KAren Caifa on Dennis Kucinich
updated 9/11/2003 10:17:49 AM ET 2003-09-11T14:17:49

Friday, Sept. 19

5 MORE FACTS ABOUT KUCINICH

1) He was runner-up in a contest to be a Cleveland Indians batboy in 1964. 2) He’s an amateur ventriloquist. His dummy’s name is W.C. 3) A California group began a “Draft Kucinich” movement after hearing his “Prayer for America,” saying the nation had lost its way in the world since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. 4) Kucinich moved into his own apartment when he was a senior in high school, escaping the chaos of living with 6 brothers and sisters. 5) He ran for Congress five times before finally winning a House seat in 1996.

TODAY ON THE TRAILEvents in Maine and Massachusetts.

Thursday, Sept. 18

IN IT TO WIN IT

Kucinich told an audience of registered voters living abroad that he is in the presidential race with the sole objective of winning the Oval Office. Responding to whether his role in the field is merely to be a “spoiler” (mainly to Howard Dean), Kucinich told those on the Democrats Abroad conference call Wednesday that notion is “laughable.” “How can anyone who tries to lead the effort to get the United States out of Iraq be a ‘spoiler’? Who am I a spoiler for? The forces of war?” Kucinich said. “Unlike Howard Dean, I actually have a real center to my politics.” He also emphasized that he is the “real” progressive in the race. Kucinich acknowledged that his poll numbers to date have been less than stellar, noting that his grassroots campaign “hasn’t registered yet in most of the polls. But it’s still early.” He added, “I’m offering the real alternative here. At the debates in Albuquerque and Baltimore I’ve been clear and concise and offered the best responses of anyone. People know what I stand for. There are so many ideas with so many people in the field (that) people are going to say, ‘I may as well go with someone whose view I believe in’ and my candidacy will surge and I think we’re prepared for that. ...Anybody could win this race. I’m no worse off than candidates like Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton at this stage of the game. Anything can happen.” He defended his recently switched stance on abortion, saying that his switch to “right-to-choose” was made well before he considered a presidential bid. “This isn’t about an agenda or about politics. It’s about a woman’s role in society.” Regarding the economy, Kucinich advocated using NASA to develop the industries of the future. He says that a lot of the agency’s research is an “untapped resource” that could be better used in the private sector.

RETHINKING THE PATRIOT ACT

Kucinich said Wednesday that he’ll introduce what he calls “The Ben Franklin USA Patriot Act,” which would repeal all but minor provisions of the controversial measure. “It will return the U.S. to a place where we reinforce civil liberties and don’t use a national tragedy to take those constitutional rights away.” Kucinich has been a fierce opponent of the legislation since it was introduced, calling it “a real attack on the Bill of Rights.” This opposition has won him high marks and solid poll numbers within the Arab- and Muslim-American communities; a recent poll of Muslim-Americans had him trailing only Howard Dean.

‘SPINACH’ KUCINICH

Before the congressman joined the DNC Democrats Abroad conference call, the Mexico City contingency asked for the candidate’s first name and a pronouncer for his surname. “We’ve just been calling him ‘Mr. Spinach,’” the caller admitted.

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ALL IN THE FAMILY

Gary Kucinich, a car salesman and younger brother of the candidate, has thrown his hat into the mayor’s race in Strongsville, Ohio. He’s a write-in candidate to succeed six-term mayor Walter Ehrnfelt, who died in May. The younger Kucinich previously served on the Cleveland City Council and ran for mayor in 1985. He lost to now-Sen. George Voinovich, who defeated Dennis Kucinich for mayor in 1978. Look to see both Kucinich brothers on the campaign trail.

TODAY ON THE TRAILAttending rally to save St. Michaels Hospital in Cleveland.

Wednesday, Sept. 17

WESLEY WHO?

Communications Director Jeff Cohen says Kucinich’s bid wouldn’t be hurt if retired Gen. Wesley Clark jumps into the fray today. “In general, it could enliven the campaign and bring attention to it. …We’ve run a grass-roots, issues-oriented campaign, issues like health care and trade. Clark comes in as a personality. People who are committed to our issues aren’t going to go to Clark.” Cohen thinks that Kerry, Dean and Gephardt have the most to lose and this could be trouble for their bottom line $$$. “It also hurts Dean because he has the most momentum and the most coverage and this {Clark} takes the spotlight away.”

FIVE FACTS ABOUT KUCINICH1) He became a vegan in 1995 after years of enjoying kielbasa and other Eastern European fare. 2) He’s the eldest of seven children. 3) Kucinich is the 2003 recipient of the Gandhi Peace Award. 4) He won election to the Cleveland City Council when he was just 23 years old. 5) As mayor of Cleveland in 1978, the city’s default plunged his popularity so low that he wore a bulletproof vest when throwing out the first pitch of the Cleveland Indians’ season.

BREAKFASTING FOR PEACEIn Washington on Tuesday, Kucinich addressed about 200 attendees at the Global Renaissance Alliance Democracy Conference. The group then hopped buses to Capitol Hill to lobby their representatives for Kucinich’s proposed Department of Peace. In supporting his argument for the cabinet-level department, Kucinich said: “There’s a role the Department of Peace has to offer the president policy options. ‘Mr. President, or Madame President, there’s another way to handle this, if you seek to resolve this matter without sending in the troops.’ Or, ‘Mr. President, it’s possible to work with the U.N. and inspectors, and you should stay with that, as opposed to launching an attack, Mr. President.’” The latter portion of that comment, a jab at the Bush administration (one of several from candidate and crowd throughout the morning), was met with cheers and whistles. Over 50 House members have signed on as cosponsors to Kucinich’s bill.

EARLY PRIMARY UPDATESNew Hampshire: Trevor Elkins, New Hampshire state director and New England campaign coordinator, has left the campaign to make his own run for office in the Cleveland area. This is according to National Field Director Amy Hochadel, who is in the Granite State filling in for Elkins. As far as who will replace him on a permanent basis, Hochadel says they’re “figuring it out right now.” The Kucinich campaign is just opening up its third New Hampshire office in Portsmouth. (Existing offices are in Manchester and Keene.) This Friday and Saturday the congressman will be campaigning all over New England, with rallies in Bangor, Maine, and at the University of New Hampshire, a vegetarian fund-raising brunch in Northwood, N.H., a speech in Cambridge, Mass., and the Rolling Thunder event in Manchester.

Iowa: Iowa State Director John Friedrich reports that while the campaign hasn’t yet reached all corners of the state with its door-to-door canvassing efforts, it is attracting newcomers and volunteers on a regular basis. Both together with and separate from county organizations, they’re strengthening student committees at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and other Iowa colleges. They’ve also got committees of high school students, who can caucus as long as they’ll be 18 years old by Election Day 2004. “Anywhere there’s a public gathering, we’re there,” Friedrich says. Anna Franker is settling into her role as Iowa field director. Franker previously worked on the campaigns of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.

Arizona: The lone paid staffer in Arizona, State Director Kevin Spidel, says the Kucinich campaign now has branches in Tucson, Phoenix, Flagstaff and Prescott. Along with eight full-time volunteers, Spidel is taking a grass-roots approach to getting Kucinich’s message across, riding around in a van and educating voters at various stops. Spidel also says the campaign is reaching out into Arizona’s mining communities to emphasize Kucinich’s commitment to labor. They’re working state fairs, county fairs and parades to raise awareness of the campaign. He notes that this is the first campaign he’s worked on where people have quit their jobs to volunteer full-time. Kucinich “is such a different style of politician,” he says. “He’s the first candidate I’ve seen with a real heart.”

TODAY ON THE TRAIL The candidate is in D.C. for the Democrats Abroad Conference Call.

Tuesday, Sept. 16

PARTYING FOR PEACEThere’s less than a week to go before the campaign’s biggest nationwide fundraising initiative this quarter: a day of parties for peace — and for Kucinich. Slated for Sept. 21, the International Day of Peace, the parties are supposed to draw attention to the quest for world peace and the Kucinich candidacy, according to the campaign’s national house party chairman, Robert Alan Silverstein, who says “there’s been a “tremendous response.” Silverstein says the campaign has received 1,000 requests for the official Kucinich house party kits. Requests have come from all 50 states, he adds. California has the most partying planned, with 120 fetes on tap. That’s because the Kucinich house party initiative started there. Though the campaign’s “House Party Manual” suggests each party have a goal of raising $1,000, Silverstein insists, “The money part is important, but secondary to promoting the International Day of Peace.

TODAY ON THE TRAILThe candidate is attending the Global Renaissance Alliance Democracy Conference in Arlington, Va.

Monday, Sept. 15

IT’S THE MEDIA, STUPID

When I’ve asked Kucinich supporters and campaign staff why their candidate is lagging in the polls, they unanimously agree that it’s my fault. Well, not my fault directly. But my industry’s fault. The campaign has so embraced this philosophy that the following appears on the official campaign website under the heading “Talking Back to the Media” ...

