White House Insiders
Friday, October 29, 2004; 1:00 PM
Karl Rove assembled us last night in Pennsylvania to tell us everything is going according to plan, Bush is up in 8 of 10 battleground states, etc, etc. This went on until somebody reminded him that four years ago at this time, he was predicting 320 electoral votes for Bush and smooth sailing in Florida.
The polls have become relatively useless. They aren't fine-tuned enough to be predictive when the race is as tight as it is. That could change if we see a real surge by one candidate over the weekend, but nothing yet.
Depends on which Wednesday you're talking about. Actually, I'm optimistic that we'll have a victor by then, though there will no doubt be all kinds of legal skirmishes. If there is a recount, I'm hoping it'll be in Santa Fe rather than Columbus or Tallahassee.
Couple of updates on this. Bush spokesman Scott Stanzel said they've quit the loyalty oaths some time ago. I haven't seen this happen myself but am not usually in a position to see it. He also says they let in uncommitted voters at the discretion of a precinct captain, or some such. Finally, we have an email from a guy who says he had a ticket to the Kerry/Springsteen event in Madison yesterday but was sent away because he was wearing an anti-abortion T-shirt. Don't know if it's true.
Whatever the case, there's a lot of crowd control going on at Bush events. But this is having the perverse effect of reducing crowd size, which is a traditonal way campaigns show momentum. Kerry had more than 80,000 in Wisconsin. I haven't seen Bush break 20,000 in a while.
Good question. First he sits down in front of the 747's tires, then he walks back on Air Force One in a surgical mask telling them he's going to make a 'circumcision.' We only hope he meant 'incision.' Perhaps it is a show of confidence and ease in the last days. Perhaps he needs a vacation.
Hello, swing state of Hawaii. When I heard Cheney was going there Sunday, I casually asked my editor, Maralee Schwartz, which reporter was going with him. She did not answer. (Please send emails to her, email@example.com urging her to send me.)
But that was not your question. There are distinctions between the official White House staff and the campaign, but they commonly blur--as they did during Gore's 2000 campaign, Clinton 1996 etc. The official White House staffers have separate email accounts and phone lines for campaign business, and they're technically volunteering when they're doing political stuff. Also the campaign reimburses the government for seats on Air Force One and the like. But, obviously, Bush's ability to govern is all about his ability to win on Tuesday.
Is this weapons story out of Iraq the "October surprise"? While I don't think it is quite the damning evidence the Kerry campaign makes it out to be, I must say I've been honestly confused by the multiple and what seem to be contradictory responses of the administration. These people seemed to be so good at staying on message and they completely fell apart over this.
No, the October surprise is when Osama bin Laden is pulled out of the basement of the Old Executive Office Building this afternoon with bits of ice in his beard.
Actually, we're about out of time for the vaunted October surprise. I liked Cheney's line when he said Kerry hunting in camouflage was an "October disguise." As I wrote earlier this week, there seem to have instead been a number of small, negative October surprises -- the missing weapons, the flu shots, unhelpful words from Allawi, etc. The Bush side initially was on the defensive on the explosives, although they're pretty confident they've been able to push back now by suggesting Kerry is reckless and blaming the troops.
I expect there will be a lot of anger, and there may be more movements, as in Colorado this year, for othre states to award their electoral votes on a proportional basis. I highly doubt we'd go to a popular vote, however. That would require a constitutional amendment with supermajorities of the Congress and states, and if successful could have disastrous consequences of encouraging extremist third parties.
I have said for more than a year that:
1) Bush will win reelection, and,
2) My predictions are almost always wrong.
Historical patterns and economic models are pretty much all on Bush's side. But it's hard to drive using the rear-view mirror.
Their impact on advertising, particularly the Swift Vets, has been huge. But the real test will be Tuesday, to see if the liberal groups like America Coming Together and their vaunted turnout machines do the job for Kerry.
There will probably be an effort to rein in 527s after this. And, if successful, money will find a new way into the political process, as it did this time.
you must be the hardest-working reporter the Post has, based on all the articles and various postings you do - thanks! (You deserve a lil trip to Maui...) Thanks for keeping us well-informed and for keeping your sense of humor! Will you write a book about this campaign?
I certainly hope you cc'd this to Maralee Schwartz.
No book this time; my last one was that rare combination of a commercial and critical disaster. But thanks.
Funny you should ask.
As it happens, the White House press charter is at this very minute full of journalists from Entertainment Tonight and other such shows, carrying mini cameras and filming every move the press corps makes -- every mouthful, every yawn, every whine. I had my face in my hands early yesterday morning, rubbing my temples to get rid of a headache, and I looked up to see a camera in my face. I checked for cameras before using the bathroom on the back of the press bus.
So when you watch these shows, you will see: lots of well-fed reporters getting on and off the press charter (our turns on Air Force One come up infrequently) and shuffling through endless buffets, then crunching out stories under excrutiating deadline pressure before heading to the hotel bar.
Do not be discouraged: the 2008 campaign will begin within days.
Don't know about the specifics on that, but we've been trying to keep the matter in perspective despite the partisan hype, as my colleagues Brad Graham and Tom Ricks did today:
Munitions Issue Dwarfs the Big Picture
Don't want to get behind the Eight Ball, Eight Ball, so how about this prediction: there will be Republicans in the new cabinet, regardless of which man wins. Kerry, if elected, would need to make a serious effort to repair the breach if he hopes to do anything with what will almost certainly be a Republican House.
How does the regular White House press corps react to these "newbees?" Is it fun or do they just get in the way?
The thing you must know about the White House press corps is we love to complain about everything -- the plane, the food, the speech, the phones, the security sweeps and, yes, the newbees. But the ET characters are just a temporary bother. The dynamic of the White House press corps is very much like high school. The network correspondents are the football players and cheerleaders, the wire reporters are the student government, the newspaper reporters are the geeks and the camera crews are from shop class.
As a Giuliani aide said after that: "This was not Rudy's most articulate moment."
Giuliani also issued a statement saying: "We don't need someone who voted against funding our troops during war to take my remarks out of context. Like the President I wholeheartedly support our troops."
The Bush folks cannot be happy that Rudy inadvertently stepped on their message, but the flub is not likely to be lethal.
I do not think Hawaii is really in play, nor Arkansas, nor Colorado, nor Michigan, nor any of these late entrants. But do not mention that when you send your email to Maralee Schwartz (subject line: Send Dana to Hawaii).
Thanks for paying attention.