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  • America Votes

    Election news from across the Knight Ridder network and the Web

    Saturday, October 02, 2004

    Broken rule made for better TV 

    Neither candidate looked at his watch or yawned, but we weren't supposed to see President Bush looking annoyed or John Kerry taking notes during Thursday's debate.

    According to the campaign managers' painstaking 32-page advance agreement, "When a candidate is speaking, either in answering a question or making his closing statement, TV coverage will be limited to the candidate speaking. There will be no TV cut-aways to any candidate who is not responding to a question while another candidate is answering a question."

    But TV networks ignored the rule, and we got a much better show for it. So what happened?

    "We were independent journalists covering the event," said Terry Murphy, the vice president of programming for C-SPAN, who pointed out that the networks weren't asked to sign the rules. "The memorandum of understanding was between the two campaigns. It wasn't between the campaigns and the media."

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 2:13 PM

    Friday, October 01, 2004

    Kerry resurgent? 

    The all-time King of the Focus Groups, Frank Luntz, got booted from his MSNBC gig as an analyst Thursday night because bloggers took issue with his roots as a GOP strategist and swamped the network with complaints.

    But Luntz hooked 18 undecided swing voters from Florida to reaction dials anyway, and his results are in: Sen. John Kerry crushed President Bush in the first presidential debate.

    It wasn't even close.

    Sixteen of the group said Kerry won, 13 agreed more with the Democrat, and, most important, five of these undecided voters said they'd move to the Kerry camp. Nobody signed on with the president.

    Words the focus-groupers used for Kerry: confident, direct, secure, reassuring.

    For Bush: nervous, disdainful, not well-prepared, repetitive.

    "For swing voters, this was the first time in this campaign that Kerry stood side-by-side with Bush - and he looked presidential," Luntz said. "In fact, they think he dominated the confrontation."

    posted by Thomas Fitzgerald at 1:36 PM

    Faster than a speeding politician 

    So where was Ralph Nader during Thursday night's presidential debate? The man many Democrats consider a spoiler was at the University of Miami - as an audience member and protester. But of course, he wanted more.

    "If I could only go through the ducts and leap out onstage in a cape - that's my dream," said Nader, who enjoyed a dinner at the school's faculty club as he pondered ways to liven up what he called "a presidential puppet show, a presidential charade" governed by preset rules agreed on by the Bush and Kerry campaigns.

    "You know what would I say to them? Burn the 32 pages of rules and go after each other in a free for all. The American people don't want the debates to be a cure for insomnia."

    Perhaps he'd enjoy a nice Deaniac scream.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 9:16 AM

    Thursday, September 30, 2004

    Of mikes and lights and ties and things 

    Sen. John Kerry took a break from his stay at the Sheraton Bal Harbour Beach Resort Thursday to visit the Convocation Hall at the University of Miami. For about 10 minutes, Kerry gave the podium the once over, adjusted the microphone up about four inches, and examined the sound, camera angles and lighting.

    Senior adviser David Morehouse said Kerry spent time in the holding room, where he put on the necktie he plans to wear tonight. The tie is dark red, the shirt is light blue and the suit is navy blue. Look for it. You're now in the know.

    posted by Jim Kuhnhenn at 5:06 PM

    Pre-debate skirmish 

    Hours before the first presidential debate in Coral Gables, Fla., Thursday, aides to Sen. John Kerry tried to change one of the details negotiated earlier by both campaigns.

    They asked the Commission on Presidential Debates to move warning lights placed atop the lecterns so the candidates and the audience would know when a candidate ran over their time.

    The lights were considered more threatening to Kerry, who can be long-winded, than to Bush. Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter called them "demeaning to both candidates" and said it was Bush who was "fixated" on keeping them.

    The commission refused to move the lights.

    Bush spokesman Scott Stanzel noted that Kerry had agreed to the lights when the two campaigns negotiated the rules and said it was another example of Kerry flip-flopping.

    "Both sides agreed to this," Stanzel said. "In past debates, Sen. Kerry has gone beyond the allotted time with his answers. It is one way the debate audience will know whether the candidates are following the rules."

    posted by Steve Thomma at 4:47 PM

    The Flip Flop Olympics 

    While American gymnast Paul Hamm is nervously waiting and wondering whether he'll be allowed to keep his Olympic gold medal, John Kerry - the Bush camp tells us - is winning 10s across the board in the Flip Flop Olympics.

