Thursday, January 15, 2004

Get Your Ticket
From Iowa comes news that the presidential race is now a dead heat. This is profoundly newsworthy only if you don't understand the concept of margin of error in polling--the race has been a dead heat for weeks--although the numbers are interesting: Kerry 21.6, Dean and Gephardt 20.9, Edwards 17.1. Kerry and Edwards are on the upswing--undecided voters deciding, maybe? Gephardt is about where he's been for a while, and Dean is down a bit.

Of the three candidates sucking wind, Carol Moseley Braun is the first to bail. Her campaign never took off, but then, it's probably done what she intended it to do--secured her a job next year if the Democrats win in November. Sharpton will likely be gone after February 3. Kucinich is tougher to figure. His support in Iowa is three percent and in New Hampshire one percent, but many of his supporters are true believers in the 2000 Nader mold. He may leave the Democratic race at some point, but my suspicion is he'll run as an independent. But I don't think anybody else will be dropping out for a while. Everybody else could last until Super Tuesday, March 2. If anybody goes out before then, it will be Lieberman. Gephardt, who's going to be competitive nowhere except Iowa and Missouri, will be the next to go, particularly if he gets spanked in labor-heavy Michigan on February 7 (although I expect him to stay in until after Super Tuesday).

Beyond that, who knows? But let's make some guesses anyhow. The ticket will almost certainly be made up of some combination of the remaining four candidates. Although Dean is seeing some slippage in Iowa and Clark is surging in New Hampshire, I suspect that Dean has developed enough momentum to claim the nomination before the convention, although not by an especially wide margin. Next in the betting is Kerry, then Clark, then Edwards.

Whoever finishes second in the delegate count would be the likely running mate of the winner, unless it's Kerry finishing second to Dean or Dean finishing second to anybody. Edwards says he doesn't want a running-mate gig, but that could change when one is actually offered; Clark is practically the prototypical Democratic running mate no matter who's at the top of the ticket. If anyone outside the field of four gets the VP nomination, it might be Bob Graham. There's nobody else with the right combination of national stature and gravitas to fill out the ticket, with the exception of Hillary, but she won't get asked and wouldn't take it anyhow.

Quote of the day: from Dom Stasi, a writer whose work appears regularly at ICH News--"This week George W. Bush is expected to announce that he wants to go to the moon. Once there, he wants to set up a lunar base, and from that permanent settlement launch manned missions to the planet Mars and back. Wow! Three years ago he'd never even been to Europe."

The Bush announcement yesterday is almost surreal in its absurdity--so crazy that it's hard to imagine it's any more than a PR gambit on which he doesn't seriously intend to act, like his AIDS initiative launched last year. The press is lapping it up, of course, which is probably the real point--the White House doesn't want to cede every front page and cable channel to the Democrats all week. It's unfortunate that the Bush announcement has pushed a more relevant space story to an inside page--the adventures of the Spirit rover on Mars. This mission, like the Mars Pathfinder a couple of years ago, is a triumph of exploration on a budget--and what these craft do on Mars is not a great deal less than humans could do. Except maybe drill for oil.

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