Friday, Feb. 13
Underscoring the faith the Dean campaign is putting into Wisconsin’s university students, the Dean campaign has over the past week visited at least five college campuses or technical colleges not to mention a series of grade schools or university facilities. Indeed, the campaign’s state director is himself a college student who coordinated some of Al Gore’s student outreach efforts in 2000.
Yet, despite drawing strong crowds on campus, there is no evidence this strategy will work. Not only is Dean speaking largely to the faithful, but he is seemingly growing more and more dependant on a demographic whose historical commitment to voting is spotty at best. Moreover, numerous campaign aides have openly expressed concerns about Dean’s Wisconsin leadership and 24 year-old state director, who despite being a rising star, is suspected of lacking the contacts and context to manage a do-or-die effort.
Couple those concerns with recent polls showing Dean failing to gain ground on his rivals and it becomes easy to understand why analysts and observers alike are predicting a further setback in the Badger state. In fact, Dean’s own staff has suggested their odds of victory next Tuesday may be no better than 30%, an assessment that doesn’t exactly wake confidence in the campaign or its leadership.
As Iowa and New Hampshire showed, you can’t buy yourself out of every problem and Wisconsin may be no different. Even though the campaign has been on the air with television ads for five days, there has been no appreciable growth in crowds at rallies or measurable up-tick in the polls.
Part of the problem say campaign officials, are Dean’s high unfavorable numbers and the campaign’s inability to counter them thus far. Indeed, those same folks suggest they lack the resources needed to launch a full-scale counter-attack, many of them resigning themselves to the idea that Dean’s campaign is in an all but endless slide.
That’s quite a turnaround for a man who just six months ago drew close to five hundred at a midnight tarmac rally in Milwaukee and five weeks later drew more than three thousand to an outdoor rally at the University of Wisconsin. Less than a thousand turned out to hear Dean speak on Thursday and he hasn’t once come close to that number over the past seven days.
Thursday, Feb. 12
Governor Dean continues his Badger State fly-around on Thursday after taking time out to watch his son play hockey in Vermont. He will return to the stump with one familiar and one unfamiliar guest, bringing his wife Judy and Campaign Manager Roy Neel to the frozen tundra for the first time. Moreover, Governor Dean will for the first time in a month attend a fundraiser, this time bringing his press entourage along in an effort to demonstrate his campaign’s continuing ability to raise money.
Interestingly, the fundraiser Dean plans to attend is scheduled for his former "do-or-die" state of Wisconsin, but rather in Minneapolis, MN, a state Dean hasn’t visited in the past six. While the case can be made that Minnesota’s media market permeates the Wisconsin border, it is an odd stop given Dean’s desperate need for Badger state voters. Indeed, the whole idea of a fundraiser is interesting when one considers that Dean’s campaign seems to have hit a fundraising ceiling.
Having initially raised close to a million dollars in a twenty-four hour following its announcement of the "Wisconsin strategy"- one Dean has since contradicted by implying he will stay in the race - the Dean campaign has since found it hard to double that amount as planned. By way of comparison, the campaign used to collect in excess of $150,000 a day, over the past week the official take has seemingly shrunk to less than $100,000 a day.
Other political news of note
Holder says drone strikes since 2009 have killed four U.S. citizens
On the eve of a major address by President Barack Obama on his counterterrorism policy, the Obama administration revealed Wednesday that drone strikes since 2009 had killed four Americans overseas – one of whom, Anwar al-Aulaqi, was targeted in Yemen because he’d planned and was planning terrorist attacks on the United States – principally the plot to blow up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Eve 2009.
- Reid appears to back away from 'nuclear option' on filibusters
- Lawmakers grill officials for inaction on IRS, Lerner denies wrongdoing
- Republicans target Democrats in conservative districts
- Public relations gone bad for White House on IRS
- Holder says drone strikes since 2009 have killed four U.S. citizens
While the two and four week averages are still in line with previous averages, the slowing numbers seem to point to a brewing problem. Numerous aides have indicated that even with the hiring of Campaign CEO Roy Neel, no major staff changes have occurred and very few people have lost their jobs, suggesting that payroll, the campaign’s greatest expense, remains inflated even as the campaign searches for money to spend in Wisconsin.
And money it will need. Dean officials in that state have said they have been given a "green light" to essentially do what it takes to win the Badger state and that effort thus far includes a staff of about 80, untold numbers of volunteers incurring costly incidentals and television advertising. It is, in short, an expensive quasi-last stand the Dean campaign is taking, one that could leave them with a victory and no money or no money and no victory, either of which makes a stand on March 2 Super Tuesday extremely difficult.
Statement on Clark
"Wes Clark ran a spirited race for the White House, and I congratulate him. His lifetime of military service has made a strong and lasting contribution to America's security.
I believe Wes Clark's supporters will take a fresh look at our campaign, because Wes Clark and I agreed that the best way to take on George W. Bush this fall is not with a Washington politician who voted to support this president's wrongheaded policies, but with an experienced leader and a grassroots campaign that can bring new people into the process and change the way Washington does business. Wes Clark and I agreed that the most urgent national security threats are terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Our campaign, strongly supported by senior retired military leaders, offers much to people impressed by General Clark's outstanding record of service and commitment to national security."Wednesday, Feb. 11
For all that Governor Dean is to his supporters, it is what he isn’t that’s becoming increasingly clear as he struggles for his political survival. Despite the strategic shifts and organizational shakeups his campaign has gone through, Dean has yet to significantly alter either his approach or his delivery, both of which have seemingly fallen short with moderate and independent voters.
Tuesday in Wisconsin was no different and in many ways provided an absurd look at Dean’s inflexibility on the stump. Speaking at two separate schools and before audiences consisting predominantly of young teens, Dean delivered essentially the same speech he has been giving for months. Not a youthful reference found its way past Dean’s lips, not even a mention of hockey or music, both of which Dean and northern Wisconsinite’s share a passion for.
To be fair, Dean is working to appeal primarily to the local television cameras at this point, but if that’s the objective why tour schools and field questions from folks too young to vote in this and perhaps even in the next election cycle? Moreover, why visit educational facilities without focusing on education or stop in La Crosse, Wisconsin, the city where President Bush announced his No Child Left Behind initiative without specifically bashing that program?
The short answer is there is no answer. Obviously, kids held captive in schools make for easy crowds, but questions about potential crowd building difficulties were deflected. Hence, we come back to the Governor and his inability to capitalize on an obviously difficult situation or adjust to a changing campaign landscape.
The later will be essential should Dean preserve any hope of gaining ground here in the Badger state. While he has sharpened his message, placing greater emphasis on his record, "outsider" status and willingness to stand up for Democratic values, Dean has thus far done little to make himself appear more electable. Add to that Dean’s uncanny ability to step on his own headline either by announcing major strategy shifts following speeches or by repeated losses in primaries, and you quickly have a campaign that is both running out of time and running out of ideas to capture voters imaginations.
