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  • America Votes

    Election news from across the Knight Ridder network and the Web

    Saturday, March 06, 2004

    Veep Hillary? 

    "Late Night With David Letterman" has come up with its "Top Ten Signs Hillary Clinton Wants To Be Vice President"

    10. The Washington, D.C. TJ Maxx has sold out of pantsuits.

    9. She's practicing sitting around doing nothing.

    8. Instead of pretending to be from New York, she's pretending to be from key battleground states Ohio, Florida and Michigan.

    7. Bragged to reporters the next "Hillary-Gate" is going to be off the hizzook.

    6. Says she wants to be the first female Vice President since Gore.

    5. Just purchased a large amount of Halliburton stock.

    4. Called Century 21 to ask about listings for undisclosed locations.

    3. Well, there's the "Kerry/Clinton" tattoo.

    2. Firing up the ol' paper shredder.

    1. If it would help she'd have sex with Bill.

    L.K. Mirrer

    posted by lk at 2:02 PM

    Friday, March 05, 2004

    Pushing for California 

    President Bush and his advisers said that with the election of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year and the organizational work done by Republicans during the last three years, they believe Bush can win California and vowed to spend the time and money necessary to do so.

    At the very least, Republicans concede, they could force John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee who needs California to win in November, to spend time and money in the state.

    "By electing Gov. Schwarzenegger, the voters of California have shown that no party can take California for granted," Bush said at a fund-raiser in Santa Clara that raised $700,000 for his re-election campaign.

    posted by Val at 1:44 PM

    Aggressive strategy 

    As he made a two-day campaign swing through California, President Bush skewered John Kerry, the probable Democratic nominee to unseat Bush.

    "My opponent admits that Saddam Hussein was a threat. He just didn't support my decision to remove Saddam from power. Perhaps he was hoping Saddam would lose the next Iraqi election," Bush said, drawing laughter.

    Republican Bill Jones, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) this year said the aggressive early strategy makes sense. Jones said it's time for Bush to fight back after absorbing blows from the field of Democratic hopefuls.

    "They've been pounding this president almost without response. C'mon!" said Jones. "It's not too early."

    - John Simerman, Contra Costa (Calif.) Times

    posted by Val at 12:50 PM

    High-tech donors give most to Bush 

    President Bush narrowly out-raised Sen. John Kerry in contributions from Silicon Valley's high-tech industry and from the Bay Area last year, according to a San Jose Mercury News analysis.

    In contributions from the high-tech industry nationally, Bush was the undisputed king. The president received $1.62 million from people who work in the field, triple what Kerry raised and more than all 10 Democratic presidential candidates combined. Among the big names writing maximum-contribution $2,000 checks to Bush's campaign were Hewlett-Packard's Carly Fiorina, Intel's Craig Barrett and Microsoft's Bill Gates.

    The power of incumbency combined with Bush's pro-business policies, from his two rounds of tax cuts to his embrace of free trade, have helped make him the choice of high-tech executives.

    - Jim Puzzanghera, San Jose Mercury News

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 6:09 AM

    Thursday, March 04, 2004

    Bush ads anger some Sept. 11 families 

    President Bush's new campaign ads drew a sharply negative reaction from families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and from a firefighters union that supports Sen. John Kerry.

    The Bush campaign began broadcasting four ads (view the ads here) in 17 states that are expected to be battlegrounds in November. One shows the smoldering wreckage of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, with a flag flying in the rubble. Another shows firefighters carrying a flag-draped stretcher.

    The ads brought several victims' relatives to tears and triggered angry charges that Bush was exploiting others' misery for political gain.

    "Using my dead friends and my dead brother for political expediency is dead wrong," said Chris Burke, whose brother, Tom, died in the North Tower. "It's wrong, it's bad taste and an insult to the 3,000 people who died on Sept. 11."

    White House and Bush campaign officials defended their use of the images, saying Sept. 11 is part of American history and a major moment of the Bush presidency. Bush's leadership in the aftermath of the attacks is the cornerstone of his re-election campaign.

    - William Douglas, Knight Ridder Washington Bureau

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 7:34 PM

    Attitudes on war remain unswayed 

    Nearly one year after the invasion of Iraq, America is back to being split down the middle.

