The 2004 presidential elections are a year and a half away, but Bush’s global and class war policies are already heating up the race. Because of earlier-than-ever primaries and caucuses, Democratic candidates have begun hitting the campaign trail, and they are hearing from voters that war and the economy top their list of worries.

At California’s Democratic Convention in Sacramento March 14-16, which was attended by six presidential hopefuls, the 2,000 delegates gave an enthusiastic reception to those who spoke against war on Iraq. Throughout the candidates’ speeches, delegates chanted, “Stop this war! Stop this war!” Loud boos drowned out a videotape message from Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, a vocal warhawk. The convention overwhelmingly passed a resolution opposing an attack on Iraq.

At a large March 15 rally at the State Capitol, followed by a march around the convention hall, elected officials and leaders of labor, women’s, veterans,’ religious and peace groups said they would not support candidates who back war. “I will not support a presidential candidate who is for war,” declared State Sen. Richard Alarcon, the majority whip. “I will support a presidential candidate who is for peace.”

Earlier this month in Iowa, Democratic presidential candidates found voters’ uppermost concern was the impending war. The head of New Hampshire’s Democratic Party said the same is true in her state.

An analysis of recent polls shows Americans “bracing for the potential repercussions of [the imminent] war – from large American and Iraqi civilian casualties to increased terrorism here at home to a further economic slump.” The analysis of March 12 polls by Democracy Corps, a public opinion research and strategy group founded by James Carville and Stanley Greenberg, goes on to say, “There is little optimism to be found in the country today, and few Americans believe war in Iraq will increase our security or improve the country’s declining economic condition.”

While all polls show majority support for military action in Iraq, with support increasing as war becomes increasingly likely, the analysis says, “Americans express a wide array of doubts about the reasons for war, the effectiveness of war in increasing American security, the failure to secure broad international support, and the Bush administration’s motives.” Expressions of support for military action and for the soldiers “should not be interpreted as support for the Bush administration’s policies or acceptance of their constantly evolving rationales for war.”

“Neither President Bush nor Republicans in Congress are safe from the political fallout of this current environment,” says the study. “Clear majorities in every poll measuring the country’s current direction say we are currently headed in the wrong direction,” and “widespread misgivings about [Bush’s economic] plan and questions of whose interests Bush is really protecting in his economic policies remain in many Americans’ minds.”

Former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, a centrist Democrat, told The New York Times earlier this month he believes the Bush administration’s Iraq war policy is motivated in part by the 2004 presidential race. “I think Bush has come to the conclusion that he cannot really exit the path toward war without severely damaging his own political standing,” Hamilton said. He suggested that the administration’s refusal to accept any significant delay in launching a war was driven by concerns about Bush’s re-election campaign.

Iowa’s precinct caucuses are tentatively set for Jan. 19. The Iowa caucuses are the first step in the nominating processes of the Democratic and Republican parties. As a result, Iowa garners a vastly disproportionate number of candidate visits and a lot of media attention. A better than expected showing in Iowa can boost a candidate, while a poor performance can doom a candidacy. The New Hampshire primary is Jan. 27.

The calendar for Democratic presidential primaries and caucuses is being revised for 2004, under a new party rule that allows them to start much earlier than in the past. As many as 12 states may hold primaries or caucuses in February. Michigan Democrats say they will hold their primary the same day as New Hampshire. Democrats in Delaware, South Carolina, Missouri and Arizona are talking about moving theirs to Feb. 3.

In five states, Republican-controlled legislatures are seeking to eliminate their presidential primaries, claiming budget-cutting needs. Colorado’s Republican Gov. Bill Owens signed a bill March 5 eliminating that state’s presidential primary. Republican legislators in Arizona, Kansas, Missouri and Utah have initiated similar measures.

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PDF version of ‘War, economy fueling 2004 presidential race’


Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.