Of course, and here we again come full circle, it is the later than Dean must do in order to win and judging by Tuesday’s performance that remains a problem. If you can’t talk to kids, how do you get adults to give you a second look?
Tuesday, Feb. 10
Whether you call it a flip-flop or a contraction, the result of a communications gap or a brilliant ploy, Howard Dean has once again changed his mind. Despite statements to the contrary on both his and his campaign’s part, the former Vermont Governor announced on Monday the he would stay in the race for the Democratic nomination regardless of next Tuesday’s Wisconsin Primary result. Indeed, per Dean, he intends to stay in the race as a candidate until all chances of him winning the nomination have been eliminated and even then he will consider campaigning in a refined role.
Yes, Dean did say Wisconsin was a must win and yes he and his campaign have labeled Wisconsin a do-or-die state, but in the ever changing wind of politics it seems Governor Dean has once again changed course. Claiming that he has heard nothing but encouraging words and appeals to go on, Dean said on Monday that he felt an obligation to his supporters and that he couldn’t drop out and risk letting down those who helped build the campaign.
Hence, per Dean, he will carry on delivering the message he has taken to voters for the past two years, albeit in an untraditional manner should he finish poorly in the Badger state’s primary a week from today. Interestingly, the decision to continue on seems to have fallen without Dean’s staff being aware of it. Not only have numerous aides expressed a sense of resignation, but many believed and continue to believe that a further loss would damage the Dean campaign beyond repair.
But, as always, the candidate has the last say and in this case the last word may not come for some time.
Sunday, Feb. 8
Arriving in Wisconsin to supporter’s chants of "Dean is the voice, Kerry’s the echo," Howard Dean launched the most important nine day campaign of his career, a tour of the Badger state’s icy tundra that many believe will determine the fate of Dean’s Presidential ambitions.
Dean sets out against a cloudy backdrop. Unions and elected officials that once rushed to join his campaign and the overflowing Dean bandwagon have started to defect, lured to a Kerry campaign they once shunned in droves but now cannot resist for all its momentum. Rolling after victories in Maine, Michigan and Washington, Senator Kerry does indeed have the air of inevitability, an air that is making it harder and harder for the Dean campaign to breath life into its own operation.
Building crowds, especially crowds of undecided or independents, remains a challenge. To counter that challenge Dean’s operatives have relocated to Wisconsin in droves, in particular organizers and press relations staffers of reputation. And, for the first time since New Hampshire voted last month, the Dean campaign will again take to the airwaves, mixing ads produced by its supporters with a rather unimpressive biographical ad in the hope of stirring cheese-heads into action.
It is by any measure a huge gamble. As John Edwards and Wes Clark can attest, a single victory does in no way result in unstoppable momentum. Moreover, as long as those two individuals remain in the race they make it more complicated for Dean to execute his strategy and become the clear alternative to Kerry. In fact, one of the two aforementioned gentlemen may well roll into Wisconsin with a head of stream depending on the results of Tuesday’s voting in Virginia and Tennessee.
Should the later possibility become a reality and Edwards or Clark remain viable candidates, Dean has indicated he may well stay in the race, a somewhat puzzling notion given the campaign’s repeated proclamations of do-or-die and must-win scenarios in Wisconsin. But, in the quest to become the counterpart to the Senator from Massachusetts, it seems anything is possible.
Friday, Feb. 6
Rarely have there been so many headlines on the same day. In Michigan editors are likely to feel abandoned, in Wisconsin editors might feel selected and nationally editors can make the case that an aimless strategy has finally found its home, albeit a tentative and uncertain one.
Starting with the Wolverine state where Governor Dean had planned on spending at least two days, it can now be written that the Dean campaign has seen the light of defeat and opted to move onto more fertile ground. With the polls showing the former Vermont Governor trailing badly in this former stronghold and obviously small crowds attending his rallies, the Dean campaign decided to pull the plug on an effort it long ago wrote off, stopping mid-schedule and turning around a massive press corps to skip Michigan for the cheeseheads on the other side of the lake.
While the quick turnaround was a surprise, the tactics weren’t. Not only has the Dean campaign maintained that Wisconsin’s Feb. 17 primary represents its final stand, but in a recent e-mail, distributed in Governor Dean’s name, there seemed to be little doubt that Wisconsin had become a make or break state for the Dean campaign. Hence, an appeal for money, which at last count had brought an overwhelming response and a half million dollars to the cash strapped Dean campaign.
The e-mail was, in the Governor’s poorly selected words, a "brilliant ploy" designed to convey a sense of urgency to Dean supporters. But was that ploy also part of a bait and switch strategy designed to lure money from supporters without the consequence of Dean’s dropping out should he loose on Feb. 17?
Pressured to ask questions about his campaigns viability should he loose in Wisconsin, Governor Dean refused to answer but to say that he planned on winning there. Indeed, nothing Dean said on Thursday reflected the urgency conveyed by the e-mail issued in his name and Dean’s lacking clarity left the press to wonder what the real strategy is and whether or not Dean will indeed drop out of the race should he suffer another set-back.
Until that issue is resolved once and for all, however, Dean has promised to essentially "live" in Wisconsin and, using the words of his two biggest rivals (one real, one wished for), asked opponents to "bring it on in Wisconsin."
Thursday, Feb. 5
Months after he first began mocking the internet-driven, grassroots bound, little, rural state Dean campaign, even Doonsebury is starting have second thoughts. In a heart to heart conversation between father and Dean supporting son, the following strategy for political survival is put forth;
“Well, it’s pretty clear dad. Dean catches fire in the late primaries, but not in time to cinch the nomination. The convention is deadlocked through six rounds, but Clark finally folds, and Edwards signs on as Dean’s running mate. Kerry goes down in round seven.”
Ah, how far Trudeau has come. Together with the nation’s editors and political analysts, he too has read the campaign memo outlining a strategy that at best sounds like a long shot. Not that the “Wisconsin/alternative to Kerry” strategy couldn’t work, it’s just that it’s never been tried and the elections never been so close together. There is something about the transformation from leading frontrunner to potentially loosing and/or conceding fourteen races in a row that wakes doubts.
Not only in the writers and photographers who are being pulled from the Dean campaign to follow the current frontrunner, but also to the hordes who turned out in the fall but weren’t completely sold. Many of them too have seemingly been pulled, toward candidates named Kerry and Edwards. And the too have their doubts about the “Wisconsin/alternative to Kerry” strategy, choosing instead to give priority to the “select a candidate now/beat President Bush” strategy.
Nonetheless, Governor Dean soldiers on, albeit somewhat aimlessly. After, as some aides say, “wasting” valuable time in states like Arizona, Missouri and South Carolina over the past seven days, Dean will again spend time in a state he doesn’t think he can win. Rather than focus more time on Washington where he seems to stand a good chance of a respectable result, Dean will spend a day and a half touring Michigan, a state where even he agrees his odds aren’t good.