    "All in all, do you think it was worth going to war in Iraq, or not?" the Gallup Poll asked a month ago. Forty-nine percent of Americans said it was worth it. Forty-nine percent said it was not.

    If you supported the war a year ago, you're probably in the same camp today. So it goes for the opposing side, too. People will not easily bend on this topic. If anything, they've dug in for an election-year feud.

    "The war went well," said Dave Thackett in Warrensburg, Mo. "I'd say the plan afterwards hasn't worked as well."

    - Rick Montgomery, Kansas City Star

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 6:38 PM

    Schwarzenegger packs political charm 

    The strong public support for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget relief package underscored the former actor's power to persuade the state's voters — a skill he'll need to call on repeatedly in upcoming fights.

    The governor, a Republican, will need to tap all his political savvy to meet his goal of overhauling workers' compensation insurance and getting Californians this fall to back President Bush, who is unpopular in Democratic-leaning California.

    - Mark Gladstone, San Jose Mercury News

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 7:30 AM

    Florida may grab spotlight again 

    The general election framework is finally set — and few states will get as much attention as Florida.

    President Bush's TV ad blitz in key battleground states includes English- and Spanish-language spots in every major Florida market. One recent newspaper poll showed the president with a seven-point lead over Kerry, but strategists in both parties say they expect Florida is more likely to reflect the national picture — in which Bush has been dropping and trails the Democrat.

    "Florida's obviously a key state for us," said Matthew Dowd, a senior Bush strategist. "I'm not going to be shocked if the election will go down and be very, very close again. I hope we won't have to spend 36 days in Florida" after the election.

    - Peter Wallsten, Miami Herald

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 6:07 AM

    Wednesday, March 03, 2004

    Bush still has the advantage 

    Now that Sominex Tuesday is finally over, and Sen. John Edwards made his valiant last stand, the presidential race comes down to a Yale-educated Massachusetts liberal versus a Yale-educated Texas conservative.

    Sure, it's early in the game, and the Democrats are feeding off a lot of energy and emotion. But when you get past all the hoopla of selecting a candidate, you've got to like President Bush's chances against Sen. John Kerry.

    Think of incumbency like a home-field advantage in football or basketball. Whatever factors a president can control, plus those issues a president whose party leads both houses of Congress can control, will fall to Bush. That's a big edge.

    - Don Hudson, Charlotte Observer

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 5:51 PM

    E-voting goes smoothly - as far as we know 

    Tuesday was the biggest test yet for electronic voting, and while some glitches were reported, mostly human error, the process appeared to work as intended.

    The spotlight was especially intense given the growing debate over security between voting-machine maker Diebold and a group of voter advocates and computer experts.

    Boot-up problems and other technical troubles delayed voting in a few scattered cases, but no major problems were reported, and the machines apparently registered the preferences of the electorate correctly, lifting Howard Stern to within a few delegates of the Democratic presidential nomination. Hmm, wait — that doesn't sound right. Better double-check the paper printouts ... oh, that's right, there aren't any.

    - John Murrell, Good Morning Silicon Valley

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 1:56 PM

    Fighting spirit 

    Having settled on John Kerry to face President Bush, California voters may have the answer why he was picked.

    "I think this guy's a fighter," said California Democratic Party Chair Art Torres. "He's going to hit back."

    It's that fighting spirit that makes Democrats optimistic as they head for what promises to be a nasty showdown with Bush over the next eight months.

    With Bush already showing that he's willing to throw a political punch or two, it all signals a campaign worthy of a Las Vegas boxing match.

    But Kerry seems to be ready. Tuesday night he said, "We have no illusions about the Republican attack machine ... But I know that together we are equal to this task. I am a fighter."

    - Jim Puzzanghera, San Jose Mercury News

    posted by Val at 1:24 PM

    Sentiment of the Democrats? 

    "Anybody but Bush!"

    That was the sentiment of Lois Anderson, who attended one of the Democratic caucuses in Minnesota Tuesday night.

    Although Anderson said she favored John Edwards (because he's got the charisma that could attract young voters and those of Generation X), John Kerry won with 26 of 38 votes at this meeting. Kerry was followed by Dennis Kucinich, Edwards and Al Sharpton in that order.

