Running on Empty

The trend in George W. Bush's approval numbers is coming into sharp focus...

Associated Press/Ipsos-Public Affairs poll:
Approval 47% (down 9 points in a month)
CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll:
Approval 49% (down 11 points in a month)
Quinnipiac University poll:
Approval 48% (down 5 points in one week)
Newsweek poll:
Approval 49% (down 5 points in three weeks)

As Kos so aptly puts it this morning, "The dam is sprouting leaks, and they're scrambling to plug the holes. They will whitewash most of these investigations, but the dam won't hold for long. Something will get through and bring the whole thing down." Kos also comments on the AP/Ispos polling results and makes an excellent point: "Bush's 47 percent approval rating is the same as his father's at this stage in his presidency 12 years ago before he lost to Bill Clinton."

The swarm of low poll numbers have put the White House on edge. According to NBC News, President Bush will appear on "Meet the Press" for the full hour this Sunday in an attempt to reverse the downward spiral. Let's hope Tim Russert is as tough with Mr. Bush as he has been with Dr. Dean.

I'll be watching Sunday morning for questions regarding the Valerie Plame investigation; the new "torn document" theory regarding Bush's "lost time" in the Air National Guard; the intelligence problems leading up to the war in Iraq; as well as his fiscal recklessness.

Brad DeLong and Joe Conason suggest that Mr. Russert ask hard and heavy questions of the President. (Update: Andrew Sullivan suggests a question on the marriage issue.)

I offer this question: "Mr. President, you have said previously that you want to be a president who gets things done; who doesn't pass problems along to future generations and future presidents. Yet your current budget proposal for 2005 calls for a record $520 billion deficit.

Peter Peterson, the former Nixon commerce secretary, says in his new book, 'Running on Empty,' that your long-term tax cuts combined without long-term spending cuts are not tax cuts. They are "tax deferrals" with the burden to be borne by the future of our children.

Please explain to our children how you plan to reconcile your desire not to pass problems on to their generation with budget proposals that could essentially cripple the economic future of America?"

We are at the start of an election year. Voters are being asked to decide if George W. Bush should be retained for another four year term. These questions go right to the heart of the matter. Tim Russert should rise to the occasion, just as he did with Howard Dean. Anything less would be seen as White House propaganda.

Update: It seems some of Bush's recent policy proposals have irked some Republican members of Congress, who gave Karl Rove an earful at a recent Republican retreat in Philadelphia (according to the conservative Washington Times).



Dean applauds, Kerry condemns Mass Supreme Court ruling

We report, you decide:

Sen. John Forbes Kerry:

"I oppose gay marriage and disagree with the Massachusetts Court's decision."

Gov. Howard Dean:

"I believe firmly that we must do everything in our power to assure that all citizens of the United States are afforded equal rights under the law -- and that includes gay as well as straight couples. As Governor of Vermont, I was proud to sign the nation's first law establishing civil unions for same-sex couples. Today's decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court represents a different approach to the same goal. One way or another, states should afford same-sex couples equal treatment under law in areas such as health insurance, hospital visitation and inheritance rights.

"Some in Washington will use this decision to justify the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This would be the first constitutional amendment to authorize discrimination, and I oppose it. Marriage is a matter of state law, and gay bashing has no place in the

And is there even a question who deserves my support?


Dean Says He Will Quit Race if He Fails to Win Wisconsin

Howard Dean sent an overnight email message to supporters saying he would quit the Democratic presidential race if he did not win the Wisconsin primary on Feb. 17. The statement is his first acknowledgement that failure in a particular state would effectively end his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"The entire race has come down to this: we must win Wisconsin," Dr. Dean said in the e-mail. "Anything less will put us out of this race." The former Vermont governor then warned, "All that you have worked for these past months is on the line on a single day, in a single state."

Dean then asked supporters for $50 contributions, with a goal of raising $700,000 by Sunday to put television advertisements on the air in advance of the Wisconsin contest.

He predicted decent showings in this weekend's caucuses in Michigan and in Washington, but current polls show Kerry leading Dean by an overwhelming 56% - 9% margin in Michigan; and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) said Dean looks like a "long shot" heading into his state's caucuses.

Dean has said he will not back down until a candidate has a majority of delegates, but several Democrats who have spoken with Dean said he is slowly coming to grips with the reality of the situation.


The Democratic Advantage

Ok...I don't mean to make Points West the Andrew Sullivan companion page this morning, but I couldn't dive into my work day without mention of his February 1 column in the Sunday Times.

Mr. Sullivan provides a well-parsed analysis of why the Democrats shouldn't be counted out in the presidential contest this November.


It's really quite simple - Equal protection under the law

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's response to the state legislature regarding gay marriage is sure to find its way into the coming federal elections (especially if Kerry gets the Democratic nomination).

