Schmoozing New Hampshire

Schmoozing New Hampshire

Schmoozing New Hampshire

A mostly political Weblog.
Jan. 26 2004 5:49 AM

Kf Schmoozes for You!

Plus--Dean's fast, fast, fast relief?

More kf-ellisblog synergy: Ellis summarizes a dynamic that was definitely going on yesterday, but that I failed to comprehend cleanly--much less articulate cleanly--when I was attempting a brief TV pundit gig today:

Might [Dean] 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 [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.

Ellis is so totally wrong, however, to mention the Wayfarer. The Wayfarer scene is dead this year. Instead, the media people and campaign aides seem to be going to the bar at the Manchester Holiday Inn. ... There's the sort of on-the-spot detail that only Microsoft's expense account can deliver!... (As Walter Shapiro joked in a stand-up comedy show Sunday night, in what other city would people brag that they were staying at the Holiday Inn?) ... 2:07 A.M.


More investigative schmoozing at a bar* in Manchester: 1) Gephardt is expected to endorse Kerry, but when? 2) Assuming Kerry wins N.H., will he even contest South Carolina--where a Kerry win would knock out Edwards--or will he concede it and concentrate on winning in Missouri and other states on Feb. 3?  3) Does it help Kerry if the negative stories about him dribble out over the next two days--which would spread out their impact and effectively cauterize the wounds with a big election victory? Wouldn't it be more damaging if anti-Kerry hit men held their fire in N.H. and then all the negative press came down on Kerry between Jan 27 and Feb. 3--the way all the anti-Dean criticism fell on him at once? 4) Who are the people in Hollywood who can still raise big hard money in $2,000 increments? Answer: Studio heads! Why? Because they can apply ... subtle pressure to those who work for them. .... Confession: One of these was only overheard at the bar because I was listening to myself. Guess it's obvious which one. ...[*the prestigious Holiday Inn bar?--ed I must protect my sources.]  12:57 A.M.

Sunday, January 25, 2004 

Example of a way-too-right-wing anti-Kerry site. Anyone motivated by a mention of "Hanoi Jane" isn't going to consider voting for Kerry anyway. Some good photos, though. ... I say stick with the "he-threw-some-other-guys'-medals-over-the-wall" character attack. Of course, Kerry sympathizers have a plausible rationalization for that behavior, news of which comes as a shock to anyone who followed Kerry's anti-war protest at the time. Kerry sympathizers have a plausible rationalization for his discordant Iraq war votes too. And the affirmative action cave. And the we-thought-he-was-Irish thing. They have many, many plausible rationalizations. Rationalizing Kerry's opportunistic behavior--crafting the tortured paragraph, smoothing it out, road testing it, indoctrinating sympathetic reporters--is the new Democratic growth industry. ... At least supporting Clinton only required one major suspension of common sense (on sex). ...11:53 P.M.

Feiler himself emails to note that almost 50% of New Hampshire voters told the CNN/Gallup poll they'd seen the Dean Scream tape 6 or more times. This confirms the basic mechanism of Feiler's Faster Thesis--the swift saturation of the voters with each moment's information. The Thesis will be further confirmed if (as some polls suggest) Dean can bounce back before Tuesday--i.e. if voters show they can process this damning information in a couple of days, recover quickly and move on to the next twist in the story in record time. ... If only the FFT had been around when Ed Muskie cried. ... P.S.: Turns out Jeff Greenfield already make this point on CNN ... 11:43 P.M.


The ugly truth about John Kerry and hockey! ... 3:32 P.M.

Someone hire this kid: Hardcore Chris' daily secret forbidden ARG number has a Dean bounce-back to second place. (But see PolySigh's critique.) ... Zogby's daily crack for Saturday has Dean only three points behind Kerry. ... Weekend polling is always iffy, however, quite apart from the dangers of taking daily small-sample results too seriously. ... 1:07 A.M.

Kerryphobia Korner: He's on His Side! Many emailers have told me I should lay out more rigorously my reasons for opposing John Kerry. I'll try to do that during the coming post-New Hampshire "Turkey Shoot." For those who can't wait, here's a) a link to John Ellis' item on Kerry's "pathetic" '90s attempted rethinking of affirmative action, and b) Todd's Treasure Trove of Kerry Kontradictions, in today's New York Times, and c) a link to a medium-sized kf rant  about the senator, from a year ago. Actually, here's most of it:

It's been barely two months since Kerry declared for president, and he's already 1) zig-zagged opportunistically on the Iraq war issue and 2) zig-zagged opportunistically on the dividend taxation issue. (Kerry called for "ending the double taxation of dividends" in his major December economic speech and then denounced President Bush's plan, which ends the double taxation of dividends, for creating "unaffordable new tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.") Now -- amazingly and all-too-predictably -- Kerry has started rhapsodizing about the Jewish roots he's been ignoring for decades, according to Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby:

''I am so excited,'' he told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee during a dinner last week at Congregation B'nai Israel of Palm Beach. ''A light has literally turned on within me -- like an epiphany -- and I am proud to share this special measure of connection with you.''

But didn't Kerry only recently discover his Jewish roots? No! As Jacoby points out, he's known about his Jewish grandmother for 15 years, yet he "rarely spoke about it in public." Nor does he seem to have been especially eager, over the past few decades, to uncover the fact that he has no Irish heritage at all, despite his surname. ...

Jacoby also takes a stab at winning the fiercely-contested Kerry Mystery Challenge with this one-sentence description of Kerry's fatal flaw:

His reactions are relevant only because they seem to fit his career-long pattern of equivocation and calculation -- trying whenever possible to have it both ways, always maneuvering to leave himself an out.

Not bad! But I think Kerry's problem isn't simple, run-of-the-mill calculating opportunism. It's more comically transparent calculating opportunism, of which his Jewish "epiphany" is a good illustration.  In other words, his opportunistic zig-zagging is so instantaneous and shameless -- changing week-to-week in the case of Iraq -- that it becomes counterproductive, losing Kerry the benefit the opportunism is supposed to gain. Why suddenly turn Jewish just when half the press corps is ready to pounce on any indication of convenient chameleonism? How dumb is that? It's calculation, but also incompetent calculation -- not what you look for in a president. ... Now the press has three recent examples of Kerry flip-flops. And every reporter knows if you have three examples you have a trend. ...

P.S.: I forgot. He tactically zig-zagged on the death penalty too. That's four. ...


I recommend Ryan Lizza's August 7, 2000 New Republic piece on Kerry's suitability to be Gore's VP pick (at a time when Kerry was the "most shamelessly self-promoting potential veep"). Lizza actually told me  he thought he was going to write a pro-Kerry piece, until he started calling around in Massachusetts. (Dirty little secret: They don't really like Kerry there! But the Mass. Democratic pols are all in New Hampshire this weekend punching their ticket with him in case he wins). Lizza's piece is subscription only, unfortunately. ...

P.S.: Jon Keller's February, 2002 Boston Magazine article also looks highly promising. The words "opportunistic hypocrite" are used. There is also this thumbnail description:

thin-skinned panderer who poses as a courageous, post-partisan freethinker on issues such as education and campaign finance reform, but bails out when the going gets tough.

See, it's not just me!


P.P.S.: Unlike many fellow Democrats, I don't worry so much that a blatantly flawed figure like Kerry will lose to President Bush. I worry more he won't lose. ...

P.P.P.S.: See also Brooks Jacoby, Kurtz, Vennochi, Coulter and Beinart! [If half of those links worked, this might be useful--ed. I know, I know. But it's late. If you are really an opposition researcher you'll track them down.]... 11:49 P.M.

He's on Your Side ... No, wait ...: If none of Kerry's opponents makes a good negative ad against him based on the information in this Jonathan Cohn article, then the Iowans will have won! ... On the stump this week, Kerry portentously attacked special interests and complained that retirement accounts have been "decimated" by the "scandals of Enron and Worldcom," but Cohn makes it clear that an overbroad law that Kerry supported limiting the ability of investors to sue over fraudulent accounting practices contributed to the Enron and Worldcom scandals. The law was backed by a variety of monied special interests and was passed over President Clinton's veto. ... You think there is enough hypocrisy there to work with? ... Update: Prof. Bainbridge disagrees, citing some studies that say the lawsuit-limiting bill Kerry supported has resulted in fewer settlements but bigger settlements. But that hardly answers the question, which is whether those who did the fudging at Enron et. al. thought they would be held accountable for the particular transgressions they were committing.  Big judgments in clear-cut cases of fraud (even if perfectly foreseen) might not deter easily-concealed gray-area fudging.  ... 12:39 P.M.

