Campaign Embeds: Moseley Braun

Monday, Sept. 15

THE INSIDE SKINNY How do old hands on the political circuit greet each other? Consider this exchange between former Sen. Carole Moseley Braun and former President Bill Clinton overheard at last weekend’s Harkin Steak Fry in Iowa.

Moseley Braun: “Look at you! Hey, skinny!”

Clinton: “Hey, Carole! Oh, God, I’m glad to see you!”

TODAY ON THE TRAIL In Chicago. No public events.

Thursday, Sept. 11


The latest on Carol Moseley Braun’s formal announcement has her visiting three different states in one day. The campaign says they are working out which three states would be best placed to receive her and her message.

THE ISSUES Interim campaign director Patrick Botterman allowed me to sneak a peek at folders holding drafts of 8 issue briefs. They were created by professors from local Chicago colleges (including the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and the University of Illinois). When approved by the campaign and reviewed by the ambassador they will be posted on the Web site. Also expected are longer policy papers that will be rolled out in October.

POLLS... The latest Zogby poll for Iowa voters show 1% would vote for Carol Moseley Braun; 1% would vote for Bob Graham; and 1% would vote for former Gen. Wesley Clark; that said, the Council on American-Islamic Relations has released a poll that, among other things, reflects American Muslim political views.

Asked which 2004 presidential candidate would get their vote, American Muslims [a large majority of whom vote in presidential elections] from 41 states had CMB at 6 percent.

MAYBE YES, MAYBE NO ....? A campaign staffer yesterday said they are not looking to re-open an office in Washington, D.C., arguing that consolidating was better for them and that there were no plans for other offices in other states. However, the day before I was told by another campaign staffer they are looking around at different locations for volunteers to meet. A “location for volunteers to meet” apparently is not also known as an office. But that doesn’t seem to be the final word either since the candidate was reported as saying she still planned on opening a campaign office in Iowa, and that it is not too late in the campaign season to do so. Drake University political science professor Dennis Goldford, quoted in the Bettendorf News, said her failure so far to open a campaign office in Iowa will hurt her in the January caucuses. “The Iowa caucuses are very much an organizational event. You’ve got to have people who are going to get the folks to turn out for caucuses, and she doesn’t have that.” Late word from the campaign manager tonight did confirm the campaign was looking at spaces in D.C., South Carolina and Iowa.

RECAP OF RHODE ISLAND Although she spoke at a paid lecture at Brown University on women in politics, CMB still managed to use quite a few nuggets from her campaign phrase book, and the local press coverage of the event included some of her more familiar expressions and slams on Bush. There were about 500 people in the audience and the professor who coordinated the event for the Taubman Center for Public Policy cited her historic Senate selection as the reason they asked her to speak. He said, “She is a major figure in the Democratic party.”

Tuesday, September 9

DIFFICULTY ON STAGE The general theme of all of Carol Moseley Braun’s post-debate comments in the spin room had to do with the awkwardness onstage not just for her but, she assumed and sensed, for all the candidates. I asked her if it was hard to differentiate herself. “It was impossible, wasn’t it?” she said. “I mean, with the disruptions and the people screaming, I mean, the format was different. I don’t know that there was — I am being candid here — that the candidates did much differentiation. Do you? I didn’t see it.”


In the spin room CMB showed me her notebook she carried with her during the debate. She explained it allowed her to keep up with her observations during the debate and keep up with how candidates were answering other questions.


“If covering me is more important than George Clooney (who attended Tuesday’s debate), this girl needs her head examined.”

Monday, September 8


Moseley Braun on how her fellow candidates will approach Tuesday’s Congressional Black Caucus-sponsored debate:

Reporter: “There is going to be pandering tomorrow night, there always is...”

Braun: “Well that’s their problem.”

Reporter: “There was in Albuquerque…”

Braun: “I didn’t...”

Reporter: “No, but others did.”

Braun: “Well, that’s their problem.”

Reporter: “They [were] trying to speak Spanish and all that stuff...”

Braun: “That’s their problem.”