    Politics aside, it's yet another amusing bit of Web creativity that is mostly aimed at Kerry. Other examples: Kerryopoly and the Flipper cam.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 4:09 PM

    A nonpartisan penguin 

    Pete the Penguin is not playing political games. He's not allowed to. He's the mascot for Youngstown State University in Ohio, which, as a state-funded school, cannot endorse any political party.

    So a photo of Pete - or a mystery person masquerading as the mascot - is off the Bush-Cheney Web site.

    The photo showed someone dressed as Pete holding a Bush-Cheney '04 sign, said Debbie Lowe, the school's licensing coordinator. The caption read, "The YSU Penguin shows the student body's strong support for Bush/Cheney."

    No one asked the marketing office for permission to use the photo, and a university attorney could not determine who took or sent the photo, Lowe said Thursday.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 12:14 PM

    Wednesday, September 29, 2004

    Nader and what's his name in 2004 

    Quick: What's the name of Ralph Nader's running mate?

    Answer: Peter Miguel Camejo.

    His previous run for office was as the Green Party candidate in last year's California recall election. A first-generation Venezuelan-American, he is a "financier, businessman, political activist, environmentalist, author and one of the founders of the socially responsible investing movement." He was also on Venezuela's 1960 Olympic sailing team, which probably means he's not poor.

    FYI: The official tree of the Nader-Camejo campaign is the oak. The official flower is the red rose. The official mascot: the bulldog. The official bird: the robin. Why, you might wonder. Here's why.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 12:36 PM

    Tuesday, September 28, 2004

    The hamster dance, election style 

    Remember Alexandra Kerry's Democratic convention story of her father, Sen. John Kerry, rescuing Licorice the hamster?

    Let's just say not everyone had the same reaction.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 2:19 PM

    Does Uncle Sam want you? 

    Do you feel a draft? Lots of Americans are afraid they do. With the military streched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, people are worried a draft may be necessary.

    Although the Bush administration has adamantly denied it for months, Democrats have tried to seize on the fear to energize worried young voters and mothers to vote for Sen. John Kerry.

    Two bills have been introduced by Democrats in Congress to revive and expand the draft, which was discontinued near the end of the Vietnam War. Adding to the anxiety is the Selective Service System's recent advertisements for people to serve on local boards, which would help administer a draft.

    But despite that seemingly strong evidence, it's highly unlikely a draft will return, barring some major national emergency, lawmakers and analysts say. There is virtually no backing for the legislation in Congress and the idea of a draft is intensely unpopular among the American public.

    posted by Ellen Dunkel at 1:35 PM

    Monday, September 27, 2004

    Turf battle in Wisconsin 

    Just when John Kerry thought he had sun washed, bucolic south central Wisconsin all to himself to prepare for his debate with President Bush this week, the Bush camp invaded. Bush aides set up shop for the day at a local inn in Spring Green, Wis., about a mile from Kerry's House on the Rock Resort.

    The Bushies have brought in New York's former Republican mayor Rudy Giuliani to stump here and to meet with Kerry's traveling press corps. Steve Schmidt, the Bush campaign's master of quick response, was here. The Bushies were even offering van rides from Kerry's resort to their local redoubt.

    So why does Kerry's debate prep merit a Bush surrogate of Giuliani's stature?

    "The simple answer: This is a place we can find cameras so we can get on and get our message out," the irrepressible mayor said.

    "Surely you can find cameras in another part of the country, sir?"

    "Well, not ones that aren't being used today," hizzoner replied. "We thought we'd do you a favor and create a story for you."

    Bush is having his own retreat in Crawford, Texas, this week. But the Kerry camp is planning to stay away. Nothing personal. "We just don't have to do that," said Kerry spokesman David Wade. "We have a record that we can defend."

    Giuliani offered a new, novel defense of Bush, who's been under persistent Democratic attack for lacking nuance and practicing a ham-handed foreign policy.