“Our approach to journalists will always be to treat them with respect. … we understand that negative news about our campaign is not necessarily biased news. On the other hand, there are also ideological pundits and reporters who do not play fair. Some fail to report fairly or objectively on Rep. Kucinich, even at events where he receives the warmest crowd reaction, or on issues he has an important or unique position. Some seem blinded by their pre-conceived notion of who is a ‘frontrunner’ or ‘contender’ or ‘first tier.’ Some insist on relegating Kucinich to footnote status in the belief that it is the job of journalists, not voters, to weed out or narrow the field of candidates …”

Hmmm. I recently did a Google News search, surveying how many print and online pieces each of the nine presidential candidates appeared in and the results were fairly proportional to how the candidates are polling.

Granted, there have been moments on the campaign trail that have made me wonder why Kucinich’s numbers aren’t better. For example, at the Labor Day rally in Des Moines, Kucinich did a live interview for MSNBC and was flanked by about 200 supporters, most of whom had marched with him through Des Moines in the earlier parade. Contrast that with fellow poll cellar-dweller Carol Moseley Braun, who stood alone for her interview. By looking at the crowds, it was easy to tell that Moseley Braun is only at about 1%. But looking at Kucinich’s supporters, you’d think he was right up there with Kerry and Dean.

The same thing happened in Albuquerque a few days later. Many of my embedded colleagues noted their surprise at the crowd Kucinich was able to attract before and after the rally. Again in Baltimore, Kucinich wasn’t called on often by the moderators at the Congressional Black Caucus debate but when he did give a response it was met by loud cheers.

So where does the blame lie?

ARE VOTERS TO BLAME?Is it the voters? I’ve had many folks tell me, especially in Cleveland and Iowa, that they love Kucinich, but they don’t think he has a chance in the world at becoming president so they’ll cast their vote for Dean.

Is it the campaign? Before throwing his hat into the ring, Kucinich was a little-known congressman from Ohio, one of 435. No leadership position like Dick Gephardt. No statewide election like six other candidates. The slow-and-steady tactic the campaign’s been taking (they’ve just now cracked 40 states in terms of operations) may leave them in the dust. Remember, the once-obscure, now-frontrunner Howard Dean was talking about a presidential bid last summer. Kucinich only got started this spring.

Or is it really the media? Note Howard Dean’s meteoric rise in Iowa and New Hampshire over the last six weeks. It’s not mere coincidence that he appeared on the cover of all three newsweeklies in that period. We, as the media, saw something warm and ran with it, making it hot, hot, hot. Dean’s poll numbers in Iowa in January of this year were where Kucinich’s stand now. If the national media gave this campaign a little more attention, could it too catch fire? Or is this fledgling campaign just looking for a scapegoat?

ON THE TRAILWhen the Kucinich camp said the congressman would make the most of his weekends, they weren’t kidding. This past one, Kucinich traveled from Washington to New Hampshire to Iowa to Texas to California, and he’ll be back in the D.C. area for a breakfast engagement Tuesday morning.

Kucinich will be in Northern California on Monday where he’ll, among other campaign stops, rally against California’s controversial Proposition 54, which would ban the collection of race-related data by the state. California voters are supposed to sound off on the proposal on Oct. 7.

Thursday, Sept. 11

SEIU ENDORSEMENT RACE: A SNUB?

After a warm reception from the Service Employees’ International Union on Monday night, the Kucinich campaign was hoping for good news regarding the candidate’s shot at the endorsement. But a press release from the organization on Wednesday showed that in a post-conference survey Kucinich was not among the top three contenders — Dean, Edwards and Gephardt — that the members in attendance preferred.

Deputy communications director David Swanson was perplexed and questioned the SEIU survey process, asking why the union did not release the vote tally. “After reading (SEIU president) Andy Stern’s press release I know no more than I did before. I would be shocked if Dennis didn’t do well in the voting,” Swanson said. “I would love to see how much the union leadership is listening to the rank-and-file.”

SEIU spokeswoman Tara Howard responded by saying that using the term “frontrunner” for Dean, Edwards and Gephardt is “misleading.”

“According to the survey of 1,500 members, these were the ones that stood out the most,” she said. “It does not reflect the ongoing polling that’s been going on the last few months.”

Howard also noted that as long as candidates meet the requirements the SEIU has set forth, including a written health care reform plan and a commitment to workers’ rights, they’ll be considered for the endorsement.

“Congressman Kucinich has always been dedicated to workers’ rights and has put forth a comprehensive health care plan and how he plans to pay for it,” Howard added. “We’re going to keep talking to our members and hopefully be ready to give an endorsement by the beginning of November.”

ZOGBY IOWA POLL

Despite several visits to the state in the month of August, Kucinich’s poll numbers went down from the previous poll. Kucinich came in at just 2% in the Zogby poll out today, from 3% in April.

The good news is that he outpolled Sen. Bob Graham, Carol Moseley Braun and the Rev. Al Sharpton and possible candidate Wesley Clark. Kucinich came in sixth behind Sen. Joe Lieberman, who was at 4%.

The campaign insists it’s still “evolving” and several supporters say that the Kucinich movement is taking place outside mainstream media coverage and polls.

STATEMENT ON 9/11 ANNIVERSARY

Kucinich released the following statement from Washington:

“On this sad day, I join with my fellow citizens in remembering and honoring the thousands of innocent victims who lost their lives in the tragic attacks two years ago today. Today, we also celebrate the lives of the brave firefighters, policemen and first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice in their service to others.

“As we reflect on the two turbulent years since 9/11 we, as a nation, must come together to move forward, and in the name of those who lost their lives, advance the principles of freedom, courage and bravery that are the hallmarks of our nation. It is through these principles that our nation will find strength and security.

“Today, my thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of all those who lost their lives.”

HOW TO THROW A HOUSE PARTY

The Kucinich camp is gearing up for nationwide fundraising house parties on the International Day of Peace, September 21. According to communications director Jeff Cohen, between 750 and 1,000 people have signed up to host the parties and the campaign expects to mobilize “more volunteer energy than any other campaign event so far.” Kucinich will be in Los Angeles that day.

The campaign Web site includes a comprehensive how-to on hosting a party, including ordering your party kit with a video, bumper stickers and the Kucinich trading cards I mentioned last week. It also reviews fundraising guidelines for those not intimately familiar with FEC procedures.

Party throwers are also being encouraged to lobby their hometown officials for an Official Day of Peace Proclamation in the hopes of drumming up media support. “When a Proclamation is issued, you have a local news story for media coverage and letters to the Editor, highlighting our wish for peace and Dennis Kucinich’s candidacy. When hundreds of Kucinich supporters fax a copy of their Proclamation to the Kucinich Peace Day Campaign a major national news story is created.”

AND BRING YOUR VISA…

Because, according to their Web site, when making your donations, the Kucinich campaign doesn’t take American Express.

MORE MONEY: $57 = HAPPY BIRTHDAY DENNIS

In another fundraising effort, the campaign is encouraging folks nationwide to contribute $57 to the campaign in honor of the congressman’s 57th birthday. Since Kucinich’s birthday isn’t until October 8, it’ll be an early present, but a present he’ll get before the end of the FEC’s third fundraising quarter on Sept. 30.

Wednesday, September 10

WHERE’S DENNIS?Thursday, September 11: Kucinich will be in Washington, where the House of Representatives will observe the 9/11 remembrance by considering two memorial-related bills. H.R. 911 would establish a memorial to U.S. terrorism victims at home and abroad. H.R. 1538 is the “True American Heroes Act of 2003.” The House is in at 10 a.m., last votes expected in the mid-afternoon.

POST-DEBATE DEBATE: THE VOUCHER VOTE

After the congressman missed last night’s close vote on D.C. school vouchers to attend the debate in Baltimore, congressional office press secretary Doug Gordon issued this statement:

“It is clear that Tom DeLay and the Republican Leadership deliberately scheduled the vote to conflict with the Congressional Black Caucus debate. DeLay knew it would be a close vote and used every tool at his disposal to manipulate the outcome. In an ever-more-partisan House, this is the exact win-at-all-cost techniques that DeLay and the House Republican Leadership use to ram their right-wing agenda through the House.

“The Congressman has long opposed school vouchers and will now work with his colleagues to strip this provision before the bill reaches the President’s desk.”

The amendment was just barely adopted, 209-208. Had Reps. Kucinich and Gephardt been present, the amendment could have been killed.

MORE ON THE ABORTION SWITCHAnother indication that Kucinich’s “evolved” view on abortion could spell trouble showed up in Wednesday’s Washington Times picking up on what a Des Moines Register piece touched on Sunday (see my 9/7 note.) On Tuesday, Doug Gordon told me that he doesn’t think it will affect either the congressman’s presidential or re-election bids.

CAIR POLL

A poll released Wednesday shows Kucinich polling at 11% among American Muslim respondents. The poll, conducted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in August ranked Kucinich second among the Democratic presidential candidates, behind Howard Dean (26 percent.)

Kucinich is a confirmed speaker at the CAIR Southern California Annual Banquet in Los Angeles on October 4.

2 percent of the 644 Muslims polled said they would vote to re-elect President Bush.

I GUESS HE’S BUSY

Kucinich has not made an entry to his campaign blog since August 16.

