Sunday, July 4 2004
Mark Halperin on This Week with George Stephanopoulos suggested that Kerry had a face-to-face meeting with his VP choice Thursday night at Madeleine Albright's house in DC. He then said that of the three major contenders most often mentioned (John Edwards, Richard Gephardt and Tom Vilsack) only Dick Gephardt was in Washington. Halperin added that Senator Joseph Biden, and former Defense Secretary Bill Cohen might have been in DC as well.

ALLAWI & SPINNING BUSH'S JOB APPROVAL: At the beginning of the program Iraq's interim prime minister Iyad Allawi was interviewed and I found him to be very impressive. The interview today jives with the other times I have seen Allawi and it appears that Iraq, and the United States, might have found a real leader who will set the stage for some real progress in Iraq.

I've been steadily impressed with Stephanopoulos program and he does a good job of having serious guests and usually informative roundtables However, he can't help himself sometimes to get in a partisan cheap shot. Today's was the graph and discussion of the President's job approval where he referenced the latest CBS News/NY Times poll to make the argument that President Bush was in trouble.

By highlighting the CBS/NYT poll number of 42%, Stephanopoulos was able to frame the story line that Bush's job approval is more in the realm of presidential losers like his father, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. The problem here is the most recent polls from ABC/WP, NBC/WSJ, CNN/Gallup, FOX/OD, Annenberg, Battleground, Rasmussen, Harris, Pew, LA Times, NPR and AP/Ipsos ALL have the President's job approval between 45% and 52%.

He could have just as easily taken the Battleground poll, a well respected bipartisan poll that was released last week that showed the President's approval at 51% to make the argument that based on historical job approval President Bush was actually closer to winners like Nixon, Reagan and Clinton.

Stephanopoulos had an agenda to frame the conversation in a way that made President Bush look weaker than he really his and that is why he cherry picked the NY Times poll to highlight. Matthew Dowd spoke the truth when he suggested that in reality the President's approval rating is currently in a gray area between where incumbent Presidents are usually comfortably reelected and where they normally lose. J. McIntyre 4:22 pm Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Thursday, July 1 2004
The Drudge/Hillary VP rumor looks like it has come and gone with little impact on the big media, which paradoxically might mean there is more truth to it than is conventionally thought.

The Boston Globe reports this morning that Kerry "may announce his choice of a running mate here as early as next Tuesday."

Speculation has focused on three candidates -- Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, US Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, and Senator John Edwards of North Carolina -- but Kerry has limited all concrete information about his search to a tight circle that includes his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, and James A. Johnson, the Washington banker heading his search committee. In recent days, Vilsack has been the focus of a media boomlet, but Kerry aides say other candidates including US Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and former senator Sam Nunn of Georgia remain possible choices.

Vilsack, Edwards and Gephardt do seem to be the big three. I have maintained all along that Gephardt is Kerry's smartest choice and I still feel that way.

Gephardt as VP and a northern electoral strategy aimed at winning the Gore states plus New Hampshire and Missouri is Senator Kerry's best shot.

The Kerry campaign is probably worried that Gephardt will be seen as a boring choice (which he is), but what they may not realize is that boring is good. Kerry's job is is to make himself an acceptable alternative to President Bush, and Gephardt as a respected Democratic elder statesman will help in that goal. He is the smart choice.

Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack just seems like a wasted pick. My question is why? If Kerry can't win Iowa on his own he doesn't have a prayer anyway. Nothing against Vilsack personally, I just don't see what Kerry gets with this choice.

Senator Edwards seems to be the consensus favorite, which is one reason he probably won't get the nod. I realize the appeal many Democrats see in him, but he won't be enough to help Kerry win North Carolina or any southern state (unless Kerry already has the election in the bag). Not to mention, he will definitely leave the voter wishing the VP and President spots were switched, not a good impression for John Kerry.

