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Just a thought. I

Just a thought.

I wrote the first iteration of this post about 6 pm this evening when it wasn't clear where he'd come in. But I've been struck for a while by something that happened after Gore endorsed Dean.

First, there was Gore's endorsement. Then Bradley. Then Harkin. And then just recently, kinda sorta, Carter.

It had sort of the feel to me of Gore's campaign circa mid-1999, when he was sitting on his lead, running a top-heavy campaign and relying heavily on endorsements by big-time Dems. It's too early to say now.

But I'm curious what the strategy was rolling out the endorsements like that. Certainly, at some level he was reaching out from his core of support, trying to bring in party regulars by getting the endorsements of high-profile Dems. But it communicated some sort of passivity, I think. Some aspect of playing on the defensive. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, like people, campaign's not busy being born are busy dyin'.

Stunning. Actually stunning doesnt

Stunning. Actually, stunning doesn't really do it justice.

Kerry ends up getting more than twice Dean's number, according to the late numbers. And of course Edwards too with more than Dean and Gephardt combined.

Amazing. I'm going to write a bit later this evening describing various things I saw here this evening at Clark headquarters and elsewhere in Manchester.

One point: At 10:11 PM on the east coast I'm watching CNN. And Bill Schneider was just on saying that the turning point for Dean, what sent him slipping, was the capture of Saddam Hussein. I think that's ridiculous. But we'll touch later on why that's so.

A few hours ago

A few hours ago I flagged this AP story about how the Clark campaign had hired John Weaver -- McCain's guru from 2000 who subsequently switched to become a Democrat after Bush became president.

(I'm an admirer of Weaver's and the kind of political ideas I think he represents.)

Now AP has another story saying he hasn't been hired. The two sides are only 'in negotiations' with Weaver.

I don't think that the AP (actually AP's Ron Fournier) got this wrong. I strongly suspect that this is a hint of in-fighting over whether to bring Weaver in as senior strategist in the campaign.

You'll notice the first article said that the word came from "campaign official speaking on condition of anonymity." It was then knocked down by Clark spokesman Matt Bennett who told Fournier: "John Weaver has not been hired by the Clark campaign although he has been in discussion with the campaign about the possibility of coming on to give us some strategic advice."

Something's up with this quick turnabout.

So more about my

So more about my chat with Dick Bennett at ARG.

As I’ve noted in some earlier posts, the big question I’m trying to get a handle on (and I’m sure I’m not the only one) is just why Kerry is surging right now. Not just in Iowa, but in New Hampshire too --- which is really the bigger question in my mind.

One thing Bennett pointed out struck me. By his numbers, each of the major Democrats in the race is quite popular with New Hampshire voters. (He says the only one who has significant negatives is Lieberman.) So if you talk to Dean voters or Clark voters, they like Kerry too. And vice versa.

Bennett’s theory is that this whole race is about who can beat Bush, and that candidates like Kerry --- until quite recently --- have been completely missing the boat by talking about their plan for the environment, or their plan for this, or their plan for that.

What people care about is who can beat Bush. Beat Bush, they reason, and everything else will fall into place. So who cares what your plan is.

As I’ve noted earlier, I had been thinking that Kerry would have a very hard time (perhaps an all but impossible time) winning back a large following in New Hampshire after he’d lost it.

But that logic was based on the premise that people had found Kerry wanting, had decided they didn’t like this or that thing about him. If that were true then you figure they wouldn’t go back to him. So if they left Kerry for Dean, and then soured on Dean, they’d go to Clark or perhaps Edwards rather than going back to Kerry.

But if Kerry’s approval ratings remain high and if he looks like a winner coming out of Iowa --- someone who knows how to win a campaign and someone who might be able to beat George Bush --- then many of those old Kerry supporters who’ve been ditching him over the last several months might be willing to hop back on board. And quickly.

Bennett gave me the sense that he thinks Kerry could quickly jump back to the levels of support he had last year. At that means up in the thirty percent range.

