Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Flying 'Republican air?'

South Carolina Republicans are bringing more than GOP presidential candidates to the state this week. They're bringing the people who cover them.

State Chairman Katon Dawson will fly aboard a chartered Boeing 727 to Manchester, New Hampshire, tomorrow morning and bring back some 80 journalists who will cover Thursday night's GOP debate in Myrtle Beach.

Dawson said the journalists are each paying around $391 but acknowledged the party is subsidizing the trip. He says passengers include journalists from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN and Fox News.

"We understand that it's important to have the media covering the event," he says. "We’re just glad to have them in South Carolina and we’re gonna do interviews all the way back."

Thursday, January 03, 2008


DES MOINES -- Democracy has turned noisy here in Precinct 71.

Clinton backers started chanting "Hill-a-ry! Hill-a-ry!"

Edwards' supporters matched it with shouts of "Ed-wards! Ed-wards."It's like an ACC basketball game.

Obama's people are shouting "We need Biden! We need Biden."

Edwards' people got creative: "We're gonna take the White House back. No more lobbyists. No more PACs!

Now the chairman is giving arm-twisters from Obama, Edwards, Clinton and Biden a minute at th mike to make their pitch.


DES MOINES -- With 554 voters divided into groups around the school gym, here's the count of supporters of each candidate:

Obama: 231

Clinton: 103

Edwards: 103

Richardson: 38

Biden: 46

Dodd: 3

Kucinich: 13

Gravel: 1

Uncommitted: 16

The top three candidates are "viable." No one else is. Not the "realignment" or wooing period starts.

Now the fun starts.

LIVE CAUCUS BLOG: Dividing into groups

DES MOINES -- Ok, they took a count (by playground rules: raising hands and counting off.) The official count is 554. What that means is a candidate needs 83 people to be "viable."

Now they've formed into groups. Obama, Clinton and Edwards' supporters -- the largest -- in gthe bleachers. The second-tier candidate groups oare on the floor. And they're counting off again. If somebody fails to make the magic 83, the horse-trading begins.

In 2004, John Kerry led after the first count. Then, after supporters of the non-viable candidates went elsewhere, Edwards ended up winning.


DES MOINES -- The caucus in Precinct 70, Des Moines' largest, has officially begun. The chairman has called things to order (and passed around an envelop for contributions to offset the costs). Now they're counting people the old-fashioned way: having people count off.

The unofficial count: 623. In 2004 there were 360.

And that doesn't count the dozens of kids sitting on the floor in a corner of the gym.

Overheard from a John Edwards caucus leader: Obama has a LOT of people here.

LIVE CAUCUS BLOG: Lines out the door

DES MOINES -- So much for schedules.

The caucus was supposed to start a half-hour ago, at 6:30, but voters keep coming. Lines were out the door all the way to the street. Caucus chair Jeff Goetz told somebody there could be 600 people here. In 2004, there were 360.

John Edwards won the precinct that year, barely ahead of John Kerry. Speculation has been that the more newcomers, the better for Barack Obama. He's expected to attract a lot of first-time caucus-goers like Justin Green, a 39-year-old bio-chemist (and former North Carolinian).

"He seems to be someone who can change the way things are done," says Green. "Bring people together. Give people hope."

UPDATE: Chairman just gave 5-minute warning.

LIVE CAUCUS BLOG: The wooing starts

DES MOINES -- Silver-haired Bill Smith, in his brown Bill Richardson T-shirt, is standing by the bleachers when his son T.D. walks over to introduce Beau Biden.

T.D. is a Biden supporter. Beau Biden, son of the Delaware senator, does a little flirtation with with Smith. If you folks don't have enough support, he suggests, come to us. Under the arcane math of the caucuses, candidates have to have enough support to be "viable." If they fall short, their supporters go elsewhere. That's when the serious wooing starts. Beau Biden's visit was like a first date.

Smith, 63, is keeping his options open. He's not sure what the Richardson group will do, if they do anything. Heck, he can't even keep his family together.