Tuesday, September 9

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Isn’t it kind of early for you guys to be awarding states to people?” — Dennis Kucinich fields questions about his poll numbers.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, CBC CHAIR, WEIGHS INPrior to the debate, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., noted that the organization will make its endorsement before March and that no candidate is out of the running for the nod. The caucus initially hoped to host four debates this election cycle (Baltimore, Los Angeles, Detroit and Jackson, Miss.), but the DNC asked that they scale it back to two. The second will take place in Detroit on October 26.

Cummings couldn’t have been more pleased with the timing of Tuesday’s debate. “We didn’t know the president would make a speech,” he said. “This gives the candidates an opportunity on live TV to respond on the war.”

KUCINICH, GEPHARDT COULD HAVE SAVED THE DAY FOR HOUSE DEMS

Not all members of the CBC were at Tuesday’s debate, however. Cummings encouraged his members to stay in the District to vote on the controversial school voucher provision in the fiscal ’04 D.C. appropriations bill. The $10 million program is adamantly opposed by most Democrats but favored by the Democratic D.C. mayor Anthony Williams. The vote Tuesday revisited an amendment to authorize the program and passed 209-208. Had Kucinich and Rep. Dick Gephardt been present, the amendment could have been killed.

BUT INSTEAD…

Kucinich pulled up in the passenger’s seat of a tiny blue Ford Focus at about 7:30 p.m., straight from the House of Representatives. Though the moderators did not give Kucinich as much time to speak as some of the upper-tier candidates, his responses were followed by big applause. A summary of his responses:

On the war with Iraq and Sen. John Kerry: “I only wish Senator Kerry had organized Congress to fight against the war.”

On weapons of mass destruction: “The president misled the nation on weapons of mass destruction. Dick Gephardt, when you were talking to the president, I wish you had told him ‘no.’ I appreciate your passion now, but there were no weapons, and the case was misrepresented.”

On the war supplemental budget: “I’m going to vote no because I believe the best way to protect our troops is to bring’em home. The U.N. in and the U.S. out.”

Kucinich was the only one of the nine candidates to firmly oppose the Bush administration’s requested war supplemental budget, later calling it an “$87 billion down payment on their failure.”

After the debate Kucinich said the Bush administration has been “one foreign policy disaster after another. You have to take the keys away.”

FIRED UP

At the post-debate reception Kucinich introduced me to many of the field directors and staffers in charge of promoting diversity in his campaign. As they gathered to pose for my camera with the congressman, many started an impromptu campaign cheer “Dennis! Dennis! Dennis!” right in the middle of the crowded lobby.

WERE THESE GUYS ACTORS?

In the pre-debate gathering of supporters on the Morgan State campus, Kucitizens Bernie Fischlewitz-Roberts and Jay Ukryn noticed some unusual things going on with their counterparts backing John Edwards. The crowd, largely African-American, didn’t appear to know who Edwards was, and, when asked, referred to what the Kucinich supporters described as a “script” containing facts about Edwards and his positions. One young man said his aunt gave him $20 to be there.

Ukryn said: “I overheard someone asking one of the Edwards supporters, “Why do you want this guy to win?” and they said, ‘I don’t know,’ and they asked him, “What do you know about Edwards?” and they said, “I don’t know anything about Edwards.”

The Kucinich volunteers speculated that the Edwards camp was trying to create a more diverse group of supporters, and noted that the Kucinich group was the real deal.

INSIDE THE BELTWAYHow does a member of Congress balance his legislative life with a bid for the White House? Tuesday, Kucinich’s congressional press secretary Doug Gordon told me that the congressman’s presidential platform mirrors that of the issues he’s championing in Congress. “He’s been working on it for 30 years,” said Gordon.

In the waning weeks (we hope) of the first session of the 108th Congress, Kucinich will be making efforts to repeal portions of the Patriot Act. The details of the plans could not be completely disclosed because Kucinich is working with other members of Congress on the legislation.

Gordon notes that the Patriot Act recalls aren’t just a Democratic thing. He says there’s been a broad bipartisan appeal to revisit the legislation, the reasoning being that perhaps Congress acted too quickly after 9/11.

The congressman will vote against the $87 billion war supplemental that President Bush has requested from Congress. Kucinich says you can support the U.S. troops by bringing them home.

Kucinich also plans to introduce legislation that would improve the software used in voting machines.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

As far as the congressman’s presidential bid, Gordon notes that there’s been a “very positive reaction” from Kucinich’s constituency. “They think it’s great that the boy who grew up on the streets of Cleveland could run for president.”

“Anyone would have a tough time arguing that the congressman has turned his back on his constituency,” he added, noting that Kucinich’s congressional office handles about 10,000 pieces of case work every year.

Gordon says his boss’ duty is to be there on the Hill, and he’ll be there as the campaign schedule will let him. Tuesday night, for example, he missed some floor votes to be at the debate in Baltimore. But the votes he’ll be sure not to miss include any on the Medicare and energy conference reports and the previously mentioned war supplemental budget request.

THE BALANCING ACT

For the time being the House floor schedule is fairly well-defined. But after the target adjournment date of Oct. 4, things will become more “chaotic” and the office will work with the House leadership to make sure Kucinich is where he needs to be.

KUCINICH VS. SHARPTON

In an article in this week’s New York magazine, Mark Jacobson writes the following, quoting, we believe, the Reverend himself:

Sharpton is not as “wild-eyed as the vegan, Marianne Williamson-advised Kucinich, about whom the Rev sometimes worries, wondering if the former Cleveland mayor is ‘out on a weekend pass.’”

The campaign early Tuesday offered no comment, even questioning the accuracy of the source. After Tuesday’s debate, Kucinich himself talked:

Kucinich: “I love Al Sharpton.”

Reporter: “That’s all you want to say?”

Kucinich: “I love Al Sharpton.”

Reporter: “You don’t think it’s a bit of a dig?”

Kucinich: “I love Al Sharpton.”

I don’t foresee any further mudslinging here.

Monday, September 8

KUCINICH FACT OF THE DAY:

The Thinking Person’s Candidate? During his talks before various U.N. groups Monday, Kucinich quoted or made reference to Tennyson, Browning, Achilles, Descartes, Francis Scott Key, and George Washington.

MONDAY AT THE U.N.

A morning presser before the UN Correspondents’ Association got off to a rocky start. The event was hastily scheduled, just Thursday afternoon, but U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan later scheduled a briefing for the same time. An e-mail bumping the time of the speech up contained a virus, so most U.N. journalists didn’t get the message. Organizer Tony Jenkins, president of the association, had to scramble downstairs to get the press for the new, earlier start time, delaying Kucinich’s remarks.

Kucinich and his entourage, all 3 of them, took it all in stride and the congressman delivered a few minutes of prepared remarks before taking questions from the crowd of mostly foreign journalists. Al Jazeera, Abu Dhabi, the Financial Times, the BBC, as well as domestic outlets like the Boston Globe and Baltimore Sun were represented.

Later in the day Kucinich addressed the United Nations NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns. The topic was human security, particularly before the 9/11 anniversary.

“At this very moment in our nation’s history we are presented with a kind of hall of mirrors, distorted images of what constitutes human security,” Kucinich said. “We’re being told that we’ll find our security only through the strength of arms. We’re being told that we find our security by separating ourselves from each other. That we find our securities in philosophies that reflect dichotomous thinking of ‘us vs. them.’”

SEIU EVENT: LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVINGKucinich received a huge ovation before and after his speech before the SEIU Monday night. He was sure to note that he’s still a card-carrying union member (IATSE radio/TV union of stagehands) and said later that the attention, signing autographs and taking snapshots, made him feel like a rock star.

Once again, the most recent polls belie the following Kucinich has attracted. The post-debate rally in Albuquerque, the Labor Day crowd in Des Moines, the ovations at SEIU — Kucinich has a heckuva lot of believers for a “dark horse.”

Rep. Kucinich told me that the campaign is building at a rapid rate. The campaign, he reports, now has presence in 40 states. And, he notes, as communications director Jeff Cohen noted last week, the campaign has done all of this building without the help of the national mainstream media.

Sunday, September 7

QUESTIONS ABOUT ABORTION

Kucinich’s flip-flop on abortion may cost him some support, not in his bid for the presidency, but in his bid to be re-elected to Congress. Pro-life groups in and around Cleveland feel that Kucinich abandoned his pro-life stand when he decided to run for the Oval Office. He compiled a consistent pro-life record in Congress until 2002, when he voted “present” on a bill that would have banned abortion procedures. Since then, he’s been right-to-choose. Kucinich, who was raised Catholic, says his views merely “evolved” and it had nothing to do with a run for the White House.

Friday, September 5

FIRST, YOUR WEEKLY MEETUP PRIMARY UPDATE

If the Internet organizing phenomenon that is MeetUp.com has America’s pulse on the nine (or maybe 10, or 11) Dems, Kucinich’s folks should be pretty darn pleased. As of Friday night, here’s how things stand, in terms of numbers of signed-up supporters of each candidate:

Howard Dean: 108,056Dennis Kucinich: 12,210(Wesley Clark): 11,721John Kerry: 10,805(Al Gore): 1,460John Edwards: 1,270The other Democratic candidates do not have MeetUp pages.

President George Bush has a total of 1,067 MeetUp supporters, just edging out Anarchists Worldwide (which has 1,018 members) among Politics and Activism Topics.

