Friday, September 26 2003
BATTLEGROUND & ZOGBY:
Here are two new polls to chew on, one from Zogby and the other from The Tarrance Group. A few notable notes:

  • Zogby has Bush's job approval rebounding a bit from his last poll (50% now approve, 49% disapprove) while the BattleGround Poll has Bush's job approval at 54% , with 41% disapproving.
  • Bush's favorability rating - whether people like him as a person or not - climbed to 58% in Zogby's survey and was at 67% in the BattleGround poll.
  • Lastly, Zogby has Bush's reelect at 43% with 49% of those surveyed saying it's time for someone new. The Tarrance Group had Bush's reelect at 48% in favor, 47% opposed.

The BattleGround poll has a bunch of other interesting stuff (some good for Bush, some not so good) and if you have the time it's also worth checking out Ed Goas' analysis of the numbers from the GOP view and Celinda Lake's analysis from the Dems' view.

DEM DEBATE: I only watched about 30 minutes of it so I can't really comment much. I saw Clark answer two questions and he seemed to fit right in with the rest of the group. I don't mean that as an insult or a compliment, only to say that he seemed to do just fine. He didn't stand out - it's pretty difficult for anybody to stand out under the current circumstances - but he certainly didn't fall flat on his face either.

CAN JOHN SURVIVE?: I'm not talking about McIntyre, though sometimes I wonder. Once again I'm speaking of John Edwards. His campaign released a poll yesterday (Hat Tip: PoliticalWire) showing him with a 10-point lead over Wes Clark in South Carolina.

Let's assume Edwards can hold off Clark and Lieberman and win South Carolina. Let's also assume, just for the sake of argument, that Dean finishes second in either Iowa or New Hampshire or wins both less than convincingly keeping the race for the nomination alive. Just how well does John Edwards have to do in Iowa and New Hampshire to remain viable?

Right now he's running a depressing 5th place in Iowa, 18 points behind the leader Dean (this poll does not include Wes Clark). To give you an idea of just how bad it is, Edwards is trailing 5 points behind Joe Lieberman who has basically written the state off.

New Hampshire is just as bad. The new Marist College poll released yesterday has Edwards in 5th place, pulling just 4% of the vote. He hasn't moved the needle at all in New Hampshire, despite a decent sized ad buy not too long ago to try and boost his sagging numbers.

I continue to be perplexed as to why Edwards can't get more traction. He's well spoken, good looking, has a certain amount of Southern charm and has raised a respectable amount of money. His message isn't that bad either - if you're a liberal.

In the Black Caucus Institute debate, I thought Edwards' closing statement was the best of the lot. He came across as the only candidate sounding a truly optimistic note:

This election is about a lot of issues, but it's about something much bigger than that. It's about what kind of America we are. It's about what kind of America we want to be. It's about taking the power in our democracy out of the hands of that handful of insiders that are running our country today and giving it back to you, giving it back to the American people.

I believe in an America where the family you're born into and the color of your skin should never control your destiny. I believe in an America where the son of a mill worker could actually beat the son of a president for the White House.

That's the America I will fight for as president of the United States.

It may be academic if Dean wins both Iowa and New Hampshire. But if Dean stumbles, Edwards may have a chance to use South Carolina as a springboard. But that springboard won't be there for Edwards on February 3 of next year if he continues to get obliterated in Iowa and New Hampshire. - T. Bevan 8:07 am

Thursday, September 25 2003
QUESTIONS FOR CLARK: I've transcribed some comments Wesley Clark made on the Today show yesterday morning that are worth a look. Clark argues a couple of different points:

1) Force must be used only as a last resort.
2) There must be an imminent threat to a country to justify the use of force and/or preemptive action.
3) By acting without the consent of the United Nations President Bush "made the world a more dangerous place" and also "undercut the principle of the rule of law and what 2 generations of American leadership has stood for."

So in addition to all of the other questions Mr. Clark should answer at the debate tonight, here are a few more:

  • Please identify the imminent threat that justified the use of force in Kosovo.
  • Did President Clinton's decision to use force in Kosovo without the approval of the United Nations and your subsequent actions carrying out the use of force in Kosovo "undercut the principle of the rule of law and what 2 generations of American leadership has stood for?" If not, please explain why.
  • If you had been President at the time, would you have authorized the use of force in Kosovo without UN approval?

