A Dis-Endorsement of Dean
01/29/2004 @ 01:18am
By David Corn for The Nation

I don't tend to endorse candidates. I'll leave that to Michael Moore. But I do feel like dis-endorsing a presidential candidate: Howard Dean.

This has nothing to do with the former Vermont governor's loss to Senator John Kerry in the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary. It has to do with Dean's decision to fire Joe Trippi, his campaign manager, and hand control to Roy Neel.

I am not defending Trippi. I happen to like him and thought he did a marvelous job using the new tools of the Internet to turn a little-known governor into both a top-tier presidential candidate and the leader of what appeared to be a movement of reform-minded citizens who wanted to bring public-interest democracy to Washington. But the relationship between candidate and consultant is akin to a marriage; it is hard for outsiders to know truly what goes on between the two. Perhaps Trippi and Dean had disagreements over the direction of the campaign. Maybe Trippi shortchanged the organizational needs of the campaign or failed to manage its growth effectively. Did Dean object to Trippi showing up for television interviews looking bedraggled? Dean might be searching for a scapegoat, and there's an old saying in politics, "you can't fire the candidate." And here's a new one: a scream once screamed cannot be unscreamed.

So it's Dean's right to boot Trippi. What warrants criticism is his decision to put his campaign in the mitts of a Washington insider. Neel, a former Al Gore aide, was head of the U.S. Telecom Association in Washington in the late 1990s until he left to join Gore's 2000 campaign. The USTA lobbies on behalf of the telecommunications industry. As its lead lobbyist, Neel was the embodiment of the "special interests" that Dean has assailed on the campaign trail.

For much of the past week, I listened to Dean repeatedly bemoan the influence of corporate lobbyists as he crisscrossed New Hampshire. A sampling:

* "All the things that happen in Washington happen for the benefit of corporations and special interests."

* "This government is run by a president who cares more about corporations than he does about ordinary Americans, and that is why I'm running."

* "The ordinary people in this country are supposed to be running it."

* "There are no special interests in Washington who can buy us."

No, we only let them oversee our campaigns.

Since entering the race, Dean has insistently said, "we have to take our country back" from the special interests. The slogan on his bus reads, "You Have The Power." He has decried the hold that business interests have on the federal government. Well, what does he think Neel did when he ran the telecom lobby? Did Neel go up to Capitol Hill--or send his underlings--to beseech legislators to pass legislation with consumers foremost in mind? Did he use his connections with the Clinton-Gore administration to help out consumer advocates trying to protect the rights of "ordinary Americans" as Congress and regulatory agencies handled telecom issues? Is maple syrup good for your teeth?

Neel was part of Washington's insider network--which does not look out for the people Dean claims he wants to empower. In 1999 and 2000, the USTA spent $3.5 million to lobby Congress, according to lobbying reports it filed. (The association probably spent more; not all lobbying activity is reported.) To help the telecoms, Neel recruited other influence peddlers in town, including the lobbying firm of Haley Barbour, who then chaired the Republican National Committee. Other Barbour clients: British American Tobacco, the Edison Electric Institute, Glaxo Wellcome, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Philip Morris. Neel's outfit also retained Wallman Strategic Consulting, which represented General Motors and WorldCom.

To increase the odds that members of Congress would heed the pleas of telecom companies, the U.S. Telecom Association, through its political action committee, donated generously to incumbent legislators. In the 1998 and 2000 election cycles, it doled out $266,000 to members of the House and Senator. Nearly 80 percent of that went to Republicans. GOPers helped by this PAC *******d Representatives Dick Armey, Bob Barr, Tom DeLay, Newt Gingrich, Dennis Hastert and Henry Hyde and Senators John Ashcroft, Sam Brownback, Bill Frist, Orrin Hatch and Trent Lott.

It really seems that Neel was committed to bringing change to Washington.

Neel might well be a fine person, a good CEO, a believer (on his own time) in the values of the Democratic Party. But he was a bigtime player in the very game that Dean claims he wants to destroy. Dean's choice of Neel suggests Dean is clueless or disingenuous. Does he not know what it means to head the U.S. Telecom Association? Does he not understand that it is wrong--or, at the least, ill-considered--to place a lobbyist at the front of a charge on Washington? Was he not worried that this action would cause his opponents, the media and--most importantly--his devoted supporters to question his sincerity and his judgment?