Andrew Sullivan's take on the ruling as it relates to the Constitution, as well as how it will play out in the presidential election ("advantage Kerry"), hits the mark.

But it is Sullivan's commentary on page 72 of the current issue of the Advocate that puts things into perspective. Kudos, Mr. Sullivan! Nicely done.



Post-Primary Musings: A Fool's Take on Tuesday's Elections

"And, my good buddy Wayne is, well, a bit of a fool. Of course, he may predict well enough to toss me into FoolVille, haha, He may be quite accurate, and less than a fool in a day or so, but I doubt it."- Points West editor Trammell on 1.29.04.

After winning five of yesterdays seven primary contests, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) takes the lead in the all-important delegate count. Howard Dean moves to second place; John Edwards is in third, but in a strong position for the coming southern contests in Tennessee and Virginia.

A few thoughts regarding yesterday...

*John Kerry's impressive showing aside, it was a strong night for John Edwards and Wesley Clark. Edwards won the South Carolina contest convincingly, and while a recount is under way in Oklahoma, Clark currently holds a lead of 1,206 votes over Edwards. My feeling is that lead will hold, but either way these two gentlemen came out "winners."

*Clark finished second in Arizona, New Mexico, and North Dakota while Edwards was the runner-up in Missouri.

*Having opted out of these contests, Howard Dean's best showing was a third place finish in New Mexico (with about 16.5% of the vote).

Governor Dean appeared on the 9pm edition of Larry King Live. I watched with interest, looking for signs that Dean plans to get his act together going into the weekend contests and beyond. Instead the good doctor sounded like a cry-baby, blaming his lot in life on his primary opponents. If he can't take the heat, then he shouldn't be running for president. You don't campaign for the presidency by pointing out your "unpresidential moments" and then blame your opponents for bringing attention to them.

Additionally, during the same CNN appearance, Dean warned Democrats not to nominate Kerry, quoting a line from President Harry Truman: "If you run a Republican against a Republican, a Republican always wins." How unseemly. Not to mention unfair. Kerry is no Republican. His record more than proves that. The comment reeked of desperation and if Dean continues with such lowball rants, he will see them backfire.

*Quote of the night: "Well, all the candidates were running on electability except Howard Dean who ran away." Paul Begala last night on CNN.

*Not that John Kerry left me feeling all warm inside (Hoffmaina, I heard ya!). The Senator's speech writers are handing him some great stuff. But the words aren't worth much if he continues to sound like a dying donkey. Memo to the current front-runner: Polish those performance skills. Voters are saying they want an electable candidate, but your droning is not going to help you beat Bush. Perhaps some lessons with the master (Bill Clinton) and perhaps a director from "The West Wing" to help you polish up on the performance stuff. Yeah...it's superficial, but man you need it (especially if John Edwards becomes your main rival for the party nomination)!

*Joe Lieberman bowed out of the race with a classy speech. The 2000 vice-presidential nominee added some much needed hawkishness to the debate. His support of the eventual nominee will help tremendously in November.

*Now on to Michigan, Washington, Maine, Tennessee, Virgnina, and Wisconsin. I haven't seen any tracking polls in advance of those contests, but Dean obviously will want to come out of Washington and Wisconsin with strong showings (and by strong I mean first place - "close seconds" won't do) and Kerry will want to do respectably in the South. The wildcard at this point: John Edwards. He has some strong traction heading into these contests.

*Then it's on to "Super Tuesday." Among the states voting on March 2nd: New York, Minnesota, Georgia, and California. I've got some heavy-duty thinking to do. I am awfully conflicted and at this late date find myself wishing for a stronger tier of candidates. The current group has left me disappointed - or never really got me excited to begin with. But alas, I will throw my support behind someone before I cast my ballot on March 2nd. My criticisms aside, Dean ain't out of the running yet my fellow Points Westerners. There are some valid arguments for his nomination. But he needs to convince me he's the guy. He needs to prove there is substance and gravitas behind all the pre-primary excitement. He has 27 days to convince me. In the mean time, I'll be looking at a few other candidates.



Early Exit Polling

It's early - and the early NH numbers were WAY off - but for all you fellow numbers-junkies (courtesy of National Review)....

Kerry - 46%
Clark - 24%
Dean - 13%

Kerry - 47%
Dean - 14%
Edwards - 11%
Lieberman - 11%

Kerry - 52%
Edwards - 23%
Dean - 10%

Edwards - 31%
Kerry - 29%
Clark - 28%

South Carolina
Edwards - 44%
Kerry - 30%
Sharpton - 10%


Lieberman to concede if winless Tuesday

From the AP: "Democrat Joe Lieberman, facing an uncertain showing in his must-win state of Delaware, was making contingency plans Tuesday to withdraw from the presidential race, according to sources close to the campaign.