Reporter: “You know, maybe candidates will try and speak— I don’t know what, tomorrow night…”

Braun (silence, then in a mock voice): “Yo, yo homeboy (laughs) — I don’t think so.”


“Well I am delighted that the president has discovered the international community and isn’t it nice that he is beginning to tell us what this war of his, this misadventure is going to cost. We’ve had nothing but half truths and dissimilation for 15 months, its about time we got some information about what is going on.”


It’s not official but “You Gotta Be” by Desiree….

HEADLINES “Uniquely Qualified?” CMB has used that phrase on more than one occasion when launching into why she is running for president. Does it apply tomorrow because the debate is sponsored in part by the Congressional Black Caucus? She has already swatted away questions from reporters regarding the advantage she and Rev. Al Sharpton have for black votes.

She answered it squarely to one reporter:

“In all of my elections I’ve never bought into the whole racial bloc voting. I know the political scientists debate this, I’ve never bought in it and frankly when I was elected in the state of Illinois the state had a minority black population and I got 50% of the vote in 1992 — for the history books, came ahead of Bill Clinton in that state. So how the votes will break out depends on who people see as speaking to their interests… and that will be the same way whether they are Hispanic voters or black voters or Asian voters or white voters. I don’t think you can slice and dice people just based on [race]…”

“I think Howard Dean has as good a chance to get such votes... as I do.”

Reporter: “You and Al Sharpton don’t have a special advantage? There is no ethnic pride here?”

CMB: “I think voters will respond to the candidates and their message… and that race will be the least relevant factor.”


The NOW fundraiser Monday evening resulted in handing over $5,000 (including in-kind contributions) from the NOW PAC as well as “more checks than people,” according to President Kim Gandy, at this 50 women’s event.


On another cable show CMB was faced with an audience member who threw out the question of a vice presidential consideration: “And if, for some reason, you’re unable to win the presidential nomination, would you consider — and I underline consider — the possibility of running as vice president?”

Moseley Braun: “My supporters tell me those words should never pass my lips.”

Sunday, September 7


Moseley Braun is headed back to Washington tomorrow for union events before the debate Tuesday. She takes the opportunity tomorrow to collect some funds from the NOW PAC while she is there. Yes indeed, a fundraiser! Important only because this would be the first fundraiser that the campaign would like publicly acknowledged. They have been all but silent on how they fundraise until now. It’s about time considering fundraising via NOW would be an increasingly viable option for them as they tap into women around the country for funds to continue her run.


Moseley Braun: “We’re delighted the Administration has discovered the international community and some familiarity with the truth. It is important that our troops in the field have sufficient resources to finish the misadventure this Administration has started. It is unfortunate, however, that American taxpayers will be left holding the bag on account of bad judgment and half truths.”

Thursday, September 4


CMB’s showing at the debate was varied in tone and thoughtfulness. She did not get as many questions as her campaign would have liked but she did manage to come across best when she argued for her single payer system for health care. Her first answer in regards to the U.S. and international relations was filled with the catch phrases and slogans she has been piling on in most of her speeches.

But then she narrowed it a bit and didn’t hesitate when explaining how poorly she thought the health care issue in this country has been managed. Getting rid of private health care is not exactly one of those ideas that the U.S. is easily prepared for at this stage, but the strength of her message or maybe the strength of how she proposed it resonated with the audience.

Talking to one her consultants, he was pleased with how she came across and said she was there to fill a niche that shows a diverse portrait of the Democratic party.

Afterwards she said she was delighted with how it went, although she wished she could have gotten more points across.


There was a moment about 5 minutes before the debate started where CMB walked over to Kerry, who was at the podium next to her, and had some sort of chat. I later asked the former Senator if it included a cordial good luck or maybe they were trying to ease one another’s nerves? But in fact it was neither or maybe a little bit of both: they shared a joke about how CMB needed a stool behind the podium and with that stool she was finally as tall as Senator Kerry.

CMB IN ALBUQUERQUE THURSDAY Early in the afternoon there was a meet-and-greet held for the ambassador at the South Broadway Community Center, where about 50 people attended a forum to hear her speak. She was very warmly received — a large contingent from the local NOW chapter, and a strong showing of support by both women and men.

