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Thread: The Presidential Election

  1. #1

    Default The Presidential Election

    April 4, 2004

    In Campaign 2004, the Crystal Ball Is Fuzzy

    By ADAM NAGOURNEY

    WASHINGTON — President Bush and Senator John Kerry have spent close to $40 million on television advertisements in the past month alone. Their campaigns have plotted meticulously orchestrated battle plans. Mr. Bush's aides have even charted attacks on Mr. Kerry that they say will take them right through the first day of summer. Barely a week goes by without Bush or Kerry aides disappearing for a long, private strategy retreat.

    But why bother?

    It is hard to remember a presidential campaign with so many potentially critical and unpredictable events on the horizon, poised to rewrite the story line of the race within a news cycle. Because campaigns are at base a struggle for control - over the campaign agenda, over what voters are thinking about, over what your opponent is talking about - this has become an unsettling realization for both the Kerry and Bush campaigns.

    Consider what everyone knows is going to happen before next November. There will be a transfer of power in Iraq this summer. The government will release new job creation and economic growth figures every month between now and Election Day. Gas prices will go up to among their highest levels in history - or will go down.

    A federal court will rule, probably by the summer, on the legality of multimillion-dollar expenditures by independent Democratic committees that are helping Mr. Kerry keep up with Mr. Bush in the television war. The commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks is scheduled to complete its report the same week that the Democratic National Convention opens in Boston on July 26, giving the party a chance to take advantage of any further damaging revelations. And a week before the third anniversary of the attacks the Republicans will nominate Mr. Bush just a few miles north of Ground Zero in New York, bringing a renewed examination of the attack, this time in a supercharged political context that will no doubt again raise the question of whether the White House is exploiting a tragedy for political gain.

    There's even more nervousness about the unknown. Will there be a pre-election terror attack, a concern obviously heightened by the pre-election train bombing in Madrid last month? Will Osama bin Laden be captured? Will weapons of mass destruction finally be found in Iraq? And will Bill Clinton really publish his memoir midway through the year, as has been promised, and if so, what dirt will the former president dish? "There are a lot of outside forces that are going to be important,'' said Ken Mehlman, Mr. Bush's campaign manager. "We recognize that. And we have got to deal with that.''

    Campaign strategists say they have been busy planning for all these contingencies. But both sides learned a lesson when the normally sure-footed Bush White House and the less-sure-footed Kerry campaign seemed caught unaware by the publication of a book by Richard A. Clarke, Mr. Bush's former counterterrorism chief, challenging the president's record on terrorism.

    While every campaign must anticipate shocks and bumps along the way (think of the New York City mayoral candidates whose primary election on Sept. 11 was canceled after it began) the sheer number of wildcards is of particular concern in a race that both sides expect to remain tight until the very end. A single event in October can wipe out everything the campaigns did until then.

    "Every little change in the environment is reacted to with greater ferocity because people know now that the country is deeply divided and the likelihood is we could have another election that is extremely close,'' said David Axelrod, a Democratic consultant.

    Nothing, it seems, can be taken for granted. Take the prospect of the capture of killing of Mr. bin Laden. Mr. Kerry's advisers are clearly worried that an event like that would provide a major lift to Mr. Bush. The White House certainly tends to agree.

    But after Mr. Hussein was captured on Dec. 13, Mr. Bush enjoyed a spike of voter approval that barely lasted through the New Year. And what if the capture of Mr. bin Laden brings with it disclosures that the United States had missed opportunities to seize him earlier, a finding that might lend some heft to Mr. Clarke's criticisms. Mr. Clarke said that Mr. Bush's focus on Iraq diverted him from hunting down Mr. bin Laden.

    Along those lines, Republicans and Democrats are alert to the possibility that Al Qaeda would respond to the capture of Mr. bin Laden with an attack to show that it was not dependent on him, an event that certainly would blunt the significance of his apprehension.

    Beyond that, the transfer of power from American authorities to an Iraqi government takes place on July 1. Should it go well, Mr. Bush could presumably claim that he restored democracy and peace to Iraq, in addition to removing a dangerous dictator. But the White House got a reminder of one alternative course with the carnage in Falluja last week. Support for the Iraq war remains high, but Democrats say it could be replaced by impatience if Americans keep dying, or if civil rule breaks down after a new government takes power.

    Officials in both parties say anxiety about the economy is not as palpable as it was in 1992, when Bill Clinton defeated Mr. Bush's father in an election that was based largely on economic issues. Thus, with inflation, interest rates and unemployment relatively low, one major economic statistic is looming as critical over these next six months: the monthly job creation figures.

    The government reported on Friday that the economy created 308,000 jobs in March, a number that had the Bush White House celebrating. Mr. Bush's aides argued that strong job numbers this summer would complicate Mr. Kerry's effort to make the economy the centerpiece of his challenge to Mr. Bush, taking away one tangible measure he has been able to use so far to assail the president's economic policies. At least 125,000 new jobs a month would be needed to keep pace with population gains, so anything below 200,000 would probably keep the issue on the table.

    Gas prices are another variable that has concerned both sides, as was obvious by the sparring last week by Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry over the issue. Gasoline prices typically go up in the summer, before starting to come down some time in the fall. Both campaigns are contemplating a battle that could take place against a backdrop of grumbling motorists facing record gasoline prices in crucial states like Ohio and Missouri. That is why Mr. Bush moved last week to spotlight statements Mr. Kerry had made in the past advocating a 50-cent-per-gallon tax hike on gasoline, while Mr. Kerry has reminded voters that the president and the vice president have made at least part of their fortunes in the energy industry.

    Finally, there are upcoming events that might appear relatively trivial, but are no less consequential. Take Mr. Clinton's book. It certainly has the ability to roil the waters by raising all kinds of subjects, some helpful to Mr. Kerry (the Clinton economic recovery) and some perhaps not so helpful. (Do you really have to ask?)

    And finally, the Olympics take place in Athens in a two-week stretch between the two conventions, at what should be a very busy time for Mr. Kerry, coming out of his, and Mr. Bush, going into his. It could divert the electorate's attention for a few weeks. At the rate things are going, that is a break that a lot of people might welcome.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  2. #2

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    What a couple of losers we have to choose from.

    I didn't think we could stoop any lower than Bush vs. Gore, but Bush vs. Kerry must be the true low watermark in the history of American politics.

    Have both America and the free world ever been in such need of leadership at a time when our options present such a vacuum.

  3. #3

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    Just a general perception: Kerry is starting to sound like he did in late 2003. Maybe that's why his poll numbers have remained static on key issues.

    There may be a unfriendliness between Kerry and Edwards, but he should just pick him for VP. Edwards didn't have the experience and organization to win the nomination, but his campaign style connected with many uncommitted voters.

  4. #4
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    Do you think Edwards can play the usual VP nominee role of attack dog? Maybe, and maybe he won't need to with Ralph Nader running, but that's not what makes him appealing. I'd like to see Edwards picked, and I wouldn't mind Bob Graham either.



    April 22, 2004

    Kerry Opens New Bush Attack, Focusing on Iraq and Economy

    By ADAM NAGOURNEY and JIM RUTENBERG


    WASHINGTON, April 21 — Senator John Kerry on Wednesday began what aides said would be an increasingly visible and combative challenge to President Bush, starting with a bus trip through the distressed Midwest and a television advertisement attacking Mr. Bush's Iraq record.

    The moves, intended to define Mr. Kerry's candidacy, amount to a re-emergence of sorts by a candidate who largely yielded the spotlight to Mr. Bush after effectively winning the Democratic nomination in early March.

    The television advertisement and the energized schedule came after two months in which Mr. Bush battered Mr. Kerry in advertisements intended to undercut him while he remained largely unknown to most of the country.

    Mr. Kerry's aides repeatedly described Mr. Bush's spending as a waste, contending that voters were not paying attention to the race this long before Election Day.

