Times Tidbits

This morning’s New York Times contains no single article of stunning import or new insight, but it is scattered with nuggets of campaign information that we haven’t seen elsewhere.

Glen Justice brings us a money scorecard. In January, he writes, Sen. John Kerry took in $7.7 million, spent $7.1 million, and closed out the month with $2.1 million in the bank and debts of $7.3 million. The campaign of President Bush, in turn, brought in $12.8 million in January, spent $7.6 million and closed the month with a staggering $104 million in the bank. By contrast, Sen. John Edwards took in $5.4 million in January, spent $5.9 million and finished the month with about $500,000 in the bank and $383,000 in debt.

Adam Nagourney counts delegates. He notes Kerry has 497 of the 2,162 delegates needed to win the nomination, while Edwards has 188. On Super Tuesday, March 2, 1,151 delegates are at stake. Nagourney also reminds us that delegates are allocated based on percentage of votes a candidate wins, meaning a candidate can lose any given state but still scoop up delegates.

Elizabeth Rosenthal pegs interviews with a few disheartened former Bush supporters to a Feb. 16 CBS poll that found that 11 percent of those who voted for Bush in 2000 say they won’t this year. (On the other hand, five percent of those who voted for Al Gore in 2000 say they will vote for Bush this year.)

Columnist John Tierney cracks wise on the various Aaron Burrs who have bailed out on their own candidate as the Democratic primaries progressed — most notably, Chris Lehane, the former Kerry strategist who signed on with Gen. Wes Clark, mainly to serve as Clark’s attack dog on the subject of … John Kerry. Other turncoats: Steve Grossman, who was still chairman of the Dean campaign on the Sunday before the Wisconsin primary, when he announced that he would bail and switch his support to Kerry if Dean lost on Tuesday; and Gerald W. McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, who not only withdrew his endorsement of Dean before the Wisconsin vote, but added: “I think he’s nuts.” Tierney quotes John J. Pitney Jr., author of The Art of Political Warfare: “Waging political warfare is hard when the troops behind you are waving white flags. It’s as if you are General Grant at Shiloh and you notice that your chief lieutenants are practicing their Southern accents.”

The inimitable Tierney is at it again in the Week in Review section with a piece comparing Kerry’s style to Edwards’. Kerry, he says, is trying to change an aloof image and stentorian style “developed after years of delivering speeches to an empty Senate chamber,” while Edwards mesmerizes audiences with a “speaking technique developed from looking into the eyes of jurors.”

Finally, Public Editor Dan Okrent turns his column over to readers, two of whom chide him for underestimating the power of the Times. One writes: “The problem is the way the media cover political races. Front-runners need to be torn down, whether by stories fair or unfair. Reporters set the expectations, then report whether they have been met.” Another chimes in that he doesn’t buy Okrent’s “naive notion” that the Times simply educates the electorate; to the contrary, he writes, the press “shape[s] the actual political terrain that candidates and voters must negotiate.”

Sounds a lot like our own repeated observation that the campaign press sculpts a political narrative, then tries to wedge unfolding facts into that narrative, rather than concede that perhaps the narrative was flawed.

Steve Lovelady

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Steve Lovelady was editor of CJR Daily.