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Iowa 2004 presidential primary precinct caucus and caucuses news, reports and information on 2004 Democrat and Republican candidates, campaigns and issues

Iowa Presidential Watch's

The Democrat Candidates

Holding the Democrats accountable today, tomorrow...forever.

John Kerry

excerpts from the Iowa Daily Report

August 17-31, 2003

IOWA PRES WATCH SIDEBAR: Under the subhead “What a Prize,” James Tartanto wrote in Friday’s “Best of the Web Today” – “’Win a day on the campaign trail with John Kerry!’ proclaims the Web site of the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way served in Vietnam. What's second prize, a week with Kerry?”(8/17/2003)

Reinforcing the media drumbeat, the Register’s Thomas Beaumont joins the media parade of writers and columnists who have reduced the Dem contest to a three-way tussle. Headline from Saturday’s Register: “Candidates try to widen base…The top Democratic candidates look to broaden their appeal.” Excerpt: The three top candidates in the race for the 2004 Iowa Democratic presidential caucuses showed this week they know their rivals' strengths - or at least tried to de-emphasize their own weaknesses. During a series of multiple-candidate events with health care and labor groups in Waterloo, Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who has earned support from social liberals, stressed practical achievement over ideology. Likewise, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, whose 19-year Senate career has more foreign policy highlights than domestic, went out of his way to stress fiscal responsibility, a signature Dean theme. And U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, described by even his own supporters as bland, showed Iowa Democrats his passionate side. ‘I've never heard him so vehement,’ Drake University political science professor Dennis Goldford said after hearing Gephardt Thursday at a health care forum on the Des Moines college campus. ‘He has sounded wooden and mechanical before. He's clearly trying to show us Dick Gephardt, the man.’ The campaigns say their messages did not change. However, as the campaign approaches the Labor Day checkpoint, candidates are tweaking their delivery in preparation for the stretch run to Jan. 19, when the Iowa caucuses launch the 2004 nominating season. Gephardt punctuated a familiar line from his stock speech at a Cedar Rapids labor forum Friday by shouting and pounding the podium with his fist…On Friday, Gephardt's voice broke and a tear welled in his eye as he elaborated on the story of his son Matt's battle with childhood cancer. Gephardt has told the story hundreds of times publicly, but Friday, with more than 1,000 Iowa union activists and their families listening, he seemed to go further to support his call for universal health careGephardt spokesman Erik Smith said his candidate has shown passion in this, his second bid for the Democratic nomination. Gephardt ran in 1988, but exited the race early after winning in Iowa. Gephardt and Dean have emerged as the top two in Iowa, according to recent polls, with Kerry within striking distance. Kerry and Dean are locked in a tight race for the New Hampshire primary, which follows the caucuses by eight days. The two tangled over war and tax policy early in the race and have become the most heated rivals in the field of nine candidates so far…Dean, whose opposition to the war in Iraq earned him early support from social liberals, accused his rivals who support universal, government-paid health care of ‘tilting at windmills’ and vowed to avoid ‘an ideological crusade’ during the health care forum at Drake on Thursday. "I supported the first Gulf War," Dean said. ‘I supported the invasion of Afghanistan because they killed 3,000 of our people and I thought that was a matter of national defense.’ Likewise, Kerry, who stresses his record during the Vietnam War and 19 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stressed balancing the budget and reducing the federal debt during his remarks in Waterloo and Cedar Rapids. Friday he added a line crediting the Clinton administration's economic record similar to one Dean frequently uses. ‘If you liked Bill Clinton's eight years, you're going to love John Kerry's first term,’ Kerry said. Dean routinely tells audiences: ‘People would gladly pay the taxes they paid under Bill Clinton, if only they could have the same economy as they did under Bill Clinton.’”(8/17/2003)

Blame Bush – Dem hopefuls suggest that the president pulled the plug on the northeastern United States. With wannabes wandering IA, Associated Press’ caucus watcher Mike Glover decided to highlight their reaction to the blackout. Want to guess who they criticized? Excerpt – datelined Cedar Rapids – from Glover coverage: “The Democratic presidential contenders blamed President Bush Friday for the massive blackout in the northeastern United States, saying the White House's refusal to invest in the nation's infrastructure caused the problem. ‘It underscores a blackout in this administration on energy policies,’ Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry said. ‘They have ignored the investment needs of our infrastructure in favor of a tax cut for the wealthy.’ Northeastern cities from New York City across to Toledo, Ohio, were gripped by a massive blackout Thursday afternoon that left officials scrambling to restore power and searching for causes of the failure. While no one has yet pinpointed a cause, Democrats were quick to bash Bush. Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt argued that the blackouts can be linked to flaws in Bush and the Republican party's energy policy. ‘These events illustrate how shortsighted the Bush administration and Republican-controlled Congress were in 2001 when they rejected modernization of our nation's power grid,’ Gephardt said. Much of the criticism came during a labor forum featuring six of the Democratic presidential candidates. One of the candidates, the Rev. Al Sharpton, was forced to cancel because of jumbled air schedules after the blackout. Florida Sen. Bob Graham said Bush called for new investment in electrical transmission systems but Republicans blocked a Democratic effort to do just that. ‘Just two years ago, he and his allies in Congress blocked a Democratic proposal to invest $350 million in upgrading America's electrical grid system,’ Graham said. ‘The blackout is further evidence that America needs to invest in its infrastructure.’ North Carolina Sen. John Edwards chose not to immediately attack Bush. ‘I think we need to find out what happened,’ Edwards said. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said the Bush administration, through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, tried to merge the New England's electrical grid with New York's when he still governor. ‘I raised hell and told them they better get a lot of lawyers,’ he said in a telephone interview. ‘The president always sees bigger as being better and that's not true. What we really need to do is let local people take care of things. What we need is good, strong regional grids. We do not need huge mega-grids.’ Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich said he has fought the big utilities since he was the mayor of Cleveland and resisted efforts to sell of the city's utilities. ‘I stood to the Enrons of that day, and I'll stand up to the Enrons of this day,’ Kucinich said. Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, speaking earlier at the state fair, said the blackouts, along with the latest virus attacks on the Internet, have Americans feeling less secure even though neither event has been linked to terrorism. ‘Electricity is too important to the quality of life to all of the American people to allow it to become a gap in homeland security,’ Lieberman said.” (8/17/2003)