    But two newspaper polls this week found that Mr. Bush had succeeded in raising doubts about Mr. Kerry's credibility and ideology. That finding, coming after three weeks of unwelcome news for Mr. Bush from Iraq and a commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, unsettled many Democrats. Republicans said on Wednesday that Mr. Bush's overwhelming advantage over Mr. Kerry on the issues of terrorism and foreign affairs overrode any concerns voters might have had about the news that has besieged the White House in recent weeks.

    Evidence of Mr. Bush's continued strength renewed questions about the decision by Mr. Kerry's advisers to ignore the Bush attacks for now.

    As late as Friday, Mr. Kerry's campaign indicated that he would not begin his national television campaign until next week. Mr. Kerry's campaign announced Wednesday morning that instead, the advertisements would begin on Wednesday. An aide said that there had been no change in the timetable in response to the polls and that the advertisements began as soon as production was completed.

    The campaign said that Mr. Kerry would broadcast two advertisements in 17 states for 10 days at a cost of about $4.5 million. One advertisement attacks Mr. Bush's record on Iraq, while the other seeks to present Mr. Kerry as someone who could protect the nation from terrorists.

    Notably, Mr. Kerry's aides did not do what a number of Democrats have pushed them to do in response to attacks by the Bush campaign: run an advertisement that highlights Mr. Kerry's biography, in particular his war record, and begin to lay out some defining theme for his campaign.

    "A minimum amount of positive information about Kerry is going to help," said Carter Eskew, a senior adviser to Al Gore in 2000. "There's a certain hunger out there for information about this guy."

    A Kerry adviser said the campaign would begin broadcasting a biographical advertisement when the campaign was ready, possibly as soon as next week.

    The adviser also said that the central theme of Mr. Kerry's campaign was in one of the spots released on Wednesday: "Together, we can build a stronger America," Mr. Kerry says in the advertisement, speaking firmly and looking directly into the camera.

    Mr. Kerry's modest presence on the air was largely a matter of necessity. He has spent much of the last seven weeks raising money — he raised almost $55 million this quarter, a record — and hiring staff members to grapple with what has proved to be a relentless and efficient organization put together by Mr. Bush, who did not have an opponent in the primaries.

    Mr. Kerry's aides proclaimed that they would expand the number of states where they would seek to compete with Mr. Bush beyond the 17 or 18 that most parties view as the battlefields. Mr. Bush's advisers scoffed at the assertion as bravado, though some Democrats and Republicans said that such a calculation could not realistically be made until this summer.

    The developments underlined what has emerged as one of the critical strategic questions of this campaign: the extent to which television advertisements today shape the effect of an election seven months later.

    Advisers to Mr. Bush, who has spent roughly $45 million on advertisements attacking Mr. Kerry, said that recent history — including, in particular, the 1996 election — had proven the power of such advertisements. Mr. Bush's advisers, noting the polls this week, contended that the same thing was taking place now.

    "This campaign will be close until the very end," said Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's senior campaign adviser. "But perceptions have begun to gel."

    Mr. Kerry's advisers argued that the fact that the two men remained close in polls, despite the huge investment by Mr. Bush, suggested that most voters were not paying attention now. They argued that in such a volatile year voters will not start to form opinions until the fall.

    Tad Devine, a senior Kerry adviser, put it this way: "If you're the incumbent president of the United States having spent $50 million in six to seven weeks trying to define yourself, and you're in a dead-heat horse race with a challenger who's just beginning to come into focus, I would submit you're in trouble."

    Other Democrats, though, were not as sure. Stanley Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, said that the period after Mr. Kerry effectively won the nomination was a time in which voters were paying attention.

    "This was a period of opportunity for Kerry and Bush," Mr. Greenberg said. He said that that window had not yet closed but that Mr. Kerry had a more difficult task now.

    "I think it was a tough period for Kerry," Mr. Greenberg said. "He's been attacked on taxes and flip-flopping and on defense, and his personal negative has gone up significantly in the period. I'm assuming there will be an accelerating amount of information about Kerry and hopefully he'll win back some of that ground."

    Aides said Mr. Kerry's decision to attack Mr. Bush's handling of the Iraq war reflected a conclusion that the conflict would continue to help define this contest, as it has for much of this campaign. Mr. Kerry's aides said he would follow up this television advertisement with a speech attacking Mr. Bush's Iraq policy next week, timed to coincide with the first anniversary of the appearance Mr. Bush made on an aircraft carrier to celebrate the fall of Baghdad.

    In the other advertisement, he assures viewers he will remain committed to protecting the nation while focusing on improving the economy and health care, summing up by saying: "My priorities are jobs and health care. My commitment is to defend this country."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  5. #5

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    http://www.observer.com/index_go.html

    The Trouble Is, So Far Kerry Stinks On TV

    by Joe Hagan

    In recent weeks, even Senator John Kerry’s closest friends have been at a loss as to why the Democratic Presidential candidate has failed to communicate the most humanizing part of his biography: his war record as a decorated Vietnam veteran. "I know he’s quite capable of it," said Bob Kerrey, the president of New School University, former Nebraska Senator and fellow Vietnam veteran. "I don’t know why it’s not working now."

    But there seems to be a very clear reason why: Mr. Kerry is terrible on TV.

    "Abysmal," said John Weaver, the former strategist for Senator John McCain’s Presidential run and the man who coined the "Straight Talk Express."

    Watching Mr. Kerry on TV, he said, "I don’t know if it’s a stream of consciousness or stream of unconsciousness."

    "It’s a lot of words and no clarity, a lot of presence and no warmth," said Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC’s Hardball, who was preparing to interview Mr. Kerry for an hour on April 27. "And I think he’s got to deal with that."

    Take a look, for example, at NBC’s Meet the Press on April 18. Tim Russert aired a tape of Senator John Kerry’s appearance on the show 33 years earlier, when he was a young, jut-chinned veteran, 27 years old, full of baleful gravity, expressing a sense of shame for his actions in Vietnam. The camera cut back to Senator Kerry, now a man running for President of United States.

    "You committed atrocities," said Mr. Russert gravely, asking Mr. Kerry to address the statements of the young man on the screen.

    Suddenly, the current John Kerry, of 2004, gave a stumbling, inexplicable guffaw.

    "Where did all that dark hair go, Tim? That’s a big question for me."

    And suddenly, inexplicably, the question showed up: Where did all that gravitas go, John? That’s the big question for the viewer. The appealing young veteran disappeared, the angry, vengeful Democratic candidate disappeared, and John Kerry, the callow Swiss-prep-school boy returned, as vividly as George Bush the smirking frat boy makes his appearances on national television. "Awful," said MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. "Just awful."

    In recent appearances, Mr. Kerry’s digressions and obfuscations about whether he threw a war medal or a ribbon on the White House lawn in 1971—or whether the young Mr. Kerry should have used the word "war crimes" to describe actions in Vietnam—have obscured the candidate. At every turn, he has managed to turn the TV screen into smoked glass: He’s right in front of you, but you can’t … quite … make … him … out. With his morose patrician mien and robotic delivery—parodied with precision by Jon Stewart on the Monday, April 24, Daily Show, surely not a good thing for the candidate—Mr. Kerry’s TV performances are sounding a gut-level alarm about his ability to inspire confidence in the electorate. "He needs to speak the truth and speak from the heart and not try to calibrate his views or his actions," said Mr. Weaver. "The public catches on to these things, and they can see through whether there’s a calibration going on or not. He needs to stop that."

    He didn’t need to speak the name of former Vice President Al Gore. But a media strategist for another Democratic Presidential candidate said that Mr. Kerry had to lose the "legislative speak" and begin talking "like a normal person communicates, speaking in simple, more declarative sentences that have a clearer meaning for people." Compared to President George W. Bush, he added, Mr. Kerry appeared more intelligent, "but there are many instances in which George Bush communicates more clearly."

    The Republican attack ads about Mr. Kerry that have run in 18 battleground states have set the tone for Mr. Kerry’s appearances. Since April 15, they’ve speared Mr. Kerry for having said, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion—before I voted against it." The context, of course, was important: Mr. Kerry was criticizing Vermont Governor Howard Dean at the time, arguing over how to balance the budget in the context of the war in Iraq. But instead of squelching that image with a decisive blow, Mr. Kerry has continually cemented it with distended, lumbering TV appearances.

