Friday, August 15, 2003

Arnold! Arnold! Arnold! ... Cruz?

With all the talk about the Recallinator this past week you would think that Arnold had a mortal lock on winning the governorship if Davis is recalled. Not so fast:
Before the first television ads have aired, the race to succeed California Gov. Gray Davis (D) if he is recalled came down to just two men, Republican action star Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz M. Bustamante, according to a nonpartisan statewide poll to be released Saturday. The California Field Poll found 25 percent of registered voters opted for Bustamante followed by 22 percent for Schwarzenegger.
It's beginning to look more and more like Davis will be recalled (its up to 58% now in the same poll, but there is still time for Davis to turn it around). But the question of who will succeed Davis is nowhere as sure a thing as all the media coverage would suggest. Not everyone is as enamored of celebrity politicians as is our political press corps.

Google News Democratic Poll for 8/15/2003

  This Week (8/15) Last Week (8/6)
1 Howard Dean 4550 18.4% +1.7 2 4460 16.7%
2 John Kerry 4120 16.7% +0.1 3 4420 16.6%
3 Bob Graham 3740 15.2% -2.8 1 4790 17.9%
4 Dick Gephardt 3020 12.2% +1.2 4 2950 11.0%
5 Joe Lieberman 2850 11.5% +1.2 6 2760 10.3%
6 John Edwards 2700 10.9% +0.3 5 2850 10.7%
7 Dennis Kucinich 1610 6.5% -0.8 7 1950 7.3%
8 Al Sharpton 1310 5.3% -0.5 8 1560 5.8%
9 Carol Moseley Braun 776 3.1% -0.4 9 959 3.6%

Last week I mentioned that Dean's increased national exposure in TIME and Newsweek didn't effect his overall media share numbers because the Google News Poll does not account for the share of eyeballs of any particular instance of an article. Thus, wire reports, which may be printed in hundreds of locations, have a much bigger impact on poll position than is evidenced by exposure in the national news magazines. I also mentioned, however, that prominent exposure in one of those news magazines could lead to increased exposure in those same wire reports in the following weeks.

I think this weeks results strongly support that theory. Dean is back in the #1 position for only the second time in this polls history. However, this time Dean shares the top alone (last time he was essentially tied with Kerry).

I've done some reading of the articles that appear while compiling these results and I've noticed that Dean's increased prominence is primarily due to him becoming quoteworthy. In other words, when there is a national story, Dean is much more likely to be asked to comment on that story and anything he does say about it is much more likely to be quoted. Kerry used to be the most quoteworthy candidate in the field due primarily to his presumed front-runner status. I think this past week Dean may have stolen his crown.

Gephardt and Lieberman also had pretty good weeks. Both of them appear to be getting a good deal of press due to the fight to be the "Someone Else" in the "Dean vs. Someone Else" storyline. Gephardt is striving for this title by going the traditional route of union endorsements and campaign stumping. Meanwhile, Lieberman has essentially declared open war on the Dean campaign.

I personally think Lieberman's attacks on Dean are the last gasps of a desperate man. It remains to be seen whether Gephardt can be more successful.

Bob Graham was this week's loser, but I think this is more a case of his numbers having been artificially high in recent weeks (he was #1 last week). His high position may have primarily been due to his title as ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee more than anything to do with him as a candidate.

Kerry and Edwards are treading water. For Kerry this is not yet fatal. But Edwards really needs to pull something off in the next few weeks if he isn't to be downgraded to the third-tier of also-rans.

And, speaking of which, Kucinich has settled back into the third tier after a few weeks of threatening to break out. I'm not sure if he will have the energy to make another attempt. I haven't heard ANYTHING about Sharpton or Braun in weeks other than also-ran comments on joint campaign appearances with the other candidates.

(Methodology: All numbers are taken from the hit counts when searching on the Google News Service for news stories containing each candidate's name. Click on each name to rerun the search. You will get different results as the numbers are constantly changing. I make absolutely no claim that these numbers have any real meaning.)

