Tuesday's must-reads


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Geraldine Sealey
February 3, 2004 7:32PM (UTC)

Kerry, Edwards beat Bush - if vote held today
It's almost exactly nine months to Election Day, and a sitting president would rather have numbers like this now than, say, late October, but a new Gallup poll has to worry Bush-Cheney '04. USA Today details the new national survey showing Bush with his lowest job-approval rating -- and highest disapproval rating -- of his term, and close to his worst ratings ever for his handling of the economy, health care and Iraq. Those Democratic voters in search of the most electable candidate should take note that Gallup shows John Kerry beating Bush 53 percent to 46 percent if the vote were held today -- a lead outside the poll's margin of error. John Edwards also edges out Bush, but within the sampling error: 49 percent to 48 percent.

Who'll bow out next?
John Edwards' aides say he'll drop out if he doesn't win tonight in South Carolina. Joe Lieberman may finally admit he lacks the Joe-mentum to continue if he doesn't do well in today's seven primaries and caucuses. Some experts think Wesley Clark is done, too, if he doesn't win anything today - although he's doing well in Oklahoma polls. Howard Dean, who lowered his expectations for today by basically not campaigning in any of the seven states, insists he's in it until another candidate wins an unsurmountable number of delegates. But John Kerry could make all the candidates reassess their futures if he sweeps today: A scenario that's not probable, but it is possible. The Christian Science Monitor considers the possibility that today's vote could winnow the field. "On the eve of voting in Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, the horse-race handicapping centered on how much the field would shrink after Tuesday, allowing those left standing to refill their campaign coffers and keep fighting."

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'Black people aren't crazy' - they want to beat Bush
The Washington Post looks at the critical black vote in South Carolina, the first state where African-Americans comprise so much of the electorate - at least 40 percent. Despite the presence of Al Sharpton in the race, black voters seem to be choosing between John Kerry and John Edwards. Rep. James E. Clyburn, the state's most prominent black politician, says there's a good explanation for that. "Electability is what's on black people's minds, too," he told the Post. "Black folks to a much greater degree want to see Bush out of the White House. Black people aren't crazy. They're looking for somebody they think can win in November."

Bush's bogus budget
You may have heard the line about how President Bush's new budget, revealed on Monday, shrinks domestic discretionary spending, which allegedly rose in recent years and has contributed largely to our rising deficits. Paul Krugman explains how Bush's "shrinking" of real domestic discretionary spending is a fake solution to a fake problem. The real culprit is plunging tax collection. "The prime cause of giant budget deficits is a plunge in the federal government's tax take, which fell from 20.9 percent of G.D.P. in fiscal 2000 to a projected 15.7 percent this year, the lowest share since 1950. About 45 percent of this plunge can be attributed to the Bush tax cuts. The rest reflects the end of the stock market bubble, the still-depressed economy and -- probably -- growing tax sheltering and evasion," Krugman writes.

Blair caves in, too
What a difference a week makes. Just days ago, Tony Blair was publicly vindicated by a British judge, Lord Hutton, who excoriated the BBC for reports that the government there "sexed up" prewar evidence on what kind of a threat Saddam posed. But the Hutton inquiry didn't sit well with many Britons -- some called it a "whitewash." President Bush's announcement that he'd name a commission to study prewar intelligence only added pressure on Blair. The London Telegraph now reports that Blair, too, will order an inquiry into British intelligence and the failure to find WMD in Iraq. "No. 10 denied that Mr Bush's decision had forced Mr Blair into an embarrassing about-turn. But until yesterday ministers had insisted that there was no need for an inquiry, arguing that a team of international experts in Iraq should be allowed to complete its search for WMD."

The Telegraph also includes a list of quotes tracking the shifting stances of Blair and Bush before and after the war.


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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