May 19, 2003

The Monica-Free Zone

The MinuteMan gets snarky on Joe Lieberman:

Just One Minute: Lieberman On Letterman: Doleful Joe gave the Top Ten reasons he should be the nominee. Number one, which I paraphrase: "Look at me - will I ever get involved in a sex scandal?" Big laughs. Now, note to Joe and his staff - Clinton is not your opponent, and Republicans are not likely to nominate you.

Two points: First, Lieberman has to win the Democratic primaries, and few Republicans vote in the Democratic primaries. Second, the natural order of things has been overturned--the MinuteMan's blogspot archives work--and so clearly all bets are off.

Posted by DeLong at May 19, 2003 05:25 PM | TrackBack


I'm just scared that Lieberman won't be tough enough against Bush. I just think back to his 2000 debate with Cheney. Lieberman buckled like a belt. Very disappointing.

Posted by: Bobby on May 19, 2003 05:42 PM

Those pesky archives are working again? Why do I pay extra for the Double-secret archives?

Seriously, I am not going to pound the table in behalf od Old Joe, but...

His debate with Cheney was just a couple of days after the first Bush-Gore debacle, where Gore was criticized for snorting like a bull in heat. One presumes that Lieberman was exhorted to emphasize civility.

That said, given the participants, a screaming match was not likely. I also doubt that Lieberman drastically changed his debate prep on such short notice.

My impression is that Lieberman has no detectable pulse in the blogosphere, and is too conservative to get nominated (as a Dem). Is there any L-U-V for him out there?

Posted by: The MinuteMan on May 19, 2003 06:25 PM

I have L-U-V for anyone who could become a winning candidate... which probably means John Edwards, who is not an unknown governor from the Sowth but (as an unknown senator) is close enough... there's also Howard Dean, who might qualify as an unknown governor from the Sowth (Vermont is, after all, highly rural--and Dean likes guns!)...

But the more people who say that Lieberman is too conservative to get nominated, the more electable he seems to me and the closer my feelings move toward L-U-V...

Posted by: Brad DeLong on May 19, 2003 06:52 PM

Our host's comments are depressing. I've yet to forgive Lieberman either for his part in the Florida fiasco or for his stand on stock option accounting. The idea that I might have to support him as the alternative to Bush is not enjoyable to contemplate. Not that I've forgotten the distinction between bad and worse...

Posted by: Jonathan Goldberg on May 19, 2003 07:18 PM

Brad. I actually think Lieberman is the honorary Southerner, not Dean.

I think that in the eyes of Southerners and midwesterners (I'll just call them both Southerners for brevity), they will not vote for candidates who are seen in varying degrees as doing any one of three things (I put them in an extreme form for emphasis):

(1) looking down on the Southerners and their way of life
(2) wanting to make Southerners change their way of life
(3) amoral atheists who want to destroy traditional values and effectively abolish Christianity.

I realize that people might think that when I say "way of life," I really mean "guns and racism." But that's not what I mean. Democrats will never get the neo-Confederate extremist vote, and *definitely* should not try to get it.

I'm actually not sure what I mean, but I think this is the mindset of what lies behind the Democrats' failure to win in these regions where ironically their policies are most economically beneficial and Republicans are most economically destructive.

Most importantly, this is really an issue of a candidate altering the way he is perceived in these regions as opposed to altering his substantive policy positions.

I think that Howard Dean fails on (3) and John Kerry fails on all three. Meanwhile Lieberman might pass all three of them, though he might fail on (2). For Edwards, I have no clue. I think Bob Graham has demonstrated that he passes all three considering his inroads with conservatives in Florida.

Moreover, I am afraid that the recent campaign finance scandal may dog John Edwards throughout the general election if he wins, even though his campaign is under no legal obligation to monitor the indiscretions of this law firm that made these supposedly illegal donations. The Republicans don't care though, and they will smear him with everything they can get their hands on. If it does not, I'll support Edwards. But, if it does, I will support Bob Graham or possibly Lieberman.

Posted by: Bobby on May 19, 2003 07:25 PM

Correction: It should have said abolish religion as opposed to Christianity.

Posted by: Bobby on May 19, 2003 07:29 PM

Whoops I mean Southerner includes Mountain States and farm states as well as the South -- pretty much all of the Bush states. Calling them Mid-western includes states like Illinois and Indiana that I didn't want to include.

Posted by: Bobby on May 19, 2003 07:38 PM

Given Lieberman's religious background, his religiousity dpesn't bother me. What IS true is that he is just about the only Democrat who is close enough to the center to tempt those on the other side of the aisle.

It would be a shame if Lieberman were not to obtain the nomination, as he seems to be the candidate with the best chance of giving Bush a tough challenge. Given Bush's record on free trade, and his unwillingness to rein in the spending even as he cuts taxes, there are certainly many right-of-center individuals who are currently feeling more than a little disaffected.