    But it also showed the power of simplicity: a single one-liner could define an entire interview. Mr. Kerrey said the candidate needed to reconnect with his own history.

    "I think he’s got to go back to remember what it felt like and help people understand what it was like in 1971," said Mr. Kerrey. "It was a terrible time, and he was a kid. And he just said some indefensible things. How unusual does that make him for a 25-year-old? Not very. Especially during that time. He served honorably, with great distinction."

    But even when Mr. Kerry attempts to let his passion fly, he becomes hectoring and aggressive. On Monday, April 26, Good Morning America host Charlie Gibson asked Mr. Kerry to explain his inconsistent stories about whether he once tossed war medals or ribbons onto the White House lawn in 1971. Maybe it was a quibbling issue, all things considered. But was this the best way to tackle it?

    Senator Kerry: Charlie, Charlie, you’re wrong! That is not what happened. I threw my ribbons across. And all you have to do is go back and find the file footage.

    Charlie Gibson: And someone else’s medals? And someone else’s medals, correct?

    Senator Kerry: Later, after, excuse me—excuse me, Charlie!

    It hadn’t helped that the first live shot of Mr. Kerry was of him shaking his head in disgust at Mr. Gibson’s setup to the interview. On TV, Mr. Kerry projects a subtle disdain for the medium while he is appearing on it. He doesn’t even plan on answering the questions, if he can help it. "There’s no such thing as a trick question with Kerry, because he just won’t answer it," observed Mr. Matthews. "‘Well, let me put it this way, Chris,’ or ‘Well, the real question here, Chris …. ’ See, that’s the problem with him. And I find afterward, we’ll be having conversations afterward, and it’s hard to get to him even then."

    Not only has Mr. Kerry not relayed his ideas with clarity, he has failed to relay the visceral presence of an unaffected personality. On his Meet the Press outing, he told Mr. Russert: "Now, we’re in a position now to be able to respond and introduce myself to the country. I look forward to that. I look forward to Americans getting to know who I really am." But why was he looking forward? There he was, live on television, with every chance to be himself.

    "I’m not sure what the message is—that may be the essence of the problem," said Joe McGinniss, the author of The Selling of the President, the best-seller that detailed Richard M. Nixon’s media strategy. As a Massachusetts resident, Mr. McGinniss said he had never seen Mr. Kerry do well on TV—or even in public, for that matter. "When he sits down one-to-one with somebody, he’s not good," said Mr. McGinniss. But then again, he added, neither was Mr. Bush, or Mr. Nixon. "They knew Nixon was never going to be good in a situation like that. The shows that Roger Ailes directed had the appearance of spontaneity, but it was all carefully scripted. You put Nixon in a thing where he looks like he’s taking a risk where he’s not. They’re going to have to dress up the set for John Kerry, but he can’t do it on his own. He’s not Jack Kennedy, although he wishes he were."

    Mr. Matthews described Mr. Kerry as more like Kennedy’s speechwriter, Ted Sorenson. "He’s kind of, like, world-weary, and he has that voice of wariness, almost like a Scandinavian winter," he said. "It’s cold and it’s weary. That’s what he sounds like when he’s interviewed."

    Despite Mr. Kerry’s problems, a number of observers said it was still very early in the race. And it’s also not clear that the crucial voters even watch shows like Meet the Press or Hardball with any regularity, or even interest. "Typically, for the swing-voter type, when you’re asking somebody about the choice of words 33 years ago, those people have a 100 percent record of either forgiveness or completely not giving a ****," said Lawrence O’Donnell, the MSNBC political analyst. "Have we learned nothing from George Wallace’s career?"

    Mr. O’Donnell said these TV appearances were simply testing grounds.

    "The reason we stare at John Kerry in April is that Tim is the best indicator there is on how rough it’s going to be on you in a Presidential debate in October," said Mr. O’Donnell, who like Mr. Russert once worked for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. "‘Oh, look at that, there’s a vulnerability there.’ And, ‘Oh, by the way, he’s got several months to work on that.’"

    Still, Mr. Kerry has a lot more history to contend with—TV history. "You create a tremendous number of obstacles in the obstacle course of life by going on television for 27, 30 years," said Mr. Matthews. "Because the age of television has created this incredible archive system. No matter what you’ve ever said, it can come popping out at you. But the only way you can replace old stuff is with new stuff, so you have to constantly make your new stuff more compelling. That’s how you do it. So television has a permanence, but you almost have to do battle with your old tape."

    Meanwhile, everyone is waiting for Mr. Kerry to transform.

    "The Democratic friends I have keep saying, ‘Wait, wait, he’ll get better,’" said Don Hewitt, the executive producer of 60 Minutes. "Well, I’m waiting, and I don’t know if he will or not. He may yet surprise me and make it apparent why he’s the guy I’d like to see as President of the United States. I haven’t seen it yet.

    "Maybe he needs some good professional advice," he added, "if he’s in a mood to take it."


    COPYRIGHT © 2004
    THE NEW YORK OBSERVER

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    May 25, 2004

    Campaign Ads Are Under Fire for Inaccuracy

    By JIM RUTENBERG

    WASHINGTON, May 24 — A record year for political advertising has brought with it a hail of televised exaggerations, omissions and mischaracterizations that pollsters say seem to be leaving voters with mistaken impressions of Senator John Kerry and President Bush.

    The degree to which the advertisements push the facts, or go beyond them, varies by commercial. While Mr. Bush's campaign has been singled out as going particularly far with some of its claims, Mr. Kerry's campaign has also been criticized as frequently going beyond the bounds of truth.

    In three of its advertisements, Mr. Bush's campaign has said Mr. Kerry would raise taxes by at least $900 billion in his first 100 days in office. Mr. Kerry has no such plan.

    In an advertisement for Mr. Kerry, an announcer said, "George Bush says sending jobs overseas makes sense for America." Mr. Bush never said that. A report to Congress by his top economic adviser said cheaper production of goods overseas had long-term benefits but did not make the plain case that domestic job losses were a good thing.

    Outside groups are getting into the act as well.

    The League of Conservation Voters, which has endorsed Mr. Kerry, is running an advertisement in Florida warning that "President Bush opened up Florida's coast to offshore drilling." But the drilling area that was opened under Mr. Bush is 100 miles off the coast, much farther than it would have been under a Clinton administration proposal.

    Of course, it is a time-tested practice to make one's opponent look as bad as possible in a political campaign, whether the race is for town council or the presidency of the United States. And the campaigns and outside groups say they are under no obligation to present defenses for their opponents in their own advertisements, all of which are at least tenuously based in fact.

    But this campaign season, with total advertising spending at roughly $150 million since early last summer, the number of distortions and omissions is worrying some good-government groups, which say they fear that the big money behind the claims is leaving indelible impressions.

    "Even people who don't think there is much information in these ads and say they don't learn anything from them tell us they believe factoids they could only have gotten from these ads, and they're wrong," said Brooks Jackson, director of Factcheck.org, an Annenberg Public Policy Center Web site that vets political advertisements for accuracy. "It's beyond subliminal — it's something else I haven't come up with a name for."

    This month the Annenberg Center, at the University of Pennsylvania, released a poll of voters in battleground states that found many believed misleading statements made in the advertisements.

    In a survey conducted from April 15 to May 2, 61 percent of the 1,026 voters questioned in the 18 swing states where most of the advertising has run said they believed Mr. Bush favored sending jobs overseas. And 72 percent said they believed that three million jobs had been lost during Mr. Bush's presidency. Mr. Kerry made that claim in a spot in late February, when the most commonly used Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed the actual net job loss to be closer to 2.3 million, down from 2.7 million in late summer. That number is now less than 1.6 million. (Mr. Kerry's figures did not include government jobs.)

