Saturday, January 31, 2004


Oooooommmmm! I'm getting some negative vibes from The Washington Post about Senator John Kerry. There's a really hostile piece on the front page today by Jim VandeHei and it's bumming me out. Here's how it starts:

"Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who has made a fight against corporate special interests a centerpiece of his front-running campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, has raised more money from paid lobbyists than any other senator over the past 15 years, federal records show."

Thank God none of the other campaigns will raise this as an issue or, God forbid, make a negative ad out of it.

Postscript The New York Times is also negative today. Almost hostile. Oooommmmmm.

Friday, January 30, 2004

The Dean Fantasy

Continuuuuuuuuuuuues. The new strategy is to not win any primaries this week, but gather delegates to prepare for a convention "challenge." Win by losing! That's the ticket.

It's very Ashram, don't you think?

Polar Bears

Natalie Angier's piece about polar bears in The New York Times Science Section last Tuesday was just fantastic. Fun for all ages.

Advancing Genomics

Dr. Craig Venter did it once, with shotgun sequencing of genomes. This breakthrough led directly to the publication of the human genome. A good source tells me he is about to do it again. Be prepared.

I'm Shocked

Who was on the Saddam oil payola dole? You'll never guess. Happily enough, the ABC News Investigative Unit has obtained a list, which details who got how much. Mon dieu!

Ellisblog to the Rescue!

Well, we're in the stretch of the February 3rd primaries and caucuses and still not a negative ad to be had. Ellisblog is miffed. Work with me here, people! You're not going to win if you don't take the front-runner down a peg or three. If you let him win, he will win.

"We can't," say the political consultants to those who seek to upend Senator Kerry. "It boomeranged on Gephardt and Dean in Iowa! And our guy has to appear in the ad! We don't know what to do!"

Please. Get in the game. How do you go negative and negate backlash? Humor! Make 'em laugh! Don't tell me you can't make a funny ad out of John Kerry's 42 positions on the War in Iraq! Don't tell me you can't get a few knowing chuckles out of the "Gulfstream populist." It's not that hard!

One striking feature of this year's presidential camapign has been the uniformly dreadful content of the television and radio advertising. Talk about fighting the last war. The scripts are from campaigns waged two and four and six years ago. It's not that they're similar, it's that they're the exact same scripts. The RNC scripts appear to be from Arthur Finkelstein's reject file.

Doesn't anybody here know how to play this game?

Thursday, January 29, 2004

A Great Political Blog

Betsy Newmark lives in North Carolina and she blogs up a political storm. Check it out.

More on Dean

1. Can we stop pretending now that the Dean campaign still exists as a political force? The constituency that supported him remains a political force in Democratic politics and all along the granola belt (from Maine to Washington State) of the United States. But the Dean candidacy is done. He let down the team. The team moves on.

2. The denigration and devaluation of what the Dean camapign accomplished (in terms of organization and fund-raising and political networking) is almost as inane as the major media's coverage of the collapse 3 years ago. The Internet is the future of politics. The fact that Dean blew up had nothing to do with the fact that his campaign used the Internet brilliantly. The Dean campaign blew up because the candidate and his handlers weren't ready for The Show.

3. Reporters are always sorry to see a good source go. Thus all the sympathetic coverage of Joe Trippi's departure from the Dean campaign. Trippi served his candidate well during the entrepreneurial phase (basically, 2003) of the campaign. He was less effective when the campaign became, in essence, a corporate enterprise. The management of the Dean message in the last three weeks leading up to Iowa was disastrous. And it allowed Kerry back in.

The Dean Database

It's a gone bust, as the cliche goes, but there is one enormously valuable asset sitting on the Dean campaign's servers. And that's the Dean fund-raising and organization list. Memo to Al Gore: Make sure its backed up six ways to Sunday. Al Gore to Ellisblog: What do you think Roy Neel is doing there, campaign strategy?

Wednesday, January 28, 2004


In its first major move since returning to its "outsider" message, the Dean campaign has hired a lobbyist to replace Joe Trippi as campaign manager. Note to Mickey Kaus: Do you think he's finished now?

Good Riddance

To the chairman of the BBC. As Renata Adler, in her great book about the CBS v. Westmoreland and Time v. Sharon cases, once said: "there was no fence."

Thanks to reader RM for the author citation correction.

Notes On The New Hampshire Primary

A couple of points:

1. It seems clear from the exit poll data that Howard Dean's consumption of news coverage following the "I Have A Scream" speech in Des Moines did in fact derail the momentum of John Edwards coming out of Iowa. I think a lot of people thought that the story would be Kerry and Edwards from Tuesday to Friday of last week, but it turned out to be Kerry and Dean. And so Edwards (who did gain in the last three days of the New Hampshire primary) didn't get the Iowa bounce he ordinarily would have. Which led to his disappointing fourth-place finish. The Rule of Two (the media can only handle a two-candidate context) is iron-clad.

