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  • America Votes

    Election news from across the Knight Ridder network and the Web

    Saturday, February 28, 2004

    Another day, another poll 

    Sen. John Edwards got some good news from two new American Research Group polls of Super Tuesday states; he's only 8 percentage points behind Kerry in Georgia, at 37-45, and only 7 back in Maryland, at 35-42.

    But Sen. John Kerry's lead remains enormous in the big states. He's up 54-21 in New York and 47-26 in Ohio, while a new Field poll showed him soaring at 60-19 over Edwards in California.

    The American Research Group poll surveyed 600 likely voters in each state and each had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The polls in New York and Ohio were conducted Feb. 22-24. The poll in Georgia was conducted Feb. 23-24. The poll in Maryland was conducted Feb. 23-25.

    The Field Poll in California was conducted Feb. 22-24 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 5:27 PM

    Most voters still need more info 

    About a third of the voters who'll head to the polls next week say they know enough to cast an informed vote in the Super Tuesday contests, according to the University of Pennsylvania's latest National Annenberg Election Survey.

    Almost 70 percent of voters identified Sen. John Kerry as a decorated Vietnam vet, compared with 54 percent a month ago. Sen. John Edwards' attempts to highlight his childhood as the son of a mill worker aren't always hitting the mark; only 40 percent of March 2 voters ID'd him that way. But 43 percent knew he was a trial lawyer, which his opponents highlight more often than he does.

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 5:17 PM

    Are Blowfish good luck? 

    Sen. John Edwards obviously hopes so. The South Carolina-bred band Hootie and the Blowfish and Dave Matthews Band violinist Boyd Tinsley will perform Monday in Macon, Ga., the night before the state's Super Tuesday primary. The last time the group played for the Edwards campaign was just before Edwards' win in the Feb. 3 South Carolina primary. The concert will be at the Macon Centreplex Coliseum and Convention Center.
    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 3:39 PM

    What, me worry? 

    Is Sen. John Edwards worried about being the underdog? Heavens, no, say those who know him well.

    "It's the theme of his life: People tend not to see him coming," says Raleigh, N.C. lawyer Wade Smith, who hired Edwards 20 years ago. "They underrate him, or they ignore him. When they realize what they're up against, it's usually too late."

    - Anna Griffin, Charlotte Observer

    posted by lk at 11:05 AM

    Friday, February 27, 2004

    Kerry slams Bush on Iraq 

    Sen. John Kerry accused President Bush of leaving Iraq in "disarray" and said U.S. troops in the country had "no exit in sight" as he gave a wide-ranging critique of the Bush administration's national-security policies.

    Kerry challenged Bush's policy of orchestrating Iraq's transition to democracy alone, an approach that's had repeated setbacks as one group of Iraqis after another rejects the U.S. vision of how to proceed. Kerry endorsed reliance upon the United Nations instead. "We must offer the U.N. the lead role in assisting Iraq with the development of new political institutions," Kerry said. "And we must stay in Iraq until the job is finished."

    The speech in Los Angeles was in many ways a counterattack, responding to Republican criticism that Kerry's voting record has been weak on security and defense. But it was also a way for Kerry to distinguish himself from Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, and to showcase his grasp of foreign policy after 19 years in the Senate and senior membership on its Foreign Relations Committee.

    - James Kuhnhenn, Knight Ridder Washington Bureau

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 6:39 PM

    Did they agree to disagree? 

    Under attack from Democrats for strained relations with Europe, President Bush went out of his way to make nice with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Bush said he and Schroeder got along just fine, despite Schroeder's opposition to the war in Iraq.

    "The chancellor has got a good sense of humor, and therefore, he is able to make me laugh," Bush said at an Oval Office meeting with the German leader. "And a person that can make me laugh is a person who is easy to be with. And a person who is easy to be with means I've got a comfortable relationship with him."

    - Ron Hutcheson, Knight Ridder Washington Bureau

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 4:39 PM

    Give peas a chance 

    At the risk of turning the race for the presidency into another California recall election, we point out that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is promoting a candidate of its own: Chris P. Carrot. Its vice presidential candidate: Colonel Corn.

    "Can other candidates honestly say, as I can, that they would gladly lay down their very lives to defend against free radicals?" Carrot asks on his Web site. "Can others guarantee that they will help your children grow up strong and healthy - full of pride of purpose, beta carotene, and vitamins?"

    The site includes a leaflet, button, sticker and bumper sticker you can print out. No evidence that Carrot and Corn will be visiting any diners - or anyplace else salad may be served.

