Fight, Fight, Fight: It won't be the "Thrilla in Manila," but Monday's Democratic presidential debate could be dubbed the "Brouhaha in Iowa" if this weekend's infighting serves as an indicator.
Dick Gephardt, for whom Iowa is a must-win, attacked Howard Dean over the weekend, accusing the former Vermont governor of running the state "without compassion," by resorting to cuts in services for the poor and disabled while trying to balance Vermont's budget, the Chicago Tribune reports.
"Time after time, when faced with budget shortfalls, Gov. Dean's first and only instinct was to cut – cut education, cut prescription drug coverage, cut Medicaid funding, cut aid to the elderly, blind, disabled," Gephardt said. "Gov. Dean wears his bravado as a budget cutter like a badge of honor … There is no place for governance without compassion."
Dean responded that "Gephardt has delivered empty rhetoric" during his 26-year career in the U.S. House. Dean also said Gephardt "took the easy way out at the expense of our country and our party," by voting in favor of the war against Iraq and the $87 billion funding plan for Iraq and Afghanistan earlier this year.
The comments come on the heels of a pair of negative ads from Dean and Gephardt aimed at each other. Dean started the fight with an ad criticizing Gephardt, showing the congressman standing with President Bush in the Rose Garden and supporting the war and the supplemental aid package. Gephardt responded with a negative, or "response," ad of his own on Sunday in Iowa. The ad uses a bite from Dean in the September debate saying he'd support the $87 billion and didn't "intend to make whether you voted for it or against [it] ... a campaign issue." The Gephardt ad says, "Leadership is about making tough choices and sticking with them."
The tiff is likely to get even nastier during Monday's DNC/MSNBC-Debate in Des Moines, especially since Dean and Gephardt will have fewer distractions (in the form of fellow candidates) on stage with them. John Edwards and John Kerry will participate via satellite from Washington, where the U.S. Senate continues fighting over the Medicare bill.
The decision by the DNC to allow Edwards and Kerry to take part from D.C. caused Sen. Joe Lieberman, who decided previously to skip both the debate and the Jan. 19 caucuses entirely, to cry foul.
His campaign argued that if Kerry and Edwards are allowed to participate via satellite, he should be allowed to do so, as well. "We think this is unfair," spokesman Jano Cabrera told the AP. In particular, Lieberman's campaign objected to the DNC asking the other eight campaigns whether they objected to the last-minute inclusion of Lieberman. At least two of the campaigns objected.
When Clark decided to attend a DNC debate in New Hampshire that he's initially regretted, Cabrera says the Lieberman campaign received no phone call.
DNC spokesman Jim Mulhall said, "Based on technological concerns and based on issues of fairness, we could not work it out. We canvassed and discussed the issues involved with all the campaigns."
Kerry On The Warpath: Sen. John Kerry launched a couple of aggressive counterattacks against President Bush and Howard Dean, who he not only trails by double digits in New Hampshire but is now behind in his home state of Massachusetts, reports CBS News' Steve Chaggaris.
A Boston Globe/WBZ-TV poll taken Nov. 19-22 shows Kerry trailing Dean 27 percent to 24 percent in Massachusetts, though it's not Democrats who are turning against Kerry, it's independents. Among Dems, Kerry leads 28-22 percent, but among independents, Dean's way ahead, 36 to 14 percent.
Kerry stepped up his criticism of Dean over the weekend after a New York Times article on Saturday detailed the former Vermont governor's medical deferment from the Vietnam draft. The Kerry campaign sent out a statement from former Sen. Max Cleland, who is a Kerry backer and lost three limbs in Vietnam, that, in essence, called Dean a weasel.
"At a time when young Americans are being killed and wounded by President Bush's failed policy in Iraq, we don't need another governor who ran from going to Vietnam and leading our country," Cleland said. That would be President Bush, not former President Clinton.
"Our country cannot afford to have another leader who took the easy way out like George W. Bush who hid out in the Houston National Guard. We cannot afford to have a leader who weaseled out of going to Vietnam on a medical deferment for a bad back and wound up on the ski slopes of Aspen like Howard Dean," Cleland said in a release put out by the Kerry campaign.
Meantime, in the wake of last Friday's RNC ad defending the president on the war on terrorism, Kerry responded with an ad of his own a day after he repeated his challenge to Bush in New Hampshire: "If George Bush wants to make this election about national security… Bring it on."
The ad's announcer says to the president: "The problem is you declared 'mission accomplished' but you had no plan to win the peace, and handed out billions in contracts to contributors like Halliburton." Most of the campaigns attacked the RNC spot. Both the Kerry ad and a similar one from the Dean campaign began running on Monday.