Saturday, January 24, 2004 


Blogger Chris Huttman says he's figured out what the daily numbers in the ARG New Hampshire tracking poll are. (ARG only reports a rolling three-day average.) He displays his results in a chart, which shows Edwards and Clark tied for second at 16, and Kerry ahead at 39. I don't vouch for Huttman's calculations, and the photo on his site lacks a certain confidence-inspiring gravitas. Still ... You make the call! ... P.S.: Huttman's chart doesn't show the one-day rebound for Dean that Zogby does. So who are you going to believe--Zogby or this kid? ... I'm thinking! ... P.P.S.: Yes, yes, I know. A single day in a three-day tracking poll usually has very high sampling error--and even ARG's three-day poll doesn't have such a great track record. But if Zogby can tease his final-day numbers, Huttman can post ARG's. ... 10:10 A.M.

Hare Rama, Hare Rama ... The New Republic's Ryan Lizza joins the Edwards Surge Watch, noticing that Edwards' support in at least some polls is "stickier," meaning that more of his supporters say they are "strong" supporters. Combine this with Edwards' lead for "second choice" (in the WMUR poll) and you have the following dynamic:

So not only are Edwards' voters more loyal to him than his oppoents' voters are to them, but when his oppoents' wishy-washy supporters start to abandon them, they are most likely to shift into the Edwards' camp ...

2:00 A.M.

Clark v. Edwards: Greg Abbott says it's wrong to suggest (as John Ellis does) that it makes no sense for Clark to be behind the negative info (e.g. see Drudge) being spread about Edwards. Knocking Edwards down quickly somehow is Clark's only hope, Abbott argues--Clark has to turn it into a "Kerry vs. Clark" race and this has to happen "in time to be the story for South Carolina" on Feb. 3. Grim! Time to empty the ammo belt. ... 1:45 A.M.

Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare ... Attention, Zogby Crack addicts: WaPo's Morin and Deane contribute a highly useful explanation of why it's dangerous to bank on New Hampshire tracking polls. I'll let the Mystery Pollster blog it:

They hit two timely and important topics:

1) The poor history of NH tracking surveys in predicting the final result, especially in 2000 [when ARG had Bush 2 points ahead, only to see McCain win by 18-ed]

2) Why real pollsters distrust Zogby.   The money quote from Warren Mitofsky: "Zogby is not a reputable pollster...He is more a salesman and a self-promoter than a pollster. He has made lots of mistakes on election outcomes -- five in 2002." [Meow!-ed] ...

I think the most important caution for observers this time around:  New Hampshire has a history of very rapid change in the last 24 hours or so that tracking polls miss.  My memory of 1984 was that the final Monday night tracking poll had Hart and Mondale running dead even. As you'll recall, Hart did a bit better than that. 

Hart won by more than 9 points. ... I highlight the possibility of final-day change not because I think Kerry is in a Mondale-like position. I don't. But I also think it's not not not too late for an Edwards surge that gives him a surprisingly strong second place finish. ... 12:39 P.M.

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna ... The Mystery Pollster has been examining the N.H. surveys carefully also and senses the same possibility I do. His latest email:

Watch the "internals" in the public polls, especially favorable ratings and second choice.  These tend to move ahead of the vote preference, and may be a better indicator of trends that won't start to move the vote choice until the last 24-48 hours.  For example, note the following in the just released Globe/WBZ TV track.

-- Yes, Kerry now has a big lead and an enormous favorable rating (76%), but...

-- Edward's favorable rating has jumped [8] percentage points this week (51% to 59%) and is now second only to Kerry's.

-- Meanwhile the favorable ratings of Dean and Clark fell sharply and steadily all week long (down 18 and 14 points respectively).

-- Dean and Clark have also seen their vote totals drop this week (both now at 15%), so that they are now in a statistical tie with Edwards (at 12%). 

-- Meanwhile, undecideds have been rising -- not the usual pattern as election day approaches.   

If Dean and Clark each fall a few more points, the conditions certainly exist for Edwards to move a few (statistically insignificant) points ahead in the next 48 hours.  If that happens, I'd expect another overheated shift in the coverage ("Edwards surges into second place!!).  And if that happens. ..

12:06 A.M.

Friday, January 23, 2004 

'Night is Young' Update: The WMUR tracking poll story, which summarizes a survey that ended Thursday, has this finding:

If voters do decide to change their minds, the most popular second-choice candidate is Edwards, with 22 percent labeling him their backup. Kerry was next with 20 percent.

Is that the tinkling of Hare Krishna bells I hear approaching in the distance? ... 8:12 P.M.

LaRouchies 1, Clark 0? I went to hear Wesley Clark speak at a rally in Derry, New Hampshire, getting lost (there was some sort of river in the way) and arriving 45 minutes late. This was OK, because Clark was 80 minutes late. ... The very large crowd (about 650 people) waited patiently while two of Clark's West Point classmates stalled for time until he arrived ... My Clark expectations had been raised by my colleague Jacob Weisberg, who wrote earlier this week that Clark is much improved. I'm sure that's true, and I'm sure Clark's a brilliant man, but his stump speech didn't show much of this brilliance. Clark seemed like a man who had been told these are the fifteen things you have to say to appeal to Democratic primary voters, and he proceeded to say them. Always say "George W. Bush," with a sneer? Check. Cheap Halliburton reference? Check. Affirmative action? Check. Nothing new here.... I can't say Clark doesn't believe all these things, but I can't quite believe he does, and I certainly don't think they were the 15 things he most strongly feels need saying. .... None of the General's presumably formidable intelligence seemed to have been applied in any sort of critical way to the by-the-book liberal policies he recited. And in some cases, I'd argue, he even picked dumb versions of the dogma. The "fortunate" helping the "less fortunate"--"that's what our party stands for," he said. Isn't that what Bush's "compassion" and charity stands for? I'd argue Democrats stand for a government of self-respecting citizens acting to ensure that no self-respecting citizen needs that kind of "help." And I bet if a Clark consultant told him to say that, he would!... Maybe he gets better when he answers questions--but I didn't find out because Clark didn't take questions. Apparently, the normal Q & A session was cancelled because LaRouchies were spotted in the audience. If they can shut down big political meetings, then the LaRouchies will have won, no? ... P.S.: Clark's posture is sort of hunch-shouldered and Uriah Heepish, which doesn't help. ...7:22 P.M.

If Dean bounces back a bit from his post-Iowa slide and comes in second in N.H., does he get to call himself the "Comeback Kid"? That's what Bill Clinton did in 1992, remember, while losing to Paul Tsongas by a substantial 8 percentage points--and Clinton got away with it.[This excellent point was stolen from Jon Keller of WBZ, whom I heard in the car on the way back to my motel.] All Dean has to do is smile, work up some energy, and give a rousing prime time victo ... well, maybe he could skip the rousing victory speech part. ... 7:56 P.M.

John Ellis has three or four excellent posts up, one of which asks:

Is it really possible that the good citizens of New Hampshire will go through the last week of a presidential primary campaign with no negative ads on TV? What a bummer! Where's the fun in that?

He also thinks Edwards blew his "NH or SC?" decision. I say (as always) the night is young. 3:22 P.M.

Turkey Shoot: Democratic party chair Terry McAuliffe designed the "front-loaded" primary schedule to produce an early winner. His efforts could perversely have the opposite effect, many have noted. But would it even be in the party's interest to have an early nominee? Suppose it's (gulp) Kerry. He emerges in March as the candidate, and then we have six long months in which he is a slow, profusely bleeding target of investigations and damaging character assaults by Republicans and independent press investigators. ... Meanwhile, the partisan argument against a continuing primary contest--that it results in too much damage to the eventual winner--has gotten weaker. At the moment, at least, the primary contest isn't very negative at all. It's a pattycake game. All the candidatess are scared to go on the attack. (Where is Arianna when you need her?) Any negative info has to be spread through the press, where, even if it gets picked up, it's apt to be drowned out in the up and down of the horse race. No more horse race and the hit jobs will gain more prominence. ... Did McAuliffe perversely get it right by perversely getting it wrong? ... 12:45 P.M.

Wonkette has voice and attitude, newsmag editors would say. Unfortunately, it's good. Another thing we all have to read! ... P.S.: It's not hard to see Edwards jangling those little Hare Krishna bells. ... 12:23 P.M.

