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Posted by Sadie from ? ( on Wednesday, June 04, 2003 at 3:39PM :

Published on Tuesday, June 3, 2003 by the Madison Capital Times
Kucinich Draws Crowd, But Not Media
by John Nichols

George McGovern says that he won the Democratic nomination for president in 1972 in part because no one took him seriously during 1971.

"For more than a year members of my small national staff and some of my early supporters and I had been crisscrossing the country on separate routes, finding workers and trying to make my views known," recalled the former senator from South Dakota. "We drew scant national attention. But the reception was favorable at almost every stop."

Jimmy Carter says much the same thing about the campaign that won him the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination and, ultimately, the presidency. Carter still recalls the humbling experience of walking up to people on the street in the small towns of Iowa and New Hampshire during those long, lonely months of 1975 and introducing himself with the line, "Hello! I am Jimmy Carter, and I am running for president."

That notion of the candidacy that gets little national attention but quietly builds significant support at the grass roots came to mind Saturday night, when Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-chairman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, swept into Madison.

Kucinich gets no respect from the national media. When the New York Times featured a drawing of the candidates for the Democratic nomination Sunday, the Ohio congressman was missing - as he has been from much of the early coverage of the campaign.

Yet, with barely a week of preparation, Kucinich's Wisconsin backers pulled together a rally that drew more than 1,000 people to the Orpheum Theater Saturday night. While many in the crowd were still deciding whom they will support next year, the enthusiasm for Kucinich's "peace and prosperity" message should serve as a wake-up call for the national political correspondents who continue to neglect the former Cleveland mayor's candidacy.

The national media remain obsessed with the campaign of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who, despite the fact that he was a more tepid critic of the Iraq war than Kucinich, was pegged as the "anti-war" candidate. Dean gets notice not so much for his stands on the issues as for his willingness to pick fights over the issue with the presumed front-runners in the race: Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt.

On the morning after Kucinich appeared at the Orpheum, the Sunday New York Times magazine featured another big article on Dean. And if Kucinich backers are smart, they will be glad of that. Dean, a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative with a so-so record on issues of concern to working people, has been dubbed the acceptable "liberal" by the inside-the-Beltway crowd.

Kucinich, on the other hand, is the candidate who draws the crowds in places like California, Wisconsin and, according to recent reports in the Des Moines Register, the key first-caucus state of Iowa.

The Register's veteran political writer, David Yepsen, reports, "Kucinich has been spending considerable time in Iowa and his good score indicates he could be on the verge of becoming a factor in the Iowa contest." Even more helpful to the Kucinich campaign may be a line from John Carlson, another Register columnist, who says the candidate is "from the Michael Moore wing of the Democratic Party."

There is still a good deal of time between now and when the Democratic nomination is decided. And there are no guarantees that Kucinich - who is still finding his voice on the stump, and whose campaign has yet to develop the structural strength that is a requirement in the fast-paced 2004 race - will catch fire in the same way that McGovern or Carter did.

But, if the grass roots still count for anything, then the Kucinich people have earned some bragging rights. Drawing a thousand people on a Saturday night in Madison and being compared with Michael Moore in the Des Moines Register could yet prove to be more meaningful than flattering mentions in the New York Times.

Copyright 2002 The Capital Times

-- Sadie
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