While T.D. is a Biden guy, son Tyson is caucusing for Chris Dodd. And Smith's wife Jeanie is going for John Edwards. Politics is the family sport.

"It's what we do here," he says. "When we don't have the Winter Olympics in Iowa, this is what we do."

LIVE CAUCUS BLOG: Edwards camp gathers

DES MOINES -- Leslie Pomerantz staked her place in the first row of the bleachers here at the gym. She came equipped with a John Edwards poster, buttons, stickers and a list of 150 names of supporters she expects to show up.

Pomerantz, a 64-year-old retired teacher, is Edwards' precinct co-captain. You wouldn't mistake her. She's got a half-dozen Edwards buttons plastered to her black sweater, including one of Edwards as Superman. Forty minutes before the caucus kicks off, a handful of other Edwards fans gather around her.

When Pomerantz was a teenager, she worked for John Kennedy's campaign. Now she compares the two.

"He just made you feel optimistic," she said of JFK. "I have not felt that until John Edwards."


DES MOINES -- The activity is picking up at Merrill Middle School, site of at least three precinct caucuses tonight. Volunteers in Precinct 70 have set up chairs in the gym ("Home of the Mustangs"). A CNN camera stands ready in the corner. A handful of Clinton supporters have staked out turf in the bleachers, marking it with a tall 'Hillary' signboard.

The action starts in a little less than 90 minutes. In 2004, this precinct had 360 caucus goers, second highest in the state, according to Sally Troxell, whose husband is the caucus chair. This time she's betting -- literally -- on even more.

"I'm guessing 650," she says in the hallway, where registration tables are being set up.

She's in a pool with a few other volunteers. So far the highest estimate is 735.

Riding on the outcome? A dime prize.

Edwards starts early

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Democrat John Edwards got an early start on a long day today with a morning rally at a cold Des Moines union hall.

Hours after speaking to around 3,000 people at a rally featuring singer John Mellencamp, Edwards made his way to the stage in a room packed with about 200 supporters and journalists.

In a voice hoarse from a 36-hour campaign swing through southern Iowa, he sounded optimistic about his chances in tonight's caucuses.

"There is an energy and momentum behind this campaign that cannot be stopped," he shouted, prompting chants of "Go John Go!"

After the quick visit, the N.C. Democrat headed off to stops in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. Edwards plans to return to Des Moines for what he hopes is a victory rally before flying overnight to New Hampshire.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Cashing in on a win

DES MOINES -- What's the value of a win in tomorrow night's Democratic caucus?

At least $2 million a day, according to Joe Trippi, a senior strategist with John Edwards' campaign.

That's how much Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry took in after winning the 2004 caucuses. Trippi says Edwards, the second-place finisher that year, collected about half that. And Howard Dean's contributions essentially dried up after a third-place finish, according to Trippi, who ran Dean's campaign.

"For us, the big issue after Iowa is money," Trippi says.

Of course, money isn't all that's riding on tomorrow's results. Trippi estimates a win is worth at least 10 points in support heading into Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Night owl campaigners

AMES, Iowa -- Here's a quiz: If a presidential candidate campaigns through the night in the middle of one of Iowa's coldest winter nights, will the media follow?

Answer: Apparently.

Democrat John Edwards began what his campaign calls a 36-hour marathon Tuesday with a noon stop at Iowa State University in Ames. He plans to continue with stops across Iowa, from the Nebraska border to the Mississippi, all through the night and all day Wednesday, ending that night in Des Moines.


"It's about sending a really clear message to people about how hard this guy is going to fight," said senior advisor Joe Trippi.

More than a dozen journalists were following on a bus, some with hotel pillows. More local media was expected at the tiny towns he planned to stop in.

"When somebody wakes up in that (TV) market, they're going to see that somebody was there at 4 a.m., campaigning for their votes, fighting for their votes," Trippi said. "And that's how he's gonna fight for them when he's president."