Wannabes – and Boston newspapers – waste little time getting on Bush and Pentagon after report about plans to cut pay of military in Iraq. Headline from Friday’s Boston Herald: “Dems attack Bush over military pay” Excerpt from report with a DC dateline by Herald’s Andrew Miga: “Opening a new line of attack against President Bush, Sen. John F. Kerry and fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls yesterday accused the administration of targeting U.S. troops in Iraq for pay cuts. ‘We have 148,000 troops in Iraq in 127-degree heat who are in danger of losing their lives every day and the Pentagon is talking about cutting their pay,’ Kerry said in Iowa. ‘It's a betrayal of our troops,’ added Kerry. ‘If it's part of a cruel game of Washington budgeting, it's an abuse of our soldiers.’  The charges came as Bush toured Miramar Marine Corps Air Station outside San Diego, former home of the famed ‘Top Gun’ flight school. The pay issue is a particularly sensitive one for Bush, who made boosting military pay a cornerstone of his 2000 White House campaign. Seeking to turn the tables on Republicans who have questioned the patriotism of some Democratic White House hopefuls, Bush's Democratic rivals charged that soldiers are being shortchanged so the White House can pay for its sweeping tax cut plan. ‘Because of President Bush's budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy, we have no money left to fund important priorities like giving our servicemen and women a much-deserved pay raise,’ said U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.). ‘This is a disgrace and the most egregious example yet of this president's misplaced priorities,’ Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman said in a statement…Headline from Friday’s Boston Globe: “Pentagon promises combat troops it will make up for expiring raises” Excerpt from report from Des Moines by the Globe’s Glen Johnson: “The Pentagon scrambled yesterday to say that overall compensation would not be cut for members of the armed forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, after Democrats in Congress and running for president complained about planned reductions in combat and family separation pay currently received by the troops and their families. Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, a Navy combat veteran of the Vietnam War, said during a campaign stop in Iowa: ‘If it's a cruel game of Washington budgeting, then it's completely inappropriate and an abuse of our soldiers, and if it's not a cruel game of Washington budgeting and it's serious, it's an even worse abuse of our soldiers.’ Others who quickly joined in included Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, and presidential candidates, including Senators John Edwards of North Carolina, Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, and Bob Graham of Florida. The San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday that 148,000 US troops in Iraq, as well as 9,000 more in Afghanistan, were scheduled to lose a $75 monthly increase in ‘imminent danger’ pay and a $150 hike in their ‘family separation allowance’ when the federal budget year ends on Sept. 30, despite protests by the troops, their families, and the usually supportive Army Times. In a hastily arranged news conference, David Chu, the Defense Department's personnel chief, said: ‘I would just like to very quickly put to rest what I understand has been a burgeoning rumor that somehow we are going to reduce compensation for those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is not true. We are not going to reduce that compensation.’”(8/17/2003)

… In his irregular Internet “Caucus Notebook” column, the Des Moines Register’s Thomas Beaumont – under the subhead “Kerry ‘Gores’ Dean” – wrote: “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 launched a week earlier. 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 drive started first.”(8/17/2003)

Morning newscasts across Iowa and today’s Des Moines Register: IA Dem Congressman Boswell denies Kerry endorsement. Report from this morning’s Register: “The office of U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell on Monday denied a report by the Boston Globe that the Iowa congressman had endorsed U.S. Sen. John Kerry for president. Globe reporter Glen Johnson wrote the article from Des Moines, saying the Massachusetts senator ‘plans to tout a stable of political endorsements, which in Iowa already include Rep. Leonard Boswell, a Vietnam veteran like Kerry.’ But Eric Witte, a spokesman for Boswell, said Boswell is listening to the viewpoints of all nine Democratic presidential candidates and has ‘no definite timetable’ on endorsing any of them. Monday's article came three days after Boswell, a Democrat who represents Des Moines, appeared at the Iowa State Fair with U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.” (Note: Original Boston Globe report excerpted below.) (8/19/2003)

Kerry to formally announce candidacy right after Labor Day, but that’s not the really bad news: Four of the nine – Edwards, Moseley Braun, Kucinich and Sharpton – still haven’t made formal candidacy announcements. It’s going to be a long – and interesting – few weeks. Excerpts from AP report in this morning’s The Union Leader “He's been campaigning for president for months, but Democratic Sen. John Kerry will finally make it official in a two-day campaign swing after Labor Day. The Massachusetts senator will begin his announcement on Sept. 2 with appearances in Charleston, S.C., and Des Moines, Iowa, where he plans to focus on his record as a decorated Navy veteran who served in the Vietnam War. Both stops will feature crew members who served on the small gunboat Kerry commanded during the war. On Sept. 3, Kerry will shift his focus to jobs and the economy, first in a swing through New Hampshire and culminating in a rally at Boston's Faneuil Hall. Besides Kerry, four of the nine Democrats seeking the nomination have yet to make official announcements. North Carolina Sen. John Edwards will formally launch his bid on Sept. 16 and former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun also is expected to announce in mid-September. Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich has said he will make his announcement in mid-October, while Rev. Al Sharpton has not scheduled a formal announcement. Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, who says he is seriously considering a run, said on CNN's ‘Late Edition’ Sunday that he would make his intentions known ‘in the next two or three weeks.’” (Iowa Pres Watch Note: For Kerry, this apparently is a new approach. Just a few weeks ago, the announcement plan was to do a major announcement on “Old Ironsides” in Boston Harbor. Maybe his campaign advisers decided it wasn’t the best idea to draw attention to his Massachusetts roots – not to mention the failed prez aspirations of Ted Kennedy and Michael Dukakis.) (8/19/2003)

Kerry’s Optimism I:  Kerry and staff expect to collect “bounty” during coming weeks, highlight signs of progress and success on IA campaign trail – but will he convince Moseley Braun to drop out of the field and endorse his candidacy? In fact, the report says Team Kerry is pushing for Vilsack nod too. IA Dem Congressman Boswell denies Kerry endorsement which surfaced in the following article. Headline from yesterday’s Boston Globe: “Kerry, late to Iowa, sees chance to stand out” Excerpt – datelined Des Moines – from coverage by the Globe’s Glen Johnson: “Senator John F. Kerry and his local campaign staff believe their work in Iowa's political fields -- like the corn in farm fields that stands ready for harvest -- is about to generate a bounty in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. It would be an achievement, given that at the start of the year, he had yet to visit the nation's first voting state as an official candidate. And some of his rivals have perceived advantages. Among labor leaders once thought to be sure backers of Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, some key players are throwing their support Kerry's way, in part because they believe the Massachusetts senator would be a stronger candidate in a race against President Bush. Those labor leaders include the heads of the Cedar Rapids & Iowa City Building Trades, who supported Gephardt in his 1988 presidential campaign, and the Hawkeye Labor Council. State political leaders, some of whom were given boosts in their own election campaigns last year by the financial largesse of Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, are steadily signing up with the Kerry team. Last week they included a state senator from the Central Iowa district that covers a coveted group of labor union members at the main Maytag appliance manufacturing plant. And likely voters, some of whom have been wowed by the some 60 days that Howard Dean has spent campaigning in Iowa this year, remain open-minded about Kerry and Dean's other rivalsKerry was gratified on Friday, as he wrapped up his 27th day of campaigning this year in the state that kicks off the presidential election with its Jan. 19 caucuses. ‘I haven't been here as much as these other guys -- God, almost 50 percent less,’ the senator said in Iowa City, before he got into his van to head to Cedar Rapids for the final appearance in his four-day, 1,000-mile tour of Iowa. ‘A lot of people are only still coming to the table. There's a lot of time here. I think it's early still and we're where we want to be.’ Dean's first-place poll standing has surpassed early concern about Gephardt as the Kerry campaign's main worry in Iowa. Gephardt had been expected to win the state, given that he lives next door. Now the Kerry campaign's disaster scenario is to have Dean win in Iowa and then catapult from that to victory in New Hampshire, which will be the nation's first primary, on Jan. 27A week's worth of conversations with Kerry and his aides makes it clear they believe they have answers for these concerns, especially Dean. In their eyes, he may have peaked too early. They also believe he remains vulnerable to scrutiny. Just last week, Dean acknowledged he was considering opting out of the public financing system for the presidential election, as Bush did for the 2000 campaign, even though he had said emphatically earlier this year that he would campaign within the confines of the system. Dean has also drawn applause by accusing his rivals of being duped by administration claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, even though he said earlier this year that he, too, believed Iraq probably had the weapons. Kerry's plan in the coming weeks, both locally and nationally, is to draw attention to his candidacy with his announcement tour, strong showings in five upcoming debates for the Democratic field, a series of policy speeches, and his first television ads in Iowa and New Hampshire. Both Dean and Edwards have advertised in Iowa. On the stump, Kerry is also honing his message against Bush, trying to streamline his criticism and reach out to coveted independent voters and disaffected Republicans by urging them to drop their focus on party labels…In addition, the senator plans to tout a stable of political endorsements, which in Iowa already include Representative Leonard Boswell, a Vietnam veteran like Kerry. Kerry is also hoping for support from Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, whose former chief of staff serves as Kerry's state campaign manager, and last week he met privately with one of his nomination rivals, Carol Moseley Braun, a former Illinois senator, when their stays overlapped at a Des Moines hotel. Moseley Braun, a black and the only woman in the race, has shown poorly in recent state and national public opinion polls, and she is expected to announce a decision about continuing her candidacy in the coming weeks. An endorsement of Kerry could help him among blacks nationally, a group he has targeted during his early campaigning. ‘I really feel good about this right now,’ said John Norris, Kerry's Iowa campaign manager. ‘We're picking up some really key organizational figures around the state, tried and true people who understand how to organize for the caucuses.’”(8/19/2003)

