Friday, April 30 2004
WHO'S GOT GAME?: Donald Lambro reports that the Kerry campaign's ground game is disorganized and lagging well behind President Bush's in key battleground states. At first blush this looks like terrible news for Kerry, but it really may be more of a sign of concern for the President.

Lambro cites Pennsylvania as one example of a critical state where Kerry is way behind in organizing - he hasn't even hired anyone to manage his GOTV operation there. Meanwhile, Bush has visited the state 27 times in the last four years and recently spent millions on advertising there. Latest poll: Bush 42%, Kerry 42%.

Lambro also highlights Michigan as another example:

"Mr. Kerry's campaign apparatus is nowhere to be seen in Michigan, a critical Midwestern prize with 17 electoral votes that Democrat Al Gore captured in 2000, but is now a neck-and-neck race where President Bush has the edge in some polls, Democrats say. "It's dead even here but there is almost no activity in the state" from Mr. Kerry's campaign organization, said Michigan Democratic pollster Ed Sarpolus."

Latest poll out of Michigan (of likely voters, no less): Kerry 51%, Bush 41%.

Elections are still won on the ground, no question about it. And there is a huge difference between winning a person's support in a telephone poll versus getting them to stand in a voting booth and punch your ballot.

Still, Lambro's piece struck me as overly pessimistic about Kerry's situation. Kerry is going to have plenty of money and an unprecedented level of support and organization from liberal special interest groups and labor unions. If he can get his act together as a candidate, Kerry will head into election day riding a wave of "anybody but Bush" emotion and with a more unified Democrat party behind him than we've seen in a long time.

Maybe Kerry's ground game will let him down in the end. It's entirely possible. Then again, maybe the anti-Bush force unifying and driving the Democratic base means Kerry doesn't have to have a meticulously structured GOTV effort to be competitive this year. We won't really know the answer for at least a few more months.
UPDATE: What should concern Kerry backers far more than Lambro's article is this Jodi Wilgoren story from today's NY Times.

KINSLEY IS BACK: Good news for opinion junkies. Michael Kinsley is a man of considerable skill and talent, and we'll be watching closely along with everyone else to see what sort of changes he makes.

To be honest, I don't want to be disappointed so I'm keeping expectations to a minimum. Reforming the calcified, inside-the-liberal-box thinking at the LA Times op-ed page is the journalistic equivalent of Rumsfeld trying to reform the Pentagon. Tough job. Hugh Hewitt has a few tips for Kinsley on where to start.

FUNNY NUMBERS - THE OLD AND THE NEW: On Tuesday I linked to some documents on the Boston Globe web site showing that John Kerry set up an off-shore tax shelter in the Cayman Islands in 1983. Blogger RKayn Knowledge did some investigating and thinks that neither the numbers nor Kerry's explanation of the matter add up. Hmm.

Meanwhile, Instapundit links to a recent Boston Globe column and publishes a reader email suggesting there may be some other funny numbers in Kerry's 2003 tax returns based on the sale of a $2.7 million painting. Double hmmm.

Think there might be any other little tidbits of interest tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the labyrinth that is Teresa Heinz-Kerry's tax returns? The Washington Times explains very convincingly this morning why she should be compelled to release them. - T. Bevan 8:15 am | Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Thursday, April 29 2004
THE NUMBERS YOU NEED TO KNOW: Even after oversampling Democrats (35%) and Independents (36%) and undersampling Republicans (29%), CBS/NYT got the following result: Bush up 2 points on Kerry (43-41) in the three-way race among registered voters. I'm pretty sure that's not what they expected.

Yes, the poll shows - as other recent ones have - that the public has become much less sanguine about the situation in Iraq, but it also shows some surprisingly good news for President Bush:

  • Voters approve of the way the President is handling the war on terror 60-32 (+28). That's a positive 4-point swing since the last poll at the beginning of April.
  • When asked whether each candidate "says what he believes" Bush holds a 24-point advantage over Kerry (53-29).
  • Bush also holds a 9-point lead over Kerry as someone voters say they would "like personally" (57-48) and a 10-point lead over Kerry when asked who shares their "moral values" (68-58).

The big news to take away from the CBS News/NYT poll isn't that support for the war is down but that President Bush got such strong ratings in a sample that was skewed badly against him and in favor of John Kerry. (Thanks to reader Deb C. for the heads up)

HISTORIAN OR FLACK?: Alex Beam writes a devastating critique of Douglas Brinkley in today's Boston Globe. If you're looking for an example of what Beam is talking about, I've got good news: Brinkley just served up a piece of Kerry puffery yesterday in Salon.