Biden and Nunn, the longshots in the Globe article are interesting possibilities. I suspect Biden is getting a harder look than people may think and while he would bring nothing from an electoral standpoint, he would be a serious respected choice. Nunn would make some sense except the comparison to Dukakis' pick of Bentsen in 1988 should be enough to eliminate his chances.

Tod Lindberg mentioned Bob Rubin a while back and Bill Kristol brought his name up a couple of weeks ago on FOX New Sunday. Rubin would give Kerry a lot of credibility in the business community, and would help moderate his liberal record. He would be a solid choice. A name not mentioned recently is Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. He would take Pennsylvania off the table, a must win state for Kerry, and would also be a moderating influence.

As I said yesterday Senator Clinton, makes sense for the Clintons. Whatever she may say publicly I think she would accept and might even want the VP slot. The problem is on balance, Hillary would probably hurt Kerry's chances of winning, which you would think would reduce her chances of being chosen. My point on Drudge's report was not that I thought Clinton was going to be the VP, but rather that I do think she is willing to be on the ticket and that her odds of getting the nod are higher than is conventionally thought in Washington.

At this point it is all speculation and I suspect no one outside Teresa Heinz Kerry and James Johnson, the man heading the search committee, has a solid idea who it will be. The fact they have been downplaying New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson for weeks makes me wonder whether his stock has secretly risen. My gut leads me to think that the safe, solid choice of Gephardt will prevail or it will be a long shot, surprise-type of choice. No Vilsack or Edwards. J. McIntyre 9:13 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Wednesday, June 30 2004
As I wrote in early May:

Throwing out all of the electoral math, the wild card choice that would truly turn the election into a red state vs blue state cage match is Sen. Hillary Clinton. Despite all of her public protestations to the contrary, I suspect the Clintons might be very open to the idea of Hillary being VP.

This would help Kerry in all of the blue states and would allow Bill Clinton to campaign furiously and publicly for the ticket which would help Kerry in the African-American community. How much it helps in winning Missouri, Ohio, Arizona or otherwise getting John Kerry to an electoral majority is another story.

Lo and behold Drudge unloads this on a slow summer day in Washington:

Official Washington and the entire press corps will be rocked when Hillary Rodham Clinton is picked as Kerry's VP and a massive love fest will begin!

So predicts a top Washington insider, who spoke to the DRUDGE REPORT on condition he not be named.

"All the signs point in her direction," said the insider, one of the most influential and well-placed in the nation's capital. "It is the solution to every Kerry problem."

This is a win-win for the Clintons. First, Senator Clinton's chances of ever becoming President will rise considerably if she could serve two terms as Vice President. This would allow her plenty of time to moderate her image with the American people and would put her in a stronger position to win a general election campaign. But forgetting whether Hillary as VP helps her chances of becoming President, strategically it makes sense for the Clintons

By accepting the VP slot Senator Clinton eliminates all Democratic rivals for the nomination in 2008 or 2012. If a Kerry-Clinton ticket loses Hillary is automatically the front-runner in 2008. If the Kerry-Clinton ticket wins she will get the nomination in 2012 either by the Al Gore route or the Walter Mondale route.

The only loser here is John Kerry, but what Kerry might not fully realize is that even though he is the nominee, he is still not the guy in charge of the party. If this comes to pass it will be a press bonanza and will turn an already huge election into a slug fest of enormous proportions. But like I said a couple of months ago how much help this brings Kerry in getting to an electoral vote majority is another story.

If this indeed does happen, the winners are George Bush and Bill Clinton, and the loser is John Kerry. J. McIntyre 10:58 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Jaques Chirac is an enemy of America. It's really that simple. He wants the policies of this country to fail in Afghanistan and Iraq. And to the extent we continue to follow these policies - promoting democracy in the Middle East, aggressively pursuing terrorists and dealing harshly with those who harbor or support them, lobbying for the expansion of NATO and the EU - Chirac will ALWAYS be opposed to them, no matter who is president.

It's time for those on the left to put away the childish fantasy that John Kerry will alight in Paris shortly after his election, parlez with Chirac for a few hours and magically transform France back into a solid ally of the Untied States. It won't happen.