It is a bizarre strategy, even by current standards. Nowhere in the “Wisconsin/alternative to Kerry” handbook did it say anything about the “Michigan/alternative to Kerry” angle. Yes, there close geographically, but for Howard Dean these two states could not be further apart politically. One represents much of what has gone wrong - early organization, endorsements and visits are wiped out by an opponents surge, - while the later represents what may still be. Never has there been a more crucial time to pick between the two.
Wednesday, Feb. 4
Dean campaigns in Seattle Wednesday morning, attends a Meet-up in Madison in the evening and overnights in Flint, Michigan. For future planning purposes, Dean will spend Thursday and Friday in Michigan and plans to take Saturday off before heading to Maine.
Tuesday, Feb. 3
Surprisingly jovial and upbeat as he looks towards another election night disappointment, Governor Dean is putting his best foot forward in a dance he was supposed to be winning not losing. Ever confident in both his untried strategy of late recovery and in his ability to raise money, Dean insists he is in the race for the Democratic Party’s nomination no matter what happens on Tuesday night.
Behind the pretty face, however, there are continuing signs of trouble. Over the course of the past week, the Dean campaign has held just seven stand-alone campaign events but has traveled to South Carolina, Michigan (twice), Washington, Arizona (twice) Missouri, Wisconsin and New Mexico (twice). Taken together the frequent travel and infrequent events are signs that the Dean campaign may be finding it difficult to build crowds or find states where support for the former Vermont Governor is strong.
In fact, crowd size overall is down. With the exception of Washington state, where last summer Dean drew 10,000 to an outdoor rally and recently drew a huge overflow crowd indoors, fewer people are turning out. In Lansing, Michigan, on a university campus with tens of thousands of students, five hundred showed up last Thursday and no other event since has come close to the thousand mark - this in states and where Dean used to draw capacity crowds.
Obviously Dean isn’t the only frequent traveler. His rivals too have been torching the tarmac and putting the miles on their campaign buses. But they seem to be doing so with greater efficiency and in a more targeted manner. Senator Edwards has defined a must win state and is investing the bulk of his time there. Senator Kerry, riding the wave of two victories, it seizing the moment to campaign in all seven states voting on Tuesday. And even General Clark, whose campaign has encountered one travel glitch after another, seems to be focusing on the states offering the greatest rewards.
Not Howard Dean. Instead of actively campaigning in the two Feb. 3 states where he has the greatest chance of success or focusing on the states his strategy for success is banking on, Dean has split his time. So while Dean could have spent six days shuttling between Arizona and New Mexico - which he did in December to great effect - the campaign has opted to visit each state just twice while flying across the country three times.
Indeed, Dean will spend election night in Washington, a state he has and had high hopes for but that doesn’t vote until Feb. 7. Moreover, while he’ll forgo being in the Southwest on Tuesday to be in this liberal Northwest paradise, Dean won’t return to Washington before voters there go to the polls at the end of the week. Thus, it has in many senses been a schizophrenic week of campaigning.
Nonetheless, a few things are more certain. Sticking to the strategy Campaign Manager Roy Neel outlined over the weekend, Dean has and will spend significant time in Wisconsin. He recently appeared on Meet the Press from there and has indicated he is likely to spend the bulk of his time there between Feb. 10 and 17 when voters go caucus. Moreover, Dean continues to hope for and work toward a strong finish in Michigan, a state he’ll have visited three times in ten days before this week is over - begging the question why, if he didn’t focus on Arizona and New Mexico fulltime, Dean didn’t do less flying and focus more energy on Michigan, Wisconsin and Washington.
What’s also clear is that the Dean campaign continues to believe that John Kerry is their fiercest opponent. Dean has repeatedly targeted the Senator from Massachusetts for his alleged ties to special interests and recently even ventured into the Botox scandal with a little joke. Obviously, with John Edwards and Wes Clark looking to perform well in South Carolina and Oklahoma respectively, many analysts have stated to speculate that it might be they, and not Howard Dean, who are ultimately the alternatives to John Kerry.
Finally, despite being close to bankrupt, the Dean campaign is seemingly still able to raise money in significant quantities. Over the course of the past two weeks close to two million dollars have found their way to Burlington, leading Dean to believe if he spends no more than a million dollars a week he has the resources to compete until Super Tuesday in March. Until then, however, Dean will have to prove that he can compete, not just in the rhetorical game, but in the race for delegates and wins.
Friday, Jan. 30
If there are any tell-tell signs of trouble in politics they almost always include one or more of the following - management changes, money troubles, image adjustments, message massages and missing momentum. And right now the Dean campaign is seemingly five for five.
I: Campaign Manager Joe Trippi has been replaced.
II: The campaign staff has seen its pay deferred by two weeks.
III: The campaign’s ads and media strategy are being reviewed.
IV: The message has been fine-tuned once again to further highlight Dean’s "outsider" credentials.
V: And after a second stinging defeat Governor Dean is flying all over the country desperately looking for a state he can win.
It is, in short, not a pretty picture.
Starting with the issue of money, here is what we know. The Dean campaign has been spending heavily. It not only took to the airwaves early and often, but it did so in at least a half-dozen states beyond Iowa and New Hampshire (where it was already spending millions.) It was one of the first campaigns to hire staffers and open offices in all of the Feb. 3 states (excluding Missouri), Feb. 7 states, Maine and Feb. 10 states. Governor Dean was one of the first candidates to travel by chartered aircraft and his staff early on began renting dozens of vehicles. And if you really want to get into the nitty-gritty, this campaign was also one of the first - and few - to distribute unlimited pins, develop dozens of different campaign posters and buttons, print scarves and fleece vests, use dozens of walkie-talkies and hire a professional staging firm to run campaign events.
Obviously, the costs associated with all this are staggering, with rumors swirling that the Dean campaign may have spent as much as fifteen million dollars in Iowa and New Hampshire alone. And while a Dean campaign spokesman would neither confirm nor deny that figure, saying he "didn’t know," no matter what the figure, it is obvious that the campaign sees some need to conserve its cash.
Delaying payment of staff salaries is the most obvious sign of that need and there are others. The campaign currently isn’t running any ads and hasn’t announced plans to do so. The "resignation" of former Campaign Manager Joe Trippi is widely speculated to be cash related as well.
All this ads up to a pile of bad publicity, which seemingly carries a higher price than any money the campaign is conserving by delaying salary payments. Why run that risk? Because the campaign may have no other choice, or if you buy the official line, "because it is going to be more expensive to compete in the next two weeks than in the weeks beyond."
But what makes all this even more bizarre is that the campaign continues to assert strong fundraising. For January the official take was close to five million dollars and on Thursday the campaign claims to have had its strongest unsolicited day on online fundraising ever - close to $150,000. Indeed, a campaign spokesman has said the campaign has "millions" on hand, likely to be between three and five million dollars.
So what's the real story? It is clear that the campaign has some bills left to pay. Stories of unpaid vendors surfacing in Iowa are but one example. However, most indicators are that those bills can and will be paid and that significant money will remain. So, does the campaign invest in Feb. 3 states and make a play - which judging by the schedule and the comments of numerous Dean strategists is unlikely - or does it pay its bills and horde money in the hope that it faces a whittled down field and depleted challenger in John Kerry on Feb. 4 - at which point the floodgates will open?
