Thursday, January 15, 2004

Kerry's big move. John Kerry's decision to spend nearly all of his time in Iowa appears to be paying off in a major way. The Zogby tracking polls, which have been the talk of the political world the last few days, now actually show Kerry to be in the lead in Iowa. The numbers: Kerry, 22 percent; Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt, 21 percent each; and John Edwards, 17 percent. How dramatic is this? Well, barely a week ago Dean was leading with 25 percent, Gephardt was running second at 23 percent, and Kerry was third at 15 percent.

What does any of this mean? Who knows? All the experts argue that tracking polls are notoriously unreliable. Still, it seems that Kerry is, all of a sudden, the hot candidate, at least in Iowa.

But with Dean, Gephardt, and Kerry essentially tied, and with Iowa's convoluted caucus system requiring more than the usual amount of devotion from one's supporters, the results of Monday's caucuses are going to depend heavily on organization. This Todd Purdum piece in today's New York Times suggests that Dean and Gephardt have the strongest organizations - although Kerry, who's been reaching out to his fellow veterans, will be no slouch.

Of course, the very real possibility exists that Kerry's roll-of-the-dice gamble on Iowa will fail. He could still come in third, giving him zero bounce going into New Hampshire, where Dean and Wesley Clark (who's skipping Iowa) are the leading candidates. The latest Boston Herald poll - reflecting other polls - shows Dean at 29 percent, Clark at 20 percent, and Kerry at just 15 percent.

As I learned recently, Kerry's New Hampshire campaign has been all but moribund for quite a while. What Kerry is banking on is that an unexpectedly strong showing in Iowa - say, second place (especially if Dean falls to third) or, even better, first - will give New Hampshire Democrats a reason to look at him again.

A side note: one thing I've noticed is that whenever I write about polls, I get e-mails from angry partisans of one candidate or another lambasting me for focusing on the horse race rather than "the issues." Well, of course, the issues are important. But differences on Iraq (not so great as one might suppose), health care, and tax cuts aside, the fact is that Dean, Kerry, Gephardt, Edwards, and Clark are all from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party. (I'm not so sure about Joe Lieberman.) The most important issue is which candidate will give George W. Bush the toughest fight. And that starts with which Democrat is able to win the nomination.

Hynes City Hall? I love an idea put forth by Boston city councilors Paul Scapicchio and John Tobin to move City Hall to the Hynes Center, and sell off the current City Hall - and the disastrous sea of brick that surrounds it - to private developers. Ellen Silberman has the story in today's Boston Herald.

No doubt the idea is impractical: a logistical nightmare combined with a one-time financial bonanza that might not even cover the cost of the move. But, given that city and state officials seem determined to kill the Hynes in order to boost the dead-on-arrival South Boston convention center, the Scapicchio-Tobin idea would at least keep the Back Bay alive and vital.

LaPierre on the loose. I'm not sure which is more ridiculous: the fact that WBZ Radio (AM 1030) lets Gary LaPierre anchor the "local" news from Florida or the fact that LaPierre sees nothing wrong with it. Suzanne Ryan reports in today's Boston Globe.

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