msnbc.com

Monday, Sept. 29

$15 MILLION?Confirming what many have been saying for weeks, the Dean campaign Sunday announced that it has raised more than $12 million in the third quarter and that it aims to raise a total of $15 million by the close of business Tuesday. Those numbers not only shatter the previous Democratic fund-raising record established by President Clinton in 1995, but are likely to place a number of rival campaigns on the defensive by underscoring Dean’s political momentum.

REAL-TIME REPORTSIn that vein, the Dean campaign has added insult to injury, taking the unusual step of reporting its fundraising totals in real time on the Web. A bat has been posted in the Dean for America Web site where it is updated every hour as campaign aides feverishly count the checks the campaign has received. Topping that is an appearance Tuesday on the “Tonight Show” and a number of Hollywood fund-raisers that are sure to feature some glitz and glamour. Also, a record-breaking conference call linking hundreds of house parties is to take place at 8 p.m. ET today.

450,000 VOLUNTEERSAnother statistical sidebar — the campaign continues to work toward its goal of having 450,000 registered volunteers by the end of Tuesday. As of last count by the campaign, 441,000 people had signed up. A group of them from Texas, dubbed Dean’s Texas Rangers, spent the weekend knocking on doors in New Hampshire and Iowa.

ON THE OFFENSIVEAfter skipping over the question on Thursday, Dean on Sunday could not resist and for the first time questioned Clark’s political affiliation. Speaking on a Sunday political show Dean said, “I think that Wes Clark is, first of all, a good guy,” ... [but] “I think what you see in the Wes Clark candidacy is somewhat of a desperation by inside-the-Beltway politicians. ... You’ve got a lot of establishment politicians now surrounding a general who was a Republican until 25 days ago.” Dean also noted that Clark voted for Republicans Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon for president, adding “I think that’s going to be hard to swallow for a lot of Democrats.”

ANOTHER CHALLENGE

Meanwhile on “Meet the Press,” Gephardt challenged Dean on Medicare again, continuing a fight that started a few weeks ago. There is sure to be more on this in the coming days.

STAR POWERPresident Bartlett, I mean Martin Sheen, joined Rob Reiner by sending a fund-raising letter to Dean supporters. In the letter, Sheen notes that only strong fund-raising can defeat the “Washington” or “establishment” candidates and that supporters should thus join him in giving money to the campaign. How sweet.

ON THE TRAILMonday: Los Angeles appearances.

Friday, Sept. 26

GUNNING FOR THE GOVERNORJudging from the focus lavished on Dean by Kerry and Gephardt, Dean remains the front-runner in this race. Indeed, if not the front-runner, he is certainly perceived as the greatest threat to the Kerry and Gephardt candidacies — in most part because of the battle Dean is waging with Gephardt in Iowa and with Kerry in New Hampshire (see the poll results below). While Kerry focused on the governor’s promise to repeal all of the Bush tax cuts, even those for the middle class, the exchange of the evening took place with Gephardt ...

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Gephardt: “He also supported, at our darkest hour — when I was leading the fight against Newt Gingrich and the Contract With America … Howard, you were agreeing with the very plan that Newt Gingrich wanted to pass, which was a $270 billion cut in Medicare. Now, you’ve been saying for many months that you’re the head of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. I think you’re just winging it.”

Dean: “That is flat-out false, and I’m ashamed that you would compare me with Newt Gingrich. Nobody up here deserves to be compared to Newt Gingrich. I’ve done more for health insurance, Dick Gephardt, frankly, than you ever have, because I’ve delivered it to a lot of seniors and a lot of young people. And I’ll stake my record on health insurance against anybody up here.”

Ouch. How catty. Later, responding to a question from moderator Brian Williams about the attacks, Dean said, “I don’t think we should ever have internecine warfare. And I promise never to have internecine warfare. … little flashes of disagreement are going to happen from time to time. The truth is that we have fundamental policy disagreements here. And what we really need to do is confront George Bush with what he’s done to this country. But I do think it’s important that if folks are going to talk about us being like Newt Gingrich, that we’re not going to stand for that. There is nobody up here that’s like Newt Gingrich, and I think we have to understand that. Dean also noted that, “These days I feel my need to restate practically every position I have based on all the things these guys have said about me in the last three or four weeks.” It sounds like the gloves are off. One thing to look for, whether Dean’s online support surges as it did after previous attacks. Asked about strategy and whether it will change, Campaign Manager Joe Trippi noted that “We got here by being aggressive and unpredictable. We wont change that.”

ON CLARK

Oh, and what about the “other” front-runner, Clark? He was there, too, but like all the other candidates, Dean avoided hitting the new guy. However, said Trisha Enright, campaign spokeswoman, “General Clark was very general.” Dean’s assessment: “I thought he did fine.”

THE MONEY IS ON THE WALLSpeaking in the post-debate spin room, Trippi indicated that bags of money are stacked in the Burlington headquarters. Indeed, it seems mail contributions are coming in as fast, if not faster, than Internet contributions. So fast, in fact, that the campaign fears its compliance office will have a hard time reporting all the money before the Oct. 15 filing deadline. Additionally, Trippi noted that the Dean for America Web site is now in the top 25,000 Internet sites in the world. Indeed, the number of daily hits has now topped those of the White House site. Where is all this money going? Some will go into ads to air in New Mexico. In particular, one new television ad features the governor speaking Spanish and will air on Spanish language television.

FASHION STATEMENTThe blue tie vs. red tie watch produced a split result as the candidates mixed up their colors nicely. The governor participated with an elegant new blue tie, courtesy of his mother who found the tie at the last debate to have been below par.

POLL WATCHWithout wanting to place too much emphasis on yet another poll, let’s have a look at the latest from Marist College’s Institute for Public Opinion. According to this survey, taken Monday and Tuesday of this week, Dean leads Kerry 36 percent to 24 percent among Democratic voters in New Hampshire. Clark polled 8 percent.