The Kings of Political Plagiarism: Dean, Edwards, Kerry, Lieberman, etc., etc. Headline from Sunday’s Boston Globe: “Democrats recognize a good line…Candidates recycle campaign material” Excerpt – datelined Mason City – from report by the Globe’s Glen Johnson: “Senator Joseph I. Lieberman was so angry that the White House had blocked union protection for members of the new Homeland Security Department that he let President Bush have it last week as he sat beside his rivals for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. ‘Did anybody ask the firefighters and the police officers, all of whom were union members, whether they thought once about that before they went into those burning buildings on Sept. 11 and risked their lives, whether they were going to choose between the unions and security? No way!’ the Connecticut senator said in Philadelphia, during a candidate forum arranged by the Sheet Metal Workers International Association. A few minutes later, Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts expressed similar outrage. ‘This president is so quick to give speeches about the heroes of New York City,’ Kerry said. ‘Well, I look forward to reminding him that every single one of those heroes that went up those stairs and gave their lives so that someone else might live was a member of organized labor.’ To the audience, it may have sounded like Kerry was lifting from Lieberman, but in reality, it was Lieberman who was clipping from Kerry. In a comical game of ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination are stealing one another's best lines. Most often, the crime takes place with little notice, as the candidates stump separately around the country. At other times, as in Philadelphia, it occurs in full view of the victim. No one's hands are completely clean. Lieberman is not the only offender, and Kerry is not the only victim. So far, everyone is laughing about it, for the most part, with no candidate suffering serious repercussions. On Tuesday in Mason City, Kerry ripped off Senator John Edwards of North Carolina as he blasted Bush for not supporting family farmers. Kerry accused the president of being an urban cowboy out of touch with average Americans. ‘We need a president who understands that connection to the land, for whom it's not just a question of sashaying around a ranch, recently bought, with a big belt buckle,’ Kerry said. Edwards lifted an eyebrow when told of the comment, recalling what he said June 22 as he and Kerry attended a candidate forum in Newton. ‘This president is a complete, unadulterated phony,’ Edwards said at the time. ‘He believes that because he walks around on that ranch down in Crawford with that big belt buckle that he's standing for working people.’ In an interview, Edwards chuckled and said: ‘It's politics. Those kinds of things happen.’ Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri deadpanned, ‘We have filed copyright on 10 phrases.’ He protested that the administration seems to have claimed ownership of the phrase ‘shock and awe’ after the bombing of Iraq, so ‘I'm trying to come up with phrases I can copyright.’ The candidates say the byplay is the product of their frequent joint appearances, already nearing a dozen for the year, with five debates still on the way. They also say it is natural to gravitate toward similar types of criticism, given their philosophical differences with Bush and the Republican Party. In addition, many of the candidates are seeking advice from the same people, including former president Bill Clinton. But the candidates also plead guilty to a bit of political plagiarism. Sometimes the loot is an effective turn of phrase. Other times, it is political policy, triggering protests from the candidates' advisers and e-mail exchanges with charges and countercharges of thievery. Both the Kerry and Gephardt teams, for example, have sniped as the candidates have talked about achieving energy independence by ‘going to the moon here on Earth,’ in Kerry's words, or through an ‘Apollo Project’ in the United States, in Gephardt's phrasing.”(8/19/2003)

Kerry’s Optimism II: Under the subhead “Waiting For Kerry,” Paul Bedard reported in his “Washington Whispers” column that the Bush Team expects Kerry to move past Dean and take the Dem nomination. Excerpt from report in Bedard’s U. S. News & World Report item: “President Bush and his political staff don't buy the hype on Democratic presidential primary front-runner Howard Dean. ‘I'd be surprised if [Sen. John] Kerry doesn't surge soon,’ says an insider. In fact, many Bush aides expect Dean to fade and Kerry to take the nomination. There's another faction that doesn't think a Washington insider can get it, leaving Dean as the likely victor. But there is something both sides agree on. ‘They all sound like jerks,’ says a Bushie.”(8/19/2003)

“Claims that recall madness in California has sucked all the oxygen out of national politics are hooey. Thankfully, folks in Iowa are more high-minded.” – Sentence from the following account indicating that Wannabe Madness continues in IA despite distractions. Headline from Houston Chronicle: “It’s Iowa, it’s almost time, get over it” Excerpt from Sunday commentary by the Chronicle’s Cragg Hines: “While you've been fixating on the redistricting mess and checking out those naked pictures of ‘Governor’ Schwarzenegger on the Internet, I've been tramping through the tall corn in Iowa to bring you the latest on the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Claims that recall madness in California has sucked all the oxygen out of national politics are hooey. Thankfully, folks in Iowa are more high-minded. The Democratic race is for real, and no matter if you insist on finishing a few more trashy novels before Labor Day, conscientious fellow-Americans in Iowa are hard at work sorting out the candidates. Just five months from Monday night, Iowa Democrats will shiver and/or slog their way to caucuses all over the state and start the nominating process. Don't blink or you'll miss the rest of it. Within six or seven weeks (probably by the time that Texas as well as California, New York and a bunch of other states hold primaries on March 2) it is likely to be all over. You have been warned. Already six of the nine Democratic candidates seem headed for no-hope-ville. Iowa appears to be doing its traditional job of winnowing the field -- perhaps with a vengeance this time around. Judging by a sampling of candidate outings last week, only former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, former House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts have a real shot. This is not wild speculation. It's what Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and other Democrats are saying, much to the chagrin of the remainder of the field, especially Sens. Bob Graham of Florida and John Edwards of North Carolina, whose aides have complained to Vilsack's office. On a too infrequent trip to Iowa, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, only the party's 2000 vice presidential candidate, greeted Vilsack with: ‘Hi. I'm a second-tier candidate.’ The protests availeth not. ‘It's three. The perception is correct,’ said David Nagle, former state Democratic chairman. ‘The one thing that separates the three is that Dean has passion.’ Nagle recalled that Theodore White said he knew John F. Kennedy was going to win in 1960 when he saw girls along JFK's motorcades jumping. ‘Dean's the only one with girls jumping,’ Nagle said (speaking in metaphor, you understand). The question is, can Dean keep the girls (and boys), many of whom are new to politics, jumping for five months? The test is most critical for Gephardt, who won the Iowa caucuses in 1988 (only to crater when contributions ran out not far down the campaign trail). He cannot survive a defeat in Iowa in January. Gephardt basically acknowledges the daunting scenario. ‘I'm going to win in Iowa,’ he said shortly after loading about 100 inch-thick locally bred pork chops on a medieval-looking grill at the State Fair in Des Moines last week. Iowa Democrats, even some who wish Gephardt all the best, wonder, however, about his dedication to what could be a political swan song.”(8/19/2003)