Thursday, Jan. 29
After two crushing losses, hints of organizational discord and rumors of overspending, a Dean campaign shakeup was all but inevitable. Struggling to find his message and routinely retooling his image, Governor Dean has for weeks been searching for an answer to his mounting troubles. On Wednesday that answer was apparently found in the dismissal of Joe Trippi and the promotion of Roy Neel.
In a move of unexpected magnitude, Howard Dean shook the very foundation of his campaign, letting go of the man who helped engineer one of the most unlikely climbs in recent political history and the creator of a political Internet phenomenon. Joe Trippi was many things to the Dean campaign; a mentor to the dozens of minions toiling in Burlington, a cult hero to the thousands of Deaniacs across the country and the strategist who helped Dean land on the covers of the nation’s largest publications.
But Joe Trippi wasn’t a manager of the minutia. As one aide describes him, Trippi is a "mad scientist" concerned with the big picture and grand ideas. He likes to move the chess pieces, but he doesn’t do well setting up the chessboard and right now it is the later the Dean campaign desperately needs. Checks need to be paid, the media strategy needs to be reviewed, policy proposals need vetted and an immediate course correction needs to be found should Dean retain any chance of winning the Democratic nomination.
Looking at more specific issues, mid-level campaign aides point to Iowa as an example of what went wrong, stating that there were signs of trouble as early as last fall and that Trippi did not react to them until December when it was too late. They complain of scheduling and budget decisions taking too long and assert that it often it seemed as if nobody was in charge of the little details. Said one aide, for all the talk about Trippi’s organizational abilities "we have little to show for it."
On a more senior level, there were complaints that those supporting the Dean campaign, either on Capitol Hill or on the local level, were all too often ignored and that too little was done to incorporate the ideas of others into the campaign. Indeed, many staffers on all levels argue that far more needed to be done to manage the Governor and that valuable time and money were being wasted while the Governor was struggling to define himself and needed a guiding hand.
Management isn’t, however, the only reason Trippi ultimately felt he had little choice but to resign. Since his hiring, he has been feuding subtly with Governor Dean’s longtime aide Kate O’Conner. Concerned with the details and always at the Governor’s side, O’Connor is a uniquely powerful arbiter of the campaign’s direction and aides noted she didn’t deal well with the chaos in Burlington. Indeed, it seems many of Dean original staffers didn’t and with Trippi’s resignation Dean’s longtime Vermont cohorts are now more firmly in charge, leaving questions as to how the campaign’s new CEO will fit in.
No matter what shape his role ultimately takes, Roy Neel, a longtime aide to Al Gore and a man with significant campaign and managerial experience, will have his work cut out for him. Most immediately, he will need to figure out how to fund a campaign that needs to buy some momentum. Although fundraising in January has been strong at more than four million dollars, the campaign spent heavily in Iowa and New Hampshire under Trippi and it now needs a multi-million dollar boast that may take some time to come by. Thus, staffers have been asked to accept deferred paychecks for the next two weeks in an effort to loosen up cash immediately.
For all the negatives there are, however, some positives. Trippi may have overspent going for the kill early, but his investments should provide some base of operation. When it looked like a Dean sweep was all but inevitable, the campaign launched ads in South Carolina, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona. It set up offices in all four states and North Dakota, not to mention running ads and opening offices in states like Wisconsin and Michigan that don’t vote until after Feb. 3. Ideally, for Neel and Dean -- and for Trippi also -- those investments will now act to slow John Kerry's momentum. And it was, after all, Kerry who sought to stop his own slide with the firing of his campaign manager.
As for Trippi, he has long said he can't wait to get some sleep, complaining routinely of being burnt out and exhausted. Now, for the first time in alomst a year, he will get just that, most likely in Washington, D.C., where he will be surrounded by the very "insiders" he urged Dean to take on last winter. And he may well dream of departure into the Burlington snow to the cheers and tears of aides.
Wednesday, Jan. 28
Campaign manager replaced
Sources within the Dean campaign have indicated that Roy Neal will assume the day-to-day management of Howard Dean's presidential campaign. According to sources, the future of Joe Trippi is thus far undecided, but he will no longer actively manage the campaign.
Not the ideal result
The conventional wisdom - for what it’s worth - was that Dean needed to finish no more than 10 points behind in New Hampshire. That obviously didn’t happen and it is now questionable whether Dean will benefit from any sort of momentum going into Feb. 3. Given those doubts, Dean will focus on Arizona and New Mexico rather than on South Carolina and Oklahoma (a state he is no scheduled to visit at all). Moreover, he will also spend significant time this week in Feb. 7 states states, joining a large contingent of Iowa staffers that moved to Wisconsin and energizing the massive operations in Washington and Michigan (where unions may finally play a part).
Nonetheless, the Dean campaign heads into uncharted territory from here. The New Hampshire organization was the best the campaign could offer and while it slowed the slide and put a pretty face on a very ugly week, it was ultimately unable to deliver the desired result. In South Carolina surrogates will have to do most of the work - especially in the African American community. Arizona and New Mexico will rely on an army of volunteers. Missouri will be left to the gods and North Dakota is a state the campaign can win but isn’t focused on. Hence, look for tailored advertising and shuttle campaigning.
One other note: Dean has obviously learned a bit from his past mistakes. His media interviews and his concession speech were far better today and his message too was clear. With John Kerry the obvious frontrunner and Dean campaign will quickly call itself the "outsider" alternative - and go after Kerry with everything it has.
The odd thing with money
Rarely has there been a campaign with little momentum and no wins but lots of money. Sticking with the pattern of the past seven months, the Dean campaign has once again been able to turn a setback into a goldmine. For now that allows it to buy its way out of some of its problems. But money only goes so far and it is questionable whether the campaign can continue to tap deflated supporters.
Wednesday, Jan. 21
After running ahead for the past six months, Howard Dean started Tuesday running behind, struggling to find his rhythm, toying with his message and softening his image. Under most circumstances, those are signs of trouble, and in this case trouble might be the right word. Clearly surprised by the depth of Monday’s loss and stunned by its failure to capture what many believed was a natural base of support -anti-war, educated and urban voters - the Dean campaign has been forced to re-write its playbook.
Of particular interest to the Dean campaign, working to appear more Presidential in order to increase Dean’s appeal to moderates, independents and women, all of whom the campaign failed to mobilize on Monday in Iowa. To that end, Dean not only put behind him Monday’s disastrous "concession" speech by again toning down his rhetoric, but he also moved quickly to focus on his record of achievement in Vermont.
Placing less of an emphasis on the war and the perceived failures of his opponent’s, Dean highlighted instead his accomplishments in healthcare, on the environment and fiscal responsibility. Said a campaign spokesman, two themes will emerge over the next few days; a focus on "real results," and doing what’s right even when it’s not popular (opposing the war in Iraq, No Child Left Behind and tax cuts). To hear Campaign Manager Joe Trippi say it, John Kerry has been "giving Howard Dean’s" speech, and now Trippi is eager to take it back.