There has always been a disconnect in the Dean campaign between the man and the movement. If two years ago someone cooked up the idea to create a progressive, reform-minded grassroots crusade that would focus on harnessing "people power" to confront Washington's money-and-power culture and a leader for such an effort was needed, Dean's name would not have jumped to mind. Senator Paul Wellstone maybe, not Dean. Yet thousands of Americans were yearning for such an endeavor, and Dean found a way to tap into their desires. It was not the most natural or conventional of couplings, but it happened. And he was propelled to the front of the presidential pack.

Is Dean filing for divorce? By turning toward Neel to save his campaign, Dean is not breaking new ground in American politics, for presidential candidates have long enlisted K Street lobbyists to aid their campaigns. Gore brought in Tony Coehlo, a well-connected lobbyist and former House member, to skipper his 2000 campaign when it hit trouble. And it would be no surprise to find special interests lobbyists on the payroll of Senators John Kerry or John Edwards. Retired General Wesley Clark was a lobbyist himself before entering the contest. But by adhering to this tradition, Dean has signaled that he is not fully committed to his core message--unless he wants to argue that it takes a thief to catch a thief. But does he really believe it takes a corporate lobbyist to "take back America" from the corporate lobbyists? Let him explain that in one of the e-mails he regularly sends his thousands of followers. They trusted Dean, and there is nothing wrong with hope. But as Dean fans deal with the disappointment of New Hampshire, he has delivered them more bad news to process. Looking at the Neel move--a scream of a different sort--it would not be unreasonable for any Deaniac who embraced this campaign as a reform movement to say, Stick a fork in it; it's done.


Howard Dean Replaces His Campaign Manager
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer

BURLINGTON, Vt. - Democrat Howard Dean (news - web sites) shook up his faltering bid for the White House on Wednesday, replacing his campaign manager with a longtime associate of former Vice President Al Gore (news - web sites).

In a further sign of distress, the one-time front-runner implemented cost-cutting measures as he looked ahead to a series of costly primaries and caucuses, asking staff to defer their paychecks for two weeks.

"Governor Dean asked Roy Neel to join the campaign as CEO and Joe Trippi resigned as campaign manager," said Tricia Enright, a campaign spokeswoman.

One source said the former Vermont governor offered Trippi a spot on the payroll as a senior adviser — similar to the position Neel has held since Jan. 1 — but he decided to quit rather than accept the demotion.

One day after absorbing a double-digit defeat in New Hampshire at the hands of rival John Kerry (news - web sites), Dean publicly and privately expressed his determination to remain in the race. At the same time, in a conference call with members of Congress who have endorsed him, he was told bluntly that finishing second wasn't good enough — that he had to show he could win a primary.

"He said he understood," said one lawmaker who was involved in the call.

Dean's campaign chairman Steve Grossman also said Wednesday that the candidate must win a presidential primary in the next two weeks to keep even his most loyal donor base — those giving modest amounts over the Web — contributing enough to make him financially competitive.

The tumultuous events capped a swift slide for Dean, who was the campaign front-runner at the dawn of the election year, the man with money, momentum and a lead in the polls nationally and in most states.

But that was before he faded to third place in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 19, and dealt himself a further setback with an appearance before supporters that even aides conceded was overly animated and less-than-presidential.

Democrats outside the campaign were surprised that Dean would make such a dramatic move in the middle of the primary race.

"It's the campaign's acknowledgment that things have gotten drastically off course," said Anita Dunn, who helped run Bill Bradley (news - web sites)'s failed 2000 campaign. "Often, when that happens you make a managerial change, no matter how well the manager was doing."

Trippi, who has a quarter-century of experience in Democratic politics, is widely credited with helping Dean build the campaign that transformed him from asterisk in the polls to front-runner by the end of 2003.

Dean announced that Neel would take the new position during a staff meeting, but aides who were present said he did not mention Trippi's departure. Trippi then came in and tearfully told his staff that he was leaving.

"Howard Dean is the guy who is going to fight for the country for real change and (I) hope people stick with him," Trippi said as he left campaign headquarters with his wife, Kathy Lash, who also worked for Dean.

"I'm out of the campaign, but I'm not out of the fight," he said. "We need to change America."