"Matt, when it comes right down to it I would never have voted for war, because this was not a case that required war." - T. Bevan 12:33 pm


BAD NEWS FOR BUSTAMANTE:
Survey USA did a snap poll of 579 registered voters last night asking who they thought won the debate. The results were: 32% Arnold, 22% McClintock, 13% Bustamante.

If you think that's bad news for Bustamante, hold on, it gets worse: 25% of Democrats responded that there was "no winner" in the debate compared to only 22% who felt Bustamante won. And worse still: a full 37% of those surveyed think less of Bustamante now than they did before the debate. And, finally, worst of all: Latino voters split evenly between Arnold (28%) and Bustamante (27%). - T. Bevan 11:24 am


CALIFORNIA RECALL:
After several weeks in late August and early September with not much action in the California Recall, the last ten days (the election was off then back on, followed by last night's debate) has taken the race directly into the stretch run. As far as who has the upper hand hand and is likely to win, very little has changed from our original analysis: Arnold Schwarzenegger is highly likely to be the next Governor of California.

First, the interference by the court in temporarily halting the election looks to have significantly hurt Governor Davis's chances of surviving the recall. Prior to the three judge panel's decision, Davis appeared to have been generating some momentum and it looked like he might have a fighting chance on election day.However, the court's blatant political interference served to re-energize the supporters of recall and has given the anti-Davis side the fourth-quarter shakeup that should run well into election day. As it stands today, Davis faces a very uphill battle on October 7.

Second, last night's debate - the only debate that will have any effect on the election - was a solid win for Schwarzenegger. It wasn't a home run by Arnold, but he came across as more than competent and his closing statement offered the voters of California something none of the other candidates did: the hope for leadership. All the media whining, post and pre-debate about how the voters need to hear more specifics is just that: whining. Schwarzenegger seems to grasp that what the voters really want is change and leadership. Bustamante and McClintock as life long pols are not poster boys for major change in Sacramento.

Having said all this, the one fly in the ointment on Arnold's path to the statehouse is Tom McClintock. Though Arnold was certainly a winner in last night's debate, McClintock gave a performance that conservatives loved. He came across as extremely competent and scored points among California's conservatives with his answers on illegal immigration and Prop. 54, two of the few positions where he and Arnold differ. The problem with McClintock is that he did nothing to expand his votes outside of that hard-core conservative voting bloc.

Bustamante's best chance for victory remains the hope that McClintock can hang onto just enough of the conservative vote to allow him to squeeze out a victory over Arnold. Bustamante gave an uninspiring though competent performance which didn't hurt him that much, but really didn't help him that much either. Maybe he believes the LA Times poll that shows him ahead, but we feel he lost a golden opportunity to impress upon the voters that he could be a leader for positive change in Sacramento. His strategy appears to be nothing more than to stay low, don't screw up, try and crank out as much of the Democratic base vote as possible and pray McClintock gets a huge chunk of the conservative vote. However, we suspect in the closing days of the campaign more and more conservatives will see this as a two-way race between Arnold and the Democrats (Davis and Bustamante) and enough conservatives will vote "yes" on recall and also for Arnold, dashing Bustamante's hopes of becoming the accidental Governor. Another wild card which favors Arnold is the question of voter turnout, which we anticipate will be huge and will disproportionately help Schwarzenegger.

Bottom line: with 12 days to go Davis looks headed for defeat on Question 1. And unless there is some late momentum for McClintock, Schwarzenegger will outpoll Bustamante and become the next Governor.

BUSH'S POLL NUMBERS: There has been a lot of hyperventilating in the media about the dip in President Bush's job approval numbers, and while this slide is not totally insignificant it is being WAY overblown by the press. President Bush was an overwhelmingly favorite to be reelected two months ago and he is still in a very solid position to win reelection in 2004, no matter what some poll or hypothetical match up may say today.  J. McIntyre 7:00 am

Wednesday, September 24 2003
THE SPEECH:
If you believe the mainstream media and the Democrats, Bush bombed yesterday at the UN:

Audience Unmoved During Bush's Address at the U.N - NY Times
Bush's Day at the U.N.: It's Chilly, Still, There - NY Times
A Vague Pitch Leaves Mostly Puzzlement - Washington Post
White House Hopefuls Slam Bush's UN Speech on Iraq - Reuters

The cake-topper goes to Fred Kaplan over at Slate, Bush to World: Drop Dead! The President Lays an Egg at the U.N. The title of the piece, which I'm sure Fred isn't responsible for, isn't nearly as offensive as the content of the article, which he is responsible for and should be held to account.