On a more superficial level and beyond the message, Dean also made two other changes - this time to his image. Not only did he sound more subdued, but he also lost the sweaters he wore in Iowa and moved back behind a podium with notes, two subtle alterations that also say much about the current state of Dean’s campaign.
Of course, all these changes also bring with them a certain risk. Inconsistency is the kiss of death for political campaigns, and Howard Dean has been inconsistent. Moreover, many of the voters who come to see Dean, do so to hear some of the very rhetoric he is now abandoning. To use an analogy, Dean is like a pop star from whom people expect an energetic show, and when Dean doesn’t deliver voters leave disappointed. Thus, the toned down rhetoric could backfire, especially with some of those how built Dean’s early lead in the polls.
Also, by highlighting policy rather than personality, Dean runs the risk of sounding like the other candidates. Neither his base of support nor most of the undecided polled in the street say they like Dean for his record. They are instead drawn by Dean’s tell it like it is, anti-Washington message - and Dean must do more highlight both.
So, with one week to go in a race that may well determine Dean’s viability down the stretch, many questions surround this once dominant campaign. We know Dean’s advisors feel their aggressive tactics in Iowa backfired. We also know that they believe they lost their message to others by not spelling out clearly what makes Dean different and experienced enough to take on President Bush. And finally, we know Dean’s organization in New Hampshire is far better than that in Iowa.
What we don’t know is whether Dean can manufacture the stature and poise the undecided are so eager to see. Whether he can demonstrate enough discipline to stick to the script for more than two days, something he hasn’t done in more than a month. And whether Howard Dean can rest up, relax and recapture some of the magic he let get away in the last few weeks in Iowa while he busily toyed with his message, image and opponents.
It should be an interesting week.
Tuesday, Jan. 20
The obvious story today is the fact of Dean’s third-place finish in Iowa and his diminishing lead in the latest New Hampshire polls. The slightly less obvious story is Dean’s recent struggle to decide what kind of candidate he wants to be and what kind of campaign he will run in the upcoming primaries. Dean had a solid strategy up until just a few weeks ago – run as an outsider and a liberal, energize the party base, get new voters excited, attack President Bush – then he started to tinker with his style, his look and the emphasis of his campaign. He wavered between being fiery on the stump and being quieter and “presidential”. He tried wearing sweaters to appeal more to women voters. He didn’t respond to attacks from the other candidates, then ran a strong ad in Iowa attacking Kerry and Gephardt, then pulled it fearing a backlash.
As Dean has wavered in his strategy, the other candidates have successfully moved in on his turf. Last night in Iowa, Kerry garnered more support than Dean among self-described liberals, among those who opposed the war in Iraq, and even those who said they use the Internet for information about the candidates. Edwards also beat Dean with liberals and with voters who want a candidate who “cares about someone like me”. And he tied Dean among voters who opposed the war in Iraq. On the stump, Kerry has co-opted Dean’s anti-Bush message, and Edwards has successfully positioned himself as the outsider candidate. As Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi listened to Kerry’s speech in Iowa last night, he said, “That’s my speech.”
Before Dean can take back his message, he’s got to become more consistent and be clear about what that message is. Today, though, he’s off to a slow start. The campaign flew in at about 3:30 a.m. ET, then held a rally at the airport. Dean didn’t get to sleep until about 5 a.m., then was up just a short time later to appear on the network morning programs, where he spent a lot of airtime explaining the tone of his revved-up speech in Iowa Monday night. The first major event of the day found Dean behind a podium with a suit and tie delivering his “State of the Union” speech in a counter-point to President Bush’s speech tonight. It might have worked as a campaign tactic to get some press coverage today, but the campaign gave no advance warning of the speech, didn’t send out a press release, didn’t do anything to position it.
The Dean campaign is far from giving up though. They point out that they still have a large campaign war chest and are prepared to spend whatever they need to win New Hampshire. In fact they’ve set a new fundraising goal of pulling in $1 million in Web donations before next Tuesday. They also have a very solid organization in New Hampshire – much better than their Iowa organization – though it’s not yet clear how important that organization will be. Like Iowa, the battle in New Hampshire will be for the large number of undecided voters – 26 percent of the electorate in the latest tracking poll – and at the moment, the Dean campaign’s strategy for capturing those undecideds is far from clear.
Sunday, Jan. 18
It wasn’t an endorsement and it wasn’t particularly fuzzy, but for 10 minutes Jimmy Carter shared the stage with Howard Dean. He spoke of the war and Dean’s opposition to it, called Dean a Christian and discredited the idea that a northern Democrat couldn’t win in the south. But for all he said, it was what President Carter didn’t say that left a bigger impression. There wasn’t a hint of favoritism, no appeals to Iowa’s voters and hardly a mention of Governor Dean’s experience or credentials.
All this begs the question, why go to Georgia when things are so close in Iowa and an endorsement is not in the works? And even here the answer is murky. According to the Dean campaign, Governor Dean was invited by Mr. Carter and scheduling constraints made Sunday the only available date. For his part, President Carter claims Governor Dean asked to come and not visa versa, and moreover that Dean had called to ask whether he could worship with the former President.
No matter which version you buy, it is clear that the Dean campaign believes the visual of Dean and Carter together is worth something. Carter lends Dean gravitas and credibility, both in the south and in the foreign policy arena. He also remains a well-respected figure in Iowa, and certainly having the former President refer to Governor Dean as a Christian can’t hurt when the campaign swings south.
Another motive for the visit could be the war in Iraq and both men’s opposition to it. The campaign continues to believe this is a the issue in Iowa, both for hardcore supporters and those who may switch at the last minute. Following the campaign’s logic, today’s picture helps reinforce that issue.
But, given Judy Dean appeared on the campaign trail for the first time since last summer, all the discussion of the Carter visit may well be moot. Clearly, photos of her and the Governor locking lips is a headline grabber and likely to bump Carter to the second graph or beyond.
Nervous and shy, Mrs. Dean spoke at two of the Governor’s three rallies in Iowa, saying little but to introduce herself, explain her absence and thank Iowan’s for supporting her husband. Obviously green to the process and seemingly overwhelmed by the support for her husband, Mrs. Dean stood by with awe as Dean gave two of his best stump performances in months and crowds in the upper hundreds went nuts. It was, even for the politically jaded, a touching and baffling moment at once.
On the eve of the Caucuses, it was another clever media stunt by the Dean campaign - which went so far as to announce Mrs. Dean as a surprise guest just as it does when a major endorsement is imminent.
Beyond the front page, some additional notes about Mrs. Dean’s premier appearance; The Dean’s entered both events holding hands, the Governor clearly protective of his bride and standing proudly by as she spoke. Senator Harkin, acting in the role of mentor, encouraged Mrs. Dean the whole way, even signaling to her to punch it up a bit. Working the ropeline, Mrs. Dean showed some signs of being a novice, hesitantly shaking hands and handing dozens of items to her husband to sign. But, after her final appearance, she agreed the whole thing hadn’t been too bad.