LEAVE IT TO THE BRITS... So it’s the question that is most asked of me by people, and was bravely asked to the ambassador by a “clearly worn down with American politics” British journalist: “Why are you running?” She gave the standard answer, but she doesn’t yet have a way to answer that one and sound warm and friendly at the same time.

Wednesday, September 3

Today CMB was in Chicago with no public events but I did manage to catch up with her at the Art Institute.

WORKING (OUT) FOR THE DEBATE... According to her staff, in preparation for the debate the ambassador has been practicing, i.e., talking about her message with her staffers and talking through the points she wants to make. A campaign spokesman is confident she “knows her stuff” and added that if she could get through a Senate confirmation hearing (for ambassador to New Zealand) she can handle this. The campaign also said she will probably go through some trial practices tonight as well. When I asked the ambassador how she specifically was preparing, she quipped, “Push ups!”


She did go on to say that she was concerned that there might be some Democratic infighting, and argued that it was counter-productive and didn’t make any sense. But who ever said politics made any sense? Does that mean we won’t be hearing any harsh comments from CMB?

“No, we won’t! (laughing) I will not make news in that regard but you’ll have to stick around — I’ll make news some other ways...”

(it was unclear if she meant tomorrow or in the future.)


Today’s news on the Bush administration seeking help from the U.N. brought a tepid response from the former senator:

“I am actually pleased that the administration has finally recognized that we have to work well with others if we are going to ever come out of the quagmire in Iraq. Employing the U.N. and NATO and the support of old Europe and our friends around the world is going to be very important and stabilize that situation and allow our men and women to come home. We clearly need more resources over there so there will be no short change or leave our troops in the field without the support that they need.”

Prodding Moseley Braun on Bush’s handling of the U.N. before the war versus now led nowhere, as CMB continued to walk that fine line between bashing the commander in chief and supporting the troops:

“Well you know it’s not even helpful to go back over that terrain. You know I have been a critic of the decision to go into Iraq from the very beginning — but the fact that now we’re there I think we all have to pull together to figure out what is the best way to get our troops home, to get our men and women home and to stabilize that situation.... so we won’t be left with having gone in and destroyed the country, and then have left it like that. We have a responsibility I think. Americans don’t cut and run — we have to stay long enough to get the situation straightened out. I am delighted that the administration has finally seen the light and will ask for help from the United Nations and NATO and others.”

She heads via plane to Albuquerque tonight...

Tuesday, September 2

In a rare move, (CMB tends not to release statements unless asked ) the campaign released a statement late today on the arrest of Rev. Jesse Jackson on Labor Day:

“As the nation celebrated Labor Day, Rev. Jesse Jackson’s actions reminded us that the struggle for worker rights continues. The workers at Yale University deserve to be treated with the same respect and dignity as each and every working man and woman in our country. Those workers have earned the right to fair and equal treatment and deserve a living wage. It is shameful that an institution dedicated to higher education treats its workers poorly.”

This is a similar sentiment to the overall theme in her Labor Day speech, arguing Democrats are good for working people. In her speech she did articulate her interest in education. Moseley Braun argued for more federal money for public schools which, according to her, would not only relieve some of the burden off of local governments but create new jobs in the short term. This is one of her more clearly defined issues, and something she has been vocal on in the past. She skimmed over her other basic positions on having a single payer system for healthcare, getting rid of tax cuts for the wealthy and creating new eco-friendly technologies.


There was a lot of “they,” “them,” and “this crowd” in reference to the Bush administration, but no direct attacks. There are some critics wondering aloud how Carol Moseley Braun can make a dent in the election dialogue without direct attacks at either other candidates or at Bush. Possibly we will get a taste of that in New Mexico this Thursday or is it deliberate that she’s not ruffling any Democratic feathers?


In Iowa, Secretary of State Chet Culver summed up what generally seemed to be a running theme that day for the kickoff event of the fall political season. Having Kucinich and Moseley Braun appear “says a lot about our party having a big tent” and specifically regarding Braun, “while she maybe didn’t have the activists there in large numbers specifically for her, she had a strong speech, she came across pretty strong, in terms of her message... she will play a role in this party selection process.”

