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January 9, 2004 PERMALINK
The Failing Latino Panderfest (Part 2)
(posted Jan. 9 1:15 AM ET)

Just a few hours after LiberalOasis argued that Bush's attempts to expand his Latino vote were failing, these AP and Rueters headlines hit the wires:

Bush Polls Well Among Hispanic Voters

Bush Gaining Among Latino Voters, Surveys Show

So what's the deal? Is LO way off base?

Not really.

The two pieces both summarize the results from two Pew Hispanic Center polls -- one taken in early Dec., before the Saddam capture, and one from late last week.

The Jan. poll reflected a Saddam bounce, lifting Dubya's Latino approval from 46% to 54%, leading the AP to spin that Bush is in a "relatively strong position" with Latinos.

But let's look at what's really important: the re-elect number, the percentage who say they want to vote for Bush.

Recall that Dubya won 35% of the Latino vote in 2000, and that his chief pollster said he needs to boost that to 38-40% (and up his black vote from 9% to 13-15%) in order to win in '04, thanks to demographic shifts in the US population.

And in August, LO noted that a poll from the conservative Latino Coalition pegged Bush's Latino re-elect number at 31%, coming up short.

The Coalition tried to spin it, saying Bush had "consolidated a core group of support of about one-third of the Latino vote" and could expect to pick up enough undecideds to get to his goal.

LO said at the time it was likely an errant assumption that Bush has "consolidated" that much.

Lo and behold, in the Pew December poll, the re-elect for Latinos who are US citizens (and can therefore vote) was only 27%, clearly a regression from Bush's standing in 2000.

Now, that number spiked after the capture, to 36%.

GOP spinners could argue that's good enough, with the expected undecideds, to reach Bush's goal.

If that was a solid 36%, it wouldn't be a bad argument. But it isn't. It's a soft 36%.

The Dec. 27% number is better reflection of the results of Bush's three years pandering to Latinos -- a complete failure, losing ground, not gaining.

The improvement in the Jan. number is all Saddam bounce, nothing to do with Miguel Estrada, Spanish TV infomercial propaganda or the occasional Spanish phrase uttered in the Rose Garden.

And as LO discussed earlier this week, that bounce may well wear off soon, as part of the Bush Cycle.

Obviously, it's unclear at the moment whether or not Dubya's immigration reform plan gets him another poll spike among Latinos, temporary or otherwise.

(And we may not know for a while, because there's little public polling of Latinos.)

But yesterday's coverage of Latino reactions indicated that a big spike was unlikely.

And Pew's polls further show that Bush hasn't built up any additional trust among Latinos over the course of his presidency.

As such, the 2004 goal is still far from met.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

January 8, 2004 PERMALINK
The Failing Latino Panderfest Continues
(posted Jan. 8 1:15 AM ET)

The media loves to accuse Dems of strained pandering when they attempt to appeal to constituencies outside of their base, like white Southerners and the devoutly religious.

But Dubya's numerous attempts to tack on Latinos to his losing 2000 vote total, which the GOP considers essential for Bush to win, has been one pathetic failed attempt to pander after another.

In August, LiberalOasis detailed the myriad of weak, superficial ways the GOP has tried to woo Latinos.

But without substantive improvement in the quality of their lives, Latinos showed no increased willingness to vote for Bush in '04.

Yesterday's immigration proposal is not only further evidence that the past attempts have yet to succeed (why offer controversial legislation if you don't have to?).

It also will likely be the latest in this string of failures.

The proposal is different than the past attempts in that it is nominal substance, and tries to address an issue that concerns many Latinos.

But it's a classic Dubya bait-and-switch proposal, and one extremely unlikely to become law this year to boot.

That's why this is more likely to further fray the relationship Bush has with Latinos.

MSNBC's report sums this up best:

"Extremely disappointing," said Cecilia Munoz, vice president for policy at the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic immigrant advocacy group.

"It's a serious backtracking to where the president was two years ago when the administration was prepared to provide some kind of path to legal status," she said.

"They're proposing to invite people to be guest workers without providing any meaningful opportunity to remain in the United States to become legal permanent residents.

"It appears to be all about rewarding employers who have been hiring undocumented immigrants while offering almost nothing to the workers themselves."