Dean aide Kate O'Conner said Dean wanted Neel to take over office operations, but wanted Trippi to stay on as a strategist running the Internet operations, an offer he turned down.

Trippi had been part of the staff faction that had urged Dean to focus on a few states that could be won, skipping all or most of the Feb. 3 contests in favor of Michigan, Washington state and Wisconsin. Dean and Neel dug in their heels, insisting that he had to play everywhere — an argument that prevailed as Trippi left.

His departure sent shock waves through the campaign, where he is a popular boss and something of an icon to the thousands of Internet-savvy supporters across the country. It was not unusual for crowd members to look for Trippi's autograph before Dean's at campaign events.

"Trippi has been a driving force in the campaign. There's no question it's been built around his interesting personality," said Donna Brazile, who helped run Gore's campaign. "But there's more to the Dean campaign than Joe Trippi. He has been the heart of it, but he does not embody it."

Dean campaign officials said the move is a sign of Gore's growing influence in the campaign. The 2000 Democratic presidential nominee had recommended that Neel play a larger role, officials said.

Trippi's critics in the campaign had complained to Dean about the massive TV ad expenditures in Iowa and New Hampshire, a share of which went to the media firm run by Trippi and Steve McMahon.

The ad team of McMahon and Mark Squier will remain on the campaign, but they've been told to build a broader ad team that includes creative input from Hollywood and New York specialists to produce better spots, said a senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He and other officials predicted that some campaign aides will follow Trippi out the door in protest, and said there is concern in the campaign that Dean's supporters on the Internet will give up on his bid.

Neel, Gore's former senatorial chief of staff, served as chief executive of the U.S. Telecom Association in Washington before working on Gore's 2000 presidential campaign. Neel was named to head Gore's transition team in anticipation of the former vice president winning the White House.

Neel pledged to join Dean's campaign after Gore endorsed the former Vermont governor on Dec. 9.

As word of the staff change circulated, the official blog on Dean's Web site lit up with mixed reaction from campaign supporters. Several praised Trippi's skills that they said brought Dean's candidacy as far as it has, while others said it was past time for a shake-up.

"Let's all give our thanks to Joe Trippi as he took this campaign from obscurity to front runner status. Now is the elections and a different kind of campaign was needed," said a post from "rwilson4dean."

"Good, Trippi needed to be replaced," wrote "NJ for Dean." "Maybe HQ will start to listen to us!!!! Get better ads!"

The decision to shake up the campaign was made in a series of discussions in Burlington, Vt. — on a day that his rivals were already out campaigning for votes in the seven states that hold primaries and caucuses on Feb. 3.

Durking switches from Dean to Edwards

Edwards Wins Endorsement of Former Senator John Durkin

NASHUA, NH: U.S. Senator John Edwards Sunday received the endorsement of former U.S. Senator John Durkin. Durkin chose to endorse Edwards after withdrawing his support for Howard Dean last week.

"I've followed Edwards very closely from day one and admired the way he has conducted the campaign here," said Durkin. "I think he still has the most progressive, thoughtful platform of all the candidates. It takes into consideration all the needs of the average working family, of small business and senior citizens. And he has been fighting all his life."

Senator Durkin is the second high-profile New Hampshire Democrat to switch his support to Edwards in the face of Edwards' groundswell of momentum. Just last week, Peter Burling, the New Hampshire House Democratic leader, switched his endorsement to Edwards after supporting Gephardt. These endorsements underscore the momentum that New Hampshire voters have been feeling over the past few days.

"I like all the candidates, but I'm trying to find the one who has the best chance of beating George Bush," said Durkin. "I think Sen. Edwards would be the best."

Durkin represented New Hampshire between 1975 and 1980. Durkin began his public service career with the United States Navy as a young man, then climbed his way up the ladder working for the state of New Hampshire.

"I am extremely honored today to have received the endorsement of Senator Durkin," said Edwards. "I think this endorsement recognizes that this campaign's positive message about what's possible is registering with voters all across the state of New Hampshire. I'm confident that on Tuesday, the voters of this state will send a message to the country that they want a candidate with an optimistic vision to change America."

Dean losing Iowa

Dean In 1st By One Percentage Point

POSTED: 4:37 PM CST January 15, 2004
UPDATED: 5:01 PM CST January 15, 2004

DES MOINES, Iowa -- It looks like the Iowa caucuses are too close to call.