    Actually, Rudy said, what the Democrats "are accusing the president of is having too sophisticated a response to terrorism because they keep attacking him for not concentrating all the efforts in Afghanistan. What the president has understood is that you need a very sophisticated response to terrorism. You've got to deal with terrorism here at home ... and you can't deal with terrorism in just one place. That it would have been a mistake just to be in Afghanistan alone, that you've got to deal with terrorism in Iraq, you've got to deal with terrorism, at that time at least, in Libya and other places."

    posted by Jim Kuhnhenn at 4:30 PM

    Air Cheney's friendlier skies 

    There's no plan for frequently flyer miles - at least, not yet - but Air Cheney has suddenly become a lot more friendly. After recent articles in the New York Times (registration required) and New York magazine
    highlighted Vice President Dick Cheney's practice of grounding news organizations that fell out of favor with the Veep's Office, reporters are now being welcomed aboard. Knight Ridder, one of the media organizations that suffered the cold shoulder, has a reservation on Cheney's plane for next week. No word yet on where Cheney is headed - it's still an undisclosed location.

    posted by Ron Hutcheson at 10:17 AM

    Sunday, September 26, 2004

    Stoking the locals with help from Fox 

    MADISON — Upon landing here Sunday, Sen. John Kerry encountered a small crowd of fans. He offered some choice anti-Bush quotes and a dire assessment of conditions on the ground in Iraq.

    "My friends entire regions of Iraq are now controlled by terrorists," he said. "American forces ceded to the terrorists areas of control. Yet President Bush keeps insisting that the situation is improving, keeps insisting that freedom is on the march, keeps insisting that the country is going back."

    Kerry also reminded his audience of Bush's appearance on an aircraft carrier in May 2003 beneath a sign that said "Mission Accomplished."

    "I will never be a president who just says mission accomplished, I will get the mission accomplished," he said.

    In a taped interview with Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly to be aired this week, Bush said he had no second thoughts about the announcement and that he was merely thanking the troops. Asked if he still would have declared major combat operations over, Bush replied "absolutely."

    "When the president landed on that aircraft carrier, 150 of our young sons and daughters had given their lives," Kerry said Sunday. "Since then tragically, since he said mission accomplished, tragically over 900 have now died."

    posted by Jim Kuhnhenn at 6:22 PM

    Debate prep in Packer country 

    MADISON, Wis. — John Kerry just arrived here in Green Bay Packer country to prepare for the political clash of the week – Thursday’s debate with George Bush over foreign policy that could be as head-knocking and pad-slapping as anything else on television that night.

    Kerry is steeling himself accordingly, studying Bush's 2000 debate game plan and running drills against an offense patterned after the president's.

    "I think what everybody learned in 2000 was that the Bush people went with a theory for that debate ... They pushed Gore as an exaggerator," Kerry communications director Stephanie Cutter told reporters aboard his campaign plane Sunday. "They stuck with that theory. They won the spin war coming out of that debate."

    This time, Bush will portray Kerry as a "flip flopper." Count on the Kerry camp to practice using the words "wrong choices" in close proximity to "George Bush." Kerry has already read a lengthy Atlantic Monthly article on George Bush and the war in Iraq.

    Kerry's training team includes John Sasso, an old Massachusetts political hand who joined the team recently to be Kerry's traveling confidant. Bob Shrum, a speechwriter and senior adviser, is here, too. Jonathan Winer, who worked as an investigator for Kerry back in his 1990 Senate probe of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, is offering national security advice. Washington lawyer Greg Craig, former White House counsel who defended Clinton against impeachment charges and lawyer for Elian Gonzalez' father, is playing Bush in mock debates.

    Kerry's training camp is a resort in Spring Green, a town west of Madison known as the home of Frank Lloyd Wright and the largest carousel in the world. Political lesson: What goes around comes around?

    Kerry won't be closeted in debate training at all times. Aides plan to give him daily photo-ops. Wisconsin is, after all, a battleground state where Bush appears to be leading.

    And, of course, there is always homage to pay the Green Bay Packers, especially after Kerry last month foolishly mispronounced the name of hallowed Lambeau Field as Lambert Field. On his way to Spring Green, Kerry and his motorcade stopped at a pub in Mt. Horeb to watch the first quarter of the Packers-Indianapolis Colts game. The Colts were leading 7-0 when he arrived. The game was tied 14-14 when he left. The Colts went on to win.

    posted by Jim Kuhnhenn at 6:13 PM



    This blog is compiled and edited by:

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

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

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