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  • America Votes

    Election news from across the Knight Ridder network and the Web

    Friday, March 12, 2004

    Cuban exile voters play a key role 

    "What irony!" goes the latest joke making the rounds in Washington political circles. "Cubans can't elect their president in Cuba, but they elect one in the United States."

    Indeed, there are growing indications that Cuban exile voters will once again play a key role in November's presidential elections: Pollsters say Florida's estimated 500,000 Cuban voters could be a deciding factor in the state's election, which in turn may - as it did in 2000 - decide the national election.

    In 2000, about 81 percent of Florida's Cuban exile vote went for George W. Bush, while Democratic candidate Al Gore got 17 percent.

    At the time, most Cuban exiles were furious with the Clinton administration over its handling of the case of Elian Gonzalez, the young rafter boy who was repatriated to his father's home in Cuba over the objections of other relatives in Miami.

    This time, however, there will be no "Elian factor" that will play in Bush's favor.

    - Andres Oppenheimer, Miami Herald

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 3:17 PM

    To the moon 

    Former astronaut Neil Armstrong says Americans should support President Bush's plan for renewed missions to the moon and beyond.

    Armstrong, in Houston to receive the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement, said the plan is economically sustainable and that the country must accept the risks associated with space exploration in order to reap technological rewards.

    "Our president has introduced a new initiative with renewed emphasis on the exploration of our solar system and expansion of human frontiers," Armstrong told a crowd of nearly 600 people Thursday. "This proposal has substantial merit and promise."

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 1:07 PM

    Almost gone but not forgotten 

    A long shot in the presidential race, Rep. Dennis Kucinich may yet be a player in the Democratic Party's bid for the White House.

    Ohio is widely seen as one of the most important battleground states for the 2004 election. Cuyahoga County, which includes Kucinich's hometown of Cleveland, is a must-win region because it boasts the state's highest percentage of Democratic voters.

    That means if Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry wins the Democratic Party's nomination, which he is expected to do, he still may need Kucinich's help to win Ohio in November.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 12:05 PM

    Fighting back with a new blog 

    In the war of words, John Kerry has a new weapon: a blog called D-Bunker. It was launched as a response to the "right-wing smear machine," according to a press release on Kerry's main Web site. "[Kerry] saw what they did to John McCain in South Carolina, and Max Cleland in Georgia. Now, they're coming after him, and he's not going to take it."

    In a series of "facts and fictions," Kerry addresses such topics as "George Bush's credibility problem," "opponents distorting Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony" and why the "Massachusetts Liberal" label won't stick.

    - Ellen Dunkel, Knight Ridder Digital

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 11:34 AM

    A unifying force 

    John Kerry has emerged as a unifying figure for Democrats, who haven't had a consensus leader since 2000, when Bill Clinton was president and Al Gore was the party's heir apparent.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 8:24 AM

    Thursday, March 11, 2004

    Can we trust electronic voting? 

    As the nation approaches its first presidential election since the controversial Florida count gave George W. Bush the White House, debate is heating up in the Philadelphia area over the security and accuracy of electronic-voting machines.

    This time, about 43 million voters - more than a third of those expected to vote - will make their selections via electronics.

    Swirling around the machines is the issue of trust - or lack of it.

    Because computer software controls the voting machines, some worry that an election could be rigged by the few insiders with access to the software, or by outsiders who hack their way in. Discovery could be difficult.

    Advocates say electronic voting is more efficient than lever machines or chad punchers, with tallies less subject to human errors.

    In California, two state lawmakers said they would ask Secretary of State Kevin Shelley to ban the use of touch-screen voting machines in the November ballot.

    - Linda K. Harris, Philadelphia Inquirer
    and Elise Ackerman, San Jose Mercury News

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 10:12 AM

    Kerry ads, courtesy of the amen choir 

    One year ago, when President Bush was up in the polls and his critics were down in the dumps, Washington strategist Jenny Backus stabbed at a lunch salad and said that her fellow Democrats badly needed to build "an amen choir," a national network of activists who would sing the party tune at fever pitch, 24/7.

    Well, she got her wish. An amen choir has been duly assembled. Much to the Bush campaign's dismay, the amen choir is amplifying John Kerry's message at a time when he is financially strapped and virtually incapable of airing his own ads.

    The Democrats knew their candidate would emerge from the primaries with a fraction of Bush's campaign money (Kerry is roughly $100 million behind Bush). And they didn't want him to spend four long months, until the party convention in July, getting hammered by Bush TV ads.

    - Dick Polman, Philadelphia Inquirer

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:56 AM

    Wednesday, March 10, 2004

    Support for a Kerry-Edwards ticket 

    Although John Edwards left the race for the presidency, exit polls in the Texas primary showed the popular Southern senator as Democrats' leading choice for the vice-presidential spot. Edwards has a strong residual following in Texas and had been on track to beat John Kerry in the state before he left the race, said Ty Meighan, director of the Scripps Howard Texas Poll, which is conducted for the Star-Telegram and other state media outlets.