2. It also seems clear that another iron-clad rule of politics -- that electability is not an argument -- no longer applies. Electability was clearly an issue in New Hampshire, as it was in Iowa. It damaged Dean in both states.

3. General Wesley Clark really is as crazy as a loon.

4. Back in 1995, a kid named Ken Robinson came to our offices in Boston looking for work. I was working then for a public strategies group. Ken wanted to get involved in politics. I introduced him to my friend Jack Corrigan, who was running for Norfolk County DA. Ken ended up running Jack's (unsuccessful) campaign. Ken went on to become a first-rate political organizer and this year, ran the Kerry operation in New Hamphire. Corrigan tells me that Ken built one of the best organizations he's ever seen in modern politics. So you see, Ellisblog helped Kerry! Stop e-mailing me.

And Howard Dean Is Going To Be Secretary of State

"A well-placed source says that the president will 'most likely' drop Dick Cheney from his re-election ticket and his first choice for a replacement is former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani," MSNBC's Jeannette Walls reports.

It's Not Parody, It's True

The New York Times has assigned some guy to cover "conservatives." This is why fiction is dying in America. Because no matter how wacky it is, it can't compete with the morning paper.

Postscript: As Betsy Newmark points out, the first "conservative beat" article was about conservative discontent with President Bush. Among those who describe themselves as conservative, in poll after poll after poll, President Bush enjoys extraordinary support. But never mind.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Exit Poll Issues

Just when the scribes had their Dean comeback story nailed, it turns out the exit poll was wrong! Kerry's going to win by double-digits. Back to Sunday's script! Where did they leave that? Probably at the hotel!

My Take on New Hampshire

My take on the New Hampshire primary results are now up at Tech Central. You can read it by clicking here.

Defeating Terrorism

The new book from the West Point Counter-Terrorism Center (with which I am affiliated as a senior fellow) is now available on Amazon. It's excellent.


Pollster John Zogby had Howard Dean closing fast on Sunday. None of the other serious polling organizations showed any such trend. What to do? Get back in line!

Says Zogby:

"For Kerry the dam burst after 5PM on Monday. Kerry had a huge day as Undecideds broke his way by a factor of four to one over Dean. Dean recaptured a strong lead among 18-29 year olds, Northerners, singles and Progressives. He narrowed the gap among men, and college educated, however Kerry opened up huge leads among women, union voters, and voters over 65 years of age. These groups gave Kerry the big momentum heading into the primary."

In the immortal words of Hillary Clinton, "okey-dokey, artichokey."

Thanks to the invaluable Real Clear Politics for the quote.

Final Prediction

Kerry 35%

Dean 22%

Edwards 18%

Lieberman 10%

Clark 8%

At Last, Some Personal Attacks

"I didn't go to Yale," said General Clark. Okay, it's not much, I admit. But it's a start. By the California primary, we might even been able to work these guys up to some negative TV ads.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Weighting the Exit Poll Numbers

My guess is that the pre-weights applied to the exit poll will be in the 60-40 range (60% registered Democrats and 40% Undeclareds). That won't have much bearing on the Kerry-Dean contest (unless, of course, it's close), but it could impact the "space" between John Edwards and Wesley Clark. The more "Democratic" the actual make-up of the primary electorate is, the better it is for Senator Edwards. Registered Democrats in New Hampshire have rejected General Clark.

The weights change as exit data, sample precincts and actual vote interact within the NEP's "modeling." So what might begin as a 60-40 designation can end up, at the end of the evening, as a 52-48 split. But 60-40 seems about right to me as a starting point. It will be interesting to see how many Republican-leaning Independents vote in the primary and whether they vote for Dean in large numbers (relative to their small percentage of the total electorate).

The end or the rebirth of the Dean campaign will be found in what as known as the Seacoast region (southeastern New Hampshire) and in the towns along the Vermont border around Dartmouth College. If Kerry beats him in both places, then it truly is over for Deano.

Great Moments in Blogging

After John Kerry fired his campaign manager in early November of last year, I decided not to write another word about his campaign, on the theory that you don't kick someone when they're down. I did say, because I couldn't resist a quick elbow on the way by, that his concession speeches from Iowa and New Hampshire would be the next-to-last and last major events of his campaign.

I like A1 Sauce on my crow.

Last Numbers

The UNH Survey Center's final track has been posted on the website. Wes Clark is finished. John Edwards is alive.

The Truth At The Wrong Time?

Senator John Kerry makes the point -- and of course he's right -- that the Democrats don't need the South to take back the White House. This is probably a strategic gaffe; laying pipe for the abandonment of South Carolina while he stakes his claim in Missouri. Knowing the Kerry brain-trust, my guess is that they will be doing everything they can to set up Michigan (a few weeks hence) as "decisive" (in the minds of the media).