Like this little nugget of bankrupt moral relativism likening our troops in Iraq to thugs and gangsters:

"He [Bush] laid out the context of the battle as a contest between "those who work for peaceful change and those who adopt the methods of gangsters." Yet it is hard to see how Bush's pre-emptive-war doctrine fits the former category, and it's painful to observe that many Iraqis would say the U.S. occupation—whose soldiers have pounded down so many doors in the middle of the night—fits the latter. "

Kaplan, who felt that Jacques Chirac's speech was a "model of perspicacity," seems to have wanted Bush to stand up before the world community and offer a mea culpa on Iraq and apologize that we 1) used faulty intelligence in the run up to the war 2) acted irresponsibly in moving without Security Council authorization and 3) have bungled the post war effort.

According to Kaplan, Bush needs to "get over his hang-ups about France" despite the fact that Chirac's obstinancy in the Security Council last year single-handedly prevented the world community from addressing the Iraq problem together in the first place.

What frightens Kaplan and the rest of the multilateralist/internationalist crowd is that Bush has drawn a line in the sand on terrorism and refuses to smudge it or erase it:

"Events during the past two years have set before us the clearest of divides: between those who seek order and those who spread chaos; between those who work for peaceful change and those who adopt the methods of gangsters; between those who honor the rights of man and those who deliberately take the lives of men and women and children without mercy or shame.

Between these alternatives there is no neutral ground. All governments that support terror are complicit in a war against civilization."

Obviously, these are tough words. They make the process much more difficult in a world body where many of the governments don't see the clear distinction between the two divides and many of the leaders of those governments have neither the courage nor the moral conscience to act to do what must be done. It doesn't make Bush's statement any less true or any less deserving of being said before the UN. - T. Bevan 7:58 am

Tuesday, September 23 2003
DEAN, THE MIDEAST & TERRORISM: The Boston Globe reports this morning that Howard Dean sent a letter last week to ADL National Director Abe Foxman clarifying his recent comments on the Middle East. Dean wrote:

"There is no difference between our positions when it comes to my unequivocal support for Israel's right to exist and be free from terror. I stand firmly with you in the war on terror and have called on the Palestinian leadership to renounce violence and to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure that exists inside the Palestinian Authority... The United States must remain committed to the special long-standing relationship we have with Israel, including providing the resources necessary to guarantee Israel's long-term defense and security."

Foxman accepted Dean's clarification saying (with, I might add, a bit of that unique condescension that comes from special interest groups when they've successfully gotten a political candidate back in line with their views) that he's "confident that the doctor is beginning to understand and is learning the nuances." But don't think this is the end of the matter.

I don't put much stock in national polls at this point, but it was interesting to see in the CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll released last night that both Democrat candidates with war backgrounds (Clark and Kerry) led the pack in head-to-head match ups against President Bush and that Howard Dean finished last against Bush (losing 49%-46%) despite running second in the national horserace. Again, not statistically significant, but interesting.

Dean's problem, and where he will most likely continue to have trouble, is that he is a confident, freewheeling candidate whose first instincts come across as soft on terror.

Earlier this year Dean's first instinct was to say publicly that he "guessed" it was a good thing Saddam was gone. After much haranguing he went back to clarify. Last month his first instinct was to use the word "soldiers" to describe radical Hamas terrorists. Again he's been forced to go back and clarify. What do they say? Once a fluke, twice a coincidence, three times a trend. Watch out for the trend.

This sort of pattern may be just fine with his base, but it's hard to see how it won't cause him problems with centrists and independents. When all the shouting stops and it comes right down to it, when the curtain on the booth is closed and the hand reaches for the lever, who are people going to trust to protect their family and their country, Howard Dean or George W. Bush?

BUSH, THE MIDEAST & TERRORISM: Now let's juxtapose Dean with some comments that President Bush made last night in his interview with Brit Hume:

"There is a terrorist network that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001 that is active, that is engaged, that is trying to intimidate the civilized and free world. And this country will continue to lead a coalition against them. You know, there is -- in my judgment, the only way to deal with these terrorists is to stay on the offensive, is to find them and bring them to justice before they hurt us again."


"No question Arafat has failed. And, you know, the sad thing is that we're really the only country in the world who says that. The Palestinians have suffered under his leadership, and hopefully new leaders will emerge that will be committed to peace, willing to fight terror, and out of that will come a Palestinian state.