ON THE TRAIL

Dean will spend the weekend in Iowa stumping before heading to Los Angeles for two days of big-splash events and media appearances. Tuesday ends the third quarter of fund-raising, so watch for big news from the campaign then.

Thursday, Sept. 25

AS PREDICTED ...

What was reported in this column earlier has indeed already come to pass. Both the New York Times and ABC had the governor questioning Clark’s position on the war, the first indicator that Dean might try to undermine Clark’s candidacy sooner rather than later by painting him as an undecided Washington insider. Despite the aggressive comments by the candidate, the official campaign mantra has not changed. Clark continues to be spun as a welcome addition to the race. Kerry is another matter, however, as the spat between the two candidates seems to have no end. Despite never receiving Kerry’s letter asking Dean to reverse course on his positions on Medicare and tax cuts for the middle class, a Dean campaign official responded, “If John Kerry wants to be pen-pals that’s fine.” The slightly more official written response included the following language: “As a doctor and a governor, Howard Dean’s top priority was expanding access to health care. Continuing that fight nationally was a primary reason that he decided to run for president. To suggest that somehow he would desert seniors who rely on Medicare by cutting the program runs counter to everything he has stood for in his career. … And let me add that as a doctor — and as a son who helped his father navigate Medicare’s bureaucracy — Governor Dean firmly believes that Medicare as a program should be more responsive to patients’ concerns. That’s why he will appoint a physician who has worked with Medicare in charge of the program. … Governor Dean believes we must repeal all of the Bush tax cuts. He also believes that those seeking the presidency have a responsibility to be honest with the American people about the true agenda behind — and full consequences of — this administration’s economic policies.”

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

Money, money, money is still the focus. As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the latest online fund drive stood at $912,000 in three days.

POLL WATCHThere is likely to be considerable analysis of the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll, but it is worth noting again the bottom-line assessment — voters are not yet familiar with Dean or the rest of the field.

ENDORSEMENT UPDATEA brief conversation with the press communications officer at the SEIU reveled little in the way of new news but for assurances that an endorsement was still a ways off. Asked about the Clark factor, the response was that some senior union leaders had and will again meet with the general, but that a broader consideration of him would not take place until he presents a health care plan. As for Dean, he continues to poll well with union members but despite a fund-raiser with an SEIU local in NYC, he is not any closer to the endorsement, according to the SEIU front office. Nonetheless, it cannot hurt to get an influential senior member of the union to help raise money for you.

ON THE TRAILFollowing the CNBC debate, Dean will head back to Vermont for the evening. He will spend much of Friday in D.C., appearing with local council members who support him in the “first” primary “state” — a primary Dean is taking quite seriously in order to show his minority support. The weekend will be spent crisscrossing Iowa before a party-filled Monday and Tuesday in Los Angeles. Also, Dean will appear on “Face the Nation.”

Wednesday, Sept. 24

‘WAIT AND SEE’Regarding Thursday’s CNBC debate and the likelihood of continued attacks by Kerry, Lieberman and Gephardt, campaign spokeswoman Trisha Enright noted that the campaign has not prepared a special strategy or specific attacks. Instead, the idea is to “wait and see what the others do” - both to Dean and to Clark.

BIGGER PICTURE

Confidently staring down both Clark and the political pundits looking for a fundamental change in strategy, the Dean campaign is sticking to its weeks old script. Promising to stay the course and “keep doing what we are doing,” Enright says the Dean camp has always seen itself as the “underdog” in this race and there was never a reason to think otherwise. Indeed, according to Enright, the “strategy has worked [and] we will continue to take our message to the administration. However, behind the happy face there is also a concrete hope of things to come. Element one is to be provided by record-breaking fund-raising numbers - numbers the campaign intends to make public as soon as the third-quarter totals are known, numbers that will almost certainly cause some media buzz and lead other campaigns to reconsider their strategies. In the words of Enright, Dean’s fund-raising and volunteer numbers will help “prove that we can alter politics and challenge the political establishment.” Element two revolves around what happens to Clark once he faces more difficult and probing questions. Despite being happy to “wait and see” what happens for now, the Dean camp is “playing to win” and is somehow confident that Clark will soon be seen for what he is - an insider “Washington” candidate who seemingly danced Republican up to last week. The question is when and if Dean will contribute to the questioning.

POLITICAL NUANCEPolitics is a game of nuance and coy rhetoric. Thus, note that the Dean camp calls Clark “a strong candidate” with a “Washington” team. Read, we like and don’t want to insult Clark, but he is not an outsider and at “some point he has to answer some questions.”

OH, BROTHERFollowing Dean’s recent appearance in Boston, MSNBC spoke with Dean’s youngest brother Bill (six years younger) about the campaign, the governor and the race for the White House. Excerpts: “He was a nice older brother … he protected me from the other two [brothers] a time or two. ... I think she [mom] is excited. I think she is incredibly proud of him. I think we are all proud of him. My other brother works full-time for the campaign and I do what I can. ... I am delighted that it has done what it has done. The biggest delight is that people are getting back involved. That is huge. Regardless of what happens it is a win-win situation for the United States when more and more people get involved. That is something that Howard has got to be proud of and I am proud of him for it. ... He is doing this on no coffee … this is the real deal … they talk about Maple-powered Howard and he is really doing this. I think he wishes he would get a little more sleep from time to time, but when he gets up here and speaks that is real passion, that is what is really energizing him. ... My dad was a Republican so he might say he was changing the will … but, in fact, I think he would be very proud of him … he would approve. ... You gotta be special for public life. It is a tough tough deal sometimes. ... He has a lot more energy than most people I have ever met. One thing you have to remember is as a physician he used to work 36 hours in a shift. ... I think Gen. Clark’s entrance into the race, as Howard has said and I agree with him, is good for the party. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Tuesday, Sept. 23

DEBATE PREPGone are the bells and whistles of the last debate — no more K Street cameras and no more one-liners from Carville and the gang. No, normalcy has returned to the Dean camp’s pre-debate routine, the governor and his aides having adopted the “standard” pre-debate approach for Thursday’s big night. Even the candidate stand-ins have been railroaded for now, replaced for the time being by routine advice and plenty of reading material. What does remain is the pre-debate adrenaline rush provided in the form of a rally with supporters and a last-minute trip to a distant location. Last time it was fund-raising in Philadelphia, this time it is a meeting with AFL-CIO members in Michigan. Last time it was a rally outside the debate hall in Albuquerque, this time it is a rally with supporters outside the debate hall in NYC.