    In the same survey, 46 percent of those questioned said they believed Mr. Kerry "wants to raise gasoline taxes by 50 cents a gallon." Three spots for Mr. Bush have said that Mr. Kerry supported a 50-cent-a-gallon tax hike on gasoline, an assertion based from comments Mr. Kerry that appeared in two newspapers 10 years ago regarding a position he never acted on and has long since abandoned.

    More than half of those surveyed also said they believed Mr. Kerry had "voted for higher taxes 350 times." That idea, Annenberg researchers concluded, is based on a commercial for Mr. Bush in which an announcer said, "Kerry supported higher taxes over 350 times." While Bush campaign aides say the contention is accurate and have made public a list of instances to which it refers, they acknowledge that in several of these cases Mr. Kerry had in fact either voted to maintain tax rates or even to cut them, but not by as much as Republicans had proposed.

    "Each of these votes amounted to higher taxes than an alternative," said Terry Holt, a spokesman for the Bush campaign. "We expect that voters will reach the obvious conclusion that John Kerry will increase your taxes or will oppose efforts to cut taxes."

    Asked why the spot did not simply say that Mr. Kerry has consistently voted for higher taxes than Republicans have proposed, which even the Kerry campaign would not dispute, Mr. Holt said, "We said `supported higher taxes,' as provably true and totally accurate."

    Several other commercials this year have been criticized for pushing past the facts when they could have indisputably conveyed similar points with less sensational-sounding claims.

    For instance, one of Mr. Kerry's new commercials boasts that he provided "a decisive vote" for President Bill Clinton's 1993 economic plan, which, it maintains, "created 20 million new jobs." The bill passed by a single vote in the Senate, giving anybody who voted for it a claim to have provided a decisive vote. But at the time, it was the last-minute support of Senator Bob Kerrey, Democrat of Nebraska, that was considered decisive. And even economists who credit the plan with playing a significant role in the 1990's boom say Mr. Kerry's spot goes too far.

    "To say that any one economic package was responsible for all of the stuff going on in the 90's is kind of ridiculous," said L. Douglas Lee, president of Economics From Washington, an economic policy analysis firm. Still, Mr. Lee said, the 1993 package was an important factor in the boom.

    Asked why the spot did not simply say Mr. Kerry voted for a package credited with helping to set the conditions for the boom, Michael Meehan, a Kerry spokesman, said: "That's why we have elections. People get to decide. We said it created 20 million jobs. If people don't believe that, they should vote for someone else."

    Aides on both sides said privately that it was hard to fit all the nuance of complex policies into a vehicle designed to convey thoughts no more complex than "Tastes Great, Less Filling."

    "There's only so much you can do in a 30-second ad," said an aide to Mr. Kerry, making a point that was echoed by a senior strategist for the Bush campaign.

    Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, does not accept that. "When they could make the 30-second ad accurate and they don't, you've got to believe that they're intentionally misleading you," she said.

    Kenneth M. Goldstein, an associate professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin, said it was to be expected that the campaigns would take liberties, and that with both Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush flush with cash, there was plenty of time for them to answer each other's claims.

    "Politics is about putting your best foot forward and putting the other person in the worst light," Mr. Goldstein said. "Do we expect someone who's advertising to say, `You know, I really don't want to put this person's record in the worst light because that's not fair'?"

    In the end, Mr. Jackson of Factcheck.org said, all that can be done is to continue to vet commercials for accuracy and try to set the record straight as publicly as possible. That, he said, is an occasionally thankless task:

    "I've had consultants tell me, `Your ad watch runs once, my ad runs many times; who's going to win?' "


    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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    June 6, 2004

    Potential Kerry Running Mates Vie to Sing His Praises Loudest

    By DAVID M. HALBFINGER

    WASHINGTON, June 4 — On Tuesday morning, Senator Bob Graham boarded a plane in Virginia, flew to Florida with John Kerry, and introduced him to an overheated crowd outside Palm Beach as "a man of high intelligence, great energy and a sincere commitment to what's important to us today for our children and grandchildren."

    In Des Moines the same morning, Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa stood outside the state capitol behind a "John Kerry for President" lectern and next to men wearing "Firefighters for Kerry" T-shirts and accused the Bush administration of cutting spending on domestic security.

    Back in Washington, meanwhile, a top fund-raiser installed by Senator John Edwards inside the Democratic Party picked up the phone for another day of raising money for his new client, Mr. Kerry.

    The campaign for the vice presidential spot on the Democratic ticket is on, and Mr. Kerry is reaping the benefits every day, as several men widely mentioned as possible running mates, including Mr. Graham and Mr. Vilsack, crisscross the country and wallpaper the cable networks on his behalf, talking up Mr. Kerry and talking down President Bush, raising money for Mr. Kerry, and shoring up his position in contested states and with constituent groups that might not have supported him in the primaries.

    It seems hard to imagine that only a few weeks ago Democrats, worried that Mr. Kerry was being hammered regularly by Vice President Dick Cheney, were urging him to name a running mate quickly. But with his position in the polls strong, a decision is now unlikely until July, according to aides, and Mr. Kerry is able to unleash a kennel full of attack dogs, all standing to gain from impressing the man who could be their boss.

    "Each of them has been very gracious, and they all understand that the name of the game here is to win the White House back for the Democrats in November," said Fred Baron, a Dallas trial lawyer who led Mr. Edwards's fund-raising and now is a chairman of Kerry Victory '04, the Democrats' coordinated campaign.

    The process of picking a running mate can be a humiliating one for those who had or still have presidential aspirations, as it reportedly was for Mr. Kerry when he was closely considered four years ago but not chosen by Vice President Al Gore. Unlike Mr. Kerry then, Mr. Edwards, of North Carolina, and Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri find themselves in the humbling position of hoping to be tapped after running presidential campaigns of their own.

    But it is in the interests of nominees if running-mate hopefuls think they can improve their chances. Mr. Gore's campaign let it be known, for example, that people on his short list might help their appeal by raising money for him, said a Democrat close to Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, and Mr. Lieberman took the hint, holding a major fund-raiser for Mr. Gore in the final days before he made his decision, just as Mr. Kerry and the other senator on the list, Mr. Edwards, had done.

    Mr. Baron said there were no fund-raising goals for those seeking the No. 2 spot on Mr. Kerry's ticket, nor was anyone keeping count of how much they were bringing in. And in general, Mr. Kerry is being even more discreet about his decision-making than Mr. Gore was. His campaign is doing little to encourage speculation about running mates; reporters traveling with Mr. Kerry only learned about a three-hour meeting he had on Thursday night in Minneapolis with James A. Johnson, the Minnesotan and veteran Democrat operative who is overseeing his selection process, when Mr. Johnson was spotted in an elevator afterward.

    Those who have been vetted by Mr. Kerry to one degree or another deny, of course, that they are competing for his favor. "This is not a job for which a person runs," said Mr. Graham, who endured the screening process with Michael S. Dukakis, Bill Clinton and Mr. Gore. "It's not something that you audition for."

    Like any presumptive nominee, Mr. Kerry has many more surrogates at the ready, from fellow members of Congress to governors to his own campaign officials and even his crewmates from the Vietnam War.

    But those who have been considered by Mr. Kerry or still hope to be — a list that includes Mr. Edwards, Mr. Gephardt, retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark of Arkansas, and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico — may have more cachet, aides acknowledge, and they have been quick to comply with requests from Mr. Kerry's campaign.

    General Clark, for example, who formed a political action committee last month and quickly set to attacking Mr. Bush as having "chosen the easy life" over combat, has carried Mr. Kerry's flag in the South, speaking in Little Rock, Ark.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Jackson, Miss., in the weeks since.

    Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, who has frequently accompanied Mr. Kerry on campaign swings there, raised about $300,000 for Mr. Kerry over the telephone in the past week, Mr. Nelson's spokesman said. And Mr. Vilsack has already drawn criticism in Iowa for his work for Mr. Kerry, which last month included trips to Kentucky, Arizona, Boston and New York, and will take him to Wisconsin to give a keynote address at a Democratic dinner on June 11.