    However, she didn't seem to mind. She said it really didn't matter which Democrat took the presidency because "all of them are way better than George Bush" - the sentiments of many Democrats there.

    - Tu-Uyen Tran, Grand Forks Herald

    posted by Val at 11:01 AM

    GOP paints Kerry as weak on defense 

    Republican strategists are attempting to portray Sen. John Kerry as an ardent foe of many of the nation's best known weapons systems, including Lockheed Martin's F/A-22 Raptor. The GOP hopes its case will resonate with defense-industry workers.

    The Kerry campaign is fighting back, accusing President Bush's political operatives of distorting a strong record on national defense by considering past votes out of context. Kerry's supporters also are trying to turn the tables on the Bush administration by pointing out Vice President Dick Cheney pushed for cuts in weapons programs when he was defense secretary.

    - Dave Montgomery, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 6:05 AM

    Tuesday, March 02, 2004

    Edwards for veep? 

    Sen. John Edwards, who plans to drop out of the presidential race Wednesday, is the public's top pick as a running mate for Sen. John Kerry, according to a new poll commissioned by Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

    In the survey, 1,000 Americans of voting age were given a choice among six Democrats as possible Kerry running mates. Twenty-five percent said they'd choose Edwards and 14 percent picked New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Even more - 27 percent - said they were undecided.

    On the Republican side, incumbent Dick Cheney didn't fare so well; 32 percent said they'd prefer Secretary of State Colin Powell to run with President Bush. Cheney was the runner-up, with 24 percent, and North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice each got 8 percent.

    Case Western will host an Oct. 5 vice presidential debate.

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 8:45 PM

    Cheney's public support slides 

    Vice President Dick Cheney's popularity has declined steadily since October, and more than one-fourth of Republican primary voters think President Bush should choose a new running mate, the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey shows.

    In October, 43 percent of the public had a favorable opinion of Cheney, and 26 percent unfavorable. But in the last two weeks of February, 33 percent had a favorable opinion and 36 percent unfavorable. Republicans remained the most friendly to him, with 58 percent favorable and 15 percent unfavorable. But in October they'd been 74 percent favorable and 6 percent unfavorable.

    With his approval ratings dropping and rumblings that he should be dropped from the ticket, Cheney emerged from his undisclosed location Tuesday to perform a cable television trifecta, sitting for rare interviews on CNN, Fox and MSNBC. In all of them, Cheney said he'd be Bush's running mate again: "He's (Bush) asked me to serve with him on the ticket again for the next four years, and I'm happy to do that. As long as I can be of assistance and he wants me in that spot, I plan to serve."

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 6:55 PM

    He's not campaigning ... really 

    President Bush continued the string of "policy" events that have the trappings of campaign rallies by commemorating the first anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security in Washington. With department workers in various uniforms standing behind him, Bush stressed a "promises made, promises kept" theme.

    He highlighted the formation of the department and his decisions to go to war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, who were harboring terrorism leader Osama bin Laden, and against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. "It's essential that this nation not be a nation of empty words, but a nation that is determined to do our duty," he said.

    Democrats said Bush's claims that U.S. airways and ports were more secure rang hollow. Former Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., who's supporting Kerry's presidential bid, said: "Bush is all hat and no cattle when it comes to homeland security."

    Cleland lost his re-election bid in 2000 amid Republican claims that he repeatedly voted against creating a Homeland Security Department.

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 4:27 PM

    Senators take time out to vote 

    John Edwards and John Kerry left the campaign trail Tuesday to vote on two gun-control measures in the Senate, their first votes this year. With the two Democrats voting with the majority, the Senate voted 52-47 to renew the ban on assault weapons and 53-46 to require background checks of buyers at gun shows.

    Both measures were amendments to legislation that would protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits. Once the gun-control measures were added, pro-gun lawmakers abandoned the bill as irreparably flawed, killing the legislation.

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 3:27 PM

    A rockin' time 

    The Southern-fried sounds of Boyd Tinsley, violinist for the Dave Matthews Band, and South Carolina rockers Hootie and the Blowfish were opening acts for John Edwards in Macon, Ga.