UNDER ATTACKAsked about the ongoing attacks from Kerry and Gephardt, campaign spokesperson Courtney O’Donnell replied, “Governor Dean does seem to be on their minds a lot.” But while Dean seems to be on their minds, the Dean campaign is sticking with its original story — that negative attacks have “turned people off” and that the campaign remains focused on the grass-roots effort.

THE CLARK FACTOR Oh, how things can change. After having encouraged Clark’s candidacy and having spent considerable time praising his talents, the Dean campaign is now adjusting to the reality of running behind. Speaking for the campaign, Courtney O’Donnell says, “We’ve always enjoyed being the underdog.” Hmm.

MORE POLLSMy thanks to Edwards embed Dugald McConnell for uncovering a new Iowa poll conducted by SurveyUSA for WHO television in Des Moines. As Dugald reported, this most recent survey shows Dean and Gephardt tied at 23 percent, followed by Kerry with 17 percent. Clark finished with 8 percent, but the poll was conducted prior to his official announcement.

ON THE TRAILDean will be in Boston for a 12:30 p.m. rally today and in New York later for private events.

Monday, Sept. 22

THE CLARK DIFFERENCEOnly days after officially entering the fray, Clark is the new it man, stealing some of Dean’s thunder and and his position as the political flavor of the month. A new Newsweek poll confirms that the general now leads the governor in the charge for the White House, and recent articles indicate that he may also have assumed Dean’s position under the media microscope. For Dean, these realities are a mixed blessing. While placing second in the Newsweek poll makes it difficult for the Dean camp to claim it has all the momentum, the number of undecided and the governor’s position ahead of those who have traditionally outperformed indicated the campaign has been growing and continues to have room to grow. As far as the microscope is concerned, the press may be focused elsewhere for now, but Dean’s opponents are not. As my fellow embeds have been reporting, Kerry and Gephardt continue to question the governor’s positions and have spent considerable time scrutinizing his public comments. It will be interesting to see if they continue this effort in Thursday’s CNBC debate.

BATTING FOR MONEYRefusing the be outdone when it comes to showing support and sticking with their original plan of delivering an early blow to the competition, the Dean campaign launched an online drive to raise $5 million over the next 10 days. Should they come close, the $5 million figure will likely eclipse the total third-quarter effort by a number of candidates and should push Dean well over his original goal of $10 million for the quarter. While the governor continues to tap into the “traditional” fund-raising vein this week, his online team has placed five bats on the campaign Web site. Each bat is worth $1 million and the ticker keeps track of the donations. As a point of reference, the campaign raised $1 million over five days in conjunction with the “Sleepless Summer Tour” in late August. As I have noted before, this fund drive is quite a gamble, both because of the timing (read - the Clark factor) and because campaigns have historically avoided disclosing where their fund-raising totals stand for fear of falling short. That said, the fact that such a risk is being taken should give us a hint that the campaign has already raised close to the $10 million it originally aimed for, making this just icing on the cake.

ON THE TRAILHaving focused on outreach the first two-thirds of September, the Dean campaign has shifted gears and will focus almost exclusively on fund-raising for the rest of this month. Thus, other than a rally in Boston on Tuesday and a pre-debate rally in NYC on Thursday, Dean will be out of the public eye, looking for contributions and hitting up donors for cash.

Friday, Sept. 19

FUND-RAISING ON ALL CYLINDERSThe Associated Press reports that Judith Steinberg Dean is “writing to 128,000 previous contributors to her husband’s campaign asking them to give again” and will send that same letter to “500,000 more people, those involved with various women’s groups, in coming months, as well as to Internet supporters.” According to the AP, Steinberg Dean “recounts how she and Dean met while both were attending the Albert Einstein medical school and then moved to Vermont for their residencies.”

MORE THAN A RALLY IN BOSTONWhile still a rally, Tuesday’s gathering now features an official “speech” by Dean entitled “Democracy, Freedom and Action.” In it, Dean promises to lay out what is at stake in this election and describe how he will help Democrats “take the country back.” Listen up John Kerry, some of this is designed for your ears, for sure. A formal speech is a departure for the Dean campaign, which has tried hard to let the governor speak from memory rather than from a prepared text. The reason, according to those who have followed Dean’s career for some time, is that he performs far better when not delivering prepared remarks. How he tackles this appearance will be reported in this column next Wednesday.

ANOTHER POLLWhile poll results are still far from conclusive given the number of undecided, it is interesting to compare results of early polls and look for similarities. As was the case in a poll released a week and a half ago, a recent survey by the American Research Group shows Dean (31%) with a 10-point lead over Kerry (21%) among likely voters in the New Hampshire primary. The remaining candidates were in single digits while 27% percent were undecided (this still being the most relevant number).

PLANNING AHEADA number of weeks ago it was announced that a number of Dean for America volunteers from Texas would be stumping in Iowa at the end of September. Those plans have now been finalized and New Hampshire has been added to the mix. As it stands, 500 volunteers from Texas will board three planes (two to Iowa and one to New Hampshire) next weekend, stumping across those two battleground states and staying in the homes of supporters.

