* Bush-Cheney Ads to Highlight Senator Kerry's Record
* What's Next for AFSCME?
* Poll Watch: Kerry Looking Strong in New York
* Edwards' Super Tuesday Strategy
* Dean Just About Endorses
* Three States Hold Democratic Contests Next Tuesday
* Oops: Edwards Fails to Get on Vermont Ballot for Super Tuesday
Bush Ads Will Attack Kerry's Record: The Washington Post reports that President Bush's re-election campaign has "decided to focus its coming advertising barrage not only on John F. Kerry's record as a senator but also on his days as an antiwar activist, a House candidate and Massachusetts's lieutenant governor." Bush-Cheney plans to start running ads as soon as the middle of March, drawing on a campaign account that bulged with almost $105 million at the end of January.
The AP reports that Mr. Bush raised about $12.9 million last month, the report showed. Mr. Bush has raised more than $4.5 million so far in February, donations through Feb. 11 listed on his campaign Web site show.
The Post quotes Mr. Bush's top ad man on the campaign's strategy to attack Kerry: 'The beauty of John Kerry is 32 years of votes and public pronouncements," Mark McKinnon, the chief media adviser, tells The Post. McKinnon suggested a possible tag line: "He's been wrong for 32 years, he's wrong now.'"
The ads will have "substantial positive advertising about the president, focused on his proposals rather than accomplishments, when they begin spending tens of millions of dollars on the airwaves next month. But they made it clear that many of the ads will accuse the Democratic front-runner of 'hypocrisy,' in McKinnon's word, in part by reaching back into his early career."
The Post reports that: "Strategists plan to target the ad blitz to fewer than 20 states — such as Florida, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, New Hampshire and New Mexico — that were most closely contested in 2000. By taking the rare step of preparing for a general election ad blitz five months before the party conventions, the Bush team is following the lead of President Clinton, whose early 1996 commercials helped frame the election by tying GOP nominee Sen. Robert Dole to unpopular House speaker Newt Gingrich. The Bush ads would air at a time when Kerry may lack the resources to effectively respond, and in any event the money must be spent before the fall, when both nominees will be limited to $75 million in public financing."
"In a departure from the approach taken by Bush's father against Clinton in 1992, the campaign does not plan to argue that Kerry is not qualified to be president. Instead, officials said, the ads will depict Kerry as a politician who says one thing and does another."
In addition to McKinnon, the Bush-Cheney media team includes McKinnon's Maverick Media partners Stuart Stevens and Russ Schriefer; Alex Castellanos who worked on Dole's 1996 campaign; Fred Davis, who worked for Sen. Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina in 2002; Frank Guerra of San Antonio, who has worked for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; Scott Howell of Dallas, a former Karl Rove protégé; and Chris Mottola of Philadelphia, who also worked for Dole's presidential bid.
On the outreach side, the Post reports that Bush-Cheney has hired a few Madison Avenue types, including Vada Hill, who is credited with making the talking-dog commercials for Taco Bell, and Harold Kaplan, who has written Kentucky Fried Chicken spots.
Anyone Want 7,000 Green Dean T-Shirts Cheap? AFSCME President Gerald McEntee spent a long day chatting with reporters on the 7th floor of the AFSMCE Washington headquarters on Thursday. He gave some great quotes to The New York Times' Adam Nagourney, including telling him that he had concluded that Howard Dean was "nuts"
By the time CBS News caught up with him in the late afternoon, McEntee's staff had put a piece of paper on his desk saying "You can talk Off The Record," which he did quite entertainingly. But he also put some things squarely on the record.
Clearly burned by reporters who accused him of bailing on Dean — and by Dean himself who dissed him in his farewell speech on Wednesday — McEntee said that AFSCME spent over $5.5 million in Iowa, New Hampshire, Arizona, New Mexico (absentee ballot drive), Missouri and Delaware (where they hoped to pull off a sneak surprise) and when it came to Wisconsin he couldn't justify another $1 million in a state where AFSCME has 45 million members. He says he told Dean a few Saturdays ago in Burlington that it was time to get out and Dean refused. He suggested that Dean take his huge list of supporters and start a movement for change called something like "Empower Amercia," which Dean is now doing.
McEntee, who chairs the AFL-CIO's political committee said that the vote to endorse Kerry was unanimous He said the Kerry campaign said they could use help in the Super Tuesday states of Georgia, Ohio and Minnesota, which have open primaries where they worry that Edwards could repeat the strong showing with Republicans and independents that he got in Wisconsin.
As for AFSCME, McEntee said that it has not yet picked another candidate to replace Dean. He said he's talked to both Kerry and Edwards and likes Edwards' focus on jobs. He says that Kerry has made some concessions on trade and that they "would continue to have discussions" with him on trade issues down the road. But no endorsement soon. As he told The Times: "We need a rest. Maybe in an asylum," after their time with the Green Dean Machine.
Poll Watch: New York or Bust: In delegate rich New York, the news could hardly be better for Kerry. A new poll from Marist College (conducted Feb. 17 through Feb. 19, margin of error 5 percent) shows the Massachusetts senator with a very large lead indeed, 66 percent of the vote. Edwards takes 14 percent. Although not all the voters surveyed are strongly committed to their first choice candidate, 52 percent of Kerry's support (33 percent) is firmly in his camp. New York has a closed primary, which should be good for Kerry since only registered Democrats can vote.