WHAT ABOUT BOB?

After a speech before the Painters’ Union in Cleveland, Kucinich heads to Baraboo, Wisconsin, Saturday for the annual Fighting Bob Fest.

The festival, named for Sen. Bob LaFollette, celebrates the progressive movement by recreating the old-fashioned political chautauquas that the late senator often attended on behalf of Wisconsin’s old Progressive Party. Last year’s event attracted about 1,000 people.

As co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive caucus, Kucinich is a sure bet to be the presidential pick of most of the crowd tomorrow.

Yesterday Hiroshi Kanno of FightingBob.com wrote of Kucinich’s 2002 appearance:

“The topics upon which Kucinich based his speech that day were not the poll-tested, focus-grouped, TV-ready issues that most politicians gravitate toward in order to lengthen their careers in public office. It was then, one year ago, during Fighting Bob Fest, that I first said to myself that Dennis Kucinich should be our next president. I thought it was a shame that people with so much integrity, personal conviction and true leadership never run.”

Other guests scheduled to appear include Rep. Bernie Sanders, the independent congressman from Vermont, Wisconsin Rep. David Obey, ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, and radio commentator Jim Hightower.

DON’T TELL ME HE’S GETTING INTO THE CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S RACE TOO Kucinich on Friday was one of a group of 9 Dems (including Sens. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, as well as Rep. John Conyers of Michigan) who sent a letter to California Gov. Gray Davis urging him to sign civil rights legislation that’s been given the green light by the California State Legislature.

The measure (AB 1715) would ban employers from requiring employees to sign mandatory arbitration agreements regarding civil rights claims.

The letter says, “We view this battle against mandatory arbitration of workplace claims to be a fundamental issue of worker and civil rights. We intend to forcefully carry on the fight for the integrity of our civil rights and labor laws in Congress, in the courts, and with the public. Based on your long commitment to civil rights, we hope you can join us in this fight.”

Kucinich and over 50 other Dems are set to introduce similar legislation in the House this fall; Kennedy and Feingold are expected to introduce a companion measure in the Senate.

Davis has until September 8 to sign the bill. Supporters hope Davis’ impending recall election and his need for labor support will encourage him to sign the bill.

SPEAKING AT THE UNITED NATIONSOn Monday afternoon, Kucinich is in New York to deliver a speech in conjunction with the Spiritual Dimensions in Global Public Policy Series at the United Nations. The event is sponsored by the NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns which the United Nations launched in Geneva last fall.

This is not a campaign event but Kucinich was invited, says organizer Diane Williams, in part because of his proposal for a cabinet-level Department of Peace, which is a centerpiece of his presidential platform.

The series is designed for speakers and audience to exchange ideas on how they use spirituality in their diplomatic work. Previous speakers have included Alfredo Sfeir-Younis, the U.N. Representative to the World Bank, and Audrey Kitigawa, adviser to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Thursday, September 4

THEY SAID, ‘COME BACK, COME BACK...’

“I was on a beach in Malibu watching the waves, watching the dolphins play… I met the Enron of my day.” - Dennis Kucinich on his return to politics after losing his mayor’s seat in Cleveland

The big headline for Thursday was, of course, the Albuquerque debate. But before we leave the Beltway…

MISSING THE VOTE (OR 12)

Though he did roll out a bill that would expand pre-kindergarten programs for all students ages 3-5, Kucinich missed at least 12 (as of 9 pm ET) roll call votes Thursday in the House of Representatives to travel to New Mexico. Most of the votes were on procedural motions or amendments.

Kucinich has often contrasted himself with other members of Congress who have missed upwards of 40% of floor votes for presidential campaigning.

Among the issues debated on the House floor today was the 2004 Transportation-Treasury Appropriations bill, including funding for Amtrak. During a campaign stop in New Hampshire last week Kucinich called for a rebuilding of America’s passenger rail system.

Now, on to the Land of Enchantment…

THE PREGAME SHOW

Kucitizens had the largest gathering of any candidate outside the debate hall. Dozens of supporters packed a postage stamp area of browning grass carrying homemade signs made with Magic Markers and posterboard.

Speakers came and went, singing Kucinich’s praises and a band named Goathead harmonized on tunes slugging corporate America and the Bush administration .

INSIDE THE HALL: THE NEW MEXICO DEBATE

Once inside Popejoy Hall on the University of New Mexico campus, activities were far more subdued.

Kucinich flashed a peace sign as he was introduced and kept smiling even as Univision’s Maria-Elena Salinas mispronounced his name. He had reason to - Salinas had to wait for the applause to die down before she could correct herself.

A summary of Kucinich’s responses to the debate questions:

On Iraq:

“It’s time to bring the troops home. Bring the United Nations in and bring the U.S. troops out.” Kucinich made this statement in both English and Spanish, the only candidate to show off his Espanol in the first round of questioning.

Calling the war in Iraq “Bush’s blunder” and pointing out his congressional colleagues who gave the president support for the use of force, Kucinich also proposed that the United Nations handle the distribution of Iraqi oil and all rebuilding contracts. “No more Halliburton sweetheart deals,” he said, referring to the energy company where Vice President Dick Cheney was once CEO. He also would encourage the U.N. to work with the people of Iraq to create a government of their own.

On the Domestic Economy:The centerpiece of Kucinich’s domestic economic plan: “My first act would be to cancel NAFTA and the WTO and return to bilateral trade.”

He called it “shocking” that the U.S. does not have a manufacturing policy that protects the steel, automotive and textile industries. Kucinich’s home state of Ohio relies heavily on the manufacturing industries, which he feels are the backbone of the domestic economy. The state has lost about 200,000 private sector jobs since 2001.

In the spirit of FDR, Kucinich would renew an American public works administration to rebuild America’s cities and infrastructure. “We have the resources to do it,” he said, “We have to have the will to do it.”

On trade:“The real question is, what kind of profits do the Kmarts and the Wal-Marts of the world make?”

“Not much,” commented moderator Ray Suarez, referring to Kmart’s recent financial woes.

“But on the misery of those people in 3rd world countries who are working for pennies an hour and are finding themselves unable to feed their families,” Kucinich continued. “NAFTA makes it impossible to protect workers’ rights,” including collective bargaining, protection against child labor and prison labor and environmental protections.

On health care:

“Health care is a right, not a privilege,” Kucinich said, first in Spanish then in English. “We need to take the profit out of health care.”

He made reference to HR 676, the bill introduced by Michigan Rep. John Conyers that was co-sponsored by Kucinich and 27 other Dems. The bill would create a single-payer national health care system, federally financed but privately delivered.

“The insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies right now, they own us,” Kucinich continued.

“We have to take our health care system back.”

And he didn’t mention the good doctor by name, but he went out of his way to point out the “other” anti-war candidate in the field by reiterating, as he did for the crowds on Tuesday, that Dean would balance the budget not by cutting funding for defense, but by trimming social programs.

PICKING UP SPANISH… IN OHIO

When asked where he picked up the Spanish he showed off in the debate, Kucinich replied, “Yo estudio a la escuela Berlitz.” For those seeking translation, he studied in an immersion course at Berlitz, the popular franchise of language classes and those tapes that lead you to believe you can speak like a native just by listening to them in the car.

THE AFTER PARTY

During the debate a few hundred Kucinich supporters watched their candidate on a big-screen television and chowed down on a buffet of Southwestern fare. But the best moment of the evening came well after the candidates left the stage. Kucinich entered the ballroom in the University of New Mexico Student Union after being announced as, “The next president of the United States, Dennis Kucinich!”

He’s been in politics for a long time, but it was obvious that Kucinich was moved by the cheers and applause that filled the room as he walked in. “New Mexico is critical,” he said after taking the stage before about 400 supporters. “We had the largest turnout of volunteers at the Labor Day parade in Iowa. It gives me so much encouragement. You give me hope, which I in turn give to the people of the United States.”

Kucinich took time to outline his plan for cutting Department of Defense spending, which he’ll release in full detail in the next couple of weeks. He plans to trim $60 billion by cutting funding for the missile shield program, for developing “bunker buster” nuclear bombs, and weapons in outer space. “Unless people think we’re going to get invaded by Martians from outer space. Maybe Donald Rumsfeld does.”

For critics who wonder where he’ll get the funding for his universal health care plan Kucinich offered this: “We’re already paying for it. We’re just not getting it. It’s the allocation of our health care dollars.” His plan would also require a 7.7% payroll tax on employers.

When a member of the audience asked what he’d do to utility companies, he replied, “That’s my specialty actually,” alluding to the crisis he faced when mayor of Cleveland in the 1970s. “I’m going to support public power in the deepest meaning of the word.”

SOME MEMORABLE MOMENTS

Interlopers or Converts? Among the hundreds at Kucinich’s after-debate gathering were a handful sporting Howard Dean T-shirts. One was even bold enough to run to the foot of the stage and snap a picture of the “other” anti-war candidate. Another said that he put his Dean stickers on his shirt before the debate, but that the more he heard Kucinich speak, the more he grew on him.

VAST RIGHT-WING CONSPIRACY?

Throughout his speech in the ballroom, Kucinich was plagued by a scratchy microphone that prompted one member of the crowd to shout, “It’s the Republicans!”