    - Ellen Dunkel, Knight Ridder Digital

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 11:50 AM

    Don't ask and he won't tell 

    John Edwards continued to tiptoe around the subject of gay marriage Thursday, even during a visit to the city at the heart of the issue.

    He twice ignored a San Francisco TV reporter's question asking how he defined marriage before an aide ended the six-minute news conference.

    Nevertheless, the North Carolina Democrat was endorsed by one of the city's most prominent - and newly married - lesbian officials, Carole Migden, chair of the state Board of Equalization.

    "It's about the best we can ask at this time," Migden, a former legislator and San Francisco supervisor, said after appearing with Edwards at the rally. "We've had a frank discussion with the senator. He's very forthright and we're very satisfied with state by state at this time."

    - Laura Kurtzman and Lori Aratani, San Jose Mercury News

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 10:35 AM

    Mark Twain for president? 

    Not crazy about the candidates running for president? Throw your support to Mark Twain. That's right - the tongue-in-cheek Web site promotes the 19th-century writer for the job of commander in chief. In case there's any doubt, a disclaimer on the site says, "Mark Twain 2004 is a work of fiction."

    But the site makes a compelling case for Twain's candidacy, complete with all the trappings of the real candidates' Web sites: poll results, news releases and a link to make donations. (For the record, donations aren't accepted by Mark Twain 2004, but can be made to the University of California at Berkeley's Mark Twain Project.)

    Some of Twain's most popular witticisms pepper the site. On the economy: "The lack of money is the root of all evil." On foreign policy: "It is easier to stay out than to get out." And on his "run" for president: "I'll make whatever promises the people want. Better a broken promise than none at all."

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:10 AM

    Thursday, February 26, 2004

    Secret agent men 

    What do those Secret Service agents do besides run with the commander in chief and tie up traffic?

    "We don't just look cool and run around with the president," said Wayne DelTufo, special agent in charge in Charlotte, N.C., where President Bush is visiting today. "One minute you're with the president of the United States, kings, queens ... and the next minute you're out arresting people."

    Planning for Bush's visit began Friday. Agents scoured "nooks and crannies" where Bush would be, studying everything within a two-block radius and performing bomb sweeps. On Wednesday, the president's bulletproof limousines arrived by plane and were moved to a secure site.

    Though many think of the Secret Service as bodyguards in shades, the agency was actually created after the Civil War to halt the spread of counterfeit bank notes.

    Not until 1901, when President McKinley was assassinated, did agents begin guarding the commander in chief.

    - Peter Smolowitz, Charlotte Observer

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 10:28 AM

    Here's mud in your eye 

    On the road to Election Day, this sign should be posted near the end: Caution - Mudslides ahead.

    We have reached that inspiring vista point on the campaign trail when the previously undisclosed failings of candidates are discovered and displayed just in time - and strictly in the service of enlightening the voters, of course.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 10:09 AM

    Toeing the line on trade 

    To trade or not to trade? That is the question voters are asking the Democratic candidates. A tricky question, too, for candidates visiting busy exporting states in the morning and Rust Belt states that same afternoon.

    California, the nation's second-largest exporting state, depends on trade to keep its economy humming. Offshoring, the trend toward moving skilled jobs to places like India, may be stoking the fears of some. But analysts say California voters also know the benefits of free trade. So do political donors, particularly in Silicon Valley, where many owe their fortunes to open borders.

    In Ohio, on the other hand, many workers have seen plants close in the face of foreign competition. Workers at a small aluminum factory outside Youngstown asked John Kerry about his support of current U.S. free trade policies.

    "We need trade in the U.S. We can't just shut the door and not trade,'' said Kerry, who has taken heat from other Democratic candidates for his 1993 vote for the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    "But you don't abandon common sense," continued Kerry, who said that as president he would set up an exhaustive review of all trade agreements and "level the playing field'' where there are inequities. "We would look for where there is unfairness and for where the playing field is tilted."

    - Ellen Dunkel, Knight Ridder Digital

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:29 AM

    The comedians skewer the candidates 

    So many jokes, so little time. "The only thing that can sink John Kerry now is an Al Gore endorsement," David Letterman said on CBS's "Late Show" on Tuesday.

