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Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Letters, we get letters 

One of the nicest things about my experience with this blog in the past couple of months have been the many kind notes passed on by people who have visited. After yesterday's "Shifting Sands" post, I received the following e-mail from Joe J. McGinniss in Washington, DC. I told him he had perfectly expressed a lot of what I've been feeling these last few weeks but have had trouble putting into words:

Sad but true. Thanks for your contribution. It made a difference.

They won - this round. The maverick always struggles and rarely wins. The gatekeepers simply can't allow someone into the kingdom who doesn't ask their permission with a wink and smile and a pat on the head. Writers, pundits, media outlets are insecure, competetive, non-thinking, often cowardly and selectively cynical. Jodi wanted nothing more than to make her mark. Assigned to cover Dean early, when he was an asterik, so what? Hard to stand out. Suddenly thrust into THE reporter of record for THE biggest political story in years, the pressure on young Ms. Wilgoren to stand out -- if not help bring down the emerging front-runner -- was enormous.

So thanks for holding her feet to the fire. Rest well, as Dean and his supporters should. The task was daunting, the mission inspired and the results predictable, but none of it in vain because thousands of people have been moved, have felt something they didn't expect to feel, something they likely didn't think they could feel anymore. There are words for it, a whole lot to choose from. But it's the emotion you can't put words to that was the greatest gift of this campaign.

I for one will never forget this past eight months and will tell my kids some day when they ask, when they pick up one of the buttons or see the worn, faded logo on the T-shirt I'll still wear, who was Dean for America?

He was just a man who said what he believed and didn't back down. And when you do that, win or lose, something somewhere changes for the better.

Thanks.
Thanks to you, Joe. I needed that. ;-)

Only His Hairdresser Knows For Sure 

In the latest round of "Will he or won't he?", we find that lots of people have opinions on when, if and how Governor Dean might end his campaign, but only one guy really knows -- and he ain't conceding yet.

The three main Democratic presidential candidates raced across Wisconsin — their charter jets crossing wings on runways in remote stretches of this state — but the main question was less about what would happen on Tuesday, when Wisconsin holds a primary that Dr. Dean said he must win, and more about what would happen on Wednesday.
In other words, Howard Dean continues to set the pace and the agenda for this race. (“Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean”.) Too bad we’ll likely never see him have a chance to do the same up against G. Dubya.

"We are going on," Mr. Edwards said in an interview, asserting that his biggest obstacle has been a fast-paced primary calendar that has not given him time to catch up with Mr. Kerry. "In every single state, we have been rising on election day, every single one. It's just a time issue."
Join the club, Sen. Edwards. The latest Zogby poll shows what could be a Dean surge in Wisconsin – Kerry 47%, Dean 23%, Edwards 20% -- as compared with last week’s ARG poll showing Kerry 53%, Edwards 16%, Dean 11%. (Insert usual Kossian disclaimer – Zogby’s methodology forces leaners to decide, can’t compare different polls, yadda yadda yadda – here.) If we had another week before Wisconsin, could Dean catch up with Kerry? We’ll never know. Thanks a lot for that front-loaded primary, Terry Mac.

"Let me remind you all that I have more delegates than everyone else in this race except John Kerry," Dr. Dean told reporters, an edge of anger in his voice. "So I think the campaign obituaries that some of you have been writing are a little misplaced. "
"An edge of anger". Gee, we haven’t heard that old chestnut for a while now, have we? Yeah, I’d be fucking angry too after what he’s been through. (I'll also mention before I got to the Times piece, I read that quote in 3 or 4 other places -- and none of them noted an edge of anger or any other emotion in Gov. Dean's voice. A little color commentary, courtesy of the Nagourney/Wilgoren tag team.)

He refused to answer a routine question about whether he would have authorized the use of nuclear weapons were he in the shoes of Harry S. Truman, his favorite president, explaining, "I just don't feel like it."
Perhaps because he’s been blind-sided by so many “routine questions” designed to evoke a “gaffe”, he’s just sick and tired of them?

Ya know, I really sympathize with the Governor. I’m just ready for him to make his decision, step aside, and start on the next chapter of the movement he has started. I’ve got a feeling he might have a chance to make an even bigger difference NOT being the nominee than he could have made if he were walking in John Kerry’s shoes right now.

Mr. Kerry has avoided any criticism of Dr. Dean, with an eye toward rounding up his supporters if and when Dr. Dean drops out. Aboard his plane on Monday, Mr. Kerry reported that he and Dr. Dean had a "very nice conversation" on Sunday night. “He was very warm," Mr. Kerry said.
Don’t hold your breath, JFK. At this point, you've got my vote if I don't have any other alternative in the fall -- but that's it.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Shifting Sands 

It looks like the final nails may be placed in the coffin over the next few days. The Times is reporting Steve Grossman is abandoning ship unless Gov. Dean finishes first in Wisconsin -- which is obviously unlikely to happen. And it looks like SEIU may be following in AFSCME's footsteps as well.

There has been a distinct shift in Gov. Dean's rhetoric in the last week or so, especially in tonight's debate where he avoided several opportunities to attack Sen. Kerry -- I look at him now and believe he's just going through the motions for his hardcore supporters.