Makin' it hard

You know, despite the fact that I am a Dean supporter, I want to like John Kerry. I have already said that I will work to get him elected if he is the nominee. I have already talked about how I will deal with the issue of his vote for the Iraq war, something I simply can't support. But sometimes, Kerry just makes it really hard to like him. Especially when he does something like this:
Kerry 'Gores' Dean Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts took another swing at Howard Dean last week, a week after accusing the former Vermont governor of supporting policy unbecoming of "real Democrats." The comedic timing was admirable, but the jab left a reporter's question unanswered. During a campaign stop in Des Moines Monday, Kerry was asked whether the Internet petition drive he was announcing in protest of President Bush's proposed overtime pay standards was in response to a similar effort Dean had also launched. Dean staffers had stirred up the questions in advance of Kerry's event with union members at a Des Moines AFSCME office. "The Dean campaign is saying you're kind of stealing their thunder on this on-line petition," Dave Price, a reporter for Des Moines-based WHO-TV 13, to which Kerry responded with a smirk: "Well, the last person I heard who claimed he had invented the Internet didn't do so well." The response earned restrained yucks from the gaggle of reporters. But Dean's staff hadn't said they invented on-line petition drives, and Kerry didn't refute that Dean's started at the same time.
Incidents like this and a previous incident where Kerry scolded Democrats for not "getting over" the 2000 election tell me that, despite Kerry's good qualities, he is so badly disconnected from the Democratic base that he really doesn't understand how comments like this will piss it off. First, Gore never claimed to have invented the internet. For Kerry to claim otherwise means either he doesn't understand this basic fact from the 2000 election, which indicates he is badly misinformed, or he knows it but goes with it anyway in order to score points against Dean. In the process, he adds additional support to one of the favorite Rovian spin points from 2000. Second, Gore did quite well thank you very much Mr. Kerry. Or have you forgotten that he got half a million more votes then George W. Bush? Third, the Dean campaign has done nothing comparable to what you are suggesting by this comment. They have not claimed to be first with online petitions or to have invented the idea. Just because Dean's campaign learned how to use the internet well before you did is no reason to demonstrate sour grapes. The one saving grace from this story is that, if we can believe the report to be true, Kerry's comment was greeted with a disagreeable response from the journalists who heard it. This indicates that, in this case, the candidate may be more clueless than the reporters who are covering him. If so then this is a bad sign for Kerry's "electability". C'mon John! Give me a reason to want to support you other than the fact that your last name isn't Bush! Please!

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

More recall

I may have to change my prediction on the CA recall. I have always believed that in order for the recall to succeed there had to be a credible alternative amongst the candidates seeking to replace him. Arnold's been getting all the press, but even the whores in the media would have a hard time fawning over him for two straight months without ever wondering when the guy would get serious about being Governor. Now comes the news that Warren Buffett has signed on as an economic advisor to Arnold's campaign. By this one step, Arnold has gone a LONG way towards indicating that his campaign will not just be about voting for the Terminator.

What? Me Worry?

As I grow older I am beginning to appreciate more and more just how little real power any of us have. Even those who, nominally, are supposed to have all the power aren't really as powerful as they seem. They just put on a good show and make everyone think they have the power. Headology is powerful magic. Is this a message of despair? No! Anything but! I think much of the stress in the world is caused by the belief that we can force the world to behave in ways that we want it to behave. Once we acknowledge the limits of our power the better we can marshall our limited resources to effect real change. I'll let Karl Rove and George Bush worry about what they are going to do in the coming year. I'll just do what I can to help whip their butts.

Sh*t Happens

Someone in an online forum I follow (Table Talk) expressed the worry that Dean's misstatement on what he has said about raising the age for Social Security suggests that Dean is prone to errors and that this tendency may eventually destroy him if he becomes the nominee. It is something to consider, but not something to worry that much about. First of all, we shouldn't blow the misstatement on the SS age issue out of proportion. Dean did not lie. He just forgot that he had, at one time several years back, raised the possibility. And, once the mistake was pointed out to him, he immediately issued a mea culpa and made no attempt to deflect blame. The big mistake politicians make is not in making mistakes. They make them all the time. The big mistake politicians make is to try and avoid situations where they might make mistakes. But the only way to do that is to never take chances. It is that that leads, in part, to the impression of phonyness. We simply can't be hyper-sensitive to these matters. We can't fret about how Rove will lie, smear and distort the Democratic candidate. We can't because it is a 100% certainty that he will do it. Worrying about it just leads to our choosing "electable" candidates who are so afraid of making mistakes that they come off as bland nothings that appeal to no one. Our candidates need to be cautious in their public statements, yes. They should try to get things right the first time, of course. But don't break into a panic every time they make a misstep. I guarantee you that no matter who the Democrats nominate that that candidate will have at least one fairly significant fuckup between the nominating convention and the election. The true measure of a great politician is not that they don't make mistakes but that they know how to recover from making mistakes. Dean made a couple of mistakes and, so far, he has demonstrated that he is very good at recovering from them. Just look how damaged he was by the "atrocious" performance on Meet The Press.

Less than meets the eye?

I've been a tad suspicious of this "shoulder-launched missile smuggler" story since it broke. It's not that I buy into suspicions that it was a manufactured story in order to produce good headlines in the war on terror. No, it's primarily because the implication of the story, that it is easy for terrorists to get these kinds of weapons into the United States, just doesn't hold up. First of all, the launcher was supplied to the dealer at the behest of the U.S. government as part of the sting operation and the government cleared the way for the launcher to be able to get into the United States in the first place. Which raises the question: could the dealer have gotten it into the United States IF Russia and the U.S. weren't working to make it easy for him to do it? Yes, the guy is a bad man who should be locked up. Anyone who would do anything to help terrorists get this kind of weaponry should be put away. Having this guy in custody means there is one less guy out there who will do this (and might just cause others of a similar bent to think twice about it). But is this story an indication of a success in the war on terror? Or is it just an indication that we are good at setting up an asshole who just happens to be a sucker? I'm not the only one who has raised questions about this. Josh Marshal brings up similar questions and ABC News has a report out that questions the significance of the arrest. Here's ABC:
For example, Lakhani had no contacts in Russia to buy the missiles before the sting and had no known criminal record for arms dealing, officials told ABCNEWS. "Here we have a sting operation on some kind of small operator … who's bought one weapon when actually, on the gray and black market, hundreds of such weapons charge hands," said military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer.
Got that? This guy, asshole that he most likely is, was also most likely just a small-time operator. The really big fish are still out there. Which brings up another question: why haven't we managed to shut down this big fish? Are we focusing this much attention on a small-time operator because its easier to make a big splash out of his arrest then it is to actually shut down the big guys?