Some people – and governors – never learn: Despite criticism of his tendency to handicap the Iowa wannabe campaign, Guv Vilsack does it again – but now he thinks Edwards might catch on with Dems over the next couple months. He calls it a Kerry-Gephardt-Dean race with Edwards as the horse coming up on the outside over coming weeks. Headline from today’s Boston Globe: “Iowa governor sees 4-way race Excerpt of report from Indianapolis – where the nation’s governors are meeting – by AP’s Nedra Pickler: “Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack said his state's Democratic presidential caucus is a three-way race between John Kerry, Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean. But he hasn't completely counted out John Edwards yet. Vilsack said Edwards could catch on in coming weeks with new commercials airing in the state and a unique message that could appeal to Iowa voters. The North Carolina senator is the only candidate with a comprehensive plan to help parents pay for college, Vilsack said. And while the other three talk about overhauling the nation's health care system, Edwards talks about smaller steps like addressing the nursing shortage. ‘Edwards is going to get a second look by Iowans here,’ Vilsack said during an interview at the National Governors Association summer meeting. ‘We'll know more in the next 30 to 45 days.’ Vilsack said no candidate has taken first place in Iowa yet, and the three leading candidates all have challenges to overcome…Gephardt, a congressman from neighboring Missouri, was hurt by a disappointing fifth-place fund-raising result in the last quarter. His top priority must be to convince labor leaders that he worked so hard for them in Congress that he is a viable candidate, Vilsack said. Right now, the union leaders ‘are watching and waiting, which must be frustrating to him,’ Vilsack said…Kerry's campaign got off track because of his surgery to remove a cancerous prostate earlier this year. But Vilsack said he thinks Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, is getting back into the rhythm of the campaign. He said Kerry can improve his standing if he spends more time in Iowa and tells voters about his experience as a decorated war veteran and how that could make him an effective world leader…Dean, the former governor of Vermont, built loyalty in Iowa because he spent so much time there early in the race. But he must prove that he can broaden his appeal beyond anti-war activists and Internet users to win over moderates and independents, Vilsack said. ‘I think the threshold question for him nationally is, can he be competitive against Bush?’ Vilsack said. ‘I'm not sure that all the powers that be believe that.’…Vilsack said he may make an endorsement before Iowa's Jan. 19 caucus. He said he'll be looking for someone who has a good chance to beat Bush, shows ‘passion and fire,’ and has a strong staff.” (8/20/2003)

Chicago Tribune: Many Democrats beginning to believe Kerry “might be the most electable” against Bush – but express concern about the Mass Sen’s “tone” and comments. Headline from yesterday’s Trib – on report by Jeff Zeleny from Iowa: “At times, quips cloud Kerry’s message…His off-putting remarks often surprise listeners, but the senator is honing his presidential campaign skills during a critical swing across Iowa.” Excerpt from report datelined Klemme: “It was shortly after lunchtime, and the next stop on the presidential campaign trail for Sen. John Kerry was a pig farm outside of town. He was running late, but he teasingly implored the audience to keep asking questions to delay him, saying: ‘My hog-lot aromatic experience awaits.’ The next day, before delivering a speech at the Iowa State Fair, the Massachusetts senator turned to the crowd and declared into a microphone: ‘I came to Iowa and I'm going to get a hay bale to stand on!’ At a Democratic breakfast one day later, John Norwood of West Des Moines told Kerry that he, too, is a Boston native. Kerry wondered aloud why Norwood chose Iowa as his home, asking: ‘What happened to you?’ The three scenes illustrate a test facing Kerry's campaign: Can he connect with people and convince voters that he is genuine without turning away potential supporters with off-putting remarks on the campaign trail? After a four-day tour of Iowa last week, his most aggressive foray into the state where the first voting in the presidential race comes Jan. 19, many Democrats said they were beginning to believe Kerry might be the most electable of the nine candidates. In more than two dozen interviews, voters cited his standing as a war hero and his ability to credibly challenge President Bush on national security. But some of those same Democrats who filled Kerry's audiences in bowling alleys, cafes and union halls said the senator's tone and a sprinkling of peculiar remarks left them flat and unwilling to immediately commit to his campaign. While few said Kerry's comments alone would drive them to consider other candidates, the voters said they must be convinced of his authenticity…Five months before the presidential nominating season begins, the Democratic candidates are in the courtship phase, where a biography and a firm handshake are often as important as a particular policy position. With the exception of money and a good resume, there are few more essential ingredients than the ability to be likeable. As Kerry prepares to formally announce his candidacy Sept. 2, his aides are paying special attention to his image. Perhaps no other candidate carries the geographical burden of Kerry-- a Northeast liberal who shares the initials of John F. Kennedy and must convince voters he doesn't carry the baggage of other Massachusetts Democrats, such as Sen. Edward Kennedy and former Gov. Michael Dukakis.”(8/20/2003)

Kerry abandons “Old Ironsides” announcement scenario in effort to protect southern flank – just in case things go sour in Iowa and New Hampshire. Headline from yesterday’s Boston Globe: “Kerry to head south for announcement” Excerpt from column by Globe’s Joan Vennochi: “Senator John F. Kerry plans to make a Sept. 2 public announcement that he is running for president. That is not news. The news is where he plans to tell us what we already know: not in Massachusetts but in South Carolina. Last month, after ‘two days of meetings with 21 top political aides,’ Kerry discussed his plans for a ‘formal announcement speech possibly set against a backdrop of the USS Constitution’ in Boston Harbor. The thinking at the time, as reported on July 9 by the Globe's Glen Johnson: ‘The backdrop of ‘Old Ironsides,’ the Navy's oldest commissioned warship, would not only pay tribute to the region's history but the candidate's unique Navy combat experience.’ So, why the change of venue? ‘The logistics of that were just too difficult to pull off -- crowd building, busing supporters, etc. It just made much more sense to do the big rally in a central location right after work,’ said a Kerry campaign aide who did not want to be named. A Boston political consultant and Kerry supporter who also did not want to be named summed up the campaign strategy more honestly: ‘We're in this no matter what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire. South Carolina, Michigan, those places down the road might be the salvation if we don't prevail in New Hampshire.’ Kerry's plan calls for a morning announcement speech in Charleston, then off to a speech in Des Moines. The next day Kerry is scheduled to fly to Manchester, N.H. A Faneuil Hall rally that evening will make Boston his last stop, according to current plans. To political junkies, Kerry's revised itinerary speaks volumes. With all due respect for the usual caveat about polls being snapshots at a moment in time, current polling snapshots do not paint a breezy political picture for the Kerry presidential campaign in Iowa or New HampshireDean pulled ahead of Kerry in New Hampshire for the first time in a monthly poll ranking the Democratic candidates. Dean received 28 percent in the August survey conducted by the American Research Groups Inc. of Manchester, N.H., compared with 21 percent for Kerry. A similar poll in July showed Kerry leading Dean 25 percent to 19. News of the New Hampshire poll and the Kerry announcement itinerary inspired the Massachusetts GOP to send out a press release headlined, ‘Kerry heads South -- in polls and for his official campaign announcement.’ In these fading August days, there are murmurs about two fading Boston-based campaigns -- the Boston Red Sox in yet another pennant race and the Kerry presidential campaign. But really, it is too early to write off either. The Sox are still in the American League wild card race, and, on paper, Kerry is more than a wild card in the race for the nomination. He is still the Democrat with the broadest experience and strongest credentials to take on President Bush in 2004. Losing New Hampshire would be serious for Kerry, but would it be fatal to his campaign? Bill Clinton lost the New Hampshire primary and went on to beat the first President Bush. Demonstrating an ability to compete in the South -- the base for another Democratic presidential hopeful, North Carolina's Senator John Edwards -- would be a great advantage for Kerry. A Southern strategy, illustrated by an announcement in Charleston, shows some guts, even if it is fueled by a certain desperation about potential outcomes in Iowa and New Hampshire. But to win the nomination, Kerry must demonstrate guts about more than political strategy. He has to show some heart and soul and do it with more conviction and less ponderous rhetoric. A little humility wouldn't hurt, and neither would a sense of humor, especially toward Dean and the unexpected challenge he presents. He should forget about theatrics like hopping on motorcycles and offering hugs to mothers of soldiers. With Kerry such tactics seem contrived. Massachusetts knows Kerry. As always, familiarity breeds a measure of contempt, magnifying weaknesses. But Massachusetts also knows its senator's strengths. They include intelligence and determination. Kerry must show that and more. A candidate who is good only on paper cannot defeat a flesh-and-blood president. That is true in the South and everywhere.”(8/22/2003)