Unfortunately primary voters aren't always known for their pragmatism - witness William Simon in California.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on May 19, 2003 07:55 PM

Seeing as how most ideologically engaged voters already know which party they would vote for (the true believers) aren't the undecided in the middle mostly (not completely) apolitical?
And then more likely to vote on charisma or character or personality?
So why is anyone serious about Lieberman attracting the swing voters?
I wish we lived in a different world, but we don't. Lieberman has the Dukakis problem. He's east coast, short, unattractive, not charismatic.

The only way for the Dems to siphon off the strength of the Repubs southern strategy, is to run a southerner themselves. Since LBJ did the civil rights act in 64 (cementing the Dems as the party of the blacks) there have only been 2 Democratic presidents - Carter and Clinton, southerners. 1968 to 2004 - only 12 years of Democrats as president. I have to believe there is a relationship.

I think that educated people, or people from the East coast underestimate this sentiment in the south. The Repubs know what they are doing though. Hence the code words :affirmative action, welfare reform, tough on crime.
I hope I just have a skewed perspective (having grown up in the rural south) and America is not as bad as I see it.

Posted by: andrew b. on May 19, 2003 08:09 PM

Yeah, I can't stand Lieberman, so he has one big point in his favor.

Posted by: zizka on May 19, 2003 08:11 PM

Maybe I am wrong...Lieberman does seem to have a good sense of humor, and would eat up Bush in a debate. I still wonder if Lieberman would be the Dem's Bob Dole, a sacrificial candidate, since they don't think they can win this year. The real candidates would just be gaining name recognition.

Posted by: andrew b. on May 19, 2003 08:15 PM

All I know is that John Kerry cant win any of the Bush states. He looks like a corpse in a powdered wig.

Posted by: Bobby on May 19, 2003 08:26 PM

Then again maybe no one will have a majority of delegates and Al Gore gets drafted. One thing that both Carter and Clinton had were strong allies in the black community. Jimmy Carter had the support of Andrew Young and Clinton had the support of many blacks in the South.

LIeberman is not going to win any Southern states because he is conservative. Bush has the southern conservative vote locked up and a feeble looking old man is not going to challenge Mr Macho Top Gun for those voters. I agree with andrew b on this one. Lieberman is the Dukakis Dem. Dems that win in the South build coaltions with blacks and progressive white voters. Lieberman can win in CN because it is a suburb of New York and so East Coast. He should be able to carry the East Coast and CA, maybe FL if he can survive the JEB juggernaut, but where else would he win? What are his issues? Hard core Gore supporters are pissed at him. Clinton supporters don't like him. Bush has a lock on the moralist vote. Why would a swing voter vote for Lieberman? Lieberman is not electable. Feinstein would get more votes than Joe.

Gephardt maybe could pull it off, because he could take MO and perhaps pull in some of the neighboring state that Bush won in 2000. He may be too old school to shake the tax and spend liberal label the GOP will pin on him.

Dean will not be around for too long. He is stepping on too many toes and will get dinged in Iowa. That leaves Edwards and Kerry. Edwards could probably take NC but can he get FL? Edwards at least stands a chance against Bush.

Kerry would have to fight the MA liberal label the GOP is trying to pin on him. Kerry the true war hero will get no questions on his ability to defend the country and stand up to enemies. His in your face style would keep the Bush attack machine off balance. The Bush politicos play very very rough. Kerry has been one of the few Dems to effectively stare down the Bush media echo chamber. When criticizing Bush was called unpatriotic by Trent Lott, Newt, Rush and the other chicken hawks, Kerry could stand up and say that people that avoided fighting in Vietnam had no right to call a veteran unpatriotic. National Security is going to be a big issue in 04. Who will best be able to answer that challenge? Lieberman, the religious guy that has no military experience? He just does not have the credibility that Kerry can bring. Gephardt could be effective on National Security issues, but not as strong as Kerry. Dean would be McGovernized as Mr. Surrrender, like it or not. Edwards, would have a tough sell. Kucinich, Brown and Sharpton, don't win any National Security points, either.

Kerry is not ashamed to play up his service in Vietnam. That will play well in states like WV that Gore should have won but did not. Even though he is from MA, the Kerry military record would make him play better in the South and border states than LIeberman or most of the other Dems except maybe Graham. Gore let Bush get away with portraying Gore as on vacation in Vietnam, while Bush was flying jets. Kerry will not let Bush get by with that one. Kerry has a good network and connections and support within the black community. Jesse Jackson openly dissed LIeberman on the radio this week but not Kerry or Edwards. Plus Kerry has money. I see Kerry as the best shot against Bush because Kerry will be harder for them to attack with their negative campaign style. Imagine the dirties possible election fight. Which candidate can stand up to that? Which candidate has the savvy that Clinton had to go on 60 minutes and admit causing pain in his marriage to ward off the Bush attack squad? The four with the best chance in order are Kerry, Edwards, Gephardt, Graham. None of the others would win, period.

Posted by: bakho on May 19, 2003 09:28 PM

The Republican party has benefited from a cynical "Southern Strategy" since 1968. Now all of you are out to develop your own cynical strategy - "boy if we could get just a little of that racist vote behind us."

