In the final days

January 24, 2004 7:03 p.m.

In the final days before a big election there’s a sudden digging in for final advantage that you can start to see everywhere you look. A friend told me this evening about a mailing the Kerry campaign is sending out — a pretty glossy, done-up thing, it seems — attacking Wes Clark on several fronts, including his work as a lobbyist and his past support for Republicans.

I saw what might be another example of that when I went by the new Volunteer Operations Center the Dean campaign just set up to coordinate canvassing and get out the vote efforts for the campaign.

In the words of the campaign …

Dean volunteers in Manchester will now be exclusively organized from the brand new Volunteer Operations Center at 1111 Elm Street. Dean volunteers will continue to be the best organized in the Granite State because they remember why they started working for a little known Governor from a small state with no money and the odds stacked against him: He brought hope. And still does.

I stopped by at around 6:30 this evening in the rapidly falling temperatures here and walked into one big, cavernous room filled with tables, a bar haphazardly stocked with miscellaneous food <$NoAd$>for volunteers and of course mountains of signs and posters and flyers, with all the paraphernalia of the last minute canvassing push: boxes of rubber bands, pencils, folders, stacks of clipboards, inches thick stacks of flyers. When I stopped by there were maybe thirty people on the premises — a pretty sparse crowd. But I think the center had just disgorged a multitude to head over to the state Democratic party function tonight in Nashua.

But one thing I did see there gave a sense of some last minute bare-knuckles fighting that may be afoot under the radar.

Taped to the wall at the Operations Center, near stacks of other flyers and hand-out materials, was a red-meat-laden flyer headlined “Could Kerry Beat Bush in November?: Please ask the hard electability questions before it is too late.”

Unlike the labeled Dean for America hand-out flyers I saw lying around, this one had no label identifying who put it together or who sponsored it. It listed, in half a dozen or so categories, a bill of particulars about why Kerry would be a disaster for the Democratic party and why he’d get creamed by George W. Bush.

Kerry’s been labeled “haughty, effete, phony, aloof [and] patrician,” read the flyer. How could he ever connect with “wage earners and minorities”?

In any election Kerry would be cast as the “privileged, entitled Aristocrat that so many of his Massachusetts constituents consider him to be.”

At another point, the flyer asked whether Kerry’s “attempt to run on his military background [could] so offend the Peace-nik wing of the party that we end up with Nader II” and later lambasted Kerry for being — along with both Presidents Bush — a member of Skull & Bones, “ultra elitist secret society” at Yale University.

The stacks of flyers I saw on the table in front of me were all ‘Women for Dean’ flyers about an event tomorrow in Manchester and another which was essentially a letter from the candidate with a last minute pitch for support.

I saw no stacks of the flyer taped to the wall.

As long time readers of this site know, I’ve written before about the way campaigns use unlabeled attack flyers in the final run-up to election day. So seeing this thing posted in front of the Dean campaign’s canvassing bank three night’s before election day certainly raised my suspicion. On the other hand, the Manchester volunteer office struck me as a pretty chaotic, free-for-all sort of environment, so it’s certainly possible that some over-eager supporter just taped this thing to the wall a half-hour before I got there.

This evening I contacted Dean for America’s New Hampshire office and spoke to state Communications Director Dorie Clark. In our first conversation, Clark told me that neither she nor anyone else at the campaign was familiar with such a flyer but assured me that “the campaign has never printed or distributed anything like that.”

Clark told me that a campaign worker she had contacted at the office told her that there was no flyer such as I’d described. And she asked me to tell her just where I’d seen it, which I went on to do.

A short time later Clark called me back and told me that they had indeed found it.

She went on to explain that this was “something that a volunteer produced and put up and that we now took down immediately. We have and will continue to emphasize to our volunteers that we are runnig a positive campaign. More than 500 volunteers went through our office today. And so it was frenetic. As soon as we were notified [i.e., by TPM] we removed it”

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