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Dean's "stiffness"

I've been watching Dean since about March and I can say that he has definitely gotten better in his media appearances. His most recent debate performances (AFL-CIO) were considerably better then the first debate and his one-on-one interviews are getting better as well. He may still look stiff, but compared to what he was a few months back he is much more relaxed! I say this because, as close followers of this campaign, I am beginning to suspect that some are focusing on negatives that many other people simply aren't seeing. For example, I heard several people say that Dean looked stiff and uncomfortable during the Larry King interview. I didn't see it at the time but I took people at their word on this. I have now had a chance to see that interview and I thought he actually looked pretty relaxed. Dean is most definitely the best stump speaker that I have ever seen. He is beginning to bring some of the skills he has into other forums and is making good use of them. By the time he wins the nomination and starts taking on Bush one-on-one I think he will be a seasoned pro.

Politician blogs vs. Political blogs

Maureen Dowd turns her attention to the recent phenomena of politician blogs (blogs "written" by politicians, as opposed to political blogs written by amateurs like myself).
In a lame attempt to be hip, pols are posting soggy, foggy, bloggy musings on the Internet. Inspired by Howard Dean's success in fund-raising and mobilizing on the Web, candidates are crowding into the blogosphere — spewing out canned meanderings in a genre invented by unstructured exhibitionists. It could be amusing if the pols posted unblushing, unedited diaries of what they were really thinking, as real bloggers do. John Kerry would mutter about that hot-dog Dean stealing his New England base, and Dr. Dean would growl about that wimp Kerry aping all his Internet gimmicks. But no such luck. Instead, we have Travels with Tom, Tom Daschle's new blog recounting his annual August pilgrimage around South Dakota. Trying to sound uninhibited, he says he has "no schedule and no staff" and promises readers "amazing experiences" with "fascinating people." ... Dr. Dean doesn't deign to write his blog, either, but at least it's fun. Mathew Gross, the Dean campaign's "head blogger" or "blogmaster" — who got his job by blogging and who now writes most of the Dean virtual entries — calls blogs the new town hall meetings. "They've revolutionized the way campaigns are run," he says. "It creates an equality among everybody. People are hungry for the old-fashioned discussion and debate."
Dowd, in her own way, manages to hit on something key to blogging phenomena that, so far, few political hacks have figured out: blogs are not just an online version of campaign junk mail. They work best when they provide their readers with the real sense of feedback that comes with blog writers who actually pay attention to the things their readers send to them. It's a conversational medium much like the town halls that Mathew Gross talks about. Now, it isn't reasonable to expect that politicians will actually have the time to devote themselves personally to a truly interactive blog. Speaking from personal experience, developing a following requires a long-tecommitmentent. My posting has been a bit spotty of late and, as a result, my volume has gone down. This is where the staff who operates the blog become vital. BlogForAmerica would be nowhere were it not for Mathew or Zephyr Teachout devoting themselves to building a personal relationship with the Deanizens who regularly visit. If the other candidates have a prayer of making a splash in this new medium they have to find the right people and then trust them to become a prominent part of the public face of the candidate. Many politicians and their managers are far to obsessive about controlling the message for them to risk that kind of exposure. They will learn. They will have to.

Texas ANG George W Bush Action Figure

Better get your bid in now!

Comments are back

I bit the bullet and bought a years worth of squawkbox.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Dean Defense Force v2

The Dean Defense Force has be re-launched with a re-design of their web interface and new sub-sections including an FAQ that eventually hopes to answer pretty much any question anyone could have about Dean, including answers to potential smears against the Governor. The DDF could demonstrate, even more than the official campaign blog, the true power of the internet to deal with the smear machine that is the GOP.

More Recall

I stand by my previous prediction that the recall will fail, despite some early polling showing it winning by 54%. But whether that prediction will turn out to be true will depend primarily on one thing: where Davis focuses his attacks in the coming months. The calculus on this is a simple one. If Davis were to garner only 49% of the vote, he would lose the governorship. But Arnold could then go on to win the governorship while getting only 20% of the vote. Davis with 49% loses. Arnold with 20% wins. Put those numbers before the voter and even many of those who don't like Davis will recoil at the blatant unfairness of a process like that. This is where it all comes down to what Davis does. Arnold, to win, has to make the election about Gray Davis and his alleged mismanagement. If the election comes down to a matter of personalities then Arnold will be the next governor. Davis, to win, has to make the recall ENTIRELY about the recall effort itself. He has to force people to consider the possibility that the whole effort is a joke and that they should be embarassed to allow it to run to completion. The biggest mistake Davis could make would be to start attacking Arnold, or any of the other candidates, directly. That would make the race one about personality and Davis WILL lose that race.