    On his "Daily Show," Jon Stewart had plenty to say about President Bush's support for a gay-marriage ban: "If a 28th amendment against same-sex marriage were to be ratified, it would only be the second amendment designed to restrict, rather than enlarge, the scope of civil liberties. Of course, the first was Prohibition in 1919. You all remember how that worked out. People immediately stopped drinking, all alcohol-related problems in this nation ceased at once, and the next decade became known as 'The Sober Twenties.' "

    Conan O'Brien weighed in on "Late Night" with some thoughts about the candidates at the back of the pack: "Consumer activist Ralph Nader announced he would run for president. When he heard about it, Dennis Kucinich was furious and said, 'He's going to steal my voter away!' "

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 8:48 AM

    Wednesday, February 25, 2004

    Florida voters get an early-bird special 

    Broward County, Fla., residents who want to vote in the Democratic primary but can't make it to the polls on March 9 can start voting now. In-person absentee ballots may be cast from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at six locations every day except Sunday through March 8.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 3:00 PM

    Something about Mary Cheney 

    It can't be easy for Vice President Dick Cheney right now. His boss, President Bush, is urging Congress to approve a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

    Meanwhile, Cheney's daughter Mary is a lesbian, as well as director of vice presidential operations for the Bush-Cheney '04 re-election campaign.

    Four years ago, Cheney said this should not be a federal issue.

    "People should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It's really no one else's business," he said at a vice presidential candidates' debate during the 2000 campaign. "I think different states are likely to come to different conclusions, and that's appropriate. I don't think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area."

    Cheney has said since that he would support Bush's decision.

    Have something to say about it? A group called Don' suggests you write a letter to Mary Cheney.

    - Ellen Dunkel, Knight Ridder Digital

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 10:59 AM

    Democrats ahead in California 

    If the November election were held now, both Kerry and Edwards would get a majority of votes over Bush in California, according to the latest Field Poll. In simulated matchups, Bush would win 41 percent of the California vote while Kerry would get 53 percent. Against Edwards, voters prefer the North Carolina senator over the president by 51 percent to 42 percent.

    A majority of registered voters - 52 percent - feel the country is "seriously off on the wrong track," and only about four in 10 voters feel that Bush is a leader they can trust, according to the non-partisan poll.

    - Linda Goldston, San Jose Mercury News

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 10:51 AM

    No candidate spared 

    Late-night comedians have a new target for their political jabs: Ralph Nader.

    "Nader is so serious about running this time, he is actually thinking about pressing his suit," Jay Leno said on NBC's "Tonight Show" on Monday.

    Of course, that doesn't mean Leno spared the other candidates. "The Democratic primary comes down to John Edwards, who is worth $50 million, and John Kerry, who married a woman worth $500 million. So it's a classic battle between the haves and the really haves."

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 10:22 AM

    Drumming the message home 

    Get out of the mosh pit and into the election booths. That's what nearly 200 punk rock bands want to motivate their fans to do.

    "If you don't find yourself in the voting booth you may find yourself in combat boots in the desert," said Justin Sane, guitarist and singer for Anti-Flag, and one of the most vocal members of a coalition called Punk Voter.

    Punk Voter appeals to the liberal-leaning fan. On the other side of the issue are a group of conservative fans who have started a movement of their own, Conservative Punk.

    - Ellen Dunkel, Knight Ridder Digital

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:52 AM

    Prove he served and win a prize 

    "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone who "personally witnessed George W. Bush reporting for drills at Alabama's Dannelly Air National Guard Base" in 1972. He's also offering readers a chance to weigh in on what steams them most about the Bush-National Guard controversy. Of the more than 5,000 people who've voted on, 67 percent say it's "the class thing - consistently special treatment for the special son of a special son of Texas."

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:20 AM

    Tuesday, February 24, 2004

    It's one of those little states 

    After all that time he spent campaigning in New Hampshire, you'd think Sen. John Kerry of neighboring Massachusetts would know it on a map.

    On a U.S. map sent to contributors that bears his signature, Kerry confuses New Hampshire with its next-door neighbor, Vermont. The map identifies New Hampshire, which voted on Jan. 27, as one of the 10 states voting on Super Tuesday, March 2. And it identifies Vermont, which does vote Tuesday, as one of the states that has already voted for Kerry.

    As campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said in the accompanying letter seeking contributions: "The enclosed map paints the clearest picture."

    - Steven Thomma, Knight Ridder Washington bureau

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 3:49 PM

    What? We worry? 

    The chairmen of both major political parties predicted that independent insurgent Ralph Nader will have little impact on Florida's 27 electoral votes next November - if he gets on the ballot.

    But top Democrats were clearly worried that Nader, who garnered 97,488 votes in Florida as the Green Party nominee four years ago, might tip a close election to President Bush if he chips off just a little dissident support from voters displeased with the Republican administration's handling of the war, the economy and health care.

    The state GOP chief echoed Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie's prediction that Bush will win, with or without any independent or splinter-party candidates on the ballot.

    - Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 3:11 PM

    The stars come out for John Kerry 

    Talk about getting the star treatment.