Even worse, however, is the danger that we might well go along pretending it has happened while Chirac continues to agitate against us and obstruct our progress behind the scenes.

The only thing we can do is what we are and have been doing: work with Chirac when we can (which is almost never) and work around him when we can't.

The Bush administration has made recent overtures to Chirac, but to no avail. It seems clear that the only thing that will change Chirac's mind is a change in our position. In the end, that is what John Kerry will have to do as President if he wants to reconcile with France.

Perhaps what we should do instead is send Dick Cheney to the next meeting with Chirac and tell him what to do.

THE SKINNY ON REPLACING RYAN: Survey USA ran a couple of polls on potential replacements for Jack Ryan. The results are here. They show former Governor Jim Thompson leading a pack of four possible choices, with dairy magnate Jim Oberweis in second place (he also finished second in the GOP primary), state senator Steve Rauschenberger in third and businessman Ron Gidwitz bringing up the rear. Without Thompson in the mix, SUSA shows the same order of finish, with Oberweis leading Rauschenberger 41 to 27.

Now the problems. Odds are that Thompson won't run. He just turned 68 last month and while it's not quite Frank Lautenberg territory, Thompson has already begged off in the past and probably isn't going to be jumping at the chance to get involved in a grueling four month campaign.

Oberweis is interested, but he fell out of favor with many Republicans including supporters of President Bush by running some despicable anti-immigrant ads during the GOP primary.

Rauschenberger finished a strong third in the GOP primary and is by all accounts a nice guy and a very knowledgeable public servant. His problems are name recognition and money. He doesn't have enough of either to compete with Obama.

Gidwitz has the money to self fund and is a favorite of IL GOP Chair Judy Baar Topinka. But he also has little experience and may not end up being the strongest candidate.

Other names floating around are U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and businessman Andy McKenna. McKenna finished well back in the primary, but he does have the backing of some serious power players in Illinois, as well as a clean record and a deep pocketbook. I wouldn't be surprised at all if McKenna is the one tapped to replace Ryan.

Finally, there's the rumor/hope that Senator Peter Fitzgerald might stay on. I spoke with someone inside Fitzgerald's office last week and was told that he is absolutely not interested. Things may have changed since then, but all indications are that Fitzgerald is sticking to his plan to retire.

AL'S NEW BAG: We knew running for President was a good career move for Sharpton. Now he's going to host a reality TV show. Maybe now he can actually afford to stay at the Plaza, drink champagne and eat caviar on his own dime. - T. Bevan 9:25 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Tuesday, June 29 2004
From the new CBS News/NY Times poll:

Generally speaking, do you usually consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or what?

Republican = 29%
Democrat = 35%
Independent/Don't Know = 36%

This is the exact same weighting they used in the last joint CBS/NYT survey (April 23-27) that showed Kerry leading Bush by 2 points in the head-to-head race (46-44) and had Bush's job approval at 46%. The new CBS News/NY Times poll has Kerry ahead by 1 point (45-44) head-to-head and Bush's JA at 42%.

There was, however, a CBS News poll from last month (May 20-23, 1,113 adults, MoE 3.0%) that showed a similar job approval number for Bush (41%) but had Kerry with a bulging eight point lead in the head-to-head horserace (49-41). One thing worth noting: unlike the polls conducted in conjunction with The New York Times, CBS News doesn't provide any detail on the weighting of their polls.

If you look back at the historical data on our head-to-head poll page, you'll see that the April 23-27 CBS/NYT poll stood out as the only poll taken in the last two weeks of April that showed Kerry ahead of Bush. Likewise, the May 20-23 CBS News poll showed a Kerry lead that was a good six points larger than any of the other polls taken at the time.

This time around, with the exception of the Washington Post/ABC News poll (which we'll get to in a minute), the CBS/NYT is again one of the only polls in the most recent grouping showing Kerry leading Bush - though it shows a big move toward Bush and is considerably closer to the overall average as two other recent polls (IBD/TIPP and Rasmussen) have the race tied.