… “Kerry out for dough as big kickoff nears” – Headline from yesterday’s Boston Herald. Kerry – as formal announcements nears – plans events to qualify for federal matching funds and top Dean as 9/30 finance reporting deadline nears. Excerpt from coverage by the Herald’s Andrew Miga: Sen. John F. Kerry, desperate to catch surging presidential rival Howard Dean, next month plans a fund-raising blitz of 25 events nationwide to coincide with his formal campaign kickoff. Kerry (D-Mass.) is organizing several large-scale events of 800 or more donors to be held after he formally announces his 2004 White House bid with a four-day trip to key primary states beginning Labor Day. ‘We will build on the momentum of the announcement tour by holding a series of larger events to grow our grassroots supporters,’ said Kerry spokeswoman Kelley Benander. ‘We're trying to generate excitement along with the money, and crowds help you do that.’  Events are set for New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston and Boston where tickets will range from $25 to $250. There is a strategic bent to such low-dollar events: all donations less than $250 qualify for federal matching funds. Kerry will also court more well-heeled fund-raisers, beginning with a ‘Nantucket Supporters Weekend’ Sept. 5-7 limited to supporters pledging to raise $10,000 or more for the senator's campaign. Participants will be treated to a cocktail party at Teresa Heinz Kerry's Nantucket mansion and a clambake at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport…’We are using a combination of more traditional methods as well as some creative new ways, particularly on the Internet,’ said Benander, citing a campaign Web site contest to spend a day campaigning with Kerry. The Bay State senator is tapping his broad national network of financial backers in hopes of eclipsing Dean for the third quarter fund-raising period that ends Sept. 30.  Kerry, who also has a direct mail donor list that is the envy of his rivals, has only recently begun focusing on Internet fund-raising. Once the presumed front-runner, Kerry is seeking to revive his slumping campaign as the traditional Labor Day kickoff nears. Dean's emergence has pushed Kerry back in the crowded pack, raising questions about his message and his ability to connect with average voters.”(8/22/2003)

… “Kerry, Graham fault Bush in deadly Baghdad bombing” – Headline from the Washington Times. Excerpt from report by the Times’ Stephen Dinan: “Yesterday's suicide bombing in Baghdad left some Democrats calling for re-evaluating the U.S. role in Iraq and blaming the Bush administration for lacking foresight and losing control of the situation in Iraq. ‘It is becoming increasingly clear each day that the administration misread the situation on the ground in Iraq and lacks an adequate plan to win the peace and protect our troops,’ said Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and presidential candidate, calling on President Bush to invite more troops from other nations to help out…Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat and another presidential candidate, said Mr. Bush bears some blame for the bombing, by mistakenly pursuing the war in Iraq. ‘Had the president pursued the war on terrorism prior to initiating military action against Saddam Hussein — as I advocated last year — it is likely that al Qaeda and other terrorist networks would not have been able to take advantage of the chaos that now exists in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq,’ Mr. Graham said. He also called on Mr. Bush to admit ‘he misled Americans’ by declaring three months ago that major combat operations had ended in Iraq. Hours before the bombing, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said stabilizing postwar Iraq is proving a more difficult task than anybody thought, and said more American troops are probably needed.”(8/22/2003)

This is hardly breaking news since Dean has been mopping the political floor with Kerry, but here’s the headline from Friday’s Washington Times report: “Kerry loses early lead in polls to rival Dean” Excerpt from report by Times political ace Donald Lambro: “Sen. John Kerry, once considered the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, is falling behind his chief rivals in the national polls and in key primary and caucus states. The Massachusetts senator, who led polls in neighboring New Hampshire for months, has slipped badly there in the past few weeks. Meanwhile, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has surged into first place with a 7 percentage-point lead on a wave of TV ads and the fierce support of liberal activists opposed to the war in Iraq. Mr. Kerry runs no better than third or fourth among Democrats in Iowa and has dropped to fourth place nationally. His support registers in single digits in the national polls. Election analysts say Mr. Kerry's decline is largely the result of his inability to fashion a strong political message that can overcome the combative Mr. Dean's sharply partisan message against Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq, the economy and jobs. ‘It's message versus no message,’ said pollster John Zogby. ‘Dean is focused. His messages can fit on a bumper sticker. They're clear. You know who he is and you know where he stands...Kerry just hasn't found a focus yet. He is all nuances.’…Democratic strategists acknowledge that Mr. Kerry has one of the best professional campaign teams in the business. But they say he has not been able to get any traction for his attacks against Mr. Dean, who is in a dead heat with Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri for first among Iowa Democrats. In some polls, Mr. Dean is slightly ahead of the former House Democratic leader. Earlier this month, Gallup found that support for Mr. Kerry fell 3 percentage points nationally in just 10 days. Mr. Kerry sank behind Mr. Dean, Mr. Gephardt and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. Regionally, Mr. Zogby's polling shows Mr. Kerry running well behind his rivals in the East, South and the Midwest. Mr. Kerry's third- or fourth-place position in Iowa was bad enough, but his decline in New Hampshire — now 21 percent to Mr. Dean's 28 percent — has some rival campaigns forecasting the end of Mr. Kerry's candidacy if he loses the first 2004 primary.”(8/24/2003)

Kerry – the most outspoken critic of GWB’s aircraft carrier landing – to announce in front of aircraft carrier as part of his backup Southern strategy, in case things go south in IA and NH. Headline from Friday’s Boston Globe: “Looking ahead, Kerry to use carrier as campaign launch” Coverage – an excerpt – by the Globe’s Glen Johnson: “Senator John F. Kerry has decided to trade "Old Ironsides" for the USS Yorktown, planning to stand before the aircraft carrier on Sept. 2 to publicly declare his candidacy for president. The Massachusetts Democrat had considered using the USS Constitution in Charlestown, the Navy's oldest commissioned warship, as a backdrop for the announcement. But campaign aides said Kerry decided to change the location to the Yorktown, which is docked off Charleston, S.C., both to gain publicity in the politically important state as well as to counter the trip President Bush took to an aircraft carrier May 1 to declare an end to major combat operations in Iraq. In recent speeches, Kerry has challenged Bush's supposed strength on national security matters by highlighting his stature as the only current presidential candidate to have fought in a war. ‘I have worked with aircraft carriers for real,’ Kerry has said, mocking the widely photographed landing Bush made on the USS Abraham Lincoln. South Carolina follows Iowa and New Hampshire in the primary process. Bush swept the South in the 2000 election, but Kerry believes he can win in Louisiana, Georgia, and perhaps Alabama by highlighting his military service in Vietnam, as well as his support for gun ownership and other traditionally conservative positions. The senator will be joined at his announcement by most of the members of the two boat crews he commanded while in Vietnam, his aides said. He will be introduced by former US senator Max Cleland, a Georgia Democrat who lost both legs and an arm while fighting in the war. Kerry plans to preview two themes of his candidacy with major speeches before his announcement tour. On Monday in San Antonio, the senator will speak about national security and veterans affairs before a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. On Thursday, Kerry will deliver an economics speech in New Hampshire. After his speech in South Carolina, Kerry and his entourage will travel to Iowa. On Sept. 3, Kerry will speak again in New Hampshire, before concluding his announcement tour with a 6 p.m. public rally outside Faneuil Hall.”(8/24/2003)