The last three weeks have been difficult to say the least - a mixture of mourning and pride. I've given time and money to a candidate and a cause I believe is the best direction for our country. This past Tuesday I cast my primary vote for Gov. Dean here in Virginia -- quite possibly the first time in my life I've cast a vote FOR a presidential candidate instead of against one. And that felt damn good. At the same time, between the media onslaught (which I believe can be traced largely to Gov. Dean's thoughts on media consolidation expressed on "Hardball" with Chris Matthews in early December) and the campaign's own failings, the end is obviously near.

I've been thinking a lot the last week or so about what will happen to this blog when Howard Dean makes his decision, which I'm expecting on Wednesday. Will it switch to covering media coverage of John Kerry? John Edwards?

The answer is probably not. Truthfully, none of the other candidates has inspired me to anything near the extent Gov. Dean did. (John Edwards comes close and I think he would make a better nominee than Sen. Kerry.) But unfortunately, I just don't give much of a damn about those other candidates.

Don't get me wrong, I'll vote for whoever is on the Democratic ballot opposite George W. Bush in the fall. And if the candidate is Edwards, I'll probably donate some time and money along the way. But primarily I'll concentrate on finding ways to get Bush out of office and taking back the Congress. If Gov. Dean transforms "Dean for America" into some kind of organization to continue the movement, I'll be there for that as well.

But for now, yep, looks like they won.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Still here 

Started a new job last week and have been doing some things leading up to today's Virginia primary. I proudly cast my vote for the man I feel is best equipped to take on George Bush in the fall -- Conventional Wisdom be damned. ;-)

Anyhow, I hope to get caught up and post a few things within the next 48 hours. Y'all come back now, ya hear?

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Post-mortems 

From Sunday, "Missteps Pulled a Surging Dean Back to Earth". In the "couldn't have said it better myself" category, check out Bad Attitudes and we shall move on.

Following the (hopefully premature) post-mortem, we get the $$$ details in "Figures Detail Dean's Slide From Solvent to Struggling". And which impartial observers do Mr. Justice & Ms. Wilgoren rely on for the majority of opinions on Gov. Dean's money troubles? Why, Gov. Dean's rivals, of course.

Democratic consultants and strategists at rival campaigns said the heavy spending resulted from a number of mistaken tactical decisions, including advertising too early, enlarging the organization too quickly and betting too heavily on the first contests.

-----

"They spent it all in one huge strategic error -- they completely squandered it," said Steve Murphy, campaign manager for Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, who dropped out of the race and has not endorsed another candidate.

-----
"They got overconfident about the money," one fund-raiser for Senator John Kerry said.
This last comment of course from the campaign whose candidate mortgaged his home to keep himself alive. When do we get the in-depth analyses of how deep in debt the Kerry campaign was at the end of Q4? (As a side note for you mortgage wizzes out there, if Senator Kerry has a $6.8M mortgage and is elected President at a yearly salary of $400,000, what kind of interest rate do you reckon he negotiated on that loan?)

Anyway, back to our anonymous experts.

Dean campaign officials said they had to introduce their candidate to voters who did not know him and stake out his policy positions. However, many Democrat strategists said the strategy was wasteful, as was the decision to open campaign offices in multiple states.
Now are these the "independent" strategists or the ones who have a dog in this fight, who are paid to make sure Gov. Dean doesn't recover to fight another day? We're left to wonder.

A final observation from the Kerry camp:

John Norris, Mr. Kerry's Iowa campaign director, said the spending was evident on the ground. For example, he said, the Dean campaign bused in supporters from out of state when Dr. Dean spoke, something the Kerry campaign did not do because of the expense.

"It was all about creating a perception that there was a huge, big crowd, people were everywhere, there was momentum, and that he would inevitably be the nominee," Mr. Norris said. "There was a cost for creating that perception."
To my very limited knowledge, the only time the Dean campaign "bused in" any significant number of out-of-state supporters was at the Harkin steak fry (and maybe at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner?). If this was happening on a regular basis, wouldn't we have heard about it before now and from a source other than a Kerry supporter?

In the final paragraphs, we get a short summary of the other major candidates' tally sheets. For Sen. Kerry, we have:

Mr. Kerry raised $2.3 million in the fourth quarter and lent his campaign $2.9 million, less than half of the $6.4 million he obtained by mortgaging his home to feed the campaign. He raised $25.3 million over all in 2003, spent $23.7 million and had $1.6 million on hand on Dec. 31. His total debt, including the loan to himself, was $3.8 million.
In other words, not even counting the mortgage money, the Kerry campaign had spent themselves $1.1 million in the hole.

The Dean campaign may have raised a huge amount of money -- and blown it on a calculated risk which didn't pay off -- but at least Gov. Dean has been very upfront about accepting responsibility for this risk

Speaking on the NBC News program "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Dr. Dean said he did not blame his campaign staff for the spending. "I signed off on all that personally," he said. "So I don't have any thoughts that it was their fault, not mine. It was my fault."
and has been very responsible in not wanting to incur any debt for his campaign.

Another is to keep the campaign from sliding into debt. "He hates debt," the aide said of Dr. Dean. "It's normal for a campaign to incur debt, but he doesn't want to do it."
You can call me a hopeless optimist or politically naive here, but I have a lot more respect for Gov. Dean after reading these two throw-away quotes -- in spite of the parade of expert opinions we are served up from his rival's "operatives" on what a loser he is.

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