The campaign was making calls to close supporters asking them to be at the Hyatt Regency in Arlington, Va., Tuesday night at the postelection party. If Lieberman does not win at least one state - and his best hope is Delaware - he will make his concession speech there, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He then would head home to Connecticut for a formal announcement in Hartford Wednesday."

Translated: Lieberman bows out tomorrow. (While there is a glimmer of hope, chances are Delaware will go with Kerry tonight.)

The 2000 Democratic vice-presidential nominee was just way too conservative for primary voters. The bruises of the campaign will, hopefully, heal as the contest moves toward November. Lieberman's backing would be a bonus for whoever the party's candidate turns out to be.



Democratic primaries or caucuses are being held in seven states today. A few pundits have claimed if Clark, Dean, Edwards, or Lieberman come out of todays contests without a single win in their column, they're done.

The 1976 Republican primaries offer some hope to the current also-rans. Ronald Reagan didn't win a single primary until four weeks into the GOP contests. The former California governor rode his late wins all the way to the party convention, where he came THISCLOSE to toppling President Ford for the GOP nod. So for Howard Dean, it's still doable. Unlikely? Yes, but not out of the question.

A look at the final tracking polls leads me to make the following predictions for tonights contests:

Kerry wins easy victories in Missouri and Arizona; and wins close contests in Delaware, New Mexico, and North Dakota.

Clark picks up Oklahoma, but don't count Kerry out of pulling an upset. Two to three points seperate the two. With 10% of Democratic voters undecided, either guy could come out on top. (But Clark needs this win.)

Edwards wins South Carolina barely. If Kerry wins here, Edwards will be forced to pull out of the race and hope for a VP nomination in July.

For all itents and purposes Howard Dean pulled out of these contests to focus on coming primaries in Michigan and Wisconsin. If he places better than third in any of todays seven elections, I'd be very surprised.




New poll numbers from Quinnipiac University: John Kerry leads President Bush 51% to 43%. As far as I can tell this is the first time a specific (or generic) Democratic candidate has polled above 50% against the incumbent. Great news for John Kerry in particular, and for the Democratic field in general.

Update: A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows Sen. Kerry leading Mr. Bush 53% to 46%!



If the coming presidential election is anywhere near as close as the 2000 contest, then President Bush should be shakin' in his cowboy boots over the numbers in a Newsweek poll taken this past Thursday and Friday. His approval rating has dropped to an all time low of 49% (perhaps the country isn't quite ready for the hard right turn you proposed in last weeks State of the Union, sir!). Almost half (49 percent) do not want to see the president reelected in the fall (compared to 45 percent who do). In a hypothetical vote, Bush loses to John Kerry 48%-46%. A recent CBS News poll shows Bush losing the popular vote to a generic Democrat by a similar margin.

While the Bush vs. Kerry numbers are within the margin of error, Karl Rove has to be poopin' bricks at the polling trend. Yes, the Prez has $200 million at the ready for the general election campaign; yes, ol' Dubya is going to run as a "wartime president;" but the Wall Street Journal's John Fund tosses another wrench into the equation (you have to register for access to the WSJ opinion page). It seems there is a movement brewing in the South to get Roy Moore, the ousted Alabama Supreme Court justice who made headlines last year by refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument he placed on public property, to run a third party candidacy on a social conservative platform. Fund points out that such candidacies have fizzled in the past. Howver, in a close election (especially a close ELECTORAL COLLEGE election), Bush, Rove, et.al. may find the road to 270 electoral votes a bit tough if Mr. Moore serves as the spoiler in such states as Georgia, Louisiana, and (more importantly) South Carolina, where unemployment is a huge issue and where President Bush is in dire straits, leading a generic Democrat by an anemic 45%-43%.

Update: In his column today, Robert Novak claims that Republican operatives are "confronting the possibility of another Bush becoming a one-term president." The reason? Lack of credibility.
Failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a political accident waiting to happen, became the first punch last week when resigned weapons inspector David Kay testified to Congress. The follow-up blow was the White House revelation that the new Medicare plan will cost one-third more than the president predicted (just as conservatives warned).

These setbacks for Bush followed the most ineffective State of the Union address in recent years by a president whose previous efforts were able to utilize that event. He submitted to the bureaucratic methods that turned the speech into a laundry list. His staff permitted the former baseball team owner to further clutter the speech with an irrelevant discourse about players using steroids. In the two weeks since then, the president has not seemed energized on the campaign trail...On Friday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan bridled at the thought of the president suffering a deficiency in credibility. But that in truth is the biggest problem he faces today
The State of the Union wasn't just "ineffective." It was a radical right rant, dressed up and presented as the State of the Union. Once it is clear who the Democratic nominee is going to be, the party needs to proceed immediately into the general election campaign. And might I suggest they take Tom Friedman's advice on a campaign slogan.



Someone Besides Us Has Noticed

Another spot-on Jeff Danziger work of art.

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