Results of an exclusive NewsChannel 8 poll released Thursday show Howard Dean is leading among Iowa Democrats, but only by one percentage point. And his competitors have gained ground.

Out of 607 Iowans surveyed this week, the former Vermont governor has support from 22 percent of Democratic caucus voters – that is down 7 percent from a KCCI poll taken just one week ago.

Sen. John Kerry is right behind Dean at 21 percent, and Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt and John Edwards are tied at 18 percent.

[b]In one week, Dean lost his cushion for a win, and Edwards support jumped 10 percent. With a 4 percent margin of error, the Iowa caucus has become a four-way race.[/b]

“We may see some buyer's remorse at the moment in Dean supporters, concerned about whether he has the temperament to be a good president,” said KCCI political analyst Dennis Goldford.

Edwards said he isn’t surprised by the jump in his support.

"I don't know how much faith to put in [the poll numbers], but they seem to be consistent with what I'm seeing on the ground and consistent with all these calls we're getting into our office every day," Edwards told NewsChannel 8.

With the exception of Bill Clinton in 1992 – when he ran against Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin -- no candidate has ever finished below third in the Iowa caucus and gone on to win their party’s nomination.

(no subject)

“Question for Dean: How Solid a Base?” Dan Balz, Washington Post, 1/15/04

For most of 2003, Howard Dean's campaign showed some of the qualities of a Silicon Valley enterprise in the boom days of the 1990s -- an innovative political machine that was all about the promise of something new -- new voters, new money and a new politics for a demoralized Democratic Party.

But on the eve of the first critical votes of 2004, Dean's campaign is showing obvious signs of nervousness. His campaign is now less about cyber-innovation and more about delivering support from Democratic voters, and the question that will be answered in the days ahead is whether Dean has built his campaign on a solid foundation or one that will fracture if there is a setback or defeat.
Those shifts in sentiment are not unexpected, but some past front-runners -- George W. Bush in 2000, for example -- have braced themselves with establishment political support to sustain them through the rapids of the early contests on the nomination calendar. Dean, for all his endorsements from powerful unions and prominent Democrats such as former vice president Al Gore and Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa), remains a candidate dependent on a grass-roots army that is untested in the rigors of primaries and caucuses and unpredictable if things go badly.
Dean advisers dismiss talk that Dean has stalled or is in any real trouble, while acknowledging that they have lost ground in New Hampshire and are fighting for a victory in Iowa. "We've got a tough fight in Iowa and New Hampshire, and it's going to be a tough fight beyond that," said Dean pollster Paul Maslin. "What's going to sustain us beyond that is what Howard Dean has built. That is going to be our shield."
Dean's closing argument heading toward the first contests is that he alone has built a campaign that can beat Bush and the Republicans, one that can attract new voters and enough money to run competitively against the best-funded incumbent in history.
His rivals point not to his campaign -- they have obvious respect for what he has built -- but to the candidate himself, and they question whether he has the personal qualities, temperament and vision to lead the party in November. His performance in the days ahead, and the intensity of those who have powered his rise in the Democratic race, will answer the questions his rivals are posing.

(no subject)

“Look Back, Dean, They're Gaining On You” Commentary by David Yepsen, Des Moines Register, 1/15/04

When the last stories of the 2004 Iowa Democratic caucuses are written, the decisions by Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt to be absent from the state for part of this final week of the campaign may loom large. The latest tracking poll of the race shows John Kerry has caught up with them - with John Edwards in hot pursuit.

So, as Dean slips, Kerry benefits. As Gephardt slips, Edwards profits.

Also this week, Dean started ads attacking his three leading opponents for voting for the Iraq war. That tells you Dean's own internal tracking poll shows this race has tightened, so he's going back to the issue that made him the early front-runner - the Iraq war. Trouble is, polls also tell us that Iraq isn't the most important issue on the minds of most caucus-goers. Issues such as jobs, trade, health care and education are more important, and the other candidates have plenty of credibility on those questions. Finally, despite all the talk about how liberal caucus-goers are, it's also true that the winners generally come from the center of that cycle's political spectrum. For example, in 1976, Jimmy Carter defeated people on his left. In 1984, Walter Mondale beat candidates more liberal than he.

