Edwards, Dean and our Idaho conspiracy theory
By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit
Connecting the dots: Is John Edwards building an alliance with Howard Dean?
|ON CNN TV|
An interview with John Kerry -- fresh from his endorsement in Washington by the AFL-CIO -- highlights the Thursday edition of "Judy Woodruff's Inside Politics" at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Gallup's Frank Newport on a new poll's indications about Kerry vs. Bush.
CNN's Candy Crowley on the rise and fall of Howard Dean.
CNN's John King on poll indications that Bush may be losing credibility with voters.
• Tuesday, February 24:
Hawaii, Idaho Democratic caucuses; Utah primary
• Sunday, February 29:
Puerto Rico Republican primary
• "Super Tuesday," March 2:
Primaries in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Georgia; caucuses in MinnesotaWhen is your primary? For more key dates in the 2004 election season, see our special America Votes 2004 Election Calendar
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- John Kerry surrounds himself today with union leaders, many of whom differ with him on big issues like NAFTA but hate President Bush more than any one trade agreement.
Still, a more fascinating mating dance is taking place off-camera between John Edwards and Howard Dean, who seldom shades his disdain for his fellow New Englander and, sources say, has made overtures to Edwards since he decided to leave the '04 Dem primary last weekend. Dean and Edwards spoke cordially by phone yesterday morning and, we hear, are trying to arrange a face-to-face in the run-up to Super Tuesday on March 2. Such a meeting could take place as early as this weekend in New York.
Few things would upend this race more than Dean's decision to back Edwards, who without it remains a decided longshot today. Most importantly for Edwards: The senator badly needs money to make a solid showing on Super Tuesday, and Dean, if he endorses, would presumably transfer a vast network of donors capable of raising large sums within hours.
Idaho Dems scramble
With that in mind, we were intrigued by the turn of events yesterday in the small state of Idaho, which Dean visited frequently as a candidate. Democrats in Boise were scrambling to find a replacement for Edwards, who abruptly withdrew his commitment Tuesday to deliver the keynote speech for the party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. Aides said Edwards had a scheduling conflict and needed to be in New York early Sunday morning.
The dinner, known as the Frank Church Dinner in Idaho, is scheduled for Saturday night, just three days before Idaho holds caucuses Tuesday. Some 800 tickets had been sold for the event, the party's largest fund-raiser of the year.
The situation threatened to become a mini-fiasco for Edwards. "It's very frustrating. People were really, really upset," Maria Veeg, the state party's executive director, told the Grind. "John Kerry had prostate cancer surgery two weeks before last year's dinner, and he still showed up and delivered a great speech."
So, who did Dems find as a replacement? After a brief but furious scramble, they secured a commitment from Al Gore, who easily agreed to travel to Boise this weekend. Notably, this is the same Gore who was too busy earlier this month to stump for Dean in states like Tennessee, amid the darkest days of Dean's demise.
Now, we're not trying to imply anything nefarious here. Some sources tell us it was Alan Blinken, the party's '02 Senate nominee and an ambassador to Belgium under President Clinton, who arranged Gore's last-minute visit yesterday. Blinken is backing Kerry.
Connecting the dots
But while some of the dots are stretched far afield, it's not too hard to connect them into a pattern that reveals a Dean-Edwards axis: If he was now building an alliance with Dean, Edwards would presumably enjoy a new level of access to Gore, one of Dean's strongest backers. And if he was worried about irking Dems in a small but potentially influential state, Edwards, who views New York as his top prospect on Super Tuesday, could have urged the former VP to make the trip on his behalf.
Not surprisingly, neither the Edwards or Dean camps (what's left of it) would confirm our conspiracy theory. Stay tuned.
For his part, Edwards has made quite clear he'll focus his campaign on a must-win drive for New York, where he has Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign manager on his team. He'll visit the Empire State five times in the next five days, starting with a rally at Columbia University this morning. Also on the map: Ohio, Georgia and Minnesota.
But while he initially resisted the draw of the Golden State, the Edwards camp is showing new signs today that it would compete in delegate-rich California, opening up offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento. Edwards' wife Elizabeth will travel to northern California today, meeting with supporters in Sacramento and Santa Clara. The senator will be there in the middle of next week.
As of 5 p.m. ET yesterday, Edwards had raised $308,000 online since polls closed Tuesday in Wisconsin. There had been 3,821 online contributors. The average contribution was $80.59. Twenty-nine percent of those donors were new to the campaign's donor list, according to the campaign.
Crunching the numbers
Meanwhile, CNN's Robert Yoon has crunched some numbers for us on how effectively Dean spent his money in the delegate chase.
Dean raised and spent about $50.3 million in his presidential run, and he won 201 delegates. That means he spent about $250,000 to win each delegate, including superdelegates. Without superdelegates included, he spent some $500,000 per delegate. That's nothing compared to Steve Forbes, who won two delegates in '00 and quit the race in early February after he spent about $34 million -- $17 million per delegate.
* Also today, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will attend his first fund-raiser for Republican Bill Jones, the governor's choice to challenge Sen. Barbara Boxer. Joining Schwarzenegger and Jones at the Los Angeles money event -- media millionaire Rupert Murdoch.