    The musicians' popularity drew people who perhaps wouldn't normally attend a political rally. The crowd ranged from a group of students to senior citizens, from elected officials to young business owners.

    However, one man, Jesse Espinoza, 23, who drove with a friend to see the bands and take in some politics, said the two felt a little out of place in casual T-shirts, shorts and sandals in a crowd where many wore a coat and tie.

    "It's a little different than the rock concerts that I've been to before," he said.

    - Maggie Large, Macon Telegraph

    posted by Val at 12:38 PM

    College scribes share their picks 

    College journalists stepped into the national political fray this week as several large university newspapers in Super Tuesday states endorsed Kerry or Edwards.

  • The Columbia Daily Spectator at Columbia University, New York: Edwards. "We strongly believe that John Edwards' unique combination of message, character and personal history makes him the most qualified candidate in the field."

  • The Daily Californian at the University of California, Berkeley, Calif.: Edwards. "For his commitment to working families and his ability to reach out to voters across the country, Sen. John Edwards has earned our support in this primary."

  • The Minnesota Daily at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.: Kerry. "Kerry has the ideas and the experience to be a viable contender for the U.S. presidency."

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 7:14 AM
  • GOP brings out big rig 

    The Republicans have enlisted a very large supporter in their latest effort to get Americans registered to vote — a 56-foot 18-wheeler. The big rig will leave Republican National Committee headquarters Wednesday to begin a cross-country tour that will go right up to Election Day in November. The RNC's goal is to register 1 million voters during National Voter Registration Week March 6-13, and 3 million voters by the election.

    The massive truck is loaded with features, including a soundstage, multimedia capabilities and Xbox gaming systems to help attract the young people that the RNC is targeting for its outreach effort. The rig's first stop is West Virginia, but after that, an itinerary hasn't been set.

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 6:36 AM

    Monday, March 01, 2004

    Kerry tweaks stump speech 

    Sen. John Kerry ignored his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Edwards, entirely in his final day of campaigning before Super Tuesday. Instead, he focused on President Bush's economic and national security policies.

    Ramping up to Tuesday's contests in 10 states, Kerry added some rhetorical flourishes to his standard stump speech. He railed against the "Benedict Arnold companies or CEOs" that "hide money overseas, take the jobs with them and stick the American people with the bill."

    "When November comes, George Bush is going, we're coming and don't let the door hit you on the way out, fellas!" Kerry said.

    He used to reserve that line for the HMOs, oil companies and "special interests" that he inveighed against, but he stopped after his fund raising from lobbyists became a target of critics.

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 9:15 PM

    One more round of poll results 

    Among Democrats nationally, Sen. John Kerry leads Sen. John Edwards, 47 percent to 31 percent, according to a Rasmussen Reports survey. Kerry is down 7 points from his high of 54 points in the Rasmussen poll last week.

    In a separate Rasmussen survey, Kerry trails President Bush by 4 points - 45 percent to 49 percent - among likely voters nationally.

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 7:25 PM

    What's the real deal in Ohio? 

    The economy in Ohio, a key battleground in the 2004 presidential campaign, is on the mend, according to a state spokesman for President Bush. It's in the tank, according to Sen. John Kerry's camp. In separate conference calls with reporters, Rep. Rob Portman of Cincinnati, a Bush ally, and former Sen. John Glenn, a Kerry partisan, offered sharply different economic forecasts.

    "Things are turning around," Portman said. "We're beginning to see some good news in Ohio. ... All I can say is, we've turned a corner here."

    "I don't really believe that," Glenn said. He also disagreed about the importance of abortion and other social issues. "I think people are going to have more concerns about the economy and their ability to get a job."

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 6:15 PM

    Making the rounds 

    In what may have seemed like a broken record, Congressman Dick Gephardt made the rounds in Cleveland, Ohio, telling groups, "We need John Kerry. Not only to be the nominee, but as the next president of the United States."

    When he arrived at a downtown restaurant in Akron, he was joined by Mayor Don Plusquellic, who up until Sunday had not thrown his support behind any of the Democratic hopefuls.

    Plusquellic said he and Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Mike Coleman would support Kerry. Doing so would mean that all of the six Democratic mayors of Ohio's major cities are backing the Massachusetts senator.