    Mr. Edwards has been a whirlwind of activity, speaking on Mr. Kerry's behalf in Columbus, Ohio; Cleveland; and Duluth, Minn., in the past two weeks. On Thursday he sent out an appeal via e-mail to his own list of supporters to "reach deep down and work nonstop to support John Kerry." Next weekend he will speak at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner held by the Florida Democratic Party and raise money for Mr. Kerry on the west coast of Florida, and he plans political and fund-raising swings for Mr. Kerry to Houston; Baton Rouge, La.; and Alabama later this month, aides said.

    If Mr. Edwards seems the most eager — or at least the most available — of the bunch, Mr. Gephardt could be said to be striking a pose of studied nonchalance. Though he spoke at a Washington fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee on Thursday night, he has taken a relatively low profile of late. In May, he participated in two conference calls with reporters, and gave the keynote address at the Michigan Democratic Party's annual dinner in Detroit, aides said, but he has nothing more on his calendar at the Kerry campaign's behest until late August.

    Each vice presidential aspirant, by this point, has a practiced nonanswer to questions about whether he wants the job, but their friends and confidants are less constrained.

    "His view of all this is that you don't campaign for this job," said an associate of Mr. Gephardt's. "Running around and saying `me, me' isn't Dick's style and isn't going to help your cause. Obviously he'd like to be vice president, but if he isn't, he'd be comfortable going off and enjoying his life and making some money, as opposed to some younger candidates for whom this is an important step in keeping their political career alive."

    But Carter Eskew, a consultant to Mr. Gore in 2000, said there was more than one way for aspirants to position themselves for the job. "Playing it cool, that's fine as a strategy," Mr. Eskew said. "You don't egregiously lobby for the job. There are some people who say that lobbying doesn't matter, anyway. But if it's done skillfully enough, people respect it."

    It is unclear if either the Democrats' posturing or their actual performance on Mr. Kerry's behalf will influence his decision much, if at all. While members of Mr. Kerry's staff work with surrogates to book them at political events and on television and radio, Mr. Kerry is seldom aware of their activities unless they slip up and draw criticism, or show up to share a plane ride or a microphone.

    Besides, Mr. Eskew said, "Getting chosen to be V.P. is a little bit like what it used to be like to get into Harvard. All the extracurricular stuff — being president of the band — there are many paths to get to be considered for admission, but in the final analysis the interview matters most."


    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  8. #8
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    I also think that Mr. Edwards is best place for Vice President. He is young and sounds smart. He is from the south....which he can get some votes for Kerry and he is known to people already (I think). He seems active to get votes for kerry and might help Kerry's lack of enthusiasm. :P

  9. #9

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    June 29, 2004

    Bush's Rating Falls to Its Lowest Point, New Survey Finds

    By ADAM NAGOURNEY and JANET ELDER

    President Bush's job approval rating has fallen to the lowest level of his presidency, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. The poll found Americans stiffening their opposition to the Iraq war, worried that the invasion could invite domestic terrorist attacks and skeptical about whether the White House has been fully truthful about the war or about abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison.

    A majority of respondents in the poll, conducted before yesterday's transfer of power to an interim Iraqi government, said that the war was not worth its cost in American lives and that the Bush administration did not have a clear plan to restore order to Iraq.

    The survey, which showed Mr. Bush's approval rating at 42 percent, also found that nearly 40 percent of Americans say they do not have an opinion about Senator John Kerry, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, despite what have been both parties' earliest and most expensive television advertising campaigns.

    Among those who do have an opinion, Mr. Kerry is disliked more than he is liked. More than 50 percent of respondents said that Mr. Kerry says what he thinks voters want to hear, suggesting that Mr. Bush has had success in portraying his opponent as a flip-flopper.

    Americans were more likely to believe that Mr. Bush would do a better job than Mr. Kerry would in steering the nation through a foreign crisis, and protecting it from future terrorist attacks. Support for Mr. Bush's abilities in those areas has declined in recent months, but the findings suggest that Americans are more comfortable entrusting their security to a president they know than a challenger who remains relatively unknown.

    Even so, the poll was scattered with warning flags for Mr. Bush, and there was compelling evidence that his decision to take the nation to war against Iraq has left him in a precarious political position.

    As he heads into the fall election, Mr. Bush appears to have much riding on the transfer of power in Baghdad yesterday. The 42 percent of Americans who say they approve of the way Mr. Bush is handling his job is the lowest such figure in a Times/CBS News survey since the beginning of Mr. Bush's presidency in January 2001; 51 percent say they disapprove.

    Over the past 25 years, according to pollsters, presidents with job approval ratings below 50 percent in the spring of election years have generally gone on to lose. Mr. Bush's father had a 34 percent job approval rating at this time in 1992.

    Similarly, 45 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of Mr. Bush himself, again the most negative measure the Times/CBS Poll has found since he took office. And 57 percent say the country is going in the wrong direction, another measure used by pollsters as a barometer of discontent with an incumbent.

    Yet the survey found little evidence that Mr. Kerry has been able to take advantage of the president's difficulties, even though Mr. Kerry has spent $60 million on television advertising over the past three months.

    Nationwide, Mr. Kerry has the support of 45 percent of registered voters, with Mr. Bush supported by 44 percent. When Ralph Nader, who is running as an independent, is included, he draws 5 percent, leaving 42 percent for Mr. Kerry and 43 percent for Mr. Bush

    In the 18 states viewed by both parties as the most competitive — and thus the subject of the most advertising expenditures and visits by the candidates — the race was equally tight. Forty-five percent of voters in those states said they would support Mr. Kerry, and 43 percent said they would back Mr. Bush. Indeed, on a host of measures, the poll found little difference in public opinion between the nation as a whole and that of voters in the competitive states.

    The tight race indicated by the poll reflects how aides to both Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry have described the overall state of play for weeks. But other polls have, at times, shown Mr. Kerry or Mr. Bush bumping ahead. A CBS News poll taken last month found Mr. Kerry with a lead of 49 percent to 41 percent over Mr. Bush.

    The nationwide poll of 1,053 adults, including 875 registered voters, was taken by telephone June 23 to June 27. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

    For all the signs of opposition to the war, Americans appear prepared to stay in Iraq until the situation becomes stable. The poll found that 54 percent of respondents said that the United States should remain in Iraq "as long as it takes," while 40 percent said the United States should withdraw "as soon as possible."

    Overall, the poll's findings left little doubt about the extent to which Mr. Bush's decision to go to war is proving to be perhaps the most fateful of his presidency. About 60 percent of respondents said they disapproved of Mr. Bush's Iraq policy, while just over 50 percent said they disapproved of his foreign policy. Those disapproval figures are the highest measured in his presidency on those subjects.

    And 60 percent of respondents, including a majority of independents, said the war has not been worth the cost.

    "We attacked a sovereign nation, and we went in there and we did things that the United States shouldn't have done," Charles Drum, 36, a Republican from Alameda, Calif., said in an interview after the poll was taken. "I feel that we went after the wrong people, and it's unacceptable, and it's absolutely ridiculous that innocent people are dying over there in Iraq, and our own troops are dying for a cause that is not just."

    Respondents said that Mr. Bush's policies in Iraq were having the effect of creating terrorists and of increasing the chances of another terrorist attack at home. Concerns about the war appear to undercut what has long been one of Mr. Bush's strong suits, his handling of the fight against terrorism. Fifty-two percent of Americans now say they approve of the way Mr. Bush is conducting that fight, down from 90 percent in December 2001.

    "I watch the news quite a bit, and I'm kind of thinking it's getting these terrorists motivated to do more," said Charlie Buck, 54, a Republican from Indiana, Pa. "Whether it's their religious beliefs or it's us trying to step into their country, I just get that feeling that they feel that we're stepping into where we shouldn't be, and it's inciting them. It's stimulating them to be more aggressive in getting us out."

    In what could prove to be a particularly far-reaching development for Mr. Bush — especially because he and his campaign have sought to undercut Mr. Kerry's credibility — nearly 60 percent said he was not being entirely truthful when talking about Iraq. Similarly, just 15 percent said the administration had told the entire truth when it came to abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison.