How about the Democrats rallying around a candidate with good credentials and a good message. Democrats should then go out and campaign as ferociously as the opposition - actually that should start now.

The key to Democratic victory this cycle is increased voter registration and an effective get out the vote organization. The President can be beaten soundly - folks, things really are bad out there both foreign and domestic.

Posted by: CMike on May 20, 2003 01:29 AM

I say the most electable ticket is Kerry with Graham as Veep. Kerry obviously has the democratic establishment behind him and looks the part and Graham might deliver Florida, which will probably be the deciding swing state once again.

Posted by: Chad on May 20, 2003 03:27 AM

I doubt there's any accuracy to the appraisal that Lieberman would be the strongest opponent for Bush. Easier to argue he'd be the weakest; the base doesn't like his wimpiness and his toadying to the insurance and finance industries.

I think Kerry is routinely underestimated, even with his creds. But that doesn't mean he'll win the nomination. Others have their strenghts. Nobody knows what will happen, there are no experts who can call this. That's what makes it fun.

Posted by: SanityManagement on May 20, 2003 04:19 AM

I'n no Dick Morris (darn it!), but I have read what Morris has to say about how the Democrat primaries are going to work this time around. With no Republican primaries to vote in (coronation time - those events won't be real primaries), the undeclared swing voters will be drawn to Democrat primaries. That will mean a far less liberal voter mix than has been the case recently. That makes Lieberman (an extreme middle of the roader) a better choice than the usual "run away from the middle in the primary, to the middle in the general" sort of strategy would suggest.

Not to discount the political acumen of anyone writing here, but Morris is the best match for Rove that I can think of. If he expects a moderate strategy to win the primaries, let's figure out who can look moderate (Clinton clone) and help the guy early, when it can still do some good.

Posted by: K Harris on May 20, 2003 05:22 AM


Latest reports from the front -- Republicans are throwing enormous resources into the "ground war" which is apparently political operative talk for the activities that take place in the final days before the elections. House-to-house canvassing, rounding up busses to bring the elderly in from high-GOP registration areas, get out the vote ads and phone banks, that sort of thing. So, yeah, Dems need to get busy on registration, then follow up by getting registered Dems to the polls in swing states.

Posted by: K Harris on May 20, 2003 06:13 AM

“If he (Morris) expects a moderate strategy to win the primaries, let's figure out who can look moderate (Clinton clone) and help the guy early, when it can.”

You are of course right on target. Alas, you also totally wasting your time! The radical Liberals dominate the Democrat Party and have absolutely no interest in listening to you. The Democrats are now dominated by nut-ball utopian radicals. Furthermore, the morally challenged Terry McAuliffe is one of its top leaders. You should try selling ice to eskimos. Your odds would be far more favorable.

Posted by: David Thomson on May 20, 2003 06:21 AM

Is Terry McAuliffe a nut-ball utopian radical? I thought he was a cynical DLC hack. So who's in charge -- the nut-balls or the DLC surrender monkeys?

Posted by: Karl on May 20, 2003 06:47 AM

> undeclared swing voters will be drawn to Democrat primaries

Aren't folks who aren't registered Democrats barred from voting in most states' primaries?

Posted by: George Zachar on May 20, 2003 06:57 AM

Lieberman is the candidate for people who think GWB's policies are, on the whole. correct, but who for some reason nevertheless want to vote Democratic. Nadar was wrong to claim that there was no difference between Gore and GWB, but with Lieberman, that crticism makes sense. Only those who think people like Kerry, Dean and Edwards are "nutball utopian radicals" (LOL!) like Lieberman as a candidate--but those people are all GWB supporters anyway.

Lieberman also seems severely ddeficient in fighting spirit. I don't want a candidate that will run dirty--but I sure want one that will run hard. The Vice Presidential debate with Cheney is an excellent illustration. Lieberman settled for a colorless draw in the debate, after Cheney gave him a huge opening. For anyone who doesn't remember, Lieberman recycled the old Reaganism about whether people were more prosperous now that 8 years before, and specifically put the question to Cheney, who had made millions at Halliburton during this period. Cheney acknowledged thathe had done well, claimed that the government had nothing to do with it, and the whole scene dissolved in friendly laughter. In fact, of course, Cheney made his money from government contracts, which he was able to land through his connections.

Lieberman thus let pass an excellent opportunity to show Cheney for the liar and hypocrite he is. Moreover, the whole exchange was initiated by Lieberman, and Cheney's answer was quite foreseeable--Cheney should have been walking right into Lieberman's pre-debate preparation. The whole exchange calls to mind the business in the OJ trial, where the prosecutors asked OJ to try on the glove, which turned out not to fit--it was a forensic mistake of that magnitude.

Lieberman's failure in the debate I think reflects very directly on his competency to be president--If he couldn't handle Cheney, how would he stack up against, say, Putin?

Lieberman is simply the briar patch into which Brer Republican wants to be thrown.