Thursday, January 22, 2004 

Schmoozalist's Notebook . . . Best theory heard in the debate press center at St. Anselm College: The Dean Scream actually hurt Edwards. Reasoning: Without the Scream, the #2 story coming out of Iowa (after Kerry's victory) would have been Edwards' surprise showing. Instead, the story was the Scream, with its infinite audio possibilities. Poor Edwards got shoved out of the news. ... Of course, if the Scream (as rumored) caused any voter with a minimum of estrogen to drop Dean as if he were the character played by Billy Zane in Dead Calm, it freed up a lot of New Hampshirites to go somewhere. Presumably many of them will go to Edwards. [Kf take: Women of New Hampshire, don't be wimps! Vote against Dean for all sorts of reasons, but not because of the Scream, which was not angry and was not really a "scream" or a "yell" but was rather ... well, an exaggerated non-linguistic statement of affirmation!] ... Still--warning:kf Kiss of Deathahead--it's hard to see, after last night's mild-mannered debate, how Kerry can lose New Hampshire. The question is what happens after--especially (and this is Hot Topic #1 as far as I could hear) whether Dean will continue on. [Kf take: why not? He's got nothing else to do and, as long as the possibility of a brokered convention persists, he might as well keep on accumulating his hoard of delegates. Plus there's always the chance of a comeback down the road, when Democratic buyer's remorse sets in.] ... A secondary issue is whether Dean really has all that money left in the bank. ... P.S.: I thought Dean did well in the debate. Unlike Clark. But I'm not a woman! ... P.P.S.: There was also some is-Lehane-behind-all-these-hit-jobs talk. Musil has some relevant speculations--especially that, if he somehow fatally damaged Dean, Lehane also may turn out as a consequence to have destroyed the candidacy of Gen. Clark, his putative client, adding to his unblemished record of overspin and defeat. ... 11:45 P.M.

Kerry Chameleon: Joan Vennochi helps out in the Kerry Mystery contest:

He projects calmness, dependability, and what New Englanders should recognize as a continuing willingness to take on whatever political persona he believes is necessary for victory at a given moment. [emphasis added]

12:55 P.M.

At the Edwards town meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the crowd was about 20 percent bigger than at Kerry's speech in Nashua, and Edwards said many of the same things (including, alas, reimportation of drugs from Canada). But the excitement level was about 3X higher. ... Not that excited votes count any more than unexcited votes! Usually, though, genuine excitement translates into something in New Hampshire. ... 12:44 P.M.

kf's Message of Hope and Optimism! Noam Scheiber sketches a Kerry disaster scenario: if Dean gets decisively defeated in New Hampshire, he'll still have millions in the bank, and nothing to lose by employing it in a kamikaze barrage against Kerry, for whom there is no love lost in the Dean camp.

If I'm Kerry, a Howard Dean who still clings to some tenuous hope of regaining his footing seems like a much more savory prospect than a Howard Dean so far out of the running he's got nothing to lose....

Kerry should want Dean to stay in contention for another more basic reason: the head-to-head contrast with Dean seems to be working to his advantage. A head-to-head contest with Edwards might be much more dangerous. ... [Didn't you once mock Kerry's camp for saying they could take Dean out anytime they wanted? Now you are reduced to basically agreeing--ed. Et tu ed? Even Howie Kurtz didn't rub it in like that.]... 9:52 A.M.

How to go negative? If, as Chris Matthews suggests, candidates are now afraid to run negative ads because they must now personally appear in such ads "approving" them--which causes an Iowa like backlash against them--how will they get a negative message out? There has to be some way to catch a frontrunner who's ten points ahead! I don't think being sunny and optimistic and laying out your positive vision will do the trick. ... One obvious answer: surrogates! Expect more of them, if not in New Hampshire, then in later primaries. ... Another answer: Ads by independent committees. Who's the Democratic Sam Wyly? ... 12:11 A.M.

John Ellis thinksthe NYT screwed John Edwards Wednesday by framing its front-page coverage as "Dean vs. Kerry" (the opposite of what kf predicted, and what some other organizations did by pairing Kerry and Edwards.). Today, though, Edwards is back on the front. ... P.S.: Of course, a "Dean vs. Kerry" race could actually help Edwards, if the two marquee candidates bloody each other up, as in Iowa. [I think Fineman said this on Monday-ed. In writing?] ... 12:12 A.M.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Who Let the Blogs Out? Alert emailer "Andrew" offers an explanation of Dean's Iowa loss: "The decline in Dean's numbers in Iowa coincided with the arrival of his vaunted 3500 ground troops," who alienated Iowa voters. The Deaniacs were too opinionated and wouldn't shut up-- i.e., they were slightly crazed. Dean would have done better without them. As Andrew, a Dean supporter, put it: "I wouldn't want to let a lot of these folk into my house."  ... It's just a theory, but note that it would explain the loss and the scream (which was Dean getting into their 'head'). ... People who were actually in Iowa should feel free to tell me if the theory rings true--though if Joe Trippi starts asking Dean volunteers to stay away from New Hampshire and "work on the Web," that would also constitute confirmation. ... New slogan: "Unseen for Dean!" ... It's warmer inside anyway, by the glowing screen. ... P.S.: kf reader "T.C." proposed the Deaniac-backlash scenario the week before the Iowa caucuses. ("Nothing like a bunch of young, smug, condescending, messianic, coastal elites to remind Iowans of why they don't like easterners.") ... Update:TNR's Lizza writes:.

There is undoubtedly a strong antiwar streak among Iowa Democrats, but they are not, for the most part, lifestyle liberals.When hordes of kids with dyed hair and multiple piercings descended upon the state to spread Dean's message with Scientology-like evangelism, Kerry began to look real good.

11:26 P. M.

Hum-Shrum: John Kerry  gave a "major policy speech" today at Daniel Webster College in Nashua, N.H., about half a mile from my motel, so I managed to make it in time to get a seat. I can't say I was disappointed--it would be hard for Kerry to disappoint me. But I was surprised by how much of a cookie-cutter Shrum populist Kerry has become.

It seems as if all candidates advised by consultant Robert Shrum say "I'm on your side" and "I'll fight for you"--Shrum could get a brand trademark on those slogans at this point. And sure enough, the woman who introduced Kerry said "He'll fight for you," while the candidate himself told the audience they needed a president who is "really on your side." At one point Kerry pledged to

take on the powerful interests that stand in your way.

which is almost word-for-word the same thing Shrum got Al Gore to say in his 2000 Democratic convention acceptance speech:

So often, powerful forces and powerful interests stand in your way, and the odds seem stacked against you.

True, Gore's speech was a bit more bizarre, because he didn't specify exactly what or who these mysterious "powerful forces" were, giving his address a slightly occult feel. Kerry is more conventionally Shrumian, specifying (in this instance) greedy drug companies and HMOs as standing in the way of a "right" to affordable health care.

But the same objection that applies to Gore applies to Kerry: Are the major problems facing Americans today mainly due to evil corporate interests that need to be defeated? Don't drugs cost money because researching and gaining approval for a drug costs money? And if drugs aren't expensive, don't we want them to be, in that we want drug companies to pursue expensive treatments that save lives as well as cheap treatments that save lives? Drug companies need to make a reasonable profit if they're going to make these investments, and somebody must pay the bill. (Reimporting drugs from Canada, one of the major policies Kerry endorsed in his speech, is a non-solution, since the Canadian price is probably not high enough  to spur the necessary investments. If the drug companies had to charge the same price U.S. that they charge in Canada, they'd have to raise prices in Canada.)

Similarly, the problem with Social Security isn't self-interested corporations. It's self-interested seniors who've voted themselves more in benefits than the nation's workers can afford to pay. The trouble is us, not them--Social Security offers up a problem that has to be solved rather than a villain that has to be slain.

In what may be his most demagogic line, Kerry talks about

401-K's decimated by scandals of Enron and Worldcom

as if the major force decimating retirement portfolios was the wrongdoing of a few greedy companies as opposed to a general bursting of the stock market bubble of the late 90s.

I'm not saying reform doesn't sometimes require fighting corporate interests. If you want to reform health care by abandoning the current employer-based approach and switching to an expanded Medicare-style approach, for example, you're going to have to fight health insurance companies. But that's not because these companies are evil and greedy (though some surely are); they are just there, the way seniors are there, and farmers are there, and like seniors and farmers they understandably want to keep getting what they've been getting. Demonizing them promotes a misunderstanding of the situation--i.e. it promotes the illusion that we can have all the drugs and treatments we want without paying much for them if only we eliminate unconscionable profits, if only we abolish what Kerry subtly calls the "creed of greed."

P.S.: The not unrelated problem with Shrum's "aggressive, pessimistic, and unsubtle strain of economic populism," Joe Klein argues, is that it doesn't win elections at the national level. Ask Shrum clients President Gephardt (1988), President Kerrey (1992) and President Gore (2000).

