Fla., Feb. 18, 2004 -- Taking nearly 40 percent
of the vote, U.S. Sen. John Kerry turned back
a strong last-minute challenge Tuesday night from
North Carolina U.S. Sen. John Edwards to capture
his 16th primary and caucus victory ahead of the
definitive Super Tuesday regional primaries on
March 2. Edwards got about 34 percent, a stronger-than-expected
showing, but remained far behind Kerry in delegates
after winning only once in fewer outings. Kerry
now holds 448 delegates to Edwards' 161.
vanquished early frontrunner, former Vt. Gov.
Howard Dean, won a disappointing 18 percent of
the vote, and was widely expected to capitulate.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) won 3 percent of
the vote; the Rev. Al Sharpton got 2 percent.
Both are likely to remain in the race, even if
future debates are less likely to include them.
Dean will reportedly quit the race today, the
Associated Press reported this morning.
Kerry, the outcome was muddled by the fact that
some 39 percent of the voters told exit pollsters
they were not Democrats (Wisconsin primary rules
allow any registered voter to participate in any
party's primary). Among Democrats only, according
to the polls, Kerry took 58 percent of the vote,
and again led strongly in a broad range of categories
including among women, people earning less than
$50,000, and among voters with less than a college
education. Among those whose first goal was to
beat President George W. Bush in November, Sen.
Kerry won 70 percent. Among Kerry voters, 75 percent
said they were Democrats; only 55 percent of Edwards
voters said the same.
was buoyed by his sixth second-place victory (he
has placed fourth seven times), and seemed to
be moving closer to the two-man race his advisors
predict he can win. In Tuesday's contest, Republicans
said they voted for him at three times the rate
they did for Kerry, suggesting that Republicans
may have backed him to weaken the momentum Kerry
has achieved with his long string of victories.
Many polls currently show the Massachussetts senator
beating President Bush by a double-digit margin
this observer, the outcome was not a surprise.
Polls showed Edwards steadily gaining, and in
crossover states like Wisconsin, they are notoriously
unreliable. Kerry may have been injured, at least
slightly, by a phony picture that was doctoried
to make him appear to be sitting near Jane Fonda
at a demonstration, and by a false claim that
he had an affair with an intern. The woman, who
was never an intern, denied that she had ever
been involved with Mr. Kerry, and her parents
- whom the British tabloid The Sun said had called
him a "sleazeball" - said instead that they appreciated
how he handled the issue and said they intended
to vote for him.
Kerry is showing some signs of weakness that could
become serious in the Super Tuesday states. One
involves his visceral appeal. Charmed by a genuinely
happy smile that emerged when he won the Iowa
caucus, his advisors suggested he smile more.
Now he smiles inappropriately, reducing the sense
of authenticity he earlier brought to the race.
At the same time, others who are not in his camp
say that he has once again grown heavy and ponderous
in his speeches, and is missing some of the passion
that energized his victories in Iowa and New Hampshire.
That was not evident on Tuesday night.
Kerry may be losing many voters by not asking
a singular question: "Why aren't they fighting
for our jobs?" Voters of both parties are now
unable to pin blame on anyone for the fact that
thousands of American jobs are going to India,
China and other impoverished nations where labor
is cheap and costs are low. Voters understand
that the same list of corporations regularly displayed
on "Lou Dobbs Tonight" are ones that have the
strongest lobbyists, provide substantial funding
to candidates and are bellwethers for the whole
economy as their stocks improve. That leaves them
frustrated and friendless - and still searching
for a candidate. John Edwards appears to hear
them better as he hammers away at the pain of
losing a job, something he says he observed often
as he grew up in a mill town.
neither man asks why no one is fighting back for
them within the Bush administration. Both seem
afraid to name the companies they implicity criticize,
as Lou Dobbs does nightly, and voters don't understand
why. Candidates may feel it's wrong to risk harming
some companies by naming them, and Kerry does
single out both Enron and Tyco for criticism,
but both companies are old news. In a world dominated
by giant multinational companies that rival many
national governments in size and influence, there
is a sense that an American presidential candidate
is a tool of their interests unless he takes them
on in the public way that Kerry supporter Eliot
Spitzer, New York's activist attorney general,
that's a highly dangerous thing to do; the companies
not only have their immense advertising clout
among the very few remaining sources of news,
but substantial influence in states where they
have plants and large numbers of workers. Like
teenagers, such workers are a potent source of
"buzz" and momentum who often are swayed by subtle
changes in the way their superiors discuss a candidate.
Only when a candidate seems to stand above rthe
fray and point out inescapable truths are they
moved away from the protective cover of the company
of decking the Bush administration for standing
apart from workers as their jobs drift overseas,
Kerry's approach is to threaten to penalize "Benedict
Arnold" corporations who find loopholes in tax
codes that serve as incentives to place jobs in
cheaper overseas labor markets. In today's history-challenged
America, the young people who are the vehicles
of "buzz" have no clue who Benedict Arnold may
have been, and workers also don't care what happens
after their jobs are gone as much as they care
about avoiding their loss. Kerry's approach once
seemed angry and appropriate, but as he repeats
the same phrases to "stay on message" they carry
less and less force.
he is not to be undone in the late primaries by
an Edwards surge - based on his youthful appearance,
trial lawyer's argumentation and authentic appeal
to class differences between himself and Kerry
- the frontrunner must establish some commong
ground with workers. Kerry should note that Edwards
has never performed even an hour of pro bono work
as a lawyer despite winning millions in lawsuits.
He can propose a new division of the Dept. of
Labor that actively seeks to prevent the flow
of jobs overseas with counter-incentives, tax
penalties, public criticism and contract denials.
He should bring to the forefront his own experience
of hard labor during his college years, when he
worked on fishing boats.
of his punch lines are not working as well as
they did just a week or two ago. Kerry needs to
learn the political trick of incorporating those
punch lines into further statements, so that lines
like "Bring it on" remain but are integrated into
a new rhetorical flourish. Kerry could say, for
instance, "We told George Bush we are ready for
him and Dick Cheney to stake their future on a
national security campaign. We told them to "Bring
it on." Well, they haven't brought it on. They've
brought on instead a new era of military indecision
that reminds me of the doubletalk I heard in the
trenches of Vietnam." He should cut about a half-inch
off his pompadour, replace the canned smile with
a heartfelt grin, and start asking the question
no one asks: Why the hell aren't those "friends
of the working man" in Washington doing anything
to keep American jobs in America?
unexploited and potent issue for Amercans lies
in the fundamental betrayal of humanity that China
has displayed in exporting nuclear plans to Pakistan,
which promptly exported them to the fundamentalist
world of Islam. Why must China be so heavily favored
by U.S. trade policy when it has demonstrably
endangered all of humanity with its political
opportunism and dangerous games? American workers
can understand that question, but it remains to
be seen if our candidates can ask it.
2004 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights
Posted: February 18, 2004