Even some who might benefit from the proposal questioned Bush╬s announcement.

"I have to relate it to something about the campaign," said Mahonrry Hidalgo, a day laborer in Freehold, N.J. "It's going to help, but it's not the solution we want."

The NY Times found similar sentiment from immigrants:

"It sounds good, and I say sounds good because it doesn't mean it's good," said Elmer Rodriguez, a El Salvadoran...

...From the perspective of Luis Guaman, an Ecuadoran who has been working illegally in Brooklyn kitchens for 20 years, the plan held a strong lure: the possibility of visiting his homeland again for the first time.

But he was skeptical of President Bush's real intentions, echoing many who saw the proposal as an election ploy.

"He offers a lot of things but he doesn't do anything," Mr. Guaman said of the president.

"After he wins, forget it. They only give permanent status to top dogs, they don't give it to dishwashers."

The W. Post managed to find more positive Latinos in its backyard, but even those risk feeling betrayed as Latino leaders (who have "heaped criticism" on the plan) breakdown the details for them.

And the reporters themselves aren't helping Bush.

They may not be as mocking as they are to Dems who try to reach out beyond their base, but journos from the NYT, W. Post and NBC Nightly News all characterized the proposal as politically motivated.

The built-in assumption that Bush is being cynical will soften him up for Dem attacks if Bush tries to keep flogging the proposal on the campaign trial.

So points for effort Karl. But once again, you will fall way short.

QUICK HIT

Chat With Clark

Yesterday afternoon, LiberalOasis participated in a live chat with Wesley Clark and several bloggers. Click here for a transcript of the session.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

January 7, 2004 PERMALINK
The Bush Cycle
(posted Jan. 7 12:15 AM ET)
(updated Jan. 7 12: 15 PM ET)

The top USA Today homepage headline, as of this writing, is seemingly straight-forward, "Bush Approval Grows."

And one of the accompanying articles says:

His approval ratings are healthy and improving. Six in ten Americans say they approve of the job Bush is doing.

That's an interesting summation of the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, considering that it has Dubya's approval rating dropping 3 points from mid-December.

That fact is not in the body of either story about the poll.

Granted, the drop is from 63% to 60%, still landing on a high number.

But most polls pegged Bush in the mid-to-high 50s after the Saddam capture -- Zogby 53%, Newsweek 54%, Pew 57%, AP 59% and ABC/W. Post 59%.

So 60% is by no means the definitive figure.

More importantly, there's a drop, and it appears to be the continuation of the Bush Cycle.

As the Professor Pollkatz historical graphic of Bush polls shows, Dubya never shows steady gains of support.

He only has artificial spikes following events (9/11, the Iraq war, the capture) followed by steady falls to earth.

In effect, there has been a gravitational pull on Dubya approval towards the 50% marker (a couple of times crossing it).

That's the Bush Cycle.

There's no parallel for it in recent history. So any comparisons to where other presidents stood at this time are worthless (as if such comparisons were ever worthwhile).

Yet USA Today bothered to report:

That's higher than the approval ratings Clinton, Carter, Reagan or the elder Bush had at this point.

Of course, it's possible something will break this cycle, for good or for bad.

But the 50-50 Nation dynamic has been quite stubborn, refusing to let events and media boosters allow Dubya to run away with anything.

In fact, even in this poll, Bush's re-elect number is an improved but tenuous 51%.

So let the media ooh and aah now, because the gravitational pull still seems to be working.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

January 6, 2004 PERMALINK
The GOP PC Police Is On The Loose
Its Target: Our Base
(posted Jan. 6 1:30 AM ET)

The top story on the homepage of the Democratic Party is about an important issue that directly affects millions of working Americans:

Senate Democrats Protect Overtime Pay From GOP Pork Bill

So what crucial issue qualifies as the top story on Republican Party homepage?

MoveOn.org Should Apologize for Ads Comparing Bush to Hitler

Yes, the fact that two rejected, losing entries out of the 1500 submitted to MoveOn.org's Bush in 30 Seconds Contest -- never to be shown on TV -- made an offensive Bush-Hitler comparison is the most important issue for the GOP right now.

Why would the GOP play up such a penny-ante incident?

