourselves to the Top 50 newspapers in the country as ranked by circulation (You can view a list by clicking here). Then to make things a bit more fair we divided the awards into large market (those ranked in top 25) and small market (those ranked in the bottom 25). Second, papers were judged on the overall quality of both their editorial writing and the op-ed columns appearing in the paper, which in most cases includes in-house columnists, guest opinion pieces, and syndicated columnists. We made our selections based solely upon the content we see online (in some cases op-ed pages look different in print), and the way in which that content is assembled in an easily digestable format.

One last thing. This was not nearly as easy as we thought it would be. Every paper has its pluses and minuses, and we've used stuff from all of them at one point or another. We don't mean to unfairly slam anyone in these awards, only to present our opinions as people who've been visiting the web sites of these papers with a critical eye every single day for almost four years now. So without further ado, let's get to this year's Op-Eddy winners for Small Market editorial/opinion pages:

MOST UNDERRATED EDITORIAL/OPINION PAGE - SMALL MARKET (Ranked 26-50 by Circulation): San Antonio Express-News
I'm constantly surprised by the SA Express-News. Decent editorials combined with headliner Austin Bay and solid supporting cast including columnists Jonathan Gurwitz, J. Francis Gardner and Jan Jarboe Russell make the page one of our must visits every day. They recently redesigned their site as well which makes the page even easier to navigate.
Runner Up: Seattle Times
James Vesely and his team run a very solid page. The ST delivers strong editorials with a nice mix of syndicated, guest and in-house opinion pieces that usually produces something worth note for a national audience a few times a week.
Honorable Mention: Orlando Sentinel
We probably would have given the OS the Op-Eddy if they hadn't closed the site down via subscription earlier this year. Big, big mistake, guys. The Sentinel has a strong line-up of columnists led by Kathleen Parker (who you can read on Townhall) and Peter Brown (who you can't read anywhere else at the moment) with Myriam Marquez, John Bersia and Mark Silva providing support and Jonah Goldberg and Ben Shapiro running in frequent syndication.

They improved the look of their online page recently but the content still sucks. We posted a decent column on redistricting by Al Knight a while back, but I can't remember the last time we found something truly interesting there. Perhaps we just have unreasonably high expectations for the largest paper in the state of Colorado, or maybe the Post just suffers in comparison to its cross-town rival The Rocky Mountain News. Either way, they could use a real solid revamp on the content side soon.
Runner Up: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Again, maybe our expectations are too high or maybe it's just the version that appears online, but the St. Louis PD is just a nightmare. The guest columnist secion is almost always empty, their syndicated columnist archives are frequently out of date and their staff columnists offer little to get excited about. Give them credit for being one of the papers to publish James Lileks' syndicated column - but that only gets you so far.
Honorable Mention: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Louisville Courier-Journal
Two papers that should be worth going to but aren't. The Milwaukee JS site is like crawling through barbed wire, usually with no payoff at the end. The Louisville CJ is much more user friendly, but that doesn't make up for the lack of interesting content.

Tomorrow: Op-Eddys for the most underrated and overrated large market papers.

DEAN=HITLER?: Normally we like Ralph Peters' columns and his perspective on the war. But we took a pass on this one from yesterday's NY Post where he seemed to come completely unhinged, likening Dean supporters to an "Internet Gestapo" and comparing the former Governor of Vermont to both Goebbels and Hitler.

Ralph, please, let's leave this kind of nasty stuff to the folks at, shall we?

WAITING FOR HARKIN: The "big news" that leaked out yesterday is that Bill Bradley will endorse Howard Dean today in Des Moines. My response to this news was an emphatic "so what?"

I mean, I suppose getting Bradley's endorsement is better than not getting it, but as a practical matter it doesn't mean squat. It's not like there's a whole herd of former Bradley supporters out there in Iowa and New Hampshire just waiting for his signal on who to vote for. Bradley's endorsement may help Dean win New Jersey, but the nomination is going to be locked down long before the Garden State's June 8 primary.

The real endorsement story is this one. Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack said yesterday he will not endorse any of the Dem candidates for president. This leaves Senator Tom Harkin as the Big Kahuna of endorsements, and he's been hemming and hawing over the past few weeks on what to do.

A Harkin endorsement of either Dean, Gephardt or Kerry could shape the outcome of the caucuses in a meaningful way. Right now, it looks as if Harkin is leaning toward supporting Dean, which could very well seal Gephardt's fate. Harkin's press secretary says the Senator is "thinking about it" and that "he'll make a decision soon." - T. Bevan 7:34 am | Link | Email

Monday, January 5 2004
Some quick thoughts on the Democrat primary race. Dean continues to remain the favorite to win the nomination, and yesterday's debate in Iowa did little to spoil Dean's status as the field's front-runner.

In my mind the biggest development these last three weeks is the reemergence of Wesley Clark as a serious contender for the nomination. Though Clark was not in the Iowa debate, he made an appearance on Meet the Press and (from a Democratic voter's standpoint) gave a solid performance. Clark raised an impressive 10 million dollars in the fourth quarter and is definitely in the lead to become the main anti-Dean candidate.

Dick Gephardt, who I had always thought was positioned the best to become the #1 anti-Dean candidate, continues to run a campaign that is its own "miserable failure." Gephardt's problem is that he refuses to treat his pro-war vote as a positive. If he were attacking Dean from the right on national security the way Lieberman is going after the Vermont Governor he would be in considerably better shape. Instead, it appears as if he's just going though the motions. He has to have a win in Iowa and a second place finish in South Carolina or he's finished.

Kerry of all people actually appears to have a bit of momentum, after falling from front-runner status last year to essentially dead two months ago. Ironically, expectations are now so low he may be the leading candidate to get tagged with the all important "better than expected" mantle. If he can manage a strong third or even an upset second in Iowa, and then follow that up with a "better than expected" showing in New Hampshire. He may just be able to spin the press that he's the guy with the Big Mo. Don't get me wrong, he's a long shot now and this is probably just a dead-cat bounce, but at least he's got a pulse back and finally appears to have a plan.

In many ways Edwards is poised to emerge from behind the pack with respectable showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then a breakout performance in South Carolina. However, I just can't get around my gut feeling that irrespective of how well he may do in this or that state, there is little chance he will win the nomination. He's running for VP, and I think he is going to be disappointed there as well.

Lieberman has always had little better than no chance of winning the nomination, and if he were somehow to become the nominee there would be a third-party candidate on the left who would get over 10% in the general election.

My current odds for most likely Democratic ticket:

Dean/Clark: 30%
Clark/Clinton: 20%
Dean/Feinstein: 15%
Dean/Gephardt: 10%
Dean/Richardson: 10%
Clark/Gephardt: 5%
Kerry/Clark: 5%
Gephardt/Graham: 4%
Edwards/Gephardt: 1%

As you can see I think there is a 90% likelihood that the Democrat nominee will be either Dean or Clark. This of course assumes that Hillary stays out of the race, which is a good bet as long as the Dow stays above 9,000.
J. McIntyre 7:05 am | Link | Email

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Archives - 2004

Archives - 2003
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Archives - 2002
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