Part of winning the Democratic presidential nomination is defining what's important. Kerry has now said that the Southern primaries don't really matter much; what matters is one's ability to compete in the rest of the country. That works for Kerry; he's the least "Southern" candidate. The question is whether he can get away with it (1) in the media, and (2) in all those delegate-rich Southern states that are famously touchy about being looked down upon by the national Democratic Party (read: Yankees).

Something for the scribes to chew on as they gear up for their post-New Hampshire scene-setters. And no need to mention the odious Zogby, who just might be right and thus prove them all wrong.

Dean as

The results of the Dean as Dot.Com metaphor contest are in and the winner is: Craig Crawford!

"The Dean campaign seems like one of those promising Internet companies from the late 1990s. They looked fabulous in Power Point presentations, but they could never turn a profit."

Yeah baby.

Scribes in Crisis; From Retail to Wholesale

It's clear that the national political press corps is flummoxed by New Hampshire. They have no idea what's going on, although they all agree that Kerry will win. Novak has been reduced to quoting "an elderly couple" in his hotel lobby. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal both seem whipsawed by all the tracking polls.

When in doubt, resort to tired cliches and The Big Picture! The tired cliche is that after the New Hampshire primary, the campaign is no longer "retail," it's "wholesale." No kidding! The Big Picture is that after New Hampshire, the candidates have to pick and choose their spots, because starting next week, the game speeds up and the territory expands exponentially. No kidding! Also in today's papers, the obligatory David Rogers valentine to Senator John Kerry. No kidding! You can look it up.

My guess is that by tomorrow night, the scribes will give Kerry a "big" victory if he's in the mid-to-high thirties and runs ahead of whomever by a double-digit margin. On the other hand, a result of, say, Kerry 30%, Dean 23%, etcetera is not going to be well received. The scribes get grumpy when the results are cloudy! And they tend to punish winners for not making their job easier.

Unlike Republican primaries, where what the scribes say is meaningless (who cares what a bunch of liberal reporters think -- not that they're not objective), Democrat primary voters take the scribes seriously -- they're on their side! So what the scribes say matters down the line, when the campaign shifts from -- you guessed it -- retail to wholesale.

UBL is Still Dead

So argues Richard Muller in the latest MIT Technology Review. It's well worth reading. Thanks to Jay Fitzgerald for the heads-up.

The Rule of Two (Auto Division)

Years ago, the Chairman of the Board of General Motors told a friend of mine that by 2010, there would be only two major auto-makers left and that they would be General Motors and Toyota. Toyota just passed Ford as the world's second-largest automobile manufacturer.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

If You're Looking For A Movie

Then go directly to In America.

Tracking Poll

I've sort of settled on the WMUR-WCVB-Fox News Channel and Gallup surveys as "my" tracking polls. The people who actually oversee the work seem to me to be the most knowledgeable about New Hampshire.

The latest WMUR-WCVB-FNC poll has now been posted. And it bodes ill for General Clark.

The New Hampshire Survey Center (which conducts the WMUR-WCVB-FNC poll) weights the affiliation distribution at roughly 50-50; meaning that they anticipate that 50% of the primary electorate will be registered Democrats and 50% will be "undeclareds" (independents, to use the media phrase).

Using that distribution, Kerry is going to win, Dean is going to finish second and the race is on for third.

However, if the distribution is 60% Democratic- 40% Undeclared, then Kerry's numbers will fall a bit, Dean's standing will improve a bit and General Wesley Clark will disappear. As of right now, Clark is attracting only 7% of the registered Democrats surveyed to his cause.

New Hampshire Notes

1. Has former Governor Dean stopped his slide? Might he capture second place? The veteran scribes would be very cross if he did, since they have already written (in their heads) the Dean obit and the South Carolina set-ups (either Kerry vs. Edwards or Kerry vs. Clark).

Alas, the Gallup, WMUR-WCVB-FNC and ARG tracking polls are now showing a bit of bounce-back for Dean. He might just get second, if these polls are accurate.

The Rule of Two would thus require the scribes to frame the race as Kerry vs. Dean. But they've long since decided that Dean is a goner. Cognitive dissonance crisis grips the Sheraton Wayfarer.

2. Mickey Kaus is emptying out his suitcase of anti-John Kerry material and posting it as fast as he can. All of what he says is true, but one point really resonates with Ellisblog. And that's the item about all the Massachusetts politicians who can't stand Kerry who are up in New Hampshire campaigning for him. In politics this is called "punching your ticket."

When I worked for the Globe, I spent a lot of time talking to the Beacon Hill crowd. Their loathing of Kerry was nearly universal. Now they're tooting his horn in New Hampshire. It's a Howie Carr column on steroids.

3. Thanks to Jay Fitzgerald for the Herald link.