One other note about the media circus -- the Dean’s clearly staged their arrival shot, with both of them arriving on different planes but then boarding one to chat while the press was out of sight. The, in a quickly arranged arrival shot, they departed the Governor’s plane together, giving the impressing they had arrived together. Ah, what a campaign won’t do for a photo-op.
It should also be noted that the final event of the evening featuring the Governor and Senator Harkin drew slightly more than 1,000 people and another full throttle speech from the Governor. The crowds and the most recent tracking numbers - which the Governor said put him down one point - have given this campaign reason to believe it can win it all - no hedges, ands, ifs or buts.
Wednesday, Jan. 14
Ticket to ride
With the new ads running in Iowa and Dean doing all he can to highlight his opposition to the war in Iraq, it is now more obvious than ever that Dean believes this is his ticket to the nomination. And he has reason to believe so. Endorsements have drifted Dean’s way because of his position. Supporters and money have followed suit. And increasingly, the Dean campaign believes, those supporting others who might drift toward Dean will do so because of this one issue. Florida, Florida, Florida and "it’s the economy stupid" have seemingly been replaced with Did you say no to Iraq? At least for now.
Friday, Jan. 9
Haunted by the tapes
Underscoring yet again that his greatest asset is also his greatest liability, Dean finds himself once again defending controversial comments, this time for remarks he made on the obscure Canadian television program "The Editors." For those who didn’t see the Nightly News investigative report, the highlights are as follows:
In a Jan. 15, 2000, roundtable, Dean made extensive remarks about the caucus process, stating, “If you look at the caucuses system, they are dominated by the special interests in both sides, in both parties.” Asked what was wrong with that notion by another guest, Dean had this to add, “Because the special interests don't represent the centrist tendencies of the American people. They represent the extremes. And then you get a president who is beholden to either one extreme or the other, and where the average person is in the middle. Here's what happens: Say I'm a guy who's got to work for a living and I've got kids and so forth. On a Saturday, is it easy for me to go cast a ballot and spend 15 minutes doing it, or do I have to sit in a caucus for 8 hours? … I don't have the time to do it. It doesn’t get people involved. It drives people out of the process, and leaves the people who are left in the process -- the professional people who get paid to be there. … But I can't stand there and listen to everyone else's opinion for eight hours about how to fix the world.”
Needless to say, disparaging the caucus process and claiming it isn’t an inclusive or worthwhile process doesn’t square with the governor’s current pitch, the one that tries to convince Iowans to participate in a Caucus and change the course of America. Nonetheless, the campaign is playing down NBC’s report, noting that there are more than 100 tapes in the collection reviewed by NBC News and that only a half-dozen quotes were discovered. Moreover, they argue, it is exactly the honesty Dean displays on tapes that is drawing voters back into the process and that he has demonstrated a significant commitment to Iowa.
Yet, despite all the denial from the campaign, it seems the news was big enough to warrant a statement from the governor. It reads in part;
“I have spent nearly two years here in Iowa, talking to Iowans and campaigning in all 99 counties. I believe it’s time to stand together, in common purpose, to take our country back — and the Iowa caucus is where it all begins. I support the Iowa caucus and I have already promised Gordon Fischer that if elected, the Iowa caucus will be first again in 2008."
Of note, WHO television reworked both of its newscasts Thursday night with the anchors being openly critical of Dean’s comments and reporting that last for a quarter-hour. In its 10 p.m. newscast, WHO gave Gephardt considerable airtime and also included sound from Kerry and Edwards. Notable, however, in a package of sound from voters, most seemed to not care about Dean’s comments and many felt his remarks had been taken out of context. Are we seeing the Teflon Dean yet again?
Monday, Dec. 22
Here’s an exclusive interview I conducted with Dean in his campaign van on the ride from Manchester to Concord, N.H., on Sunday night.
Q: What is it that led you to run and say I can do this?
A: I thought the country was in really bad trouble. I thought the right-wingers were really hurting the country badly, huge deficits that we are never going to be able to pay back. A defense policy that is making this country weaker not stronger for all the president’s bully-boy stuff. I just think this country needs a fundamental change in direction and we really need to go back to principled American ideals that we are all in this together, a defense policy that is consistent with moral leadership in the world and a financial policy that does not run up enormous debts.
Q: But made you want to do this?
A: I went to see Gary Hart before I did this and he told me there is no such thing as a wimp that has become president of the United States because you have to go through this process. Sure, the process is very tough but you want tough people to be president of the United States. It is a learning process. You learn a lot about America. Governors have an advantage because I have already had to balance budgets — nobody has had to do that — and made tough choices and was accountable for it.
Q: Did you discuss this with people beforehand? What was the process in deciding to run?
A: I thought about it. I confirmed to myself that I really wanted to do it and then I started to get other people’s feedback, especially my families because without their support you can’t do this. There is no question about that. They said I should do it.
Q: Why did they think you could do this?
A: My wife basically said she thought I would be good at it. She knew it was something I wanted to do and said she would support me. There is no drive in my family to have the president of the United States as a family member. They are pretty realistic this will be an infringement on their lifestyles. But there is a drive in my family to have a better country.
Q: How did you get the bug to do this and enter politics?
A: Jimmy Carter. I was a big fan of Jimmy Carter’s and I worked in his 1980 re-election campaign and got to know a lot of people in politics in Vermont. Politics in Vermont until you get to the most senior levels is a part-time profession, so I was county chairman for a while I was practicing medicine ... I was in the legislature.
Q: Were you reading papers at this point? How were you involved?
A: No, no, I liked Carter a lot. I thought he was an honest and decent person and those qualities are a little farther and few between than they ought to be in Washington and I wanted to see him get re-elected, which unfortunately didn’t happen but I did the things you need to do. I licked envelopes. I posted notices. I got to know a lot of great people in politics and they basically got me involved.
Q: Did you think then that you might run for president?
A: I really didn’t.
Q: Did you think then you would be governor?
A: No, actually I didn’t. I thought that maybe one day I would like to be in the Senate. I never actually thought I would be elected in as governor.
Q: If you were writing this story, what would you write?
A: I would try something new if I were a journalist. I think a lot of journalism is gotcha — can you find something that I said in 1985 that contradicts a position now. A lot of it is Senator So-and-So said something about Senator So-and-So and there is a lot of back and forth. You know that doesn’t really contribute much to the debate. It is entertaining, but it’s not very serious. The things that I would like write about if I were a reporter is policy differences. Go into the policy. First of all, ask the tough questions about policy. How are they really going to finance this? Get everybody’s health-care plan side-by-side and find out what it costs from an analyst and that is an interesting story. Here is a story I would like to do if I were a reporter. I would like to take everybody’s proposals for spending money and add them up and see how big the deficit is going to be by the Democrats who are running against the president and see how do they plan to pay for it. That would be a very interesting thing to do and I think people would be impressed. Ok, Senator So-and-So has 14 billion dollars worth of spending here and 106 billion dollars there. Let’s see what Senator So-and-So has on the tax revenue side. Those are the kinds of things that don’t get done in journalism that should that require some resources and investigative capacity. Instead, what often gets done is General Clark said this and Howard Dean said that, John Kerry said this about each other. It is not very informative.