WHAT DO CANDIDATES EAT?

Kucinich ate a vegan burrito from an Albuquerque co-op for lunch before the big debate, but no dinner.

HEY SISTER!

When Kucinich found out supporter Brooke Fair was a card-carrying member of the IATSE radio/TV union of stagehands, not only did he exclaim, “Hey! A sister!” — he whipped his own union card out of his wallet to show her. Kucinich held numerous jobs before entering politics, including one as a TV cameraman.

GRASS ROOTS FUNDRAISING.

At the close of the Kucinich ballroom gathering, a supporter walked around with a plastic grocery bag - from Whole Foods, of course - collecting donations for the campaign.

AND AS LONG AS WE’RE ON FUNDRAISING…

In an e-mail Thursday signed by the candidate, Kucinich urges supporters to jump on board with the house party initiative that the campaign has launched nationwide.

“When we file our fundraising report on September 30, the pundits and so-called ‘experts’ will once again be looking for an excuse to dismiss us. While our message continues to draw thousands in state after state, the pundits only measure success in dollars and cents,” the e-mail says. “Let’s prove them wrong. We will never match the more corporate-friendly candidates in fundraising. But there is power beyond imagining in our common purpose.”

FROM SLATE.COM

In their continuing series on the candidates strengths, weaknesses, buzz words and agendas, Slate.com Thursday brings us Dennis Kucinich “at his worst.”

Citing a Cleveland Plain Dealer piece from March 12, 2003, Slate.com writes:

Former Cleveland City Council President George Forbes “cited a piece of Kucinich literature from an unsuccessful 1974 bid for Congress. In it, Kucinich criticized rival candidate Ron Mottl for voting to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. with a legal holiday when Mottl served in the Statehouse.

There’s general agreement that if Kucinich’s act was dirty, he cleaned it up long ago. As a councilman, he voted to establish a King holiday. The Plain Dealer says he ‘was building bridges [to blacks] by the time he ran for mayor.’ As mayor, he gave half his major appointments to blacks and ensured that a court-ordered school busing program was peacefully administered. In Congress, he has voted with the NAACP 89 percent of the time.

But Slate also notes:

The other question is whether Kucinich is candid about his past. In 2003, he told the Plain Dealer he didn’t remember the campaign literature cited by Forbes. In a March 2003 interview with Salon, Kucinich said of blacks, “In the ’60s was it possible that there were some differences of opinion? Yes. But it was never based on race. Never. Not a chance.”

Wednesday, September 3

It was back to business in the nation’s capital Wednesday for the House of Representatives and back in those hallowed halls after his recess-that-wasn’t was Dennis Kucinich. Kucinich ended the break on a high note, closing out with what his campaign dubbed as a success.

“We expanded our network in New Hampshire,” cited communications director Jeff Cohen among accomplishments for the month. “We fortified our base in Iowa with the biggest crowd of any candidate in the (Des Moines) Labor Day parade and with the STAR*PAC endorsement. And we did it, for the most part, without the mainstream national media covering us.”

PARTYING FOR MONEY

Cohen also said that fundraising had hit some “summer doldrums” but the campaign has a new initiative planned for Sept. 21. That’s the U.N. designated International Day of Peace. The campaign Web site encourages folks to party for peace that day by holding a house party in honor of Kucinich. The goal for the parties nationwide is to collect $1,000 per house.

As the campaign gathers more supporters, like the turnout seen in the Des Moines parade, it’s becoming more aggressive and more assertive. “If you believe the corporate media, Dean is the ‘antiwar candidate’ with all the student support. Wrong on both counts,” said an e-mail sent by the campaign Wednesday. “The Kucinich rally at the University of Iowa Monday night was electric with hundreds of students ready to work for Kucinich from now until January... and beyond.”

SI, SE PUEDE

Kucinich heads to Albuquerque for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus debate Thursday. The campaign is keeping mum (and I really mean silent) about strategy. He will capitalize on the fact that he speaks Spanish, as he did with several paradegoers in Des Moines Monday. (“Si se puede,” or “Yes, we can,” was chanted by the marching Kucitizens. The campaign feels there is a real potential within the Hispanic voting community and that’s why there’s a People of Color Outreach office working on events to engage this community. For more on these efforts, check out my previous interview with Outreach coordinator Placido Salazar last week.

And what would the congressman say about a potential split ticket with Wesley Clark? “General Clark has served his country well, but I’m not looking to confirm the primacy of the Pentagon,” Kucinich said. “I have a fundamentally different view.”

Tuesday, September 2

CAMPUS TOUR: PICKING UP AN ENDORSEMENT

Kucinich crisscrossed central Iowa for visits at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and Iowa State University in Ames on Tuesday.

While in Iowa City Kucinich picked up the endorsement of the grassroots peace organization STAR*PAC (Stop the Arms Race Political Action Committee.) The other frontrunner was former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, the other vocal anti-war candidate in the field of nine. Speaking at a press conference in a classroom at the University of Iowa, STAR*PAC board member Chet Guinn said Kucinich got the nod because he “holds aloft a glimpse of what a renewed commitment to peace could mean for our nation’s people, our economy, our reputation in the world, for regaining our place as a world power… not just because of our military might but because of our heart.”

Kucinich “enthusiastically” accepted the endorsement, noting that Iowa’s Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin often credits his 1988 election to STAR*PAC’s support. “Imagine if we put our money into preparing for peace and international cooperation.”

The congressman said his administration would cut Pentagon spending by 15%. Instead, the money would go to funding a universal pre-kindergarten child care program including educational and social skills and a nutrition program 5 days a week.

“This is a major endorsement,” said communications director Jeff Cohen. “This group has looked closely at each of the candidates, and in terms of Dean vs. Dennis, the peace community chose Dennis.”

As advertised on small red poster board on the first floor of the Student Union, Kucinich later addressed about 75 students and activists. The event was organized by University of Iowa students Anjalie Khosa and Renner Walker. Khosa, a registered member of the Green Party, says she’s just beginning to organize a Kucinich movement on campus after a strong community developed there over the summer.

Things will kick off with a “MeetUp” event scheduled for this Thursday, the same day the campaign holds other MeetUp events nationwide. Walker chose Kucinich as his guy after working at the Iowa Democratic Party over the summer. While there, he says he had the opportunity to meet all of the major candidates, but Kucinich’s peace efforts struck him the most.

At the close of his remarks and a question-and-answer session that went on much longer than Kucinich’s handlers had hoped, Kucinich encouraged the audience to organize their friends for fundraising house parties on International Peace Day, September 21. Everyone can contribute a few dollars, he said, with the goal being $1,000 per house for the campaign.

GOT TAILGATE PLANS, CONGRESSMAN?

During the question-and-answer session, one University of Iowa student broke away from defense and health care issues with a more pressing inquiry: “Will you tailgate with me before the Ohio State game?”

The congressman will be busy campaigning this weekend and declined to take the side of either battleground state’s team. “Some of my friends are for the Buckeyes, some of my friends are for the Hawkeyes and me? Well, I’m for my friends.”

No wonder they call him the peace candidate.

THE PEACE CANDIDATE PICKS BATTLES

Despite being christened the peace candidate by STAR*PAC, Kucinich was picking fights with others in the presidential fray. And he wasn’t afraid to name names.

On his congressional colleagues running for president who voted for last October’s resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq: “Members of the House and Senate were carried along in the passions of the moment and decided to go to war. Is that the kind of president the American people can trust to make the right decision?”

On Howard Dean: “Vermont didn’t have a military last time I checked. There’s no Vermont Pentagon. You can balance the budget in Vermont without having to worry about your soldiers or nuclear weapons. If you’re talking about balancing the federal budget and not touching the Pentagon budget, which has been increased because of fear, what does that mean? It means social spending is going to get cut. Do the math.”

On Rep. Dick Gephardt: “The head of our Democratic caucus, Mr. Gephardt, stood next to George Bush in the Rose Garden and endorsed the war. What’s his deal? Under what circumstances would he commit a country to war. He didn’t have any information.”

THE ‘SEASON OF LONGSHOTS’

Kucinich reminded the University of Iowa folks that Monday, Labor Day, was the real kickoff for the presidential election season and that in “this season of longshots,” his campaign will continue to build and succeed.

“Look at the guy who won the British Open. They said his caddy had a better shot of winning than he did,” Kucinich said. “We had the movie ‘Seabiscuit,’ who beat a horse named… War Admiral.”

Monday, September 1

THE LONG ROAD TRIP, OR ‘HOW I SPENT MY AUGUST RECESS’

After one more day stumping in Iowa, Kucinich returns to Washington, where the House of Representatives

reconvenes Wednesday. In the last two weeks of Congress’ summer break Kucinich visited Iowa, New

Hampshire, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and his home state

of Ohio.

Following a frantic pace throughout the August recess, the Kucinich campaign is encouraged that their effort,

now in place in 37 states, continues to grow, while analysts speculate that some campaigns - such as those

of Sens. John Edwards and Joe Lieberman - could be on the decline.

“We’re the Seabiscuit campaign,” Kucinich said again today, noting that his bid is still a long shot but “still moving in the right direction.” But Kucinich continues to lag in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, in some polls not even registering 1%, leaving you to wonder if this effort will be left in the dust in January.