A LITTLE INSPIRATION GOES A LONG WAY... Given CMB has a laundry list of firsts given her gender and her race, it was very easy to see her appeal to young girls and boys who for the most part during the parade were pretty much only interested in the candy being thrown at them. Which only goes to show that much like Jerry Maguire we are, all just looking for a little inspiration. The Iowa secretary of state noticed it also saying “Maybe she will inspire the next generation…”


The Washington Times today referred to the candidates as the seven dwarfs and then cited Carol Moseley- Braun and Dennis Kucinich as only aspiring to dwarfhood. Which would have passed me by, except for a moment on stage in Iowa when the 6’4” secretary of state towered over a petit CMB as well as an equally small Kucinich. When asked about it, Culver said he had noted the difference in height but not a word was mentioned to the candidates on stage.

Monday, September 1

Today , the ambassador walked in the Des Moines Labor Day parade with a local of the Communication Workers of America. Far from the exuberant glad-handing of the other candidates, CMB walked her way through the parade introducing herself to as many people as looked eager to be approached. There was a noticeable “who is that?” from parade watchers, but there was also an equally noticeable number of people — although not there as supporters — who were happy to see her because she was a woman in a race of men.

According to a CBS poll released Sunday, she and Sen. John Edwards share the same name recognition status at 2%. Her thoughts: “Well, given that I didn’t know about the poll, I guess it makes me feel pretty good. We have a ‘Seabiscuit’ campaign. We don’t have a lot of money but we’ve got really, really good reception from people all over the country. The poll numbers reflect that and we have no place to go but up and I am very encouraged. And I am very encouraged by the kind of response that we’re getting and the resonance of my message with people all over America.”


Her message was clearly getting to the people in Des Moines for one of the first times. With only two staffers and four signs, the Seabiscuit theme of her small campaign seemed very apparent. But far from the political horse race that makes the media monitor the finish line, every single person I spoke to today practically in the same breath as saying she has no chance, also said they are glad she is in it. As one man put it: “I think its important for people to run even if people may not make it... I think it sharpens the other candidates... You need other people in future years for future positions. And if we (the Democrats) win, there’ll be a cabinet to fill and you need people who have articulated ideas that have a cutting edge to them and I think she is one of those.”

And a woman added: “I like the fact that there is a woman out there doing it at a time when the majority of people are saying this is not the right time. Because I truly believe she believes if not now, when? ”

Moseley Braun was expecting to head back to Chicago this evening. Her schedule picks up again on Thursday when she heads down to New Mexico for the debate.

Sunday, August 31


Today: a breakfast speech at the National Federation of Women Legislators in Lake Las Vegas

Yesterday: According to the Sun Times, Carol Moseley Braun was introduced as the “darling of the Muslim-American community,” at the 40th annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America. She has strongly advocated repealing the Patriot Act, which many Muslim-Americans believe has been used to violate their civil rights. And one of her oft-quoted lines was used (I might add, quoted by Howard Dean at times too) “My late mother used to say it doesn’t matter whether you came to this country on the Mayflower or on a slave ship, through Ellis Island or the Rio Grande. We’re all in the same boat now.”


An e-mail update from the campaign notifies supporters of the “major endorsements” received this past week as well as a plug for a Sept. 2 National CMB Meetup Day. At last look there were 130 people nationwide interested in CMB’s campaign. There is also a fundraising plea that describes her campaign as “vibrant.”

Friday, August 29

Today: no public events, but an appearance on television.

Looking Ahead...

CMB is headed to Iowa on Monday to march in the AFL-CIO Labor Day parade! Mixing it up with the posse of presidential candidates on the parade route...

But first she is making friends with the Islamic Society of North America at their convention. The society said CMB would be attending their midday banquet and getting a chance to meet some of their key members.


Appearing on Inside Politics on CNN today Moseley Braun wrapped up the week pointing to her success with the two national endorsements she received. The ambassador was no stranger to the questions the press always circles ‘round to...

The theme in a nutshell:

1. Show me the money

2. Are you a crook?

But Moseley Braun did not rise to the bait. Instead she dismissed it, “I’m not going to dignify that or anybody else that wants to go back over already-discredited, old gossip.”