P.P.S.: Kerry's delivery was slicker than I expected. There was no wooden reading of text, in part because this was just a modified stump speech. But neither did he rouse the crowd into any particular state of excitement. The applause at the end died out quickly. It's not so much that Kerry's "aloof"--when he talked to a supporter who'd had breast cancer and become a sort of poster woman for health care, he seemed genuinely human and compassionate. It's that he's pompous! And humorless. And narcissistically theatrical in his staged indignation.  Bill Clinton was long-winded, but he passed the do-you-want-this-person-in-your-living-room test. I find it unimaginable that Americans could stand to listen to Kerry for 4 months, let alone 4 years. I'm hoping the voters of New Hampshire won't be able to take 4 days. 12:56 P.M

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

I'd rather be trashing Kerry, but I see that Walter Olson is highlighting a promising line of attack against Edwards  (although one I suspect he's more than well-prepared for). ... 10:23 P.M.

A man of principle, the principle being "whatever seems to work." John Kerry has been on TV tonight talking about the "Two Americas" and the need for an "optimistic" campaign! At least when Joe Biden shamelessly stole another politician's spiel, it was a politician in another country. ... 9:50 P.M.

Dead Man Pitching: Gephardt's TV ads are still running here in New Hampshire. He looks good! ... P.S.: I've heard it replayed so often, the Dean scream is starting to sound good to me too. It's the sort of thing that works for Steve Ballmer! Who'll be the first hip-hop artist to sample it? Update: Already done, of course. This one is better than this one, but they can both be improved on (like, with some lyrics). [Thanks to alert reader E.C.] ... 9:05 P.M.

SOTU and yet so-hum? 1) Like many others, I didn't notice many Democrat-destruction-related program activities.--i.e. plans designed to occupy the center by coopting Democratic issues. This makes me think a) Bush's polls must have showed him losing a lot of support on the right, especially on immigration; b) he's leaving himself vulnerable if the war fades in salience (and wasn't that the lesson of Iowa?); or c) maybe he's suckering the Democrats into attacking him on domestic policy--e.g.for leaving so many uninsured. Then later on, in say May, he'll propose a big increase in the ChIP program or something along those lines to cut off whatever line of attack they've taken. ... P.S.: Did you notice the huge ovation Bush got for ... community colleges? I think it was his biggest applause line of the night, practically. Why? Because there must be at least one of these institutions in every congressional district, run and supported by respected local leaders, and they have tremendous lobbying power. ... P.P.S.: They're also hell-bent on undermining welfare reform by allowing aid recipients to avoid work by taking classes. ... Update: Sullivan notes the lack of even a boilerplate paragraph expressing empathy for those who have yet to find jobs  in the "strong" economy. Bush tried to convince people the economy is good by citing statistics. Isn't that His Father's Mistake Which He is Determined Not to Repeat? In fact, the empathy paragraph is such an obvious, automatic inclusion I wonder if everyone who worked on the speech just assumed it was there (even though it wasn't). ...  8:25 P.M.

The Shvitzer: I met Jerry Nachman once, in a hot tub! (Don't ask.) He was a great guy. Everything they say about him rings true. ... I can't believe they're not making them like him any more. But I don't know where they are putting them. ... 8:21 P.M.

Iowans Reject Kerry by 62-38 Margin! The Kerry victory in Iowa reminds me, not unsurprisingly, of Gary Hart's come-from-behind victory in New Hampshire in 1984. At the time I was working for the presidential campaign of Sen. Ernest Hollings. I'd written a profile of Hart a year earlier and decided that while somebody like Hart was the ideal Democrat, Hart himself was too strange, and his judgment too suspect, for him to be president. On the day of the New Hampshire primary I found myself standing outside a polling place in Salem, N.H., next to an enthusiastic young Hart worker. A Hart "surge" was clearly happening, although none of us knew its magnitude until that evening. I turned to the happy Hart guy next to me and said something like "You know, Hart looks good at first glance, but as people know him more I'm not sure they'll like him." I immediately felt like an ass for declaring that I knew something about Hart that he didn't. But the rest of the campaign did more or less correspond to a scenario in which Democrats found out more about Hart and decided "on second thought, no.".

I expect a similar scenario to unfold with John Kerry. The idea of John Kerry is appealing. The reality is less so (and a lot more less so than was the reality of Hart).  As the primaries proceed, my guess is voters will learn more about Kerry and his support will fade. But it might not happen! I don't want to commit--or rather, by predicting Kerry's quick demise, I've already committed--what a Slate colleague calls the Howell Raines Fallacy, the assumption that the great and good American people, in their wisdom, will inevitably come to agree with you (or, in Raines' case, the New York Times editorial page). It's an easy fallacy for a democrat to slide into--and on the issue I spent most time on, welfare reform, it wasn't a fallacy at all. (Over generations, voters never liked the old welfare system, and they were right.) But of course voters make mistakes all the time. I obviously think Iowa Democrats just made a big one. It's up to the citizens of New Hampshire, who presumably know Kerry better, to correct Iowa's error. If they don't--well, one of us is wrong!

P.S.: The winner of the Kerry Withdrawal Contest will be notified in a private ceremony attended only by family. (Actually, the Kerry Withdrawal Contest was put on "hiatus" by nervous kausfiles executives shortly after Saddam Hussein's capture. You could  look it up.)...

P.P.S.: David Yepsen--"Organization will be key to victory"--was wrong too! ... 1:03 A.M.

Am I crazy or did Mrs. Kerry look decidedly unhappy during her husband's Iowa victory speech? ... 12:16 A.M.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Will Edwards concede New Hampshire and let Kerry and Clark fight a death duel there while he waits in South Carolina? John Ellis raises the question, and has some other pithy thoughts. ...Update:  Howard Fineman says on Hardball that Edwards told him he will compete in New Hampshire. And if Kerry and Clark (or Kerry and Lehane!) go at each other, so much the better for the "positive" Edwards. Note: This is CW. Fineman said it! But why would Kerry go after Clark, unless he really has to? ... P.S.: Is there a worse person for the Clark campaign to put on TV to attack Kerry than Chris Lehane? a) He looks slightly crazed; b) He's become a widely-loathed figure; and c) A few months ago he worked for Kerry, so his attacks carry the additional baggage of betrayal. ... 8:58 P.M.

The Expectations of Expectations Game: Drezner detects a surge of media favoritism for Edwards and argues this means Edwards will be the story out of Iowa even if he comes in second:

If Kerry wins, he's going to get a bump, no doubt--and New Hampshire becomes an interesting question. But if Edwards performs better than either Gephardt or Dean at the caucus, reporters are going to lock in on him as the story of the week.

Wait, didn't Ryan Lizza just tell us that "All Kerry needs to do is come in second place and he will be the story Monday Night." But that was four days ago! As Lizza now acknowledges:

The cycle of expectations moves fast here.

He notes:

Within 48 hours, pundits have both blessed Edwards as the late-closing "it" candidate and dismissed the surge as too little too late

So Edwards is now set up to actually surprise people again. ... Someone should try to come up with a name for this faster cycle of expectations.

Maybe the race is so close that the winner will be the story! But I think Drezner is on to something. Reporters seem to like Edwards, not so much Kerry. If the order of finish is Kerry / Edwards / Dean / Gephardt, look for the press to twin Kerry and Edwards as the Come-From-Behind Kids, which would give Kerry his due but constitute a big favor for Edwards. If the order is Edwards / Kerry / Dean  etc., don't expect Kerry to receive any similar favors. ...

P.S.: Be sure to follow Drezner's link to this Daily Kos post with some pro-Dean hints you could only get in a bar in Des Moines. Then read the latest from Lizza, who has some similar pro-Edwards intuitions and a good, testy Trippi interview. ... Trippi is in the uncomfortable position of being unable to lower expectations, or even be modest, because any lowering of expectations by Dean will be taken as ... well, an actual lowering of expectations--i.e. a morale-sapping admission of impending defeat. ...

P.P.S.: Some emailers--not many!--have asked about my preferences. Right now,they are, in order: Edwards / Dean / Gephardt / Lieberman / a Bush-Clark tossup / the complete telephone books of all major American cities / Kerry. ...I'm a character voter, not an "issues" voter. Candidates will change their current "issues" positions after the election. New issues will crop up. The best handle we have to predict how a candidate will actually perform in office is character. ...

P.P.P.S: I'm either behind the curve or ahead, but Howard Dean has been wearing well these past few days. He wants to balance the budget and he has a wife! ... Still, Dean's only ahead of Gephardt on my list because Gephardt's health care plan reforms too little for what it costs. [Thought you weren't an "issues" voter-ed. His stand on this issue reflects a character trait! As TNR's Jonathan Cohn notes, Gephardt looked at the interests that defeated Clinton's health plan and rather than confront them "proposes to buy them off." ... 4:07 A.M.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

The Fraud of Iowa, 2004 Edition: My colleagues Will Saletan and Matt Schiller beat me to the punch in exposing the ugly truth behind the Iowa caucus results you will hear so confidently reported on the network news Monday night. It was Saletan's article on the 1988 caucuses that originally brought the ongoing joke of the caucuses home to me; that article remains a riveting tale of media incompetence and arrogance (chief villain: then-ABC director of political operations Stan Opotowsky).

