By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
“If you’re looking for the fresh face, I’m probably not your candidate. If you’re looking for somebody that has real experience over 27 years in the House, 13 years as Democratic leader . . . well, I may be your candidate. I’ll say one other thing. The fight for working families is in my bones. My dad was a Teamster and a milk-truck driver in St. Louis. He didn’t get through high school. My mother, who is now 95, was a secretary. She didn’t get through high school either. But they fought hard to give me every opportunity a person could have. I feel I’m the example of the American Dream. So when I’m in that Oval Office, I’m going to try to do things for people like my parents, who are the people that have made this country great. I think it’s time we had a president like that again.”
It’s that kind of talk, combined with a strong pro-labor voting record and his opposition to NAFTA and the fast-track trade-with-China deal, that has garnered Gephardt the endorsement of 21 international unions, most of them from the building trades and the shrinking industrial unions of the rust belt. But two of the nation’s largest and growing unions — the Service Employees and the State, County, and Municipal Employees — have undercut Gephardt’s claim to be labor’s candidate by endorsing Dean. And while the unions supporting Gephardt have sent some 200 staffers into Iowa to pull out pro-Gephardt voters for the caucuses, the Service Employees has ponied up a cool $1 million for pro-Dean Iowa TV ads — and genuine left-populist Dennis Kucinich has further nibbled away at Gephardt’s union base in Iowa, perhaps enough to decide a close election.
The latest Zogby daily tracking polls in Iowa show Gephardt and Dean in a relatively tight contest for first place, with Dean having the edge. Gephardt was stagnant for the last few days at 23 percent, while Dean had moved up each day to 28. But polls are misleading in a caucus state like Iowa — especially since caucus mavens there are predicting a turnout double that of 2000. That means scads of new voters who aren’t in the polls of “likely caucus goers” (which target previous attendees) may overwhelm Gephardt’s aging labor base.
But even if Gephardt wins Iowa, where can he go from there to score another win? He’s running a distant fifth in New Hampshire, and isn’t ahead in any poll in the states that vote February 7. Gephardt’s strategists have targeted Michigan, one of the few states in which they’ve put on a significant TV campaign. But Dean got a major boost when Michigan Democrats adopted voting by Internet as well as at the polls — and any Gephardt bounce if he manages to squeak out a win in Iowa will be diluted by the fact that Michiganders have already been able to cast votes by Internet since the beginning of the year when Dean was at the height of his popularity, giving the Vermonter a comfortable cushion against an unexpected late Gephardt surge. (One Michigan labor pol I talked to this week kept referring to Gephardt as “Dead Dick.”)
In any case, Iowa is far from a guarantee of being nominated. Just ask the man who won that state 16 years ago: Dick Gephardt.