    - Carl Chancellor, Akron Beacon Journal

    posted by Val at 1:04 PM

    Minnesota Democrats rev up for Tuesday 

    Minnesota has a chance to make a difference in the Democratic presidential race on Tuesday night.

    Maybe not a big difference. But the state could help determine whether John Kerry solidifies his lead as the frontrunner or surging challenger John Edwards gains momentum and continues the fight.

    Minnesota is one of 10 states with Super Tuesday primaries or caucuses, and though California and New York have far more delegates at stake, this is a battleground between Kerry and Edwards. The Gopher state is one of three states, along with Ohio and Georgia, Edwards' campaign strategists believe he must win.

    - Bill Salisbury, St. Paul Pioneer Press

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 9:03 AM

    Kerry sets victory party for Florida 

    Florida Democrats don't have a say in the potentially decisive Super Tuesday presidential primaries this week, but front-runner John Kerry will watch election returns and host his victory party in the state anyway.

    The move is designed to show that, even if rival John Edwards remains in the race after Tuesday, Kerry is turning his attention to a general-election campaign against President Bush.

    Tuesday's rally has been set for ground zero of the 2000 election campaign — Tampa — the largest swing media market in the nation and the city where Bush and Democrat Al Gore spent most of their time in the final 72 hours of that battle.

    - Peter Wallsten, Miami Herald

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 7:03 AM

    Democrats woo Georgia voters 

    The two Democratic presidential candidates named John pulled out all the stops to woo Middle Georgia voters in advance of Tuesday's primary.

    Kerry supporters interviewed by the Macon Telegraph liked his experience in the Senate and his war hero status from the Vietnam War. Edwards supporters said he's attractive and charismatic, came from humble beginnings and connects with voters on issues like jobs and poverty. Best of all, he's a Southerner.

    "I'm tired of Democrats writing off the South," said civil rights activist Dr. Joseph Lowery. "If Gore had won Tennessee, if he had won Arkansas, if he had won Florida, if he had won Georgia, we wouldn't be in this mess."

    - Maggie Large and Gray Beverley, Macon Telegraph

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 6:03 AM

    Sunday, February 29, 2004

    The week of the wedge issue 

    How excited are Republicans about the gay marriage debate? A whole lot.

    "GOP focuses on sanctity of marriage," read the headline on a Missouri GOP news release last week. The subhead read, "Republicans promote traditional values while Democrats seek to tear down fundamental institution."

    Bush's formal backing of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage will resonate all year. The raw emotion the issue generates is destined to attract conservatives, independents and even some Democrats who agree with the president.

    "Gay marriage is radioactive in a full thermonuclear way for Democrats," said Drake University political scientist Dennis Goldford.

    - Steve Kraske, Kansas City Star

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 11:03 AM

    Lotsa ammo for the monologues 

    So what will the late-night comedians talk about after the election? Who knows, but for now they have plenty of material:

  • Jay Leno on NBC's "Tonight Show" — "John Kerry beat John Edwards in all three primaries this week. He has now won 18 out of 20. Edwards has one win and 19 losses. I can't tell if he is running for president or playing for the Orlando Magic."

  • David Letterman on CBS's "Late Show" — "We had a scare down in Washington at the White House. A man hopped over the fence surrounding the White House and he was tackled by Secret Service. I believe this is the first person to get into the White House unlawfully since Bush."
    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 9:27 AM
  • Florida Democrats aim to divide GOP voting bloc 

    Democrats in Florida and Washington are devising an aggressive strategy to court typically Republican Cuban-American voters, hoping to exploit a festering rift between President Bush and some exile leaders who say the administration has failed to deliver on campaign promises.

    The Democratic National Committee plans to showcase its potential inroads among Florida Hispanic voters — Cuban and non-Cuban alike — at a major summit being planned for May in Orlando, the political nerve center of the critical Interstate 4 corridor.

    The goal: Match or exceed President Clinton's 1996 performance, in which he snagged 40 percent of the Cuban-American vote and won Florida's electoral votes.

    - Peter Wallsten, Miami Herald

    posted by Jim Van Nostrand at 9:24 AM

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