Two other points. Bennett’s view was that Gephardt and Edwards are too low in the polls now in to take full advantage of a big bounce out of Iowa.

The sense I get right now is that this is a Clark/Kerry race in the state. Not because Dean isn’t in it too. Of course he is. But because Clark and Kerry are after the same group of voters. That fight could get pretty intense.

A few quick notes

A few quick notes ...

First, John Weaver has joined the Clark campaign. And that's a big deal.

Weaver was McCain's guru in 2000. And after the 2000 campaign he -- following what many of us considered the logic of McCain's increasingly progressive turn -- himself became a Democrat. I think he changed his party registration (and started working for Dems) in 2001.

In any case, this match-up has a history. Before Clark ever got into the race there was a heavy mutual courting going on between Clark and Weaver. But it never came off.

Another point. In my previous post, I said I wanted to understand more about why Kerry is surging in Iowa and New Hampshire. (In some ways, his New Hampshire jump surprised me more than Iowa.) I just had a long chat with Dick Bennett, the guy who runs the ARG daily tracking poll. And I think I may now understand -- or at least have a better understanding of a key part of the picture.

I'll explain more on that front in a post a little later this afternoon.

Finally, I can receive email no problem while I'm here in New Hampshire. So keep sending them. But it's fairly difficult for me to send TPM email, largely because Verizon's wireless Internet service turns out to be the biggest disaster in the history of the universe. So if you don't hear back from me, that's probably why. But keep sending because I am receiving and reading them.

Everyone and everything of

Everyone and everything, of course, is on hold until we get the results tonight out of Iowa. But one sense I get about this race right now is that no one understands just why John Kerry is surging so fast in the polls. I don't think the other campaigns understand it. And I half suspect, though I haven't spoken to them yet, that even the Kerry folks themselves don't.

I don't mean this in the sense that it defies comprehension that voters could be rallying to Kerry. I've always been a fan of his. But why now? What's changed? Especially when many of the voters Kerry is picking up now must be ones he once had only to have them abandon him. For the other campaigns, you really need to know why people are turning to Kerry to figure out how to stop them from doing so.

The ARG poll today is unchanged, but the analysis says ...

While the 3-day results are unchanged and the daily trends show ballot preference for Howard Dean holding steady, John Kerry continues to gain at Wesley Clark's expense. Win or lose in Iowa, the attention Kerry is receiving from Iowa should be enough to push him in front of Clark for second place.


That sounds right to me. At least for the couple days out of the gate in New Hampshire. But as the last week or two have shown, all but the last week or two of a campaign in a small state like Iowa or New Hampshire can be prologue.

Kerry versus Clark could be the most intense battle in New Hampshire. Because they, I suspect, are in many ways fighting over the same few slices of the pie.

Those mortar rounds found

Those mortar rounds found by the Danish soldiers earlier this month turned out not to have any chemical weapons in them. A false alarm.

Frankly, I'm a bit surprised. They seemed to have a fairly high degree of confidence in the initial field tests. And it wouldn't surprise if there were other shells that did have chemical munitions buried somewhere in the parts of Iraq that were combat zones during the Iran-Iraq war.

After all, many thousands of them were used at the time. And perhaps there was some situation (one can speculate in various directions) in which a small cache was buried as a crude means of battlefield disposal.

Who knows?

In any case, while it would be an important safety issue to dispose of such stuff properly, it would of course be irrelevant to the question of what weapons or weapons capacities Iraq maintained in 2002 and 2003.

Amazing. Look at these

Amazing. Look at these numbers. From the highly respected Des Moines Register poll, out late this evening ... Kerry 26%, Edwards 23%, Dean 20%, Gephardt 18%.

Amazing how well Kerry's doing when we all know his campaign was over months ago, right?

Kevin Drums got a

Kevin Drum's got a great, great catch here that you'll want to read. Believe me, you've gotta see it.

I think we can

I think we can say this is getting interesting.

The new ARG New Hampshire poll out late this evening has Clark and Kerry in a virtual tie (Numbers: Dean 28%, Clark 20%, Kerry 19%).

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