Sure, it goes along with the overarching GOP PC theme this election season -- that everything out of the Dems' mouth is "political hate speech" and everything GOPers say (Dashcle + Cleland = Osama x Saddam) is patriotic happy-talk.

But there's something larger afoot.

It's no small thing that MoveOn.org is the GOP's direct target.

The GOP claims it is happier when liberals are at the forefront of the Democratic Party, as they trot out their McGovern-Mondale-Dukakis analogies.

But that's false bravado, as the attempted kneecapping of MoveOn.org shows.

Clearly, a savvy, generous, energized liberal base scares the hell out of the GOP.

Why? Because they know the model works. It's the model they use.

And the savvy, energizing, increasingly well-financed, 2 million strong MoveOn.org is the closest thing to a personification of the base.

So it must be smeared, in order to minimize its effectiveness and make it harder for leading Dem figures to be associated with it.

But fret not.

An attack like this is the clearest sign that you're on the right track and they're afraid.

Yet, as LiberalOasis warned last month, it also means that it's now prime time for MoveOn.org and the rest of us that make up the liberal base.

Any mistake, anything that can be distorted, will be (un)fair game, as MoveOn.org surely realizes now.

Though it should be noted that MoveOn.org handled the flap well.

It quickly distanced itself from the controversial entries, put out a smart statement (throwing a little elbow back) and helped minimize the impact on the resulting AP piece about the contest.

But we all have to work extra hard to put on our best face and give them as little ammo as possible to work with.

We are on the right track. It's just time to step up our game.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

January 5, 2004 PERMALINK
Notes On The Debate
(posted Jan. 5 1:15 AM ET)

Let's forego the Sunday Talkshow Breakdown today, because we had a Dem debate in Iowa to chew on.

Some observations:

1. They Found Their Fight, But Dean Was Ready

After the last debate, LiberalOasis noted despite the consternation over Howard Dean from some corners, his rivals lacked fight -- unable or unwilling to make a case against him face to face.

That was not the situation yesterday. Joe Lieberman, John Kerry and Dick Gephardt all took their shots.

But as LO has also stressed, attacks are not enough at this stage of the game to derail Dean. They have to goad him into doing something stupid.

They got under his skin last week when he lashed out at Terry McAuliffe.

But Dean showed no temper yesterday. With all eyes on him, he kept his poise and stood his ground.

For example, after Dean responded to a Lieberman challenge to unseal his gubernatorial records by saying it was in a judge's hands, this exchange followed:

LIEBERMAN: That is an unsatisfactory and disappointing answer. Why should you have to force a judge to force you to do what you know is right?...

...We Democrats are better than Bush and Cheney. And your position on your records has undercut the high ground that we should be on.

...

DEAN: I think if somebody is gay and they write me that, and they don't care to have that information disclosed to the public, that's their right.

LIEBERMAN: ...Excuse me. You are ducking the question. Of course you've got a right to hold back private disclosures like that.

DEAN: Joe, a judge should decide that, because if we decide it, nobody is going to believe us, and they're going to say there's more stuff in the record.

Why can't a judge look at every single piece of paper and make that decision?

LIEBERMAN: You are ducking the question. You should not force a judge to force you to do what you know is right, and which will assure public confidence.

On the substance of the skirmish, it's probably a wash.

Most Dean fans will find his "judge" answer reasonable. Most Dean critics will say he ducked.

Undecideds will probably see merits in both arguments (making it unlikely for the issue to be a determining factor).

But the key thing is that Dean didn't crack, or fumble, or lose his cool.

And that's the kind of moment his opponents need to have happen to change the dynamic of the race.

It didn't happen yesterday and time is running out.

2. Gang up on...Gephardt?

The headlines on the wires focused the attacks on Dean.

But that wasn't very surprising, considering that Kerry, Gephardt and Lieberman have been attacking Dean for several days.

More surprising was that Gephardt faced a few attacks of his own from Edwards and Kerry over trade.

(This was briefly touched upon in the NY Times and W. Post)

Gephardt first took a broad swipe:

Now, everybody up here, except Dennis [Kucinich], voted for NAFTA and voted for the China agreement [to let it into the World Trade Organization]. They did the wrong thing.

John Edwards didn't take too kindly to that, having not been in Congress when NAFTA was approved:

First of all, I didn't vote for NAFTA. I campaigned against NAFTA. NAFTA passed before I got to the Congress, to the United States Senate.

