On The Road With....Dean?

I'm crossposting this here from Dean Nation, as my next post is a larger piece that ties together this story and an older story, shining a spotlight on John Kerry and his "online strategy" -- more on this later. Besides, this piece still cracks me up and I just wanted to see it under the PW masthead!

Be Like Dean!
John Kerry's voters ask their candidate to act like the other guy.
By Chris Suellentrop, MSNBC & Slate

DES MOINES, Iowa, July 29 — When I arrive at John Kerry's campaign headquarters Saturday afternoon for a "Kerry Country BBQ," the candidate's staff is buzzing about a tall young blond man who has arrived for the event. They want to prevent him from getting anywhere close to the candidate. Before I came to Iowa, I was conditioned to think of Howard Dean as the unpredictably exciting, insurgent candidate and to think of Kerry as the aloof, preprogrammed establishment contender. This is my first taste of what the differences look like up close.

What's all the fuss about the blond guy? I ask Kerry's Iowa press secretary, Laura Capps. "He takes pictures of himself with the candidates and posts nasty comments about them," she says. I’m not sure, but this may be a historic moment for the Iowa caucuses: The Kerry campaign is terrified of how their candidate will be portrayed by a blogger.

Later, I sidle up next to the man to ask about his Web site, which turns out to be NineDwarfs.com...So far, he's snapped pictures of himself with six candidates. This is easy to do in Iowa, where campaign events usually end with a ritual that resembles Picture Day at a Major League Baseball game, as voters line up to take snapshots of themselves and their children with the candidate du jour. The NineDwarfs.com blogger needs shots of Kerry, Carol Moseley Braun, and Bob Graham to complete his collection, but he fails in his mission at the Kerry barbecue. Instead, the next day he adds a picture of Kerry's head on the body of a chicken to the top of his site.

Kerry arrives a few minutes later, riding a Harley. A crowd of voters and campaign volunteers surround him, but it appears that the campaign workers are the ones making most of the noise, a lot of "Yay, John, woo-hoo!"-ing. (In contrast to the Dean campaign, I notice later that some Kerry volunteers and staffers are introducing themselves to the candidate, as if for the first time, and having their pictures taken with him.) [...]


At the two Kerry events I attended this past weekend, voters kept encouraging the Massachusetts senator, in effect, to be more like Howard Dean. After Friday's Kerry speech, a voter walked up to him and told him the Democrats must quit being passive. "Oh, I’m not passive," Kerry soothed. Today, he does something similar when an angry voter complains about the Leave No Child Behind bill. "Oh, I am so furious about it," Kerry says matter-of-factly. These are questions Dean wouldn’t even be asked.

As I'm leaving the event, I run into a Kerry campaign worker. He stops me and asks me about Dean and what he's like. He says he'd really like to hear him speak, but it's not kosher for staffers to go to other candidates' events. Maybe if he goes in plain clothes, he muses. Everyone talks about what a great speaker Dean is, he says, but how does he interact with people? I tell him I was impressed.

The more I tell him about Dean, the more crestfallen he seems to get. Without mentioning Kerry, I tell him that Dean never appears to be trying to walk out of a room. He interjects: "That’s a real problem we have, because Kerry's a senator, so he needs to be back in Washington. Dean's basically unemployed, so he can spend all day hanging out with three people." It's only a feeling I get, but I can't help wondering if he signed up with Kerry because he thought Kerry would win, and now he’s questioning his decision. As I head out to catch my plane, I think that the girl on his right appears to be consoling him.

COMMENT by Scott: Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch.

UPDATE: Months later, I realize that I never posted the second item, and now I've no idea what it even was -- alas.



Slate's Kausfiles Slams Points West

Hey, but at least Mickey Kaus spelled our names right, and heck, how can you argue with free traffic? I've been crazy on the phone the last few days, plotting, bitching -- basically wasting even more time talking about Gray Davis and the recall -- and I nearly missed this post:

from Sunday, July 27, 2003

The Anti-Panetta Vendetta Begins: Points West blogger Scott Moore, who identifies himself as a California "Dem party activist for over a decade," says "numerous recent conversations with high-placed Democratic party officials" have convinced him that "former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta is all but certain to put his name on the ballot in the recall election."