From Graham Crackers to Clark Bars: CBS News' Bonney Kapp reports the Clark campaign has named Paul Johnson as its campaign manager. Johnson was formerly campaign manager for the failed presidential campaign of Florida Sen. Bob Graham of Florida. Since the departure of Donnie Fowler in the early days of the campaign, campaign chairman Eli Segal has been running the day-to-day operation as well as the fundraising activity.
Johnson joins former Graham press secretary Jamal Simmons, pollster Geoff Garin and New Hampshire coordinator Steve Bouchard, who've all moved from Graham to Clark. Johnson was a longtime aide to former Sen. Bob Kerrey and ran Sen. Mark Pryor's campaign in Arkansas in 2002.
Dick Sklar, a Segal sidekick and former deputy U.N. Ambassador, has returned to San Francisco and press aide Kym Spell has gone home to New York where she'll do "celebrity outreach" for the campaign.
Lest the other campaigns start worrying that Clark is getting all the Graham folks, Howard Dean announced on Monday that Graham's own daughter, Gwen Graham Logan, has joined his campaign. She will be a surrogate speaker and southern regional adviser for Dean. Graham Logan was active in her dad's campaign and reportedly had his ear a bit more often than manager Johnson.
Digital Democracy: The Michigan Democratic Party will allow Internet voting in its presidential caucus after receiving the DNC's approval on Saturday, reports the AP. Opponents of the plan argue that online voting is not secure, and that it discriminates against poor and minority voters who are less likely to have Internet access.
The Michigan caucuses, which will take place on Feb. 7, now gives voters the option of delivering ballots via the Internet or voting by mail or in-person. Arizona Democrats found success in a similar plan in the 2000 presidential primary when about 40 percent of the 86,000 ballots were cast online and voter turnout was more than twice the previous record.
Michigan's plan faces opposition from seven of the nine Democratic nominees who believe that the new policy will favor Howard Dean, who has substantial support among Internet users. A poll taken in Michigan last month reveals that Dean has a slight lead among likely caucus goers, but his support jumps significantly among those who plan to vote by Internet.
The only other candidate who supports Michigan's plan is retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who says it's a way to increase turnout and improve democracy. His campaign also has a significant Internet operation. Michigan Democratic leaders who support the plan say that increasing turnout was their only goal, not helping any specific candidate.
Monday's New York Times notes the Dean campaign's "heavy use of the Internet has largely bypassed poorer pockets of African-Americans and Latinos, and issues like crime, drugs and failing public schools have not been centerpieces of his message." Dean's campaign has spent a significant amount of time recently courting African-American elected officials and has the endorsement of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Sheila Jackson Lee. The campaign also hopesg that Black Caucus chair Elijah Cummings will come on board soon.
Star Power: Even via speakerphone, new California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lifted spirits at the Republican Governors Association's annual conference this weekend. Screens emblazoned with "Tripleplay" celebrated the gubernatorial victories of Schwarzenegger, Haley Barbour in Mississippi and Ernie Fletcher in Kentucky, but Schwarzenegger was clearly the star.
Schwarzenegger spoke to his fellow governors over the phone saying, "I, of course, would have loved coming down to Florida and party with you guys, and get a little bit more knowledge about all of this … I couldn't do it because of course I'm in the middle of a fiscal crisis," according to a transcript released by the RGA.
Although Schwarzenegger was far away, his impact was "powerful." As South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford told the Los Angeles Times, "he combines pop icon with being governor of the biggest state in the union." Despite his absence, the governors began laying out an ambitious plan to leverage Schwarzenegger's fame to help raise money for GOP candidates looking ahead to the 2004 elections.
Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, chairman of the RGA, explained to the L.A. Times, "In terms of raising funds and raising visibility for other Republicans, he'll be a huge addition to our list … You have the president, you have the vice president, and you have Gov. Schwarzenegger right up there underneath them, in terms of a draw." Seizing the fundraising moment, Gov. John Hoeven of North Dakota told reporters he was going to "extend the invitation right now."
Beyond the Schwarzenegger euphoria, the conference was not all good news. Although the governors agreed that the economy was recovering, some worried that the Iraq war could intrude on their re-election races. As Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri, who is the Rhode Island chairman for Bush/Cheney 2004, explained, "The case has to be made much more effectively, much more articulately," the AP reports.
Quote of the Day: "Because of an editing error, a story on the front page yesterday misattributed a quote from the speaker on an audiotape purportedly of Saddam Hussein as coming from Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. It was the speaker on the tape, not Daschle, who said, 'The evil ones now find themselves in crisis, and this is God's will for them.'" -- Cleveland Plain Dealer. (Courtesy of The Washington Post)