THAT WAPO POLL: Given all of the evidence at hand, this poll is looking more and more like an outlier - especially if you compare it with the movement in the other major polls over the last month.

Of the four major polling groups that produced comparable surveys in May and June, the Washington Post/ABC News poll is the only one showing movement toward John Kerry - and not just a little bit:

Net Gain
5/20-23 vs 6/23-27
Bush +7
Fox News/OpDyn
5/18-19 vs 6/22-23
Bush + 6
5/21-23 vs. 6/21-23
Bush +3
WaPo/ABC News
5/20-23 vs 6/17-6/20
Kerry + 6

Given this, it's hard to imagine the WaPo's 8-point for John Kerry in the head-to-head horserace is accurate.

Quinnipiac and Zogby are due out with national polls soon, so we should get an even better idea of where the race is moving. - T. Bevan 10:10 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Monday, June 28, 2004
I saw Michael Moore's movie on Friday. I won't waste time wading through all of the lies and distortions, Christopher Hitchens in Slate does a better job at deconstructing the movie than I would. Let's just say, I agree wholeheartedly with this description:

To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.

That sums it up pretty well. I don't think supporters of President Bush need be too concerned over the impact the movie will have on the public. If Moore's aim in the movie is to turn people against Bush, I think he has failed. The movie is so over the top, only those individuals already against the President and the war are going to find it persuasive.

Moore is actually doing a disservice to those who disagree with the war and Bush, because by mixing legitimate points of contention with outright lies he weakens the merits of the anti-Bush, anti-war argument.

From a political standpoint this movie will not hurt the President one iota. In fact, the political danger of Fahrenheit 9/11 rests far more with the Democrats than with the GOP. The more the Democratic party is associated with Michael Moore and the extreme left, the better for Republicans. Democratic strategists and party leaders who don't see this need to start hanging out with different people.

It's one thing to argue against the war and Bush, it's another to insinuate that President Bush and the Bush family have a nefarious relationship with the bin Laden family and the House of Saud. This movie will be great fodder for conspiracy theorists on the left, and I'm sure I will get a ton of email insisting that President Bush does have a nefarious relationship with the Saudis and the bin Laden family.

Just like in the 90's you would hear the ridiculous rumors from the quacks on the far-right that Clinton had Ron Brown killed, along with dozens of other people who got in his way. (Just Google "Clinton killed Ron Brown" and you will see what I mean). If the right had as talented of a film maker as Michael Moore in the 90's do you think the press would have shown the same respect for a "documentary" on Clinton that included the far out Mena/CIA drugs for guns nonsense?

What you really feel at the movie is the passion and hatred for President Bush among the crowd. There is a palpable, pathological disgust for the man in the movie theatre. Throughout the movie Moore uses clip after clip to make Bush look stupid and the crowd breaks out in approving laughter.

But there are two scenes that struck me as informative. Moore does the same routine on Colin Powell, setting him up to look foolish by using a clip of Powell getting his makeup done for an interview. But the expected laughter from the crowd didn't materialize. It was almost as if you could see the seeds of doubt climbing into the audience's head whispering, "wait a minute, Colin Powell isn't a bumbling idiot."

The same thing happens a little later in the film when Moore strings together a scene making fun of Bush, then Cheney, then Rumsfeld, and then finally Tony Blair. You could hear the audience go quiet again, as if questioning themselves for a split second, "is Tony Blair really a bumbling, evil man also?"

As I walked out among the crowd of rabid Bush-haters I realized these people are going to be profoundly distraught if President Bush is reelected. There is an enormous amount of emotion invested on the left that President Bush is a complete moron who shouldn't be President.

But when the stupid guy beats you in 2000, and then beats you in 2002, and then beats you again in 2004, at what point do you begin to question which person or party is the one really being stupid? J. McIntyre 8:17 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

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