Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Friday | September 26, 2003

Cattle Call 2004: 9/26

Watching the debate last night, it was interesting to see how the field all but ignored Wesley Clark. There are two possible reasons: 1) Clark didn't give them anything to criticize, avoiding policy specifics for vague philosophical ideals (how do you criticize "a new patriotism"?), or 2) they didn't want to give Clark a boost by targeting him (much the way Dean got a boost from Kerry's attacks at the first DNC candidate forum in South Carolina).

Or perhaps they consider him a flash-in-the-pan, with little long-term staying power. It was clear the field still considered Dean the frontrunner. Whether he is or isn't remains to be seen, I suppose.

last week's rankings: 1) Dean, 2) Gephardt, 3) Clark, 4) Edwards, 5) Lieberman, 6) Kerry, 7) Graham, 8) Braun, 9) Sharpton, and 10) Kucinich.

1. Howard Dean
The bat is lagging, which means the campaign may have overshot with its $5 million goal. In past bat appearances, the goal was much lower, so people felt their $50 donation would actually make a difference. But that $50 feels a lot bigger if the goal is $500,000 than if the goal is $5 million. My initial sentiment when I saw the $5 million goal was despair, not the sort of thing you want eliciting from your supporters. They should aim low, and keep raising the goal as donations stream in. It worked for the Q2 bat, I'm not sure why they messed with that winning formula. (Though no one doubts that Dean will blow away his competition for the quarter.)

The main field still considers Dean the frontrunner, as evident by the attacks during last night's debate.

But he's still drawing huge crowds at rallies, the money is streaming in (by all reports), and Clark's entrance actually helped take some of that frontrunner's glare off him as the press shifted from parsing his every word, to parsing Clark's every word.

2. Wesley Clark
Solid debate appearance. He may have said nothing of substance, but he sure sounds good saying nothing. In politics, that's a gift. He's at the top or statistically tied for the lead of every post-announcement national poll (which should bode well for fundraising). He's even got the lead in a state poll -- Wisconsin. Pretty good stuff for a guy in the race for just over a week.

However, that RNC video heralds trouble. Personally, I don't give a shit about whether he was once a Republican (I voted for Bush I, as I have painfully admitted several times). I welcome all former Republicans to the warm embrace of the Democratic Party. And that goes double for high-profile individuals like Clark. And his answer to the question at the debate was masterful -- clearly his high point for the night (and for the debate, in my opinion).

But it really is painful seeing Clark praise Rice, Rumsfeld and Cheney at an RNC picnic, and he's going to take a hit from the base on it. And the cable news channels are having lots of fun with it, using any excuse to run it again.

3. Dick Gephardt
Most polls suggest Gephardt is most hurt by Clark's entry (and the loss of support is significant). Still, he's still within reach of a do-or-die Iowa victory, which is enough to keep him in the race.

His attacks on Dean ("he stood with Gingrich") are clearly designed to strip Dean's increasingly strong labor support. Whether they are successful remains to be seen. Lieberman's attacks seemed to backfire. But then again, so much is going wrong with Lieberman it's hard to pinpoint the exact causes, and the level of impact each of them had.

4. John Edwards
His own poll shows him jumping out to a solid lead in South Carolina. I wouldn't break out the bubbly until independent polls confirm the numbers, but it's still good news for a campaign that desperately needs it.

He was able to "stay above the fray" in last night's debate, which is always helpful. But that's because everyone else ignored him. The rest of the field is clearly not spooked by Edwards just yet.

5. John Kerry
No substantive good news for the week other than a rash of endorsements (like Sen. Feinstein) that never seem to pay off electorally. Clark has muscled ahead of Kerry in the national polls, and still can't get into a news story unless he's responding to yet another piece on Clark or Dean.

6. Joe Lieberman
Lieberman used to be propped up by his national poll numbers, but those are now history. Six percent (down from 12) in the latest Zogby national poll? Nine percent (down from 16) in the latest Fox poll? His one bright piece of news is the Marist poll of NY, which has him leading that state.

All eyes will be on those Q3 numbers. The press wants to winnow down this field, and Lieberman (along with Graham) are the first two obvious choices. If Lieberman disappoints, the pressure may increase for him to exit the race.

7. Graham
Time to pack it in.

8. Carol Moseley-Braun
There was a debate this week, so she got a smidgeon of attention.

9. Al Sharpton
The Mike S. of the Democratic primary field -- trying to keep the candidates from eating our own. And people thought he would be divisive!

10. Dennis Kucinich
At least he was the only one who proposed truly unpopular proposals when asked in the debate. (Lieberman's unpopular policy? Winning the war on terror.)

Of course, the questioner asked for one unpopular policy he would pursue, and Kucinich responded with three items. Kind of suggests that he isn't really trying that hard to get elected.

Maybe he's trying to build a Nader-like progressive network. Start a think tank. That sort of thing.

Posted September 26, 2003 09:16 AM | Comments (264)


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