The only upside to Dean's and Gephardt's journeys outside Iowa is that it gave their organizations in the state time to harvest votes rather than advancing events and moving a candidate around. Since Gephardt's organization is the best while Dean's is the largest, each man probably figured he could play hookey from Iowa for a day or two.

But given how tight this is, Dean and Gephardt may someday wish they'd have spent more time in places like Burlington, Ia., instead of Burlington, Vt., this week. That will become clear to them on caucus night, when only a few thousand votes are likely to separate the first-, second- and third-place finishers.

It's one of those things a loser can kick himself over for the rest of his life.

Dean has hurdles after IA, NH

“Dean Has Hurdles After Iowa, N.H.” Susan Page, USA Today, 1/14/04
Howard Dean is leading in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, but a demographic portrait of the voters he's drawing nationwide shows he'll face major challenges when the opening contests are over and the Democratic field narrows.
An analysis of the Democratic electorate indicates that the former Vermont governor's major rivals are likely to be in a better position than he is to appeal to voters whose candidates drop out of the race. And many of the contests next on the calendar are in states dominated by the sort of voters Dean has had relatively little success drawing, at least so far.
USA TODAY combined responses from 3,238 Democrats surveyed in the USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll since September, when retired general Wesley Clark entered the race. They were sorted into the 14 demographic groups devised by the marketing firm Claritas, which uses Census data to characterize Americans by income, education and lifestyle.
The contrast between Dean and Clark, who lead the field, is stark…
The "Rustic Living" group looms large in the Democratic contests. It makes up the biggest bloc of Democratic voters, comprising one in 10 U.S. households but one in six Democrats. It is the greatest source of support for Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

Tight race in Iowa

"Dean Holds Two-Point Lead on Gephardt in Iowa" John Whitesides, Reuters, 1/11/04


Democratic presidential front-runner Howard Dean holds a narrow two-point lead over Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt in Iowa barely one week before the state's caucuses, according to a Reuters/MSNBC/Zogby poll released on Sunday.

The former Vermont governor led Gephardt 25-23 percent in the three-day tracking poll, with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry in third place at 14 percent and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards moving up to a close fourth at 13 percent.

"It's very, very tight," pollster John Zogby said. "It's a close race and it probably will go right to the end."

The poll of 500 likely caucus-goers was taken Thursday through Saturday and has a margin of error of 4.5 percent. The rolling poll will continue each day through the Jan. 19 caucuses.

The Iowa caucuses are the first meaningful prize in the Democratic race for the right to challenge President Bush in November, and Dean and Gephardt have been locked in a tight duel at the top in Iowa for months.

With eight days to go until the caucuses, 14 percent of likely participants are still undecided, the poll found.

Dean led among the very liberal, independents, young voters, the college educated and singles, while Gephardt led among union households, those with less than a college education and lower income voters.

The survey also found growth for Edwards, who gained strength during the course of the three days and earned the endorsement of the state's largest newspaper, the Des Moines Register, on Sunday.

"Edwards has picked up a lot of steam each night," Zogby said.

Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman and retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who are not competing in Iowa, were each at 3 percent in the poll, with Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich at 2 percent.

Civil rights activist Al Sharpton and former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun were at 1 percent each.

Dean, the one-time longshot who has roared to the front of the Democratic field nationally on the basis of his outspoken criticism of Bush, the Iraq war and Democratic Party leaders, had a roller-coaster three days during the polling.

The survey began on Thursday as four-year-old tapes surfaced showing Dean criticizing the Iowa caucuses as dominated by special interests, and continued on Friday when Iowa's most influential Democrat, Sen. Tom Harkin, endorsed Dean.

Zogby said Dean had a bad Thursday night as news spread in Iowa of his critical comments about the caucuses, made on a Canadian public affairs program, but recovered on Friday with the endorsement from Harkin.

"It could not have come at a better time for him," Zogby said.

Gephardt's backers were the least likely to change their mind, with 31 percent calling their support "very strong." Twenty-six percent of Dean's support was "very strong," with Edwards at 18 percent and Kerry 14 percent.

Polling in Iowa is complicated by the unique nature of the caucus system, which requires participants to leave their homes on what is typically a bitter cold night and gather with neighbors for hours before publicly declaring their support for a candidate.

The ability to identify and turn out supporters is critical to each of the campaigns. The Zogby poll only included respondents who said they were likely to attend the caucuses.