Last February, during her first trip to Iowa, former senator and ambassador Carol Moseley Braun faced an audience of one. The poor turnout was the result of major snow storm. Yesterday, attendance at her Iowa press conference was slightly higher, less because of her than because of the man she was endorsing, former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean.
Braun’s exit from the Democratic presidential primary field has been anticipated for months, and the die was cast once she received federal matching funds. Braun had no staff to speak of, and was basically getting by with the help of political friends in Chicago.
While Dean campaign staffers will insist that Braun’s endorsement was the result of a growing friendship between the two candidates, it came after a week of negotiations that included — according to a Dean campaign insider — promise of a cabinet position in a Dean administration should that come to fruition.
“Nothing was promised, nothing was discussed,” says another Dean staffer. “But you can be sure both candidates are committed to keeping the friendship going after all the votes have been tallied.”
The fact is, though, that Braun’s entire campaign was predicated on promises made and kept, so why should her dealings with Dean be any different. Her entry into the primary race came after intensive talks with DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, who was looking for someone to blunt the effects of a run by the Rev. Al Sharpton. That Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was quietly supporting her — also to blunt Sharpton’s influence, but only in New York — didn’t hurt either.
In the end, Braun didn’t have to do much heavy lifting, Sharpton’s campaign has fizzled, and Braun barely registered in most polls. Now Braun will hit the road for Dean. She was scheduled to appear in Iowa with the Vermonter, then do some work for him in South Carolina.
But where Dean most wants her to expend some effort, however, is with NOW. Dean has been pressing the women’s group for an endorsement ever since he made an appearance at one of their conferences last summer and received a warm reception. “An endorsement from NOW would pretty much cap things for the campaign at this point,” says the Dean staffer. “Kerry and Gephardt want it badly. For us to gain it early would further diminish the other guys in the race.”
SUNDANCING FOR THEIR SUPPER
Apparently the DNC is getting into the movie business. The party, with permission from long-time supporter Robert Redford, is holding a fundraiser on Monday in Park City, Utah, during the aging actor’s Sundance Film Festival.
Ever concerned about their base, the DNC is asking for only a $250 contribution from “filmmakers,” while other industry insiders will get socked with a $1,000 tab.
The event is like one of many being sponsored by the DNC around the country. No particular candidate is front and center, except one: President George W. Bush.
“This is all about getting this administration out, tapping into the hatred our people have for this man,” says a DNC staffer who has organized similar events in New York and San Jose, California. “We’ve raised a lot of money off of these elsewhere.”
And why the two-tiered donations? “We want to attract the young people that come to Sundance. If Michael Moore shows up, we’ll hit him up for $1,000.”
ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS JUST WHISTLE-STOP
Sen. John Edwards may be the candidate du jour in Iowa, but the Dick Gephardt machine is the one to watch on caucus night. Consider this: In the past week, the Alliance for Economic Justice, a coalition of 18 manufacturing unions that endorsed the Missouri congressman, has been averaging more than 2,000 phone calls a day and knocking on more than 20,000 doors over the past week.
“That’s the kind of effort that is going to put us right up there at the top,” says a Gephardt staffer. “Everyone can try whistle-stopping here, but in Iowa, it’s the door to door organizing that pays off on caucus night.”
Over the next few days Sen. John Kerry will be crisscrossing the state by helicopter, while Howie Dean will be using a bus and a van to make last minute pitches.
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