Q: Do you think you can get away with not responding to the attacks?
A: No. You cannot get away without responding. You have to respond. The question is how you respond. Do you respond in kind or do you just point out that they are wrong and move on to the next thing.
Q: What is your take on the attacks?
A: I think that the other campaigns feel like they are desperate. Let’s not forget that not a single vote has been cast. Not a single vote has been cast in a primary or a caucus yet, so polls don’t make a front-runner. The real front-runner is George Bush and the real long-shot is the American people and we need to stay focused on that. I don’t know why the other candidates are behaving the way they are but I don’t think it is going to work.
Q: Is it hard for you to stay quiet?)
A: Yeah, I am somewhat of a street fighter. If someone punches me I am apt to chase them down and I need to be restrained by the people who know better and have been in the game longer than I have.
Q: What is the worst thing people have said about you?
A: I think some of the personal attacks we can do without. You know, claiming I am a draft dodger and stuff like that. You know, its pretty low and I don’t think it is necessary in politics and it’ inaccurate well.
Q: Are you surprised it has gotten to be like this?
A: I am disappointed. I really am. I don’t think it needs to be that way and it is going to do long-term harm to the Democratic nominee whomever that person is because Karl Rove is cackling at all these broadsides the other guys are putting out. On the other hand the American people probably aren’t going to believe them either because I think they see them for what they are.
Q: Describe a typical day for you.
A: There is no such thing as a typical day. But, the days are — you get up at a decent hour in the morning, which didn’t used to happen. We got the schedule under control finally. You might have five or six meetings all day long with a couple of hundred people in them. You lay out your agenda, they ask questions and they are pretty good questions. It is a great way of learning. You learn a lot.
Q: Do you think you might be outworking the other candidates?
A: I don’t know if I am outworking anyone else or not because I am not on their campaign plane. I do know that my MO has always been to just work as hard as I possibly can in every campaign. When I was running for lieutenant governor, I used to stand out in the rain in October with this sign, a huge sign saying Howard Dean for lieutenant governor, waving at cars when they went by. I am convinced that is why I won because I had enough people come up to me afterwards and say I don’t know anything about lieutenant governor but I saw you out there with the sign and figured you really wanted it so I voted for you.
Q: Do you feel you have lost the personal element of campaigning?
A: The personal element comes when you meet the American people. You shake their hands. They tell you what they want from you. They ask you about your position on things so you know what they care about. That is energizing. So I don’t think I am being hustled around and I get energy from the people I meet on the trail.
Q: What is it that we don’t get to see?
A: I am on the phone all the time. When I am not with you and I am in the van and there is cell service then I am on the phone. I am raising money. I am calling people I hope will endorse me — people in Iowa or people like the vice president. I am getting advice from people around the country including former presidents. You live your life on the phone if you are not shaking hands with people.
Q: Are you still having fun?
A: Yeah. Well, this is too hard work to just call it all fun. It is something that is very enjoyable in the sense that it is very rewarding. Fun kind of implies going to the amusement park and forgetting about your troubles. That is not what a presidential campaign is about.
Q: Looking back, what would you do to make this easier, or more fair, or more balanced?
A: The problem is if it’s too easy it is not good for the country. This is really hard but it is a selection process that weeds out the people who do not do the work. But sometimes the problem is it weeds out the wrong people. It is just a little too dependent on money still, although I think McCain-Feingold has been a big improvement. But it is really important to start in small states like Iowa or New Hampshire because it is the only place you get to shake people’s hands and you are eventually going to meet the majority of the people that are going to go to the polls in states like that. South Carolina is another one. It is important to do those states early because if I had to start in states like California or Pennsylvania or New York I would have never gotten out of the starting blocks because I didn’t have any money. So it is still too money-dependent but it is improving.
Q: Do you ever allow yourself to think ahead?
A: Some, but not often.
Q: What do you think about in those instances?
A: Well, you think about the strategy you need to employ to get through Iowa, New Hampshire and all the other states.
Q: So you never think about Air Force One or getting onto the chopper?
A: No. I never think about that. People who are thinking about that ought to be out shaking hands and meeting people.
Q: Does the press coverage bother you — especially the restrictive elements?
A: It did a lot at first, but in the end it is not bad training because there are a lot of things you can’t say when you become president, mostly having to do with foreign affairs. It is important to have the ability to be diplomatic when you are the president. Being with the media where you can’t say what you think probably isn’t entirely bad for someone who has spent their life saying exactly what they think and that is me.
Q: Have you become a different person?
A: I am sure I would have but I am sure that is true for all of us. Not just presidential candidates but human beings. People grow through whatever experiences they have.
Q: What do you like best about the policy side of this?
A: The plan I enjoy the most is health care because I know a lot about it. I am a doctor and governor and we have done a lot on it. So I know the details and it is very fun for me to talk to audiences about it because I know the details although I can get kind of policy-wonkish because it is an area I know a lot about. I like everything. I love policy. I like education, I like jobs, I love foreign policy. I know all the other candidates are saying he doesn’t have any foreign policy experience. The truth is I have as much as Bill Clinton did and Ronald Reagan did and Jimmy Carter. So, I spend a lot of time on foreign policy. I read about it. I talk to people about it all the time. I have been to 50 countries. So I like foreign policy a lot.
Q: What are you like as a father?
A: I am probably a lot like other fathers. I try to do the best I can. I don’t always, but I try to be fair. I try to only raise hell about the stuff that is very serious and try to talk your way through the stuff that is not so serious but is important to talk about. I believe that if you spend a lot of time with your kids or try to that it makes a lot of difference. When they were little I spent a lot of time with them. I also believe that if you pay attention to the little things when the big things come along things will turn out all right.
Q: What kind of doctor were you?
A: I am different than my wife. My wife is very logical and she pursues every end methodically until she gets to an answer. I used to do it intuitively. I like complicated psychological cases and she doesn’t. Uhm, she knows more medicine than I. She is very, very bright. I enjoyed practicing medicine. You know, practicing politics and practicing medicine is not that different. Most people heal themselves, the doctor doesn’t really heal them. That is not the case with surgeons, but you know I could write out a prescription but if I don’t lay out a logical plan and make them adhere to it and have faith in it they don’t get better. So what you do as a doctor is you harness the positive energy of people and convince them that they can get better. It is exactly what this campaign does. We are allying ourselves with the people that want to have hope again. One of the biggest mistakes that the other candidates have made is thinking this is a campaign based on anger. It is a campaign based on hope. I had a woman come up to me after a rally and few months ago and she said, “Governor, you must have been a good doctor because you have lifted my depression without writing a prescription.” All we really did was understand that the despair that people felt because of this president didn’t have to be there. That it is possible to win again through hope. That is what the campaign is about and it is a lot like practicing medicine.