Moore goes on to make a highly unconvincing argument (Kaus has a point, here, see below) that Panetta would be "a disaster for California Democrats and for the state in general," citing Panetta's "autocratic White House ways." Was Panetta an autocrat? That would be news to me. ... I suspect Moore's real beef is a Begala-like complaint that Panetta's too centrist. ... P.S.: Panetta's stage-setting op-ed in the LAT this morning is drearily responsible (lots of talk about the "breakdown of trust that is essential to governing ..." etc.) but Panetta's right about the pernicious effect of gerrymandering (and of course about campaign fund-raising'). .... Note to Arianna: Isn't this your platform? So what's your rationale for running against Panetta? He was wrong on the 1996 welfare reform too, remember! .... P.P.S.: It's possible, of course, that at this point Arianna has higher statewide name i.d. than the bland, goo-goo Panetta does. And Moore is--unfortunately--probably right that Panetta's "dreams of being the 'consensus' candidate are nothing short of delusional."
Well, Kaus has a point. I do have motives, and perhaps took it a bit far. The important truth to take from my Panetta post is that if Panetta jumps in the race it will crack wide open on the Dem side, and as I stated, I think that's a horrible idea, and that if we pick only one non-Davis horse -- and we should -- Panetta shouldn't be it. I'm actually surprisingly (though progressively) centrist! Autocratic was, perhaps, a bit rough, but he was Chief of Staff in the Clinton White House, and that "style" would not serve him well in the current climate in CA on either side of the aisle. But at least we got some props at the end, even though we disagree about Panetta.

And check out Kausfiles' post on Arianna's possible deal with the Greens!



Donkeys, Elephants, and Sideshows Oh My!

This recall could soon prove to be a three-ring circus, complete with thong bikinis and dueling Huffingtons. The likelihood that one or more Democrats will run against Gray Davis on the recall ballot increases by the moment. Panetta's moves have spooked the Gang of Four, and supporters of all five are dancin' like it will be their boss in the Guv's mansion by end of year. Points West has confirmed that the California Teachers Association is the powerhouse behind an all but certain and suicidal Panetta run. They have been pushing him as an option, but now key CTA leaders, blind with their own hatred of Davis, have convinced him that he can run and win. PW believes he will file within a matter of days -- maybe hours -- prompting a possible stampede of Dem candidates. This cabaret -- though fun to watch -- is a political nightmare in the making for the state's Dems. In fact, veteran California lawmaker (and near-mystical political fixer) Willie Brown, currently starring in his final year of performances as Mayor of San Francisco, is throwing together quite the confab tomorrow. The SF Chronicle's Matier & Ross have this to say about the party where the wishful flies on the wall will be thick as molasses:

Big confab this week in San Francisco -- with the state's top Democratic and union consultants coming to town for a sit-down with Mayor Willie Brown.

The mission: To come up with a plan to ensure that a Democrat is in control of the governor's office.

Read that any way you want.

The urgency is obvious -- anyone who wants to get on the recall ballot has to file by Aug. 9. Democrats have pledged to stand solidly behind Gov. Gray Davis -- but maybe that will change, if the consensus is he's a sure loser.

Why meet with Willie?

"He's the one guy in this state who can bring people -- who normally can't stand each other -- in the same room and get something done," said one Sacramento consultant on the invite list.

Those expected to attend, in the meeting tentatively scheduled for Tuesday: Steve Smith and Garry South from the Davis camp. Bill Carrick and Kam Kawata, veterans of Dianne Feinstein campaigns. California Teachers Association consultant Gale Kaufman. And Richie Ross -- a consultant whose clients include Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, Attorney General Bill Lockyer and the United Farm Workers.

"There's not a lot of time here," said the invitee we talked to. "So everyone -- including Gray's people -- are going to have to put their cards on the table."

With Willie playing the dealer.

What can I say, it's the party of the year. But will Jack Davis be there, whiskey bottle-bearing performance artist in tow? The long night of the long knives has begun, and the firebreathers are just getting warmed up...get the good seats, you ain't gonna wanna miss a moment of this show!



Right Diagnosis, Wrong Prescription

As Points West reported yesterday (see below) Leon Panetta is all but certain to run on the recall ballot in California. Is his op ed in today's Los Angeles Times piece his opening campaign salvo? Sure sounds like it. In fact, it sounds like a speech, not an op ed at all.
As Fred Allen once said, "California is a great place to live if you're an orange." For the rest of us, it is a state that has become virtually ungovernable. How did this happen? Will we face future recalls and initiatives as people take governance into their own hands? Or can trust be restored in the democratically elected leaders and processes that should guide our future?
But what Panetta stops short of saying is what PW has learned to be his true intent: "And that my, friends, is why I have NO CHOICE but to run for Governor." Gang of Four, where are you? Thanks to Howard at Hoffmania! for the LA Times link.

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