Wednesday, Sept. 17

AN OUTLANDISH CHALLENGE It is the most outlandish challenge of this campaign season. A threshold, which if achieved, would completely alter the race for the presidency, likely result in the first dropouts of this campaign and rewrite political history. Yet, it also is a mark that the Dean campaign seriously (99.9%) doubts it can reach, calling it more of a challenge and a call to action than a realistic or achievable ambition. The challenge - raise $40 million in the third quarter. Can the Dean campaign get anywhere close, and if so, how close? He is behind the target. In an open letter (posted on the campaign’s Web site), Campaign Manager Joe Trippi notes that if all 400,000 of the Dean for America Volunteers were to send $100 dollars to the campaign, Dean for America would raise $40 million dollars this quarter. While this observation alone doesn’t mean much, the associated challenge does. In his letter, Trippi says that “now is the time” and that “these next fifteen days will be the most important days of our campaign,” raising the bar and setting this aggressive and ambitious tone for the campaign: “If you and every other person receiving this e-mail makes an average contribution of $100 by September 30th, we will have raised $40 million … I cannot overstate how critical the next fifteen days are.” For good measure, Trippi promises to put up a “bat” on the Web site during the last 10 days of the month to count down until the filing deadline, reflecting how much the campaign raises. But is this more than bluster and does the campaign have any shot at raising $30 million dollars more than the original target? The campaign says no, clearly stating that the original target of $10.3 million still stands, but may be surpassed, albeit not by $30 million. Instead, it is said, this is a letter designed to show the potential strength of a grass-roots movement and to challenge the other campaigns. Nonetheless, publicly stating one’s potential ambitions has been known to backfire in political circles and this is certainly a risky proposition. Thus, there must be some confidence that this will turn out to turn heads. A few points to keep in mind:

Past challenges have been met — the $1 million dollar effort during the “Sleepless Summer” tour, registering 450,000 volunteers (likely to be met) and significant second-quarter fundraising.

No other campaign has been this public about its fundraising abilities or targets.

The Dean crowd seems to be able to afford $100 dollars (observations suggest that most Dean supporters are middle- and upper middle-class individuals).

This undermines the efforts of other campaigns to inflate the Dean campaign’s fund-raising projections.

Even if half the $40 million is raised, it would shatter prior fund-raising records and all but destroy the hopes of a number of other candidates.

MORE POLLSIn an Albuquerque Journal poll (Sept. 8-10), (who was on the air first) leads Lieberman and Kerry 18% to 14% to 10%. Thirty-eight percent of those questioned remained undecided and 9% liked none of the nine candidates. Al Gore beat George Bush by 366 votes in New Mexico in 2000. It was the only Rocky Mountain state to support Gore.

Monday, September 15

IT’S NOT MEDICAL SCHOOLRunning for president is hard work, but not as hard as becoming a doctor, says Howard Dean, who has done both. Since NBC began trailing Dean in his quest for the White House, the family doctor and former Vermont governor has visited 15 states (Iowa twice) in four weeks. Each day begins at sunrise and ends well past sunset, hundreds of miles are driven or flown and stops are made only to refuel or visit the restroom. But tougher than medical school? Nah. “For the most part, residency was harder than this. Internship year is just dreadful. … There has only been one week on this campaign that was worse than the internship.” What week that was remains a mystery.

NO SPECIAL DEBATESDean dismissed Sen. John Kerry’s suggestion that the two engage in a debate together saying, “I think it would be a little unfair to the other seven candidates in the race. John will have five more opportunities and many, many more to say what he has to say to my face and I look forward to it. But I don’t think he gets to condense this to a two-man race yet. Let’s let the public do that.”

BLURRING THE LINEPolitical junkies are sure to have smiled last night with the premier of “K Street” on HBO. While this column has a natural bias toward “The West Wing” (Wednesdays on NBC), the governor’s appearance is worth a mention. For those of you who watched, you may have noticed that the governor had a speaking role. Interestingly, he decided to live out that role in real life as well, using the line during the Black Caucus sponsored debate in Baltimore last Tuesday. Has the line between political reality and fictional politics been crossed beyond return? Discuss among yourselves, politicos.

TODAY ON THE TRAIL“Generation Dean” gets its launch today in Atlanta, Ga., after a town hall meeting in Huntsville, Ala.

Thursday, September 11

LEADING THE PACK IN IOWAZogby has Dean at 23 percent versus Rep. Gephardt’s 17 percent and Kerry’s 11 percent. Three things in this poll are of note. The first is the high percentage of those who are undecided (at 32%), the second is the drop in support for Rep. Gephardt and the third is the large improvement by Dean (up from 6% in April.) Together with Edwards, Dean also recorded a jump in his “favorable” numbers.

While the campaign continues to refrain from commenting on polls, they do say that are pleased with where they are.

MATCHMAKING - DEAN AND CLARK

Howard Dean has been asked about Wes Clark for weeks (as I noted in my update) and has mentioned that the two have talked on a number of occasions. On the Grassroots express a few weeks ago, Dean noted that he likes Clark and said that the two share a number of similar positions, but he refused to elaborate on the vice presidential question or Clark’s run for the presidency (saying he had no influence over Clark’s decision and that he would respect his decision).

Today, campaign manager Joe Trippi maintained that position, telling the New York Times that “The governor’s told him repeatedly that he should run if he wants.” “I’m sure that along the way the governor’s made clear that we want General Clark’s support if he decides not to.”

TOM CURRY AND SPENDING LIMITSPlease read Tom Curry’s MSNBC.com article on Dean and spending limits. While the $15 million number is being floated by opposing campaigns to inflate expectations, if Dean can get close he will most likely have a difficult decision ahead of him.

Also of note, a Newsweek.com piece on Dean by Eleanor Clift.

DEAN ON ABC THIS WEEK

If only ABC could get favorable ratings like Dean.

GENERATION DEAN

I have reported on this before, but for a quick recap, this program is designed to involved young Americans (students and professionals) in the Democratic process (for Dean of course). Dean will do a college tour under the Generation Dean umbrella in October.

Wednesday, September 10

No update for today.

Tuesday, September 9

THE TRUE JUDGEDean, who claims to call his wife every evening, made a heartfelt post-debate call home. In it he asked Mrs. Steinberg who had won the debate and a few other questions. Excerpts from the conversation follow.