NEW LINEUP FOR KUCINICH’S IOWA LABOR TEAMIn conjunction with the Labor Day holiday, the Kucinich campaign announced the formation of the “Iowa Rank and File Labor” Steering Committee. Comprised of 32 members from 15 different unions throughout Iowa, the committee will organize union support for the candidate.

MARCHING ON IN DES MOINES

Between 80 and 90 Kucitizens marched behind or rode on an old-fashioned fire truck (with the requisite siren)

in front of Rep. Dennis Kucinich in Monday’s Des Moines Labor Day parade. Chanting “Go Dennis Go!”

(Hey, it’s tough to think of cheers that rhyme with “Kucinich”) the supporters, staff and volunteers

passed out stickers and fliers to the crowd, many whom didn’t know who the diminutive congressman from

Cleveland was (“Dennis WHO-sinich?” asked one woman.)

Homemade signs for “Peace, Jobs, and Kucinich,” abounded in the crowd, mostly decked out in navy blue

“Kucinich for President” tees. Despite the common adoration for the candidate, though, the marchers were as diverse as could be in terms of race and age. My favorite supporter? A 3-year-old carrying a sign bigger than he was in one hand and clutching his mom’s hand in the other.

At the beginning of the parade route, Kucinich stayed in the middle of the road and waved, wishing everyone a “Happy Labor Day.” But all it took was a smiling youngster from the crowd, especially those with disabilities, to bring the candidate over to the sidewalk. Towards the end Kucinich started to loosen up, chatting in Spanish with the city’s Hispanic population, signing autographs and taking pictures.

‘OPENING DAY’: KUCINICH SAYS HIS CAMPAIGN BEGINS ‘TODAY’After his speech at the post-parade South Central Iowa Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) event at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Kucinich leaped up on a wooden bench to stand above the supporters who’d rallied around him all day.

“If this was the caucus today,” Kucinich told them, “we would have won.”

Kucinich marveled all day at the 80-90 supporters who marched in the parade with him and stuck around for his speech afterwards. “We had the best showing at the parade,” he said. “The best showing at this rally.”

”We represent the real polls!” shouted a Kucitizen in response.

“And the only real Democrat!” shouted another.

“We’re about to begin our work. Mark this day: Labor Day. Today is opening day and I threw out the first pitch here,” Kucinich continued, “And that first pitch was health care and NAFTA. I want, everywhere we go,

candidates to answer those questions.”

NAFTA and labor was a well-received topic by the crowd. Nathaniel, a Kucinich volunteer from Minnesota, says he’s thrown his support behind this dark horse candidate because “…he’s got the best platform. When

the private sector can’t provide jobs the government has a moral responsibility to them.”

After the event, Kucinich supporters, at the encouragement of Iowa Field Director John Friedrich, dispersed to do door-to-door canvassing. The candidate headed to Iowa City for an evening rally.

NOT ON MY HOME FIELD, MR. BUSH

President Bush today delivered his Labor Day remarks from Kucinich’s home state of Ohio.

In a statement, the congressman said, “Of all days to use Ohio as a political backdrop the President, no friend of working people, has chosen Labor Day. I hope that his tour of the state will include the empty factories and bankrupt corporations that are the legacy of our nation’s misguided trade policies.”

The visit was Bush’s third to the battleground state, where he won 50% of the vote in 2000. Ohio has lost about 200,000 jobs since 2001.

THE ‘BRUSHBACK’: PAGING DR. DEAN?

The Kucinich campaign was psyched when they heard they were slated to speak just before former Gov. Howard Dean at the Labor Day event at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Part of Kucinich’s stump speech poses questions to the only physician in the field on health care and on the retirement age. With Dean taking the stage after the congressman he’d be forced to answer them, the campaign deduced.

But when the dust of the parade cleared, Dean was nowhere in sight. My embedded colleague Felix Schein reports that the candidate, according to his campaign, wasn’t scheduled to speak at the event and left immediately after the parade to attend events in other portions of the state.

Despite that wince of disappointment, Kucinich went on to attack Dean anyway. “What irony it would be for a

doctor to get the nomination and not take the profit out of health care,” he said. “This election is far from over, and I’m going to continue this debate with Dr. Dean.”

I’LL TRADE YOU MY EDGAR RENTERIA FOR YOUR… DENNIS KUCINICH?Lucy of the classic Peanuts cartoons once challenged the greatness of Schroeder’s idol, Ludwig von Beethoven, because the classical composer never appeared on his own bubble gum card.

Good news for the Kucinich campaign. If you follow Lucy’s logic, their candidate has attained greatness.

To combat the congressman’s lack of name recognition (and the fact that his name is kinda hard to spell),

supporters dealt out Kucinich baseball cards along the parade route and at the rally that followed.

The cards feature a smiling Kucinich on the front and his “stats” on everything from peace to health care on

the back.

Friday, August 29

WHAT’S THE MAINE IDEA?

“There’s a word to describe presidential candidates who campaign hard in Maine,” writes Al Diamon this week on the editorial page of the Rockland, Maine, Courier-Gazette (8/28/03)

“Losers.”

“Voters here chose Dewey over Truman in ’48, Nixon over Kennedy in ’60, Humphrey over Nixon in ’68, Ford over Carter in ’76 and Gore over the other Bush in ’00,” Diamon continues. “Any candidate who shows up here will be the result of either a scheduling glitch (Whadaya mean, Fryeburg isn’t in New Hampshire!) or an inability to attract a crowd anywhere else. Maine’s influence in determining the next occupant of the White House will be somewhere between minimal and undetectable.”

The Kucinich campaign must have missed the column. And who can fault them? They’ve been busy blazing across the northern-est parts of the Northeast. After events in Martha’s Vineyard and New Hampshire Wednesday and Thursday, they rolled into Portland, the Pine State’s largest city, on Friday afternoon. A rally with a few hundred supporters at Post Office Park downtown was followed by a fundraising dinner.

The Democrats have a winning streak going in Maine presidential elections. Al Gore bested President Bush there in ’00 and Bill Clinton won in 1992 and 1996. The state has an evenly-split Congressional delegation, sending two Republicans (albeit moderates) to the Senate and two Dems to the House.

ALL ABOARD: RAILING FOR AMTRAK

Keeping Amtrak on track: can it financially be done? The debate gets rekindled as both chambers of Congress, returning to action next week, consider the fiscal 2004 Transportation-Treasury spending bill. On Wednesday the House considers the bill on the floor; the Senate Approps panel is set to mark up their version the same day.

House Democrats, including Kucinich, are expected to make a push to boost funding for America’s passenger rail line from $900 million to about $1.4 billion. President Bush, however, is pushing for the federal government to pull out of the rail business.

At a rail station in Dover, N.H., Friday afternoon, Kucinich, according to the AP, called for a rebuilding of America’s passenger rail system and transportation infrastructure, restoring it to the way it was during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal era. He also encouraged public transportation as a means of reducing pollution.

The congressman then rode the rails to his afternoon rally in Portland, Me.

BUILDING SOMETHING IN NEW HAMPSHIREKucinich is building on momentum he picked up in Portsmouth, N.H., Thursday. At a rally in Market Square and a speech at the South Church, Kucinich continued to tout his plan for single-payer universal health care and trumpeted a proposal to shift $60 billion from the military’s budget to fund a universal pre-kindergarten program.

Among the things Kucinich would chop are Pentagon programs for missile defense, “bunker busting” nuclear weapons and other advanced weapons systems. This comes as the Senate gets set to consider S 1424, the energy spending bill that also includes funding for the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons programs. The White House is seeking $15 million to fund continued research on those “bunker buster” bombs and $6 million for research on other concepts.

A Kucinich administration would ban all nuclear weapons and instead focus on diplomatic solutions. “We’re arming ourselves to the teeth — what are we afraid of? The security of the United States now depends on international cooperation,” he told the 100 supporters at South Church.

Several national campaign staffers, including campaign manager Gary Jelinek and campaign coordinator Suzanne Van Bebber, were in the Granite State this week to boost the bid’s presence there.

Communications director Jeff Cohen said Friday, “There’s no doubt that we’ve invested more resources and staff. They’ve just been sent up there with at least a half a dozen new people, maybe 8. And they’re opening up at least a second office in New Hampshire maybe a third.”

All this expansion requires money, though. Cohen reports that there’s been some shifting of fundraising personnel and they are hoping to get things “back on track” for the final month of the third quarter. Stay tuned for more on this campaign’s money game…

STILL NO. 2: TRACKING THE MEETUP “PRIMARY”

As of Friday night, Kucitizens number 10,714 on the popular organizing website MeetUp.com, a very distant second behind Howard Dean’s e-supporters (94,000) and just edging out Gen. Wesley Clark, who has just over 10,300 fans without a formal bid.

Thursday, August 28

MORE ON CALIFORNIA

Following up from yesterday, more news on the Kucinich campaign in the Golden State. “He’s very big here,” says Southern California Campaign Chair Lila Garrett. “Dean is the flavor-of-the-month candidate all across the country. But we’re getting Dennis’ message out.” She adds, “Every Democratic candidate is infinitely superior to and better than George W. Bush.”