More blogging later today. - T. Bevan 8:39 am | Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Wednesday, April 28, 2004
SPECTER HANGS ON: By about 15,000 votes, despite the sort of light turnout that everyone thought would favor Toomey.

Whatever Specter may say publicly, deep down he knows he owes his job to President Bush and Senator Santorum. We'll see if Specter repays that debt by being a bit more loyal to the President and the GOP Senate leadership in the future.

WAITING FOR KERRY TO HIT BOTTOM: If you missed it yesterday, read this piece from Jon Keller in Boston Magazine detailing the Kerry campaign's miraculous recovery during the primary. Here is a key graf:

On one point, the professionals who know John Kerry best are in agreement: His political career is like the movie Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray's character keeps reliving the same day over and over again. "He always starts as a favorite, falters, has a near-death experience, then puts on the blinders, focuses, and comes out swinging," explains a veteran of past Kerry campaigns. "The difference is, few people thought it could be done in a presidential primary." This phenomenon, spun by Kerry apologists as a sign of when-the-going-gets-tough-the-tough-get-going machismo, is also subject to a less-flattering interpretation. "He's a guy who doesn't really start to pay attention until he thinks he may be in danger of dying," says Payne, who identifies classic early Kerry campaign symptoms: "Delays, inattention to details, sloppy staff work, not having a tight message. He'll allow this to just go on and on until someone hands him a poll and says, 'You'd better get it together.'"

Is it possible that Kerry's floundering over the last few weeks is due to the fact that he's too close to President Bush in the polls?

Contrary to James Ridgeway's lament that Kerry "sinks day by day" and should be replaced before it's too late, maybe what Kerry really needs is to sink even further. A couple of weeks trailing President Bush by 10-12 points nationally could be just what Kerry needs to find rock bottom and turn his campaign around.

Ironically, if you tuned in earlier this week and saw Kerry's performance on Good Morning America, you might think that's exactly what he's trying to do.
UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt finds more evidence that Kerry is indeed executing an "implosion strategy."

THE GUARD STORY IS BACK: Funny how this stuff works. John Kerry gets cornered by Charlie Gibson on Monday morning over the controversy surrounding his medals/ribbons. Kerry responds by slamming George W. Bush's service in the National Guard.

Sometime late Monday night or early Tuesday morning, Salon posts a big fat piece on the Bush National Guard story by James C. Moore saying questions remain about Bush's service.

A short time later - 2:35 am Eastern on Tuesday morning, to be exact - Josh Marshall devotes a long post to the Salon piece. Despite bookending an extensive quote from Moore's piece with two somewhat conspicuous caveats saying that he "never quite understood all the arcana" of the story and that he doesn't "know the details of all this well enough any more to make a judgment about these various claims and accusation," Marshall peddles the story to his readers.

By 10:31 am Eastern the story has moved to the front page of the Washington Post web site in the form of this article by Dan Froomkin. In addition to mainstream news reports of Kerry's attack, Froomkin cites his own column as well as (surprise, surprise) both Moore and Marshall under the subhead "Did Media Dig Enough Last Time?"

I don't know if this is all a case of divine coincidence or fabulous coordination. Either way, it is fairly obvious that John Kerry and his supporters on the left are doing their best to bring the Bush National Guard story back from the dead to deflect attention from the Senator's own inability to explain the contradictions in his record. - T. Bevan 8:49 am | Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Tuesday, April 27 2004
THE LOGIC OF RIBBONS AND MEDALS - PART I: Okay, so ABC News has John Kerry on tape in November 1971 saying he threw his medals over the fence at the Vietnam war protest in April of the same year. But for a long time now Kerry has been saying that "no", he didn't throw his medals, only the ribbons from the medals. Furthermore, Kerry says it doesn't make any difference because there is no distinction between the two. (Thomas Oliphant delivers some back up on this point in today's Boston Globe.)

First, the issue of why Kerry didn't throw his medals. He has said repeatedly that he didn't have his medals with him at the time. According to this AP story, Kerry told the Boston Globe back in 1996 that "he didn't have time to go home and get them."

I guess its plausible that Kerry, the most visible leader of a protest whose central and most dramatic moment was the "giving back" of military decorations from Vietnam, would either fail to plan or fail to remember to bring his medals with him to the protest - even though he did manage to produce the ribbons that are usually attached to go along with them. But again, according to Kerry (and others) the point is moot because there isn't any distinction between medals and ribbons.