“Hello my dear. Good, good. What did you think about the end? Yea. I just wanted to (interrupted), why, why just out of curiosity? Yea, right. It was about defense and restoring honor and dignity to the United States. Uh huh. Ahh. Yea, ok. Yea. Ok, that is a good thing to do. Uh huh. Ahh. Oh my goodness. Ah. Good. Who did the best? That is what I thought too, that is what I thought too. Yea. Yea.” (Could it be the governor came in second?)

Later, Dean noted that his son, Paul, would have liked his choice of Jaspora by Wyclef Jean as his (Dean’s) favorite song. However, from the phone conversation with home it appears that Wyclef has yet to penetrate deep into the Dean household, the governor stating, “You don’t know who he is? He is a big favorite of Paul’s,” to his wife. (As to why Jaspora was selected as his favorite, Dean said he has more than one favorite song, this particular tune just jumped to the forefront. Could it be the CDs the kids leave behind in the car?)

For the romantics in the crowd, Dean signed off saying “alright my sweet.”

KERRY IS FEELING DEAN

Falling into a wireless trap, John Kerry walked away from an interview muttering “Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean.” Dean, who I guess is the source of Mr. Kerry’s frustration, refused to comment or gloat about the situation but did add this rather diplomatic twist: “All I am pleased about is that we are making some progress on George Bush and that he is below 50 percent. The whole game here is not among the nine of us. It is to beat George Bush…”

ON THE ISSUES - POST DEBATE

“The situation in Israel is deteriorating. The Bush administration has not been able to do much. If I were George Bush I would do as I am about to call on him to do. I believe the president of the United States should swallow his pride and call the two men who have done more for Israel in the last century of American Diplomacy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and send them to the Middle East right now on a diplomatic mission. We have to have a high profile diplomatic delegation go to the Mideast right now before the situation gets completely out of hand as it threatens to do today.”

“One time I was down in South Carolina and an African-American audience said why should we vote for a white boy from Vermont and I finished it off and said because I got soul.”

“If I were in Congress and I was going to be asked $87 billion, I don’t think I would support that, unless the president offered to get rid of $87 billion of his tax cut.”

THE BUZZ IN BALTIMOREDean was clearly a notch better than last Thursday in Albuquerque, drawing frequent applause and staying on topic. Generally, it seemed Gephardt was less energetic and that perhaps made the other candidates look better. Not to mention the Sharpton factor — the reverend clearly added a bit of spice to the debate process and perhaps stole some of the “miserable failure” thunder. Graham too was a winner, looking sharp and giving concise answers at times when others evaded questions.

Oh, and then there was Clooney and the gang. My, how we fall for Hollywood in Washington.

RUNNING ON EMPTY

Dean is off for two days, resting his strained voice and red eyes.

Monday, September 8

THE BURDEN (& BLESSING) OF THE FRONTRUNNERFollowing an overnight commercial flight, Howard Dean appeared on all three morning news shows, lending the appearance of having already won the Democratic nomination. While Dean’s answers were sufficient, the line of questioning served as an indication of things to come — the Middle East, Iraq, guns, trade and foreign policy will all be topics of interest.

That said, Dean managed to escape much of the scrutiny — for today. He took only four questions following his speech at the SEIU — all of them on Iraq and the president’s speech last night. Furthermore, an evening rally at College Park, Md., didn’t leave the impression that voters had turned on Dean. Another capacity crowd turned out (estimated at 3,000) to hear the former governor speak, the only distraction being a small group of Bush supporters who interrupted the speech twice (see details below).

Asked about the flip-flop issue, Campaign Manager Joe Trippi dismissed the inquiries as coming from people who “just don’t get it.” He indicated that this campaign would be won “at the kitchen table in neighborhoods across America” and not in the pages of the morning papers or television shows. Indeed, it seems the campaign is trying to spin Dean’s propensity for changing his mind as an asset, one that reflects honesty and flexibility, one that plays well with Dean’s grassroots supporters.

THAT JOHN KERRY

Trisha Enright, Dean’s spokesperson, characterized the latest John Kerry attacks as “bizarre” and “desperate.” As you know, Kerry today suggested that Dean’s lack of foreign policy experience could be a liability much the way Carter’s and other governor’s lacking experience was. Enright also pointed out that Kerry seemed to forget about a governor turned president named Clinton.

THE SEIU AND DEAN

Speaking with notes and wearing his complete suit for the first time in weeks, Dean brought the SEIU crowd to its feet a number of times and generally delivered what the capacity crowd had been waiting for. The consensus was that John Edwards and Dean both delivered what was wanted and both came away with high marks. However, none of those present for the smaller group meetings tipped their hand as to which way they are leaning.

TURTLE-POWERED HOWARD

Dean delivered his standard stump speech in College Park, MD. Interestingly, many more minorities were present tonight, a trend that we will continue to monitor in the weeks to come.

The only unusual element was provided by a small group of Bush supporters who chanted “GOP, GOP, GOP,” to which Dean responded, “We will let these people get this out of their system for a minute. A moment of silence for the GOP who will not be around after 2004.”

EMBEDS ARE BIG NEWS — ON THE BLOG

The Dean campaign filed the following report on their Web site on yours truly:

Felix the Snitch

Speaking of Daily Reads, have any of you checked out the MSNBC Campaign Embeds page? It’s pretty cool, and as the primary heats up, I’ve a feeling these folks are gonna be breaking lots of news. The embed’s reports also appear in NBC’s First Read, their political unit’s answer to The Note though it’s hardly a real competitor, not yet — you can read my mini-review at Points West. The embeds will, and are, popping up on all manner of NBC and MSNBC news programs, including Hardball and others, they are a great bunch of young reporters.

In any event, the Dean Embed is one Felix Schein. Good-looking and cheerful, he seems consistently thrilled to be assigned to the most exciting campaign in modern history. Yes, Felix, that was a little butt-kissing — sorry. He also was the first embed (that I know of) to break some real news:

“The Dean camp was fairly pleased with the outcome of the debate. They conceded that Dick Gephardt was the clear winner, but felt they held their ground and kept their momentum.”

