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Saturday, January 31, 2004

Connolly Watch 1.30.04

I managed to catch Ceci Connolly's segment on Washington Week in Review last night. I actually hadn't watched the show in a few years since it seemed to go downhill to me after Gwen Ifill took over, and that impression was reinforced last night. The show really is a "review" of the news of the week, not adding much information or analysis at all beyond what someone would already know by reading the papers and watching the TV news.

Anyway, I sat there while the bland panelists (no ideologues--that might add too much color to the show) infromed me that David Kay said this week there were no WMDs in Iraq, John Kerry had won the New Hampshire primary, etc. Connolly delivered her report from Kansas City, where she was traveling with the Kerry campaign. Most of her points were pretty safe ones that didn't rock the boat. Was Kerry's emergence more about his rise or Dean's fall? Some of each, she said. Was Kerry still being open with reporters and people at his events, or was he retreating back into a shell as he did last year, playing it safer as front runner? He's now doing some of both, Connolly answered. I thought she made a good point that Kerry focused exclusively on Iowa and New Hampshire while the Dean campaign may have tried to go national too early. The only slightly controversial point that emerged came when David Sanger asked her how Kerry had managed to get past Democratic voters' anger at his vote for the Iraq resolution. Connolly answered that she didn't think Kerry was beyond the Iraq questions at all. (The transcript will be available here, probably by Monday afternoon.)

I found this last answer less convincing. After all, Kerry had won plenty of votes from anti-war voters in both Iowa and New Hampshire. It has become a piece of CW the last week or two that Dean was being hurt by the war becoming somewhat less important of an issue to primary voters. Dean has already tried to make political hay out of the apparent contradiction between Kerry's no-vote on the '91 Gulf War and his yes-vote in 2002, and Connolly wrote these charges up in the Post, as Monday's Watch noted. Nearly a week later, that line of attack appears to have been futile, and the other Dems have moved on to attack Kerry for other reasons.

Even if some people still have misgivings about Kerry on Iraq, who are they going to vote for instead? Edwards voted for the resolution, Lieberman voted for it, Clark has been hurt a lot by making contradictory statements on the war a few months ago when he got into the race, and Dean doesn't serve as a good alternative for these people who think he can't be elected (I'm not judging whether that's reasonable or not, just saying that's what they think). Kerry, as far as I see it, is getting by in spite of his war vote. People don't like it much, but they see him as a strong contender for the presidency all the same. Unless Kucinich or Sharpton undergoes an incredible transformation, or in a more likely scenario Dean convinces people he's a viable November alternative after all, I don't see Kerry being hurt by Iraq.

John Ellis says the papers are getting hostile toward Kerry now, in a move that was utterly predictable. Funny how the Post didn't tell us Kerry was taking all of this lobbyist money back when they were talking up his come-from-behind effort in Iowa. Connolly's work has been reasonably fair lately, so maybe VandeHei is playing the attack dog role now?