Monday :: Jun 30, 2003

Democratic Update


by Steve

With the second quarter fundraising reports due in the coming days, it is a good time to take a look at how things are going on the campaign trail. Although national opinion polls among Democrats still show that Joe Lieberman leads the pack, political pundits seem to agree that Lieberman will be bringing up the rear of the pack in fundraising, which makes one wonder how someone can be at the top of opinion polls and have no following or financial base. This long piece in yesterday’s Washington Post magazine is worth a read about Lieberman’s campaign and failure to catch fire yet.

Howard Dean will lead the pack in second quarter fundraising, with over $7 million raised in the quarter. Both the Kerry and Edwards camps claim that they will be raising around $5 million in the quarter.

Dean is getting more and more column inches and positive coverage from ABC News’s The Note. A look at today’s column is Exhibit A of this. But it is also a sure sign of being a top-tier Democratic candidate that Howard Kurtz trots out negative media stories about you.

Kerry got a boost yesterday from John McCain, of all people. And he gave a revealing interview to the Concord (NH) Monitor, where he stated his focus is to run against Bush and not his fellow Democrats by showing a clear choice for Americans between him and Bush. In the interview, he revealed that Clinton Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin is writing his economic plan.

And as commenter John B. points out rather astutely, the next time you see a media piece pointing out Bush’s alleged fundraising prowess, keep in mind that if you total up the second quarter amounts from the Democratic candidates, they come within ten percent of Bush’s total.

And no matter how invincible you may think Bush is right now, keep in mind that Iraq is no longer the sure thing in Bush’s favor that many thought it would be several months ago. Why?

Because the latest CNN/ USA Today/Gallup Poll shows that the number of voters who think things are going well in Iraq is slipping significantly from just a couple of weeks ago:

The number who said things are going well has dipped from 86 percent in early May to 56 percent, and the number that say badly has grown from 13 percent to 42 percent.

Almost four in 10 say they believe the Bush administration deliberately misled the public about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, while six in 10 say they do not believe that.

More than half, 53 percent, say it would matter a great deal to them if they became convinced the Bush administration deliberately misled the public on that subject.

George better get busy planting those WMDs.

We are seeing the Tier One/Tier Two candidates being shuffled a bit from where they were in the first quarter. When the fundraising totals are out and fully assessed by the pundits, I think the only clear thing that will jump out is that Kerry and Dean will be in Tier One, along with Gephardt and Edwards. I put Gephardt in Tier One because he still has and will continue to have Iowa nailed down. I put Edwards in Tier One for reasons I state below. If Lieberman does indeed have a poor quarter, which looks very likely, I cannot see how he can be judged at this point to be a player over the long haul, given that Graham, while still not polling well, is still sucking cash from areas that Lieberman was counting on. And Lieberman would push the youth vote away from the party in 2004, as Danny Goldberg said in the most recent edition of the American Prospect (which unfortunately is not posted to their site.)

Edwards is someone I will be doing more research on in the coming days, as another good piece in another unlinked American Prospect piece makes the case that Edwards is in this for the long haul. The story points out that Edwards did not anticipate making a move in the polls until his TV campaign lifted off this fall in key states. If in fact Edwards has another good fundraising quarter (expected to be $5 million in the second quarter), and keeps slowly developing some sound policy positions while making key hires (he hired a top notch California health official for his campaign recently), his poll numbers in the fall after the TV campaign starts will bear watching.

Which brings me to a radical but I think necessary suggestion for both Dean and Kerry if they want to be seen as true competitors to Bush. If in fact both of them are Tier One candidates and want to be seen as national full-stature alternatives to Bush, why not follow Bush around the country while he raises money and do a Truth Squad routine wherever he goes? If Bush goes into a town to raise money and rub elbows with the corporate bankrollers, how about Kerry and Dean going to those same towns and having their own fundraisers with common people pointing out the differences between them and Bush, pointing out how this country has been harmed by Bush, pointing out why Bush is lying in that town, and telling voters how they are different than Bush and better for our future than Bush? Yes, the pros will say that Kerry cannot travel that much, and that Dean must focus on Iowa and New Hampshire, to which I say BS!

If you want to be seen as a presidential alternative to Bush, you need to frame the image yourself with the media. You need to make the media see you as someone separating himself from the pack and emerging as a frontrunner. And the best way to do that is to focus squarely on Bush and not your Democratic competitors, to plant the image that this campaign is you and him, and not him and one of a gang of nine. If you can make that sale with the Democratic base and the independents out there, Iowa and New Hampshire will take care of themselves. If you can follow him around and point out the differences between him and you, and aggressively point out the failed national interest and the Bush lies, you will be taken seriously as an alternative and the media will have to treat you as such, rather than allowing them to keep you in the Gang of Nine box they want to place all the Dems in.

If Terry McAuliffe will not have the DNC do the job of telling voters about Bush and his lies, the candidates will have to do it. And the candidates that can be seen seriously as presidential alternatives and make that sale the soonest will break away from the pack the earliest.

Steve :: 10:45 PM :: Comments (5) :: Digg It!