These two sentences showed up in news reports far and wide, not just on NBC. In fact, Gephardt sent out a fundraising appeal by e-mail with this quote in it that a Dean National was nice enough to forward over to us at Dean Nation! I had no idea that Gephardt sought Dean’s approval to this degree, or that he held Dean’s opinion in such high regard! Wow. ...

I’m sure we’ll be hearing quite a bit from Felix the Snitch — and of course I mean that playfully, Mr. Schein. So welcome, Felix, and a big “hi-how-ya-doin” from Dean Nation!

IT WAS BOUND TO HAPPEN

A flashmob for Dean. See the Official Blog for details.

Sunday, September 7

ZOGBY IS SO GOOD TO ME

For the second time in two weeks, a Zogby poll shows Dean ahead. First it was New Hampshire and now it is a poll of likely primary voters. Dean’s people keep playing down the numbers, saying they can’t look at polls now

that they are ahead, given that they dismissed them when they were behind. Nonetheless, they are pleased with their strength and don’t worry about peaking too early. Last week, Joe Trippi said he would worry if they were at 35 percent nationally, but if 10 percent or 15 percent is your peak, you have bigger problems than peaking too early.

ENDORSE ME, ENDORSE ME

There is a real battle brewing over the Service Employees International Union endorsement. For Dean, the SEIU endorsement would validate his position as a frontrunner while Dick Gephardt needs the SEIU to stay in the running for the AFL-CIO endorsement. Both candidates - and others - will speak to members of the union’s political action committee in a small closed-door meeting approximately 30 minutes in length before giving a speech to the group as a whole (this event will be open).

An interesting factoid: The SEIU hired young filmmakers to follow the candidates for a few days a number of weeks ago. The goal was to catch the unscripted, real moments and to show SEIU members what the candidate is like on the road and behind the scenes. The videos, approximately six to seven minutes long, will be released following the candidate’s appearance at SEIU.

GENERATION DEAN

A number of days ago I mentioned Generation Dean, the umbrella organization and outreach program the campaign developed to coordinate and assist the efforts of campus and young professional support organizations. Over the past few weeks Generation Dean banners have been hung behind Dean when he visits college campuses (in Portland and Albuquerque). College Park will be another such event.

IF IT RHYMES, THEY WILL COME

On a final note, the campaign has dubbed their next major project A September to Remember, Thirty Days That Change Politics. Dividing the month into three 10-day sections, the idea is to build the Dean community in the

first 10 days, to work on outreach the second 10 days, and show grassroots strength in the final 10 days, raising money and expanding the volunteer network to 450,000 people being the obvious goals. Of note is Sept. 20, when the campaign plans to place supporters on highway overpasses, on street corners, and in the community with signs. Like the Sleepless Summer Tour, this again will be an opportunity for the campaign to demonstrate the depth of its grassroots network and to make a final push for those third quarter dollars.

Thursday, September 4

WE STILL GOT THE MOJO

The Dean camp was fairly pleased with the outcome of the debate. They conceded that Dick Gephardt was the clear winner, but felt they held their ground and kept their momentum. Asked about Lieberman’s attacks, Joe Trippi, Dean’s campaign manager, pointed out that 6,000 new volunteers registered to support Dean during the debate, a clear sign he thought that the attacks did little good. Asked whether the campaign felt it had to respond to the attacks, Trippi said no and added that he still believed attacks energized the Dean base. Of particular note, is the Dean campaigns ability to poll itself via the web. Not only are they able to keep track of those visiting the campaign website, but the campaign is able to keep a minute by minute log of when people visit the site.

BRING IT ONThe picture of the afternoon was Dean being escorted to the debate site by about one hundred supporters. Following a nearby rally, Dean elected to walk to the debate site rather than drive and was cheered on as he walked the half mile. Clearly pumped up by the support, Dean had a big smile on his face and compared the moment to entering a prize fight. Of note, the rally itself took place in front of a Generation Dean banner, a slogan the campaing is using all the more.

WHAT’S IN A TIE

Dean was the only candidate to wear a blue tie during the debate. It seems red is the color of the season — some elected to wear stripes, others dots.Obviously Carole Mosely Braun did not wear a tie.

LOOKING AHEAD

Dean opens his Arizona office tomorrow and then heads to the Bay Area for a Sunday speech. He will be in Washington on Monday, working hard to score an endorsement by the SEIU. On Tuesday, Dean will attend the second presidential debate.

Wednesday, September 3

LET’S MEETUP

Governor Dean arrived in New Mexico early Wednesday and spent much of the day in Albuquerque preparing for tomorrow’s debate, and if the group traveling with him is any indication, he is taking tomorrow very seriously. Following his debate work, Dean attended a fundraiser in Santa Fe and then stopped by a Meetup at a local cafe. Clearly worn out, he gave an abbreviated version of his stump speech and took a few questions from the crowd, many of whom didn’t have space in the coffee house and had to listen to Dean outside. Overall, I would guess about 200 people showed up, just a small slice of the 106,000 that registered to attend a MeetUp today. Of note, the audience here was clearly older and (not unusual) all white. For those of you into political fashion, Dean wore a suit jacket for the first time in weeks and seemed to have gotten his shoes polished. But one thing stayed the same — he wore a red tie.

SAY IT’S SO JOE

Joe Trippi, Dean’s campaign manager, talked at length about the blog on Dean’s Web site and about the importance of the Internet to Dean’s campaign. Asked whether people “get” the Internet factor, he replied that he didn’t think so and that people underestimated its grassroots impact. Trippi spoke at length about the campaign’s tracking abilities, in particular the ability to track minority particpation.

In other news, the campaign continues to air ads in New Mexico and elsewhere. Asked whether the campaign was lacking focus in South Carolina, Trippi pointed to ads running there as evidence South Carolina was still a priority. He also downplayed the idea the campaign was peaking too early, noting that 10% name recognition is not peaking. Trippi also said no decision had been made on whether Dean will accept federal matching funds despite rumors indicating the opposite.