Posted by: rea on May 20, 2003 07:01 AM

Zachar: Many states allow reregistration close to the primary. Some allow Independents to vote in primaries. However, the former option requires an effort by someone who cares.

One of my reasons for hating Lieberman is that I believe that he (along with others) made it impossible for the Democrats to capitalize on Enron. Both parties were not equally liable or equally bought off, but enough were that the issue fizzled. Lieberman was co-defendant Arthur Anderson's man in the Senate, and not coincidentally was the Dems' point man on Enron. He expressed his fear that "too much would be done" and was very effective in making sure that that didn't happen.

The New Dems have been saying for decades that many Americans own stock, directly or indirectly through pension funds, so you can't be anti-corporate. Good point, but Enron and the others were high management against small investors, and could have been a chance to split small stockholders from the Republican party. Another ball dropped.

Posted by: zizka on May 20, 2003 07:11 AM

>Many states allow reregistration close to the primary. Some allow Independents to vote in primaries. However, the former option requires an effort by someone who cares.

Both options require interest and forethought, two attributes not widely held in the arcane field of state-specific primary elections.

Posted by: George Zachar on May 20, 2003 07:16 AM

"I'm actually not sure what I mean".

At last, someone who admits it.

FWIW, I hope Kerry gets the nomination because, 1) there's a reason Doonesbury ridiculed him way back when, and 2) Theresa will be more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on May 20, 2003 07:56 AM

"Is Terry McAuliffe a nut-ball utopian radical? I thought he was a cynical DLC hack. So who's in charge -- the nut-balls or the DLC surrender monkeys?"

Terry McAuliffe is indeed "a cynical DLC hack." However, he employs the rhetoric of the utopian Liberals. What does he really believe in his heart of hearts? Heck, does he even have a heart?

Posted by: David Thomson on May 20, 2003 08:01 AM

Yes, DT, McAuliffe is a rare hack in a field of visionary heroes, like Andy Card and Karl Rove.

The Onion has nothing on DT.

Posted by: JRoth on May 20, 2003 08:29 AM

On the whole, I agree with bakho & rea. It's not just that Lieberman has no charisma and, not to beat the horse too many times, made the two biggest tactical errors in the entire campaign (the debate and the military ballots); it's that his actual record is, frankly, not very Democratic.

Screw this "we need someone who's not a liberal" to win attitude. What is that? GORE WON, people. BUSH LOST once, and he can do it again. He is extremely vulnerable on the only 2 issues that matter - the economy and the "war on terror." The Dems are finally coming around on this, and hitting him where he thinks his strengths are. Mission Accomplished? Tell that to the Americans in Riyadh, pal. I think it's critical that every debate focus on tearing down Bush, with a sidebar on how each Dem differs from the others. The American people need to hear 12 months of "Bush has f**ked the terror war" before we even have a front-runner.

Remember Judis & Texeira (sp?): Blue counties are where the population growth is (not the meaningless percentage jumps, but the warm bodies), and where the future is.

Posted by: JRoth on May 20, 2003 08:39 AM

Hey, I hit the Trifecta!

Last thoughts, on Enron.

My one co-worker is middle aged, middle-of-the-road; probably Dem, but I'm not exactly forwarding Atrios articles to him. Well, we had a benefits seminar last week, and the 401(k) comes up, and he starts seething. At first I thought he was kidding a bit, but then he got serious, talking about how Ken Lay should be tarred & feathered - and he meant it. His nest egg dropped from $72k to $43k, and he largely blames Enron, et al.

The media, for their own reasons, let the issue die (yes, it was a big story for a month, but within weeks we were hearing that the story "had no legs"). It's certainly not a rallying point in 2004 as such. But I sure as hell want a Dem candidate who can excoriate Bush for his handling of the SEC without fear. That candidate is NOT Joe L.

Oh, and I meant to say earlier: the biggest reason Lieberman was even chosen in '00 was the moral thing. Well, as the post says, Bill C isn't in this one. Take your self-righteous ass home, Joe.

(Hey, remember when Bush said that God put the US on earth to lead the world, and Lieberman was attacked for it? Love that Liberal Media!)

Posted by: JRoth on May 20, 2003 08:48 AM

>Mission Accomplished? Tell that to the Americans in Riyadh, pal.

I'm sure Karl Rove is praying the Democrats take your advice on how to attack W.


Secretary of defense issues Khobar Towers findings
Released: Aug 1, 1997
by Senior Master Sgt. Jim Katzaman
Air Force News Service

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen ended months of speculation July 31 when he released his findings on command accountability for last year's terrorist bombing at the Khobar Towers military apartments in Saudi Arabia.

He agreed with a previous Air Force report that concluded no one in the chain of command should be held criminally liable for the June 25, 1996, attack that killed 19 airmen and wounded scores of others.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on May 20, 2003 08:52 AM

> I sure as hell want a Dem candidate who can excoriate Bush for his handling of the SEC

The problem here is that the Enron fraud took place while W was governor of Texas, with no authority over the SEC.