Therein lies the bigger problem. If we accept Kerry's logic that ribbons and medals are one and the same, then it becomes much harder to explain comments like this one from the Washington Post, February 21, 1985:

  "It's such a personal thing," he [Kerry] says. "They're my medals. I'll do what I want with them. And there shouldn't be any expectations about them. It shouldn't be a measurement of anything. People say, 'You didn't throw your medals away.' Who said I had to? And why should I? It's my business. I did not want to throw my medals away."

Not so fast. If ribbons and medals are indeed the same, and you use the former as symbols and political props for a very public protest but keep the latter locked in your desk drawer, then it should be within the public's right to question why you have created a distinction between ribbons and medals (in so far as you use them) even though you've clearly and consistently maintained there isn't one.

It's also more than acceptable to ask Kerry to square what he told Peter Jennings last December ("I'm proud of my medals. I always was proud of them") with the reason he gave for throwing his ribbons over the fence in 1971:

"In a real sense, this administration forced us to return our medals because beyond the perversion of the war, these leaders themselves denied us the integrity those symbols supposedly gave our lives."

Either one of these quotes could be true, but not both. They are mutually exclusive to everyone except John Kerry. I'll get into why I think that is in a little bit more detail later.

BENEDICT WHO?: While I was sifting around for links for the above post, I ran into this document. The Boston Globe describes it as "an offshore tax shelter" and says:

Documents obtained by the Globe detail John Kerry's 1983 investment of between $25,000 and $30,000 in offshore companies registered in the Cayman Islands. The document below, signed by Kerry, shows his pledge to purchase 2,470 shares of Peabody Commodities Trading Corp. through Sytel Traders, registered in the Caymans.

This isn't some blind "my mutual fund invested in an offshore company" thing, this is John F. Kerry using his lawyer and signing his name to a document specifically setting up a trading company registered in the Cayman Islands.

You just never know when the past is going to come into conflict with Bob Shrum's scorched-earth, populist rhetoric.

CAPITALISM AT ITS BEST: Ketchup for $5.99 a bottle. For the freedom fries, of course. Only in America. - T. Bevan 11:49 am | Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Monday, April 26 2004
THE FOREIGN POLICY MERGE: Interesting article by Farah Stockman in the Boston Globe this morning discussing the the Kerry camp's foreign policy message.

Rand Beers, the man leading Kerry's team of foreign policy advisors, says the goal is "to show that we can protect America better than George Bush."

That's a tall order given the historical deficiency of the Democratic party on national security matters since Vietnam, coupled with Kerry's own personal baggage on the issue which includes his own post-Vietnam actions and his 20-year voting record in the Senate.

Nevertheless, since dispatching his fellow primary competitors in early March, Kerry has been moving rightward on Iraq. During the same period, George W. Bush has been softening his position on UN involvement in Iraq - whether by necessity or design - further muddying the policy waters separating the two.

Walter Russell Mead suggests the movement toward a foreign policy merge hurts Kerry:

''The nightmare for Kerry is that all of his criticisms become moot, except the woulda-shoulda-coulda criticism about the war," said Walter Russell Mead, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. ''In this sense, voters are going to say to themselves: 'What's the difference? If I vote for Kerry, I will get a war in Iraq and someone who doesn't believe in the war but is going to have to fight it anyway. If I vote for Bush, I get a war in Iraq, fought by somebody who believes in the war....'

''I think they are moving toward a merge," Mead said. ''Most of the people I talk to don't think there's going to be that much difference between them, in substance, because the options are so limited. I think in a second term, the Bush administration would try to get more foreign support, and a Kerry administration would sometimes have to go it alone." That view will be expressed in next month's issue of Foreign Policy magazine in an article titled ''Meet George W. Kerry."

The other obvious place where a foreign policy merge hurts Kerry is protecting his left from Ralph Nader. If Mead is right that by the time the candidates stand up and debate in October there is going to be little discernable difference between the two on Iraq, the fervent antiwar activists in the base may find themselves with nowhere to go but Nader.

That assumes, of course, that in the end the activists' hatred for the war in Iraq trumps their hatred of George W. Bush. I don't think there is any way of predicting whether this will occur.

The one thing you can predict, however, is that John Kerry will do his best to keep the base behind him. The result will most likely be one of the great political kabuki dances of modern political history, with Kerry moving to the middle in an effort to prove his strength and national security bona fides to the broader electorate, yet all the while winking and nodding to the base and lacing his rhetoric with the comfortable code words of the antiwar left. - T. Bevan 10:30 am | Link | Email | Send to a Friend

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