And for those far inside the campaign, Joe drank a Diet Coke today.

A GROWING NETWORK:

Dean’s campaign now has a paid New Mexico staffer. On Friday Dean will open the Dean for America office in Phoenix. Per Trippi, the campaign now has real operations in at least eleven states (states with only a fundraising arm do not count).

LOOKING AHEAD:

Dean will be in Phoenix on Friday. San Jose is on the schedule for Saturday, Washington, D.C., is planned Monday and Baltimore Tuesday. Dean is scheduled to be off next Wednesday and Thursday.

Tuesday, September 2

HAVE YOUR DAY, JOHN KERRY:

Asked about Kerry’s formal announcement, Trisha Enright, Dean Campaign Spokesperson, said “I’ll let John Kerry have his day.”

MEET-UP SANTA FE:

Dean will spend two days in New Mexico, starting with an evening Meet-Up in Santa Fe at the Tribe Coffee House at 7:30. This is one of hundreds of Meet-ups scheduled for tomorrow. As of last count 96,000 people had registered, but it remains to be seen how many show up.

An interesting sidebar, Dean has more registered Meet-Up participants than any other politician, topic, subject or interest group. John Kerry, for example, has fewer than 10,000 registered participants.

‘LOBO’ FOR HOWARDPrior to Thursday’s debate, Dean will participate in a rally and following the debate will make an appearance at a University of New Mexico debate watching party (this is a Dean event) before heading to the Albuquerque Hilton to meet with Democratic fundraisers.

The campaign has long been working to unify various campus groups around the country into one unit dubbed Generation Dean. Given the location of this debate, that element will receive some attention. Dean is planning a Generation Dean tour later this fall which will take him around the country to meet both students and young professionals on and off campuses. Look out “Hardball.”

THE DAYS AHEAD

Dean will charter to Phoenix on Friday where he will participate in the official opening of the Arizona campaign office. He also has a number of closed events.

Friday Dean will be in San Jose.

Monday, September 1

WE’RE NOT IN SEATTLE ANYMORE HOWARD

Reality has returned to the Dean campaign following last week’s whirlwind tour. Dean, who has been mixing downtime with campaign stops in New Hampshire and Iowa, joined four other Democratic contenders at the Des Moines Labor Day parade where he clearly produced one of the day’s more memorable pictures. Eager to shake as many hands as possible, Dean ran from one side of the road to the other for more than two miles, pressing the flesh and introducing himself to voters. He was supported by a loud and cheerful team of volunteers — about 30 in all — and was dutifully filmed and photographed for the campaign’s Web site.

Prior to running the parade route, Dean took a few questions producing little news. He criticized President Bush’s handling of North Korea and answered questions about his foreign policy experience noting he has traveled to 50 countries and stating that he has “more foreign policy experience than either Ronald Reagan, George Bush or Bill Clinton did when they took office.” While Dean didn’t bite at a question about his opponents attacking him, he did note that Democrats had to stop making promises they could not keep — “We cannot as Democrats expect to win the White House if we succumb to the same problem the Bush administration has, which is promising something to everyone.”

From Des Moines, Dean traveled to the Southeast corner of Iowa — stopping at a picnic in Iowa City — where he spoke at a Labor Day picnic in Keokuk (about 100 attended) and at a Democratic Reception in Louisa County (about 30 attended). For the most part, Dean delivered his standard stump speech, albeit somewhat shorter and more trade-oriented than the one he delivers elsewhere. Again, he spoke without notes and spent time shaking hands and taking questions — which were broad and across the board (his position on guns and NAFTA and gay marriage came up in both places).

The final event of the evening had a nice picture quality. Dean spoke to a group of 40, sitting in a semi-circle on a dark lawn behind a supporter’s home. Dean stood on a small platform, his face lit from one side, a flag over his shoulder, his eyes bloodshot. Inside, the owner of the house prepared a sandwich for him to take home. Late-night campaigning at its best.

SLOW DOWN EVERYONE, YOU’RE MOVING TOO FAST (JACK JOHNSON ANYONE):

The van in which Governor Dean was traveling was pulled over for speeding. The campaign is now $80 poorer. It seems the police officer who ticketed the aide driving the van did not recognize Governor Dean, nor was any attempt made to avoid the ticket. Sadly, a camera did not witness the moment.

THE MEDIA STARSA woman in Muscatine asked Governor Dean to sign last week’s New York Times article by Jodi Wilgoren, which he did, but he also suggested Jodi sign it and she did with humor and grace and some amazement.

Howard Dean is an international star. Following coverage by German and French television, a crew from Japan joined us today. NBC, The New York Times and Japanese Television, go figure.

ON ALAN GREENSPAN

After his speech in Keokuk, IA, Dean was signing posters when hee was asked if he would keep Alan Greenspan:

“Probably not, but I’m not going to say anything about that publicly. The big problem with that is... (gets interrupted by the questioner saying ‘It upsets the markets’), well yea, that, but the thing that really concerns me about him is his endorsement of the President’s tax policy which really wasn’t good economics and that was political and once the Chairman of the Fed get political you got a real problem. But I think he will retire anyway.”

Sunday, August 31

PRESSURE’S ON

As the frontrunner in Iowa and New Hampshire, as the presumptive fundraising leader, as the candidate with the all-important momentum, Howard Dean has become the man to beat. He will most certainly be targeted during Thursday’s Democratic debate in New Mexico, a debate for which he has been preparing over the past few days, and I expect him to face more questions about John Kerry due to that candidate’s announcement in South Carolina. NBC will be with Dean in Iowa on Monday where he plans to attend the Labor Day parade in Des Moines followed by the Burlington Picnic and an afternoon rally. On Wedenesday we will join him in New Mexico where he will attend a Meet-Up in Santa Fe. While the specific agenda for Dean’s Meet-Up is not available, the general agenda includes discussions about hosting house parties, promoting Dean at larger events and reaching out to elderly and minority populations. There are currently 96,000 people signed up for Dean Meet-ups.