And Enron's Ken Lay was the lead fundraiser for the Democratic Mayor of Houston, David Dinkins' NYC police commissioner, Lee Brown.

This could account for why the Enron story didn't have partisan "legs".

Posted by: Bucky Dent on May 20, 2003 08:59 AM

I think that the idea that Democrats are utopian visionaries is an interesting one, because I honestly can't figure out where that stereotype comes from, though among some circles, it actually seems to be rather widespread. Who are these Democratic utopians? If one looks at Democratic presidential candidates, for example, I don't think one finds any utopians, with the possible exceptions of Adlai Stevenson, JFK, and McGovern. Naturally, one finds more variation in lower offices, but still I think radicalism is hard to come by. Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, and Gore's major selling points were managerial competence, whereas it was their opponents who generally tried to take matters to a more moral, spiritual ground (at least, this is how I recall/see things. If I'm making sweeping generalizations here, call me on it.).

Even if one goes to the medium-far left (not exactly far-far left, but not exactly medium left either :^)) of the Green party and its affiliates and sympathizers, one finds more of a suspicion of free markets and concentrated power than an actual grand utopian vision of how to remake society.

So, anyone have thoughts on how Democrats came to be seen as utopian in some circles? I don't really have any ideas, myself, but I'm sure there are ideas on here.

Posted by: Julian Elson on May 20, 2003 09:28 AM

If you want a moderate Democrat who will talk straight and fight Bush and who can win in the South, the nominee is Howard Dean.

Although there is an interest in painting him as a looney leftist, where is the evidence in his record? His record shows fiscal responsibility, pragmatic advancement in health care, and an "A" rating from the NRA.

Among the party core, Dean is the candidate getting the buzz. He's tied with Kerry right now in New Hampshire and has all the momentum. If Harkin endorses him, he might win Iowa too, and if a dozen or so dedicated volunteers start working now, he might also win South Carolina.

Dean can beat Bush.

Posted by: wetzel on May 20, 2003 09:33 AM

>So, anyone have thoughts on how Democrats came to be seen as utopian in some circles?

An unsympathetic reader, parsing the first term Clinton health care proposal, could reasonably assume that a party proposing a right to ethnically specific medical specialists, is a hotbed of air-brained utopians.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on May 20, 2003 09:41 AM

"a party proposing a right to ethnically specific medical specialists"

Now where did that one come from? Are you claiming that the Clinton proposal allowed me the right to a Polish dermatologist?

Now I don't remember any such proposal, but that could simply be a function of our living in different universes--which, come to think of it, could explain a lot of your posts. Tell me, when you watch old Star Trek reruns on TV, does Spock have a goatee?

Posted by: rea on May 20, 2003 10:30 AM

I served in a Republican congressman's office (till he got drunk and hit a tree 6 weeks ahead of an election) during the Reagan presidency, when Washington was full of conservative "learning experiences." It was all so new then that a good deal of education was needed to create an army of right thinking worker bees. My boss wasn't really an insider and he wanted to know what went on at such events, so he sent me to one. A very well scrubbed pair of recent graduates were there to give us the skinny on the basic weakness in liberal thinking - human perfectability. That, my friend, is why liberals want to help the less fortunate do better. That is why they don't buy into perfectly reasonable social darwinism. The belief in human perfectability, my friend, is utopian.

Posted by: K Harris on May 20, 2003 10:34 AM

I was as shocked then as you are now. I still remember where I was when I read it -- my in-laws' house -- and showing it to my mother-in-law in disbelief. It was toward the back of the book in plain English.

As for the Classic Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror", I just rented it from Netflix to show to my son. :) I used the episode "Arena" as a morality play about perceptions and mercy just this past weekend.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on May 20, 2003 10:38 AM

No problem, I'll be voting Republican all round. The economy is in great shape, jobs arwoing and salaries rising. Health care for all and sundry. Environment duly protected. Social security and Medicare in great shape. State and local services, ah. All that and lots and lots of tax cuts, most of them for working class folk like us.

Of course that is just at home. Abroad? Ah, well. Really now, where were those WMDs?

Posted by: bill on May 20, 2003 01:12 PM

I have to say that this discussion is fascinating for what it leaves out. President Bush's popularity has been a completely fascinating political phenomenon to me, since when you look at the (soon-to-be-classic) graph of it:

you see that Bush has had an extremely consistent loss of about 1 point per month...except for the 2 moments where he has enjoyed large spikes in popularity. Now, you can argue that an 80+% popularity rating is unsustainable, but we know that 60-70% popularity ratings are sustainable (both Reagan and Clinton enjoyed them at times). But Bush has not done this. Indeed, I have every reason to believe that if the Iraq war had not happened, we would all be discussing Bush's crummy poll numbers right now. We are now one month after about the most one-sided military victory you can expect to see, but all of this has gained Bush only about 10 points in the polls, since he's already lost something from his "invasion date" numbers. I think it is fair to say that nothing that happens in Iraq from this point forward is likely to get him anything, and I see no evidence that any of his domestic policies have gained him (or lost him) anything. It's a very strange situation, and points up the possiblity that people's support of him as president is based around his likability and some pretty soft factors absent any extraordinary event. For him, the positive side would have to be that there are only 16 months until the election, so his 62-68% current approval rating could still keep him above 50% even if he loses his "usual" 1% or so per month. For Bush, the negative side would be that pocketbook issues would not appear to be helping him much now, or in the near future. Having 2004 turn out better than 2003 economically looks to me to be a 50/50 proposition. So, unless something else extraordinary happens, I don't think we are looking at a president whose re-election position is at all unassailable, no matter who the opposing candidate is. No Republican has won the popular vote for president since 1988, and there is no way Bush wants to plan on a repeat of the 2000 scenario to break his way. I do not believe that many Bush voters will desert him in 2004, but, realistically, Bush needs to get Gore and Nader voters to vote for him this time (or prevent them from voting for anybody).

So then the question becomes: is there anything any of the Democratic candidates can do that would regain for them the Gore/Nader voters of 2000 who have apparently begun (weakly) supporting Bush since then? Is there anything any of them can do that would make voters stay home or stick with Bush? If these are the real questions, then I'm not sure that there is much reason to have very strong concerns or positive expectations about any of the current batch of challengers.

With one exception, that is. I am pretty sure that Dick Gephardt could never be elected president. If you've ever seen his manner at a podium, he makes Al Gore look positively smooth. I am also fairly confident that he could find a way to lose his home state if he were on top of the ticket.

I know that people would prefer there to be some strong, dynamic story of why candidate X would be the best one at the moment, or how and why the Democratic Party faces an uphill struggle, or anything like this, but I just don't see it happening yet. Gore was rejected by his own state and won no southern or border states at all, so I can't see him as an argument that the winning candidate needs to be a Southerner, since the other states he really needed and could have won were places like New Hampshire, Ohio, and Florida. Two of those states were lost by Gore due to the Nader effect last time, and he only needed one of the three...

Posted by: Jonathan King on May 20, 2003 01:22 PM

Jonathan, You have a good point. A country under a terrorist threat has to root for its president to succeed in stopping the terrorists. Since Mr Bush is the only horse we have, we will support him and hope for the best. In the fall of 2004, people will be able to compare Mr. Bush to the Dem nominee. At that point we will still be rooting for the terrorists to be stopped but we will also be deciding who is the best to lead us on for the next four years.

If the Democrat running against Bush is viewed as at least as competent as Bush to "fight terrorism" then the other issues such as the economy will be important. To do this, Dems have to focus on the big issues-security and economy, explain how they differ with Bush and why they are better. Credibility on the security issue is paramount.

Posted by: bakho on May 20, 2003 02:12 PM

I don't think Kerry, Dean or anyone viewed as "an elitist" by swing voters can win the close Gore states much less any Bush states. I think there is an earthy, working-class, rather self-righteously moralistic demographic within the swing vote that I describe in my second post to which the Democratic candidate must not be a turn-off. I think the only way to get around this is to have a "double-Bubba" ticket, like Graham-Edwards, or Edwards-Graham, or Lieberman-Graham, or Clark-Graham. Also notice that Bob Graham must be somewhere on the ticket if dems want to win.

Posted by: Bobby on May 20, 2003 06:40 PM

Bubba Lieberman? I don't think so Bobby. Lieberman is much deeper into the elitist class than that. Smug and moralistic are not descriptors that are usually applied to bubba.

Posted by: bakho on May 20, 2003 10:17 PM

Bubba Lieberman? Here's a news flash for you Bobby while you plan your southern strategy - there are no Jewish Bubbas. Rush Limbaugh goes out of his way to let everyone know that that Sen. Kerry has recently discovered a Jew in his family tree. Kapish?
Speaking of Sen. Kerry, some pundit thinks he looks like a corpse in a powdered wig - a fresh take on the "he looks French theme." If only the candidate had the look of a war hero.

Posted by: CMike on May 21, 2003 01:52 AM

Yes, I do think that Lieberman can pass as a "bubba." And since he is self-righteous and moralistic and religious, this helps him even more ("smug and moralistic" also apply to what many swing voters think and *like* about George W. Bush). Yes, a Jewish bubba, or at least someone who is Jewish who will appeal to bubba voters, is possible.

"some pundit thinks he looks like a corpse in a powdered wig"

Er, I said that above. I though I made that up. Kerry's war hero status will be used against him in light of his post-war behavior in VAW when he threw the medals that weren't his on the steps of . . . is it the Capitol or Lincoln Memorial.

Personally, aside from his horribly mean and arrogant behavior in his Senate office that his staffers must endure, I think that he's a great man. And I think that a John Kerry presidency would be wonderful. I also personally deplore the sentiments of prejudice and superficiality that I have expressed on this thread. These are everything that is wrong with public political discourse today.