    There are some ways in which Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush are viewed similarly. They are seen as political leaders who keep their word, and both are viewed as optimistic, suggesting that Mr. Bush's attempt to portray Mr. Kerry as pessimistic has not taken hold.

    But there are signs that Americans are beginning to form very different personal perceptions of these two men. Mr. Kerry was described as more likely than Mr. Bush to admit a mistake, and to listen to divergent opinions. Mr. Bush is viewed as someone who takes a position and sticks with it, and while those interviewed were split on whether that was a positive trait, it is a contrast that Mr. Bush's campaign has encouraged as a way of trying to undercut Mr. Kerry

    "Kerry has flip-flopped too many times," said Joseph Martin, 52, an independent voter who lives outside Seattle. "The one thing that I think that a lot of people understand is a position of strength, and you cannot be waffling around. You've got to show a commitment, show a determination and keep a steady hand, and I just don't think Kerry has got that."

    For Mr. Bush, the poll contains a number of potentially worrisome findings. By 51 to 32 percent, Americans believe that he has divided the nation, rather than brought it together. The number of Americans who said that Mr. Bush did not care about the "needs and problems of people like you" edged up to 42 percent from 36 percent in March. More than 50 percent said that Mr. Bush did not have the same priorities for the country as they did.

    On the issue of the economy, even though job-creation numbers have been rising over the past few months, 45 percent of Americans say that the Bush administration has been responsible for a decline in jobs, compared with 24 percent who say it has brought an increase. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they were very or somewhat concerned that they or someone in their house would be out of work over the next year.

    Republicans, remembering what happened when Mr. Bush's father lost in 1992, have long expressed concern that any improvement in the economy will happen too late to capture the notice of voters.

    Both men are disliked by more people than they are liked. The number of people who view Mr. Kerry unfavorably has jumped to 35 percent from 29 percent in mid-March, when Mr. Bush began a huge television advertising campaign against his opponent.

    In Mr. Kerry's case, 36 percent said they had no opinion of him, despite the campaign's record-setting expenditure on television advertisements. That figure is fairly typical for challengers at this point in the campaign; in June 1992, 44 percent of the public did not have an opinion of Bill Clinton.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company


    42% and the election is deadlocked. Pick a running-mate you fool, and send him on the road.

  10. #10

    Default

    July 4, 2004

    Swaying Unhappy Ohio Voters Could Be a Key to the Presidency

    By JAMES DAO

    PORTSMOUTH, Ohio — It is tempting to view Ohio politics as a bipolar clash: liberal Northeast versus conservative Southwest, industrial Cleveland against white-collar Cincinnati. But this year's presidential race may come down to people like Robert Burton in the gently rolling, easily overlooked hills of southeastern Ohio.

    Here, Appalachia meets the Midwest along the Ohio River, which carves a muddy border with Kentucky and West Virginia. The region is part New Deal Democrat, part Ronald Reagan Republican. The people are gimlet-eyed about politicians, fickle about political parties and adept at picking winners, from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush.

    Mr. Burton captures the temperament. An electrician, his business has been hurt by textile and steel plant closings. He nearly spits in disgust that a Wal-Mart Super Center will soon replace a coke processing plant, exuding the kind of burning resentment Senator John Kerry's campaign hopes to exploit.

    "The best business around here is the U-Haul business," Mr. Burton, 36, said recently.

    Yet for all his frustration about Republican stewardship of the economy, Mr. Burton is equally dismayed by the Democrats' support for abortion rights, gun control and welfare programs. Asked whom he plans to vote for, he says he is leaning toward President Bush.

    But he is far from sure.

    "I'm a Republican until it comes to economic policy," he said. "Then I'm in no man's land. And there are a lot more people like me."

    Mr. Burton helps explain why the Kerry campaign has high hopes for Ohio — and why it still faces high hurdles in trying to win it. Victory here could be pivotal: no Republican has won the presidency without carrying Ohio. No surprise, then, that Mr. Bush has visited the state 18 times since 2001.

    "I don't see how the president wins without carrying Ohio," Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, said.

    But Democratic victory will also require convincing fence straddlers like Mr. Burton that Mr. Kerry has the right character, experience and message to run the country. So far, polls and interviews show, Mr. Kerry has yet to do that, despite having spent about $7 million in the state. (Labor unions and private groups opposing Mr. Bush have spent about $6 million more.)

    In dozens of conversations across the state, many voters asserted that they knew little about Mr. Kerry, or did not like what they had heard about him. Many support his economic policies but distrust him as a Northeastern liberal. Some expressed unease about changing leaders in a time of war and terrorism.

    And others had clearly been influenced by the $9 million in advertising, much of it attacking Mr. Kerry's character, that the Bush campaign has already broadcast in the state.

    "I think Kerry's too negative," said Mark Allbaugh, 39, a fifth-grade teacher from Dennison in eastern Ohio. "I haven't seen a whole lot in him that I like."

    But Mr. Allbaugh remains undecided. He disapproves of the American military occupation of Iraq, dislikes President Bush's signature education program, No Child Left Behind, and believes the administration has mishandled the economy.

    "I'm not really fond of either candidate," he said. "I thought Bush was down to earth, told you what he thought, like a normal person. But once he got into office, he changed."

    Such skepticism helps explain why Ohio has been a presidential bellwether for decades - and is perhaps the most closely watched swing state this year.

    Sometimes called the state of presidents, having produced seven of them, Ohio has voted with the winner in every national election since 1960. In 2000, Mr. Bush won Ohio by less than 4 points, after Vice President Al Gore pulled his advertising just weeks before the election, believing he was trailing by 10 points.

    Recent polls indicate the race will be tight again. Several surveys earlier in the year showed Mr. Kerry with a slim margin. A more recent poll in The Cleveland Plain Dealer had Mr. Bush with a 47 percent to 41 percent lead.

    Eric Rademacher, co-director of the Ohio Poll at the University of Cincinnati, said Ohio had closely reflected national attitudes and demographic trends for decades. The rural South, the agricultural Midwest and the industrial Great Lakes flow together here.

    Labor unions, though shrinking, remain influential. So do conservative Christian groups. The Republican Party, which has dominated the state for a decade, has a history of moderation, as embodied in its senators, George V. Voinovich and Mike DeWine.

    But this year, Ohio could be different in one crucial way, Mr. Rademacher said: its economy was harder hit by the downturn than most states and has been slower to recover.

    Since 2001, the state has lost 200,000 jobs. It is ranked among the bottom states in personal income growth and retaining college graduates. And though there are signs of new job growth, the 5.6 percent unemployment rate in May was still well above the 4 percent of December 2000.

    "The real challenge for both Bush and Kerry is convincing Ohioans that they have an economic plan that will put the state back on track," Mr. Rademacher said.

    The lagging economy has energized Democrats, who have maintained a laser-like focus on the issue. Mr. Kerry has been in the state eight times since wrapping up the nomination in March, usually to talk about the economy.

    "It will all boil down to jobs," said Dennis L. White, the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. "Try sending your kid to college working at a Taco Bell."

    For months, union workers and canvassers from private liberal groups, like America Coming Together and MoveOn.org, have been going door to door across the state registering new voters and criticizing Mr. Bush's policies, like lifting tariffs on imported steel.

    Democrats are hoping their efforts will generate a huge turnout of angry and anxious voters determined to oust Mr. Bush. One of their targets has been Stark County, a swing county surrounding Canton in the northeast, which was rocked by the recent announcement that the Timken Company would be closing three plants and laying off 1,300 workers. The company, whose founding family are major contributors to the Republican Party, has been an economic mainstay in Stark County for nearly a century.

    Dave Drummond, 48, is a line supervisor at a Timken bearing plant in Canton who expects to lose his job. He did not vote in 2000. But his union, the United Steelworkers of America, registered him this year and there is little doubt about how he will vote.

    "Bush is out the door," he said. "Kerry, some of his views are good, some are bad. I just want him for the change."