But my favorite moment assured me that she is keeping up with the summer blockbusters... ” I’ve always had to, if you will, be the ‘Seabiscuit’ of the races in which I’ve won and won consistently,” she said. “I’ve run 14 times and won all but one of them.”

Thursday, August 28

Today Carol Moseley Braun is in Chicago, with no public events scheduled.


The National Organization for Women/National Women’s Political Caucus endorsement has done more to prove to others that CMB is staying in than any insistence from the campaign that she was in for the long haul.

Wednesday, August 27


The Chicago workplace shooting today killing six regrettably took place quite close by to the campaign HQ (about 2 miles away...) and the ambassdor released a statement:

“This loss has shaken the entire community. I hope that the support of the whole community will help the grieving families in this difficult time.”

On the Sept. 22 official campaign announcement: They are still in the planning stages.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING... has an interesting series this week assessing the story that supposedly shows each candidate at her/his worst... Carol Moseley Braun’s worst offense according to them is chillin’ with the dictator Sani Abacha in Nigeria in 1996.

This is one of the stories oft brought up by journalists writing about CMB, if only because it is so easy to criticize, Abacha being a well publicized tyrant. To their credit, it is also one of the stories the campaign has taken pains to clarify. In reference to Nigeria, there are copies of her responses to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on this matter. Will this follow her the entire campaign? My take: giving proof of innocence is the first step, now they have to figure out how to change the subject to their campaign. Maybe her policy papers might do the trick. Expected at the end of this week.

Tuesday, August 26

Expect to see Moseley Braun announce her formal candidacy September 22. Big News from a campaign that had been rumoured to have a “sell-by” date of August 31.

And with the National Organization for Women endorsements under her belt, Moseley Braun is headed back to Chicago tonight and is here for the rest of the week.

Speaking of her endorsements, Moseley Braun said:

“But nothing is more significant or compelling than a joint endorsement by two of the nation’s most prominent women’s political organizations. NOW and the NWPC (National Women’s Political Caucus) are the inheritors of the people who struggled for the right of women to vote, and they have been consistent and clear that the majority of this nation’s population — the women — deserve a chance to lead.”

Also she said this morning that she will be announcing her formal candidacy for the presidency on September 22. Where is still TBA.


Saturday, August 30

Noon - Islamic Society of North America

40th Annual Convention -McCormick Place

Chicago, IL

Sunday, August 31

8:30 a.m. - The National Foundation of Women Legislators - Annual Convention

Speaker, Breakfast Session, Ritz Carlton Hotel

Las Vegas, NV

Monday, August 25

A recap of last week’s first visit to the Moseley Braun campaign headquarters…

The ambassador herself stopped in on her way to doctor’s appointments and then actually ended up giving me a tour of the headquarters and introduced me to staffers.

A few memorable moments:

On her Sept. 11 plans: She is planning on going to church and keeping a low profile — she does not think campaigning and mourning mix.

Reaction to the very bloody week overseas: She had condolences for all lives lost, she sticks to the idea as she has stated before that the Iraq war is a “misadventure” and Bush has “botched the war on terror” but was quick to note that there is “a fine line” between criticizing the president for the war while “troops are in harm’s way.” She had no problem commenting on the “genuises at the Pentagon,” noting Rumsfeld as an example and asking, “What is the exit strategy?” Apparently, this week reaffirmed her feeling that they have not got control of the situation.

Pat Botterman (interim campaign director), on following the rules: the campaign is very, very aware of the Federal Election Commission rules and regulations. In fact, there is more than one sign stating work, fax, phones, etc., has to be “directly related to the campaign.”

Voter registration in the South is very important to them. With all of the DNC debates noticably not being held in any Southern states, he thought CMB’s role in registering voters was very important. “We add value to the Democratic Party — where the others don’t.”

Moseley Braun’s top states: Illinois, South Carolina, Delaware, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, D.C.

MSNBC’s Marisa Buchanan is embedded with the presidential campaign of former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, D-Ill. Watch her reports on MSNBC TV.