Kerry’s southern strategy – believing his military record will appeal in southern states – hits the group with SC headquarters opening. Excerpt from Friday AP report from Columbia: “Richland County Council Chairwoman Bernice G. Scott promises she’ll need a new pair of shoes after months of knocking on doors telling residents about Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry. Even though it’s been more than three months since Kerry’s last visit, Scott says elected officials like her are the ones who will get voters to the polls for the state’s first-in-the-South primary Feb. 3. Those ‘who believe in him have got to go out and carry his message,’ Scott said yesterday night among more than 80 people gathered to open Kerry’s state campaign headquarters. Kerry, one of nine White House hopefuls, missed the opening of his headquarters here and made a phone call to the crowd instead. The Massachusetts senator peppered those in the crowd with gratitude, but said the hard work was just beginning.  ‘I’m really excited by everybody’s presence there,’ he said. ‘We need to get to work. Campaigns are won ... by the hard work of talking to neighbors, getting on the phones, getting out the message and building a really strong national effort.’” (8/24/2003)

Kerry, searching for a niche to counter Dean, makes direct challenge to Bush on national security front and sets out to recruit active-duty armed forces and veterans.  Headline from yesterday’s Boston Globe: “Kerry makes bid for veterans” Coverage – an excerpt – from Nashua by the Globe’s Glen Johnson: “Senator John F. Kerry launched a direct challenge yesterday to President Bush's perceived strength in national security matters, reaching out to active-duty and retired members of the armed forces by questioning the administration's decision making in Iraq and its treatment of veterans. Against a backdrop of a war memorial and standing before a group of veterans from the Vietnam and Korean wars, as well as the Persian Gulf War, the Democratic presidential contender from Massachusetts accused the administration of underestimating the peacekeeping demands in postwar Iraq, of subjecting veterans to long waiting times for services, and of failing to change a policy that deducts disability payments to veterans from their standard retirement pay. Kerry also sought to highlight disagreements between the military and civilian leadership in the Pentagon. He recalled an occasion in the spring when the former Army chief of staff, now-retired General Eric K. Shinseki, drew the wrath of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for telling Congress he envisioned the need for a force of several hundred thousand soldiers in postwar Iraq. Rumsfeld said publicly the estimate was ‘way off the mark,’ but some military analysts now say more than the current force of 150,000 is needed to quell attacks on coalition troops. About 65 US soldiers have been killed in hostile incidents since the president declared an end to major combat May 1. ‘Where is the apology to General Shinseki?’ Kerry demanded, as he faced the Purple Heart Memorial in Deschenes Park. ‘Where are the acknowledgements of misjudging how much people would be deemed to be liberators versus occupiers?…My friends, we have read of those troops currently having difficulty getting water, getting other supplies. We've read of the requirements that combat military people are now facing trying to stand police duty and guard duty in a postwar situation that was clearly underestimated -- not by the military personnel, but by the civilian leaders of the military, by the administration itself.’ A spokesman for the Republican National Committee, which responds on behalf of the White House to criticism by the Democratic presidential candidates, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. The speech was a preview of remarks Kerry plans to deliver tomorrow in San Antonio at the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Also scheduled to address the group are Rumsfeld and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. Kerry plans to highlight his background as a combat veteran of Vietnam, as well as the alleged neglect of veterans, as he publicly kicks off his campaign with speeches in South Carolina and Iowa on Sept. 2. Veterans are an active voting bloc, as Republican Senator John S. McCain of Arizona showed with his 2000 presidential campaign, and many of them live in the South, an area Bush swept over Democrat Al Gore in the 2000 general election.”(8/25/2003)

… “Presidential candidates hit Bush on economy” – headline from this morning’s The Union Leader. It’s beginning to look more like a political feeding frenzy than a presidential nominating competition. Coverage – an excerpt – by the AP’s Will Lester:    “President Bush's Democratic rivals seized on projections of record budget deficits Tuesday, arguing that the numbers add up to a failed economic policy that will hit future generations hard. ‘It's obvious this administration doesn't have the slightest clue about how to get this economy back on track, get Americans back to work and get our nation's finances under control,’ said Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who added, ‘it is time to admit what millions of unemployed Americans already know - that the economic policies of George W. Bush are the worst in our nation's history.’ Congressional budget analysts said Tuesday that the government faces at least eight more years of budget deficits, including a record $480 billion shortfall in 2004. The analysts also warned that extending Bush's tax cuts beyond their expiration combined with other spending could increase the $1.4 trillion deficit over the next decade to $1.6 trillion. Those figures prompted criticism from Democrats, such as Howard Dean, who has called for a repeal of Bush's tax cuts. ‘The president has not only destroyed three million jobs, he is destroying the financial future of our children with these crazy tax cuts for the top 1 percent,’ the former Vermont governor said in a telephone interview. Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, in a variation of a line from John F. Kennedy's inaugural address, said Bush ‘is telling the world that Americans shall defer any price, unload any burden on our children, postpone any hardship for ourselves to give tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.’ Said Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut: ‘The tide of red ink is rising higher than ever before. And the best George W. Bush can do is ask the American people to hold their breath. That's unfair to our kids and unacceptable for our economic health.’ John Edwards, a senator from North Carolina, said the record deficits indicate it's time to say ‘enough of the unaffordable tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy ... and enough of pretending that deficits just don't matter.’ Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, cited the deficits as well as job losses as proof that the president's "tax-cut economic policy is failing, it's not helping ordinary taxpayers.’ Al Sharpton also faulted the tax cuts for diverting money from education, health care, job creation and housing. Carol Moseley Braun called the deficits ‘part of the economic shell game that this administration has put over on the American people.’ She added it was neither ‘compassionate’ not ‘conservative,’ a reference to Bush's oft-repeated description of himself. Republican National Committee spokeswoman Christine Iverson countered that ‘winning the war on terrorism is expensive, but security is priceless. Balancing the budget is important but so is creating jobs, defeating our enemies and protecting our homeland.’”(8/27/2003)

Kerry – still developing southern strategy to appeal to active-military and veterans – gets loud response for criticizing cuts in veteran benefits. What else would he expect at a VFW convention? Headline from yesterday’s San Antonio Express-News: “Kerry blasts Bush for postwar efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan” Excerpt from report by political editor Jaime Castillo: “Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry mounted a spirited attack [Monday] against the Bush administration, telling a gathering of veterans here that postwar planning in Iraq and Afghanistan has failed.  The decorated Vietnam War veteran questioned whether the commitment of troops has been sufficient to restore order and foster a democratic transition in either hot spot. ‘I believe a lack of planning and the lack of candor with the American people have placed our men and women in uniform in increased harm’s way,’ Kerry said to thousands of veterans attending the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention. The Massachusetts senator, who is running in a crowded field of Democratic hopefuls, received several loud ovations as he criticized budget cuts affecting military benefits and pay while bemoaning the mixture of politics with military strategy. ‘The interests of the grunts on the ground comes before all politics,” said Kerry, who interspersed his comments with references to his service on a gunboat in Vietnam. Kerry's speech preceded those of several members of the Bush administration, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Both officials preached patience in Iraq and pledged to provide whatever level of support is necessary to U.S. commanders. Calling the administration stubborn, Kerry said not enough has been done to get more nations involved in the war effort in Iraq to get ‘the targets taken off American soldiers' backs.  Kerry, who is touting his military service in an attempt to blunt Bush's standing on national security, also chided Arab allies for not sending troops into harm’s way. ‘It would be nice to see some Arabs in uniform sharing the burden of freedom,’ he said. On the domestic front, Kerry said that veterans' and active-duty benefits should be restored to previous levels and not subject to budget cuts. ‘If one day I have the opportunity to make the decisions as commander in chief,’ he said, ‘I will ensure that America always is the best equipped, best trained and most powerful fighting force in the world.’”(8/27/2003)