Congressman Kucinich will be out in California Sept. 19-21. On the 19th he’ll hold a northern California presser on gay and lesbian issues with fellow Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee. On the 20th he’ll head south for a rally in East L.A. organized by Placido and Bobbie Salazar of the campaign’s newly formed People of Color Outreach Office. That evening the only vegan candidate in the field will be at a large fundraising event hosted by VegSource. The morning of the 21st will bring the candidate’s policy announcement on immigration at the U.S.-Mexican border near San Diego. That night Kucinich will attend a “large” fundraiser in L.A., and local artists in Venice, Calif., are also organizing a campaign event for him to attend.

Accommodating his U.S. House schedule, Kucinich will head back west Sept. 27th and 28th for more fundraising events (one is in the works in Malibu) and an appearance at the Los Angeles County Fair.

AND AS LONG AS WE’RE TALKING ABOUT SUNNY WEATHER...

Seems like this campaign likes sunny weather (and being based in Cleveland, can you blame them?) Over the next few days a campaign aide is headed to Florida to meet up with supporters there. He reports, “Support is growing rapidly.”

FUNDRAISING “DOLDRUMS”

The Kucinich campaign sent an e-mail last night to supporters asking, “These are the summer doldrums but our

campaign needs cash. If you’ve already donated once or twice, please recruit a friend, lover or relative.”

Lover?

“RUNNING” WITH INSPIRATION

One of Kucinich’s favorite moments on the campaign trail so far came thanks to someone not even old enough to vote. Kucinich tells the story of a 7-year-old fan who waited outside an event in San Diego to present the candidate with a picture the kid had drawn of Seabiscuit. The story of Seabiscuit has been a running (horse race, running — ha ha) inspiration to the campaign since the film was released nationwide on July 25. At Seabiscuit’s premiere in select cities, “Kucitizens” handed out fliers saying, “Longshots really do win.” Actor Jeff Bridges, who stars in the film, is a contributor to the campaign.

ENERGY

“Preventing another major power blackout will be a top priority when Congress returns to work on an energy bill next week,” writes Reuters’ Tom Doggett today.

Kucinich will be at the center of this Hill battle as he continues his push for non-profit, publicly owned electric utilities in the United States and across the border in Canada. He’ll also continue to hound the Bush administration for a more thorough investigation into the Aug. 14 power failure. He’s still pushing for Ohio-based FirstEnergy, in the middle of the blackout controversy, to have its operating license revoked. FirstEnergy has dismissed his call, describing it as “irresponsible.”

Wednesday, August 27

PITTSBURGH TO DETROIT TO… MARTHA’S VINEYARD?

Rep. Kucinich met with lots of applause at the United Electrical Workers Union Convention in Pittsburgh yesterday and at his Detroit presser on energy issues today.

In Pittsburgh, he delivered a speech that jabbed at fellow Democratic presidential candidates Howard Dean (attacking his health care plan), and Dick Gephardt (on trade agreements) and President Bush (on U.S. involvement in Iraq.)

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the union rewarded Kucinich with a standing ovation at the conclusion of his 40-minute speech.

In a statement the union noted that while it has never endorsed a presidential primary candidate, “… we are, however proud to strongly urge UE rank-and-file members to seriously consider [Kucinichs] campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination… [he] is to be commended for his participation in the primary contests. His campaign effort is injecting into the primary process a sense of urgency with regard to the need to tackle the various crises facing working people, including the imperative to remove Bush from office in the November 2004 election.”

This morning in Detroit, Kucinich told an audience from both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border that the blackout that blanketed the northeast portion of our country and parts of Canada on Aug. 14 was all because of deregulation of energy companies.

The AP reports: “ Kucinich was joined by Howard Hampton, the leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party and a candidate for that province’s premier. They said more cooperation is needed between Canada and the United States to protect energy consumers.”

“‘The blackout that occurred a couple weeks ago is a symptom of a system that is sick through deregulation — a system where private control of utilities has meant less service, service vulnerabilities, high rates,’ he [Kucinich] said.” Kucinich also took swipes at the Bush administration for not investigating the cause of the blackout thoroughly enough.

In a huge change of scenery from America’s steel and automobile capitals, Kucinich participated in an informal Main St. walk/meet-and-greet in Martha’s Vineyard tonight and will participate in a lunch with supporters in Beverly, Mass., before heading to Wisconsin tomorrow afternoon.

GOOD VIBES IN THE GOLDEN STATE

During a West Coast visit in June, Dennis Kucinich referred to California as his “springboard to the presidency.” Patti Selwyn of the campaign’s California operation said today that a lot of the bid’s national momentum and creativity is being fueled in the Golden State. She reports that the congressman’s candidacy has brought out “hundreds of volunteers who are so devoted to the campaign.”

“These are people who have avoided politics in the past. He gives them hope. People are thinking, ‘Wow, this is a new kind of campaign,” Selwyn said. She reports people organizing house parties and other small events on their own and at their own expense. “It’s very grass-roots, a lot of word of mouth.”

The next round of house parties, which will take place in California on Sept. 11, will include a campaign video, a call from Kucinich and encourage donations at the end of the evening. The candidate returns to California in the flesh on Sept. 21 and, aside from the immigration announcement that day, his schedule for the visit has not been finalized.

Like counterparts in Iowa, the California campaign will try to make inroads on college campuses, but Selwyn is somewhat skeptical. “It’s going to be hard. We’ve seen a lot of apathy with students. These kids have grown up in pretty affluent times,” Selwyn said. “The other day I heard some young guys saying, ‘We’re voting for Arnold Schwarzenegger [in the recall] because he’s so cool.’ There’s lots of naivet there. You don’t know what the wrong governor, the wrong president could do to you.”

She adds that Kucinich is “really catching on” out there. Kucinich’s last FEC reports would confirm that; the overwhelming majority of donors gave California addresses. We’ll see on Sept. 30 if that trend continues.

KUCITIZENS {HEART} MEETUP.COM!

A campaign email tonight boasts that the Kucinich bid has moved into second among presidential camps on the popular organizing web site MeetUp.com. It is, however, a distant second as Kucitizens stand at about one-tenth the number of Howard Dean supporters on the site.

MORE DENNIS VS. DEAN

If you can’t beat him on MeetUp, go after him on Cuba. The campaign today reiterated Kucinich’s stance on trade with Cuba (he wants to repeal Helms-Burton, thus ending the embargo) while pointing out a piece in Tuesday’s Miami Herald that traced Howard Dean’s “flip-flopping” on the issue.

As reported yesterday from my interview with People of Color Outreach coordinator Placido Salazar, the Kucinich campaign is making huge attempts to reach out to the Hispanic and Latino communities and the congressman’s stance on Cuba could very much play to that. Plus, Kucinich could deliver the message in Spanish, which he speaks.

THE KUCINICH CAMPAIGN HABLA ESPANOL

New to the campaign web site is the Kucinich platform translated into Spanish.

WHO IS THIS GUY? SOME ANALYSIS

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Kucinich at the Electrical Workers Union convention, 8/27/03: “I agree with everything he says,” said Diana Alexander-Jones, a delegate from Philadelphia. “Is he new? I’ve never really heard anything about him before.”

From my note on his Daily Show appearance, 8/21/03: “… name recognition was little. The show’s head writer warmed up the crowd for Kucinich by saying, “This is one of the guys who speaks his mind.” He then asked a member of the audience, “Do you know who this guy is?” When he got a blank stare, he said, “Well, you will after tonight…”

The Zogby poll out today did not have good news for the Kucinich campaign in New Hampshire. It shows the congressman polling at 1% there, tied with Sen. Bob Graham but ahead of the Rev. Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun. He was also beaten by Gen. Wesley Clark, who hasn’t even entered the race yet.

Kucinich needs to raise his profile, and if he can be as successful at this nationwide as he has been in California, his campaign may be on to something. The truth, though, is that it is tremendously difficult for someone in Kucinich’s political position to overcome obscurity.

Unlike the majority of candidates in the field, with the exception of the Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Richard Gephardt, Kucinich has never held statewide office. In the House of Representatives, Kucinich is one of 435. He is one of an 18-member House delegation from his home state of Ohio. He hasn’t had the benefit of a national party leadership position, a la Dick Gephardt. He’s a member of the minority party so he hasn’t had he benefit of a committee chairmanship. And he’s only in his fourth term so he hasn’t worked his way up to ranking minority member on a committee yet.

Additionally, most of the loyal campaign staff that surrounds Kucinich has not had the benefit of working on a bid with national magnitude. Some were with him for his bid for mayor of Cleveland, some for his first run for the U.S. House. They’ve never dealt with a campaign this big before and it is showing. For example, most camps are already looking beyond Iowa and New Hampshire and ahead to South Carolina. When I asked communications director Jeff Cohen this week the Kucinich plan for the Palmetto State in the fall months, he told me there’s no specific plan yet.

The senators and former senator, as well as the former governor, in the race had to run statewide campaigns and were successful at them. Dick Gephardt has the advantage of a few presidential runs on his side. For Kucinich and his staff this is unchartered territory and although they’ve come leaps and bounds in the last six months, the little-campaign-that-could may not ramp up in time to be a serious contender.

