Tuesday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
January 27, 2004 7:10PM (UTC)

The only certainty in N.H. -- uncertainty
We can read as many New Hampshire tracking polls as we'd like -- and there are many, most showing John Kerry ahead but Howard Dean making a post-Iowa comeback -- but they don't mean a thing now that actual New Hampshire residents are making their way to actual polls and casting ballots. The Boston Globe has the story on how anything can happen in the Granite State. "The celebrated New Hampshire independent streak is a major factor in why the campaign can be so volatile, since many voters resist making a final decision until the closing days. New Hampshire often chooses candidates based more on personality than issues, with authenticity valued over policy positions. 'The sale here is very hard to close,' said Tom Rath, a longtime Republican operative from New Hampshire and a former state attorney general."

And, while New Hampshire doesn't always choose the eventual nominee or president, there's often drama that can shape the next stage of the race. Iowa doesn't usually anoint winners either -- but it took Dean days to shake the albatross of that darned speech.

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Dems' favorite candidate: Anyone-but-Bush
Sure, voters in New Hampshire are worried about the economy, health care, and war in Iraq -- but they're really after the guy who can beat Bush in the fall. Like Iowans, New Hampshire voters tell pollsters and journalists that "electability" is a major motivator for them. And the yearning for a candidate most likely to topple Bush drew record crowds to caucuses in Iowa -- and similar stellar numbers are expected today in New Hampshire, despite snowy weather. The Christian Science Monitor looks at the electability factor. "When Democrats are asked whether they'd rather have a candidate they agreed with on most issues or a candidate who would have a better chance of beating Bush, they choose the latter by a margin of 2 to 1, says Rich Killion, a pollster at Franklin Pierce College. 'That isn't a gap, that's a canyon,' he says."

Of course, all candidates are electable when it gets right down to it. As Dennis Kucinich said at a recent debate when asked about his own viability: "Well, you know, I'm electable if you vote for me."

New Hampshire may cripple, not kill campaigns
As dramatic as the results from New Hampshire could be today, we may end up with the full slate of candidates going into the Feb. 3 primaries. The Chicago Sun-Times looks at the possibility that one or two of the top five contenders in New Hampshire could be battered after tonight but fight on through at least one more round. Expectations and whether candidates meet or fail them have as much to do with the continued viability of campaigns as actual votes. As the Sun-Times writes of Dean: "Some think a distant second or worse in New Hampshire could be the beginning of the end for Dean. The problem, said Southern New Hampshire University political scientist Paul Barresi, is that Dean 'was flying so high for so many months' that anything less than a win here would be seen as a big disappointment."

The budget con
Conservatives have made public their gripes about President Bush's lack of fiscal discipline and his half-hearted State of the Union proposal to get the deficit under control -- or as Paul Krugman called it today "deficit reduction-related program activities." But Krugman says the conservative attack on Bush -- that he and GOP congressional leaders are spending like drunken sailors -- clouds the truth.

"According to cleverly misleading reports from the Heritage Foundation and other like-minded sources, the deficit is growing because Mr. Bush isn't sufficiently conservative: he's allowing runaway growth in domestic spending. This myth is intended to divert attention from the real culprit: sharply reduced tax collections, mainly from corporations and the wealthy."

It's up to the Democratic candidates, Krugman says, to expose the budget con to the American people and educate the public on what's really causing our exploding budget deficit.

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The vast right-wing conspiracy -- against Bush
Ever wonder what Ann Coulter, Phyllis Schlafly and Oliver North do when they get together? Salon's Michelle Goldberg went to the Conservative Political Action Conference last week and found out. There was some merriment. A company called Star Spangled Ice Cream handed out samples of "I Hate the French Vanilla," vendors sold "Bring Back the Blacklist" mugs and others passed out "Dean People Suck" buttons. But a dark cloud hung over the gathering of right-wing foot soldiers: A palpable dissatisfaction with the current regime over issues like domestic spending and immigration policy that could signal good news for liberals come November.

"This year's CPAC, in fact, was more encouraging for liberals than conservatives. Bush's right-wing base is demanding more concessions than he's made so far, but those concessions are likely to erode whatever moderate support the president has. At one of the most fervently Republican gatherings in the country, it wasn't hard to find people who were planning to vote for third-party candidates from the Constitution or Libertarian parties, and a few even confided in whispers that they might vote for Joe Lieberman or John Edwards if given a chance. The mood was like that of liberals in 2000 who saw Al Gore as nothing more than a lesser evil and yearned to send a futile message through Ralph Nader. While the grass-roots left is more motivated and disciplined than it's ever been, the grass-roots right has turned sullen and uncompromising."


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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