Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Allow me a few thoughts on this issue of the Democrats and the South.

Increasingly, some Democrats are saying that what the party needs is a ‘Northern strategy,’ one that gives up on the South and focuses on the North and West, the party’s regions of natural strength. I’m not without sympathy for this argument. In fact, I used to make it a lot myself, even proposing a few articles on the topic at the magazine I used to work for.

For instance, much was made about how Al Gore lost the election in West Virginia, long a bastion of Democratic party strength. But, for my money, if one has to pick one state, I always thought that he lost it more in New Hampshire --- a state which, given recent national trends, is a more logical state for Democrats to snatch away in a national election.

Now I have a lot of ideas about the South’s long historic tendency toward one-partyism, its deeply divided internal political and social dynamics which is the root of that tendency, and how the more socially liberal parts of the country have in recent decades developed a truly misguided sense of moral inferiority toward this region. One might also add my reverence for William T. Sherman.

But for the moment let me point out some key weaknesses in this argument.

A few days ago I mentioned how Kentucky congressional candidate Ben Chandler had endorsed Wes Clark and how Clark supporters were pointing to this as a sign of Howard Dean’s unpopularity in the South, or in this case, a border state.

Numerous readers wrote in to say that no Democratic presidential candidate was going to win Kentucky in any case, so the whole point was irrelevant. I agree that it is highly unlikely that any Democrat is going to win Kentucky next year. And even a successful Democrat would at best only pick off a few Southern states like, say, Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida.

But there’s something key being missed by those who want to write off entirely how Democrats play in the South.

The most important of these is that there are large chunks of the South that are, to put it squarely, in the North. For instance, large portions of Ohio and Pennsylvania and Missouri – ‘Northern’ or ‘Midwestern’ states that Democrats must do well in in a presidential contest – are culturally very much in the South. Not South Carolina perhaps, but very much like Kentucky.

The devil is in the details as always but to a real extent if you write off the South, you’re actually writing off or risking writing off parts of the North without knowing it, parts Democrats must win.

More on this later.

Hard to know just what to make of this.

Early today an Icelandic TPM reader wrote in to tell me that Danish troops had found buried mortar rounds in southern Iraq just north of Basra which seemed to have traces of or been filled with mustard gas. The Danish or Icelandic links he sent me were a bit difficult for me to make sense of. So I thought I'd wait to see if it got picked up in the English language press.

This sort of munition was used extensively during the Iran-Iraq war. And according to the report they seemed to have been buried for at least ten years and thus likely left over from those hostilities.

The BBC has now picked up the story. But as of 5:30 PM on the east coast a quick look over the English language sites I check most often (CNN, MSNBC, the Times, the Post, Googleness, etc. ) none of them seem to have picked it up.

Needless to say, if confirmed this wouldn't change at all the question of 'whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction' since they seem to have been buried in a war zone in which it's well-known these weapons were used, and buried there in some small quantity at the time. Equally so, this wouldn't prevent yahoos from insisting on some sort of vindication. But there's not much you can do about yahoos or rhetorical hooligans but keep your own head on straight and let them chatter.

In any case, it'll be interesting to see what the story with these shells ends up being. Just before posting I noticed that several English wires services have now reported on it.

This LA Times has an Iowa poll with Dean 30%, Gephardt 23% and Kerry 18%. More interesting is the detailed analysis by Ron Brownstein of the stark demographic differences between the Dean and Gephardt voters.

According to this AP story, Research 2000 did a New Hampshire poll from the 6th through the 8th and got Dean 34%, Clark 14% and Kerry 13%. I don't see any mention of it on the Research 2000 or the Concord Monitor websites. But presumably they'll post something soon.

"Affirming his commitment to manned space exploration, President Bush said Friday that his new budget will significantly boost funding for Space Station Freedom and other programs intended to help send astronauts back to the moon and to Mars and beyond."

Los Angeles Times
January 25th, 1992

As it happens, I'm an inveterate supporter of manned space exploration. But I couldn't miss the feeling of deja vu.

And where's the money come from on this one? I thought we were halving the deficit in five years.

And who gets the Martian reconstruction contracts?

Don't miss E.J.Dionne's column today about Howard Dean. He covers a number of very important points very well.

Here's the scoop on the ARG poll and the comments in their daily poll analysis suggesting that someone was telling older independent voters that they weren't eligible to vote in the Democratic primary.

This afternoon I spoke to Dick Bennett, president of ARG. And here's what he told me.

On Wednesday evening, ARG interviewers (i.e., the folks who call you on the phone) started noticing that a number of older independent voters were screening themselves out of the survey because they'd been called by another campaign and told that they wouldn't be eligible to vote because they'd missed the deadline to declare as Democrats.

But that's not how New Hampshire law works. Independents (called undeclared voters in the state) can vote in either primary. And they don't have to decide till they're at the polling station.

ARG's interviewers kept hearing the same thing on Thursday night and Bennett told TPM he found out about it when one of his supervisors asked him whether the voting law in the state had been changed.

Bennett said his interviewers had not compiled a list or numbers of how many people they called who had mentioned this. But his interviewers apparently spoke to quite a few respondents each evening who had gotten these calls.

Based on that information, Bennett decided to mention it in his daily poll analysis.

Okay, this is weird.

The analysis on today's ARG poll release concludes thus ...

Over the past 2 days of calling, a number of older respondents registered as undeclared voters have reported that they have received telephone calls from a campaign informing them that they will not be allowed to vote in the Democratic primary because they missed the deadline to switch parties. A respondent discovered, however, that when she told the caller that she was thinking about voting for Howard Dean, the caller told her that she would be eligible to vote.

The clear implication of this comment is that someone <$Ad$>from the Dean campaign is making some sort of push-poll trying to depress the turnout of a voting group that leans against Dean (or at least isn't his strongest), i.e., older voters.

[Late Update: A number of readers have asked about this sentence above, believing I'm implicating Dean. I'm not. I'm saying the clear implication of ARG's comment points toward Dean. And I think that's obviously true. That doesn't mean it's clear Dean's behind it. In fact, I suspect it's as likely as not that those who are behind it aren't even Democrats. I'm looking into it.]

If true, it's the slimiest stuff imaginable -- the kind of trash tactics Dems are used to seeing from the other side.

But how did ARG get this information about these calls 'from a campaign'? Did it come up in the course of the polling questions? Or is it scuttlebutt in New Hampshire campaign circles?

Things like this do happen. Sometimes overenthusiastic volunteers just go off the reservation and do stupid things. But it seems odd to hear about it from a polling firm.

I'm not casting doubt on the claim. I don't know any more about it than this little bit of text I quoted above. But something seems funny about it. It's quite a charge and it deserves more explanation.