    New York film producer Jane Rosenthal threw a fundraiser for Sen. John Kerry Monday and the stars treated him to some needed funds.

    Jon Bon Jovi performed such luminaries as Robert DeNiro, Lauren Bacall, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick were among 100 well-heeled donors.

    The event, held at Rosenthal's home in the tony Upper West Side, was one of three money events for Kerry in New York. All the meetings were private and reporters were not permitted to attend.

    - Jim Kuhnhenn, Knight Ridder Washington bureau

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 12:11 PM

    Cheney defends the war 

    Vice President Dick Cheney defended the war in Iraq at the fund-raiser at the Minneapolis Hilton. Two years ago, in an appearance at the same hotel, he talked about the Bush administration's conviction that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists would "expose this nation and the civilized world to the worst of all imaginable horrors."

    Cheney said some of what the administration feared about Iraq is being substantiated. "Already our inspectors have discovered a lot about what the dictator was up to, and it confirms a lot of what we thought before the war," Cheney said.

    "We have found the labs and the dual-use facilities that could be used to produce chemical and biological weapons."

    Referring to international criticism of the U.S. war in Iraq, Cheney said the United States "will never seek a permission slip" to defend the security of this country.

    "In the war against terrorism, we have only one option," he said. "We must take the fight to the enemy."

    - Jim Ragsdale and Patrick Sweeney, St. Paul Pioneer Press

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 10:32 AM

    Is a vote for Nader a vote for Bush? 

    Many Democrats are criticizing Ralph Nader's candidacy, accusing him of costing Al Gore the White House in the 2000 election. Howard Dean, who rode his own antiestablishment presidential campaign before bowing out, cautioned his supporters not to be "tempted" by Nader.

    "If George W. Bush is reelected, the health, safety, consumer, environmental and open government provisions Ralph Nader has fought for will be undermined," Dean said yesterday.

    But Nader said the Democrats would benefit by his presence.

    "I'd go after Bush even more vigorously ... in ways that the Democrats can't possibly do because they're too cautious and too unimaginative, but they can pick up the vulnerabilities and the failures of the Bush administration that we point out," Nader said yesterday on ABC's Good Morning America.

    - Jeff Shields, Philadelphia Inquirer

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:10 AM

    Deaniacs for Edwards 

    The Deaniacs have spoken. Well, some of them, anyway. John Edwards' campaign announced Monday that the cofounders of Howard Dean's official youth-outreach effort, Generation Dean, are endorsing the North Carolina senator. Student groups at Cornell University and the Rochester Institute of Technology also transferred their support from Dean to Edwards.
    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:01 AM

    Bush losing ground with young people 

    Bush's support among under-30 voters is dropping fast, according to Newsweek's new GENext poll. The poll, released Monday, shows that 47 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old voters polled said they'd vote for someone other than President Bush in the November election. That's up 13 points from last month. In a hypothetical match-up, John Kerry wins the White House, with 56 percent of the young voters saying they'd pick him versus 41 percent for Bush. (John Edwards led Bush 53 percent to 44 percent in the poll.)

    The economy, unemployment and national security ranked as the top issues for the under-30 set, with 25 percent calling the economy the No. 1 issue facing the nation.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 8:49 AM

    Monday, February 23, 2004

    Terminator in the White House? 

    Should foreign-born citizens be allowed to run for president? One person who thinks so - surprise, surprise - is Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California.

    "I think that there's so many people here in this country that are now from overseas, that are immigrants, that are doing such a terrific job with their work, bringing businesses here and all this, that there's no reason why not," Schwarzenegger said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

    He was asked if a person who has been a U.S. citizen for at least 20 years should be eligible for the presidency - a job now open only to people born in the United States.

    Schwarzenegger prefaced his remarks by saying he had "no idea'" if he would run if the amendment, proposed by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, were successful.

    -Ellen Dunkel, Knight Ridder Digital

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 12:44 PM

    Jeb's scandals could drag his brother down 

    Jeb Bush has long flourished as Florida's Teflon governor, surviving bitter partisan battles over his reshaping of state government with high approval ratings and even a landslide reelection.

    But swirling scandals enveloping the agencies in his administration that are responsible for taking care of children now threaten to soil Bush's legacy on a centerpiece of his political agenda: improving the lives of those he has called Florida's "most vulnerable.''

    Bush has succeeded so far in treating each controversy as an isolated case, but Democrats are now preparing to toss them together in an explosive election-year brew designed to weaken the governor's popularity - and make Florida's 27 electoral votes that much more difficult for his brother, President Bush, to win in November.