NEWS FROM THE BLOG

Much has been said about the Internet and its role in the Dean Campaign, how the Web connects the candidate with his supporters and enables the campaign to form an online community. If you had any doubts about the existence of such a community or the campaign’s role in it consider reading the following entry from Dean’s closest aide, Kate O’Connor. It serves as a great example of why people think they know the Governor and why they flock to his Web site for information.

Yesterday we were on the road again after taking a few days off to recover from the Sleepless Summer Tour. We spent the day in New Hampshire, and our NH staff worked the Gov hard! The Gov. attended “house” parties in Walpole, Chichester, Hudson, and Kensington. It’s hard to call them house parties because the crowds were so large that all of the events had to be held outside. In Walpole over 1,000 people showed up! Cars were parked in a neighboring field so it had a concert feel to the event. (It was a Dean for America family day at the Walpole event. Chris from our scheduling office was there with his father and grandmother; my brother, sister, mother, and my little nephew Daniel — as always decked out in his baby sized Dean t-shirt — all crossed the border for the event. And we got to see Patty from VT, a member of the Dean for America blogging family!)The NH staff tried to make things a little more comfortable for the long ride around the state by renting a conversion van for this trip. (It was like McFun with shock absorbers!). Chad, our trusty driver, did a great job at the wheel. At one point he skillfully avoided hitting a Great Blue Heron that decided to take a rest in the middle of the road.I’d like to thank the Woolsey Family in Hudson who went beyond the call of duty. Not only did they host a house party, but they packed the Gov a healthy dinner. I watched him eat the carrots!It wasn’t all work, we did take the time to see a once in a lifetime event. On the way home last night, the Gov. and I and Abbey (our long serving VT staffer who drove us home), pulled over around 11:00pm to look at Mars. It was awesome!Tomorrow we’re off to spend Labor Day in Iowa!

LOOKING AHEAD

Dean is in Vermont on Tuesday (No Public Events), Santa Fe on Wednesday, Albuquerque on Thursday (a rally will precede the debate) and Phoenix on Friday.

Much more to come Tuesday.

Friday, August 29

POLLS AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES:

Reading between the lines, it seems Howard Dean will take significant time to prepare for the upcoming NM debate in the coming days. He has some downtime Sunday and Tuesday where he is scheduled to be in Vermont (initially, it seemed he would be in Iowa for more than one day).

ADS DELAYED

The campaign did not want to discuss why the new ads have been delayed, but fact is the Governor was very hoarse on Tuesday following his Sleepless Summer Tour and that seemed to delay the filming of his new ads. He might well use Sunday to make some headway in that direction.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Dean is in NH Saturday, Vermont Sunday, Iowa Monday, Vermont Tuesday, Santa Fe Wednesday and at the debate Thursday. I will be in Iowa and New Mexico with him.

Thursday, August 28

SIT-UPS AND PUSH-UPS FOR AMERICA:

According to a staffer, the Dean campaign has been doing situps and pushups for America. What started as an intern affair has spread through the staff to include, at times, the Governor himself. While the staffer would not disclose how many situps and pushups were being done every afternoon, we can assume this staff will be in tip top shape for what they hope is a long run for the presidency.

SLEEPLESS IN BURLINGTON:

There is more to come on this, including video, when I travel to Burlington, but for the time being this information will have to do. A large and somewhat ill-defined number of Dean Campaign interns and volunteers have gotten together and rented a house in Burlington, dubbed The Flop House. There, they sleep much like the Mafia must when it is time to hit the matresses, outfitted with little more than ample amounts of pasta and a big screen television.

A CHANGE IN TUNE:

Elvis has been dumped by Dean. Gone is the old theme song that calls for “a little less conversation and a little more action.” The new song is by an artist by the name of Joanna (who performed at the rally in NYC I believe) and is titled “You Can.” Leanne Rhymes covered this song for Legally Blond II. According to the press staff, Governor Dean would have liked to use a Carly Simon tune called “Let the River Run” from the movie “Working Girl.” Anyway, the new lyrics to “You Can” are attached below.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Dean is dropping his daughter off at school today. He is in N.H. on Saturday and in Iowa on Sunday and Monday.

CAMPAIGN SONG LYRICS:

They’ll try to stop the dream we’re dreamin’

But they can’t stop us from believing

They will fill your head with doubt

But that won’t stop us now

So let them say we can’t do it

Put up a road block

We’ll just run right through it.. Cause...

We can, do the impossible

We have the power in our hands

And we won’t stop ‘cause we’ve got

To make a difference in this life

With one voice, one heart, two hands, we can

They say the odds are stacked against us

But that can’t hold us back, we will be relentless

There’s a voice they’re gonna hear

A voice so loud and clear

So let them say we can’t do it, give us a mountain,

and we’re gonna move it.. cause..

We can, do the impossible

We have the power in our hands, and we won’t stop

Cause we’ve got to make a difference in this life

With one voice, one heart, Two hands, we can

We’re gonna make a change today (make a change today)

Because we’ve got the faith it takes

To win this race, so let them say we can’t do it

Put up a road block

And we’ll just run right through it cuz..

We can, do the impossible

We have the power in our hands and we won’t stop

Cos we’ve got to make a difference in this life

With one voice, one heart Two hands, we can

I can (oh I can)

Do the impossible (do the impossible)

I have the power in my hands, and I won’t stop

Cause I’ve got to make a difference in this life

With my one voice, one heart, two hands, we can

Wednesday, August 27

THE SCHEDULE

After a hectic cross-country campaign swing last week, the Dean campaign is taking a break.

Thursday: Governor Dean is taking time off today but will attend a Verizon rally in Burlington (which he promised he would do at the CWA conference - although he did not say when.)

Friday: Dr. Dean will take his daughter back to school and will attend a rally at Yale.

Saturday: A tour of house parties in NH.

MSNBC’s Felix Schein is embedded with the presidential campaign of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints

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