Basically, the Iowa caucuses are so intricately and undemocratically structured  that there is not one clear count for the press to focus on. There aren't even two clear counts. Or three! There are four possible counts. In the chronological order they occur on caucus night, they are:

1) The entrance poll taken under the auspices of a six large news organizations--call them Big Press--and their group, the  National Election Pool. This completely unofficial count simply questions caucus-goers as they enter the caucuses at 6:30 in the evening.

2) The "pre-viability" count: Caucusers then sit through tedious minor issues and speeches before they finally divide up into groups supporting various candidates. If a candidate gets less than about 15 percent of the vote--or higher in some caucuses, as determined by to (needless to say) a complicated formula--that candidate's supporters are declared "non-viable" and must disperse. But for a brief, shining moment, before this "non-viability" is declared, the various groupings give a clear idea of the actual preferences of caucus-goers.

3) The "realigned" or post-viability count: Then the caucusers in non-viable groups go to their second choices, or to an "undecided" group. or to the "viable" candidate whose success will most screw the candidate they want to beat. Once all the non-viable candidates' votes have been vaporized and all the remaining groups are big enough to pass muster, you get another count--which is then immediately forgotten, because it is only used as the basis for calculating the delegate count.

4) The delegate count is derived from the realigned count --#3--but isn't necessarily an exact reflection thanks to yet more arcane rules--like the one requiring that every "viable" candidate get one delegate, or a rule penalizing precincts with low turnouts in previous years.

Actually, a fifth count would be possible--an unofficial exit poll--but nobody's conducting that count because by the time weary caucus-goers leave their meeting the media will in all likelihood have already reported results based largely on Count #1, the Big Press entrance poll.

The entire evening, in fact, will be a struggle between the Iowa Democratic Party, which pretends to try to get the press to report the official delegate count (#4) and the press, which recognize that the official count is a) usually too slow in coming, b) incomprehensible, and c) inexcusably undemocratic--in an actual election, is your vote's weight determined by the turnout in your precinct in the previous election? That's why the press is likely to go with its own count, especially the conveniently early Count #1,  What are the odds that the TV anchors will patiently explain to viewers that there are, in fact, two quite different counts and not one Iowa "result" to report? After all, as Saletan notes, one candidate--say, Edwards--could win the unofficial Count #1 and a rival candidate--say, Gephardt--could be declared the winner of Count #4 when it's too late for him to get much attention because everyone's gone to bed.  Indeed, with such a close 4-way race a different candidate could win each of the four separate counts.

Of course, the count you'd think we'd really be interested in is #2, the true multi-candidate vote taken in official circumstances (as opposed to by private press pollsters). But it's Count #2 that Opotowsky and his press partners attempted to record in 1988, with the disastrous results reported by Saletan. Why disastrous? For one thing, it "was really hard to count" the non-viable groups "before they switched" to other candidates, as a counter told Saletan.  But there were other screw-ups--caucuses that were simply left unattended by the media's badly-trained operatives. The press consortium actually abandoned Count #2 in 1988 with 30 percent of the caucuses left to be done (and you didn't hear much on-air mention of that embarrassing fact either). This year nobody is going to make Opotowsky's error by even trying to count the complete vote #2. [Update: The consortium will apparently send counters to a sampling of precincts--100 of the 1,993 caucuses--where they will attempt to record Count #2. (See Dan Balz's acccount.) Good luck!]  Hence the shift in likely press emphasis to the entrance poll (#1).

Saletan's biggest point is that, unlike in a real election, we have to take the press' word that Count #1 is accurate--there are no actual ballots to count to see if the entrance poll is right. But why accept as accurate the private Big Press tally, given the disasters of 1988 and the mistaken 2000 Florida exit poll conducted by the National Election Pool's predeccessor? [Update: The NEP's entrance poll is also apparently only a sampling of less than 10 percent of the caucuses. A veteran of network election-night polling emails kf to say "[T]he NEP sample is surprisingly small.  I'd have doubled the number of entry points. But I guess they didn't want to spend the money."]

There are other problems with publicizing Count #1 as "the Iowa result:"

a) It's premature: It measures voters' preferences before they listen to the speeches that precede the official voting--speeches that are designed to, and in many cases do, persaude them to change their choices. Some poll takers say this doesn't matter--the entrance poll, official or unofficial, is still a "voting event" that captures public opinion. But it captures those opinions before they are set--i.e. before the moment those who are holding those opinions plan to be be ready with their final choices.  It's like asking diners, as they are going into a restaurant, what item from the menu they think they're going to pick. How accurate a predictor is that of what they actually eat? 60%? 80%? 40% ? (In a normal election, everyone knows when the final decision has to be made, and sure enough it's that decision that gets counted. Strangely simple!)

b) It's unrepresentative: If any "voting event" will do, why doesn't the Big Press consortium record the preferences of shoppers at Iowa's thirty largest malls? That would be a bigger, more representative and more legitimate electorate than a sample of party activists willing to spend hours on a cold night bickering with their neighbors, etc. The only justification for going with the latter is that it's this self-selected group that picks the actual Democratic convention delegates. But then why doesn't the press highlight only the actual delegate count (#4)?

c) It's susceptible to non-illegal fraud: No campaign is going to sneak out-of-staters or other ineligible voters into caucuses to beef up their candidate's totals. The bad publicity if they got caught would overwhelm any benefit. But what about sending a few ringers to con the unofficial Big Press pollers at the entrances? An alert kf reader emails:

Seek out the poorly trained entrance poll interviewer and record yourself as a caucus participant planning to caucus for your favorite candidate.  Then disappear into the night.  Nothing illegal about lying to a representative of the media. ... And due to the magic leverage of sampling and extrapolation, you could wildly inflate your candidate's entrance poll number with just 10-20 false entrance poll votes per county.  By the time the state Democratic party convinces Big Media to come back to Des Moines and compare the actual vote with the screwed up entrance poll results, we'll be analyzing the South Carolina returns

My emailer thinks he's probably being paranoid, but I'm not so sure. ...

What's the answer: There is no correct, practical answer to the multiple choice question of which Iowa count the press should report. The count you want--#2--seems essentially unreportable as the caucuses are now run. Why don't Iowa officials take the time to record and report Count #2 in every precinct, the way any other state reports its elections results? Because that would turn the caucuses into a "primary"--and the Democratic party has guaranteed New Hampshire the first primary.

Iowa only gets its moment of cynosure, in other words, because its system is too f---ed up to be a primary. That's the root fraud and contradiction of the state's caucuses. We're left with the spectacle of the press' repeated, awkward, unofficial attempts to turn the Iowa event into a primary, and the official resistance to these press moves by state party leaders who know, unofficially, that the press's awkward attempt to turn Iowa into a primary is the reason everyone's paying so much attention to them.

Wouldn't it be better if the press just reported Count #4, left the anchors at home, consigned the caucuses to the semi-obscurity they deserve, and saved the mass press swarming for New Hampshire? ... P.S.: That's where I am, waiting in an empty motel for the clatter of bigfeet ... 8:33 P.M.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

"President Bush and Tony Blair should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt." Here's General Clark in the London Times this past April, after the fall of Baghdad, striking a somewhat different tone  about the Iraq war and the Bush administration than we've seen over the past few months as he's campaigned for the Democratic primary vote. ... Psst.: Don't tell Krugman! He just praised Clark for his shrillness in calling Bush's White House "the most closed, imperialistic, nastiest administration in living memory." . ... It's possible to square Clark's Congressional testimony with opposition to the war as waged. But it's impossible to square this London Times article with Clark's current antiwar criticism. Not only is the tone the opposite of Bush-bashing, but Clark seems to have forgotten that it was "the wrong war at the wrong time," as his adviser Jamie Rubin characterizes  his current position. ...  [Is this reprint accurate? Is Lehane staying in practice by sliming his own campaign?--ed. It's on NEXIS! Clark was just pandering to a Murdoch paper--ed. Exactly! It troubles me more that he's a creepily ambitious chameleon than it would trouble me if he were pro-war. But this London Times column  isn't new news-ed. So?] 2:53 A.M.