    - Dave Montgomery, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 11:53 AM

    Giving kids a piece of the action 

    Millions of California's teenagers would become the nation's first to vote under a proposed constitutional amendment introduced by a 71-year-old state senator.

    Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, proposed the idea alongside three other lawmakers, saying the Internet, cellular phones, multichannel television and a diverse society makes today's teens better informed than generations of their predecessors.

    Vasconcellos would give 16-year-olds a half vote and 14-year-old a quarter vote in state elections beginning in 2006.

    The idea, formally called Training Wheels for Citizenship,' first requires two-thirds approval by the Legislature to appear on this November's ballot.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 11:18 AM

    As easy win for Bush 

    President Bush wrapped up the nearly nonexistent race for the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday by pocketing every delegate up for grabs in the four states that held primaries.

    Bush had 1,309 delegates, eclipsing the 1,255 needed for the nomination.

    He captured delegates in Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana, one of the few states where he faced token opposition.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:38 AM

    This Florida election was no 'Florida election' 

    Compared with the 2000 presidential election in Florida, which ended in 36 days of recounts and court fights, and the 2002 Democratic primary for governor, marked by massive failures in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, Florida's presidential primary ran like a well-oiled machine from Pensacola to Key West. Division of Elections Director Ed Kast said the biggest problem phoned in on the secretary of state's toll-free phone line was scattered confusion about the location of polling places.

    "I've been talking to supervisors (of elections) in some of the counties today, and they said it's a textbook election," Kast said. "We've had some minor hiccups, but they were the kinds of things that happen in every election."

    - Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 8:54 AM

    Tuesday, March 09, 2004

    Kerry wins American Samoa - quietly 

    In case you missed it - and you wouldn't be alone if you did - American Samoa had its Democratic primary on Monday. Six delegates were at stake and John Kerry won them.

    Yet even Kerry's Web site doesn't mention the win, nor do the online versions of the Samoa Observer, the Samoa News or the Samoa Post.

    According to a Samoan government Web site, American Samoa was "deeded to the United States by the Samoan chiefs under a Treaty of Cession in 1900," and "is the only American possession to gain US protectorate status without violent conflict." The only U.S. territory in the southern hemisphere, it is home to 65,000 people.

    - Ellen Dunkel, Knight Ridder Digital

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 5:56 PM

    Party hopping 

    Q: Ralph Nader, who is running for president as an independent, will be listed on the ballot in November as:

    a) the Reform Party candidate

    b) the Green Party candidate

    c) an independent

    d) all of the above.

    The answer is likely to be "d." Nader has made it clear that he will use whatever tactic helps him get on state ballots, and he has lots of options.

    - Maria Recio, Knight Ridder Washington

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 12:20 PM

    International monitors watch Florida election 

    They've monitored voting in Haiti; now they're on their way to El Salvador. Their next stops? Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

    For the first time, international monitors will be in the United States to make sure votes are cast and counted correctly. Members of the Catholic peace movement Pax Christi announced Monday that they will post monitors at polling places in four Florida during the Nov. 2 general election.

    "We have assisted groups in other nations who fear that their voices will not be heard and that the powerful will manipulate the process to suit their own aspirations unless the eyes of the world are watching," said Dave Robinson, national coordinator of Pax Christi USA. "But as evident in the elections of 2000, particularly in the state of Florida, we in the United States have our own difficulties in assuring an election atmosphere that is transparent, open, honest and free of controversy."

    - Nancy Cook Lauer, Tallahassee Democrat

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 11:31 AM

    Kerry addresses jobs 

    Invoking the names of former presidents Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy, John Kerry, in Tampa, Fla., said he has a plan to create jobs and raise the standard of living.

    "It will be an economy based on people and products," he said, "not perks and profits.

    "The one person in America who deserves to be laid off is George Bush," Kerry said, as the crowd roared in approval.

    - Carl Mario Nudi, Bradenton Herald

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 10:48 AM

    Kerry vows to prevent another voting fiasco 

    Evoking the razor-thin 2000 election that the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately settled, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry said Monday that he is building a legal team to prevent any voting irregularities this year in the state that put George W. Bush in the White House.

    Kerry made his remarks to a crowd in Broward County, Fla., a central battleground in the 2000 recount, responding to a woman who asked what would keep the Republicans from "stealing the election again."