Q: What do you think about when you go to sleep?
A: I usually wake up at 4 in the morning and think about politics for three hours. I don’t enjoy it but that is what happens. I have run eight statewide races and I know what’s coming and it is not pretty. The last few weeks and few days of a campaign are some of the most intense experiences a person can have short of being incarcerated in a prison camp someplace. It is really tough. There is always one more thing you wish you had done. One more thing you wish you had done. I micromanage a lot — in my head.
Thursday, Dec. 11
The darling of the press
As much as the other candidates were trying to knock the value of endorsements, the impact of Al Gore’s endorsement of Howard Dean was immediately visible to everyone who say the Governor on Wednesday. A press corps that had hovered around ten for weeks exploded to more than two dozen, with journalists and photographers from as far away as Holland, Japan and Germany joining the Dean campaign for the day to get in on a story that has just gotten a good deal more dramatic.
Indeed, at least one of Governor Dean’s three events became unmanageable as the press crowded out bystanders and clogged the only hallway into and out of an AFL-CIO union hall. One couldn’t help but feel sorry for Congressman Dennis Kucinich who, at the same event, was trailed by one journalist who, as it later turned out, was pulled from the campaign by the home office.
While the pack of photographers, writers, camera-people and radio heads were treated to little news of national or international significance, New Hampshire journalists did get to report on, ironically, a further endorsement, namely that of the New Hampshire chapter of the National Education Association. With more than 14,000 members, that organization is the largest union in New Hampshire and its endorsement was actively being sought by six of the nine candidates.
As was the case with Mr. Gore, Governor Dean here too made dozens of phone calls, held countless meetings and went out of his way to court this influential group. And, as was the case with Mr. Gore, the NEA NH selected Dean for one overriding reason. While Mr. Gore selected the Governor’s position on the war as his reason, the NEA NH went with the Governor’s stance on No Child Left Behind as its reason. Governor Dean opposes most of the legislation while the members of Congress running against him supported it.
As for the non-political highlight captured by the traveling road show, it occurred in Boston at a fundraiser. Long a fan of Carlie Simon, Governor got to listen to her in person and clearly enjoyed the event, or was it the 250 people who paid $550 to attend that made him so happy. In any event, at least ten crews have the moment on tape should you want to have a look.
As if more evidence was needed to show how important endorsements can be, the Dean campaign claims that more than 8,000 new supporters have registered with the campaign since the endorsement announcement.
And while the endorsement has nothing to do with this it should mentioned anyway that new polls have Governor Dean leading not only nationally, but now also in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Batting for Gore
As if to prove it can go back to the well time and time again, the Dean campaign is asking its supporters to donate a total of $500,000 online as a token of thanks to the former Vice President. Ignoring for a moment that none of the money will benefit the person being thanked, as of last read more than $400,000 had been raised. Overall, the Dean campaign is sticking with an official fourth quarter fundraising projection of twelve million dollars.
While journalists are mathematically challenged, that number is starting to sound awfully low. Not only has the campaign been averaging close to $500,000 a day raised for the past week or so, but the Governor also seems to again be pulling in more money as the quarter closes. Just in the last four weeks alone, the campaign has raised more than a million dollars with three online challenges, not to mention money for another candidate.
Hence, an educated guess would lead one to believe that the real goal for the fourth quarter might be closer to fifteen million than twelve million.
It was reported in this space on Tuesday that Jessie Jackson, Sr. sounded like he was ready to throw his weight behind Governor Dean - as his son already has, and now it seems the son of another prominent democrat has officially endorsed Governor Dean leading to the question - will his dad follow suit.
Chip Carter, son of the former President, has long been contributing to the Dean campaign in a number of functions and indeed there was little doubt about his allegiance even prior to the official announcement. He joins Gwen Graham Logan, daughter of Senator Bob Graham, and Congressman Jackson, Jr. as the third child of a major party figure to work for and endorse Dean. Hence, it must be asked, can official endorsements from the former President, the elder Jackson and the one-time candidate and influential Southern Democrat be too far behind?
Wednesday, Dec. 10
Behind the Gore endorsement
Lest you think this endorsement happened overnight, Al Gore and the governor had been exchanging phone calls every 10 to 14 days since September 2002 when, upon being thoroughly impressed by a foreign policy speech Gore delivered, Dean sent him a note and made a followup phone call. Not coincidentally, the topic of that speech was the proposed war in Iraq and Gore’s words of caution regarding that planned activity. Over the course of the ensuing months, the bond between the two grew and Gore delivered two other speeches that Dean approved of on behalf of the Internet organization moveon.org (an early base of support for the governor). The first meeting between Dean and the former vice president didn’t take place until this November, when the two spoke for 90 minutes at Gore’s residence in Nashville.
Tuesday, Dec. 9
A massive domino
Some headlines need little extra explanation, speaking for themselves in their simple gravity and importance. Al Gore’s endorsement of Howard Dean is such a headline, for it may well seal the Democratic nomination for Dean and cut short a race that was already swinging rapidly his way.
For Dean, Gore’s support addresses one of the most plaguing questions of this primary season, namely is Dean too liberal to appeal to the center of the Democratic Party and is his candidacy unsafe for Washington Democrats. With his endorsement, Gore has built a bridge between the Dean campaign and the middle of the party. He has also made endorsing Dean a smaller political risk, in essence paving the way for fellow Democrats to follow suit and possible setting in motion a string of endorsements and further political donations.
For the other candidates, Gore has undoubtedly made life somewhat more difficult. Lieberman, his former running mate, will be particularly affected according to most analysts. Gephardt is likely to be the other major “victim.” It is no coincidence that Gore’s announcement will come in Iowa where the Congressman and the Governor are running neck in neck. Indeed, the Dean campaign’s schedule was significantly reworked to achieve just that.
In many respects, this completes what has been for Dean a gradual transition from outsider to insider candidate. The mantle of frontrunner has been strengthened by strong poll results and other endorsements. Money continues to flow to the campaign, more than $1 million on Monday alone. And now support from one of the Democratic Party’s most recognizable faces — a face that might even compete with that of the Clinton’s.
As the Dean campaign said many months ago, you just need to get one domino to fall and others will follow suit.
Many had predicted it would happen, and on Monday Dean paid a price for the support various New York comedians have given him. However, the price didn’t come in the form of an off-color Bush bash, but rather in the form of nasty racial jokes, the use of the “n” word and comments about sexual orientation.
While Dean was present in the room when the comments were made, more than 200 supports did hear the words as did members of the press (no cameras were allowed). Hence, word got back to the Governor in due time, and according to press aides Dean had to be persuaded not to abandon the event altogether. Once on stage, he apologized for the terms and warned that his campaign was not defined by such opinions. Indeed, the subsequent hours were used by press aides to distance the campaign from the comments even further, a number of spokespeople going out of their way to underscore the Governor’s disappointment.
With Kerry under the gun for the use of the “f” word in a Rolling Stone interview, there is little doubt that this too will attract some further attention.
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