For months, the main rivalry has been Dean vs. Kerry – but if Clark enters the wannabe race it could shift to Kerry vs. Clark on military record comparisons. Boston Globe notes that Kerry – now the only vet in race – could face competition for military/veteran support. Headline from yesterday’s Boston Herald: “Kerry touts hero rep as Clark mulls run” Excerpt from coverage by the Herald’s Noelle Straub: “Sen. John F. Kerry yesterday played up his own history as a combat hero as another candidate with military background - retired four-star Army Gen. Wesley Clark - mulled a presidential run. Kerry, currently the only veteran in the race, told the VFW convention in Texas yesterday that as president he would ‘bring the perspective of someone who's fought on the front lines.’…Jennifer Duffy, a political analyst for The Cook Political Report, noted the string of events and said Clark - the former NATO supreme allied commander - would ‘certainly’ compete with Kerry on national security issues. ‘Obviously, Kerry is building on that credential,’ she said. ‘I doubt it is entirely or even halfway geared at Clark, but he certainly is laying a marker down.’  But Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said Clark would have difficulty launching a viable campaign because he has no political organization and most operatives already work for other campaigns. Meanwhile, Clark backers said their internal polling shows he would run fifth among the Democrats in the race, boosted by his military credentials.” (8/27/2003)

Despite Bob Novak’s contention that Gephardt has CWA endorsement locked up, three wannabes – Kerry, Kucinich plus Gephardt – show up for CWA forum with Dean and Lieberman still to go. Headline from yesterday’s Chicago Sun-Times: “Democratic hopefuls blast Bush over Iraq” Coverage – an excerpt – by the Sun-Times’ Curtis Lawrence: “Three of the nine Democratic presidential candidates came to Chicago on Monday serenading union activists with old-time labor songs and pointing to what they call the sour notes of the Bush administration, especially when it comes to defense and labor policies. Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) was the first to address the Communication Workers of America, which brought 2,800 delegates, members and supporters to Navy Pier for a convention this week. Like Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who also addressed the convention, Gephardt is trying to win the coveted endorsement of the AFL-CIO and its unions. ‘I think the president needs to get to the UN, to get to NATO and to get us help,’ Gephardt said, hammering at Bush's Iraq strategy. ‘We have 150,000 troops there. We're stretched thin. If we had a military problem somewhere in the world today, we have no one to send there.’ Saying he presented the ‘sharpest contrast’ to Bush, Kucinich reminded voters that he was one of the few voices against the war in Iraq. He also attacked the president and his aides for deliberately overstating the threat posed by the country. ‘This administration lied to the American people, and we must challenge them,’ Kucinich said. After his speech, Kucinich told reporters that ‘only someone who's ready to clearly distinguish themselves from the president on what would be the basis for war is going to be able to be successful.’ But Kucinich also hit hard on bread and butter labor issues. He blasted labor policies, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, that he said were taking jobs out of the country. He also criticized Bush policies for undermining the right to organize. ‘They want to take us back to the day of 'Sixteen Tons,'’ Kucinich said, humoring the crowd with a scratchy verse from the rallying standard of American miners. Kerry didn't sing, but he wooed the crowd with one-liners, calling Bush's jobs record the worst since Depression-era President Herbert Hoover. He said that people were ‘just plain tired of being trickled on’ by Bush's economic policies and said he would scrap Bush's tax breaks and ‘restore fairness to the work place in America…Later Kerry sat at a picnic table on Navy Pier for an informal chat with about a half dozen veterans, two of whom served on gun boats with him in the MeKong Delta. While Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak has reported that Gephardt has the communication workers' endorsement pinned down, Candice Johnson, a union spokeswoman, said that while Gephardt is a friend of the union, ‘we have not endorsed anybody yet.’ That will come in the fall, she said.”(8/27/2003)

Kerry may soon qualify for an “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” commercial. While Dean bandwagon – including lead in latest IA survey – rolls along, Kerry goes with subpar economic proposal that probably won’t attract one supporter anywhere. Excerpt from New Hampshire report – datelined Durham – by AP’s Holly Ramer:    “Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry on Thursday proposed sending $25 billion to states struggling with budget deficits as part of a broader plan to jump-start the economy and spur job creation. The two-year ‘State Tax Relief and Education’ fund would help states that have had to cut education spending and lay off police and firefighters under Bush administration policies that have ‘brought back the days of deficits, debt and doubt,’ Kerry said. ‘When it comes to creating opportunity, restoring fiscal discipline, putting values back into our economy, and preparing for the jobs of the future, George Bush hasn't lifted a finger. I intend to move mountains,’ Kerry said at the University of New Hampshire, where he outlined an economic package that mixed new ideas with some old proposals. ‘Let me put it plainly: If Americans aren't working, America's not working,’ the Massachusetts senator said. The state fund was one of several short-term proposals that Kerry would finance by repealing President Bush's tax cuts for the top 1 percent of income earners. Some of his Democratic rivals - Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean - want to repeal the entire tax cut, an idea Kerry continues to criticize.  ‘Some in my own party are so angry at George Bush and his unfair tax cuts that they think the solution is to do the exact opposite,’ Kerry said. ‘They want to return to rejected old-style policies that eliminate all tax breaks, including those to working people.’ Kerry said he would provide tax relief to middle-class families by keeping the child tax credit, reduced marriage penalty and lower tax rates that were part of the Bush package while lowering capital gains and dividend taxes for the middle class. He also proposed a new tax credit to help families afford college. The credit would apply to 100 percent of the first $1,000 spent on tuition and 50 percent of the rest, up to $4,000. He also proposed a new tax credit to encourage manufacturers to remain and expand operations in the United States and promised to hold weekly summits for the first six months of his presidency to develop strategies for creating jobs in key regions and industries. Despite recent signs of economic recovery, Kerry insisted the nation remains in a ‘fight for our economic future.’ The Commerce Department said Thursday that the economy grew at a solid 3.1 percent annual rate in the April to June quarter, a better-than-expected showing. This week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the federal government faces at least eight more years of budget deficits, including a record $480 billion shortfall in 2004. If elected president, Kerry promised to cut the deficit at least in half in his first term.” (8/29/2003)