Kucinich and his staff should not feel badly should they not win the presidency next November. History isn’t on their side either: nobody has gone directly from the House to the White House since James Garfield in 1880.

SCHEDULE

*Note update to Thursday

Thursday, August 28

— 1:15 - 2:15pm: Lunch w/supporters at the Organic Garden, Beverly, Mass. *

— 6-10 p.m.: Wisconsin Corn Roast hosted by Rep. Ron Kind, LaCrosse, WI, County Fair

Friday, August 29

— No events scheduled

Saturday, August 30

—10 a.m.: Cleveland, OH, Labor Day Parade

Sunday, August 31

— 12-1 p.m.: Clinton, IA, Labor Congress Labor Day Picnic, Eagle Point Park, North Clinton, IA

— 3:30-4 p.m.: Organic Dairy Farm Picnic, Fairfield, IA

Monday, September 1

— Labor Day Parade, Des Moines, IA followed by rally TBA in Iowa City

Tuesday, September 2

— Attends rallies at Iowa State University and the University of Iowa

Wednesday, September 3

— House of Representatives reconvenes, 2 pm

Thursday, Sept. 4

— CHC Forum, Albuquerque, NM

Sunday, September 7

— Appears with Willie Nelson at Farm Aid, Columbus OH

Tuesday, September 9

— CBC Forum at Morgan State Univ., Baltimore, 9pm

Looking waaaaay ahead, Kucinich will be in San Diego for the aforementioned immigration policy announcement on Sept. 21. He’ll be in Los Angeles on Oct. 4 as featured speaker at the Council on American-Islam Relations Southern California dinner. We are looking at mid-October for an official announcement of Kucinich’s candidacy and November for the rescheduling of the Willie Nelson concerts.

ENDORSEMENT OF THE DAY

Singer Ani DiFranco tells Rolling Stone why she’s backing Kucinich:

“He’s not a self-aggrandizing strategist or corporate whore. He’s the real thing.”

Wednesday, August 27

SIGNS OF TROUBLE? HECK NO! ‘LET’S GROW’

While PoliticsNH.com speculated the little-bid-that-could might be contracting, the Kucinich campaign sent an e-mail last night to campaign supporters with “Let’s Grow” in the subject line.

It begins, “Establishment pundits and corporate Democrats had hoped the Kucinich campaign would just disappear. But with new hiring across the country, expansion of the web site and enhanced constituency outreach, our campaign keeps growing.”

The e-mail also touts the launch of two outreach initiatives (see more on these below) and encourages

Kucitizens to log on and take a look at the new campaign video on the site, featuring actors Hector

Elizondo (“Chicago Hope” and “Runaway Bride”), James Cromwell (“LA Confidential” and “Babe”) and Ed Asner, all of whom have made contributions to the campaign.

Iowa field coordinator John Friedrich today also scoffed at the notion that expansion in New Hampshire meant contraction in the Iowa operation for the campaign. “I have no idea where that came from. We have more staff here than anywhere else and Dennis continues to draw sizable crowds.,” even in Iowa’s smaller towns. From what he’s seen, Kucinich has “drawn some of the biggest crowds of any candidate” in the Hawkeye State. Now that college kids are coming back to school, Friedrich plans to tap into that voter pool as well, kicking it off with rallies at Iowa State and the University of Iowa next Tuesday. Lots of students have already been in touch with him, he says.

Friedrich also notes, “... we had a great rally in Dubuque on Saturday night with Willie Nelson, where he praised Rep. Kucinich for his strong support of family farmers.” He also forwarded me a sampling of articles on Kucinich from the Iowa press and pointed out, “When you read the articles, it’s clear that something exciting is in the air.” The Iowa staff now stands at 14.

“Exciting” seems to be the word surrounding our fiesty Ohioan. Click here to read a dispatch from Amherst, Mass.

But can “exciting” and “electable” find a happy medium?

9,414 Kucitizens are also looking forward to their monthly MeetUp, as organized on the web site

MeetUp.Com, and encouraging more to hop on board (they’ve picked up 500 since Friday.) I’ll be checking in on plans in various venues, which are sure to include watching their favorite candidate at the Albuquerque debate.

ENERGIZING DETROIT, WITH HELP FROM UP NORTH

Tomorrow’s main event is an international press conference with Canadian politicians regarding blackout fallout and other energy crises, including the rising price of gas in the U.S.

As Ontario recovers from North America’s worst blackout, NDP Leader Howard Hampton and Kucinich will meet to promote the value of a publicly owned hydro system. He is quite familiar with FirstEnergy Corp., the for-profit firm being blamed for the Aug. 14 blackout. Kucinich’s battle to prevent the sell-off of Cleveland’s municipal utility to FirstEnergy’s predecessor ran the “boy mayor” out of the city in 1979.

They’ll also discuss health care, chiefly Kucinich’s single-payer plan which syncs up with the NDP’s policy, and other energy concerns.

Speaking of energy concerns, on gas prices today the candidate said:

“The jump in gas prices is yet another blow to our failing economy. It is well past time for this Administration to break itself free of the special interests that have taken over energy policy and move toward energy independence, renewables, and automobile fuel efficiency standards.”

While in Congress, he has introduced legislation that would bring back the windfall profits oil tax. He most recently introduced it in February 2003, in anticipation of war with Iraq. The windfall profits oil tax made $40 billion off of oil companies between 1980 and 1988, when it was repealed, by taxing the profits made by oil refineries and corporations off of crude oil and gas. The proposal has been unpopular in the GOP-led Congress and has not made it to the House floor.

REACHING OUT: TWO NEW OFFICES

The Kucinich campaign has added two new initiatives, a “People of Color Outreach” initiative based in California and headed by Placido Salazar and a gay and lesbian outreach initiative based in Cleveland and headed by Mari Englehart.

The People of Color office has big goals, beginning in California and moving outwards. Rep. Kucinich speaks Spanish and has already attended rallies in Southern California to attract Hispanic and Latino voters.

“Our intention is to include all people of color, not just in the campaign to just get their vote,” said Placido Salazar. “We want to make this campaign, the Kucinich administration look like America.” They’ve already set up outreach offices in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, New York and Washington State.

On Sept. 21 Kucinich will unveil his plan for immigration policy in San Diego near the Mexican border. The campaign considers border relations, especially with Mexico, very important. “Right now we treat them like 2nd class citizens (Mexican immigrants),” says Salazar. “We’ve put up this huge wall and it’s ridiculous the way we treat these workers who come over to do our work.”

How will the Kucinich campaign differentiate itself from the other 8 Dems in courting minority voters?

“It’s all about inclusion in a way that solves problems. It’s being against Prop 54 out here in California, it’s about dealing with the Democrats who had to leave Texas to avoid redistricting,” Salazar said. “A lot of other candidates try to play it safe.

But you can be progressive on your issues and not pander to the small right-wing groups who are not going to vote Democratic anyway.” He adds, “People of color are smarter when it comes to politicians. We’ve been promised the world.”

MORE ON IRAQ After addressing the issue at yesterday’s CWA conference, last night Kucinich issued a statement on Iraq:

“With the death toll on the rise and chaos overtaking Iraq it is time for the US to begin the process of withdrawal from Iraq and allow the United Nations (UN) to take over peacekeeping operations in the country.

“It is clear now that the United States is bogged down in an ongoing guerrilla war with almost daily casualties. The situation is one that the Administration did not plan for and is not adequately prepared to handle.

“Assertions by the President, and his Administration, that the war is over and that our mission was accomplished, like their claims about Iraq’s ‘vast stockpiles’ of WMD’s, are false and misleading.

“While this Administration was quick to send troops into harm’s way, they have no exit strategy for removing US troops from the country.

“It is time for the United Nations to be brought in. Negotiations for an exit must begin now. The UN must take over management, accounting and distribution to the Iraqi people of Iraq’s oil profits. There must be no privatization of the Iraqi oil industry. The UN must handle the awarding of all contracts for the rebuilding of Iraq so that there can be no more sweetheart contracts for companies like Halliburton. Additionally, a transition from UN control to self- determined governing structure by and for the Iraqi people must be planned.

“It was wrong to go into Iraq. It is wrong to stay in Iraq. Let’s support our troops by bringing them home.”

Friday, August 22, 2003

Kucinich travels to New York Thursday to tape an appearance on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart. He is the second of the nine candidates to appear on the show since declaring (Dick Gephardt was the first; Joe Lieberman has appeared on the show several times, but not since opening his ’04 bid.) According to show co-publicists Steve Albiani and Renate Luczak, they’re hoping to host all of the candidates before the primary season gets into full swing. Steve says the show hopes to enjoy even more success than they had with “Indecision 2000,” and that out of the candidates he’s approached so far, “everyone wants to do it because of the smart, clever forum Jon provides.”

From Chicago today Kucinich asked the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to revoke the operating license of FirstEnergy Corp., saying mismanagement at the utility played a big role in last week’s blackout. Kucinich says the company has a “long history of mismanagement and neglect.” People in Cleveland were warned by FirstEnergy that rolling blackouts were still possible as air conditioners put more demand on the system.

MSNBC’s Karin Caifa is embedded with the presidential campaign of U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive

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