And I might add, you could pick out any one vote of anybody on this stage -- you, for example, voted for fast-track authority for Bush I that led to the passage of NAFTA.

That last part showed that Edwards wasn't ad-libbing. He had done a little opposition research on Gephardt in advance.

Soon after, Kerry piled on:

Well, it's interesting, because Dick Gephardt actually has said several times, quote, "I'm for free trade."

And then he stands up and he suggests that all of us are culpable because we didn't vote for one or voted for another.

Kerry did some oppo too.

This exchange is notable for two reasons.

One, it shows how desperate Edwards and Kerry are that they shooting for a second place finish in Iowa, even if Dean wins.

In all likelihood, Gephardt is everyone's last prayer.

He has the best shot of beating Dean in an early state and preventing Dean from seeming inevitable, giving everyone a better chance at making a move in the February contests.

If Edwards or Kerry succeed in pulling ahead of Gephardt in IA, whatever spike in attention they get won't mean very much if Dean pulls off the IA-NH deuce. (Which has not been done by a non-incumbent prez or VP since Jimmy Carter in 1976).

Surely, Kerry and Edwards both have thought that scenario through.

But they are on their last legs and don't have a lot of options left. They're taking their shots where they can.

Two, this should be seen as a preview of what would happen if Dean's campaign somehow falls apart.

Right now, Dean looks like the only controversial choice, because he's in front and taking all the incoming.

But if someone else gets in the hot seat, then that person's statements and positions will receive the same intense scrutiny that Dean is getting.

Gephardt just got a small taste of it today.

3. Where's the "Bush Tax"?

When Dean gave a major domestic policy speech last month, the media zeroed in on a line that some interpreted as a repudiation of the Clinton era. (Dean said otherwise.)

What was overlooked was a particularly brilliant framing of the tax issue, the Bush Tax, complete with its own website:

Republicans claim to be helping average Americans with their tax cuts.

But let's look at the facts. The average wage earner did get a few hundred dollars back. But the refund didn't come for free.

President Bush never told you about the "Bush Tax".

He never mentioned that over the next six years the typical American family will take on $52,000 more in its share of the national debt...

...Take a look at your property taxes. They probably went up. In New Hampshire, property taxes went up an average of $270 per family last year...

...Or look at your state budget. Is it in crisis? In most states, it is...

...Getting fewer services and paying more for things like state college tuitions or special education that's the consequence of the "Bush Tax".

Yesterday, Dean gave a similar laundry list of how average Americans have been hurt by Bush's tax policies, but he didn't drill the "Bush Tax" concept.

He did say once, "there was a Bush tax increase with tuitions, with property taxes, with health care premiums."

But that counter-intuitive take was swallowed up in his larger answer, and much of the media are focusing on his contention that "there was no middle-class tax cut" instead.

(In at least one case, distorting the claim, according to Eschaton.)

Stressing the Bush Tax concept, nice sound bite that it is, will make it harder for the press to butcher the argument.

In fact, it may even induce them to explore (and advance) the argument. Why bury it?

4. Where's Plame?

After the October debate, LO lamented the ignoring of PlameGate.

Once again, on the heels of a fresh opening, the fact there likely is a criminal in the Administration did not come up in a Dem debate.

Meanwhile, the GOP is spinning away, unchallenged.

C'mon Dems, get with the program.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

The Sandbox
Humor Column by Mark Spittle

Bush In 41.2 Seconds

Viewing the great selection of amateur political ads being generated over at MoveOn.org's Bush in 30 Seconds competition, I decided to work up my own bit.

I misunderstood the rules, however, and didn't realize that the resulting film was supposed to last 30 seconds... I thought that was the amount thought one was supposed to put into it.

Anyway, here's your pal Mark Spittle's very own anti-Bush ad. It came in too late to submit to MoveOn.org, but it broke a few of the competition rules anyway.

Too bad, because I think of all the political ads ever made, this one truly captures what we really want to hear during an election cycle. And, as always, everything in it is absolutely, irrefutably true.

Click here for the Bush In 41.2 Seconds ad.

Mark Spittle is one half of the political satire duo Spittle & Ink. He is a former Washington lobbyist and congressional assistant.

**************

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