Revenge of the Non-Haters: Jeff Jarvis has posted a very clean and powerful analysis of Iowa along Krugmanist lines--that is, he accepts Paul Krugman's categorization of the Democratic candidates, which is that

the real division in the race for the Democratic nomination is between those who are willing to question not just the policies but also the honesty and the motives of the people running our country, and those who aren't.

Jarvis is just on the other side of this divide from Krugman. Krugman thinks only someone who says that Bush is evil can raise grassroots hard money and "get out the message." But intense votes and non-intense votes count exactly the same. Even in the Iowa caucuses--which attract only the most intensely-committed 10 percent of the electorate--the non-haters are in the process of swamping the haters. That's Jarvis' point about Dean's decline. (It's the opposite of the conventional analysis, which is that Iowa Dems hate Bush so much they are turning to the milder candidates who can beat him.)  ... P.S.: I am using "Bush-hater" here as rough shorthand for "those who are willing to question .... the honesty and the motives" of the Bushies. I suppose it is technically possible to call someone a venal liar who's betraying the country and not hate them. ... P.P.S.: Jarvis' other point is that Clark (as Krugman notes) has now positioned himself on the wrong (i.e. Krugman's) side of Krugman's divide. But if that doesn't work for Clark I'm confident he'll change! (See, e.g., above item). .... P.P.S.: There's actually a matrix, of course, with boxes for Bush-hating left-wingers (Kucinich), Bush-hating centrists (Clark, at the moment), non-Bush-hating left-wingers (an empty box) and non-Bush-hating centrists. As a non-Bush-hating centrist, I'm suddenly worried that a candidate I like, John Edwards, will win Iowa and the nomination. Why worry? Because Edwards will probably still lose the election, which will enable the hating left-wingers to say "See, you ran another Clinton and he lost." If the Democrats are going to lose anyway, the might as well run a paleolib hater and let that wing of the party have nobody to blame. [You're going to get Hillary in 2008 whoever loses this time-ed. Good point.]...  2:04 A.M.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Hot Castro Rumors: There's much chatter on the network to the effect that Fidel Castro has departed the plane on which the dialectic of materialism plays out. Rumors like this have cropped up previously and have (obviously) always proven false. This one may well be false also. But there are reasons this one is more credible. My friend Ann Louise Bardach, a journalist who writes about Cuba, says "I never take these rumors seriously and I've heard them for 12 years. This is the first time I take it seriously." The mayor of Bogota, no Castro enemy, recently met with the Cuban dictator and later reported that Castro "seemed very sick." ... Bardach's book, Cuba Confidential, notes that Castro has a history of minor strokes. ... Update: Here, via Drudge, is the Miami Herald report. ... 3:58  P.M.

Where's that opposition research on Kerry? Why, here it is!  ... In general, the next three days in Iowa will be a good test of the Feiler Faster Thesis. In previous decadess, would there be enough time between now and election day to open up the Kerry opposition file, leak it to the press, and get it out to the voters in time for it to actually influence the results? My guess is no. A come-from-behind candidate like Kerry could sneak up at the last minute without attracting effective "scrutiny" (of the sort that has damaged Dean). But in 2004 the anti-Kerry job may be done by Sunday! ...  P.S.: At least it's not as if the most loathed Democratic hit man in the campaign recently quit Kerry's staff and presumably knows where his bodies are buried! ... Oh wait! ... P.P.S.: Noam Scheiber detects a disturbing sexual undercurrent in Kerry's current stump spiel. I don't know. I guess you had to be there--but neither of us were. ... 1:30 P.M.

Who Smeared Dean? Was a certain counterproductive overspinner behind the shameful ABC "affidavit" smear story  against Howard Dean? I don't know, and neither does the New York Times, though today's edition does contain this sentence:

With General Clark rising in the polls in New Hampshire and Howard Dean facing a spate of negative news reports, from stories about stock he sold as Vermont's governor to remarks maligning the Iowa caucuses, many Democrats are convinced they see the invisible hand of Chris Lehane.

If the "affidavit" story was fed to the press by an aide at a rival Democrat's campaign--Lehane or anyone else--shouldn't that aide be, you know, fired? I remember in 1988 when Michael Dukakis was forced by wimpy anti-negativity Democrats to get rid of his right hand man, John Sasso, because Sasso was implicated in the perfectly legitimate leak of a tape  in which rival candidate Joe Biden was seen plagiarizing Neil Kinnock's life story. That was League of Women Voters stuff compared with the anti-Dean ABC hit job. ... Let the witchhunt begin! ... 2:51 A.M.

Ryan Lizza of TNR, a very smart reporter uninhibited by the need for any sort of neutrality, now has a blog, and not a moment too soon. Lizza currently has, gulp, strategic praise for Kerry's Iowa effort (he's building the worker-student alliance!) and copies of the anti-tax literature Kerry is distributing under the radar. ...P.S.: Is Kerry really going to be able to balance the budget, fight terrorism and provide health care without raising "middle class taxes?" Bill Clinton's example suggests Kerry's demagoguing. This analysis by TNR's Jonathan Cohn reinforces that conclusion. [Why didn't you mind it when Schwarzenegger made the same anti-tax promise?--ed. California's spending seems to have been even more out of control than federal spending, and the state wasn't planning to add a huge new health care expense.] ... P.P.S.: Lizza also says: "All Kerry needs to do is come in second place and he will be the story Monday night." Are we sure of that? Doesn't it depend who comes in first? If it's Gephardt (Dean in third!) or Edwards, isn't that a story too? Even if it's Dean--at this point a clear-cut Dean victory is starting to seem a bit Comeback-Kiddish, no? ...[Backfill: Noonan had the Comeback Kid point yesterday.] ... Update: At this point, Zogby's been in effect promoting a Kerry victory for two days. If Kerry's touted as the leader for five straight days and then falls short, isn't "the story" whoever beats him? ...  12:10 A.M.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Crack for the Week:   The Curse of Zog! Kf received the following, highly relevant email from its Mystery Pollster, a principal in a Democratic polling form not aligned with any of the presidential candidates:

As a pollster, I'm amazed at the way the Zogby's numbers seem to be driving national coverage of Iowa for the last few days.  It makes me wonder how many reporters appreciate the basic math of caucus turnout and the incredibly challenging task it creates for pollsters.

Consider the first set of numbers:  The previous record for Democratic caucus turnout was 125,000 in 1988. "Democratic leaders" seem to believe it will be higher this time (or so says the oracle).   Iowa has a voting age population of 2.2 million--125K is about 6% of that.  So even if turnout doubles over 1988, doing a random digit dial (RDD) survey precisely means hanging up on roughly nine of ten otherwise cooperative respondents. [I assume he means you hang up on nine of ten if you accurately filter out those who won't turn out.--mk]

So a pollster doing an RDD poll in Iowa can either spend a lot of time and money screening or cut corners and interview anyone who says they are "likely to vote."  The latter approach yelds a considerably higher percentage than 6-12% (you'll have to trust me on that one, although Mark Mellman agrees). 

Your friends at the LA Times poll took the responsible approach, interviewing 3629 adults to get 640 likely Democratic caucus goers.  Yes, that's still 17%, higher than the likely turnout but at least in the ballpark.  Given them credit for the expense involved and for disclosing the details, something no other public pollster in Iowa has matched. 

There is another way –sampling from a list of past caucus goers – which brings me to a second set of numbers:  The Caucuses turnout was only 60,000 four years ago, and far less in '96 and '92 when they were uncontested.  If turnout this time is 120K or more, then a survey of past caucus goers could miss 50% or more of those who actually show up on Caucus night.  Odds are, those newcomers will be different than the hard-core voters on the lists.

So what is Zogby doing?  Who knows?  He won't say.  His web page release provides no hint at how he samples caucus goers or how many voters he screens.

Upon learning that Zogby told National Journal he makes 3,000 calls per night, the Mystery Pollster sent a second message:

... the answer is incomplete.  Given the number of calls, he seems to be using either RDD or a telephone directory sample to start with a "sample frame" of all adults in Iowa. So far so good. 

Unfortunately, he's still not saying whether that's 3000 calls (or what we call attempts) or whether he contacted 3000 otherwise cooperative respondents who he screened down to 165 or so.   If it's the latter, the numbers are right. 

If it's the former, his answer is a clever dodge.  It is not at all uncommon for a pollster doing a one night RDD sample to have to make several thousand  attempts to complete a few hundred interviews.  It's very plausible that 3000 RDD calls made on a single night would result in....
    1000 no answers
    200 busy signals
    600 non-working numbers
    300 answering machines
    400 refusals to be interviewed, and...

    500 cooperative respondents, of whom he takes 165, which would be 33% of
Iowa and waaaay too big...