    Republicans argue that the economy is stabilizing and that voters will focus on national security and character issues. Both play to Mr. Bush's strengths, they contend.

    "He's had a horrible couple of months," said Mike Allen, the Hamilton County prosecutor and director of the Bush campaign in southwestern Ohio. "But the numbers show he's weathered that storm. I think it's because people trust the guy."

    Still, Republicans say they are taking no chances. They have mounted their largest get-out-the-vote operation in history, recruiting more than 40,000 volunteers and organizing registration drives in Republican-leaning suburbs and rural areas. Their goal, which they say they are close to exceeding, is to add more than 100,000 pro-Bush voters to the rolls.

    "The Democrats had a much better ground operation than us in 2000," said Robert T. Bennett, chairman of the state Republican Party. "That's not going to happen this year."

    The Bush-Cheney operation in Brown County, one of several rapidly growing exurban counties ringing Cincinnati, exemplifies the kind of well-oiled operation the Republicans hope to replicate in dozens of other counties.

    Almost weekly, Republican organizers gather in local businesses to call unregistered voters, recruit volunteers and put together lists of people who are likely to vote for President Bush among the upscale, mostly white and independent voters who have moved into their county.

    "We can't win if we just get out 3,000 Republicans to the polls," said Paul Hall, chairman of the Brown County Republican Party. "We need to get 10,000 independents to counterbalance Cleveland."

    In their bastions, the two parties are mostly focusing on the core issues of jobs, trade, national security, character and experience. But the race is a bit different in rural areas, like southeastern Ohio, where cultural issues are likely to play a larger role.

    The National Rifle Association will be influential here, with its anti-Kerry message. But so will labor unions. Recently, the Rev. Jesse Jackson; Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America; and a host of other labor leaders rolled into Portsmouth to deliver the Democrats' central message.

    "This fight is not about the right to bear arms, the right to pray in school, the right to choose," Mr. Jackson told a crowd of several hundred people gathered around a Civil War memorial to Union soldiers. "This fight is about the right to have a job."

    In the rear of the crowd, Edward Shouse, 61, listened intently. The pastor of a local African-American church, he has seen his congregation fall on hard times because of layoffs. It has affected him, too: he cannot afford health insurance for his wife.

    Yet he remains undecided about the election. He admires Mr. Bush's character, though he is unhappy with administration policies on Iraq and the economy. But while he is open to Mr. Kerry, there is something about the Democrat he does not quite trust.

    "I haven't heard either man say the right thing yet," he said.


    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company


  11. #11
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    Kerry Picks Edwards as His Running Mate

    New York Times

    CNN



    NY Post picks wrong running mate

  12. #12

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    D’Amato tries to pull out Dick...

    Drop Cheney? Democrats hope not
    Speculation abounds in Washington after GOP ex-senator urges new Bush running mate


    By Tom Curry
    National affairs writer
    MSNBC July 09, 2004

    WASHINGTON - When former New York Sen. Al D’Amato suggested this week the time had come for President Bush to replace Vice President Dick Cheney with either Secretary of State Colin Powell or Arizona Sen. John McCain as his running mate, was D’Amato voicing Republican hopes and Democratic fears? Or was he simply being provocative?

    "On through September, the Democratic ticket of Kerry-Edwards could very well build an insurmountable lead among a public that is hungry for change,” said one Washington-based political consultant, speaking on condition of anonymity.


    President Bush and Vice President Cheney listen to reporters' questions at a White House meeting last January.

    “If Cheney is dropped it would be the highest example of desperation in the history of presidential elections,” he said. “Without a doubt, it would happen in response to the fear Republicans have at Edwards being selected as Kerry’s VP."

    While some Democrats acknowledge they’d love Cheney to stay on the ticket because they consider him a drag on Bush, most want to talk instead about their exuberance over Edwards.

    Bush will play his hand

    “I take the president at face value when he says that he is going to stand by Cheney,” said Washington-based Democratic campaign consultant Jim Duffy. Dumping Cheney? “I just don’t see it,” Duffy said. “It flies in the face of how Bush plays his hands. I see the president playing the hand he has right to the bitter end.”

    Democrats, Duffy said, “are talking about how elated they are about the Kerry-Edwards ticket. This (Cheney speculation) is not something I see Democrats engaging in.”

    “We’re praying Cheney stays on the ticket,” California Democratic Party spokesman Bob Mulholland said. “Cheney is an albatross around the neck of the president, so Democrats are supporting Cheney.”

    Mulholland noted that on Tuesday the Bush-Cheney campaign unveiled a new television ad featuring McCain.

    “It wasn’t featuring Cheney,” Mulholland noted. “If Cheney were a plus for the ticket, they’d have him out there in that ad.”

    “I’m hoping it doesn’t happen,” Mulholland said of a Cheney exit. “We want Cheney so we can beat up on him for the next four months.”

    Mulholland said that one potentially troublesome story for Cheney that may get wider exposure in the next four months is the Securities and Exchange Commission’s investigation of alleged payments of $180 million in bribes by several firms, including a subsidiary of Halliburton, to officials in Nigeria, in order to smooth construction of a liquefied natural gas complex off the Nigerian coast.

    Some of the payments were allegedly made at the time Cheney was chief executive of Halliburton.

    Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall said, "We are working with officials in Europe and the United States as well as conducting our own investigation to determine the truth of these unproven assertions. We do not believe that the company has violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act," a U.S. law that prohibits payments of bribes by American firms to foreign officials.

    The Bush-Cheney campaign did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the Nigeria allegation.

    D'Amato urges 'bold stroke'

    For his part, D’Amato portrayed his dump-Cheney proposal as a move not dictated by the urgent need to avoid Republican defeat, but rather as way to bulk up Bush’s victory margin.

    "While I believe George Bush will win re-election even without this bold stroke, he will insure a broader, deeper, more resonant reaffirmation of his leadership if he places his duty to continue as president above any one individual," D'Amato said.

    But tradition and logic suggest that such a “bold stroke” would be necessitated only if the vice president’s heart ailment really did require him to step down or if Bush and his strategists thought his re-election hopes were slipping away.

    Polling data released Thursday suggested that while Edwards’ selection as vice presidential candidate may have given Kerry a positive bump, Bush-Cheney is still quite competitive.

    A John Zogby poll released Thursday showed the Kerry-Edwards ticket only two percentage points ahead of Bush and Cheney, a lead within the poll’s margin of error.

    An Associated Press poll released Thursday found that 50 percent supported the Bush-Cheney ticket while 46 percent chose the Kerry-Edwards ticket, within that question's margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

    Threshold for drama

    In an era of spectacular political events, from Bill Clinton’s impeachment to the 2000 election recount to the airplane crash deaths of Democratic Senate candidates Mel Carnahan in 2000 and Sen. Paul Wellstone in 2002, the electorate’s threshold for drama has been raised.

    But by any standard, a Cheney adieu would qualify as truly dramatic.

    A memo written by a Washington-based political consultant and currently making the rounds in the capital sketches a Cheney exit scenario.

    The memo notes Bush’s low job approval ratings in national polls.

    “Only dramatic events create dramatic opportunities to change these perceptions. Why? During dramatic events the public’s attention is fixated on nothing else but the event in question,” the memo says.

    A Cheney resignation would, it says, push Kerry and Edwards to the side. The news media coverage of who’d replace Cheney would be “pervasive and overwhelming. With less than a week to the Democratic Convention, little attention is given to Senator Kerry’s policy and political agenda. The Democratic nominee is relegated to the second-tier of the news cycle.”

    A Cheney resignation would give Bush the opportunity to nominate his successor who, under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, would have to be confirmed by a majority vote of the House and the Senate.

    The memo assumes McCain would be the nominee.

    “Can Sen. Kerry vote against the Vice-President select? Of course not,” the memo says. “Can he vote for him? Of course not. Can he abstain? Of course not. There is no right answer. Can anyone imagine a more dramatic moment in recent political history?”

    And perhaps it is a moment that will play out only in the summer nightmares of some Democrats.