And if the news is good for Kerry in New York, it is good for all the Democrats in one way or another. A Pew Research Center poll (conducted Feb. 11 through Feb. 16, margin of error 3 percent) shows that national public opinion of the Democratic presidential contenders has improved during the primary season. In comparison to last month's 31 percent, 45 percent of the public now views the field in a positive light. At the same time, Mr. Bush's job approval rating dipped to 48 percent, the first time it has been below 50. And that seems to translate to the months ahead: only 51 percent now think Mr. Bush will be reelected, in comparison with 61 percent just one month ago. As Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew poll told the AP, "I'm a little surprised by how negative people are toward Bush personally." But the Bush team is laying plans to correct that soon.
New York (236 delegates)
Marist College 2/17-19 (404 interviews)
Pew Research Center 2/11-16 (1,500 interviews)
Positive view of Democratic field
Edwards Looks to March 2: Now in his hoped-for one-on-one contest with Kerry, Edwards will focus his energies on New York, Ohio and Georgia, reports The New York Times. Those three states represent 462 delegates of the 1151 up for grabs on Super Tuesday. Edwards will be in New York for "five days, appearing on three of those days in Buffalo, Albany and Rochester, which have been particularly hard hit by plant closings and that may be more receptive to his message," according to The Times. Edwards will also look to compete well in Ohio, where he hopes his message on jobs and trade will resonate despite Thursday's AFL-CIO endorsement of Kerry. In addition, the Edwards campaign says it will focus on California, Minnesota and Maryland. The say they will be starting ads "very soon."
Beyond focusing on specific states, Edwards will continue to press for mano-a-mano debates with Kerry. As the Los Angeles Times reports, "Like a hunter pursuing big game, Sen. John Edwards sought to flush front-runner Sen. John F. Kerry into the open Thursday by challenging him to a series of pre-Super Tuesday debates — encounters that Edwards believes could help catapult his campaign into the lead for the Democratic presidential nomination." Not only would such debates make Edwards look like an equal competitor with Kerry (the campaign hopes), it also free media that avoids the need to spend money advertising in the expensive states of Super Tuesday. The Kerry campaign has played coy with the idea, saying it will debate "anytime, anywhere" but not committing to any specific debates as of yet. Looks like Kerry's team may be as eager to avoid an event featuring just the two senators as the Edwards campaign is to make it happen. We'll see who wins the Super Tuesday strategy contest.
Dean Endorses ... Dean: Howard Dean may have officially left the race, but he still hopes to hold on to his army of supporters, giving the impression that his endorsement may not be in the cards anytime soon. Imploring them to stay active in the campaign's "new enterprise," that has yet to take shape, Dean asks that they also stay active in his delegate race by voting for him. "If you are in a state that has not yet voted, be sure to vote. We'll have a great time at the convention," he said in a letter to supporters.
Hardly sounding like a man who lost 17 contests, less than two months after all but being crowned the heir apparent, Dean refused to admit defeat, "I have to say that I don't really feel like we have lost. We only lose if we quit." Only time will tell if his army of supporters will buy into the idea that ending his bid for the presidency doesn't mean quitting.
There's More to Campaigning Than Super Tuesday: With all eyes on Super Tuesday, March 2, when voters in 10 states will hit the polls, candidates are paying little to no attention to contests less than a week away. On Tuesday, Feb. 24, 61 delegates will be up for grabs in Utah, Idaho and Hawaii, but after looking at the candidates' schedules, you'd never know it. No candidate has run a television ad in any of the states, nor have they visited any of the three in recent months, and not one has a visit firmly scheduled, reports The New York Times. Disappointing news to people like Donald Dunn, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, who hoped that an earlier primary date would attract more attention.
As The Times explains it, the neglect is due in part to the 61 delegates up for grabs, compared to the 1,151 that are up for grab just a week later and to the fact that none of the three are classic "swing-states." Illustrating the difference in priorities, Kucinich (who incidentally has spent a decent amount of time in Hawaii) cancelled his trip to Utah on Thursday because he needed to spend more time in California, a Super Tuesday state. And, Edwards canceled his plans to speak at Idaho's Jefferson-Jackson dinner on Saturday because he needed to spend the night in Ohio, a Super Tuesday state with 140 delegates. Al Gore, who doesn't have to worry about delegates this time, will take his place.
Meanwhile, Utah is not giving up, hoping that Kerry will stop through before Tuesday, perhaps for the state's Jefferson-Jackson dinner on Monday. So far, though, there are no firm plans.
Oops: Edwards will not appear on the ballot for Vermont's March 2 primary, reports the AP. Edwards, along with Dick Gephardt, Sharpton, and Lieberman, decided not to file to for the primary ballot in Dean's home state in January because at the time Dean was still the front-runner.
Edwards failed to submit a petition signed by 1,000 citizens of Vermont and a $2,000 check by the January 20 deadline, a decision that will cost Edwards a shot at 15 pledged delegates. In addition to Dean, Kerry, Clark and Kucinich are on the ballot.
Quote of the Day: "I am prepared to do whatever — within reason; I'm not going to sacrifice any of my grandchildren." – Florida Sen. Bob Graham making his desire to be the Democratic vice presidential nominee clear. (Palm Beach Post)