Musil has some anti-Zoggish thoughts as well, and this Josh Marshall article notes some races in which he zogged when he should have zigged.  ... The upshot seems to be that you would be foolish to rely on Zogby's tracking polll to predict the actual caucus results (in the two completely different counts that will be taken--more on that later!). In particular, Zogby may miss differentials in whether various candidates' supporters will actually leave their houses on the cold Monday night, etc. But it's hard to believe that Zogby isn't accurately capturing the direction of the trend, assuming he uses a consistent method every day. That trend--Kerry and Edwards surging, from wherever they are, with Dean sinking slowly and Gephardt flat--is also supported by anecdotal evidence. (Update: And by this non-Zogby poll.) Pass the pipe!... Of course, trends can change overnight--faster now, yes, than in previous elections. It's only Thursday. The official kf Wishful Thinking position is that Kerry has peaked too soon! (And where's the opposition research on him, anyway?) ... The fallback Wishful Thinking position is that he still won't do well in New Hampshire because they know him. ...[If he wins N.H., you'll ... ?--ed. Come up with something!] ... P.S.: Of course the "larger question," as we pundits like to call it, is why we are giving candidate selection to a process that attracts only 6% of a state's voting age population? ... 3:41 P.M.

ABC News' The Note vs. ABC News:  The people who write ABC News' The Notemust have thought the anti-Dean "affidavit" story by their own networks' "Investigative Unit" was as sleazy a piece of junk as everyone else did. They gave it about as little play as they could without courting dismissal--burying a one sentence link on page 8 of a 13 page report. ... The upshot of this Pravda-like reading:The Note'sMark Halperin, the network's Political Director, thinks someone else in his organization has very bad judgment. He's right! ... 12:30 P.M.

Jeez, maybe John Kerry actually is the frontrunner. ... 12:22 A.M.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Take that bus and shove it! I can't quite believe ABC ran with that Dean "affidavit" story  (as Drudge tactfully calls it). There's no evidence presented that Dean knew of the actions of the former employee involved, certainly not before he filed his affidavit. Nor is it even really clear exactly what those actions were. Read it yourself. ABC (Mark Halperin, you too) should be ashamed. The network doesn't just report the story--it hypes the story (in the attempt to make it a story).  If I were Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi, I'd have tried to kick ABC off the plane too. ... Hypocrisy Watch: And if Democrats had tried this sort of last-minute smear on, say Arnold Schwarzenegger, you can bet Republicans like Lucianne Goldberg would have immediately denounced it. Yet when the late hit is on Howard Dean, Lucianne Goldberg ... well, actually her site  immediately denounced it. ("ABC falls for ... lame hit job.") This is one reason I like Lucianne Goldberg.  ... 11:34 A.M.

Crock of tick-tock? This isn't of utmost importance, but NBC Nightly News reported this evening that U.S. troops "were led directly to the spider hole" in which Saddam Hussein was hiding. Is this confirmation of the possibility, widely-credited abroad, that the Kurds were behind Saddam's capture? And what about those reports, immediately after the event, that it was only an alert U.S. soldier who noticed the rug covering the spider hole? Was the Pentagon counterproductively overspinning the event? Have they hired Chris Lehane or something?  ...Backfill: For example, here is Time magazine's account of the capture:

At first, the searches of a rural farmhouse, however, turned up little that was suspicious. But after all these years of deception, all these months of hunting, given Saddam's reputation for tunnels and safe rooms and secrets, the soldiers knew to scrape the paint off the walls in the event he was hiding behind them. So they cordoned off the area and took out their tweezers, searching every corner. On the premises there was a small, walled compound with a mud hut and a metal lean-to. There they found the entrance to the hole, camouflaged with dirt and bricks, with just enough space to lie down, a fan and an air vent.

Here's Newsweek:

According to U.S. officials, the Americans had an informant working with them, a family member "close to Saddam." The tipster said, in effect, "He's there. Trust me. Keep looking." A more thorough search of every building and field commenced, and at 8:26 p.m., a soldier noticed a crack in the earth under a lean-to adjoining a mud hut on a small sheep farm. ... The crack revealed a hidden door. The soldiers carefully shoved aside some bricks and dirt and opened up a Styrofoam hatch covered with a rug.

Were these dramatic accounts 45% B.S.?...7:04 P.M.

Beloved comrade Robert Kuttner is one of the first to make the case for, yes, a brokered convention--and it's highly persuasive! ... I say "one of the first" because surely Walter Shapiro has already written this piece. (Update: Well, he wrote this, which presciently supplements Kuttner's arguments.) ... And why not a brokered convention? Every other wacky thing has happened. Those who don't ignore history are condemned to think it will be repeated! ... Maybe the rush to anoint Dean by Gore and Harkin happened because somebody read the proportional delegate rules and realized that front-loading wouldn't result in an early pick in a five-contender field in which at least one contender (Dean) has an inextinguishable source of money ... Update: Thomas Maguire's JustOneMinute adds the point that once a brokered convention becomes a lively possibility, candidates have very little reason to drop out--as opposed to maintaining a token campaign and amassing whatever bargaining chips they can. A brokered convention then becomes ... a self-fulfilling prophecy! .. P.S.: Musil broached brokering last week. .. P.P.S.: Maguire predicts that now the "brokered convention meme will go from longshot to CW in about twelve hours." But self-fulfillment will still take six months. ... A very long six months. ... More: The last two grafs of this LAT "Opinion" piece from 2002 are also eerily prescient, or may become prescient soon. [pdf file] ... 6:03 P.M.

kf's Finger on the Pulse of Iowa! From the actual hustings to your active matrix screen without mediation by either Adam Nagourney or Sean Penn! Today: A seemingly honest Deanie doorknocker speaks 'against interest' and reports an Edwards (and Kerry) surge. .. Of course, he reports that "Gephardt seems flat," so it's not totally 'against interest.'  ... [link via Instapundit ] 3:41 P.M.

Robert Reich, caught making a factual error? Well, I suppose anything's possible! ... 12:27 P.M.

John Kerry, Frontrunner! Minnesota DFL-er Greg Abbott makes another promising entry in the Kerry Mystery Contest, noting the senator's "unique ability to both pander and condescend at the same time." ... Abbott's earlier contribution pegged Kerry as "both impulsive and opportunistic." Add a certain robot-needing-repairs quality, and I think we may have it. ... But, alas, the "Kerry Death Spiral" anticipated by Abbott and kf appears to be temporarily on hold, thanks to the poor judgment of the impressionable, well-meaning [you almost said "cow-like"-ed But I didn't!] Iowa Democrats who get to make this decision for us. (They liked Dukakis too!) Kerry actually won yesterday's segment of the Zogby three-day Iowa tracking poll. Doesn't that raise the possibility--no, the expectation, that Kerry will win Iowa? I think it does! Anything less than an outright Kerry victory in Iowa just has to be considered a worse-than-expected performance, don't you think? ... [But just a month ago you were staging a "Kerry Withdrawal Contest"-ed. Just shows you how quickly expectations change in this fast-paced Internet-driven world!] 11:04.A.M.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

What does George Soros have against John Edwards? ... 1:35 A.M.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Classic Nagourney NYT piece--a seemingly arbitrary, CW-gusting, I-want-to-be-a-player lede ("Howard Dean has slipped into turbulent territory") followed by several inches of to-be-sure paragraphs that undercut the showcased thesis (e.g., Dean's likely to win N.H. because it's now Clark who's under attack there, etc.) ... If Dean has hit turbulence, he hit turbulence a week ago, when the polls started showing it, not yesterday. Maybe I didn't watch the same Brown and Black debate everyone else did. I missed "what many described as [Dean's] faltering performance."  I thought Dean did OK. He seemed relatively responsible and grown-up (e.g. on balancing the budget, and not cutting the Pentagon). As Saletan notes, Dean managed to stand up to Sharpton without being angry or condescending. ... I associate myself with Musil's comments. ... P.S.: Sure enough, after his "faltering performance" in the debate Dean was in such turbulent territory that he moved up in Zogby's tracking poll. Update: On Tuesday, however, he plunged. An authentic voter reaction to Dean, or a reaction to the wave of Nagourneyesque aura-of-inevitability-bursting CW of the day before? We'll never know! ... P.S.: ABC's The Note says Zogby's tracking numbers are "crack for the weak." to which I say "offer something better!" In a strategic multi-candidate primary like this one, where voters may honorably switch their decisions depending on who is ahead--and whether the person they really want to beat is a threat--accurate tracking polling is not media-driven entertainment filler. It is a precondition for the intelligent exercise of the franchise. So there.  ... Update: Peggy Noonan  voices the whispered question regarding the press'--especially the NYT's--seeming anti-Dean turn:

I wonder if mainstream media aren't trying to save the Democratic Party from Mr. Dean. They know he's not a likely winner down the road.

