Wednesday's must-reads

By Geraldine Sealey
Published February 4, 2004 8:10PM (UTC)
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An energized, united front?
The Washington Post talks to Democratic Party insiders gleeful about what early primary results say about the strength of the party and will of Democratic voters. From the looks of it, Democrats are getting behind the candidates they think can accomplish that ultimate of objectives this fall: Beating Bush. "This is a party that is energized by a competitive race and regaining its political health," said Donna Brazile, manager of Al Gore's presidential campaign four years ago.

"Turnout was a record high for a Democratic primary in South Carolina and was twice the 2000 number in Arizona. Anti-Bush feeling varied a bit from place to place -- higher in Delaware, a little lower in South Carolina and the classic swing state of Missouri. But there was consistent dissatisfaction among primary voters on the economy, the war and Bush's performance."

Kerry's weaknesses
Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times looks at what Tuesday's exit polls say about John Kerry's weaknesses as a candidate, even as the five victories he posted bolster his front-runner status. "The polls showed that Kerry, who has been trying to shed an image as an aloof patrician, fared worse among voters who said their priority was a candidate who cared about people like them." John Edwards fares well with the "he cares about me" camp. He also scored well with economy-focused voters, especially in South Carolina and Oklahoma. "These findings suggest an opening for the North Carolina senator to run a 'lunch bucket' campaign of tough-on-trade, economic populism aimed at blue-collar voters and those without college educations," Brownstein writes.

It's time for Clark, too, to distinguish himself from Kerry, Brownstein says. Tuesday night, Clark did just that in a late-night TV interview: "I'm an outsider; I haven't been in the Senate. I'm not someone who is part of the Washington problem. I'm the solution to the Washington problem."

Dean writes off Michigan now, too
In the wake of his New Hampshire defeat, Howard Dean started dampening expectations for his performance in Tuesday night's seven primaries and caucuses, knowing he wouldn't do well. And he didn't. This Saturday's contests in Michigan and Washington state were supposed to be the jump-start to his faltering campaign. But now, after public opinion polls in Michigan showed a formidable lead for Kerry, Dean is also writing off that state, putting his emphasis on Washington. The Detroit Free Press looks at the fizzling of Dean's campaign there.

Democrats bring on debate over military records
The New York Times looks at the growing, rancorous debate between Democrats and Republicans over the contrasting military records of President Bush and Democratic front-runner John Kerry. Even before Kerry seals his place as the Democratic nominee, the comparison of the men's military records is becoming a campaign issue.

"Democrats, who this week accused Mr. Bush of being 'AWOL' from the National Guard, are using it as a weapon to undermine Mr. Bush's greatest electoral strength, his record on national security after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Republicans roared back on Tuesday, accusing Mr. Kerry of 'smear tactics' for saying the president should answer questions about his service record. Taking the rare step of angrily rebutting the charges directly from the White House, the Republicans are trying to turn the issue back on Mr. Kerry and question the character of a man who they say is running a vicious campaign. But they are concerned enough about the political impact of the charges to consider sending Mr. Bush out to begin his official campaigning early, rather than waiting until spring as previously planned."

Intel probe must study role of Cheney, other hawks
It's not enough for the prewar intelligence inquiry Bush is launching to look just at the failures of intelligence agencies, current and former U.S. officials tell the Miami Herald. "What went wrong with intelligence on Iraq will never be known unless the inquiry proposed by President Bush examines secret intelligence efforts led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Pentagon hawks," they say.

"The officials said they feared that Bush, gearing up his fight for reelection, would try to limit the inquiry's scope to the CIA and other agencies and ignore the key role the administration's own internal intelligence efforts played in making the case for war."

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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