    - Peter Wallsten and Lesley Clark, Miami Herald

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 10:41 AM

    Monday, March 08, 2004

    Not afraid to speak her mind 

    Teresa Heinz Kerry speaks five languages, yet in the plainest English dismisses Bush administration policies as "stupid." She is a devout Roman Catholic who is staunchly pro-choice. She is the heiress to the Heinz food fortune and a sophisticated philanthropist who once told a reporter she didn't "give a (expletive)" whether she was known as Heinz or Heinz Kerry. "Swearing," she added, "is a good way to relieve tension."

    So far on the campaign trail, her candor, not to mention her intelligence and detailed grasp of the issues, has played to largely favorable reviews. "John Kerry's Secret Ingredient," declared a Newsweek headline last year. The London Observer recently called her "Kerry's Gold." "Mrs. Kerry is worth a fortune, but her real value to the campaign is her bluntness," said Time.

    The candidate himself seems bemused.

    "I'm not going to worry about it," the Massachusetts senator recently said. "She is my wife. She is who she is. I love her for her outspokenness, and I think it's kind of charming and honest. I think people like honesty."

    - Tim Madigan, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 10:55 AM

    Kerry gains support in Florida 

    Increasingly critical of President Bush on his handling of the economy and the war in Iraq, more Florida voters now say they plan to support Democrat John Kerry than to help reelect the president, according to a new poll.

    The Herald/St. Petersburg Times survey reveals striking vulnerabilities for Bush among key independent voters in the state that narrowly put him into the White House four years ago.

    More Florida voters disapprove of his job performance than approve, another sign of the president's lagging popularity since the 2001 terrorist attacks transformed Bush from a polarizing figure into a popular wartime president.

    A majority of voters believe that the United States is ''moving in the wrong direction'' under Bush -- a marked reversal from two years ago, when 7 in 10 voters, including half of Democrats, approved of Bush's job performance.

    - Peter Wallsten and Lesley Clark, Miami Herald

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:59 AM

    Female politicians are Texas tough 

    Being Texas tough is an attribute shared by women as well as men in the political arena. At a time when gains by female politicians have stalled elsewhere, women are succeeding in Texas politics because they are willing to mix it up with the men and even enjoy a good fight, political observers say.

    This toughness might surprise some newcomers to Texas and people in other parts of the country, where the Lone Star State is still stereotyped as the Old West: rugged and untamed, where women are "darlin' " and stand by their man, and where the most recognized women's group is the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.

    But perception is not reality. Women's participation in politics has leveled off nationally over the past decade, according to the Center for American Women and Politics, and no women have done well in the major parties' presidential primaries. But progress is being made in what political observers call the "political pipeline," electoral positions at the municipal and state levels.

    And if Hillary Rodham Clinton makes a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, Jillson said, "I've heard Republicans who say they'd love to match up a Kay Bailey [Hutchison, the state's first woman elected to the U.S. Senate] against Hillary."

    - Pete Alfano, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:35 AM

    Don't mess with Independent Texans 

    Take a morsel of Democrat, add a pinch of Republican, then drain the combination of all political partisanship and you have a recipe for what some call an "Independent Texan."

    That is what members of a fledgling political movement want to achieve as they begin to pick and choose who they like and, perhaps more important, who they do not like this election year.

    Don't look for Independent Texans to take a stand on such burning issues as abortion, gay marriage or immigration. Don't expect a slate of candidates to appear on the ballot, either.

    The group has one desire: to purge politics of partisanship and stamp out what they consider a cozy relationship between government and special interests.

    No endorsements are planned for Tuesday's primary election, although some independent picks could come later as the Nov. 2 general election approaches, said Linda Curtis, the group's Austin-based president.

    - Jack Douglas Jr., Fort Worth Star-Telegram

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 8:30 AM

    This blog is compiled and edited by:

  • Ellen Dunkel, producer for Knight Ridder Digital's National Desk.
  • John Murrell, minister of information for

  •  Latest posts
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       •  In case anyone is still counting ...
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       •  Disconnection in the extreme
       •  60 percent? That's not even a passing grade
       •  Too many people, not enough machines
       •  To late for a voting controversy?
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       •  Four more years ... until 2008

    Over the course of the campaign, this blog was titled Hot Off The Trail and featured entries from Knight Ridder reporters.

       •  01/25/2004 - 02/01/2004
       •  02/01/2004 - 02/08/2004
       •  02/08/2004 - 02/15/2004
       •  02/15/2004 - 02/22/2004
       •  02/22/2004 - 02/29/2004
       •  02/29/2004 - 03/07/2004
       •  03/07/2004 - 03/14/2004
       •  03/14/2004 - 03/21/2004
       •  03/21/2004 - 03/28/2004
       •  09/19/2004 - 09/26/2004
       •  09/26/2004 - 10/03/2004
       •  10/03/2004 - 10/10/2004
       •  10/10/2004 - 10/17/2004
       •  10/17/2004 - 10/24/2004
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