Joe Trippi's Prediction
By Steve Soto
Boston, MA -- I attended two noteworthy events today, and got a piece of real news from one of them. The first was an event pulled together by Arianna Huffington, wherein she highlighted the efforts of almost a dozen advocacy groups to enlarge and turn out the vote in 2004. Some of the groups are large, well-funded organizations like America Coming Together, which plans to use an eventual warchest of $125 million in 15 battleground states to register and turn out the vote this November to toss Bush from office. Other groups aim much smaller by using humor or targeting specific populations to register certain voters and increase their turnout this fall, on the premise that in such a close race, turning out even something as small as 10,000 more voters may certainly be the difference between victory and defeat. Of course the mainstream media isn't paying attention to these smaller groups yet, but if the Democrats are successful this November, it will be in large part due to these groups aiming small and collectively making a huge difference. I will have a separate post with more information on these groups after I return from the convention. Kudos to Arianna for her fine work here.
The second event of the day was a jointly-hosted forum by the 2020 Democrats, the Campaign for a National Majority, and two chapters of Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century. The guest speakers at this event were David Brock and Joe Trippi. Brock covered the issues outlined in his fine recent book "The Republican Noise Machine," and laid out three steps that the progressive movement needs to undertake in order to start chipping away at the GOP and right-wing dominance of the media in this country. These include 1) setting up its own think tanks and advocacy groups, such as what John Podesta has done with the fine Center for American Progress; 2) establishing its own liberal advocacy media like the Air America Network and Democracy Radio; and 3) establishing its own media watchdog groups like his own MediaMatters.org, and improving the funding of existing groups like Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting. I will have more on this subject later as well.
The real news came about in a side conversation I had with Trippi both before and after his presentation, which was on the role the internet in building up the Democratic Party's infrastructure. I introduced myself and shared my thoughts with him about the money that Rove and Bush spent defining Kerry, and stated that I wish that Kerry's people seriously consider opting out of public financing this fall so that they can take advantage of their recent fundraising success and not be blown off the air with Bush's money advantage between the conventions. Trippi then plainly told me that it was his conclusion that if Kerry and his people didn't opt out and instead took the $75 million, it may very well be that this was the turning point in a Kerry loss.
This was a sobering observation to me, to be sure, and although I agree with Trippi on this, I circled back to make sure that I understood what Trippi was saying. He confirmed his point to me, and reiterated that not only could this be the turning point against Kerry's chances, but that it was not out of the realm of possibility that Bush would wait until Kerry committed to the $75 million and its limits and then opted out himself at the GOP convention, thereby catching the Democrats flat-footed and engaged in unilateral disarmament.
I talked to two Kerry staffers about Trippi's observations, and both told me that 1) Kerry would not opt out because it would be too hard to raise the $75 million themselves in the remaining time and pass up what in essence is free money; 2) in order to pass up the $75 million and make it worth it, Kerry would really have to raise much more than that; and 3) they weren't worried about Bush opting out because the Bush people had told these Kerry guys that they would not do this.
I want to believe the Kerry guys, but banking on what the Bush guys tell you over the phone, and then assuming they'll stick to it after they have carpet-bombed you during the month of August seems to me to be a huge gamble. Sit tight, and let's hope this turns out OK for Kerry.
But if Trippi is right about this...