However, I think that we live in a world of scummy political tactics and stupid voters with dispicable prejudices, and, at least until after the 2004 election, I am willing to accept this. I also think that such tactics and prejudices decide the votes of many swing voters, not just in the South, but in swing states like OH, PA, MI, MN, WV, etc. Therefore, you must overcome these obstacles to win elections not by destroying them, which takes way too long for a political campaign, but by avoiding and not allowing them to hurt you. I'd love to fight general ignorance among the populus in the long haul, but winning 2004 is more important to me.

Posted by: Bobby on May 21, 2003 06:34 AM

the idea that Gov. Dean is on the liberal fringe is a media myth that the Democratic establishment is only happy to perpetuate. Dean was a tax cutting, budget balancing, pro-growth, pro-2nd amendment governor. His views on the war are basically the same as Senator Graham. And Dean will fight the president. I say Dean/Graham in 2004 is a winner.

Posted by: dj on May 21, 2003 10:06 AM

>I don't think Kerry, Dean or anyone viewed as "an elitist" by
>swing voters can win the close Gore states much less any Bush

Gore wasn't viewed as an Elitist? He certainly wasn't viewed as a Southerner. Another point is that most close Gore states only became close because of Ralph Nader, and then there's Florida and New Hampshire. It's possible that Naderites won't vote in 2004, or could switch to Bush, but I really doubt it. Bush *will* pick up the Buchanan vote, which at 400,000+ isn't completely shabby, but most of that came from states where Bush won handily anyway. So I think we can define as the closest states as those won by less than the "other" candidate totals.

Here are what I think qualify as the "closest Bush" states:

Florida (won by...let's skip it; 100,000+ votes for others)
Nevada (won by 22,403; 27,417 votes for others)
New Hampshire (won by 7,211 votes; 29,174 for others)
Ohio (won by 165,019 votes; 168,058 won by others)

The point here is that, even absent ballot-counting problems, Gore lost Florida only because Nader ran too well there. This is also true in New Hampshire. Ohio and Nevada were more complicated. Ohio is one state where Bush really has to hope the economy improves, because he absolutely has to win it if the race is competitive. (Some times races turn out to be not competitive for odd reasons that you can't rely on, as was the case in 1964, or because things move for or against the incumbent in the last year of the cycle, as happened in 1992.) None of these states can be considered safe by the Bush team. Nevada is probably the most interesting of these since it is growing so rapidly. You could argue this will make it more Republican at least in the short run, but the Judis and Teixeras argument (which is reasonable) is that it will become more Democratic in the longer run. The brand of Republicanism in New Hampshire is far more Libertarian than Bush could be.

Here are the close Gore states:

Iowa (won by 4,144 votes; 42,673 won by others)
Maine (won by 33,335; 45,000+ won by others)
Minnesota (won by 58,607; 160,760 won by others)
New Mexico (won by 366 votes; 25,405 won by others)
Oregon (won by 6,765 votes; 100,049 won by others)
Wisconsin (won by 5,708 votes; 118,341 won by others)

In all of these, the Gore margin would have been substantially greater if any of the Nader vote had gone his way. Nonetheless, I think only Maine can be considered completely safe for a Democrat in a competitive race. Oregon would also be difficult for Bush in 2004 unless the economy really turns around there. The upper Midwest could be an opportunity for Bush, but all 3 states together only add up to 28 electoral votes, and playing to them might not help his chances in other places.

These are not the only close states, of course. Others in that category would include:

Gore: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Washington
Bush: Arkansas, Arizona, Missouri, and West Virginia

Large and industrial states are probably not very likely to swing for Bush, although I think Pennsylvania could pose a demographic challenge for the Democrats. Now that the Microsoft case is history, I think a lot of people there won't feel compelled to vote for Bush this time around. Arkansas will vote for Bush. West Virginia probably also will. If I were Bush, Arizona would concern me some because the longer term demographics there aren't favorable and Clinton did win it in 1996.

Which leaves Missouri. I would think this should be a fairly safe state for Bush, and a growing demographic certainty for Republicans as it becomes more Southern, but the economy is in a horrific state at the moment, and I'm not sure the Bush message will play as well in suburban St. Louis and KC this time as it did last time.

So if the race is competitive, my guess is that Bush will lose New Hampshire and needs to watch out for states he won where the economy has weakened substantially. His best pandering opportunities for EV replacements are in New Mexico and the upper Midwest generally. His most serious worry in a compeitive race has to be that a down economy and other things will cost him in places like Ohio and Missouri, and that he won't gain the 100,000 votes he needs to win Florida again.

The race could become uncompetitive in his favor if economic growth is...exhuberant, if the Democrats get stuck with somebody lame, or if foreign policy is the top issue and his performance is viewed favorably. Bush could get really crushed, though. The same voting patterns as 2000 plus changes in demographics could yield almost 3 million more votes for the Democratic challenger in 2004, and any significant weakening of the economy from here on out is likely to be fatal if 1980 or 1992 is any guide.

States he could lose in an 10-point popular vote loss would include New Hampshire, Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Nevada, Arizona, West Virginia, and maybe even Tennessee. If Edwards were the candidate that beat him, he could even lose places like North Carolina, Louisiana, or even (God forbid!) Virginia.