And I believe it's in everybody's interest that there be a Palestinian state. But it will not happen so long as the interlocutor, the so-called representative of the people, won't fight terror. And that's the problem with Mr. Arafat." (Emphasis added)

Regardless of what you think of Bush, at least you know unequivocally where he stands. The one thing he has made clear to everyone in the country (and the world, for that matter) since about 10:00 am Eastern time on September 11, 2001 is that he is relentlessly focused on finding and bringing to justice terrorists that threaten America and the free world.

Yes, Bush's aggressive efforts against terrorism have ruffled feathers and frightened some and if that's the reason you'll vote against him next year, fine. And if you believe that an aggressive war on terror is vital to America's long-term security interest then - at least as it stands right now - you really don't have any choice but to vote for Bush.

Because with the Democrats we simply don't get the same unequivocal position on terrorism - except perhaps from Joe Lieberman, and it's looking less and less likely that he'll be the guy winning the nomination.

This is an issue and a problem that isn't going away - especially if Howard Dean ends up being the party's nominee and he continues to let his instincts show. - T. Bevan 9:48 am

Monday, September 22, 2003
BACK TO UNREALITY:
There are two strange things about vacations. The first is that time spent on vacation moves quickly despite all efforts to make it last as long as possible. The second oddity is that when you do finally return to work it feels as if you've been gone for longer than just a week - much, much longer.

In my case, the feeling is probably exacerbated by the fact that I didn't allow myself to watch anything other than SportsCenter on television or allow myself to read anything other than the green, red and purple parts of the USA Today that was delivered to our room every weekday. As a result, I know a helluva lot more about what's going on with Kobe Bryant and Madonna than I do about politics at the moment.

What's even more bizarre is that after spending the last day or so catching up on things it seems as if there is little sense to be made from the three major events of the past week:

1) Wes Clark got into the race for President, recited a frighteningly long list of things he's unwilling to discuss and then proceeded to flip-flop on the only issue that makes his candidacy even remotely viable in the first place

2) The liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals continued the corrosive trend of rewriting election laws to suit political desires under the guise of minority disenfranchisement

3) Ted Kennedy attacked President Bush and the War in Iraq so shamelessly it made even Jacques Chirac blush.

So far as I can tell, the only thing the three events have in common is a complete detachment from reality. Kennedy's comments, in particular, strike me as extraordinary. When I checked out eight days ago the "Bush Lied, Troops Died" meme was still confined to a somewhat fringe element of the Democrat party, most of whom support Howard Dean even though Dean himself wouldn't actually go there. Now Ted Kennedy has christened "Bush Lied, Troops Died" as the official position of his party. In the shows I watched on television yesterday not a single Democrat stood up and denounced Kennedy's remarks. Not one.

So, less than six months after winning a stunning military victory in Iraq we've reached complete polarization. The war is a fraud. Bush is a liar. There simply is nowhere left to go and nothing left to say.

And if you believe these things to be true, as Kennedy apparently does, then you must also believe the war is unjust and not worth the loss of one more American life. In other words, we must get out of Iraq now.

I suppose some Democrats will try to spin this into a sort of magnanimous, saving-America's-bacon support for the war ("Bush lied and got us into this mess but for the good of the country and the troops we have to see it through"), but I don't think that dog hunts at all.

Iraq is either something worth doing or it isn't. It's either worth the lives and the money we are sacrificing or it isn't. Our mission in Iraq will either make the world a better, more peaceful world or it won't. There isn't any gray area here, and the Democrats have now officially decided that Iraq isn't worth doing, and probably never was.

KENNEDY JUSTICE: Speaking of Ted Kennedy, try this comparison on for size:

  • While speeding in rural South Dakota, Congressman kills motorcyclist and is charged with felony second-degree manslaughter. Will most likely resign or finish term and not run for reelection.
  • While driving in Massachusetts - most likely drunk and with an expired driver's license - Senator crashes in river and kills young woman. Fails to report accident for 9 hours. Pleads guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, receives suspended sentence and goes on to win reelection to the Senate five more times.

    BUSH AND THE UN: For a preview of tomorrow's big event, you'll want to read this article and watch the interview tonight with President Bush. And for a glimpse at what's on the mind of our great ally, Jacques Chirac, read this. I'm not sure Bush's speech is quite as "make or break" as some are suggesting, but it will certainly be interesting to watch the dynamics on display in New York tomorrow. We'll have more on this later. - T. Bevan 12:10 pm

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