Washington Times columnist Lambro uses three words to describe Kerry’s campaign on the eve of his planned announcement: Plummeting. Messageless. Emotionless. Headline from yesterday’s Washington Times: “That sinking feeling” Excerpt from Lambro’s commentary: “Though it's garnering little attention from the political press corps, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign has been plummeting.  Once the odds-on choice to win the Democratic nomination and take on President Bush, Mr. Kerry's emotionless, messageless campaign has stalled. All the momentum is rolling with feisty former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, whose combative, ultraliberal, antiwar campaign is surprising the pundits and rousing the Democratic Party establishment. Arguably, Mr. Kerry has the sharpest campaign team in the business, and the heaviest hitters. But what Mr. Kerry may possess in senatorial gravitas, he lacks in personality, bite and soul. Mr. Dean, however, is all bite, jabs and left hooks. His stump speeches leave Democratic audiences pumped and ready to sign up.  ‘It's message vs. no message,’ says independent pollster John Zogby. ‘Dean is focused. His messages can fit on a bumper sticker. They're clear. You know who he is and where he stands. He reminds me of John McCain…The result: Mr. Kerry's campaign is in a slump and, at least for now, shows no signs recoveringNationally, most Democrats either know little about Mr. Kerry or dislike what he is selling. For months he was ambivalent on the war in Iraq, but is now trying to reinvent himself as a staunch critic of Mr. Bush's postwar plans. Mr. Zogby has Mr. Kerry doing no better than fourth in his nationwide rankings with 9 percent, running behind Mr. Dean, Mr. Gephardt and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who are locked in a three-way tie with 12 percent each. With just four months to go before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary in January, Mr. Kerry is shockingly weak in just about every region of the country, according to Mr. Zogby. In the Eastern states, Mr. Lieberman and Mr. Dean were locked in first place with 13 percent each. Mr. Kerry, a New Englander who you would think would do best in the East, is in the backfield with Mr. Gephardt and Al Sharpton — barely drawing 4 percent. In the South, Mr. Kerry is tied with Mr. Sharpton at 9 percent, trailing Mr. Gephardt and Mr. Lieberman with 15 percent and 11 percent, respectively. Mr. Kerry trails badly in the Central/Great Lakes region with 8 percent, well behind Messrs. Gephardt, Dean and Lieberman. His best regional showing is in the West, where he runs 2 points behind frontrunner Mr. Dean (17 percent).” (8/29/2003)

So, if Kerry really is serious about appealing to “all groups in the country,” why is he always standing next to war monuments, campaigning in VFW halls and talking about his Vietnam record? Headline from Wednesday’s Quad-City Times: “Kerry aims for support beyond vets” Excerpt from coverage by the Times’ Kathie Obradovich: “Standing at Iowa’s Vietnam War memorial, U.S. Sen. John Kerry said Tuesday that he is not pinning his hopes in the Iowa Caucuses solely on the support of veterans drawn by his decorated military service. ‘No one should be left out of this process. I’m not just reaching out to veterans,’ Kerry, of Massachusetts, said. ‘On every occasion I get, I’m reaching out to all groups in the country.’ Kerry, who won the Silver Star for valor and three Purple Hearts for combat wounds as a gunboat commander during the Vietnam War, said he sees the issues facing veterans as a ‘metaphor for the difficulties we’re facing in the country today.’…’I mean, if veterans, who are respected and who have done their duty for the country and who carry with them the nation’s gratitude, are having trouble getting the money they need, think how tough it is for kids in a community where they have no money for their schools,’ he said. Rep. Steve Warnstadt of Sioux City, a Gulf War veteran and a major in the Iowa National Guard, said he would work to get veterans to the caucuses for Kerry in every Iowa county. ‘One of the reasons I’m supporting Sen. Kerry is not just because he’s a veteran, but because he has a visceral commitment to veterans’ issues,’ said Warnstadt, chairman of the Iowa’s Veterans for Kerry Committee, which includes 34 veterans serving as state and county chairs and co-chairs. Kerry said he was not aware of plans to turn out veterans in every county, but was ‘gratified to hear it — I mean, if he’s really going to do that, I don’t see why not.’ Kerry said he does not believe veterans make military service a litmus test for choosing a candidate. ‘I mean, veterans are very independent-minded. Some will decide that these issues are important to them and some will decide otherwise,’ he said, noting that he does not know how many of Iowa’s 290,000 veterans vote in the Democratic caucuses. Kerry has argued that his experience in the military and foreign affairs makes him the Democrat who most effectively can challenge Republican incumbent George W. Bush on war issues.”(8/29/2003)

Ted Kennedy – a Kerry supporter – says that Dean may be the summertime favorite, but Kerry will move up during the fall months. Headline from Friday’s Boston Herald: “Kennedy: Dean’s hot, Kerry’s the one” Coverage by the Herald’s Noelle Straub and Andrew Miga: “Howard Dean is connecting with voters in his bid for the White House, but John Kerry will surge in the fall, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy predicted yesterday. ‘There is no question that Howard Dean has tapped into an energy in the country which is enormously important and which he deserves credit for,’ Kennedy said in an interview with the Herald.  Noting that Dean appeals to voters concerned about President Bush's handling of both foreign and domestic policy, Kennedy added, ‘I think that's been a very effective campaign.’  But Kennedy, who has endorsed his fellow Bay State senator, predicted that as the campaign season picks up after Labor Day and the public begins to pay more attention to the race, Kerry ‘will be in the strongest position. I think he's best able to lead,’ Kennedy said. ‘I don't think there's any candidate that is better qualified than John Kerry. I think that kind of experience and quality and leadership will best be reflected in the time during the fall when individuals are finally making up their mind.’  Polls show that Dean, who trailed Kerry earlier this year, now leads in both Iowa and New Hampshire.”(8/31/2003)

Union Leader editorial credits Kerry with tax reduction proposal, but criticizes him for returning money to the states rather than the taxpayers. Headline from Friday’s Union Leader: “A Kerry economy: Somewhere between Dean, Edwards” The editorial: “Sen. John Kerry released his economic plan at the University of New Hampshire yesterday, and our preliminary analysis is: at least it’s not Howard Dean’s. To his credit, Kerry recognizes the economic benefits of tax reduction. He has repeatedly criticized rival Presidential candidates Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt for wanting to repeal all of President Bush’s tax cuts. Understanding, as he does, the value of taking money from government bureaucrats and returning it to the people who earned it, Kerry disappoints by proposing to stimulate the economy by giving federal money to the states, instead of to the people in the form of tax cuts.  On balance, Kerry’s plan would do little to stimulate the economy in the short run and would be less beneficial than Bush’s plans in the long run. Compared to the plans offered by Dean and Gephardt, Kerry’s is preferable. But among the Democrats, John Edwards’ plan still looks better. Combine Edwards’ spending reductions with some of Kerry’s tax credits and the ‘pro-growth tax cuts’ called for by Joe Lieberman, and you’d have the makings of a moderately conservative economic plan that wouldn’t be half bad, especially considering that Edwards has shown more interest in cutting discretionary spending than has the Bush administration.” (8/31/2003)

Des Moines Register political ace David Yepsen warns Kerry might not withstand a Dean win in Iowa, says it may be time for Edwards and Graham to get “gut checks” and notes that it’s “getting pretty late” for Clark to join the fun. Excerpt from column on by “Inside Politics” anchor Judy Woodruff: “David Yepsen, veteran Des Moines Register reporter and political watcher, appearing on Friday's CNN's ‘Inside Politics,’ told me that he sees Dean building a slight lead over GephardtYepsen believes a Dean win in Iowa could prove costly to another rival, Kerry, down the road. ‘The candidate who wins Iowa automatically gets a 8- to 10-point bump in the state of New Hampshire, where Dean is already leading Kerry by, in some polls, double-digit margins,’ he said. ‘So I don't know that Kerry could withstand Dean winning here because it would just have a real multiplier effect in New Hampshire.’  Yepsen also said that Sens. Bob Graham, D-Florida, and John Edwards, D-North Carolina, might be due for a ‘gut check’ after spending considerable time and resources in the state, but failing to register any movement the polls…And what about a possible tenth member for the '04 Democratic field? Yepsen says it's still possible for former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark, who is weighing a run, to throw his hat in the ring. ‘Fifteen percent say they're undecided, so there's room for General Clark to get an audience, but it's getting pretty late.’ In a sign that some Democrats can't let go of the regular fall campaign marker, Kerry and Edwards scheduled official campaign ‘announcements’ for September 2 and September 16 respectively. Some political traditions never die.” (8/31/2003)

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