    © 2004 MSNBC Interactive

  13. #13

    Default Exit Stategy?

    New York Times July 12, 2004

    Mr. Cheney's Troubled Doctor

    The doctor who regularly vouched for Vice President Dick Cheney's good health had a secret debilitation of his own — a grievous addiction to prescription drugs that has recently been thoroughly aired in public. Unfortunately, we now know a lot about the medical history of Dr. Gary Malakoff but very little about that of his patient, the vice president.

    Skimpy, upbeat generalizations have always been offered about Mr. Cheney, who has a history of heart ailments and complex ongoing treatment. In contrast, President Bush, by all accounts a picture of health, has released full details about his own checkups.

    In the face of Dr. Malakoff's failings, candor is more urgent than ever from Mr. Cheney. Even as Dr. Malakoff pronounced his patient "up to the task of the most sensitive public office" four years ago, the doctor was spending tens of thousands of dollars on his addiction and making hollow promises of rehabilitation to colleagues.

    Dr. Malakoff has been dropped as Mr. Cheney's personal internist. The vice president reportedly has known about the doctor's five-year struggle with addiction but has no concerns about the care he received, according to his press office.

    The favorable summaries may have been the best collective judgment of a team of doctors, including cardiologists, but Dr. Malakoff was the lead doctor offering ringing reassurances about Mr. Cheney's health. In retrospect, voters are entitled to question the rosy prognoses. The vice president must put aside his obsession with secrecy and finally offer a detailed report on his medical history. For that matter, so should Senator John Kerry, who has not yet fulfilled promises to release his own records.

  14. #14
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    It's all about the states. Here's how they roughly stand prior to the Democratic Convention.

    The following maps don't agree on which party is represented by red or blue - be forwarned.

    First, the 2000 Election:






    Here are some websites showing current maps based on the latest state polls. Results vary, but taken together they tell a similar story; it is very close. The candidate with the advantage depends on which polls are used and how heavily each are weighed.


    http://www.electionprojection.com/elections2004.html






    http://www.electoral-vote.com/






    http://www.dalythoughts.com/ecb.htm







    State polls also available here:

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/bus...erry_sbys.html


    Electoral College Calculator

  15. #15

    Default hmmmm....

    July 15, 2004
    POLITICAL MEMO

    Hear the Rumor on Cheney? Capital Buzzes, Denials Aside
    By ELISABETH BUMILLER

    WASHINGTON, July 14 - In the annals of Washington conspiracy theories, the latest one, about Vice President Dick Cheney's future on the Republican ticket, is as ingenious as it is far-fetched. But that has not stopped it from racing through Republican and Democratic circles like the latest low-carb diet.

    The newest theory - advanced privately by prominent Democrats, including members of Congress - holds that Mr. Cheney recently dismissed his personal doctor so that he could see a new one, who will conveniently tell him in August that his heart problems make him unfit to run with Mr. Bush. The dismissed physician, Dr. Gary Malakoff, who four years ago declared that Mr. Cheney was "up to the task of the most sensitive public office" despite a history of heart disease, was dropped from Mr. Cheney's medical team because of an addiction to prescription drugs.

    "I don't know where they get all these conspiracy theories," said Matthew Dowd, the Bush campaign's chief strategist, who has heard them all. "It's inside-the-Beltway coffee talk, is all it is."

    It may be inside the Beltway, but in recent days the Washington summer clamor about dropping Mr. Cheney has so greatly intensified that Mr. Cheney himself was forced to address it on Wednesday. Asked in a C-Span interview if he could envision any circumstances under which he would step aside, Mr. Cheney replied: "Well, no, I can't. If I thought that were appropriate, I certainly would."

    In the interview, to be broadcast Sunday, Mr. Cheney also said that Mr. Bush "has made very clear he doesn't want to break up the team," but that chatter of his stepping down was to be expected.

    "I suppose right now, because we're in the run-up to the convention, people don't have much to talk about so you get speculation on that," he said. "It's normal. When we get to the convention, I think that'll put an end to that." Who would replace Mr. Cheney has nonetheless became a favorite Washington guessing game, with the names of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Senator John McCain of Arizona whispered about the most. Never mind that neither has a particularly cordial relationship with Mr. Bush, and that neither has expressed interest in the job. Other names that keep popping up include Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, and Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader.

    There is also something of an under-the-radar campaign among Republicans promoting their friends for a job that may never come open. As an example, boosters of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, have long tried to toss his name in the mix, despite the fact that friends of the president say he would never pick Mr. Giuliani.

    The rumblings about Mr. Cheney are similar to those that plagued Vice President Dan Quayle in 1992, when Secretary of State James A. Baker III led efforts to push Mr. Quayle off the ticket. But the reasons are different.

    Mr. Quayle was seen as a bumbler who could not spell "potato," making him an easy target for Bill Clinton's campaign. Mr. Cheney, who has suffered four heart attacks, has faced persistent questions about his powerful role in promoting the war in Iraq and insisting that Saddam Hussein had unconventional weapons.

    But like Mr. Quayle, Mr. Cheney suffers from low approval ratings. Last month, a New York Times/CBS News poll found that 21 percent of voters had a favorable impression of Mr. Cheney, compared with 39 percent for Mr. Bush.

    Democrats, as part of their campaign to discredit the competition, are energetically promoting the idea that Mr. Cheney is a drag on the ticket. But none of them are suggesting that Mr. Bush should drop him.

    "He has come to be a polarizing figure who repels voters," said Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Senator John Kerry. But asked if that did not make Mr. Cheney a dream candidate to run against, Mr. Devine demurred. "I'm not going to lob one in that direction," he said. "I don't want to be the Kerry guy who says 'We want Cheney.' "

    Republicans close to the Bush campaign say that the Democrats are using Mr. Cheney as a powerful way to attack Mr. Bush and undermine the White House. "When the Democrats attacked Dan Quayle, it didn't matter a lot," said Vin Weber, a former congressman who is the Bush campaign's chairman for the upper Midwest. "Nobody thought Dan Quayle was the president's most trusted adviser, with broad responsibilities. But Democrats understand that when you go after this vice president, you really go after the administration.''

    But even some Republicans are now questioning whether Mr. Cheney should stay on the ticket. As one House Republican said, conspiratorially, outside the House chamber this week, "Watch Cheney." Another Republican member of Congress said that Mr. Cheney was increasingly viewed as a political liability.

    "I don't think you fix the problem by changing the No. 2 horse, but Bush is facing so much heavy baggage going into November, he's going to have to throw some of that baggage off," said the Republican, who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

    One recent contribution to the buzz about Mr. Cheney came Tuesday in a column by Charlie Cook, the editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "Stipulating that dumping a totally loyal, integral part of his inner circle is something that is absolutely not in George W. Bush's DNA, losing with plenty of notice does not appear to be part of his genetic makeup either," Mr. Cook wrote. He concluded that in an election year as close as this one, "the president badly needs something to shake this race up, and I can think of just one thing. Cheney may need to watch his back."

    Mr. Cook's column came less than a week after Alfonse M. D'Amato, the once-influential Republican senator from New York, said on the cable station NY1 that Mr. Bush should replace Mr. Cheney with Mr. Powell or Mr. McCain. Mr. D'Amato's motives have stirred speculation among New Yorkers, although some who know him well said that getting attention might have been primary among them. An assistant in Mr. D'Amato's office said Wednesday that he would have no further comment on the matter.

    Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, said that Mr. D'Amato's comments had not thrown the White House into any evident frenzy. As Mr. King recounted it, he was recently at the White House with another member of Congress and had a brief conversation with Mr. Bush. The other member of Congress mentioned Mr. D'Amato's comments to Mr. Bush, Mr. King said, and Mr. Bush laughed.

    "He didn't seem concerned or angry," Mr. King said. "And then I said that Al is getting married on Sunday and he's got other things on his mind." Mr. Bush responded, Mr. King said, by saying, "Tell him the president wishes him well on his wedding day."

    Copyright 2004*The New York Times Company

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