This is the sort of question best answered, even in the Internet era, from the bar in Campaignland, which is currently located at the Hotel Ft. Des Moines. ...  10:38 P.M.

All Souljahs Left Standing: Andrew Sullivan suggests that yesterday's "Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum" marks the Democrats' regression to a pre-Clintonian liberal posture in which "all whites are at fault and all blacks are victims." That's true as far as it goes: not one of the candidates questioned party orthodoxy on affirmative action, for example. Iowa frontrunners Gephardt and Dean explicilty endorsed race-based contracting 'set asides.' Nobody mentioned out-of-wedlock births, the troubled black family, or even crime. Rev. Sharpton semi-successfully demagogued Dean on the number of minorities in his Vermont cabinet. Plus there was a whole new issue to Hispander on: illegal immigration. At the end, all the Souljahs were still standing.

To some extent, Clinton's welfare reform--and the (not unrelated!) slow-but-perceptible improvement in inner-city crime and the black family structure have had the perverse effect of freeing Democrats to be paleoliberals on race again.  They don't have to talk about welfare and crime--the issues that made previous Brown and Black debates, always embarrassing suck-up sessions, a little tense, since confronting welfare and crime at least meant contemplating what had gone wrong with the decades-long Democratic effort to produce "community development" (not to mention worrying about the reaction of non-liberals and worried suburbanites who might be listening in). Welfare and crime aren't on voters' radar screens anymore, and Democrats can once more go ahead and grovel to the liberal ethnic lobbies without too much complication.

But something is missing when you compare this year's humiliating panderfest with previous humiliating panderfests: There's no more talk of sinking vast sums of money into Model Cities and UDAGs and CDBGs and all the other sinkholes and mayoral slush funds of the Democratic antipoverty apparatus. Even relatively non-left Democrats like Carter and Dukakis eagerly embraced such programs, but they don't get defended anymore, even by self-proclaimed let's-go-on-offense types such as Dean. It may be cause, or it may be effect, that Sharpton's limited, legalistic New York City-style issues--"racial profiling, police brutality, racial discrimination in the private sector"--lend themselves easily to headline-grabbing and community organizing but less easily to expensive programmatic solutions. Sharpton's a "race man," but he doesn't seem primarily  a big-government "race man." ...

P.S.:  Like Sullivan, I'm baffled that Joe Lieberman doesn't try to distinguish himself from the pack in forums like this by going out of his way to tell his audience something it doesn't want to hear--doubts about affirmative action, for example, or about the prospects for complete immigrant 'legalization."  Lieberman could actually appeal to many blacks, while creating a huge ruckus, if he endorsed inner-city choice experiments as his colleague Dianne Feinstein has done.

But he wouldn't even have to deviate on a particular policy. All he'd have to say to grab the next day's headline is something like: "Let's face it. We've made progress. For the vast majority of Americans--black, brown and white--the most important determination in any individual's success or failure isn't racism, and it isn't what the government does or doesn't do. It's what the individual does." He'd soon get the media attention he desperately needs, and if all the people who agreed with him voted for him and all the people who disagreed with him split their votes among the other seven candidates, he'd win!You'd think Lieberman would do it on strategic grounds alone, even if he didn't (as many suspect) secretly think it was also right. Instead he toes the line with the others--"We're all for affirmative action"--hiding even his disagreements under phony agreement (on the reparations issue, for example,where he showily endorsed a study of the subject). ...

I encountered similar mysterious behavior when working on Ernest Hollings' presidential campaign in 1984.  Hollings could have distinguished himself from the pack, and gotten some New Hampshire traction, if he'd either a) criticized the National Education Association or b) supported the invasion of Grenada. He did neither. Why? I came up with two theories:

1) Learned instincts: Politicians like Hollings and Lieberman don't get where they are by distinguishing themselves in crowded fields through attacks on Democratic interest groups. They've achieved their success by winning two-candidate or three-candidate primaries and then putting alll the Democratic interest groups into one big coaliton that beats the other side's coaliton.  

2) Earned ego:  Apparently Hollings actually thought he might wrest the 1984 NEA endorsement from Walter Mondale! That seems like delusional egomania to outsiders, but I suspect that in the process of getting to where he is Hollings has actually pulled off such a longshot feat once or twice. Similarly, it seems crazy for Lieberman to even think he has a shot at doing well among blacks. But ...

(A third factor, obviously, is that senators need to worry about getting reelected to the Senate if they lose in the presidential primary.) ... 

[Thanks to alert kf reader B.H. for pointing out Dean's endorsement of 'set-asides,' which came in a post-debate Hardball interview.] 9:30 P.M.

Gut Prediction: Wesley Clark is to 2004 as Gary Hart was to 1984--a candidate who's appealing on first look and who makes a big move in New Hampshire, but who the voters ultimately decide is just too weird. .. 3:25 P.M.

Robert Rector, you will want to read this article:Britain has a relatively liberal welfare system for single mothers and a relatively permissive sex education program that teaches "'how to do it'" while trying to prevent pregnancy. And it has "failed utterly to reduce the numbers of gymslip mothers," according to the U.K. Telegraph. ... With only a trace of the traditional British journalist's "look at those rednecks" smirking, Olga Craig compares and contrasts the more American combination of tougher welfare work requirements and "abstinence education," which seems to be working. (Teenage pregancies are down 30 percent in a decade, she reports.) ... But what's the cause of the pregnancy drop--welfare reform or abstinence programs? The two cases (U.K. and U.S.) don't make for a good experiment, which would require a country with tough welfare and permissive sex ed (or vice versa).  But a) didn't the drop in teen pregnancy in the U.S. start in the early 90's, preceding by many years institutions like the "Silver Ring Thing, part of a growing movement of chastity organisations that have swept America's Bible belt"? (The drop also precedes the 1996 welfare reform--but not, the Telegraph notes, loud talk of welfare reform at the national level and actual reforms at the state level); b) Is the chastity movement and "abstinence education" all that widespread--especially outside the South? c) Isn't it possible that the chastity movement is itself an effect of welfare reform? When teens can't rely on AFDC to survive as single moms, movements that protect them from unsubsidized, marriageless motherhood crop up and find a receptive audience. ... 3:18 P.M.

Another reason the Iowa caucuses are a bad joke: Their tradition of reporting inaccurate or incomplete results, detailed by John McCormick of the Chicago Tribune. An alert kf reader submits this prediction:

... at least one of the candidates will announce that whatever is reported as the results of the Iowa Caucuses is wrong and they actually did better. And because of improved communications within campaigns ... they will provide plausible evidence of this.

Of course, after Iowa there is no opportunity for reporters to assess such claims in leisurely Florida fashion--there's usually time for only one "take" on the caucuses before the media focus shifts entirely to New Hampshire.  I don't think even the Feiler Faster principle will greatly alter this reality. That means a claim of "they got it wrong" is a plausible strategy for, say, a former front-runner who embarrassingly finishes fourth in Iowa and wants to go on to New England. ... Iowa's lack of accuracy transfers power to the press--which either gives credibility to claims of error or doesn't. In what other state does this sort of Uncertainty Principle--in which the result that counts is often indeterminate--operate? ... Hey, in McCormick's story they're still arguing over who won in '88! (More precisely,they're still arguing over the highly-publicized, botched News Election Service count.) ... 10:42 A.M.

Kerry Surge Watch! In New Hampshire, he's caught ... Lieberman!   10:05 A.M.

Nope, nope: A number of sites, including Wes-slagging Web-logger  Polipundit, have noted General Clark's embarrassing lack of nuance when discussing abortion with the Manchester Union Leader. Here's the transcript:

McQuaid: Let's take an issue. Abortion. Are there any limits on it in your mind?

Clark: I don't think you should get the law involved in abortion—

McQuaid: At all?

Clark: Nope.

McQuaid: At all?

Clark: It's between a woman, her doctor, her friends and her family.

McQuaid: Late term abortion? No limits?

Clark: Nope.

McQuaid: Anything up to delivery?

Clark: Nope, nope.

McQuaid: Anything up to the head coming out of the womb?

Clark: I say that it's up to the woman and her doctor, her conscience, and law — not the law. You don't put the law in there. ...

So Clark would allow a doctor and mother to kill a baby hours away from being born even if neither the physical or mental health of the mother was at stake? Because, say, the mother wanted a boy and the baby was a girl? ... The idea that Clark is the candidate who will avoid Dean's abject pandering and amateurish oversimplifications  is becoming increasingly untenable.  ... 1:54 A.M..



Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--Escapee from American Prospect. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Calmer Times--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko's MediaNews--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.]