My expectation on balance, though, is that what we'll get is a replay of 2000 in terms of the popular vote, with the winner in the Electoral College being the person who takes either Ohio or Florida in addition to the IA-WI-MN complex.

Posted by: Jonathan King on May 21, 2003 10:10 AM

Bobby- You have mischaracterized the swing voters. Swing voters are not smug and moralistic. Bubba is a hard driving beer drinking hell raiser with more than a few youthful indiscretions of his own. You are confusing Bubba with the Bible thumpers from the Ralph Reed wing of the party that are solidly GOP. Lieberman as VP choice was a huge mistake on the part of Gore. It admitted that the GOP was correct in impeaching Clinton.

Clinton in 96 and Reagan appealed to the swing voters as did Ross Perot in 92. Had Gore chosen Bayh or Edwards they would have been better running mates.

The VP candidate has to be the bad cop. If Gore had a VP candidate that accused the GOP campaign about lying about Gore's record and accused the press of passing off GOP spin (invent the internet, Naomi Wolf, Buddist temple, etc.) and then hammered Bush on National Guard Duty, Harken Oil, Drunk Driving, etc, then 2000 would have been a different dynamic. Look back at what Gore did in 2002. The VP candidate may mean more to the Democrats than the Presidential candidate.

The press would then have to cover the Bush youthful indiscretions while Gore would still be free to run a positive campaign.

Jonathan has an interesting analysis. For 2000, The Dismal Scientist had a web site with an electoral prediction map that was very close to the final reality. It was based primarily on economic considerations plus party affiliation. Interestingly, they showed FL to be strong for Gore and it would have been were it not for so many vote counting problems.

Bush has a lot of work to do to win in 2004. He not only has to keep FL, but he has to make up for the votes lost in NV where he broke his promise on nuke waste. FL is more of a problem for Bush than Jonathan allows. Even with a brother as governor and his own campaign manager in charge of running the election, FL was close. Without Nader, it is much less close. Without butterfly ballots, overvotes, purges of black voters etc, Bush has to make up more than the 100,000 Nader votes. Changes in demographics put that number in the 300,000 range.

FL and NV will go over to the Dems in 04. Bush needs to hold Ohio and gain a bunch of electoral votes elsewhere.

Posted by: bakho on May 21, 2003 11:22 AM

I think Gore's "elitist" image is part of what made the 2000 election close rather than an esier victory for Gore.

Bakho. I am really trying to assume the worst about people. I could be wrong. AS of now, I'm a defeatist, and I think that it is the Democrats and not Bush who have the really hard fight ahead. Bush has exploited 9/11 so well, politically speaking, that I think he could be unbeatable. WIth no evidence, I have the sense that swing voters have become much more moralistic, insistent on "traditional values" (read that as you wish) and conservative since 9/11. Moreover, once people like John Kerry, Bill Clinton, the Dixie Chicks, etc. are smeared as elitist, unpatriotic, etc. by conservatives in the media, many swing voters unfairly see such people sickening and frivolous and by extension they see the Democrats this way. In other words, I am assuming that swing voters have become gullible and petty idiots who mistake any disagreement with the Bushies for lack of patriotism.


Maybe I am giving the post-9/11 success of the conservative movement in smearing liberals too much credit, but since the 2002 election, I really think the worst of the public.

I have no evidence about these specific claims. It is just a sense.

By the way, if you want to continue, email me at

Posted by: Bobby on May 21, 2003 04:07 PM

"Dean will not be around for too long. He is stepping on too many toes and will get dinged in Iowa."

If you saw Dean's Iowa town meeting this weekend, you know he's going to win Iowa, and quite possibly the election! Watch it and tell me if you can imagine any Democrat not voting for him after they've seen him. It's online at

Posted by: IssuesGuy on May 21, 2003 04:21 PM

"An unsympathetic reader, parsing the first term Clinton health care proposal, could reasonably assume that a party proposing a right to ethnically specific medical specialists, is a hotbed of air-brained utopians."

I actually READ the Clinton healthcare proposal - rather than listening to Rush describe it - and there was nothing like this in it! In fact MOST of what the right wingnuts said about it was just lies.

Right-wingnuts lying. Gosh - anyone surprised by that?

Posted by: IssuesGuy on May 21, 2003 04:37 PM

"Yes, I do think that Lieberman can pass as a "bubba." "

Anyone who thinks the South will vote for someone Jewish hasn't been to the South. I mean, you get people coming to your door with pre-election warnings that so-and-so running for city council MIGHT be Jewish. Give me a break with this Leiberman stuff - he does not stand a chance. WHy do you think Gore lost Tennessee? Why do you think the right wingers are all talking him up?

Posted by: IssuesGuy on May 21, 2003 04:44 PM

So do you think that somone who is Jewish can be elected at all? If not, that's one more job that I'll have to cross off my list of unrealistic aspirations.

Posted by: Bobby on May 21, 2003 05:27 PM
Post a comment