    -Peter Wallsten and Lesley Clark, Miami Herald

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 11:10 AM

    Hillary goes door to door 

    Knock, knock.

    Who's there?

    Hillary Clinton - no joke.

    The U.S. senator from New York was in Miami Lakes, Fla., on Sunday knocking on doors to encourage women to vote.

    ''One vote really does make a difference,'' the former first lady said. "A lot of our elections are very close.''

    -Richard Brand, Miami Herald

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:59 AM

    What? No blog? 

    Ralph Nader announced Sunday that he would be running for president as an independent - and voila, his Web site is revealed.

    Need a job? The Nader campaign is hiring.

    Thinking of contributing? Seventy-five dollars or more nets you a copy of Nader's book, Crash!ing the Party.

    One bit of evidence that he's still catching up: No mention of a blog.

    -Ellen Dunkel, Knight Ridder Digital

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:46 AM

    TV ads begin this week 

    Tired of being a punching bag for Democrats, President Bush will launch his re-election campaign Monday with a blast at his Democratic rivals as his aides book time for a multi-million dollar television ad barrage.

    After insisting for weeks that he was paying little attention to his re-election, Bush intends to drop any pretense that he is staying above partisan politics. The president, whose first campaign ads will air on March 4, will spell out his re-election themes in a Monday night speech to Republican governors.

    -Ron Hutcheson, Knight Ridder Washington

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:31 AM

    Kerry, Edwards qualify for protection 

    The Secret Service began protecting John Kerry in Boston on Friday. The security comes only when a candidate meets special standards, including poll numbers and fund raising. John Edwards will be offered similar security, according to Secret Service spokesman Tom Mazur.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:20 AM

    New York hearts Kerry, polls show 

    Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts has a massive lead in the Super Tuesday mega-state of New York, according to a poll released Friday. Kerry is 52 percentage points ahead of Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. The poll, conducted by Marist College, gives Kerry 66 percent and Edwards 14 percent. The Rev. Al Sharpton has 7 percent in his home state. The Empire State has 236 pledged delegates up for grabs.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 8:53 AM

    Sunday, February 22, 2004

    How's this for bizarre partisanship? 

    Though actor Dan Aykroyd calls himself a liberal, he's also a major police buff and thus supports President Bush.

    Aykroyd: "There's a tremendous initiative in law enforcement (that) may be reversed if Bush is not re-elected. ... Let this administration finish this war and this fight against terrorism."

    The trouble with a Kerry victory in November, he points out, is that it would "push Hillary (Clinton) off into the future. ... If Bush is re-elected, then Hillary is set up to run for president in 2008. ... Then we'll have the glory days back for the Democrats."

    - Keith Chrostowski, Kansas City Star

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 11:03 PM

    Distance between candidate, voter grows 

    John Edwards occasionally meets a voter during a thoughtful and, sometimes, emotional conversation, but at this stage of the campaign they more often exchange inaudible greetings amid a disorienting swirl of noise and lights.

    The interaction is bound to grow even more difficult soon as Secret Service agents begin accompanying Edwards, as they routinely do with candidates in the final rounds of the nomination race.

    "Nice to see you," Edwards now and then can be heard saying in the cluster of people.

    - Mark Johnson, Charlotte Observer

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 10:42 AM

    June 30 Afghan vote risky for Bush 

    It isn't easy running an empire. And it doesn't necessarily win you votes. Those thoughts must be going through Karl Rove's mind as he maps out the President's political campaign for 2004.

    Both Iraq and Afghanistan could go sour just in time for the Republican convention, which begins Aug. 30.

    Iraq remains unstable, and U.S. casualties continue to mount. The United States is supposed to restore political sovereignty to Iraq by June 30 (our military will stay in place). But that date, and the method of shifting power, are under challenge by Iraqi clerics.

    Afghanistan, where the Taliban is resurgent, is set to hold its first elections for president and parliament — also on June 30.

    - Trudy Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 10:24 AM

    Sen. Clinton rallies party faithful in Florida 

    Former First Lady and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton raised more than $100,000 at a Democratic fundraiser in Reston, Fla. She lambasted President Bush's environmental policy, new Medicare drug benefits and tax cuts.

    She and former President Bill Clinton are beloved in Broward County, the state's Democratic stronghold. In 1992 and 1996, the county delivered massive winning margins that were among the largest in the country.

    ''Hillary Clinton has a huge following here,'' Dan Reynolds, president of the Broward AFL-CIO, said of the U.S. senator from New York. "After all, it's like the sixth borough.''

    - Beth Reinhard, Miami Herald

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 6:55 AM

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